2014 National Invitational Tournament, Round 1
No. 6 Toledo Rockets (27-6, 14-4 MAC) vs. No. 3 Southern Miss Golden Eagles (27-6, 13-3 C-USA)
DAY & TIME: Wednesday, March 19, 8:30 P.M. ET
WHERE: Reed Green Coliseum, Hattiesburg, Miss.
TV: Not televised
STREAMING: ESPN3 / WatchESPN App
RADIO: The game is available on the radio via the Rocket Radio Network and can be heard locally in Toledo on WSPD-AM 1370.
HISTORY: This is Toledo's eighth NIT appearance in program history, with the Rockets reaching the championship game in 1943. The team is 3-7 all-time in the NIT.
HOW'D THEY GET HERE:
Southern Miss is a snub and a victim of a flawed system, just like Toledo. These two teams each had Top 40 RPIs but because they play in "inferior" conferences and didn't win their tournaments they got hosed. Southern Miss had a great run through conference season, finishing in a four-way tie for the regular season title, but they were molly-whoped in the semifinals of the C=USA Tournament by Louisiana Tech, 88-70. But getting to play this game at home is huge for the Golden Eagles, who went 14-0 at home during the year.
The senior guard duo led an offense that averaged just 71.6 points per game, but are highly efficient. Craig leads the team in points, rebounds and field goal percentage averaging 11.3, 7.4 and an eye-popping 59.3 percent respectively. He's a big wing player who likes to get inside and score (he's taken just one shot from behind the arc). Freakishly athletic he seems to be a similar mold to Rian Pearson, a type of Swiss-army-knife player who can do just about anything good, but nothing spectacular.
Watson is his sidekick and the team's point guard. A smaller guard like Toledo's Julius Brown, Watson is second on the team with 10.4 ppg and leads the team with 3.9 points. Oh, and he's a former Toledo player who transferred after Tod Kowalczyk took over.
KEYS TO THE GAME: Southern Miss's offense is more old school. The Golden eagles don't like to get out and run, and don't play a fast-paced game. The key for Toledo is to make them do that. The Rockets are built on speed and a full-court offense that wears down the opponent and comes at them from all angles. If Toledo can get the ball flowing early and get the Southern Miss players running it should play right into Toledo's favor. but as we say with WMU, that's easier said than done.
WHAT'S NEXT: The winner advances on to the field of 16 to face the winner of No. 2 Missouri vs. No. 7 Davidson.