New Hampshire Wildcats
What They’re Playing For: The automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament for the America East conference will be handed out on Saturday night in Hartford, CT when the Vermont Catamounts face the New Hampshire Wildcats.
How They Got Here: Vermont defeated Binghamton 78-69 and Maryland-Baltimore City 76-59. New Hampshire defeated Stony Brook 77-55 and Maine 68-57.
Who to Watch: The Catamounts are led into battle by F Marqus Blakely. The 6’5″ senior has averaged at least 16 points per game in each of his L/3 seasons, including 17.4 this year. He’s also adding 9.1 boards per game, and is coming off of a double-double (18 points, 12 rebounds) against MD-Baltimore. New Hampshire’s G Alvin Abreu has tallied 28 points in two America East Tournament games. He’s the Wildcats’ leading scorer at 14.6 points per game.
Previous Meetings: January 27th – New Hampshire 75 – Vermont 56, February 14th – Vermont 85 – New Hampshire 76 (OT)
What to Expect: It’s going to be difficult to pick against the Catamounts in this one. This is a team that is scoring points at will and has dropped at least 74 on eight straight foes. The Wildcats are the team du’ jour right now in America East, but that Cinderella story just doesn’t have a chance of continuing unless the team is going to improve greatly on its 61.6 points per game this year. Expect Vermont to roll into the NCAA Tournament once again.
Wichita State Shockers
Northern Iowa Panthers
What They’re Playing For: Save conference bragging rights, this may actually be a relatively meaningless game for both teams. Northern Iowa already knows that it is dancing one way or the other, but another win over the Shockers would surely improve its positioning on the bracket. Wichita State is sitting at 25 wins right now, which could be enough to get into the field regardless. However, the Shockers won’t want to take any chances, and they’d love to have the golden ticket to the dance.
How They Got Here: Wichita State defeated Missouri State 73-63 & Illinois State 65-61. Northern Iowa defeated Drake 55-40 & Bradley 57-40.
Who to Watch: C Garrett Stutz is the leading scorer for the Shockers in this tournament at 15.5 points per game. He’s also going to be a potential matchup nightmare for a largely undersized Northern Iowa squad. There aren’t many pure scorers for the Panthers, but C Jordan Eglseder is going to be the man tabbed with the job of stopping Stutz. He has scored 20 points and brought in 11 boards in his two Missouri Valley Tournament games so far this year.
Previous Meetings: January 19th – Wichita State 60 – Northern Iowa 51, January 30th – Northern Iowa 59 – Wichita State 56
What to Expect: It may not be one that the Shockers absolutely have to have, but it is one that they’ll want to at least stay close in. Northern Iowa is playing fantastic defense right now, but its lack of offensive firepower may ultimately cause it to come up short on Saturday. Wichita State’s bulk on the inside may be just enough to pull off a minor upset and shrink the bubble by another team.