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2017 NCAA tournament preview: New Orleans

New Orleans Privateers: 20-11, 13-5 in the Southland Conference

Head coach: Mark Slessinger (6th season)

Players to watch: Erik Thomas (19.5 PPG, 7.8 RPG, 59.1 FG%); Travin Thibodeaux (8.6 PPG, 7.5 RPG 3.3 APG); Christavious Gill (11.6 PPG, 2.7 APG)

Season recap: The Privateers return to the tournament for the first time in 21 years. Head coach Mark Slessinger’s squad punched its ticket to the Big Dance after defeating top-seeded Texas A&M-Corpus Christi 68-65 in overtime in the Southland Conference tournament championship game. Senior forward Erik Thomas—the league's player of the year—was named tournament MVP after racking up a double-double with 14 points and 11 rebounds.

Thomas and senior guard Christavious Gill paced the Privateers on offense this season, helping New Orleans get back to the tournament after being picked to finish 10th out of 13 teams in the Southland.

New Orleans went on a five-game win streak in February conference play thanks to an exciting offense coupled with defensive chops. The Privateers force opponents to turn the ball over 16.3 times on average per game, good for 14th in the NCAA.

How they make a run: Thomas keeps firing shots and the opportunistic Privateers take their bigger and faster opponents by surprise, picking up a hard-fought upset in the first round.

How they falter: The inexperience shows quickly—Thomas and Gill are locked down on offense and New Orleans get blown out of the building by a more battle-tested Mount St. Mary’s squad in the play-in game.

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