TUESDAY MARCH 19
NIT: 9:15 p.m. — Ohio at Denver [ESPN3]
No, it's probably not the game they wanted. But there's no choice but to make lemons out of lemonade, according to their coach:
Jim Christian not worried about NCAA Tournament. Asked about VCU/Akron today "Nah, I don't give a s--- about that game." Focus all on Denver— Jason Arkley (@JasonAmessenger) March 18, 2013
Denver's statistical profile is very similar to Ohio's. The big difference: the Pioneers like to slow it down to the tune of almost 10 fewer possessions per game. Both teams take care of the ball and have a great assist rate. Both teams shoot the ball well. It may be a contrast in style, but the results are similar. The other curveball here: Denver is a very young team with just their third postseason appearance ever (and first since 2005). Meanwhile, Ohio is senior-laden, coming off a Sweet 16 hangover, and deep down disappointed they're in a bracket to nowhere. The curious thing here is to consider which team honestly cares about this game.
WEDNESDAY MARCH 20
CBI: 7 p.m. — North Dakota State at Western Michigan
You may remember the Bison from when they played Akron in the BracketBusters and, well, had a whale of a time keeping up. I haven't been that huge on Western Michigan this year, but they did admirably against similar competition and that Pacific win, now that they're in the NCAAs, looks even better. NDSU doesn't seem to have a glaring weakness, which is a bit daunting for the Broncos but this is a home game for WMU, so if nothing else, that will certainly help.
CIT: 7 p.m. — Fairfield at Kent State
This was rescheduled from Tuesday due to travel issues. If the matchup sounds familiar, that's because it should; the Flashes and Stags met in the second round of the 2011 NIT. Geno Ford and Kent State went to one coast and topped Saint Mary's, then turned around, went to the other coast and shot the lights out yet again. Only Randal Holt and Mark Henniger played in that game, and Holt had himself a night with 22 points. Fairfield returns many players from that team, notably Derek Needham, who had 20 points of his own and is this team's leading scorer.
Fairfield's had a wild season, honestly. At one point they won six straight, then lost their next five, only to win the next five after that. They also lost a game 34-31, so watch out for that.
THURSDAY MARCH 21
NCAA: 9.45 p.m.-ish — (12) Akron vs. (5) VCU at Auburn Hills, Michigan [CBS]
The more I look to read about this game, the less I hear about it. Such is the sad existence of two mid-majors playing each other. Where's the intrigue? Very few people are honing in on the Zips as a potential second-round contestant. Also, Keith Dambrot and Shaka Smart are best buds, and that takes away from the mentality of shocking the world by ... shattering the hopes and dreams of your friend.
WNIT: 7 p.m. — Butler at Toledo
Welp. Three losses was clearly too many for the Rockets to get into the NCAA tournament. Hell, two-loss Green Bay was a TWELVE seed. Scheduling good opponents is tough when it's known you're a mid-major powder keg.
Disappointed with #NCAA committee decision. I would gladly invite any of them to sit in on scheduling calls. #Frustrating4MidMajors— Tricia Cullop (@CoachCullop) March 19, 2013
89 retweets already. Mah god.
Brian has a more in-depth preview on this one. The tl;dr version: Toledo ought to win.
WNIT: 7 p.m. — Akron at Duquesne
You may remember last year when Duquesne reportedly offered to double Keith Dambrot's salary if he agreed to coach their basketball team, and they asked twice. But Akron has more on their mind than the other basketball team: this is their third postseason appearance ever, and first in the WNIT in 14 years. They're 0-2 all-time in the postseason. They'll want to change that.
WNIT: 7 p.m. — SMU at Bowling Green
An interesting profile for the Mustangs: they played just one (one!) team in the RPI Top 50, a loss, but their overall strength of schedule is helped by Conference USA having several teams in the 50-150 range, and they did very good against them. BGSU is smack in the middle of that group, so SMU should be ready for them. And as a bonus, if Akron and BGSU both win, they will face each other in the second round.
WNIT: 8 p.m. — Miami (OH) at Illinois
It's been a rough season for Miami, but here's one more shot for Courtney Osborn to put up 30 points in a game. Illinois plays really fast (80 possessions/game, 4th in the country) and has played a bunch of tough competition.
FRIDAY MARCH 22
WNIT: 8 p.m. — Ball State at Minnesota
Honestly, I was a little surprised Ball State was given an invitation, but good for them. According to RPI they are the worst team to receive a WNIT invitation, and that's not to belittle their accomplishment, but rather celebrate that the MAC has incredible depth. They began poorly with a 3-10 nonconference mark then bounced back with a 12-4 MAC record. To get into this thing even at 15-15 is pretty sweet, because one more loss and they didn't qualify. Plus ... when was the last time the "last team in" was a MAC team? Usually at that point they look for somebody a little better and the MAC has the "first team out."
It won't be impossible to beat Minnesota. The Gophers' defense has been spotty and they haven't been playing well lately. They do have an excellent sophomore guard named Rachel Banham who averages over 20 points per game, so they'll need to worry about her.
SATURDAY MARCH 23
NCAAW: 11 a.m. — (11) Central Michigan vs. (6) Oklahoma at Columbus, Ohio [ESPN2]
An 11-seed is pretty admirable for the Chippewas. Perhaps they rewarded all those quality wins (at Toledo, Green Bay, Saint Joseph's on neutral, Toledo on neutral) but whatever the reason, Oklahoma is battle tested playing in the Big XII. They also have size — their center Nicole Griffin is 6'6". Daunting, but CMU is a pretty good rebounding team even without much interior height (Jas'Mine Bracey is their only regular listed above 6'0").
A positive sign here is that the game is in Columbus, so it's within reasonable travel. For a team that hadn't been to the NCAAs since 1984, I can see some hardcore fans going down there and having some fun.