The Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders (28-5) will take on the Saint Mary's Gaels (27-6) in the first round of the NCAA Tournament in the hopes of making the main draw of the Big Dance.
The winner of this play-in contest earns the right to be the No. 11 seed in the Midwest Region and the No. 6-seeded Memphis Tigers (30-4) are standing by awaiting the winner.
In the Sun Belt Conference semifinal game, the Blue Raiders fell short to the Florida International Golden Panthers, while the Gaels lost to the Gonzaga Bulldogs in the West Coast Conference tourney final.
Despite those losses, both teams still earned the right for a chance to play their way into a No. 11 seed.
Let's take a look at everything you need to know in order to watch this game.
Where: Dayton, Ohio at the University of Dayton Arena
When: Tuesday, March 19, at 9 p.m. ET
Live Stream: NCAA.com
Listen: Middle Tennessee St.'s radio information can be found here.
Betting Line: St. Mary's -3 (via Sportsbook)
Key Injuries (via USA Today)
F Tim Williams, St. Mary's (Out, leg)
F Jacquez Rozier, Middle Tennessee (Out, hand)
What's at Stake?
The winner of this matchup will advance to the main draw of the NCAA Tournament as the No. 11 seed in the Midwest Region where it will face the No. 6-seeded Memphis Tigers.
What They're Saying
Here is what Blue Raiders head coach Kermit Davis had to say about the season his team has had and why it deserved to be in the NCAA Tournament, per Scott Gleeson of USA Today Sports:
"I'm disappointed with our conference tournament loss, but there's really no anxiety whatsoever," Davis told USA TODAY Sports by phone Tuesday afternoon. "Based on what we've done and what the NCAA (tournament selection) committee's habits are, there's no question we should get in. Before Sunday, we had the longest winning streak in the country. We've done everything we're asked to do at the mid-major level — scheduling in the non-conference and playing tough teams outside of (the Sun Belt) conference."
Stephanie Hammon of the Marin Independent Journal broke down the Gaels' resume for their NCAA tournament bid:
With just one top-50 RPI victory (at home against Creighton in the Feb. 23 BracketBusters event), St. Mary's tournament resume lacked some luster. Of the Gaels' 26 wins against Division I competition, a majority of them came against teams with sub-100 RPIs. They also had a bad early-season loss to a Georgia Tech team with a RPI of 148.
Most Important Player to Watch: St. Mary's Guard Matthew Dellavedova
Dellavedova led the Gaels in scoring this season with 15.8 points per game, but this guard is also a solid all-around player with 6.4 assists, 3.3 rebounds and 1.2 steals per contest.
Not only will Dellavedova be tasked with putting the ball in the bucket, which he can do from anywhere on the floor (37 percent from beyond the arc), but he will also be facilitating St. Mary's offense as he looks to set his teammates up for easy baskets.
Key Matchup: Battle of the Backcourts
Each team has enjoyed great success from its backcourt this season.
The Blue Raiders' top two scorers are guards Marcos Knight and Raymond Cintron. The Gaels' best two offensive players have been guards Dellavedova and Stephen Holt.
Whichever team gets the most production from its backcourt will likely emerge victorious in this first-round matchup.
Prediction: St. Mary's 68, Middle Tennessee St. 59
With the exception of three losses to a tough Gonzaga team, the Gaels haven't lost a game since late December and have routinely taken care of business against average opponents.
Middle Tennessee has also done its best to win its games against average opponents, but it is sorely lacking the kind of offensive firepower that St. Mary's has.
The Gaels have four players averaging double figures while the Blue Raiders have just one. In the end, the Gaels' offense will be too much for the Blue Raiders to handle, and that will help cement St. Mary's as the No. 11 seed in the Midwest Region.
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