- The Washington Times - Monday, March 16, 2009

Radford

Record: 21-11

Coach: Brad Greenberg (second season)

Conference: Big South

Starters Pos Yr Pts

Amir Johnson G Jr. 9.6

Kenny Thomas G Sr. 14.8

Phillip Martin F Jr. 4.3

Joey Lynch-Flohr F Jr. 13.7

Artsiom Parakhouski C Jr. 16.3

Defining moment: Jan. 24 at Liberty. Still below .500 after a rough nonconference schedule, the Highlanders got double-doubles from Parakhouski and Thomas to upend the highly regarded Flames 94-82 in double overtime. Radford has won 12 of 13 since, locking up both the Big South regular-season and tournament titles.

The draw: The Highlanders are just happy to be in the tournament and out of the opening-round game. North Carolina will be a tough first-round test, but Radford should be well-schooled in playing an up-tempo game after beating run-and-gun Virginia Military Institute twice during the season. Plus, they have the size to hang with Tyler Hansbrough with Artsiom Parakhouski inside.

Reason for optimism: Able big men. Parakhouski was the Big South’s player of the year after averaging a double-double, and the 6-foot-11 Belarussian will pose problems for just about anyone. Lynch-Flohr is another workmanlike player, ensuring size won’t be an issue.

Reason for pessimism: Dubious ballhandling. The Highlanders average 16.3 turnovers, a flaw that no doubt will be exploited quickly.

Final Four chances (on a scale of 1 to 10): 1. A team that couldn’t even play all of its home games in its gym - the Dedmon Center was under renovation well into January - should be proud of earning its first NCAA berth since 1998 and second overall. But they aren’t making a deep run, and even one win would be a titanic accomplishment.

VCU

Record: 24-9

Coach: Anthony Grant (third season)

Conference: Colonial

Starters Pos Yr Pts

Joey Rodriguez G So. 9.4

Eric Maynor G Sr. 22.4

Bradford Burgess G Fr. 7.4

K. Pishchalnikov F Jr. 5.3

Larry Sanders F So. 11.3

Defining moment: To hear the Rams tell it, it was a meeting just after a Feb. 20 loss at Nevada. VCU had split its previous eight games and was moving closer to another premature flameout this season. But the Rams returned east, crushed James Madison and Georgia State to clinch the regular-season CAA crown, then won three straight in the league tournament.

The draw: After knocking off Duke in the first round two years ago, Eric Maynor and the Rams will not be intimidated by UCLA. The Bruins are probably a bit better than their No. 6 seed would indicate, and the Rams may be a bit overrated as a No. 11 seed. But the Bruins are traveling east, and that could mean some heavy legs if it’s an early game. Neither UCLA nor possible second-round opponent Villanova is particularly good at guarding the 3-point shot. If the Rams are hot from downtown, a Sweet 16 berth is not out of the question.

Reason for optimism: Inside-outside. Pretty much any team would like a point guard of Eric Maynor’s ability, just as they would take a big man like Larry Sanders, who had 18 points, 20 rebounds and seven blocks in the CAA title game against George Mason. The Rams can do damage in the paint and on the perimeter.

Reason for pessimism: Rebounding. The Rams miss out on some rebounds because Sanders swats so many shots, but the reality is they are a mid-major team that has been beaten on the boards this season - even in conference play.

Final Four chances: 2. A CAA team has done it before, so it’s not like it would be completely beyond the realm of possibility for the Rams to get hot. Of course, people actually know who they are thanks to Maynor’s magic moment two years ago when he sank Duke. VCU is capable of winning at least a game and maybe two.

Morgan State

Record: 23-11

Coach: Todd Bozeman (third season)

Conference: Mid-Eastern Athletic

Starters Pos Yr Pts

Jermaine Bolden G Sr. 9.2

Rogers Barnes G Sr. 8.6

Reggie Holmes G Jr. 16.9

Marquise Kately F Sr. 11.0

Rodney Stokes F So. 4.5

Defining moment: The Jan. 7 in-state upset of Maryland. The Bears were 5-8 entering their trip to Comcast Center and trailed 54-40 in the middle of the second half. Yet Morgan State rallied, and Holmes’ 3-pointer gave the Bears the lead for good in what turned into a 66-65 victory. Morgan State went 18-3 from that point forward.

The draw: The return of Todd Bozeman to the NCAA tournament is a nice story, and the Bears really breezed through the MEAC season and conference tournament. But they have no answer for Oklahoma’s Blake Griffin. Morgan State can find some inspiration from Hampton’s upset of No. 2 seed Iowa State in 2001 but likely will be exiting the NCAA tournament early.

Reason for optimism: Toughness. It’s a classic Baltimore team, with four of the starters plus top reserve forward Kevin Thompson all coming from the area. Toss in Kately - an undersized forward who plays well beyond his size - and Morgan State is capable of thriving in a rough-and-tumble game.

Reason for pessimism: History. Low-seeded teams are down there for a reason, and the reality is Morgan State went 1-5 against the top 150 in the RPI.

Final Four chances: 1. It’s a great story that Bozeman emerged from his NCAA-sanctioned professional wilderness and turned the Bears from MEAC doormat into a conference contender. Maybe there’s a chance to pull an upset a la 1997 Coppin State or 2001 Hampton, but one-and-done remains the most likely outcome here.

American

Record: 24-7

Coach: Jeff Jones (ninth season)

Conference: Patriot

Starters Pos Yr Pts

Derrick Mercer G Sr. 11.5

Garrison Carr G Sr. 17.8

Frank Borden G Sr. 3.5

Jordan Nichols F Sr. 5.2

Brian Gilmore F Sr. 12.4

Defining moment: American had just lost a few days earlier at Holy Cross and had to play at Navy on Jan. 28. The Midshipmen took a two-point lead into the final minute, but Garrison Carr hit a 3-pointer with 31 seconds remaining to lift the Eagles to a 68-67 victory. It propelled American on its current 13-game winning streak.

The draw: Jeff Jones and his team might have preferred a No. 15 seed and a long road trip. The Eagles will play Villanova at Wachovia Center in Philadelphia. If AU somehow pulls off the upset, it would face the winner of UCLA vs. VCU. This is a very unfavorable draw for the Eagles.

Reason for optimism: Experience. Sometimes experience doesn’t mean anything, mainly because it isn’t good experience. Not so for American, which pushed Tennessee in the first round of the NCAA tournament last year and has one of the best mid-major backcourts with Mercer (the Patriot player of the year) and Carr handling the ball.

Reason for pessimism: Size. The Eagles’ lineup simply isn’t that big, and it will make it difficult to withstand the offensive approach of most teams in March. Obviously, the 3-pointer can be a great equalizer for American, but there’s a chance the Eagles could get pummeled inside regardless of what they do at the other end.

Final Four chances: 2. It isn’t so much a chase for a Final Four spot as a place in the second weekend that should be spurring on the Eagles. That’s certainly possible, especially if Mercer and Carr are permitted to do their thing on the perimeter. But no Patriot team has ever made it past the second round.

Maryland

Record: 20-13

Coach: Gary Williams (20th season)

Conference: ACC

Starters Pos Yr Pts

Adrian Bowie G So. 8.9

Greivis Vasquez G Jr. 17.2

Sean Mosley G Fr. 5.3

Landon Milbourne F Jr. 11.6

Dave Neal F Sr. 8.3

Defining moment: The Feb. 21 overtime upset of North Carolina did wonders for Maryland, which transformed itself from any other also-ran into a legitimate NCAA tournament contender. Toss in the ACC quarterfinal defeat of Wake Forest, and the Terps produced two significant reasons to warrant inclusion.

The draw: The Terrapins got a favorable first-round game against California, a team that has lost four of its last six. The Golden Bears are undersized and could allow the vertically challenged Terps to stay close on the boards. The second round would provide a tougher test for Maryland; it probably would face second-seeded Memphis, a team that ran to the title game last year and is in the midst of a 25-game winning streak. The good news for Maryland is that the West bracket opens up a bit after that if it can pull off the second-round upset.

Reason for optimism: Vasquez. The Venezuelan demonstrated the ability to control games like an orchestra conductor, driving, dishing, rebounding and shouting his way to several critical performances throughout the season. His all-around game probably isn’t fully appreciated, but it is the reason the Terps have a chance to win a game in this tournament.

Reason for pessimism: Interior offense. Like it was going to be anything else? The great question all season isn’t going to go away now. Landon Milbourne, while scrappy, isn’t an ideal power forward, and Dave Neal remains a much more dangerous presence on the perimeter than in the post.

Final Four chances: 3. The Terps have the veteran coach, the dynamic offensive presence (Vasquez) and a group that has maximized its talent over the course of the season, and a tournament berth is a just reward when pretty much no one thought it was possible. But it’s still a flawed team that didn’t win more than two straight games once conference play began.

Copyright © 2016 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

blog comments powered by Disqus

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide