Middle Tennessee State
About the Lady Raiders:
The high scoring Lady Raiders are enjoying their 4th NCAA tournament berth under Rick Insell. They are lead in scoring by talented senior forward Alysha Clark who is leading the nation in scoring with 28.7 points a game. Insell has shown that he is not afraid to play the big girls, playing SEC foes Tennessee and LSU in non-conference schedule, losing both games. Insell teams are prolific offensively scoring 81.4 points a game. They are also solid defensively with two players, Chelsia Lyman and Jackie Pickel, averaging 3.1 steals a game. The Lady Raiders are poised to be a tough out for any team they play in the tournament.
Projected Starting Line-Up:
About the Lady Bulldogs:
The Lady Bulldogs are heading into their 2nd straight NCAA tournament in a row after a successful regular season. The season garnered many accolades including a 1st team All-SEC bid for Alexis Rack and SEC Defensive Player of the Year honors for Armelie Lumanu. The Lady Bulldogs have a strong starting five with all the starters scoring in double figures led by Alexis Rack who is averaging 17.7 points a game. The Lady Bulldogs were 4th in the SEC in scoring offense averaging 70.4 points a game. They also were 5th in scoring defense in the SEC, allowing only 59.8 points a game. The Lady Bulldogs will look to make a strong run in the NCAA tournament with a majority of the team being seniors looking to leave their mark.
Projected Starting Line-Up :
Mississippi State - Senior Guard Armelie Lumanu is my Player to Watch as the Lady Bulldogs best player is the one they typically look to in the postseason. Alexis Rack may be the best offensively but Lumanu is the heart and soul of the Lady Bulldogs. She is averaging great all-around numbers on the season, placing second in scoring on the team, first in rebounding, first in steals, and second in assists. Lumanu may also be charged with stopping Alysha Clark the Lady Raiders best player and the nation's leading scorer.
Middle Tennessee State - Senior Forward Alysha Clark is the Player to Watch for the Lady Raiders. Clark is an explosive scorer who is leading the nation in scoring at 28.7 points a game. She is also a beast on the boards, averaging 11.5 rebounds a game. If the Lady Bulldogs don't stop Clark they will be going fishing after Sunday.
Keys to Victory:
Middle Tennessee State
The NCAA tournament committee couldn't have chosen a better matchup for an opening round game as both teams are led by great scorers, Rack and Clark. Both teams are very high scoring and like to push the tempo, which should contribute to an entertaining game. The two teams also match up very well physically where no team should have a decided advantage. While both teams are high scoring, Lady Bulldogs Coach Fanning-Otis should slow the pace down as they will not be able to run with the Lady Raiders. They are like the Phoenix Suns in the NBA, trying to bait you to play their way. And when teams do they normally lose. The Lady Raiders will need to try to get star player Alysha Clark involved early and to try to do as I said, bait the Lady Bulldogs to play up tempo. I ultimately think this game will come down to a last shot as both teams will refuse to lose.
Jeremiah Short is a columnist who covers various Mississippi State sports for GenesPage.com. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org