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NCAA Tournament Cheat Sheet: Getting to Know Saint Louis

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Conference: Atlantic 10

Coach: Jim Crews

Record: 27-6, 13-3

Rankings and Ratings:

– Kenpom: 17
– RPI: 22
– AP/USA Today: 16/16

Seeding?: Our Dave Ommen has the Billikens as a No. 5-seed in the midwest in his latest bracket projection, but with wins over Butler and VCU en route to the Atlantic 10 tournament championship, the Billikens could rise to as high as the No. 3-seed.

Names you need to know: Dwayne Evans (13.6 ppg, 7.7 rpg, 1.3 spg, .533 FG%), Cody Ellis (10.3 ppg, 3.5 rpg), Kwamain Mitchell (10.0 ppg, 2.4 rpg, 3.1 apg, 1.4 spg), Mike McCall Jr. (10.0 ppg, .423 3PT%),

Stats you need to know: The Billikens are a top-40 team nationally in terms of effective turnover percentage, both on the offensive and defensive ends of the court. What that means is that Saint Louis is really good at forcing turnovers and really difficult to take the ball from. Guards Mike McCall Jr. and Jordair Jett rank nationally in field goal efficiency and effective field goal percentage.

Tendencies: Saint Louis plays from the inside out. They use big men Cody Ellis and Rob Loe on the perimeter, and send 6-foot-5 forward Dawyne Evans to the low block. They like shooting from the outside and working the ball down low. On defense they are hard to crack. They don’t make mistakes and look to force turnovers with suffocating pressure.

Big wins, bad losses: Saint Louis beat Butler three times this season, including a 17-point drubbing when the Bulldogs were ranked inside the top-10. During non-conference play the knocked off New Mexico at The Pit, one of the most difficult venues to earn a road win from. They do have two bad losses, including a 12-point loss to Santa Clara in the second game of the season, and an overtime loss to Atlantic 10 bottom-feeder Rhode Island.

How’d they get here?: The Billikens played their best basketball of the season in Brooklyn en route to an Atlantic 10 tournament championship. They have won 15 of their last 16 games, and have not lost in regulation since January 12th.

Outlook: This is a team that can legitimately make the Final Four. Yes, they lack elite athleticism and NBA frontcourt size, but Saint Louis is stocked with upperclassmen and versatile players. Dwayne Evans is a match-up problem for most teams, and the Billikens won’t beat themselves. This team can definitely make a deep run in March.

How Do I know you? The Billikens return to the Big Dance for the second straight season, and first under Jim Crews. But prior to their appearance last season, the Billikens went 11 years without making the NCAA tournament.

You can contact Troy Machir on Twitter at @TroyMachir

NCAA Tournament Cheat Sheet: Getting to know New Mexico State

Matej Buovac, Drew Charles
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Conference: WAC

Coach: Marvin Menzies

Record: 24-10, 14-4

Rankings and Ratings:

– Kenpom: 83
– RPI: 58
– AP/USA Today: N/A

Seeding?: Our Dave Ommen had New Mexico State as a No. 13 seed in Saturday’s bracket projection.

Names you need to know: Daniel Mullings (14.0 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 2.2 spg), Bandja Sy (11.8 ppg, 7.3 rpg), Tyrone Watson (10.8 ppg, 5.1 rpg, 3.0 apg)

Stats you need to know: 7-foot-5, 360 pounds. That’s how big Sim Bhullar is. That’s this guy:

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Tendencies: NMSU doesn’t have much in the way of perimeter shooters and they don’t execute all that well offensively, but they have size and athleticism. They can get to the offensive glass, they can get to the rim off the bounce, and they can get to the foul line.

Big wins, bad losses: NMSU has a couple of good wins over Denver and Southern Miss, but they’ve also lost to the likes of UT-Arlington and Niagara.

How’d they get here?: The Aggies won the WAC’s automatic bid, but they didn’t have to beat either Denver or Louisiana Tech in the process.

Outlook: I have a tough time seeing New Mexico State being a team that can win a game. They don’t have great guard play, winning games because they’re bigger, stronger and more physical than the teams they play in the WAC. What happens when they go up against a team that can match up with them?

How do I know you?: The Aggies have earned the WAC’s automatic bid for the fourth time in the past seven years.

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

NCAA Tournament Cheat Sheet: Getting to know Pacific

Bob Thomason
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Conference: Big West

Coach: Bob Thomason

Record: 22-12, 14-5

Rankings and Ratings:

– Kenpom: 124
– RPI: 105
– AP/USA Today: N/A

Seeding?: Our Dave Ommen had Pacific as a No. 15 seed in Saturday’s bracket projection.

Names you need to know: Lorenzo McCloud (11.2 ppg, 4.1 apg), Travis Fulton (9.2 ppg, 3.8 rpg)

Stats you need to know: Pacific caught fire at the right time, winning their last four games in the regular season before running through the Big West tournament.

Tendencies: Pacific’s defensive efficiency is nothing to get excited about, but they’ve ramped it up during league play. They were the best defensive team in the Big West, according to Kenpom.

Big wins, bad losses: The Tigers picked up a couple of big wins back in November, when they knocked off St. Mary’s and Xavier in the Anaheim Classic.

How’d they get here?: Pacific knocked off UC-Irvine in the Big West title game to earn the league’s automatic bid.

Outlook: The Tigers don’t necessarily have the look of a team that can pull off an upset or two, but this isn’t any regular team. Pacific is a team of destiny, if you will. This is Thomason’s 25th season as the head coach of Pacific. It’s also his last, as he’s stepping down after the season. It’s also the last season that Pacific will be a member of the Big West as they head to the WCC next year. Is that enough to be this year’s Norfolk State or Lehigh?

How do I know you?: Pacific has been to the tournament four times in Thomason’s tenure, even winning a game in 2004 and 2005.

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

NCAA tournament Cheat Sheet: Getting to know Louisville

Big East Basketball Tournament - Syracuse v Louisville
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Conference: Big East

Coach: Rick Pitino

Record: 29-5

Rankings and Ratings:

– Kenpom: 2
– RPI: 3
– AP/USA Today: 4/4

Seeding?: Our Dave Ommen had Louisville as a No. 1 seed playing in Lexington in Saturday’s bracket projection. Man, that has gotta hurt in Big Blue Nation.

Names you need to know: Russ Smith (18.3 ppg, 2.0 spg), Peyton Siva (10.0 ppg, 5.8 apg, 2.2 spg), Gorgui Dieng (10.1 ppg, 9.9 rpg, 2.6 bpg), Chane Behanan (10.1 ppg, 6.7 rpg)

Stats you need to know: 80.9 is the Cards’ adjusted defensive number. Per Kenpom, that makes them the nation’s top defensive team.

How’d they get here?: Louisville came back from a 35-22 halftime deficit against Syracuse in the Big East final, locating their offensive mojo when 6’8″, 235-lb. freshman Montrezl Harrell broke out for 20 points. The final tally was 78-61 in favor of Louisville. Formidable? I think so.

Outlook: Louisville has always had the requisite parts to win a title this season. It’s finally starting to look like those parts are meshing into the unit that can get it done.

How do I know you?: Luke Hancock, the designated gunner for offensively-challenged Louisville, is a transfer from mid-major darling George Mason.

Eric is the editor of Storming the Floor. He tweets @stfhoops.

 

NCAA Tournament Cheat Sheet: Getting to know Montana

tinkle-wayne
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Conference: Big Sky

Coach: Wayne Tinkle

Record: 25-6, 19-1

Rankings and Ratings:

– Kenpom: 146
– RPI: 88
– AP/USA Today: N/A

Seeding?: Our Dave Ommen had Montana as a No. 15 seed in Saturday’s bracket projection.

Names you need to know: Will Cherry (13.7 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 4.2 apg), Kareem Jamar (14.3 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 4.1 apg)

Stats you need to know: Montana has lost three games with Will Cherry in the lineup. One of them was in double-overtime against South Dakota State in Cherry’s first game back from a broken foot. He played 13 minutes. The other was in overtime at Davidson in a game where Cherry missed the last five minutes in regulation after aggravating the injury.

Tendencies: With Mathias Ward out with a foot injury, the Grizzlies have become a team heavily reliant on their back court duo of Cherry and Jamar, who are both talented playmakers and scorers.

Big wins, bad losses: Montana’s best wins this season were both against Weber State, but the Grizzlies didn’t have any terrible losses.

How’d they get here?: After winning the Big Sky regular season title, the Grizzlies knocked off Weber State in the tournament title game to earn the automatic bid.

Outlook: Montana is a really good basketball team that, if healthy, may have had the horses to make a run at an upset in the opening round. But without Ward — their leading scorer — Montana has to rely heavily on Jamar and Cherry. But Ward’s injury isn’t the only one that Montana has dealt with this season, as Cherry broke his foot in the preseason. Five of Montana’s six losses can be tied directly to that injury, and those losses are part of the reason that the Grizzlies may end up as a lower seed that they would like. Montana might be able to pick off a four or a five seed; I’m not sure they can beat a two or a three seed this season.

How do I know you?: The Grizzlies went dancing last season, and you may have seen their head coach hosting late-night TV.

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

NCAA Tournament Cheat Sheet: Getting to know Northwestern State

Shamir Davis
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Conference: Southland

Coach: Mike McConathy

Record: 23-8

Rankings and Ratings:

– Kenpom: 141
– RPI: 96
– AP/USA Today: N/A

Seeding?: Our Dave Ommen had Stephen F. Austin, the league’s No. 1 seed, as a 13 in Saturday’s bracket projection. Northwestern State, having pulled the upset, may drop a line or two.

Names you need to know: DeQuan Hicks (14.1 ppg, 5.9 rpg), James Hulbin (12.3 ppg, 5.9 rpg), Jalan West (10.4 ppg, 5.3 apg, 2.4 spg)

Stats you need to know: 73.3 is the Demons’ adjusted tempo. According to Kenpom.com, that makes them the fastest team in the nation.

How’d they get here?: The Demons won a close one over league-leading Stephen F. Austin, 68-66.

Outlook: Northwestern State’s tempo might earn them a first-round upset if they match up against the right team.

How do I know you?: Northwestern State upset a Steve Alford-coached Iowa team 64-63 in the 2006 tournament. You can bet he’ll not want to see them on New Mexico’s side of the bracket this year, either.

Eric is the editor of Storming the Floor. He tweets @stfhoops.