Greg Auman, Times staff writer
Basketball down under
The highlight of the 11-seed battle in Dayton, Ohio, on Tuesday night between Middle Tennessee and St. Mary's (Calif.) is the Gaels' Matthew Dellavedova, who averages 15.8 points and 6.4 assists as one of the nation's best all-around guards. Dellavedova is one of four Australians on the St. Mary's roster, which barely gives them the most in the region. Albany, which opens against second-seeded Duke, has three Aussies on roster, including starters Sam Rowley and Peter Hooley.
Deck stacked for Cards
Louisville has serious momentum: Three of the Cardinals' five losses came in a span of eight days in January, and since then, their only loss came in five overtimes against Notre Dame, a loss they've avenged twice since. The Big East champions see a familiar bracket; they could finish this weekend against ninth-seeded Missouri, whom they beat by 23 in the Bahamas in November, and could see Memphis, whom they beat by nine in December. You'll hear a lot about top scorer Russ Smith — "Russdiculous" averages 18.1 points per game, but the player to watch is 6-foot-11 center Gorgui Dieng, who was the Big East defensive player of the year after nearly averaging a double double at 10.0 points and 9.9 rebounds per game. You expect him to average 2.5 blocks, but what will surprise you is those same hands that swat shots can pass the ball well; he averages 2.1 assists.
Big East, coming and going?
The time-travel matchup we like is the 7-10 split between Creighton and Cincinnati. The former could be joining the new Big East, while the latter is leaving for its as-yet-unnamed football-based offshoot. Which team will act more like a Big East power? Creighton's resume includes a win against Wisconsin, and 6-8 junior forward Doug McDermott is a bona fide star, averaging 23.1 points for his coach and father, Greg. The Bluejays have a taste of Big East in their No. 2 scorer, Gregory Echenique, a Rutgers transfer who had 14 rebounds in a game against Cincinnati as a freshman. Cincinnati is asking to be overlooked, having finished ninth this season in the Big East with a 9-9 mark, but the Bearcats have the kind of perimeter shooters that can take over a tournament. Sean Kilpatrick hit 80 3-pointers this season, and Cashmere Wright is another dangerous outside threat.
We mentioned Missouri took an 84-61 loss to Louisville in the Bahamas in November, but we'd like to see the Tigers get past No. 8 seed Colorado State to face the Cardinals in the third round. Frank Haith's team has depth and scoring balance; six Tigers average double figures in scoring and the team averages 76.2 points. And there's yet another Big East presence on the roster: Former UConn standout Alex Oriakhi is a graduate transfer for Mizzou who had 15 points and eight rebounds in the teams' earlier meeting. He has a wealth of postseason experience — his old team was ineligible for the tournament this season — and that could come in handy against an old rival.
Coming and going, Part II
The best story line we can hope for from this region is another rivalry ready to take it to another level: Louisville-Duke. Come 2014-15, this will be an ACC rivalry, as Louisville moves into the ACC and Rick Pitino, left, starts clashing with Mike Krzyzewski in a battle of Hall of Fame coaches. We're looking forward to seeing that season after next, but it would be awesome to get a sneak preview in the region final.