NCAA Tournament Charlotte Pod At A Glance

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Virginia opens NCAA Tournament play in Charlotte.
That’s right Nigel Johnson, Virginia is the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament. ~ Kris Wright

The Virginia basketball team learned its NCAA Tournament draw Sunday and the Hoos landed where most observers predicted. They earned the overall No. 1 seed and will open tourney play in Charlotte, N.C.

UVA drew No. 16 seed UMBC in the first round in a game scheduled for 9:20 p.m. on TNT. With a win, the Cavaliers would get the winner of No. 8 seed Creighton and No. 9 seed Kansas State. Those two teams play in Charlotte at 6:50 p.m. on Friday in a game also slated for TNT.

Now that the first weekend possibilities have been announced, here’s a quick look at the Charlotte pod for the Wahoos.

No. 16 University of Maryland , Baltimore County

Mascot: Retrievers

How they got to dance: UMBC (24-10) took the automatic bid from the America East when it upset Vermont 65-62. The Catamounts had won 23 straight meetings in the series and entered the game as a double-digit favorite. The winning margin came on this buzzer-beater in the final second:

Virginia/other connections: Head coach Ryan Odom, in his first season with the Retrievers, is the son of former UVA assistant and Wake Forest head coach Dave Odom. … senior guard Jairus Lyles originally played at VCU before he transferred, but did not play against UVA on Nov. 12, 2013 in a game the Rams won 59-56.

Players to know: Senior guard Jairus Lyles, a graduate student earned the America East Tournament Most Outstanding Player honor after averaging 19.3 points per game. He averaged 20.2 points, 5.6 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 3.1 turnovers, and 2.1 steals while shooting 43.6% from the field and 38.7% from 3-point range. Lyles is listed at 6’2”.

Senior guard K.J. Maura averaged 11.4 points, 2.2 rebounds, 5.2 assists, 1.8 turnovers, and 2.0 steals per game while shooting 46.8% overall and 42.3% from 3-point range. Maura is listed at 5’8”. Sophomore forward Arkel Lamar averaged 10.5 points, 5.8 rebounds, 1.1 assists, 1.1 turnovers, and 1.2 steals while shooting 39.6% overall and 43.2% from 3-point range. Lamar is listed at 6’5”. Junior forward Joe Sherburne averaged 10.9 points, 3.9 rebounds, 1.9 assists, 0.9 turnovers, and and 0.9 steals while shooting 46.6% overall and 42.3% from 3-point range. Sherburne is listed at 6’6”.

Those four players each have started 27 or more times and average at least 27.1 minutes per game. Essentially, that means the Hoos will be facing four players shorter than 6’6” and that gives them a size advantage at every spot. Will the Retrievers be able to shoot those 3-point percentages over the length of the Hoos?

Some Statistics To Consider: Here are some numbers for UMBC …

  • 38.2% 3-point shooting percentage, 44th nationally
  • 23.2% offensive rebounding percentage, 280th nationally
  • 44.7% opponent shooting percentage, 203rd nationally
  • 35.9% opponent 3-point shooting percentage, 228th nationally
  • 103.4 adjusted offensive efficiency per KenPom, 208th nationally
  • 105.3 adjusted defensive efficiency per KenPom, 170th nationally

No. 8 Creighton

Mascot: Blue Jays

How they got to dance: An at-large selection from the Big East. Creighton (21-11) defeated No. 1 seed Villanova on Feb. 24, 89-83, in overtime, but lost by 20 points in the other meeting with the Wildcats.

Virginia/other connections: Freshman guard Ty-Shon Alexander played his final high school season at Oak Hill Academy in Virginia. Along with senior guard Marcus Foster, Alexander is one of two players on the roster from Charlotte so this is a homecoming game. Foster originally played at Kansas State, the Jays’ opponent in this game, before transferring.

Players to know: Foster averaged 20.3 points, 3.9 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 2.1 turnovers, and 1.0 steals while shooting 49% overall and 42.2% from 3-point range. Khyri Thomas averaged 15.3 points, 4.3 rebounds, 2.75 assists, 1.78 turnovers, and 1.65 steals while shooting 54.1% overall and 41.9% from 3-point range. Toby Hegner averaged 8.3 points and 3.0 rebounds, while shooting 50.3% overall and 39.3% from 3-point range. Davion Mintz averaged 6.0 points, 3.1 rebounds, and 3.1 assists, while shooting 40.4% overall and 32.7% from 3-point range.

Those four players each have started at least 27 games. Overall, the Blue Jays feature seven active players that averaged at least 17.9 minutes and at least 5.6 points per game. Creighton averaged 74.7 possessions per game, good enough for 45th nationally, so who will control the tempo if that’s the second round matchup that prevails?

Some Statistics To Consider: Here are some numbers for Creighton …

  • 37.6% 3-point shooting percentage, 53rd nationally
  • 20.1% offensive rebounding percentage, 332nd nationally
  • 43.8% opponent shooting percentage, 143rd nationally
  • 33.2% opponent 3-point shooting percentage, 73rd nationally
  • 116.5 adjusted offensive efficiency per KenPom, 22nd nationally
  • 99.2 adjusted defensive efficiency per KenPom, 61st nationally

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No. 9 Kansas State

Mascot: Wildcats

Virginia/other connections: Coach Bruce Weber is a Wisconsin native like Tony Bennett. Junior guard Kamau Stokes spent a prep year at Fork Union Military Academy. Graduate student Mawdo Sallah spent a prep year at Fishburne Military Academy. UVA graduate student Nigel Johnson started his career at Kansas State (22-11).

Players to know: Junior forward Dean Wade averaged 16.7 points, 6.4 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 1.4 turnovers, and 1.5 steals while shooting 55% overall and 42.7% from 3-point range. Junior guard Barry Brown Jr. averaged 16.6 points, 3.1 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 2.5 turnovers, and 1.9 steals, while shooting 46.6% overall and 33.3% from 3-point range. Sophomore forward Xavier Sneed averaged 10.7 points, 4.8 rebounds, 1.68 assists, and 1.5 steals, while shooting 41.5% overall and 34.2% from 3-point range. Sophomore forward Makol Mawien averaged 6.1 points and 3.3 rebounds while shooting 61.4% overall.

Those four players each have started 31 games this season. Wade is the most productive post player in this pod and Brown gives KSU a dynamic inside-outside mix, if both players are healthy that is. Wade did not play in the Big 12 Tournament loss to Kansas with a foot injury and Brown left that game early with an eye injury. Both reportedly are expected to be available for the NCAA Tournament. Kansas State averaged 68.2 possessions per game, good enough for 314th nationally, so the tempo battle will be there with Creighton too. If KSU gets through along with UVA, which grinder prevails?

Some Statistics To Consider: Here are some numbers for Kansas State …

  • 34.4% 3-point shooting percentage, 204th nationally
  • 24.3% offensive rebounding percentage, 253rd nationally
  • 42.9% opponent shooting percentage, 95th nationally
  • 33.2% opponent 3-point shooting percentage, 71st nationally
  • 112.2 adjusted offensive efficiency per KenPom, 60th nationally
  • 97.4 adjusted defensive efficiency per KenPom, 41st nationally
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