Morgan State Preview & Thoughts On The Tournament

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What: First Round NCAA Tournament Game
Who: Oklahoma (27-5, Big 12) vs. Morgan State (23-11, MEAC)
Where: Kansas City, Missouri
When: Thursday, March 19th at 8:40PM CT

March Madness is finally here! Oklahoma fell to a two seed, as I suspected. Again, no need to be concerned as there have been four 2-seeds who have been crowned champions. Also, only four 2 seeds have ever fallen to a 15 seed. Here's the Sooners reacting to the news.

Unfortunately, Oklahoma appears to have drawn the toughest 15 seed. In ESPN's "Giant Killer" calculations they would be the most fiesty 15 seed. The odds of Morgan State winning are still quite low, but it's the NCAA tournament and anything can happen (especially the way our team has been playing lately). So, without further ado, let's offer some information on our new foe.

If you want a look at their official website, you can see their roster here. They obviously have been a team that's been tough to handle this year as they knocked off DePaul (a Big East team) and Maryland (an ACC team) on the road.

They have an RPI of 130, about on par with Radford and Richmond, and ahead of Georgia Tech by a few spots (shocking, eh?). They are 0-3 against the RPI top 50 this year. The average RPI of their opponents in losses is 81, so they've lost to some better teams. Obviously they are the class of the MEAC as they posted a 13-3 conference record and have won 12 of their last 13. Not that that's anything to brag about, as the MEAC is rated the 3rd weakest conference nationally in Division I.

As far as a KenPom breakdown goes, there is much to be learned about the Bears. Their adjusted offense ranking is 210th in the country (pretty awful), but their adjusted defensive efficiency is good for 92nd in the country. First, the offense. We may have found a team worse at shooting free throws than OU as they only make them at a 64% clip. Ironically enough they shoot the 3-pointer at a decent rate (34%) but they get very few of their points from 3-pointers (23%). Their biggest asset is offensive rebounding, so we need to hit the glass hard. They don't get to the line very often, so their shot creation is either off good defense and turnovers, good ball rotation, or second chance points.

On defense, they are much better, with the 12th best defensive effective field goal percentage in the country. They also create turnovers at a pretty high rate (50th nationally). However, as it seems they play tight man-to-man defense and create pressure, it seems they also foul a lot. They give up offensive rebounds to other teams as well. Their best win was against Maryland on the road, and it seems as though they do their best when able to press a team that doesn't have a seasoned point guard. Expect them to be in our face, which means we'll need to convert free throws when we get them, and have crisp passing with good ball management. If we can rotate the ball well enough, I think we'll have open guys. I think to try and contain Blake they may try some flavor of a zone. Expect them to collapse quickly towards the ball when he has it in the post, and take their chances with our guards shooting the ball. I'd expect their defense to work best after they score baskets and are able to dig their heels in and press, so a good defense may be the Sooners' best offense.

Morgan State Starters
G Jermaine Bolden (#3) 5'9" 175 Senior
G Rogers Barnes (#21) 6'2" 190 Senior
G Reggie Holmes (#11) 6'4" 180 Junior
G/F Marquise Kately (#32) 6'5" 220 Senior
F/C Kevin Thompson (#33) 6'8" 240 Sophomore

Their starters account for about 80% of the minutes on the team, which is about 11% above the Division I average. They have 3 seniors in their starting lineup, and one junior, so their starters will be well seasoned, but their bench players aren't used to playing big minutes, especially in big games. Getting them in foul trouble could help us build a lead quickly.

Keep an eye on Reggie Holmes. He has made more 3-pointers than the rest of the team combined this year. In fact, he has attempted 55 more 3's than 2's (234 to 179) and shoots the 3 at a 37% clip. He is the best free throw shooter on the team (73.5%) and turns the ball over the least. By far, he is the best offensive weapon that they have. Marquise Kately is probably the second best shooter, but he has almost no range. Kevin Thompson shoots an incredibly low percentage for being their post player (43.5%) and can't hit a free throw to save his life (misses about 1 out of every 2). Bolden and Barnes have 3-point shooting ability but don't take as many shots as the other three. Bolden is pretty much a true PG, and seems to be a facilitator.

More good stuff after the jump...

Here's some of my thoughts on the tournament. We'll start with my thoughts on how OU's bracket is setting up:

  • Talk about getting the short end of the stick on the second round matchup. At a 7-seed, Clemson was undervalued by the selection committee and this poses a potential problem for OU. Clemson is athletic and from the ACC. If Michigan manages to sneak by, they've taken down some tough opponents this year (UCLA and Duke among them). Both are very worrisome potential matchups.
  • If we managed to get to the Sweet 16, and that's a big IF, obviously we wouldn't want Syracuse. I think every other team in that 3-6-11-14 pod is beatable for OU, and relatively easily.
  • It's not great to be in UNC's region, but they drew a bunch of Cinderellas and Sleepers. How about facing either LSU or Butler in the 2nd round as an 8 and 9 respectively? Or potentially having Illinois or Gonzaga waiting in the Sweet 16. No, this Gonzaga team won't fold in the tournament as easily as some Bulldogs teams of past. I think they're for real and could cause big problems.
  • I think the South Region is one where you may not see a lot of first round upsets, but in later rounds you could see some 4-8 seeds make some noise. Hopefully OU can survive the upset!

And finally some overall notes on the tournament:

  • Wake Forest is a 4 seed? Wow, I thought being a 6-loss team from the ACC would get them a 3 at least. I was even worried they could steal our 2 seed!
  • Could Boise, Idaho be the place for upsets and Cinderellas to be born? Take a look at these matchups. Marquette, a 6 seed, has to go up against a 30-4 Utah State team that knocked off Utah earlier in the year. Marquette will be going without their star PG in the tournament. Meanwhile, Florida State and Xavier are two extremely vulnerable top seeds. Florida State draws a tough Wisconsin team in the typical upset 5-12 matchup. Xavier draws Portland State who won at Gonzaga and lost by 1 at Washington.
  • I'd be shocked to not see Villanova in the Sweet 16. They are basically playing at home and have been playing good ball lately. Still, I'm tempted to take VCU as a sleeper. They are tough, and will be drawing UCLA in a 6-11 matchup where UCLA has to travel across the country to Philly.
  • I like another 11 seed (the 11 seeds are dangerous this year) - Dayton. They get a tough West Virginia team, but Dayton is a dangerous team themselves. Never underestimate the A-10!
  • If I had to pick the craziest region right now, I'd take the East. Your top 3 seeds are pretty solid (Pitt, Duke and Nova), but they are all vulnerable. The 4-8 seeds are dangerous and perhaps undervalued teams like Xavier, Florida State, UCLA, Texas and Oklahoma State. Then there is even potential in the 9-13 seeds. Tennessee, Minnesota, VCU, Wisconsin and Portland State are all capable of winning a game or two. The real mayhem could happen here.
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