Mount St. Mary’s vs. New Orleans Preview
Where: University of Dayton Arena, Dayton, OH
When: Tuesday, March 14, 2017, 6:40 PM ET
TV Broadcast: truTV
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Betting on the Mount St. Mary’s Mountaineers (19-15, 14-4 Northeast)
After securing their first regular-season title in 21 years, the Mount St. Mary Mountaineers further extended their best campaign in recent memory by winning their second Northeast Conference title since 2014 with a convincing 71-61 win over St. Francis (PA).
The Mountaineers overcame a horrendous 1-11 start to their season that roughly began with nine-straight non-conference games away from Emmitsburg and finished with a decent 19-15 record before claiming the conference title and punching their ticket into the First Four bracket.
There’s a star-in-the-making in The Mount by way of sophomore Elijah Wood, who’s averaging 15.4 points per game this season. The first-team All-NEC guard scored 24 points and grabbed nine rebounds in the conference title game, and he has a solid running mate in Junior Robinson (22 points) to keep the points pouring from the wings.
However, the team’s wealth of perimeter shooters is sadly offset by the lack of big men that can haul in loose balls. Mount St. Mary’s has been out-hustled by their opponents by an average margin of 7.5 rebounds per game, which is fifth-worst rebounding differential in the entire nation. But with a sloppy New Orleans squad on tap this Tuesday (more on that issue below), perhaps another prolific shooting night from Wood will provide enough leeway for the Mountaineers to seal a 16th-seeded berth to the Big Dance.
Betting on the New Orleans Privateers (20-11, 13-5 Southland)
One of the feel-good stories from the mid-majors this season comes from the New Orleans Privateers, who needed an extra period before beating Texas A&M-Corpus Christi this past Saturday, 68-65, to win their first-ever Southland title since joining the conference in 2013.
Even better, New Orleans snapped its own 21-year March Madness appearance drought this season. This under-the-radar school from the Big Easy was once in jeopardy of being relegated to Division III play after social and financial crises hit the city in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, but things are finally looking up once more under the sixth-year tutelage of head coach Mark Slessinger.
Count on Southland Player of the Year Erik Thomas (19.7 points, 7.9 rebounds per game this season) to take charge of the Privateers attack once more. The 6’5′” senior sure packs a lot of punch for his size, as what his double-double outing of 14 points and 11 boards in the conference championship game would attest.
On the other hand, Thomas’ solo performance pretty much masks a lot of the team’s other significant flaws. New Orleans committed an average of close to 17 turnovers per contest – only two teams in the country had turned the ball over on more occasions – and those mistakes have often translated to massive production from their opponents. The Privateers suffered three losses of 34 or more points during the regular season, and one of those contests involved Oklahoma State putting up a whopping 117 points unto them en route to a 45-point blowout.
The Mountaineers (+1.5) earn the right to face No. 1 seed Villanova with a 73-68 victory over the Privateers.
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