Everything is set. After last night’s close win vs Liberty in their First Four match-up, the North Carolina A&T Aggies will be taking on 1-seed Louisville this Thursday (3/21) at 6:50 PM EST. Now, as most know, a 16 seed has never beat a 1 seed, so most are expecting Louisville to come away with an easy win. But as we all know, nothing in college basketball-or any sports, for that matter-is given.
Last night, the Aggies almost blew their chance against a Liberty team that has just turned it on in these last few games of their season. The Aggies were up by 10 with about eight minutes to play, but the Flames quickly lit up. After hitting nine straight free throws, the Flames were right back in it. Eventually, the game was down to the wire, and Liberty had pulled with one. They quickly fouled Lamont Middleton, who missed his free throw. Liberty’s John Caleb Sanders had seven seconds to take it down court. He did just that, but with 2 seconds left, missed the game-winning layup. Sanders had a close shot at making it, obviously trying (and failing) at getting fouled on the play. Once the game was over, I realized that NC A&T would put up at least somewhat of a fight. But quite honestly, I’m kind of glad that Louisville isn’t playing Liberty. They’re a team that doesn’t have the most outstanding record or players, but are much more solid statistically than NC A&T. Regardless, Liberty isn’t who Louisville will be playing. They’ll be facing the Aggies and that’s that.
So, what are the Aggies bringing to the table? Well, not much quite honestly. The Aggies truly just aren’t that great of a team. They average >290th in three major statistical categories (PPG, APG, FT%). The only thing they really are good at is rebounding, due in part to their two “big men,” Austin Witter and Adrian Powell. One reason I had “big men” in quotation marks is that they aren’t really all that big. This team is just really lacking in the size department, their tallest player being only 6’8″. This really will lead to a tough time for them to drive inside and pull down boards against Louisville’s 6’11″ Gorgui Dieng and 6’9″ Stephan Van Treese. This team also just flat-out cannot shoot. This team is also sloppy with the ball. They’ve got slippery hands, averaging about 15 turnovers per game this season. Couple that with the quick hands and speed of Louisville’s backcourt, and I anticipate a game full of Louisville doing what they do best-defending the ball and scoring off of turnovers. Louisville’s skilled guards should make quick work of them. But don’t think it’ll be Louisville going in there and dominating NC A&T from the get-go. This is an Aggies team that is really carrying some forward momentum into this game. Just 13 days ago, they were on the verge of having their 16th straight losing season…and then the conference tourney happened. They went off to a great start and eventually won four games in five days, earning them the title of MEAC Champs.
Now, I’m not saying it’ll be all that close in the end, but just don’t expect a blowout from the start. This team will fight from the start, but will quickly get worn down by Louisville’s size and speed. By about ten minutes in, Louisville should be comfortable enough to grab the reins and take off with the game. I don’t expect much after that, and will be shocked if Louisville doesn’t win by 25+ points. I think the POTG for Louisville will be a big man, who will have so many opportunities to go inside and score and pull down rebounds against a short-sized Aggies team.
This game will only serve as a stepping stone. One win in the tourney gets you nothing. Once this game is over, there will be more work to be done. The madness has started.