We have arrived at the first full day of tournament action at PPG Paints Arena. Are the two opening round games last night, UMass advanced to face Saint Bonaventure, while Saint Louis advanced to play George Washington.
#8 La Salle vs #9 Davidson | 12 ET | NBCSN
This has quite the potential to be a sneaky-good game. This is a matchup of two teams who didn’t quite live up to expectations this year, yet still managed to have solid seasons. La Salle and Davidson faced each other just once this season, back on January 19th. The Explorers won that meeting 91-83, behind 29 points from Jordan Price. It’s certainly safe to say that neither team ended the season the way they wanted to, both closing the regular season losing three of their last four games. Yet despite all that, don’t sleep on this one folks. If the first meeting this season was any indication, we’re in for another good one!
This game is a tough one to call because even though La Salle won the only meeting this season, my head is telling me that this is the time of year that Bob McKillop lives for. This will most definitely be a high-scoring affair, but Davidson’s one-two punch of Jack Gibbs and Peyton Aldridge will just be too much for the Explorers to handle. I’ll take Davidson in a close one, pulling away at the end to win by about eight points.
#5 Saint Bonaventure vs #12 UMass | 2:30 ET | NBCSN
After an impressive performance in the opening round last night against Saint Joseph’s, UMass advances to play Saint Bonaventure. The key to this one for the Minutemen will be their outside shooting, which was one of the main reasons they defeated the Hawks last night. The Bonnies won both meetings during the regular season, winning 89-77 on December 30th in Amherst, and 60-56 just five days ago in Olean. UMass hit just seven combined threes in the first two meetings, as opposed to the eight number they hit last night. Now whether that’s a credit to Saint Bonaventure’s defense or poor shooting on the part of the Minutemen or some combination thereof, the fact remains that if UMass is going to have a chance to advance to the Quarterfinals, they’re going to need to knock down some shots.
The Bonnies have got to feel confident heading into this one, considering they beat this team in their last game of the regular season. Obviously, you can never afford to overlook a team, especially at this time of year, but this is a game that Bona should win by double-digits if we’re being honest. And I’m sure they want another shot at URI, their would-be opponent should they advance to the Quarterfinals. Look for UMass to hang around in the first half and put up a fight, but I expect the Bonnies to pull away in the second half.
#7 George Mason vs #10 Fordham | 6 ET | NBCSN
This is by far the most intriguing game of the day. George Mason and Fordham are indisputably the two biggest surprises of this season, as both were picked preseason to finish in the bottom-four of the standings. Both teams have been on the winning sides of some upsets this season, as the Patriots swept Richmond, while the Rams beat both VCU and Rhode Island. Mason won the only meeting this season between the two schools, 73-67, back on February 11th. You’ll definitely want to grab your popcorn for this rematch!
The outcome of this game is highly dependent on which version of these two teams shows up tonight. Both Mason and Fordham have shown flashes of brilliance this season, while also having shown the ability to lose games to teams in the bottom-tier of the RPI rankings. As long as Otis Livingston II can score in double-figures, George Mason should be able to secure their first-ever A-10 Tournament win.
#6 George Washington vs #11 Saint Louis | 8:30 ET | NBCSN
After a miraculous comeback, the Billikens have advanced to face red-hot George Washington in the 2nd Round. The Colonials won the only meeting between the two teams this season, 63-55 in Foggy Bottom back on January 28th.
The common theme for the Colonials during their five-game winning streak: outside shooting. George Washington drained 12 threes against Duquesne three weeks ago, the beginning of their win streak, and has averaged 11.0 made threes during that stretch.
For the Billikens to have any chance at all, they’re going to have to contain GW’s shooters, and continue their own hot shooting. Easier said than done. I don’t see the Colonials dropping this one, especially since they’ve found ways to win against Saint Louis in the A-10 Tournament tradionally. This includes last year when GW prevailed over the Billikens in the 2nd Round, and I expect more of the same. I’ll take George Washington by about twelve points.