The NCAA Tournament will begin soon; here is a preview of the 9-12 seeds in Carolina’s region.
9 seed: Seton Hall
Record: 21-11 (10-8 Big East)
Best wins: vs. South Carolina (67-64), vs. Creighton (87-81), @ Butler (70-64)
Worst Losses: vs. Stanford (66-52), @ St. Johns (78-70)
Key Players: Khadeen Carrington, Desi Rodriguez, Angel Delgado
Seton Hall had a decent season. They finished tied for third in a tough Big East conference, tied with Creighton, Providence, and Marquette. They had several good wins and not many bad losses, however, losses against Stanford and St. Johns (who went a combined 28-36) were pretty bad. They had a good win at 4 seeded Butler, but their next two best wins were at home over 6 seeded Creighton and 7 seeded South Carolina. Seton Hall has three good players in Khadeen Carrington, Desi Rodriguez, and Angel Delgado. All of them average above 15 points per game. Delgado averages 15.3 PPG and an insane 13.1 rebounds per game.
Seton Hall is a dangerous team, indeed, and they will play 8 seeded Arkansas in the round of 64 on Friday at 1:30. The winner of that game will play Carolina.
10 seed: Wichita State
Record: 30-4 (17-1 Missouri Valley Conference)
Best Wins: vs. LSU (82-47), @ Oklahoma (76-73), vs. Illinois State (71-51)
Worst Losses: @ Illinois State (76-62), vs. Oklahoma State (93-76)
Key Players: Markis McDuffie, Landry Shamet, Darral Willis Jr.
Wichita State is a very dangerous team. Thankfully, they’re on the other side of the bracket from North Carolina, because they’re that good. They had a very good season, despite getting almost no attention for it. They went 30-4, including 17-1 in the Missouri Valley Conference. Their only conference loss was to fellow 17-1 MVC foe Illinois State. Wichita State’s other three losses were all to respectable major conference programs, Louisville (where they only lost 62-52), Michigan State (they only lost 77-72), and Oklahoma State.
Wichita State is an extremely balanced scoring team, as they have nine players who average 5 ppg or more. That makes them crazy deep, which makes them perfectly suited for a deep run in the tournament. They will face Dayton in the first round, and if they win then they’ll likely face Kentucky in the round of 32. If you’re looking for a Cinderella story to make it far in your bracket, Wichita State is a solid pick.
11 seed: Wake Forest
Record: 19-13 (9-9 ACC)
Best Wins: vs. NC State (88-58), vs. Louisville (88-81), @ Virginia Tech (89-84)
Worst Losses: vs. Clemson (73-68), @ Clemson (95-83)
Key Players: John Collins, Bryant Crawford, Keyshawn Woods
It’s nice to see a familiar ACC foe in our region, and it comes in the form of the Wake Forest Demon Deacons. This is their first NCAA tournament appearance since 2010, and the first in Danny Manning’s three-year tenure as head coach. Wake had a good season, by Wake Forest standards, and honestly they’re just happy to be in after going 19-13 and 9-9 in the ACC. They didn’t have many bad losses, their two worst were both to 17-15 Clemson, however, Wake Forest didn’t have many great wins either. Their only true signature win came at home against Louisville.
John Collins has been a beast for Wake this year, averaging 18.9 ppg and 9.8 rebounds per game. Collins finished second in ACC Player of the Year voting, and some might argue that he should have won it. Sophomore guard Bryant Crawford is averaging 16.1 ppg and 5.4 apg for the Deacs, and fellow guard Keyshawn Woods is averaging 12.8 ppg and is shooting a blistering 45.8% from three point range. Wake will have to play fellow eleven seed Kansas State in the First Four on March 14th, and if they win then they’ll have the pleasure of playing 6 seed Cincinnati in the round of 64.
11 seed: Kansas State
Record: 20-13 (8-10 Big 12)
Best Wins: vs. West Virginia (79-75), @ Baylor (56-54), vs. Baylor (70-64)
Worst Losses: @ Tennessee (70-58), @ Oklahoma (81-51)
Key Players: Wesley Iwundu, Barry Brown, Kamau Stokes
Kansas State had a decent season, but it wasn’t exceptional. They had some good wins over top 25 teams in West Virginia and Baylor (twice), however they also had a terrible thirty-point loss at 11-20 Oklahoma. Kansas State had two good chances to beat their rival Kansas, though they fell short both times and lost by a combined five points in the two meetings.
They are rather balanced scoring-wise, with four players averaging double figures in scoring. Their leading scorer is senior forward Wesley Iwundu, who is averaging 12.5 ppg, 6.4 rebounds per game, and 3.4 assists per game. Guards Barry Brown and Kamau Stokes are also good and productive players for the Wildcats. They average 11.7 and 11.6 ppg, respectively, and Stokes also averages 4.3 apg. As was said above, Kansas State will play Wake Forest in the First Four on Tuesday.
12 seed: Middle Tennessee State
Record: 30-4 (17-1 Conference USA)
Best Wins: @ Ole Miss (77-62), vs. Vanderbilt (71-48), vs. UNC-W (68-63)
Worst Losses: vs. Tennessee State (74-63), vs. Georgia State (64-56), @UTEP (57-54)
Key Players: JaCorey Williams, Giddy Potts, Reggie Upshaw
Middle Tennessee State is a good team. They’re so good, in fact, that in all the brackets that I’ve filled out so far (and thanks to ESPN’s Bracket Challenge, that’s a lot) I’ve had the Blue Raiders advancing at least to the Round of 32 in all but one of them. You might remember MTSU as the team that upset Michigan State in the first round last year, when the 15 seeded Blue Raiders upended 2 seeded Michigan State’s Final Four aspirations 90-81. MTSU has proven to be much better than last year’s team was.
Middle Tennessee State has solid wins over NCAA tournament teams in Vanderbilt and UNC Wilmington, and they also embarrassed Ole Miss in Oxford during the non-conference schedule. MTSU’s conference schedule was no problem for them; they went 17-1 with only one loss at UTEP. The team is led by the potent scoring combo of JaCorey Williams, Giddy Potts, and Reggie Upshaw. Williams leads the team in scoring, averaging 17.3 points per game and 7.3 rebounds per game. Giddy Potts averages 15.8 points and Reggie Upshaw averages 14.5 points and 6.8 rebounds. However, outside of the top three, MTSU doesn’t really have any other scoring threats, with their fourth highest scoring player just averaging 5.8 ppg. MTSU seems to be poised for a Cinderella run, which poses the question: If everyone predicts a team to pull upsets and make a run, are they still a Cinderella?
Carolina will play 16 seed Texas Southern on Friday at 4:00 pm EST on TNT. If Carolina wins (a safe bet considering a 16 seed has never beaten a 1 seed) then they’ll play the winner of Arkansas-Seton Hall, who will play on Friday as well.