#2 Maryland vs. #3 Denver
Thursday (3/21), 7:00 PM, ESPNU
The Terrapins will host Denver tonight after defeating Niagara. In lacrosse, this would be a battle of top-five teams in the nation. In basketball, it’s second-round NIT action.
Name to know for Denver – Chris Udofia: The 6’6” junior forward (no relation to Mfon Udofia at Georgia Tech) is a do-it-all player for the Pioneers. He leads Denver in scoring (12.9 points) and shot blocking (2.4 per game), and is second in rebounding (4.5), assists (3.4), and steals (1.6). Expect him to be heavily involved in the game’s proceedings.
Key for Maryland – Get the ball inside: While Niagara did a good job of negating Alex Len’s size advantage with double teams, they still allowed Maryland to shoot nearly 60% on two-point attempts. Nobody for Denver playing considerable minutes is taller than 6’7,” so the Terrapins will once again enjoy a considerable size advantage. Whether it be with Len in the post or on the wings, or Dez Wells driving, Maryland needs to work the ball into the interior and utilize this advantage.
Key for Denver – Attack by defending: There are 343 teams in Division I basketball. Denver ranks seventh in turnover margin, generating 15.8 turnovers each contest. Maryland is 339th, turning over the ball 14.9 times a game. Their defense is predicated on reading opposing offenses and constantly changing schemes, which could confuse a Maryland offense that has proven to be shaky on the decision-making front.
#1 Virginia vs. #5 St. John’s
Sunday (3/24), 11:00 AM, ESPN
Try not to have too much fun on Saturday night: Bright and early Sunday morning, Virginia and St. John’s will meet for their second round NIT contest.
Name to know for St. John’s – Jakarr Simpson: The freshman forward averages 14.9 points and 6.6 rebounds per game for the Red Storm. With sophomore D’Angelo Harrison suspended for the rest of the season, Simpson has become the lead man for St. John’s offensively.
Key for Virginia – Make some threes: St. John’s likes to use some zone defensively, as it allows them to keep shot-blocking dynamo Chris Obekpa close to the basket to contend shots. This likely means Virginia will need to make some three-pointers over the zone, especially if Obekpa is able to slow down Akil Mitchell and Mike Tobey with his defense. However, in their last four games, the Cavaliers have made just 25.4% of their shots from long range.
Key for St. John’s – Produce without Harrison: In the five games since D’Angelo Harrison’s suspension, the Red Storm is 1-4. That one win, of course, was St. John’s 63-61 victory over St. Joseph’s to open the NIT. St. John’s already was not a very good offensive team, ranking outside of the top 200 in the nation in every shooting percentage category, and taking away a player averaging 17.8 points per game only hurts matters. It will be a tall task against Virginia’s stiff defense, but somebody will need to step up if St. John’s hopes to end the Cavaliers home winning streak of 18 games.