Joining The Field
You might be thinking, “Wait, there were no conference championship games Friday, so how could there be an addition to the automatic bid list?”
It is a technicality issue. In the SWAC, Alcorn State is ineligible for postseason play, but they were eligible for the conference tournament. The Braves have made it to the Championship Game of the SWAC Tournament, but they cannot receive a bid to the NCAA Tournament. Their opponent tonight is Texas Southern, the regular season SWAC champion. The rules in the SWAC state that if the conference tournament champion is ineligible for the postseason, the regular season champion gets the automatic bid. Thus, Texas Southern is in the Dance no matter what happens tonight in the conference championship game.
We rarely issue opinions on matters like this, but this one seems obvious. The conference championship game is now meaningless, and leagues like the SWAC struggle to fill seats in tournament games if they do not put them on the home courts of the higher seeds. This league does not include all their members in the conference tournament, yet they included an ineligible team. It seems obvious that the SWAC should have kept Alcorn State out of the conference tournament and allowed Arkansas-Pine Bluff (one of two teams left out) to participate. That at least would make the Championship Game mean something.
All times Eastern Standard
|America East Conference Tournament Championship — Vermont Hosts|
Vermont has a perfect America East record this year, now at 16-0, as they prepare to host Albany. The last time these two teams met, Albany took a seven-point first half lead in Burlington, before the Catamounts clawed back into the lead in the second half. The game was still close with less than four minutes remaining before a big closing run by VU produced a 12-point victory. David Nichols kept Albany in that game with his three-point shooting, and if the Great Danes are to pull off the upset, they will need to be hot from behind the arc. Vermont should win its 21st consecutive game and become a feisty lower-seed foe for a second round biggie.
|American Athletic Conference Tournament Semifinals–Hartford,CT|
|1||SMU||28-4||vs.||4||Central Florida||21-10||3:00 PM||ESPN2|
One might think that SMU and Cincinnati have this tournament semifinals all wrapped up and will face off tomorrow in a rubber game to decide the conference tournament title winner. Think again. Central Florida and Connecticut are worthy competitors, and both teams have the ability to pull off upsets.
Cincinnati destroyed UConn both times they played, but the Huskies have a knack for becoming a different team in conference tournament play. They looked like they were poised for a repeat performance after smashing a good Houston team and ending the Couagars’ hopes of an at-large bid.
Central Florida presents incredible matchup problems with 7-6 behemoth Tacko Fall able to alter gameplans all by himself. UCF has won six consecutive games, and Coach Johnny Dawkins knows how to use Fall to suck defenders in so that his prime long-range shooters, Matt Williams, B J Taylor, and Nick Banyard, can get open looks. UCF hit 14 three-pointers in their decimation of Memphis.
|Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament Championship–Brooklyn|
|5||Duke||26-8||vs.||3||Notre Dame||25-8||9:00 PM||ESPN|
Neither team was picked by most of the ACC media experts to make it to the championship game of this tournament. Duke dropped Louisville and North Carolina to make it here, while Notre Dame took care of business against Virginia and Florida St. Both teams are safely in the NCAA Tournament, so the two are playing for pride and a chance to move up one seed line in the Dance. Duke won at Notre Dame in their only meeting this year, and this win occurred during Coach K’s absence with Jeff Capel guiding the team. The Blue Devils had a hot streak in that game, hitting over 50% from the field and an amazing 23 of 24 at the foul line.
|Atlantic 10 Conference Tournament Semifinals–Pittsburgh (Duquense)|
|9||Davidson||17-14||vs.||4||Rhode Island||22-9||1:00 PM||CBSSN|
Nervous fans of teams on the Bubble will be watching this league the next two days. With top-seed Dayton dismissed by Davidson, there are three teams left in this quartet that can burst some bubbles elsewhere. Rhode Island may have already played itself in to the NCAA Tournament, but Richmond and Davidson must win the automatic bid. This tournament should be must watch this afternoon if your team still needs some help.
|Big 12 Conference Tournament Championship–Kansas City|
|4||Iowa St.||22-10||vs.||2||West Virginia||26-7||6:00 PM||ESPN|
They hit just 26.7% of their shots, and their press was not very effective yesterday, but West Virginia found a way to beat Kansas State, doing so by dominating on the glass. Now, the Mountaineers go for the Big 12 Title against an Iowa State team that did not fare well against WVU in two previous tries.
In both games, the Cyclones wore out with fatigue from facing full-court pressure. WVU went on big runs both times to win by double digits. ISU might have more fatigue problems tonight, since this is their third game in three days. The Mountaineers seemed to look a little tired as well last night, but Coach Huggins provided the adrenaline needed to get over the hump.
|Big East Conference Tournament Championship–New York City|
Villanova already knows they will be a #1 seed as they attempt to defend their National Championship, but the Wildcats can secure the overall top-seed with a win over the Blue Jays this afternoon. Both teams were down a key player when they met most recently, but VU has its key player back now in power forward Darryl Reynolds. Reynolds has been pulling down the tough rebounds in his three games back, and the Wildcats once again have the look of a Final Four team.
|Big Sky Conference Tournament Championship–Reno, NV|
|1||North Dakota||21-9||vs.||3||Weber St.||19-12||8:30 PM||ESPNU|
North Dakota swept the season series with Weber State, including the big win back in February that put the Fighting Hawks in control of the Big Sky race. UND won with their incredible guard tandem of Quinton Hooker and Geno Crandall, and WSU will have to come up with an incredible defensive gameplan to keep UND out of the Big Dance. The Hawks are hoping a convincing win can help them avoid a layover in Dayton.
|Big Ten Conference Tournament Semifinals–Washington, DC|
The four teams remaining will not hurt anybody else’s Bubble chances, as they will all receive Dance invitations, but there is still drama remaining in this tournament. Michigan survived a travel nightmare just to get to this tournament. Northwestern has never been a factor in this tournament and has not won a Big Ten title of any kind. Meanwhile, it would make for a terrific championship game tomorrow if neighboring rivals Minnesota and Wisconsin played for the trophy. It also would give the Big Ten a chance to move a team into the 4-seed line.
|Big West Conference Tournament Championship–Anaheim|
The top two seeds split their two regular season meetings, but UC-Irvine thoroughly embarrassed UC-Davis when they met in Irvine last week with the regular season title on the line. The Anteaters opened the game with a 22-3 lead, and the Aggies never threatened the rest of the way. UCI connected on 14 treys in that game.
|Conference USA Tournament Championship–Birmingham, AL|
|1||Middle Tennessee||29-4||vs.||6||Marshall||20-14||8:30 PM||CBSSN|
This game might be the most exciting one of the entire day, and the fact that Middle Tennessee might already have done enough to lock up an at-large bid will not take anything away from the excitement this game promises. Expect the shot clock to play very little factor in this game, as both teams like to push the tempo.
If you like to follow the Houston Rockets with James Harden, Lou Williams, and Eric Gordon playing like thoroughbred race horses, then Marshall is the team for you. There is a good reason why the Thundering Herd plays like the Rockets, as they are coached by Dan D’Antoni, Mike’s brother. The Thundering Herd run up and down the floor like UNLV from the 1970’s, but they have one huge Achilles’ Heel. They cannot rebound very well. Middle Tennessee is an average rebounding team, but the Blue Raiders swept Marshall in the regular season thanks to spreading the wealth around. In their most recent game against the Herd, MTSU placed six players in double figures, while a seventh had nine points in a 97-86 win. Get your popcorn and soda ready for this one, as it will give you two hours of pure viewing pleasure.
|Ivy League Tournament Semifinals–Philadelphia|
We aren’t going to hide our joy over this tournament finally becoming a reality. The Ivy League plays quality fundamental basketball. If you play or coach at a lower level and must use sound principles and intelligence for your team to win, this is the league for you to watch.
Princeton aced the field this year with a perfect 14-0 league mark, and if the Tigers knock off rival Penn tonight and then win tomorrow, they should be a 13-seed in the Tournament with a somewhat decent chance to knock off the right type of 4-seed (not West Virginia or Cincinnati). Having legendary rivals Harvard and Yale play in the second game just makes this inaugural affair perfect.
Harvard took Princeton to the wire in both games, but the Tigers handled the Bulldogs rather easily. Few fans are giving Penn much chance in this tournament, but they are getting to host this thing at the Palestra, which should give the Quakers about 5-6 points in home court advantage.
|Mid-American Conference Tournament Championship–Cleveland|
|1||Akron||26-7||vs.||6||Kent St.||21-13||7:30 PM||ESPN2|
A February swoon cost Akron any chance of qualifying as an at-large team should they not win the MAC automatic bid. Included in that fall was a three-point loss at home to Kent State, as the Golden Flashes put an end to the Zips’ 30-game home winning streak. Akron recovered to win at Kent State last week, so this should be an interesting rematch and close to a 50-50 tossup.
|Mideast Athletic Conference Tournament Championship–Norfolk, VA (Norfolk St.)|
|1||UNC-Central||24-8||vs.||2||Norfolk St.||17-15||1:00 PM||ESPN2|
UNC-Central has remained unnoticed among the nation’s basketball fans outside of the MEAC, but the Eagles have gone 15-2 in their last 17 games and fared rather well in its road games against the power conference teams. Should UNCC win and then be forced to head to Dayton, the Eagles would most likely emerge victorious and advance, but a win today coupled with an upset somewhere else could be all that it takes to keep Central out of Dayton. If Norfolk State pulls off the upset, they can send their laundry to Dayton on the next express out of Norfolk. It does help that the Spartans get to play this game on their home floor.
|Mountain West Conference Tournament Championship–Las Vegas (UNLV)|
|1||Nevada||27-6||vs.||2||Colorado St.||28-6||6:00 PM||CBS|
These two teams squared off last Saturday in Reno with the top seed in this tournament on the line. Nevada won by 13, controlling the tempo and going on a big 20-3 run in the middle of the game. Nevada is a team without a glaring weakness, albeit not on the same page with Kentucky and Oregon. The Wolf Pack have a lineup similar to SMU in that all five starters can play in the wing positions and can post up inside. It reminds us a lot of Louisville during Denny Crum’s time when he had big-time stars like Junior Bridgman, Darrel Griffith, Jim Price, and Ron Thomas.
Colorado State plays a muscle power game and tries to grind opponents down. The Rams rely on senior guard Gian Clavell to score points, and when his shots are off, CSU can struggle to score. In the Rams’ favor tonight is the fact that they just played Nevada a week ago and know what they are going to face, as there has not been time to tweak the gameplans all that much.
|Pac-12 Conference Tournament Championship–Las Vegas|
Our Red-White-Blue Ratings that we will not publish today actually indicate that this game is a true tossup. In fact, two of the ratings show the spread at 0! The top two seeds met just once in the regular season, and Oregon used a 36-9 run in the first half to put the game away quickly. The Ducks have the top home court advantage in America, so the 27-point margin of victory can be tossed out the window, and you can give the Wildcats a little more incentive to seek revenge tonight. However, we think the Ducks have the better roster, and that gives Oregon the slight edge.
|Southeastern Conference Tournament Semifinals–Nashville|
Vanderbilt played its way into the NCAA Tournament with its third win over Florida. The Commodores should be able to avoid a First Four game in Dayton as well.
Alabama has the potential to give Kentucky all it can handle. Had the Tide hit their free throws in their one contest against the Wildcats, they could have won their regular season game in Tuscaloosa. This is Nashville, and the last time we checked, Nashville was about halfway between these two schools’ campuses, but it will look more like Rupp Arena this afternoon as the Music City is crawling with Royal Blue clothed tourists up and down Broadway and in Hatty B’s Hot Chicken.
Arkansas and Vanderbilt played two close games this year, with the visiting team winning both times. Since the Commodores won at Bud Walton, Arkansas has been a different team. The Razorbacks have won seven of eight games, including a road victory over South Carolina.
|Southland Conference Tournament Championship–Katy, TX (Greater Houston area)|
|1||New Orleans||19-11||vs.||2||Texas A&M-CC||20-10||9:30 PM||ESPN2|
Disclaimer: We cannot preview this game in an impartial manner. We will not withhold the secret that we are rooting like crazy for Coach Willis Wilson to guide TAMCCU to the Big Dance. A finer man in the coaching business does not exist, and Wilson has not been given the accolades that should have been afforded to him. The Rice alum coached at his alma mater for 18 years, taking the Owls to the near edge of NCAA qualification only to come up a tad short, having to make do with the NIT. Trying to win at Rice is extremely tough, as the high-academic standards and having to be the number two team in the city of Houston did not help the Owls recruit players to Main Street, where on a sunny day, more folks turn out to the zoo across the street than come to the Rice basketball games.
Wilson has built up the TAMCCU program to the point where the Islanders have made consecutive trips to the CIT, as Stephen F. Austin dominated the league under former coach Brad Underwood. Tonight, the Islanders have their best shot at making the Dance, where they have been just once before, back in 2007.
New Orleans also has a nice story that needs to be told. The basketball program shut down after the 2009-2010 season and stayed dark for two seasons before re-emerging as one of the final two teams to play as an independent (Cal State Bakersfield is the other). The Privateers have had a somewhat storied history with a bevy of excellent coaches working in the Crescent City (Ron Greene, Butch van Breda Kolff, Bennie Dees, Tim Floyd, and Buzz Williams). They have made it to four NCAA Tournaments, albeit none in the last 20 years, and they actually have won Dance win over BYU in 1987. There will be emotions running wild on both sides tonight, so check this game out if only for a little bit of your time.
|Southwestern Athletic Conference Tournament Championship–Houston|
|1||Texas Southern||22-11||vs.||2||Alcorn St. *||18-13||6:30 PM||ESPNU|
|*||Alcorn St. is ineligible for the postseason. Texas Southern earns automatic bid win or lose tonight.|
We have already spoken about this game and the fact that it does not matter if TSU wins or loses, since they already own the automatic bid. However, it will help the Tigers to win this game, because we believe they will definitely avoid Dayton with a win tonight, and they could be punished and sent to Dayton if they lose.
The game should be entertaining and nip and tuck, as TSU had difficulty beating Alcorn twice this year, once by a bucket, and once in overtime. Unfortunately, the one player that might have made a difference for the Tigers against a power conference team, muscular forward and former SWAC POY Derrick Griffin, decided to leave school to prepare for the pro draft–not the NBA, but the NFL, where he stands a good chance of being drafted as a mighty big receiver target.
|Sun Belt Conference Tournament Semifinals–New Orleans|
|1||UT-Arlington||25-7||vs.||4||Texas St.||19-12||12:30 PM||ESPN3|
|2||Georgia St.||20-11||vs.||6||Troy||20-14||3:00 PM||ESPN3|
There are some Bracketologists that believe UT-Arlington will have done enough to get an at-large bid if they beat Texas State this afternoon and lose tomorrow, but 12 of our 13 Bracketology Gurus beg to differ. The Mavericks are the team to beat in this tourney, but the other three teams don’t fear UTA. In fact, Texas State and Troy both know they can beat the top seed, as they did so convincingly during the regular season. Still, UTA is a team that defeated Saint Mary’s and had a double-digit lead at Arkansas before the Razorbacks nipped them in the final minute. If the Mavericks win the automatic bid, it would not surprise us at all if they move up to a 12-seed, the one seed that has become the seed of upsets.
|Western Athletic Conference Tournament Championship–Las Vegas|
|1||Cal St. Bakersfield||22-8||vs.||2||New Mexico St.||27-5||11:00 PM||ESPNU|
When we think of Bakersfield, we think of the “Bakersfield Sound” that produced stars like Merle Haggard, Buck Owens, and Jean Shepard. Our founder also thinks of some great Bakersfield Dodgers baseball teams in the Class A California League that produced future Dodgers stars like Ron Cey, Steve Yeager, Doug Rau, Eric Karros, Pedro and Ramon Martinez, John Wetteland, and Mike Piazza.
Others might think of all the farmland in and around the area or the giant arch just off Highway 99. Basketball does not come to mind when one thinks of Bakersfield. Yet, the Roadrunners, under former Ole Miss coach Rod Barnes, are just one win away from making their second consecutive trip to the Big Dance.
It will be no cakewalk tonight for the top-seeded Roadrunners. Their opponent is a formidable foe, and New Mexico State might even be considered the favorite in this game. The teams match up favorably well, and this looks like a championship game where if they played a best of seven series, it would go seven games.
CSUB has one big disadvantage tonight. The Roadrunners were forced to play an extra half last night, when Utah Valley took them to 4 overtimes. The Roadrunners shot less than 30% from the field, gave up an astronomical 68 rebounds to Utah Valley, and they still won, because they forced the Wolverines into committing 28 turnovers and stole the ball 11 times.
PiRate Ratings Bracketology Gurus Update for Saturday AM
- Villanova, Kansas, North Carolina, Gonzaga
- Kentucky, Oregon, Duke, Arizona
- Baylor, Louisville, West Virginia, Florida St.
- UCLA, Notre Dame, Butler, Minnesota
- Florida, Cincinnati, Iowa St., SMU
- Virginia, Purdue, Wisconsin, Creighton
- Maryland, Saint Mary’s, Michigan, Wichita St.
- Virginia Tech, Miami, Northwestern, VCU
- Arkansas, South Carolina, Dayton, Oklahoma St.
- Middle Tennessee, Marquette, Michigan St., Seton Hall
- Providence, Vanderbilt, Xavier, Wake Forest, USC
- UT-Arlington, UNC-Wilmington, Nevada, Kansas St., Syracuse
- Vermont, Princeton, Akron, Bucknell
- East Tennessee St., Florida Gulf Coast, New Mexico St., Winthrop
- Iona, Texas Southern, Northern Kentucky, UC-Irvine
- South Dakota St., UNC-Central, Jacksonville St., Texas A&M CC, North Dakota, Mount St. Mary’s
Last Four Byes
Last Four In–Headed to Dayton
Wake Forest vs. USC
Kansas St. vs. Syracuse
First Four Out
Rhode Island–can jump into the field with a win Saturday
Alabama–we jumped the Tide up here, because they are the only team still playing with a chance to move up. All others in this spot have no chance to make the field and have no games left to play (Illinois, Iowa, Houston, TCU, Georgia, Indiana)