16 Liberty Flames vs. 16 North Carolina A&T Aggies
The Liberty Flames have no business being in the tournament with 20 losses on the season, finishing tied for 9th in the Big South Conference and an RPI & BPI outside the top 250. The Flames have advanced to the play-in game because they won the Big South Conference Tournament. NC A&T have an all time tournament record of 0-2. The Flames play a more traditional offense with 3 guards and 2 forwards. The 3 guards are the strength of this team. If all 3 guards can score, they will win more games than they lose. Liberty's biggest weakness is having big men who cannot score with their back to the basket. To beat the Aggies, Liberty has to force you to shoot contested jump shots with tight man-to-man defense. They must use their four-man frontcourt rotation to dominate the boards.
Best Players - John Caleb Sanders, Tavares Speaks, Davon Marshall
The North Carolina A&T Aggies finished 6th in the MEAC. The Aggies have a 0-9 all time tournament record. The Aggies' biggest strengths are their interior defense and blocking opponent's shots. Where this North Carolina A&T team struggles is from beyond the arc. They only make 29.5% of their 3-point attempts all year. TO beat the Liberty Flames, the Aggies will have to play strong defense minded basketball and forcing turnovers. If this team falls behind, they have virtually no chance of making a comeback.
Best Players - Adrian Powell, Lamont Middleton, Austin Witter
11 Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders vs. 11 Saint Mary's Gaels
The Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders are back in the big dance for the first time since 1989. The Blue Raiders finished first in the Sun Belt Conference this year with their biggest win of the year against Ole Miss. The Blue Raiders have an all time tournament record of 2-6. The biggest strength of this team is playing 11 deep every game. 11 Different players average 10 minutes or more a game. Middle Tennessee State has a fast paced but efficient offense. Even with a 17 game winning streak this year, they did not face any decent competition during that winning streak. They lost to Florida by 21 points and 15 points to Belmont (both tournament teams). To beat the Gaels, the Blue Raiders will have to hold their opponent to a low field goal percentage while using their deep bench to stay fresh.
Best Players - Marcos Knight, Shawn Jones, Bruce Massey
The Saint Mary's Gaels finished second in the regular season to Gonzaga in the West Coast Conference. The Gael's were led by Matthew Dellavedova to get to the 11th seed in the Tournament. Saint Mary's have a 3-7 all time tournament record. Some of their key wins this season were against Harvard, Creighton and BYU. This Saint Mary's team has 4 returning starters from last year Tournament team which makes one of their strengths the team's experience. The Gaels' have an extremely short bench which hurts them, which was made even shorter with the loss of Jorden Page. To beat the Blue Raiders, Saint Mary's will have to stay out of foul trouble and have a strong performance by their star player Dellavedova (They have not lost this season when he scores 20 or more points).
Best Players - Matthew Dellavedova, Stephen Holt, Brad Waldow