NCAA March Madness Preview – East Tennessee State Buccaneers

East Tennessee State Buccaneers

SoCon (27-7, 14-4)

 by Joel Welser

There was a logjam atop the Southern Conference standings when the regular season ended. East Tennessee State found themselves tied with UNC Greensboro and Furman with a 14-4 record. But, of course, the NCAA Tournament bid came down to a few games in the conference tournament and that is where ETSU played their best basketball. They had lost to UNC Greensboro twice during the regular season, but beat them when it mattered most with a trip to the NCAA Tournament on the line.

Big Wins: 12/14 at Mississippi State (67-65), 2/18 at Chattanooga (65-51), 2/22 Furman (93-81)

Bad Losses: 1/12 UNC Greensboro (79-83), 1/19 at Furman (62-75), 2/6 at Wofford (76-79)

Coach: Steve Forbes

Why They Can Surprise:

The entire ETSU starting five will spend a lot of time at the free-throw line. This is a tough and athletic team that will not be afraid to attack the basket against anybody. T.J. Cromer is the team’s top scorer at 19.1 points per game and the 6-3 senior can score from anywhere on the floor. Joining Cromer on the perimeter are Desonta Bradford and A.J. Merriweather. Bradford can do everything and is averaging 10.6 points, 4.0 assists and 4.5 rebounds. Merriweather is a great athlete and while he may not put up big numbers, he is a great defender and can use that athleticism to finish above the rim.

The frontcourt is led by Tevin Glass and Hanner Mosquerea-Perea. Both are decent interior scorers and Mosquerea-Perea in particular will earn a lot of trips to the charity stripe, although he is not particularly good at shooting them. That frontcourt duo also provides the Buccaneers with a couple players who can block shots and be effective on the glass. With David Burrell and Isaac Banks, there is no lack of quality frontcourt depth either.

Why They Can Disappoint:

This is a team that knows what they are good at doing. ETSU will attack the basket, play solid defense and force turnovers. That has worked for Coach Steve Forbes and company, but it will be extremely important for ETSU to make three-pointers and stretch out the defense in the NCAA Tournament. Cromer connected on 40.4 percent of his 255 three-point attempts during the regular season and if he is struggling, there are not many other options. Merriweather, Burrell and Devontavius Payne can be good shooters, but none of them are going to light it up from beyond the arc. The pressure is on Cromer to not only be aggressive and score, but also stretch the defense and create space for his teammates.

Probable Starters:

Desonta Bradford, Junior, Guard, 10.6 ppg, 4.0 apg, 4.5 rpg

T.J. Cromer, Senior, Guard, 19.1 ppg, 3.2 apg

A.J. Merriweather, Senior, Guard, 8.6 ppg, 1.5 apg, 1.6 spg

Tevin Glass, Senior, Forward, 8.9 ppg, 6.2 rpg

Hanner Mosquera-Perea, Senior, Forward, 8.4 pg, 4.6 rpg, 1.3 bpg

Key Role Players:

David Burrell, Junior, Forward, 7.4 ppg, 3.3 rpg

Jermaine Long, Junior, Guard, 3.6 ppg, 1.6 apg

Devontavius Payne, Junior, Guard, 6.7 ppg

Isaac Banks, Senior, Forward, 3.5 ppg, 3.6 rpg

By the Numbers:

Scoring Offense: 79.9 (39th in nation, 2nd in conference)

Scoring Defense: 69.2 (98, 5)

Field-Goal Percentage: 49.0 (13, 1)

Field-Goal Defense: 41.6 (61, 2)

Three-Point Field Goals Per Game: 7.6 (147, 7)

Three-Point Field-Goal Percentage: 38.2 (46, 5)

Free-Throw Percentage: 69.7 (190, 7)

Rebound Margin: 4.4 (51, 2)

Assists Per Game: 15.0 (81, 5)

Turnovers Per Game: 14.9 (317, 9)

Recent Postseason Appearances:

2014    CIT      First round win over Chattanooga

2014    CIT      Second Round loss to Towson

2011    CIT      First Round win over Furman

2011    CIT      Quarterfinal win over Ohio

2011    CIT      Semifinal loss to Iona

2010    NCAA Round of 64 loss to Kentucky

2009    NCAA Round of 64 Loss to Pittsburgh

2007    NIT     First Round loss to Clemson

2004    NCAA Round of 64 loss to Cincinnati

*all team stats through 3/5

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