First Round Wednesday: Your Commentary

March 16th, 2011
6:40 PM Texas-San Antonio vs. Alabama State (TruTV)
The winner of the matchup between the Roadrunners and Hornets won't have to travel very far for their second round game, remaining in the state of Ohio, but it's what awaits them in Cleveland (top overall seed Ohio State) that could be a concern. The Buckeyes don't matter at this point with the two teams playing tonight needing a win to get there. Neither UTSA nor Alabama State won their league's regular season titles but they both played well in grabbing the automatic bids. Brooks Thompson's Roadrunners enter the game as the better offensive team, shooting 43% from the field and scoring nearly 71 points per game. But they have their issues on the glass, something that Alabama State will look to exploit.

UTSA allows 12 offensive rebounds per game, and with Alabama State grabbing 13 to make up for their 39.7% field goal percentage this could be the perfect storm for the Hornets. Tremayne Moorer (12.5 ppg, 5.7 rpg) and Tramaine Butler (10.9 ppg, 3.9 rpg) lead the way offensively for Alabama State, who as a team has five players averaging more than 1.6 offensive rebounds per game. Their ability to hit the boards (they rebound nearly 36% of their misses) is why the 17-17 Hornets were able to make their way through the SWAC Tournament, and in their last 12 games they've failed to grab at least 11 offensive boards once (11-1 over the last 12).

UTSA has a trio of guards leading the way offensively with senior Devin Gibson averaging 17.0 points and 5.6 assists per game. Freshman Jeromie Hill and sophomore Melvin Johnson III are the other two members of the three-headed attack, and while they don't get much in the way of scoring from their big men the Roadrunners do need them to chip in on the boards. Hill and Gibson are their leading rebounders as well, and when you're being out-rebounded by 1.5 boards per game you can get into trouble. Rebounding will determine the outcome, especially if UTSA isn't able to knock down shots at their usual rate.

9:00 PM USC vs. VCU (TruTV)
The nightcap matches a pair of 11-seeds with the winner moving on to face Georgetown in Chicago on Friday (Southwest region). Both the Trojans and Rams have their fair share of critics but such is life for teams on the bubble. USC brings to the table the mixed bag of very good wins and some bad losses, but they've also got a good frontcourt in Alex Stepheson and Nikola Vucevic. Vucevic was a First Team All-Pac 10 selection, averaging 17.3 points and 10.2 rebounds per game, and Stepheson averages nearly 10 points and just over nine rebounds per game. USC averages 66.8 points per game but they out-rebound opponents by a small margin, also shooting 44.5% from the field.

The Trojans aren't a great rebounding team by any stretch of the imagination but they've been better than VCU, and USC also has the size to give a Jamie Skeen problems inside. Skeen leads VCU in both points and rebounds, shooting 52.9% from the field and 37.9% from three. VCU only plays an average of two more possessions per game than USC but they'll need a quicker tempo tonight; when USC is able to pound away on both ends in the half-court they're at their best. Point guard Joey Rodriguez runs the show for the experienced Rams, who as a team average 14 assists per game. VCU is the more efficient team offensively but their floor and effective field goal percentages are nearly identical to USC's, and they also shoot a lower percentage from the field.

Kevin O'Neill's team can lock up on the perimeter as well, allowing an efficiency of just 97.0 and a field goal percentage of 41.2% on the season. Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Year Marcus Simmons is a big reason why, and VCU will need Bradford Burgess to crack the "Simmons code" if the Rams are to be successful. Guards Jio Fontan, Maurice Jones and Donte Smith all average around 10 points per game, and despite the overall lack of size the Trojans can get to the basket. They'll need to attack VCU on this end of the floor if they're to advance, and given some of the guards they've run into this season USC should be able to do so.

Postseason NIT Games
7:00 PM (5) Nebraska at (4) Wichita State (ESPN2)
7:30 PM (7) Florida Atlantic at (2) Miami (FL) (ESPN3)
8:00 PM (5) Milwaukee at (4) Northwestern (ESPN3)
8:00 PM (8) Bethune-Cookman at (1) Virginia Tech (ESPNU)
9:00 PM (5) Mississippi at (4) California (ESPN2)
9:00 PM (8) Texas Southern at (1) Colorado (ESPN3)
10:00 PM (7) Long Beach State at (2) Washington State (ESPNU)

College Basketball Invitational Games
7:00 PM Miami (OH) at Rhode Island
8:00 PM St. Bonaventure at UCF
9:00 PM Duquesne at Montana
10:00 PM Weber State at Oregon Tournament Games
7:00 PM Tennessee Tech at Western Michigan
8:00 PM Oral Roberts at SMU
8:00 PM Iona at Valparaiso
10:00 PM Idaho at San Francisco