College Hoops Thursday: Your Commentary
In regards to bubble teams Wednesday saw a lot of teams leave the door open for someone to sneak in and grab an at-large bid, and it's made quite the case why we're just fine with sixty-five teams. But with this arguably being the weakest bubble pool in the 64/65 era there are ample opportunities for teams seemingly off the radar to sneak in and grab a bid. One of those teams is Dayton, who visits a Richmond team that looks to be a safe bet for the Big Dance. Just 2-5 in conference road games, the Flyers have dropped four of their last five on the road and while there's no shame in losing to a Temple or Saint Louis those defeats at Saint Joseph's and Duquesne have them in a bit of trouble going into the regular season's final weekend.
Dayton's going to play at a slightly higher pace that the Spiders but by no means is Brian Gregory's team an all-out running squad. The key for the Flyers: rebounding. Dayton's especially good at hitting the offensive boards with the likes of Chris Wright, Chris Johnson, Kurt Huelsman and Devin Searcy, boasting a offensive rebounding percentage of 34.7%. This ability boosts their overall offensive efficiency numbers but they do have issues with shot selection on occasion, something that will almost guarantee defeat at Richmond if they aren't judicious with the looks they find. Kevin Anderson and David Gonzalvez lead the way offensively while Justin Harper and Dan Geriot are the Spiders' best interior scoring threats.
Richmond's among the most efficient teams in the Atlantic 10 and they do a good job of taking care of the basketball, averaging just over eleven turnovers per game. London Warren and Rob Lowery will have to be pests on the defensive end in order to take Anderson and Gonzalvez out of their comfort zones and the same goes for every member of Dayton's rotation. Chris Mooney's team is the kind that can pick you apart offensively if allowed to run their stuff without any kind of pressure, and this will likely determine the outcome Thursday night.
6p ESPNU Winthrop vs. Radford (Big South Semifinal)
7p ESPN2 Penn St at Michigan St
7p ESPN Seton Hall at Rutgers
7p CBS-College Dayton at Richmond
8p UNC Ashville at Coastal Carolina (Big South Semifinal)
8:30 FSN USC at Arizona St
9p ESPN Providence at Pittsburgh
9p ESPN2 LSU at Mississippi
10:30 FSN UCLA at Arizona
11p ESPNU Pacific at Cal State Fullerton
Four conference tournaments will either open or resume play on Thursday with the Missouri Valley and Northeast conferences tipping off while the Atlantic Sun and Big South resume play. The A-Sun had the surprise of the day on Wednesday with Kennesaw State knocking off top seed Lipscomb, but two-seed Jacksonville took care of business in the nightcap. The other two quarters take place Thursday with host Mercer taking on Belmont in the second game of the day. Prolific scorer James Florence can be a handful as can E.J. Kusnyer from behind the arc for the Bears but the Bruins have the three-seed for a reason. Belmont is led by Ian Clark but it was Mick Hedgepeth who led the team with fifteen points in their win over Mercer on February 25th. But it should be noted that Florence missed that game due to injury; his presence could spark a win in front of the home crowd.
The top eight teams in the Northeast conference face off with the top four seeds hosting quarterfinal games, including top seed Quinnipiac hosting a dangerous Monmouth squad they took care of with ease just last week. But with forwards Travis Taylor and Ed Waite, Dave Calloway's team is capable of giving the Bobcats a fight. However stopping a team led by NEC Player of the Year Justin Rutty and fellow First Team All-NEC member James Feldeine is far easier said that done. Robert Morris hosts Central Connecticut State while the league's hottest team, Mount St. Mary's, hosts Saint Francis (PA) and LIU hosts Fairleigh Dickinson. And in the Missouri Valley two first round games will be played to kick off Arch Madness with Missouri State taking on Evansville and Southern Illinois battling Drake. The winners will move on to face the MVC's top two seeds (Northern Iowa and Wichita State) on Friday.
As for the Big South they move on to the semifinal round with all four higher seeds winning in the quarterfinals to set up a pair of enticing matchups. Coastal Carolina takes on UNC Asheville in the second half of the doubleheader, a team they swept in the regular season with a one-point win at Asheville and a blowout at home. The first meeting is the one that has the better chance of deviating from seeding as Radford beat Winthrop in their first meeting by just two points less than a week ago. Art Parakhouski and company will have their hands full with the Eagles, especially if this turns into a game played at Winthrop's tempo.
Richmond over Dayton: The Flyers really need a good win at this point in the season and a win at Richmond would kill two birds with one stone for a group that's struggled in true road games. But behind the guard tandem of Kevin Anderson and David Gonzalves the Spiders won't allow that to happen. Richmond wins by six.