Mount St. Mary's (18-14) vs. Coppin State (16-20)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Tuesday, March 18th, 7:30 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: University of Dayton Arena (13,409) -- Dayton, Ohio. Television: ESPN. NCAA Tournament Record: Mount St. Mary's 0-2, Coppin St. 1-3. Series Record: Mount St. Mary's leads, 3-0.
GAME NOTES: The Mount St. Mary's Mountaineers and Coppin State Eagles will kick off the 2008 NCAA Tournament, as the two teams meet in opening-round action in Dayton this evening. The Mountaineers captured the Northeast Conference tournament title and with it earned their third NCAA tourney bid in school history. The Mount was a 16-seed in the previous two appearances in this event (1995 and 1999) and is 0-2 thus far in tournament play. The Mount comes into the Big Dance with a bit of momentum, winning five straight and eight of its last nine game overall. It has been a tale of two seasons for Coppin State. The Eagles are in the NCAA Tournament field despite having a losing record at 14-20. Coppin State opened the year with a miserable 4-19 record, but caught fire the rest of the way, winning 12 of its last 13 games, including four straight to defy the odds as the seventh-seed and capture the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference Tournament. This is Coppin State's fourth trip to the NCAA Tournament, with a 1-3 all-time record. These two teams are meeting for the fourth time, with Mount St. Mary's winning the previous three matchups, although this is the first meeting since both teams entered Division I. The last time these two teams clashed was back in the 1984-85 season. The winner of the this game will move into the East Region and take on top-seeded North Carolina in first-round action on Friday.
One of the keys to Mount St. Mary's capturing the NEC title, was the fact that the Mount averaged a whopping 36.3 trips to the free-throw line in the tournament. Another factor was the play of NEC Tournament MVP Jean Cajou. The freshman guard came off the bench, but that didn't stop him from averaging 16.0 ppg, while shooting .545 from the floor and .538 from behind the arc. In the championship game against Sacred Heart, the Mountaineers went a solid 30- of-35 from the charity stripe. Cajou and fellow reserve Kelly Beidler led the way with 15 points apiece. Jeremy Goode and Shawn Atupem followed with 13 and 12 points, respectively. Leading scorer Chris Vann, played just 17 minutes of the game due to foul trouble, tallying a mere four points. It was over 10 points less than his season average of 14.4 ppg. Goode is hot on his trail with 14.3 ppg. Just a freshman, Cajou's performance in the NEC Tournament is certainly encouraging, considering he is netting a mere 6.9 ppg on the year.
Tywain McKee was the hero in the MEAC Championship Game, as he hit a shot in the lane with just three seconds remaining to lift Coppin State to a two-point victory over Morgan State and earn an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. McKee tied a season-high with 33 points in the game, as he hit 12-of-20 shots from the floor. Averaging just 59.8 ppg this year, it is no wonder the Eagles are four games under .500 overall. Still, this team does have a bona fide offensive threat in McKee, who is averaging a steady 16.6 ppg. The versatile guard has great shooting range, hitting 44.6 percent from behind the arc (62- of-139) and also contributes as a rebounder (4.3 rpg), distributor (team-high 102 assists) and premier defender (team-high 52 steals). No other Eagle offers double figures in points this season, with Antwan Harrison ranking second on the team with 9.0 ppg.
Coppin State has really played well in the season half of the season, but the magical ride will probably end this evening. Mount St. Mary's has several options at the offensive end and should get the win here and move on to face top-ranked North Carolina in Raleigh on Friday.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Mount St. Mary's 64, Coppin State 59
03/18 10:20:20 ET