Matthew Dellavedova

Pregame Shootaround 3.19.13: NCAA tournament tips off with First Four in Dayton

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Game of the Day: Saint Mary’s vs. Middle Tennessee (9:10 p.m. ET, truTV)

The night cap of the First Four in Dayton features two bubble teams who were both able to fall on the right side of that bubble and into the NCAA tournament on Selection Sunday. For Saint Mary’s, everything starts with guard Matthew Dellavedova, who averaged 15.8 points and 6.4 assists per game this season. He is the engine behind an offense that is Top 25 in the country in scoring and field goal percentage, running through the WCC and if Gonzaga had not been there, likely would have won the conference.

Middle Tennessee was ready to be the mid-major snub, but now rightfully finds itself in the First Four. The Blue Raiders had high-major wins over Ole Miss and Vanderbilt in the non-conference this season, as well as keeping it close to Akron in an overtime loss. There is a good deal of balance to Middle Tennessee’s offense, but it is led by Marcos Knight with 13.5 points per game.

Mid-Major Matchup of the Day: North Carolina A&T vs. Liberty (6:40 p.m. ET, truTV)

Liberty was able to catch lightning in a bottle in the Big South tournament and turn a bad start to the season into one worthy of an NCAA tournament automatic berth. They meet a North Carolina A&T team that emerged from the dust in the MEAC tournament after No. 1 and No. 2 seeds Norfolk State and North Carolina Central fell in earlier rounds.

This will be a game of contrasting tempos, with Liberty looking to score the basketball more and North Carolina A&T wanting a more defensive game. A&T will have to shoot well from the field if it wants to advance, though, 317th in Division I.

NCAA Tournament First Four

North Carolina A&T vs. Liberty (6:40 p.m. ET, truTV)

Saint Mary’s vs. Middle Tennessee State (9:10 p.m. ET, truTV)

Other Notable Games (NIT)

Maryland vs. Niagara (7:00 p.m, ESPN2)

St. John’s vs. Saint Joseph’s (7:00 PM, ESPNU)

Louisiana Tech vs. Florida State (7:15 PM, ESPN3)

Robert Morris vs. Kentucky (7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN)

Norfolk State vs. Virginia (9:00 PM, ESPNU)

Northeastern vs. Alabama (9:00 p.m., ESPN2)

Ohio vs. Denver (9:15 p.m. ET, ESPN3)

Washington vs. Brigham Young (9:30 p.m., ESPN)

Stephen F. Austin vs Stanford (11:00 p.m. ET, ESPN2)

Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_

Illinois’ injury woes continue as starting center needs knee surgery

George Niang,Abdel Nader,Mike Thorne, Jr.
AP Photo/Mark Wallheiser
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Illinois suffered another blow in what has already turned out to be a brutal season.

Mike Thorne is expected to miss the rest of the season after tearing his meniscus. He reportedly underwent surgery on Monday to repair the injury.

Thorne, a transfer from Charlotte, was starting at center for the Illini and doing a good job of it as well. He was averaging 13.4 points and 8.4 boards, although Illinois has started off the season 3-4.

The reason for that slow start has mainly been those injuries. Tracy Abrams is already out for the season after tearing his achilles, and the Illini training room looked like a M.A.S.H. unit. Kendrick Nunn just returned two games ago from surgery to repair a torn thumb ligament. LeRon Black is still getting back to speed after offseason knee surgery. Jaylon Tate is back after dislocating a finger. Jalen Coleman-Lands was slowed by a stress fracture.

John Groce entered this season on the hot seat, and dealing with all of these injuries certainly isn’t helping his cause.

NEW PODCAST: Recapping Feast Week

Kris Dunn
AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill
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We talk about a lot of stuff of the podcast today, mainly because a lot of stuff happened since we last spoke with you all.

For starters, we need to discuss the ‘realness’ of Syracuse and Xavier. Are they both truly top 15 teams, or do they just have top 15 resumes? We also dive into Chris Mack’s epic troll-job of Dayton at the Advocare Invitational final.

Other topics we touched on: Whether or not Scott is ever going to apologize to Wayne Selden, Wichita State’s tournament hopes, Texas A&M and whether we’d take Ben Simmons, Kris Dunn or Denzel Valentine today.

As always, you can subscribe to the podcast in iTunes right here. It’s the quickest way to get access on your cell phone or tablet.