First Four preview: Middle Tenn St. vs. St. Mary's prediction, TV info

Matthew Dellavedova looks to avoid a short stay in the tournament. (USATSI)

No. 11 Middle Tennessee State (25-8) vs. No. 11 St. Mary’s (27-6)

Game time: Tuesday, 9:15 p.m. ET (TruTV)

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Why we're watching: Matthew Dellavedova is one of the most crafty, electrifying players in the NCAA tournament but could be making a short stay if he is unable to solve one of the stingiest defenses in Division I. Blue Raiders coach Kermit Davis employs a 10-man rotation and will likely throw several defenders at Dellavedova in an effort to frustrate the three-time All-West Coast Conference guard. Dellavedova, though, is more adept at handling physical defenders after facing a host of NBA All-Stars at the London Olympics last summer. After averaging 7.3 points and 4.5 assists per game for Australia in London, Dellavedova returned to campus for his senior year better equipped to face longer, more athletic players. Middle Tennessee State went 19-1 in the Sun Belt Conference, finishing the regular season as one of just seven teams in Division I to lose one game or fewer in conference play.

Players to watch: St. Mary’s forward Brad Waldow. Dellavedova has help on the perimeter with WCC honorable mention guard Stephen Holt and junior swingman Beau Levesque, but may look to feed the post often with Waldow. If the Gaels can get the Blue Raiders’ defense to converge on Waldow, the 6-9, 260 pound sophomore forward could kick it out to open shooters on the perimeter. Expect Davis to take a close look at St. Mary’s last two games against Gonzaga when Waldow played a marginal role in the Gaels’ offense. In spite of their depth, the Blue Raiders still lack a go-to scorer. WhileMarcos Knight leads Middle Tennessee State in scoring (12.5 points per game), the senior guard has attempted less than 20 percent of the Blue Raiders’ field goals. Davis has described senior guard Bruce Massey as the nation’s top perimeter defender in the nation besides Ohio State guard Aaron Craft. Massey can also be spelled by Tweety Knight, another relentless defender.

Key to the game: Following a win over Middle Tennessee State early in the season Florida guard Kenny Boynton described the Blue Raiders as one of the most physical defensive teams he’s ever faced. If Dellavedova can handle the rough nature of the game early, the Blue Raiders could be in trouble. In five losses, Middle Tennessee State averaged 57.6 points per game. The Blue Raiders will need senior guard Raymond Cintron to be accurate from the outside. Cintron has hit 70 3-pointers and is shooting 44.0 percent from beyond the arc this season.

Prediction: Middle Tennessee State 66, Saint Mary’s 63

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