Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
Wednesday in Dayton features a battle of strong backcourts between La Salle and Boise State and a pair of teams who have had their off-court struggles in LIU-Brooklyn and James Madison.
Dayton's time in the basketball spotlight comes but once a year, when the First Four comes to town -- a pairing Mike Rutherford wrote about for SB Nation Wednesday -- and after a pair of pretty decent games on the first night, we have two more.
Liberty-North Carolina A&T was a classic, so far as 16-16 play-in games go, with the Aggies holding off the Flames on a frenzied last-second dash downcourt for a potential game-winning layup. And Matthew Dellavedova showed why he's considered one of the top point guards in college basketball for St. Mary's, putting up 22 in a win over Middle Tennessee State.
Wednesday night features two more good games -- and two more teams looking to make a nice impression after ending long tourney droughts. Here's a look at the two matchups, both of which are on truTV:
6:40 p.m.: No. 16 James Madison (20-14, 11-7 CAA) vs. No. 16 LIU-Brooklyn (20-13, 12-6 NEC)
The Blackbirds had to battle a lot of adversity to win the NEC Tournament, with a new coach, reigning conference player of the year Julian Boyd tearing his ACL, and four players involved in an off-campus fight leading to in-season suspensions. But senior guard C.J. Garner posted a career high in the first round of the NEC Tournament, then broke that career high with 31 in the championship game as LIU-Brooklyn earned their third straight tourney berth.
Meanwhile, the Dukes didn't face adversity before qualifying, but rather after it. Rayshawn Goins, the team's leading scorer and rebounder, led the team to their CAA title got arrested Sunday night and will be suspended for the first half of this game. That suspension gives James Madison an uphill battle in their first NCAA Tournament game since 1994.
9 p.m.: No. 13 La Salle (21-9, 11-5 A-10) vs. No. 13 Boise State (21-10, 9-7 MWC)
This is an intriguing matchup of two mid-majors fighting for the right to play No. 4 Kansas State, with a pair of powerful backcourts featuring differing styles. Boise State lives from beyond the arc, with leading scorers Anthony Drmic and Derrick Marks both capable of connecting from downtown, but Jeff Elloriaga providing the real marksmanship, shooting 45.1 percent from deep on almost six attempts from deep. However, La Salle is arguably the best team in the country at defending the perimeter: no team allows a higher percentage of points from inside the arc, and only one team allows a lower percentage of points from beyond the arc. Teams shoot just 29.9 percent from deep against the Explorers.
Meanwhile, La Salle is also powered by its guards, Ramon Galloway and Tyreek Duren, who combine to average 32.0 points per game and each shoot over 40 percent from deep. Whichever team's guards has the better game is the more likely squad to win. Neither team has had much success in the tourney, with La Salle making its first appearance since 1989 and Boise State 0-5 in tournament play.
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