First out of the gate! Western Kentucky-Mississippi Valley State preview and open thread
For the Hilltoppers it is just another part of a trying season. They fired their coach midseason, went 15-17 and lost a game in the worst possible manner (video below--Ken McDonald was fired as their coach the day after this), yet they managed to snag an automatic bid to the tournament, and here they are.
And heck, maybe their improbable run can continue with a win over the Delta Devils, giving them a chance to become the first No. 16 seed ever to take down a No. 1.
For Mississippi Valley State, there is the stigma that the SWAC, the conference they won this season, is the nation's weakest. So for both teams, there is a chip on their shoulder.
The Delta Devils went 17-1 in the SWAC this season and are led by forward Paul Crosby and his 13.6 points and 7.4 rebounds per game.
The most impressive thing about Mississippi Valley State is how head coach Charles Lackey challenged his program with an incredibly difficult schedule. Consider the teams the Delta Devils played road games against this season: Notre Dame, DePaul, North Carolina, South Carolina, Arkansas, Northwestern, Ole Miss, Florida, Wisconsin and Iowa State. That is five tournament teams.
Now, they did go 0-10 in those games, but they kept a few of those games close, including a nail-bitting two-point loss to Midwest No. 8 seed Iowa State.
Most of Western Kentucky's season was disappointing--until the Sun Belt Conference Tournament, when they ran the table to earn their auto bid. The Hilltoppers also have experience against tournament teams, having going 0-4 against Murray State, Louisville and VCU (twice).
So who do you like in this game?
Do you think the winner can give the Wildcats a run for their money in the second round?
If you want to talk more about the game, be sure to check out the FanIQ Sports Bar, and don't forget to get your entries to our bracket challenge, Battle of the Mascots, and 10-team pick'em before Thursday at 12 p.m. ET.
No. 16 Western Kentucky vs. No. 16 Mississippi Valley State, Tuesday, 6:40 p.m. ET, Dayton, Ohio