2013 NIT Preview: Lone Mid-Majors Battle For Semifinal Spot

Cooper Neill

The BYU Cougars and Southerm Mississippi Golden Eagles are set to battle tonight to decide which of the two remaining mid-major representatives will advance to the semifinal and face either Baylor or Providence.

In Brigham Young's three post-season match-ups so far, Brandon Davies is averaging 23 points, 9 rebounds and 4 assists per game while shooting 49% from the field and 74% from the line. Tyler Haws is averaging 27 points on 57% shooting from the field. Suffice to say, the dynamic duo is just fine. The difference is Matt Carlino. The on-and-off guard has been most decisively on lately, averaging 17 points, 7 rebounds and 7 assists in the post-season while shooting 46% from the field and 48% from long range.

The issue is not the offense. The issues have been things like letting San Diego's Johhny Dee drop 46 points in their two victories. Or letting Saint Mary's Brad Waldow, Beau Levesque and Co. out-rebound them 32-22. Or letting Cole Dickerson outrebound them 36-27. Or letting Kelly Olynyk and Gonzaga out-rebound them 33-23 (though Haws' shooting touch disappearing didn't help either.)

Fortunately for the Cougars, the Golden Eagles aren't exactly Lords of the Rebound themselves. The Eagles are just a step behind the Cougars in a number of areas - rebounding, free throw shooting, and field goal shooting (from their main contributors, specifically). BYU is probably o.k. with Brandon Davies taking a dozen shots per game when he's making them at a 53% clip - USM's Jerrold Brooks needing ten shots per game just to average double-digit points is a different story. Jonathan Mills might be on par with Davies as a rebounder, but not as a scorer.

The Cougars are the best team not named Memphis that Southern Miss has faced in a good long while, and the Eagles needed to face the Tigers three times and get some help from an atrocious free-throw shooting team just to almost beat them once. The Eagles won't get that kind of help from a fast, aggressive BYU team, and USM struggles with speed - tonight you will see what the numbers suggest. The West Coast Conference is a little better than C-USA, enough to give BYU a comfortable win.

BYU 81, Southern Miss 73

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