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Afternoon in Columbus: San Diego State vs. NC State, Georgetown vs. Belmont

The 19,500-seat Nationwide Arena in Columbus could house two big upsets tomorrow, sorry Blue Jackets fans. Those other words explain way.

No. 6 San Diego State (26-7; Pomeroy ranked 55th) vs. No. 11 NC State (22-12; 43rd)

How they got here: The Aztecs lost to New Mexico in the Mountain West Conference Tournament, but earned at at-large bid for their third straight dance even after losing four starters from last year’s 34-3 team. They beat UNLV, New Mexico, Wyoming, California and Colorado State for their most quality wins of the season. Steve Fisher doesn’t have rebuilding seasons, it seems

The Wolfpack of North Carolina narrowly dropped a one-possession game to North Carolina in the ACC Tournament semifinals, but they earned at at-large with top-100 wins over Princeton, Texas, St. Bonaventure, Miami (twice), Virginia Tech and Virginia.

How they actually got here: There are 2,225 miles of road between San Diego and Columbus. NC State is 484 driving-miles from Columbus, so maybe they’ll have a few extra fans.

Pomeroy: 55% in NC State’s favor

Which mascot wins in a fight to the death (hey, I don’t know how you pick your bracket): I feel like back in the day the Aztecs probably killed a lot of wolves (for good reasons, of course). But the wolves probably killed back some too. I’m not sure I can pick this one.

How NC State could pull the upset: This would be an upset only in the strictest lower-seed-beats-higher-seed sense. Pomeroy and I both agree that the Wolfpack are the better team. Read why.

1. More efficient offense The Wolfpack pull rank in all but one of the four offensive factors (eFG%, TO%, OR%) which has them scoring 1.11 points per possessin this season (against perhaps stronger competition) to SDSU’s 1.06 ppp.

2. Offensive rebounding NC State is tough inside mostly thanks to 6-8, 261-pound Richard Howell who grabs an offensive board in 15.7 percent of his chances (16th nationall). As a team the Wolfpack are 50th in offensive rebounding rate, while the Aztecs rank 209th.

3. Can hit threes when they want Gottfried’s guys don’t take a lot of three point attempts (26.1 percent 3PA/FGA), but they hit them when they want to with a 3pt% of 35.5 percent.

4. Scott Wood The 6-6 junior flies under the radar because he’s not the Wolfpack’s leading scorer. In fact, he gets a tiny 15.2 percent of NC State’s touches, but he maximizes every one. His offensive rating (125.4) is tops in the ACC.

5. Time zones It’s going to feel like 10:40 a.m. for the Aztecs when this game starts. Surely that’ll seem weird.

6. Mark Gottfried It may be his first season at NC State, but the guy has been here before.

Key: If the Wolfpack run their offense and push their tempo, they can reel in a win no problem. SDSU is overrated.

No. 3 Georgetown (23-8; 12th) vs. No. 14 Belmont (27-7; 23rd)

How they got here: The Hoyas impressed a lot of critics even after losing three starters from the team that lost in the first round of last season’s NCAA tournament. They received an at-large bid with top-100 wins over Memphis (twice), Alabama, Marquette, UConn, USF, Nova, Notre Dame and Pitt.

Belmont snagged the Atlantic Sun’s auto-bid by beating Florida Gulf Coast in the Championship game, 83-69. But you probably remember them from Duke’s season-opener when the Bruins lost by one point. Their most quality wins were over Marshall and Middle Tennessee. Belmont was a 15-seed in the 2009 NCAA tournament and lost in the first round to Duke.

How they actually got here: Belmont is in Nashville which is 382 road-miles from Columbus, and D.C. is 399 miles away. We’ll call this a neutral court.

Pomeroy: 60% in Georgetown’s favor

Which mascot wins in a fight to the death: Google tells me a Bruin is a Bear. This is news. Google also says a Hoya is “a climbing or sprawling evergreen shrub.” This seems wrong, given GU’s logo. Still, I’m going with Belmont here.

How Belmont could pull the upset: This is a scary 14-3 matchup for Georgetown. Here’s why.

1. Kerron Johnson (pictured above) The junior point guard has had an assist in 33.6 percent of his possessions. Watch out when he has the ball. If he’s not scoring, he’s finding someone that can.

2. Shooting The fifth most efficient shot defense meets the fifth best shooting team in the nation (by eFG%) when Belmont possesses the ball Friday. The Hoyas haven’t yet faced a team that shoots in the top 60. Syracuse is No. 72 on the list and beat GU in overtime.

3. Winning streak The Bruins haven’t lost since mid-January. They’ve won 14 in a row, and there’s no reason to stop now.

4. Offensive efficiency Belmont scores 1.16 ppp to Georgetown’s 1.10. Run your offense.

5. Tempo The Bruins have legs and they play fast at 68.4 possessions per game. The Hoyas aren’t as up-and-down at 63.3 ppg. Also, GU has dropped some high-possession games: Against West Virginia and Pitt (both in 69 possession) and against Marquette (in 72 possessions).

6. Frontcourt Georgetown’s bigs are used to being the biggest on the hardwood. Belmont can match them though with 6-9, 235 Mick Hedgepeth and 6-10, 250 Scott Saunders. The Bruins have made 54.7 percent of their attempts from inside the arc this season, and that bests GU’s 50.8 percent mark.

Key: Push the tempo and wear down the Georgetown defense, and take chances on the perimeter.

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