GAME NOTES: A pair of squads returning to the postseason after prolonged absences will face off at Devlin Fieldhouse in New Orleans on Wednesday night, as the Tulane Green Wave host the South Alabama Jaguars in the first round of the 2013 CollegeInsider.com Postseason Tournament.
At 14-6 in the Sun Belt Conference, only NCAA Tournament-bound Middle Tennessee had a better league record than South Alabama this season, although it stumbled down the stretch with losses in three of its last five, including a 62-59 setback in the SBC Tournament semifinals to eventual-champion Western Kentucky. The Jaguars still finished with a stellar 17-12 overall record, with a signature road win over Florida State back in November (76-71), to earn an invite to the postseason for the first time in five years.
Tulane's drought has been even longer than South Alabama's, as this marks its first trip to the postseason since the 1999-2000 season. The Green Wave had their best season in 13 years by going 19-14 overall, but they went just 6-10 in Conference USA and face-planted down the stretch with losses in five of their last six games, including an 81-68 defeat at the hands of Memphis in the quarterfinal round of the Conference USA Tournament.
Tulane leads the all-time series with South Alabama, 2-1, but the teams haven't met since 1974.
South Alabama had one of the SBC's top scoring offenses at 68.5 ppg, and while it shoots an uninspired 40.9 percent from the field, it does plenty of damage at the foul line, shooting 71.7 percent from the stripe with nearly 25 free- throw attempts per game. The biggest reason for the Jaguars' success this season has been thanks to an outstanding campaign from Augustine Rubit. The 6- foot-7 junior puts up 19.0 ppg, 10.7 ppg and 1.2 bpg while boasting strong percentages from the field (.471) and the foul line (.793), as he was named the Sun Belt Player of the Year. Joining Rubit in the frontcourt is Javier Carter, who isn't much for scoring (7.0 ppg) but hauls in 6.5 rpg and logs 2.5 bpg. Mychal Ammons (10.8 ppg, 6.3 rpg) is also capable of doing plenty of dirty work down low.
The Green Wave are actually being outshot by their opponents from the field this season, 45.5 percent to 41.6 percent, but thanks to strong rebounding (+4.5) and turnover (+1.1) margins, they are able to net 69.1 ppg while surrendering just 65.1 ppg. Josh Davis was unquestionably one of the top forwards in C-USA, scoring 17.6 ppg on 49.5 percent from the floor while adding 10.5 rpg and nearly a block and a steal per contest as well. Ricky Tarrant boasts lackluster percentages from the field (.372) and from beyond the arc (.319), but he has been strong from the free-throw line (164-of-203, .808), which has allowed him to net 16.0 ppg. Jordan Callahan rounds out Tulane's double-digit scorers with 10.9 ppg, shooting 77-of-204 from 3-point range (.377).
Davis versus Rubit will be an interesting battle to keep an eye on in the low post, and with those two beating each other up, this matchup will more than likely come down to whichever team's guards step up. While Tarrant has been inconsistent, he has shown the ability to make an impact on the game even when his shot is off the mark (3.5 apg, 1.3 spg), which gives Tulane the leg up at home.
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