First Four preview: Liberty vs. North Carolina A&T prediction, TV info
The 2013 NCAA tournament will open on Tuesday night with a First Four matchup between Liberty and North Carolina A&T in Dayton, Ohio. Liberty is the first team to enter the NCAA tournament with 20 losses since Coppin State in 2008. North Carolina A&T has its most wins in more than a decade.
Game time: Tuesday, 6:40 p.m. ET (TruTV)
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Why we're watching: If you’re pulling for a small, unheralded school to win a game or two in the opening week of the tournament, Liberty could be your Cinderella. Liberty is the first team to enter the tournament with 20 losses since Coppin State in 2008. The Flames’ winning percentage (.429) is also the lowest of any team in the field since 2005, when Oakland qualified with a 12-18 record (.400). The Flames went winless in their first eight games of the season but faced a competitive non-conference schedule with matchups against Georgetown, Richmond, William & Mary and Iona. Although the Hoyas played without Big East Player of the Year Otto Porter in a 68-59 win on Nov. 14, the Flames were missing three of their primary post players. Georgetown shot just 2-of-15 from 3-point range in the closer-than-expected victory. Though Liberty coach Dale Layer felt the Hoyas lacked motivation with upcoming games against UCLA and Indiana in the ensuing week, the result could have provided his team with confidence. North Carolina A&T, meanwhile, entered the MEAC tournament at 15-16 but won each of its first three games in Norfolk by double digits. The Aggies’ 19 wins are the most by the program in more than a decade.
Players to watch: Liberty junior guard Davon Marshall is one of the top long-range shooters in school history. In four games in the Big South tournament, Marshall averaged 18.25 points per game, including 20 in the final against Charleston Southern in which he drained six of seven attempts from beyond the arc. North Carolina A&T junior forward Adrian Powell led the Aggies in points with 12.5 per game and pulled down 5.1 boards per contest.
Key to the game: The Flames will look to stifle the Aggies with pesky perimeter defense. Liberty held opponents to 26.9 shooting from 3-point range in the Big South tournament, including Coastal Carolina to one made 3-pointer on 16 attempts. North Carolina A&T has only hit 30.0 percent of its 3-point attempts on the season. The Aggies also enter the tournament ranked 317th in Division I in field goal percentage. Cy Alexander’s team will try to counter by jumping passing lanes on the other end. The Aggies force 7.1 steals and 16.1 turnovers per game.
Prediction: Liberty 73, North Carolina A&T 69
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