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NCAA Tournament 1st Round Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders vs St Mary's Gaels

The first round of the NCAA tournament takes place tonight and we will see the Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders Take take on the St Mary's Gaels. The game is scheduled for a 9:10 pm (Eastern) start time and will be televised on TruTv. Currently the Odds for the game have St Mary's favored by 3 points while the total sits at 132.

Analysis: Saint Mary's is the only other West Coast Conference school other than Gonzaga in this year's field. The Gaels lost in the conference tournament championship game to the Zags to mark their third loss to the Bulldogs on the season, but they did manage to win all 15 of their other WCC games. Coach Randy Bennett's squad managed to take down NCAA Tournament qualifying programs Creighton, Harvard and Pacific during the regular season. The Gaels are led by senior point guard Matthew Dellavedova, who was the WCC Player of the Year a season ago. SMC may be a man down after junior guard Jorden Page left the WCC title game with a knee injury. Dellavedova, who is the school's all-time leader in scoring, assists, 3-pointers and games played, still has plenty of help. Gathering in their share of dishes from Dellavedova are Stephen Holt (11.8 ppg) and Beau Levesque (10.7 ppg), the latter being a huge spark off the bench who has knocked down 47.6 percent of his 3-point tries. In the paint, the Gaels lean heavily on Brad Waldow (10.2 ppg, 6.1 rpg) and Mitchell Young (7.6 ppg, 5.5 rpg), who are very good at demanding attention to free up the lane for the team's star point guard.

Middle Tennessee is not going to be an easy matchup for SMC. The Blue Raiders didn't lose two games in a row all season, a mark of consistency. They won 21 out of 22 games during one stretch, the only defeat coming in overtime at Arkansas State. Their tally of 11 road wins was the second most in the country. The last time the Blue Raiders made the NCAA Tournament, they upset Florida State in the first round. Middle Tennessee owns a plus-six rebounding margin and has made 37.8 percent of its 3-point shots. Middle Tennessee was the Sun Belt Conference's best team in the standings this season but in the statistical battle as well, as the squad ranks first in the league in countless categories, including scoring offense (71.2 ppg), field goal percentage (.463), scoring defense (57.8 ppg) and field goal percentage defense (.394) and rebounding margin (+6.0). Although the Blue Raiders have just one player who averages in double figures (Marcos Knight, 12.5 ppg), they rely on a true team effort game in and game out, as seven players net at least 6.3 ppg, and 11 pour in 2.5 ppg or more. Raymond Cintron, who was held scoreless in the last game against Florida International, is the top 3-point threat (44 percent) and Bruce Massey was the league’s defensive player of the year.

Pick: The Blue Raiders had a great year, going 28-5 and I fully think they deserve to be here. This will be a motivated team for sure. Both teams come in averaging 70+ ppg on the year, but I feel that there is a solid defensive edge that goes to the Blue Raiders. MTSU Comes in at 20th in the nation in defensive efficiency, while allowing just 57.8 ppg. St Mary's is 68th in defensive efficiency, but they allow 63.5 ppg and hey are 300th in the nation at defending the 3 ball. that is not god news for them at the Blue Raiders are 30th in the nation in 3pt FG%. St Mary's probably as deserves this shot, as they are 19-3 in their last 22 games, with all 3 losses to Gonzaga, plus they beat Creighton at home, but I really feel that MTSU is a bit better team and will be a bit more motivated for this one. I look for them to move on in what should be a great game.

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