Thursday, March 6, 2014

Tournament Men's Preview: Rebounding Bobcats' Key

Here's the final installment of the series previewing men's games in the MAAC tournament.

No. 3 SEED QUINNIPIAC, plays Saturday at 9 p.m. against the winner of Thursday's Marist-Niagara contest.

QUINNIPIAC'S RECORD: 14-6 in MAAC play, 19-10 overall.

WHAT QUINNIPIAC HAS: Toughness and rebounding. The Bobcats average 12.3 rebounds more pr game than opponents, the top differential on the Diviion I level nationally. Quinnipiac is also the only team in the country with two players averaging double-digit rebound totals. Senior forward Ike Azotam (10.4) and junior forward Ousmane Drame (10.3) rank 11th and 12th, respectively, on the national rebounding chart. It all helps on the offensive end where the team averages 79.2 points per contest, 25th-best nationally. Quinnipiac also gets to the foul line in excess (witness 65 foul shots in a mid-season game agaisnt Siena), ranking fourth nationally in total free throws made. There's also balance on the offense end with Azotam averaging 16.3 points, Drame 13.9 and rugged 6-4 junior guard Zaid Hearst averaging 15.8 per contest.

WHAT QUINNIPIAC DOESN'T HAVE: Umar Shannon, a big offensive option (14.3 ppg.) who suffered a season-ending injury late in the season. His absence means some of the team's reserve backcourt players need to step up. And, while Quinnipiac plays a rugged style, it plays within itself on the defensive end. Only two teams nationally steal the ball fewer times per game than Quinnipiac. There's also an overall lack of quickness, which some teams have been able to take advantage of over the season. And, Quinnipiac has struggled down the stretch. In its last three games it beat Niagara by two points and, then, lost to Siena (72-70) and to Marist (103-72), all three games without the injured Shannon.

COMMENTS: By far the most-physical team in the league, if not the entire country. If officials let the games be physical, the Bobcats will have an advantage throughout their tournament run. Their ability to rebound should also keep them in any game here. But, the loss of Shannon, particularly without a lot of time left in the season to adjust to his loss, won't be a positive.

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