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Holy Cross Crusaders vs. Southern Jaguars: NCAA Tournament First Four Preview and Prediction

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Holy Cross versus Southern isn’t the sexy First Four game that is going to force a lot of casual college basketball fans to turn on their TVs on Wednesday night. That being said, it is still March Madness and that’s good enough for us.

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Neither the Crusaders nor the Jaguars put together impressive seasons. The Crusaders (14-19) went just 5-13 in the Patriot League, and the Jaguars (22-12) finished fourth in the SWAC. These teams were selected as the 67th and 68th in the field after miracle runs through their respective conference tournaments. The winner earns the right to play No. 1 seed Oregon on Friday night.

First Four: No. 16 Holy Cross Crusaders vs. No. 16 Southern Jaguars

When: 6:40 p.m. ET (Wednesday)

Where: University of Dayton Arena (Dayton, OH)

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TV: truTV

Line: Southern -2.5

Keys for Holy Cross

Bill Carmody couldn’t make the NCAA Tournament in 13 seasons at Northwestern. With a record of 14-19 (5-13 in conference) Carmody and the Crusaders are the unlikeliest team in the field of 68. But thanks to a fantastic performance from forward Malachi Alexander in the Patriot League Tournament, the Crusaders are going dancing.

Alexander lead the way against No. 1 Bucknell in the conference tourney quarterfinals with 20 points, eight rebounds, and three assists. Alexander was even better in the championship game with 26 points, nine boards, and three assists against No. 2 Lehigh. If the Crusaders’ improbable run is to continue, Alexander is going to need a wing man.

Keys for Southern

The Jaguars’ season started impressively enough with a win against Mississippi State and an 8-5 non-conference record, but ultimately Roman Banks’ Jaguars finished fourth in the SWAC. Like their Crusader counterparts, a great run through the conference tourney earned Southern a bid to the Big Dance. But unlike Holy Cross, the Jaguars have more than one efficient scorer in their regular lineup. Southern’s best player, Adrian Rodgers (16.6 ppg, 5.4 rpg) has the productive partner that Holy Cross’ Alexander doesn’t in guard and SWAC Tournament MVP Trelun Banks.

Final Analysis

Don’t expect a lot of points to be scored in this play-in game, as both teams greatly struggle when you look at offensive

efficiency numbers. Defensively, Southern is actually rather impressive for such a small mid-major, especially when it comes to defending beyond the arc. That just happens to be the area on the court where Holy Cross scores a third of its points, so something has to give. Southern’s combo of Banks and Rodgers could prove to be too much for Holy Cross, putting an end to the Crusaders’ semi-magical postseason run.

Prediction: Southern 65, Holy Cross 60