JUST WHO ARE BOISE STATE AND DAYTON?

Injustice is the theme of the last First Four play-in game, scheduled for a 9:10 p.m. tip at UD Arena in Dayton on Wednesday. And it's not hard to understand why many are crying foul.

Dayton expected -- and most bracket projectors also believed them -- to be a No. 8 or No. 9 seed. Instead, the Flyers dropped all the way to a play-in game as a No. 11 seed. Sharing that spot with them is Boise State, who probably deserved to be in a play-in game but certainly didn't deserve to have to compete on the road. Dayton is the permahost of the First Four, which makes this awkward, particularly considering the Flyers are 16-0 on their home floor this season.

Meanwhile, the Friars await (and await … and await) the winner, knowing that they'll have fewer than 48 hours to prep for a specific opponent and that they may be playing Dayton just an hour's drive from the UD campus.

Nonetheless, no one cares about injustices of this sort once the ball is tipped, so think of this as part viewing guide part advanced stats preview for Wednesday night's game, the winner of which will tangle with PC late Friday night.

Boise State Broncos (25-8 overall, 14-4 in conference, t1st in Mountain West) vs.
Dayton Flyers: (25-8, 13-5 in conference, t2nd in Atlantic 10)
Time/Channel: 9:10 p.m. ET, truTV Find truTV >>
Announcers: Ian Eagle, Doug Gottlieb and Evan Washburn

On Boise State: This is the Broncos' second appearance in the NCAA Tournament under coach Leon Rice, a long-time Gonzaga assistant who is in his fifth season as head man for the Broncos. Rice's 2012-13 team also made the NCAA Tournament play-in game against another Atlantic 10 team, losing to La Salle by nine (La Salle would go on to reach the Sweet 16).

This is Rice's best team yet. It shared the conference title with San Diego State in a weaker-than-normal Mountain West (the league finished 12th as a conference in Ken Pomeroy's ratings, four spots behind the Atlantic 10). By efficiency, the Broncos were their league's best offensive team and second -best defensive team. Their No. 39 ranking by KenPom.com puts them a spot ahead of Dayton and three spots ahead of St. John's, for context.

The Broncos are a terrific 3-point shooting team. Only five NCAA Tournament teams (including Villanova) attempt more 3's than Boise State and only eight make a higher percentage than BSU's 39.1 percent, which is why only three NCAA Tournament teams get a larger proportion of their points from 3-pointers -- Davidson, Belmont and Eastern Washington.

Boise State has six -- count 'em, six -- players who make at least 39 percent of their 3's and also attempt at least one long-range shot per game. The Broncos' 3-point proclivity is a big part of why they are among the bottom 10 NCAA Tournament teams in the proportion of points they get from either 2-pointers or free-throws, this despite being a good free-throw shooting team at 72.8 percent.

Rice clearly puts an emphasis on 3-pointers at both ends of the floor, since his Broncos also defend the three very well. Boise State has made 101 more 3-pointers than its opponents this season.

The Broncos' best player is Derrick Marks, the Mountain West Player of the Year. To give you an idea of how he plays, his No. 5 statistical comp on KenPom.com is former Marquette standout Jerel McNeal. He is both a high-volume and high-efficiency scorer who makes 43 percent of his 3's, 52 percent of his 2's and 78 percent of his free throws. He also ranks in the nation's top 200 in assist rate and top 100 in steals rate. He is a 6-foot-3 senior and he is dangerous.

Here is Marks in action vs. New Mexico on Feb. 24:

The Broncos may play like a mid-major team, but they are not small, with big guards (Marks is 6-foot-3 and Igor Hadziomerovic and Mikey Thompson are 6-4) and bigs that are 6-8 and 6-9.

James Webb is Boise State's best frontcourt player. The second-team All-Mountain West selection is sixth in the nation in effective field-goal shooting (65.7%), one spot behind Duke's Jahlil Okafor. Webb is not as frequent a shooter as Marks or Thompson (or Okafor, obviously), but he is highly efficient. He's also fifth among NCAA Tournament competitors in defensive rebounding, behind three Big East players -- Villanova's Daniel Ochefu, Butler's Kameron Woods and Xavier's Jalen Reynolds. He's also the Broncos' lone rim-protector. Webb's No. 1 statistical comp is former Georgetown forward Hollis Thompson as a sophomore, if you remember the long, lean current 76er.

On defense, Boise State tries to slow things down with a conservative quarter-court man defense. As mentioned, the Broncos will go out and defend 3-pointers, but they don't foul often or force many turnovers (though they have forced 46 turnovers in their last three games). Led by Webb, Boise State is the sixth-best defensive rebounding team in the field, behind familiar faces like Albany and Butler.

More than most teams, Boise State goes as well as the shots fall. Ninety percent of its offensive efficiency can be explained by the variance in their shooting percentage and the same is true when comparing their defensive efficiency and field-goal defense.

On Dayton: If Boise State is the team defined by the 3-point shot, Dayton is defined by its lack of height and lack of depth. Both of the Flyers' 6-foot-9 rotation players were suspended in mid-December, leaving coach Archie Miller with a seven-man rotation (including one former walk-on) of players all 6-foot-6 or shorter. Dayton has the sixth thinnest bench in the tourney (but still deeper than Notre Dame's and St. John's, for instance) and is the third shortest team in the field by effective height (taller than only Wofford and Stephen F. Austin).

Not surprisingly, Dayton's lack of size leads it to take a lot of 3's, something that became especially obvious in conference play when the Flyers were second in the A-10 both in percentage of field-goal attempts from deep (40.6) and 3-point percentage (37.8). Like most teams that shoot a lot of 3's -- though unlike Boise State -- Dayton creates a lot of assists on offense. Scoochie Smith was ninth in A-10 play in assist rate.

The Flyers have four shooters who've made at least 37 percent of their 3-point attempts in conference play while attempting at least three per game. Best among these are Jordan Sibert (a first-team All-Atlantic 10 selection) and Dyshawn Pierre (a second-team selection), who combine with Kendall Pollard and Smith to take pretty much all of Dayton's shots (42 of 55 field-goal attempts and 25 of 27 free-throw attempts in the A-10 final loss to VCU, for instance). Pollard is the only one of the four who isn't a 3-point threat, but he did make 61 percent of his 2's in league games.

Here's Sibert vs. URI on March 3, a game in which he made all 14 shots he attempted:

Dayton is strong across the board on offense (second in efficiency in the A-10), except for one area -- the offensive glass. The Flyers were dead last, rebounding just 21.6 percent of their misses (by comparison, Providence was second in the Big East, grabbing 35.3 percent of misses). A team has to make an effort to rebound so ineffectively, which means Miller prioritizes getting back on defense over sending multiple players to the glass.

On the other hand, Dayton belies its lack of size with its ability to be effective when it does go inside. The Flyers are 28th in the nation in 2-point shooting and third in the nation in getting to the foul line. Dayton attempts 49 free throws for every 100 field-goal attempts, most of any team in the tournament.

Pollard, the Atlantic 10's Most Improved Player, is particularly good at getting to the stripe, though he makes just 59 percent of 197 attempts. Kyle Davis doesn't shoot very much, but when he does, it's often from the line, where he's made 69 percent of 108 attempts. Sibert has hit 79 percent of 173 attempts.

Defensively, Dayton -- much like a similar unimposing Butler team -- defies its lack of size as the A-10's No. 1 defensive rebounding team. The Flyers' ability to clear away misses -- led by Pierre and Poland -- and unwillingness to send teams to the line are the bedrocks of their defense. It's not surprising that UD struggles to keep teams away from the rim. Pollard is their only rim-protector and even so, a modest one, and therefore Dayton's 2-point defense is poor.

Wrapping up: Of No. 11 seeds or better, only Northern Iowa has played an easier schedule than Boise State, and only UNI and Wichita State have played easier schedules than Dayton, according to KenPom.com. As a result, it shouldn't surprise that Dayton has just two wins over teams in the field -- Mississippi and VCU -- and the same is true of Boise State -- San Diego State, twice.

Dayton, of course, has had recent NCAA Tournament success, making a memorable run to the Elite Eight last season, a team on which Pierre and Sibert were key cogs and on which Scoochie Smith was a rotation player. Boise State is 0-6 all-time in the NCAA Tournament.

Like most matchups of opponents of similar quality -- and particularly ones involving Boise State -- this game is likely to come down to who shoots better. Playing in its home gym, Dayton is the more likely team to make shots. Combine home-court advantage with the Flyers' fallback plan, which is their ability to get to the foul line and score efficiently inside (not to mention their superior defense), and it just seems like Dayton has more paths to victory. Boise State's best shot is to win the 3-point battle by 12 or 15 points. I doubt that happens, so UD is the pick. Dayton 71, Boise State 64.


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