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2006 March Madness Tips Off

Seton Hall vs Wichita State

MORE AT STAKE THAN A SECOND ROUND APPEARANCE


Are you all bracketed-up? On Thursday, March 16, 2006, the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament is scheduled to start at 12:20 pm in Greensboro, N.C. The Seton Hall Pirates, from the Big East, are the tenth seed in the Washington, D.C. Region, while the Missouri Valley Conference Wichita Shockers garnered the seventh seed.

Seton Hall finished seventh in the Big East and was handily knocked out of their conference tournament by Rutgers (48-61) in the first round. After winning the top spot in the MVC’s regular season, Wichita State met sixth place Bradley in the conference tournament’s semi-finals. Bradley won that contest 60-52.

This looks like a fairly close match-up, with the edge going to the Shockers. Both have strong home records but the all-important road edge goes to the team from the MVC. Wichita was 8-3 while away from home, while Seton Hall earned a 4-6 mark. The Shockers led their conference in three-point percentage (36.6) and rebounding margin (+5.7).

Seton Hall finished their regular season by beating conference opponent and tournament fifth seed Pittsburgh 65-61. They were the only club all year to win at Pittsburgh and they beat Syracuse and N.C. State in their backyards. But the Pirates were also humiliated by Duke and Connecticut and were defeated by DePaul and Notre Dame. All season long the team has been defined by inconsistent play.

Wichita has been amazingly consistent. The team’s anchored by two seniors—forward Kelly Whitney, who hit for 15.1 PPG and grabbed 8.0 RPG, and guard Donald Copeland, who poured in 16.1 PPG and dished off 4.5 APG. Guard Jamar Nutter, a junior, was good for 12 PPG. The team averaged 6.7 three-pointers a contest, while the Pirates hit 5.7 three’s each time they took to the court.

Seton Hall’s center, Paul Miller, is a senior averaging a hefty 13.0 PPG and 6.5 RPG. The club’s evenly balanced attack includes junior forward Kyle Wilson (11.2 PPG, 5.7 RPG) and sophomore guard Sean Ogirri (11.9 PPG). Sophomore forward P.J. Couisnard added 10.2 PPG, 6.3 RPG, and 3.0 APG.

Seton Hall has three current players who were with the team in 2004 when they last went to the Big Dance, beating number nine seed Arizona (80-76) in the first round, and after that, losing to number one Duke, 91- 62. This is Wichita’s first time in the NCAA Tournament in 18 years, giving the Pirates a slight edge in experience.

One of the things critics of the Selection Committee will be monitoring is how the MVC team, Wichita, fares against a Big East opponent. Many felt that the MVC had been given too many berths this year with the committee picking four teams—the most ever—from the field of ten, we disagree as you can read here. If the Shockers, the regular season MVC first-place team, fall to Seton Hall, the Big East seventh-place club, there’s sure to be more finger pointing by media experts.

There’s more at stake in this contest than a Second Round appearance; it’s the first test of the NCAA’s Selection Committee’s wisdom. It should be a close one.

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