It is about that time. In just four days, the first conference tournaments will commence, starting the Championship Fortnight and another three weeks of March Madness (bleeding into April) that basketball junkies wait for each year like it is a month of Black Fridays for shopaholics.
Yes, you can feel the symptoms coming on. Thousands upon thousands of basketball fans will begin to falsely raise the reported cases of influenza on days in which their team is playing a weekday game during working hours. Call it 8th-seeditis, a malady that can last one or two days when a fan’s favorite team must play that 2:00 PM game on Thursday and possibly Friday if they win the first game.
We here at the PiRate Ratings can no longer provide our doctor’s notes to your employer. We can no longer buy that much ink, so you will have to go to your local walk-in clinic on the eve of your team of choice’s run.
Here is your appetizer course. These 11 leagues kick things off next week with conference tournament action.
Starting Tuesday, March 1
March 1, 3, 6
Stetson Ineligible. 8 to 4 to 2 to 1
|1||North Florida||8||USC Upstate||7:30 PM||ESPN3|
|4||Florida-G.C.||5||Kennesaw St.||7:05 PM||ESPN3|
|Patriot||Higher Seeds||March 1, 3, 6, 9||10 to 8 to 4 to 2 to 1|
Final standings are not set as this league still has one set of games to play. Bucknell and Lehigh have clinched two of the four quarterfinal home seeds, while Boston U, Army, Navy, and Colgate are contending for the other two spots.
Holy Cross has clinched the 9th seed, and Lafayette has clinched the 10th seed, and both teams will play Tuesday night on the road.
Loyola of Maryland will host a First Round game Tuesday night as either the 7th or 8th seed.
American and Navy can both be the 7th seed and face a First Round game at home. American can move up to a 6th seed or fall as far as an 8th seed, while Navy can still earn anywhere from a 3rd to 7th seed.
First Round and Quarterfinal games will be available through the Patriot League TV Network at: http://campusinsiders.com/network/patriot_league/live
Starting Wednesday, March 2
|America East||Higher Seeds||March 2, 7, 12||UMass-Lowell Ineligible. 8 to 4 to 2 to 1|
Stony Brook has clinched the regular season title and at worst a bid to the NIT, but they are the heavy favorite in this league. The Seawolves have home court advantage throughout the tournament. Albany has clinched the second seed and will host a quarterfinal round game and a semifinal round game should they advance.
New Hampshire and Vermont are currently tied for third, but Vermont holds the tiebreaker for the 3rd seed should the two remain tied.
There are too many variables to include in this write-up for the final four spots. Hartford, Maine, and Binghamton are currently tied for 5th with UMBC one game back in last place.
All Quarterfinal and Semifinal Round games will be available on ESPN3.
|Northeast||Higher Seeds||March 2, 5, 8||Top 8 Qualify. 8 to 4 to 2 to 1|
Bryant and Central Connecticut have already been eliminated from the field as the 9th and 10th place teams in a league where only the top 8 make the tournament.
Wagner clinched the regular season title and will be the 1st seed. There are 32 different scenarios involving the other six teams, much too many to list here. Sacred Heart, St. Francis (Bklyn), Fairleigh-Dickinson, and Mount St. Mary’s all have a chance to earn the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th seeds. Sacred Heart and FDU cannot drop lower than a 4th seed.
Long Island, Mount St. Mary’s, St. Francis (Bklyn), and St. Francis (Pa) can earn the 5th or 6th seed.
St. Francis (PA), Long Island and Robert Morris can drop to the 7th seed, while LIU and RMU can both be the 8th seed, but SFP can drop no lower than a 7th seed.
All Quarterfinal Round games will be available through NEC Frontrow: http://www.necfrontrow.com/
|Ohio Valley||Nashville||March 2-5||Top 8 Qualify. 8 to 6 to 4 to 2 to 1|
Belmont once again has secured the regular season championship and will be the top seed. The Bruins and the 2nd Seed will both earn a double bye to the Semifinal Round.
In the Opening Round on Wednesday, the 5th seed will play the 8th seed at 7:00 PM EST, and the 6th seed will play the 7th seed at 9:00 PM EST. The winner of the first game will advance to face the 4th Seed on Thursday, and the winner of the second game will play the 3rd Seed on Thursday. On Friday, Belmont will play the team that advances from the 4-5-8 side of the bracket, while the 2nd Seed will play the team that advances from the 3-6-7 side of the bracket.
Seven of the eight teams have clinched a spot in the tournament. Besides Belmont, Tennessee State, Tennessee Tech, UT-Martin, Morehead State, Murray State, and Eastern Illinois will be headed to Nashville.
One spot remains open to be decided between Austin Peay and Eastern Kentucky, both currently tied at 6-9 in the OVC. EKU holds the tiebreaker edge, but the Colonels play at 10-5 Tennessee Tech tomorrow, while Austin Peay hosts 2-13 SEMO.
All 1st Round and Quarterfinal Round games will be available through the OVC Digital Network: http://www.ovcdigitalnetwork.com/watch/?Live=3312
Starting Thursday, March 3
|Big South||Buies Creek, NC||March 3-6||11 to 8 to 4 to 2 to 1|
First Round games on Thursday will pit the 6th seed against the 11th seed; the 7th seed against the 10th seed; and the 8th seed against the 9th seed.
Opening Round games will be available at Big South Sports Network: http://www.bigsouthsports.com/live
Quarterfinal Round games will be available at ESPN3. #1 will play #8 or 9, #2 will play #7 or 10, #3 will play #6 or 11, and #4 will play #5.
Currently, Winthrop, High Point, and UNC-Asheville are tied for first with Coastal Carolina one game back and still alive for the top seed.
Campbell is the host team for this tournament.
|Metro Atlantic||Albany||March 3-7||11 to 8 to 4 to 2 to 1|
The MAAC plays a 20-game conference schedule, and there are still two games left for most of the teams. Monmouth once held a firm grasp on the top spot as well as a decent chance at earning an at-large NCAA Tournament bid should they come up short, but the Hawks are limping to the finish line and are in danger of missing out altogether. A 16-point home loss to Iona makes the Gaels the hot team in the MAAC. Iona has won seven of eight games to move within striking distance of the regular season title, even though Monmouth concludes with home games over bottom division Rider and Niagara.
Don’t discount Siena. The Saints are the host team for the MAAC Tournament, and at 12-7 in league play, they are the lone team to defeat Iona during the Gaels’ run.
Fairfield is the other hot team in league play. The Stags have won six games in a row, including an impressive decision over Siena.
First Round games on Thursday will only be available to subscribers to MAAC TV, which charges a fee for games: https://www.nmnathletics.com/PremiumVideo.dbml?DB_OEM_ID=17400
Quarterfinal Round games on Friday will air on ESPN3.
|Missouri Valley||St. Louis||March 3-6||10 to 8 to 4 to 2 to 1|
It’s called, “Arch Madness,” and the MVC Tournament is always exciting, even when 1st seed Wichita State is dominating. This year’s Arch Madness promises to continue in the excitement department, because even if the Shockers win their Quarterfinal and Semifinal Round games with ease, their Championship Game opponent promises to be up to the task to give WSU a good game on CBS on Sunday.
Evansville and Illinois State are currently tied for second and can only play Wichita in the Championship Round. Both teams competed against the Shockers in the regular season with ISU winning in Normal. The Redbirds close out the regular season facing Wichita State on Senior Day for their fabulous guards, so the Purple Aces have a better chance of earning the number two seed, but not an easy chance, as they close at home with Northern Iowa.
UNI and Southern Illinois are limited to the 4th and 5th seeds, and no matter which team finishes where, in order to get to the Finals, they will have to play Wichita State (unless the shockers lose to the 8 or 9 seed in the Quarterfinals).
The First Round and Quarterfinal Round games will air on the MVC TV Network: http://www.archmadness.com/
Starting Friday, March 4
|Colonial Athl.||Baltimore||March 4-7||10 to 8 to 4 to 2 to 1|
UNC-Wilmington and Hofstra are tied for first with one game remaining in the regular season for both. The rivals split their regular season series winning on the other team’s home floor. With numerous possibilities in this weekend’s games, Hofstra has a slightly better chance than UNCW of earning the top seed if the two teams remained tied.
William & Mary and Towson are currently tied for 3rd with James Madison one game behind in 5th. Towson wins all ties for the #3 seed, so W&M can only take the 3rd seed by winning at JMU while Towson loses at UNCW.
All First Round and Quarterfinal Round Games will air on CAA TV: http://portal.stretchinternet.com/caa/
|Southern||Asheville, NC||March 4-7||10 to 8 to 4 to 2 to 1|
Chattanooga once had this race in the bag, even with the loss of their best player since early in the season. The Mocs have now dropped two of their previous four games to fall back within range of East Tennessee with two conference games left to be played.
Furman and Wofford are tied for third and will finish third and fourth in either order. The Paladins have the better chance of getting the 3rd seed.
Western Carolina and UNC-Greensboro are tied for 5th, and both teams end the year playing their best ball. UNCG won at Chattanooga by 15.
Mercer was once in contention for the regular season SoCon title, but the Bears have lost six straight games to fall to seventh place with a Sunday finale at Greensboro.
The tournament is in Asheville, which should be beneficial for WCU coming from nearby Cullowhee.
All 1st Round and Quarterfinal Round games will air on ESPN3.
|West Coast||Las Vegas||March 4-5, 7-8||Pacific is Ineligible 9 to 8 to 4 to 2 to 1|
If BYU beats Gonzaga, and San Francisco upsets Saint Mary’s, it will create a 3-way tie for first between BYU, SMC, and GU. The tiebreaker would then give the regular season title and top seed to BYU, since they were 1-1 against fourth place Pepperdine, while SMC was swept by the Waves.
Gonzaga and BYU must win the tournament to receive a bid to the NCAA Tournament. Saint Mary’s has a slim chance to earn an at-large bid should the Gaels win their regular season finale and make it to the Championship Game, but they better not count on it.
This is one of four tournaments taking place in Las Vegas.
The First Round game and two of the Quarterfinal Round games will air on BYU TV: http://www.byutv.org/
The other two Quarterfinal Round games (#2 vs. #7 & #1 vs. #8 or 9) will air on ESPN2.
Here are this week’s Red-White-Blue Picks of the Top Conferences
|Games Scheduled for:||Saturday, February 27, 2016|
|Boston College||Georgia Tech||-9||-12||-7|
|Syracuse||North Carolina St.||6||7||10|
|Florida St.||Notre Dame||-1||-1||-2|
|Oklahoma St.||West Virginia||-5||-6||-4|
|Iowa St.||Kansas St.||10||8||12|
|Mississippi St.||South Carolina||2||-1||3|
|Games Scheduled for:||Sunday, February 28, 2016|
|Wake Forest||Virginia Tech||1||1||-2|
|Michigan St.||Penn St.||20||18||22|
|Oregon St.||Washington St.||12||14||11|