The first round separated a little chaff from the wheat 1 and saw FIU and UTSA eliminated from contention. There was no one shining moment for those programs.
Charlotte vs Rice
The 49ers and Owls are both hit or miss kinds of teams, which is why they are in this position in the tournament. Each earned the right to skip the Tuesday portion of this tournament, which means they got a rest. We saw Charlotte and Rice enjoying some Frisco times. Charlotte was out at the Stonebriar area getting some grub, and Rice was in the lobby, playing some cards. Relaxed, we are.
Jahmir Young will be the scorer for Charlotte, while a balanced attack from the Rice shooters will be the threat the other way. Charlotte’s game plan is to stay in front of the shooters here, while Rice will try to stay home on the cutters that Aly Khalifa will find. Both teams will spend time firing up threes. Charlotte are slight 2.5 point favorites
La Tech vs Marshall
Dan D’Antoni spent time in the post game press conference discussing how they really just had to focus and stay locked in. They have a versatile squad, with Obinna Anochili-Killen showing his ability to do it all. They executed the game plan well against a team that beat them twice in the regular season. Now the Bulldogs will line up against them. Defending a capable big in Kenneth Lofton is much more difficult than the FIU guys. Whereas FIU’s Clevon Brown struggled and was ineffective, a poor game from Lofton is still worth about 10 points and 7 rebounds. Tech is a better team, better defenders, more talent etc. Marshall has shooters that can get real hot and if they are locked in? Well you might be reminded that Marshall was picked highly in preseason before cratering.
Tech isn 8 point favorite.
UTEP vs ODU
The Miners are hot, having just dispatched regular season champs NT at home on Saturday. ODU is capable of beating anyone (remember that UAB game?) but also will happily lose to any and everyone. This has the potential to be a great game, with two coaches that preach good defense going at it. Souley Boum is capable of scoring 20 from anywhere, and that is probably the mean difference. Expect the two squads’ collection of athletic bigs and wings to fight for loose balls and rebounds and also for Boum to get some tough buckets.
UTEP are slight 2.5 point favorites.
FAU vs USM
Jay Ladner told me last night that coaching up a roster with as much volatility is about making it simple, and keeping the sets to a minimum. The benefit is that the squad has been able to focus and build some depth because of it. Is any of that enough to beat FAU, a team that spent a run of time at the top of the East division? No, probably not. USM remains very poor at defensive execution. If they can find themselves in a close game, expect Tyler Stevenson and Jaron Pierre to come up big. Also sneaky good? Waylyn Napper, who is a tough driver and can shoot it well.
FAU has Mike Forrest, and a collection of guys that can get hot. They are better at home, and this is not Boca Raton. There are questions about this FAU squad’s ability to meet the moment. This is half-a-moment, as it is a tournament environment but USM is a very poor team trying to reintegrate injured guys back on the squad.
FAU are 13.5 point favorites.
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Yes, this is an old analogy that draws on our collective knowledge of farming. Oh, what? The majority of the population is urban now? Hurm. ↩