The Pi-Rate Ratings

August 15, 2011

2011 Sunbelt Conference Preview

2011 Sunbelt Conference Preview

 

The guard may be in process of changing in the Sunbelt Conference.  Florida International and Troy finished tied for first at 6-2 last year, but FIU defeated the Trojans by 17. 

 

Florida International returns an experienced quarterback in Wesley Carroll, good depth at running back with Darriet Perry and Darian Mallary capable of teaming for 1,800 rushing yards, and the top receiver in the league and a possible high NFL draft choice in T. Y. Hilton.  Their offensive line is close to the best in the league and could emerge as the best if someone can step forward at center.  FIU should top 30 points and 400 yards per game this season.

 

Defensively, the Golden Panthers should be as good as or better than last season.  The one question mark will be at linebacker.

 

Louisiana Monroe is the wildcard in this season’s SBC race.  The Warriors return 17 starters from a year ago and should definitely improve on their 4-4 conference mark and 5-7 record overall.  An overtime loss to eventual champion FIU and a one-point loss to Louisiana in the season finale was all that kept ULM from winning the league last year.  The Warriors figure to be at least 7-10 points better in 2011, and when they host FIU on November 19, it could very well be for the 2011 SBC title.

 

Kolton Browning is an excellent dual threat quarterback.  He completed 62% of his passes last year as a freshman.  His top four receivers return this year, and ULM should gain 250 yards through the air this season.

 

The defense must improve after giving up 32 points per game last year.  The Warriors gave up 4.4 yards per carry, and that number will not win a conference championship.

 

Troy is not out, but they are down a bit.  The Trojans were hit hard after the end of the season losing two wide receivers that were expected to contribute heavily in 2011.  Chip Reeves and Jamel Johnson would have been the two leading returning receivers for the league’s best passer, Corey Robinson.

 

Troy should have a much improved defense this season after giving up more than 30 points per game in 2010.  However, the Trojans’ offense may not repeat last year’s results when they averaged 34 points and 450+ yards per game. 

 

Defensively, end Jonathan Massaquoi will contend for defensive Player of the Year honors.  Massaquoi recorded more than 20 tackles for loss with 13 ½ sacks last year.  He will see more double teams with the departure of Mario Addison.

 

Arkansas State could have been 8-4 instead of 4-8.  The Red Wolves will be the most exciting team in the league with their no-huddle hurry-up offense.  An inexperienced offensive line could be their downfall.  If the green OL can protect quarterback Ryan Aplin, ASU’s passing game could top 275 yards per game through the air.  Dwayne Frampton, Allen Muse, and Taylor Stockemer return after combining for 145 receptions, 1,933 yards, and 16 touchdowns last year, and this year junior college transfer Jose Jarboe joins the fold to give the Red Wolves a receiving corps that has no peers inside the league.

 

Unfortunately, the hurry-up offense means the defense may have to hurry to get back on the field for too many plays.  ASU’s defense does not have the depth to stay on the field for 75 plays a game and be effective.

 

Western Kentucky is being picked near the bottom of the conference by the media, but we believe the Hilltoppers will be much improved this year.  WKU was outscored by just 2.6 points per game in league play, and they were only outgained by 20 yards per game.  With most of their skilled players returning on offense as well as some decent depth in the trenches, the Hilltoppers could flirt with a winning record in 2011.  A tough non-conference schedule could prevent that from happening, but we would not be surprised if WKU’s conference record was .500 or better.

 

Running back Bobby Rainey returns after leading the league with 1,649 yards rushing.  If the Hilltoppers can come up with just a little more balance on the attack side, they could threaten the 28 points per game mark.

 

Defensively, WKU was too easy to run on.  The Hilltoppers gave up five yards per carry, and still they were often burned by enemy passing games.  The defense will be quite a bit improved, but it is still not championship quality.

 

Middle Tennessee has never won the SBC title; they have flirted for years with championship material, but the Blue Raiders have been the Fresno State of the Sunbelt.  2011 should see Middle Tennessee take a step back after going to bowls both of the last two seasons. 

 

The Blue Raiders must rebuild on defense, and they were not all that tough on that side of the ball, giving up 120 points and 1,426 yards to Troy, Arkansas State, and FIU, the top three offenses in the league.

 

There could be a diamond in the rough on the offensive side of the ball.  Running back Jeremiah Bryson was headed to Pittsburgh, but he changed his mind to stay closer to home due to family issues.  Bryson could be the best back in Murfreesboro since Dwone Hicks played there a decade ago.

 

It is hard to believe that it has been seven years since North Texas was the original Troy of the Sunbelt.  The Mean Green won the league title four years in a row from 2001 to 2004, but UNT hasn’t tasted success since, going just 13-58 in the past in the last six seasons.  New head coach Dan McCarney will try to resurrect the program.  McCarney brought Iowa State back to respectability, taking the Cyclones to five bowls in six years and coming within a missed kick of winning the Big 12 North twice.  McCarney was Urban Meyer’s top assistant at Florida the last three years. 

 

McCarney dismissed top receiver Darius Carey from the team, and the UNT passing attack will struggle this year.  Sophomore quarterback Derek Thompson will battle Juco transfer Brent Osborn.  Whoever emerges as the starter will be handing the ball to Lance Dunbar about 25 times per game.  Dunbar rushed for 1,553 yards and 13 scores last year, and he caught 28 passes for three more touchdowns.

 

Defensively, the Mean Green were quite improved last year, although they still gave up 30 points and almost 400 yards per game.  Just three years ago, they gave up close to 50 points and 500 yards per game.  There could be additional improvement in 2011, but a tough schedule should prevent UNT from threatening for bowl eligibility.

 

Louisiana starts from scratch with new coach Mark Hudspeth.  Every place Hudspeth has gone, his teams have won, and the folks in Lafayette are excited in hopes that he will turn the program around.  UL’s last winning season was in the previous century, so do not expect miracles in year one.  In fact, the Ragin’ Cajuns could even take a small step back from last season’s 3-9 finish.

 

Quarterback Chris Masson is not going to be confused with Jake Delhomme, but the senior should improve on his 52.9 completion percentage this season.  He played in a shotgun formation last year and will be under center most of the time this season.  Masson has the top tight end target in the league in LaDarius Green.  Green is a threat to get open in the seams of zones and present a monstrous target.

 

An inexperienced offensive line will spell doom for the offense this year, but UL could have some memorable moments.

 

The defense is going to have some rough Saturdays once again.  UL surrendered 37 points and just under 400 yards per game last year, and even an improvement to 30 points allowed will not be enough to move the Ragin’ Cajuns north in the standings.

 

Florida Atlantic head coach Howard Schnellenberger just announced that 2011 will be his last.  Schnellenberger, 77, has a storied history in football.  He was recruited to Kentucky by Bear Bryant and later served on some of the best coaching staffs of all time.  As an assistant at his alma mater in the late 1950’s, he served under future NFL Champion coach Blanton Collier along with Don Shula and Bill Arnsparger.  As an assistant at Alabama, the Crimson Tide won multiple national titles, and he was the key recruiter that landed Joe Namath.  As an assistant in the NFL, he won a Super Bowl ring with Shula at Miami after helping the Rams win two division titles in the late 1960’s.  Throw in a college football championship at the U of Miami, and that is more than enough for any one man.  He was not finished.  He returned to his city of childhood and built Louisville into a major force in college football.  He also started the program at FAU. 

 

We mention all these things, because the 2011 season could be a really lousy way to exit the profession.  The Owls were the weakest offensive team in the SBC last year, and they lost most of their good players, including quarterback Jeff Van Camp and his top three receivers.  FAU had trouble running the ball, and it will be difficult to improve the running game with an inexperienced passing game this season.  The one positive is the return of all starting offensive linemen.

 

Defensively, opponents had little difficulty running or passing against the Owls in 2010, and the scary news is that the 2011 defense could be a little weaker.  Five of the top six tacklers from last year are gone.

 

Sunbelt Conference Preseason Media Poll

Team

First Place Votes

Points

1. Florida Int’l

5

75

2. Troy

2

66

3. Middle Tennessee

 

54

4. Louisiana-Monroe

 

54

5. Arkansas St.

1

49

6. North Texas

 

33

7. Western Kentucky

1

28

8. Louisiana

 

26

9. Florida Atlantic

 

20

     

 

 

The PiRate Ratings

 

   

 

 

Team

PiRate #

Prediction

1. Florida Int’l

87.1

7-1/8-4

2. Louisiana-Monroe

82.3

7-1/8-4

3. Troy

81.3

6-2/6-6

4. Arkansas State

81.3

4-4/5-7

5. Western Kentucky

75.1

3-5/4-8

6. Middle Tennessee

72.8

4-4/5-7

7. North Texas

71.9

3-5/3-9

8. Louisiana

71.7

1-7/2-10

9. Florida Atlantic

68.7

1-7/1-11

Next: The Mid-American Conference Preview, Tuesday, August 16 

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September 1, 2009

2009 Atlantic Coast Conference Preview

2009 Atlantic Coast Conference Preview

A PiRate Look

Four teams finished with 5-3 records in the ACC last year.  That’s not abnormal.  However, when 5-3 wins both divisions of a 12-team league, that’s a sign of real parity.  Unfortunately, it was a parity of mediocrity.  In 2007, Boston College won the Atlantic Division with a 6-2 record.  Wake Forest did the same in 2006.  This year, the parity should begin to wane some, but the races in both divisions should go down to the final week, and tiebreakers once again could determine the division title winners.  All 12 ACC members have exploitable liabilities, and many teams can take advantage of them.  However, no team has the tools to exploit all of those liabilities, so we expect no 8-0 conference records yet again.

Here are the preseason PiRate ratings for the league.  The ratings have been rounded to the nearest whole number even though we calculate them to two decimal places.  Thus, when you see multiple teams with the same rating, they are not actually exactly even.  To understand what the rating means, it is set so that 100 is average.  Thus, a rating of 90 means the team is 10 points weaker than the average team in the FBS.  The average of all 120 FBS teams should round to 100 if the math has been successfully calculated.

For those who have not followed the PiRate Ratings before and wonder about the home field advantage, we do not assign set in stone advantages.  These are assigned on a game-by-game basis.  For instance, when Florida State hosts Florida, the Seminoles only get about two points for home field advantage.  However, if a smaller school, such as Arkansas State comes to Tallahassee for Homecoming, FSU’s home field advantage jumps by several points. The PiRates think it’s ridiculous to issue a blank home field advantage for all teams or even assign a range of set home field advantages.

  Atlantic Coast Conference Preseason PiRate Ratings  
   

 

Prediction *

 

 
  Team

PiRate

ACC

Overall

 
  Atlantic Division

 

 

 

 
  Florida State

116

5-3

7-5

 
  Clemson

113

6-2

10-3

#

  Boston College

109

1-7

4-8

 
  North Carolina St.

108

3-5

6-6

 
  Wake Forest

106

4-4

8-4

 
  Maryland

98

2-6

4-8

 
   

 

 

 

 
  Coastal Division

 

 

 

 
  Virginia Tech

117

7-1

10-2

 
  Georgia Tech

115

7-1

10-3

#

  North Carolina

113

6-2

10-2

 
  Miami-FL

108

4-4

6-6

 
  Virginia

99

2-6

4-8

 
  Duke

97

1-7

3-9

 
   

 

 

 

 
 

*  Predictions not based on PiRate Rating but

 
 

on expected changes to rating during the year

 
 

# Clemson to upset Georgia Tech in the ACC Championship Game

 

 

Atlantic Division

Florida State:  The Seminoles are no longer the beast they were for a quarter century.  They are simply an above-average team that doesn’t challenge for national honors any more.  While they begin the season highly ranked in the PiRate Ratings, we just don’t see any way that they will stay there.  By October 22, we see FSU sporting a record no better than 4-3 and possibly just 3-4 with three tough games to play.

The Seminoles, once one of the toughest defenses to crack, appear quite vulnerable against both the run and the pass.  The defensive line no longer has all-Americans manning the four spots.  This year, we don’t even see an All-ACC caliber player up front.  Look for FSU to surrender more than four yards per rush for the first time in ages.

With a weaker pass rush, the secondary will find the going tough against quality passers.  The Seminoles will be vulnerable to quick receivers coming across the middle of the field.

The one real star on this side of the ball is linebacker Dekoda Watson.  He made eight stops for losses last season, but he’s going to see an extra blocker headed his way this year.  We envision FSU giving up 25 points per game and 350 total yards per game.

The offense is in better shape, and if the ‘Noles can manufacture an above-average rushing attack, they will be able to outscore several opponents.  It all starts up front, where State has the top line in the conference.  Center Ryan McMahon will start in the NFL early in the next decade, and guard Rodney Hudson could do so next year.  They should make the running game look better than it normally would and protect the QB with great pass blocking.

The fortunate QB is Christian Ponder.  He threw for just a little over 2,000 yards last year and with a so-so 14/13 TD/INT ratio.  Those numbers will be much better this season.  Ponder can take off and run at any time and could even lead FSU in rushing in several games.

A mediocre receiving corps will look better because Ponder will have more time to look for an open receiver.  Give any college receiver and extra two seconds to get open, and they will most of the time.

The running attack is not strong and will need exceptional blocking to match last year’s numbers (179 yards per game and 4.8 avg. per run).  Expect a group effort here with Jermaine Thomas leading the way.

The schedule gives the Seminoles a couple of easy wins (Jacksonville State and Maryland), one for sure loss (Florida), and several tough games they could win or lose (Miami, BYU, USF, Georgia Tech, North Carolina, Clemson, and Wake Forest).  There will be days where FSU can win by outscoring their opponent, but there are going to be defenses that can slow them or shut them down.  It adds up to another just above average season and lesser bowl bid. 

Clemson: The team that has been picked to break out and have a big season every year in recent memory has never done so.  Tommy Bowden never could reach that next level.  Now it’s Dabo Swinney’s turn to try.  He went 4-3 after taking over at mid-season.  Swinney is primed to return CU to its old way of playing football—using the run as the principle weapon to set up the pass as a surprise weapon.  The defense should be better because they won’t be on the field for 67 plays per game.  Five to eight fewer plays by the opponents could lead to 35 fewer yards and three fewer points per game before factoring in the improvement on that side of the ball.

The Tigers’ defense is strongest on the back line.  The secondary has two shut down cornerbacks who will take away a lot of opponents’ passing plans.  Chris Chancellor and Crezon Butler can both make the All-ACC team.  Last year they teamed up for 15 knocked down passes and eight interceptions.

All three of last year’s starting linebackers return, and Kavell Conner was the team’s leading tackler with 125.  Middle linebacker Brandon Maye is capable of having 100 tackles.  DeAndre McDaniel has moved to safety, and he’s going to put a hurtin’ on some poor receiver who tries to catch a weak pass.

Up front, Clemson’s line is among the best in the league.  Three starters return; Da’Quan Bowers, Jarvis Jenkins, and Ricky Sapp combined to record 23 tackles behind the line in ’08, and that number could improve this year.

Clemson gave up only 17.3 points and 300 yards per game last year, but we expect those numbers to be even better this year.  How about 15 points and 270 yards per game allowed?

The offense wasn’t a standout attack unit last year, and the Tigers might only match those numbers of 25 points and 329 yards per game, but it’s how those numbers will be accrued that counts.  We expect CU to run for 190 and pass for 140 yards per game, using three more minutes of clock time.

New quarterback Kyle Parker is not much of a passing threat, but he can run the ball like a fullback in the open field.  When CU must pass, Willy Korn could be the man doing so.

At running back, Clemson has super quick C. J. Spiller returning after finishing second on the team in rushing last year with 629 yards and seven scores.  He caught 34 passes out of the backfield and could be used on play-action and screen passes this season, as well as being a safety valve on other plays.

The receivers will take on less responsibility this year, and they will be required to block downfield more than last year.  Tight end Michael Palmer could see more passes thrown his way because Parker will command the linebackers to keep him in their sights lest he take off and run.

The offensive line returns intact from last year, and it is the equal of the OL at Florida State.  They will open holes for Spiller and protect Parker or Korn on passing plays.

The schedule presents a few bumps.  CU must play at Georgia Tech, Miami, North Carolina State, and South Carolina.  One of the non-conference home games is against TCU, who should be 2-0 and highly ranked when they visit on September 26.

Boston College: It may just be a hunch, but all of us here at the PiRate Ratings believe there’s going to be a collective BC headache this year in Chestnut Hill.  For the third time in four seasons, the Eagles have a new head coach.  Frank Spaziani has been the head coach at BC before—for the 2006 Meineke Car Care Bowl against Navy (BC won 25-24).  In addition to the change at the top, the Eagles will have to go with a quarterback they didn’t plan on starting.  Dominique Davis couldn’t keep up his academic load and was dismissed from the team.

The new quarterback is yet to be determined, but freshman Justin Tuggle is in the lead with a week to go before the season begins.  Codi Beck, a former fullback, and Dave Shinskie are in the picture as well.  The BC passing game is going to falter some, and it wasn’t all that spectacular last year.  In the final three games against Maryland, Virginia Tech in the ACC Championship game, and Vanderbilt in the bowl, Davis and Chris Crane completed just 43% of their passes.

Two of the top three receivers from last year return, but Rich Gunnell and Justin Jarvis are not going to be attracting the eyes of NFL scouts.

The running game will have to step it up a notch if BC is to score consistently this year.  Montel Harris and Josh Haden teamed up for 1,379 yards at a 4.6 average last year and could top that this year by 200 yards. 

A usually strong offensive line will not deviate from that statement this year.  However, they aren’t as good as either Florida State or Clemson. 

The defense was tough last year, giving up just 268 total yards per game.  The defense suffered a big blow when linebacker Mark Herzlich, was diagnosed with bone cancer.  We here wish him a speedy recovery and hope he is able to return to the field in 2010.  Herzlich was a one-man wrecking crew leading BC with 110 tackles, 13 behind the line, breaking up eight passes, and picking off six more.  He cannot be replaced by anybody on the roster.  Mike McLaughlin takes over as the leader of this side, and he could be considered a junior Herzlich.

The Eagles are going to regress some in the trenches following the loss of two NFL draftees at tackle.  B. J. Raji was a 1st round pick and Ron Brace went in the 2nd round.  Expect to see teams running line plunges for a few extra yards against the defense.

The secondary returns three starters who need to do a much better job this year in order to make up for a weaker trio of linebackers.  Wes Davis has a chance to shine from his free safety position.

After two easy games to start the season, BC opens conference play at Clemson, and it could be ugly.  Road games against Virginia Tech and Notre Dame could produce the same result.  The Eagles could split their four home conference games, but they could easily lose all their road games.  It looks like a year away from bowl competition in 2009. 

North Carolina State: This was a tale of two seasons a year ago in Raleigh.  The Wolfpack began the year 2-6 and looked to be headed to a possible nine loss season.  Then, Coach Tom O’Brien’s team acted like a switch had been activated.  NCSU demolished Duke, Wake Forest, North Carolina, and Miami to sneak into the Papajohns.com Bowl (where they lost to an even hotter Rutgers team).  The Wolfpack could be better this year as a whole, but the record may not be any better as teams remember the shellacking they received in November and seek revenge.

Quarterback Russell Wilson earned 1st team All-ACC honors in his freshman season last year, and he is the leader in the clubhouse for repeating this year.  All he did as a freshman was pass for 17 touchdowns with just one little interception!  That’s got to be the greatest TD/INT ratio in a major conference ever!  Wilson can run the ball too, but our advice is for him to limit that this year.  Behind him, the reserves are much weaker, and Wilson is injury-prone.

Wilson’s top two targets are back in the fold this year.  Owen Spencer and Jarvis Williams combined to catch 57 passes for 1,123 yards and nine scores.  Both can burn a secondary for a long touchdown, and both can win a jump ball in the end zone.  Tight end George Bryan provides a nice secondary target and must be respected by the defense.

The returning running backs are more of the plodding, power variety than the quick burst of speed variety.  That could present a small problem, because it takes a good line to hold their blocks long enough for the backs to hit the holes.  The offensive line is the weakest unit on the offense.  NCSU could fail to rush for 100 yards per game in conference play.

The defense showed little signs of improvement in O’Brien’s second year in Raleigh, and it will be hard to show much improvement this year as well.  The secondary was hit hard by graduation and defections.  Two projected starters quit the team and transferred elsewhere.  It leaves a huge hole, and the Wolfpack might give up more passing yards than last year’s dismal secondary (249 yards per game and 62.2% completions).

More problems abound at linebacker, where Nate Irving, a potential All-American, saw his 2009 season end in a summer car crash.  That leaves Ray Michel as the only holdover in the middle of the defense.  Michel led the team with 85 tackles, but he’s no Irving.

The defensive line will have to get the job done, or else State will give up a lot of yards and points.  Willie Young has the potential to be a star but not the next Mario Williams.  He should be a first day draft pick next year, but he will see some heavy double teams this year.

The Wolfpack will pick up some easy wins against some weak competition (Murray State, Gardner-Webb, Duke, Maryland), but they will get it handed to them against the top tier teams in the league.  Expect something like a repeat of last year, but the wins won’t all come in November.

Wake Forest: Jim Grobe ranks as the top coach in the Atlantic Division.  He gets more out of his talent than any other head man.  He will have to come up with one great accomplishment to keep his defense from imploding after losing his three starting linebackers and three starting defensive backs.  Replacing Alphonso Smith (seven INT and 13 PBU) will not be possible.

Wake surrendered 18.3 points and 297 total yards per game last year, but the Deacs could give up close to that in passing yardage alone this season.  Brandon Ghee is the only returnee to the back seven, and he’s anything but a star.

The defensive line returns three starters, but only nose tackle Boo Robinson will contend for All-ACC honors.

With the top five tacklers, including first round draft pick Aaron Curry and fourth round pick Stanley Arnoux, the Demon Deacons will be much more angelic to enemy offenses in 2009.

All is not lost in Winston-Salem, for the Wake Forest offense has a chance to be really good this year.  Quarterback Riley Skinner is a master at the quick passing game.  He can lead a team downfield with a long, time-consuming drive with short passes; call it five yards and a cloud of wind.

When Riley throws, he will see some unfamiliar faces.  He won’t have D.J. Boldin around this year, after Boldin led the Deacs with 81 receptions.  In this offense, receivers can acclimate quickly with short routes.  Holdover Marshall Williams can be a great change of pace wide out, as he can get open deep.

The running game is not the same as the Wake Forest running games of 2002-2004, when all the cut blocking was giving them a bad reputation.  Look for quite an improvement here this year, as the top three backs return and could combine for 1,200-1,400 yards on the ground.  Skinner can sneak by for a first down on a scramble.

The offensive line returns five players who have started in their careers.  The two tackles, Joe Birdsong and Chris DeGeare will protect Skinner like he’s gold.

Expect a season much like 2007 in Winston-Salem this year.  Wake Forest will outscore opponents much like Florida State, and much like Florida State, they will falter on offense a few times and suffer some tough losses.  Still, it looks like a fourth consecutive bowl bid.  As always, there will be some coaching changes at power schools, and Grobe will probably wind up on a few short lists once again.

Maryland: This figures to be a long year in College Park.  The Terrapins suffered more to graduation than any league foe, and they have been wiped out in the trenches on both sides of the ball.  When a team cannot block at the line and gets blown off the line on defense, they aren’t going to win many games.

Let’s start with the offense.  Coach Ralph Friedgen has some weapons back, but without decent blocking, those weapons can produce only so much.  Quarterback Chris Turner is an average signal caller for this league.  He threw 13 touchdown passes, but he also tossed 11 interceptions.  He has a tendency to have wild streaks and miss his receivers. 

Turner has lost his top two receivers from last year.  Darius Heyward-Bey took a lot of flak when Oakland made him their first pick in the NFL draft with Michael Crabtree still on the board, but he’s set to start for the Raiders while Crabtree is set to lose the year and return to the draft.  Heyward-Bey led the Terps with 42 receptions and 609 yards, and there isn’t a player on the team who can rival his speed.

Maryland has a tough running back tandem returning in Da’Rel Scott and Davin Meggett.  Scott rushed for 1,133 yards and eight TDs last year, but it will be difficult if not impossible for him to repeat that feat.

The offensive line lost four key contributors and will take a step back this season.  Only center Dave Cost, who moved to the middle from guard, and part-time starting tackle Bruce Campbell return this year.  Expect Maryland’s offense to falter many times and average only 18-19 points and 300-325 total yards per game.

The news isn’t much better on the other side of the ball, as the entire starting defensive line is gone.  Tackle Travis Ivey has the most experience, but he made just 26 stops last year in nine games.

Only one starter returns at linebacker, but he’s the best player on this side of the ball.  Alex Wujciak led the Terps and finished second in the league with 133 tackles, 8 ½ of which went for losses.  The two new starters cannot come close to equaling the production of last year’s starters who combined for 171 tackles and 17 for losses.

The secondary will have four senior starters, two of whom started a year ago.  Cornerback Anthony Wiseman broke up 10 passes, but he’s likely to see opposing quarterbacks pass away from him more this year.  That may be a mistake because Nolan Carroll has the potential to be better than Wiseman.  He broke up eight passes last year after starting four games.

The Terp pass defense will suffer if the pass rush doesn’t help it some.  Give any QB an extra couple of seconds to pass, and he can shred Florida and Southern Cal with completed passes.

The schedule is going to keep Maryland under .500 this year.  Out of the conference, the Terps must face California in Berkeley to open the season and Rutgers.  They will be looking up at the rest of the Atlantic Division and will be fortunate to win more than two conference games and more than four overall.

Coastal Division

Virginia Tech: If one team is going to break through the parity party and run away from the field, this one is the favorite to do so.  However, the Hokies still have some issues to be resolved, and we think they will suffer at least one conference defeat and one out of conference defeat.

The unexpected loss of one player brings Tech back to the pack.  Star running back Darren Evans may have been a Heisman Trophy contender with a big year.  He ran for 1,265 yards and 11 touchdowns last year, but unfortunately, he suffered a season-ending ACL injury in practice.  It’s not like the backups who will come to the forefront are chopped liver, but they aren’t going to get into the Heisman Trophy picture either.  Instead of dominating in the running game, Tech will just be average here and rush for about 150-160 yards per game.

Quarterback Tyrod Taylor could actually become the leading rusher by default.  He better have a stellar season afoot, because he isn’t going to strike fear in the opponents with his arm.  Tight end Greg Boone will get some snaps out of the wildcat formation, but Coach Frank Beamer limits its use to a couple plays.

Taylor has a wealth of talent to catch his passes this year.  Every player with double digit receptions last year returns this year, led by Jarrett Boykin, Danny Coale, and the aforementioned Boone.  Taylor’s passing numbers will improve from about 130 to 175 yards per game.

The offensive line will give Taylor ample time to throw or run the ball, and they should be strongest in the off-tackle and wide running lanes on the left side where tackle Ed Wang and guard Sergio Render form an excellent tandem.

Beamer’s teams are noted for top notch defensive and special team’s play.  This year’s stop troops won’t disappoint, but they won’t live up to recent standards either.  Tech gave up 16.7 points and 279 yards per game last season, but those numbers will rise this year.  If they rise to 18 points and 300 yards, Tech will be okay and contend for another league championship.  If they top 20 points and 330 yards, then the Hokies might lose a key extra game that costs them the division title.

The question mark rests at linebacker, but we believe they will be okay there even though the two lost players were the top two tacklers.  Cam Martin and Cody Grimm platoon at the whip linebacker position, and they totaled 122 tackles with 19 ½ for losses. 

Up front, three starters return, including Jason Worlds at end.  Worlds will contend for 1st team All-ACC honors after earning 2nd team accolades last year.  He led Tech with 18 ½ stops behind the line including eight dumps of the quarterback.

The secondary returns three starters as well.  They were one of the best in the nation last year, but they should be even better in 2009.  Cornerback Stephan Virgil and safety Kam Chancellor will vie for all-conference honors.

Virginia Tech faces three out of conference foes expected to contend for division championships in their respective conferences.  The Hokies begin the season playing Alabama in Atlanta.  They also host Nebraska and make a visit to East Carolina with revenge on their minds.  They must make an even more important second trip to Atlanta on October 17 to face Georgia Tech.  The winner of that game could be the Coastal Division representative in the ACC Championship Game.

Georgia Tech: Paul Johnson is the nation’s top contrarian coach.  In an era where the spread passing game is all the rage, Johnson is still a proponent of the old option offense made popular by the Split-T in the 1940’s and 50’s and the veer and wishbone of the 60’s and 70’s.  The so-called football experts claimed a BCS conference team could not succeed running such an archaic and antiquated offense.  Let us let you in on a little secret folks: with the right personnel, the single wing offense from the 1920’s could devastate BCS defenses today. 

Johnson’s teams at Navy and Georgia Southern, as well as the days when he was an offensive coordinator at Hawaii and Navy the first go-around always made huge strides on offense in the second year of his implementing his package.  We expect year two at Tech to be more of the same.

10 starters return to an offense that averaged 24.4 points and 372 yards per game (273 on the ground).  It is our belief that the Yellow Jackets will top 300 rushing yards per game this year and score upwards of 30-35 points per game.  Start with an experienced Josh Nesbitt at quarterback, who rushed for 693 yards and seven touchdowns in his first season running the option.  Backup Jaybo Shaw showed promise as well, and it is required of this offense to have more than one capable quarterback.

Jonathan Dwyer thrived in the new offense, gaining 1,395 yards and scoring 12 times, while averaging an eye-popping seven yards per carry.  It earned him ACC Offensive Player of the Year.  His numbers could decline a little but for a great reason.  Former 1,000 yard rusher at Louisville Anthony Allen is now eligible after sitting out a year.  It wouldn’t surprise to see both Dwyer and Allen top 1,000 yards on the ground and wear out some defenses.  When defenses bunch up to stop those two, watch out for the pitch to two speedy slot receivers.  Lucas Cox and Roddy Jones combined to average 8.7 yards every time they ran the ball.  There could be a game where Jones,  Allen, and Dwyer all top 100 yards!

Cox and Jones are pass catching threats to go all the way every time they receive a surprise pass.  Demaryius Thomas caught 53% of Tech’s completed passes and accumulated 49% of the yards.  He will see more deep balls thrown his way this year. When Georgia Tech passed the ball last year, they averaged 7.8 yards per attempt and 17.4 yards per completion.  Those numbers could be more like 9.5-10 yards per attempt and 18-22 yards per completion this year.  If so, the Techsters will be almost impossible to stop.

The offensive line has four starters returning if you count tackle Nick Claytor a starter.  He started the final five games and played spectacularly against some very strong defensive opponents.  This unit is all about run blocking, and they will break down if Tech finds itself in too many obvious passing downs. 

Not to be overlooked is an experienced defense that returns its top five and eight of its top nine tacklers.  Tech will be much tougher this year against the pass, as six of the seven back defenders will return to the starting lineup.  The Jackets gave up 193 passing yards per game last year and picked off 17 passes.  Look for those numbers to improve to 170 yards and 20 interceptions in ’09.

The star of the secondary is rover Morgan Burnett, who intercepted seven passes and broke up eight more.  He found time to bring down seven runners behind the line as well.

At linebacker, all three 2008 starters return.  They weren’t stellar, but they were more than adequate.  None will make the All-ACC team, but they won’t be a liability either.

Up front, Tech has a little to worry about, and it will be their Achilles heel.   Three key players have used up their eligibility, and only end Derrick Morgan returns.  Tech could see its rushing defense numbers jump from 120 to 150 yards allowed per game.

The annual rivalry finale with Georgia is the only non-conference game for the Yellow Jackets to fret over, as they should handle the other three.  The schedule favors Tech in the Coastal Division race, as they host Virginia Tech and North Carolina.  Back-to-back Thursday night games against Clemson and Miami could decide whether the Virginia Tech game in October will be for the division title. 

North CarolinaCoach Butch Davis has quickly rebuilt the North Carolina football program back to where it was during the Bill Dooley and Dick Crum days.  The Tar Heels may soon be as successful on the gridiron as they are on the hardwood.

Nine starters return to a defense that gave up 21.2 points and 365 yards per game.  Expect those numbers to improve to 18-20 points and 325-350 yards per game.

The strength of the defense is the line.  The front four could be one of the five best in the nation this year, as all four starters return to the fold.  Tackles Cam Thomas and Marvin Austin both top 300 pounds but have exceptional first movement on the snap of the ball.  All four of the second four return as well, so the Tar Heels will have the best depth in the nation outside of Gainesville, Florida or Norman, Oklahoma.

Two starters return at linebacker, and middle linebacker Quan Sturdivant will be playing for pay in a year or two.  Sturdivant led UNC with 122 tackles and played tough against the pass as well.

Three starters return in the secondary, and two of them should make the All-ACC team.  Cornerback Kendric Burney and safety Deunta Williams combined for 143 tackles, 8 ½ tackles for loss, six interceptions, and eight deflected passes.

The offense will struggle at times this year, and that’s why UNC will probably come up short in the Coastal Division.  The Tar Heels averaged 28 points on just 321 yards per game last year; the total yardage could go up, but the point total will drop.

T. J. Yates and Cameron Sexton were expected to split quarterback duties again this year, but Sexton transferred.  Yates has had problems staying on the field, even suffering a sprained thumb in spring practice.

Yates may not recognize his receivers when they line up before the first snap.  Five of the top six pass catchers are gone, leaving only Greg Little and his 11 receptions as a holdover.  Expect some drop in passes caught and yardage gained.

The running game should be able to make up for the lost passing yardage and maybe add a little more than that.  Shaun Draughn gained 866 yards last year, and we expect him to top 1,000 this season. 

The offensive line is the offensive question mark as three starters are missing from last year, including guard Aaron Stahl who had a year of eligibility left but decided to leave after graduating in May.

The Tar Heels’ schedule should allow them to win all four non-conference games (Citadel, Connecticut, East Carolina, and Georgia Southern).  Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech are both road games, and that’s why we believe UNC will miss out on a share of the division title by a game.  This team is good enough to win the title if the passing game can make any hay.  

Miami-FL: Here is a program that should always have enough talent to compete for the ACC crown.  However, the Hurricanes have yet to make it to the ACC Championship Game.  Coach Randy Shannon guided Miami to the Emerald Bowl last year, and that’s about where we expect them to be this season.

Inconsistent quarterback play has kept this program from turning the corner the last few years, and that problem will repeat this year.  Sophomore Jacory Harris is the only experienced signal caller left after two players left the team after spring practice.  True freshman A. J. Highsmith may see significant playing time if Harris struggles or is injured. 

Harris has almost all of his receiving weapons returning this year, so he should have a lot of open looks when he throws.  10 players had double digit receptions, and nine of them are back, headlined by Aldarius Johnson.  However, if Harris gets injured, we can foresee a major drop in passing yards in the games he misses—down to as low as 100-125 yards per game.

Luckily for the Hurricanes, they have two very capable running backs.  Graig Cooper led the team with 841 yards, and Javarris James added 286.  Those numbers will increase by about 200-300 yards split between the two.  As a team, we expect to see UM run for 175 or more yards per game.

The offensive line is a work in progress.  Tackle Jason Fox has NFL potential, but he cannot block three defenders at once.

Miami’s defense was dominant when the Hurricanes were competing for national titles.  The past two seasons, the ‘Canes have ranked in the lower half in defensive statistics in the ACC.  If they are going to return toward a defense of dominance, it will start with the linebackers taking over.  Colin McCarthy, Darryl Sharpton and Sean Spence all have all-conference potential.  Add in three returning starters up front, led by tackle Marcus Forston, and opponents will not run the ball with much success.

The secondary has some holed to fill, but it should be at least as good as last year.  Opponents may pass the ball for more yards, but they are going to pass the ball several additional times.

The Hurricanes will know their fate on Monday night, September 7.  The opener against Florida State in Tallahassee should eliminate the loser from their respective divisional race.  UM gets 10 days to prepare for the home opener against Georgia Tech, and that could mean the difference in an upset win instead of a loss.  If they can open 2-0, then Miami’s players could start to believe they can win.  Nine days later, the ‘Canes play at Virginia Tech, who will have the regular seven days between games.  If they are 3-0 at this point, they have a legitimate shot at winning the Coastal Division.  If they are 2-1, they are still in the race.  If they are 1-2, they can still recover and get to a bowl.  If they are 0-3, they are in big trouble because regardless of the record after three games, game number four will be a bad loss.  Oklahoma comes to Miami.

Virginia: Al Groh is on the hot seat in Charlottesville, and another losing season could be the end of his tenure at UVa.  Coach Groh, it doesn’t look too promising for you, because you’re missing a lot of talent from last year’s 5-7 team.

The Cavs appear to be ready to begin the season with a 5’9 quarterback.  Vic Hall is a former starting cornerback who played admirably on short notice in the season finale against Virginia Tech.  Coach Groh has called him a “Kung Fu Fighter,” as he gives everything and leaves it all on the field.  However, at 5’9, he’s going to have a tough time passing over the line. 

To make matters worse, all the key receivers from last year are gone.  Jared Green is the leading returnee after catching just 12 passes for 144 yards.  No other player on the roster caught even 100 yards worth of passes nor averaged 10 yards per catch.

It’s almost as sad at running back, as the leading returning rusher, Mikell Simpson, gained 262 yards at three yards per rush.

The offensive line has four starters back, so it gives the new skill players a little bit of cushion.  We don’t see the Cavs matching their offensive output of last year, and they only averaged 300 yards and 16.1 points per game.

The defense isn’t going to bail out the offense.  In fact, they have as many problem areas as the offense.  The top four tacklers have departed, including three key linebackers.  Three starters return to the secondary, and two of three starters return in the trenches, but as a whole, this defense is a bit small and not all that quick.  Opponents will run the ball with more success this year, and they won’t have to throw at the Cavalier strength. 

Virginia hosts Duke and should exact revenge after getting slaughtered last year in Durham.  The Cavs also host Boston College.  Those two are the only winnable conference games as we see it.  Two of the four non-conference games are going to be tough and probably losses.  TCU and Southern Mississippi can beat UVa.  The sports talk shows in the Commonwealth and in DC will be creating a lot of coaching rumors as soon as it becomes apparent that the Cavs will not enjoy a winning season.

Duke: Seven games into the 2008 season, Coach David Cutcliffe appeared to be on the verge of guiding Duke to a possible winning season and bowl game.  The Blue Devils were 4-3 with wins over soon-to-be bowl teams Navy and Vanderbilt.  However, in game eight, Duke had a chance to get to 5-3, but lost to Wake Forest in overtime after missing a makeable field goal at the end of regulation.  As so often happens with young and unsuccessful teams, that was enough to drain out the extra energy.  Duke didn’t win again, losing the final four games by an average of 13 points per game.

The Blue Devils may have blown their best opportunity to break through with a winning record, because they are going to take a step backward this season. 

A defense that surprisingly played much better than expected last year will regress back to usual form and give up 30 points per game this season.  Seven of the top 10 tacklers from last year graduated, leaving Duke with several holes on that side of the ball.

Two starters are missing from all three units on the stop side, but the biggest loss of all is linebacker Michael Tauliili, who led the team in tackles for the third time in his career.

Quarterback Thaddeus Lewis returns for his senior season after passing for 2,171 yards and 15 touchdowns with just six picks.  Backup Zack Asack was switched to safety and then dismissed from the team. 

Re’Quan Boyette returns at running back after missing last year with an injury.  He rushed for 432 yards in 2007, and he should form a large platoon that could improve upon last year’s 106 rushing yards per game by 20-30 more.

Lewis has a couple of decent holdovers at receiver, but he lost top receiver Eron Riley and his 61 receptions.  Combine that with three lost starters in the offensive line, and Lewis could be running for his life more than he did last year.

We see one winnable conference game on the schedule this year.  Maryland comes to Durham, and the Terps have several issues themselves.  Outside the league, Duke better take care of business when they play Richmond, Army, and North Carolina Central.  Richmond, the defending FCS National Champion, beat Duke 13-0 just three years ago, and they are a better team now.

Next up: Will Southern Cal make it eight in a row in the Pac-10?  Can Cal challenge the Trojans?  Will the Washington schools make progress?  Can Stanford make it to a bowl?

March 16, 2008

A PiRate Look at the NCAA Basketball Conference Tournaments–March 16, 2008, 9th Update (Final Update)

 

A PiRate Look at the NCAA Basketball Conference Tournaments

March 16, 2008, 9th Update (Final Update)

(NCAA Tournament Coverage Begins Monday)

Conference Tournament Results through Saturday, March 15, 2008

For many years, yours truly was an active member of the media, be it in radio, television, or print journalism.  Over the course of that career, I never once suffered from writer’s block or even had to think for more than a few seconds to decide what angle I would pursue in an article.

If I were still writing for print media or reporting in some form of broadcast media, I would have been lost for words to put something unique on the events of the last 36 hours in the college basketball world.  Sure, I could have given the 5 W’s and 1 H for any of the events, but unless I was stringing for the Associated Press, it wouldn’t have been what I hoped it could have been.

My only thought when all the events began to occur was a famous quote that has erroneously been attributed as Chinese.  “May you live in interesting times,” is supposed to be a Chinese curse for some poor schlemiel to endure many chaotic and tumultuous events in his lifetime. 

What has happened at the Southeastern Conference since Friday night is just another minor event of the 21st Century when compared to the many true miseries throughout the world.  However, for those people who look forward to this annual three-week “holiday,” it’s like having a relative losing his dinner at the Thanksgiving table.  You can still eat more turkey, but it just doesn’t look as appetizing as it did prior to the incident.

For the one or two people reading this who do not know what I speak of, an EF-2 tornado struck the Georgia Dome in Atlanta late Friday night during the closing minutes of the Southeastern Conference Tournament.  Alabama and Mississippi State were in the final couple of minutes of overtime, when parts of the dome roof took direct hits, and debris littered the floor while several parts of the building shook.  The game was halted for more than an hour, and when play resumed, Mississippi State pulled out a close victory.  Kentucky and Georgia were supposed to play 25 minutes after that game, but after several minutes, SEC and Georgia Dome officials cancelled the game, believing correctly that the building was not safe.  The fans were given notice that the game was cancelled, but they were told they could not leave the building.  Eventually, they were allowed to leave and went outside to find what one reporter called “conditions looking like a war zone.”  Some fans discovered they no longer had automobiles.  Some fans discovered they no longer had accommodations at their hotel.  Many stayed out all night, and when the sun rose Saturday morning, they discovered that they had no access to the rest of the tournament.

The SEC moved the remainder of the tournament to Georgia Tech’s tiny coliseum.  They mandated that Georgia and Kentucky would play at noon on Saturday, and the winner would have to play a second game Saturday night (something that the SEC Tournament did with their semifinals and finals until 1952).

That’s just where the weird events began.  Georgia finished dead last in the SEC this year.  Head Coach Dennis Felton was on the type of bubble he didn’t want to end up on-his job status was up in the air.  To add to the difficulties, he has only eight scholarship players on his roster, and his team played a late overtime game in the first round Thursday night.

If you haven’t heard, Georgia won two games Saturday.  The Bulldogs defeated Kentucky in the early afternoon, and then they knocked off Mississippi State a few hours later.  That moves Georgia into the Championship Game of the tournament against Arkansas.  Georgia has a 16-16 record entering today’s title game.  They must either win and go to the Big Dance, or lose and end their season.  Oh, and one more thing:  Star player Sundiata Gaines suffered a hip pointer in the Mississippi State game, and he will be playing on a gimpy leg today. 

That’s not the only news.  More conference upsets have burst some additional bubbles.  A 20-loss team in a mid-major conference has won an automatic bid, and an automatic bid was doled out to a team that won in triple overtime.  Here’s a look at each conference. 

Previous Concluded Tournaments

Atlantic Sun

Quarterfinals

#4 East Tennessee 81 #5 Lipscomb 74

#6 Gardner-Webb 82  #3 Stetson 63

#2 Jacksonville 65  #7 Mercer 57

#1 Belmont 75  #8 Campbell 66

Semifinals

Jacksonville 89 Gardner-Webb 80

Belmont 69 East Tennessee 65

Saturday, March 8

Championship

Belmont 79  Jacksonville 61

Automatic Qualifier: Belmont 25-8  Avg. RPI 76.3

At-Large Teams:      0

Bubble:                      None

Big Sky                    

Saturday, March 8

Quarterfinals

#4 Idaho State 67  #5 Montana 65

#3 Weber State 65  #6 Montana State 49

Tuesday, March 11 @ Portland, OR

Semifinals

#1 Portland State 72  Idaho State 61

#2 Northern Arizona 75  Weber State 70

Wednesday, March 12 @ Portland, OR

Championship Game

Portland State 67  Northern Arizona 51

Automatic Qualifier: Portland State 23-9  Avg. RPI 87.3

Portland State will pose problems for a first-round opponent not used to playing against a team that overplays the passing lanes.  If the Vikings snatch away double figure steals, they can compete in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.  PSU will have problems with a physical, inside muscle team that knows how to take care of the ball, like a Michigan State.

At-Large Teams:      0

Bubble:                      None

Big South

Opening Round

#1 UNC-Asheville 87  #8 Charleston Southern 63

#4 Liberty 103  #5 VMI 88

#2 Winthrop 76  #7 Radford 45

#3 High Point 59  #6 Coastal Carolina 56

Semifinals

UNC-Asheville 75  Liberty 57

Winthrop 61  High Point 53

Saturday, March 8 @ Asheville, NC

Championship Game

Winthrop 66  UNC-Asheville 48

Automatic Qualifier: Winthrop 22-11  Avg. RPI 106.5

At-Large Teams:      0

Bubble:                      None

Colonial Athletic Association

All Games Played At Richmond, VA (Virginia Commonwealth host team)

#9 Towson State 81  #8 Towson State 66

#5 William & Mary 58 #12 Georgia State 57

#6 Delaware 60  #11 Drexel 51

#7 Northeastern 73 #10 James Madison 59

Saturday, March 8

Quarterfinals

#1 Virginia Commonwealth 57  Towson State 46

William & Mary 63  #4 Old Dominion 60

#3 UNC-Wilmington 82  Delaware 59

#2 George Mason 63  Northeastern 52

Sunday, March 9

Semifinals

William & Mary 56  Virginia Commonwealth 54

George Mason 53  UNC-Wilmington 41

Monday, March 10

Championship Game

George Mason 68  William & Mary 59

Automatic Qualifier: George Mason 23-10  Avg. RPI 59.5

At-Large Teams:      0 or 1

Bubble:                      Virginia Commonwealth 24-7  RPI Avg.: 55 [Still needs help]

Horizon League              

All Games Played At Indianapolis (Butler host team)

Opening Round

#3 Wright State 60  #10 Detroit 37

#6 Valparaiso 75  #7 UW-Green Bay 67

#4 Illinois-Chicago 70  #9 Youngstown State 59

#8 Loyola (Chi.) 57  #5 UW-Milwaukee 51

Quarterfinals

Valparaiso 72  Wright State 67

Illinois-Chicago 60 Loyola (Chi.) 49

Saturday, March 8

Semifinals

#2 Cleveland State 78  Valparaiso 73

#1 Butler 66  Illinois-Chicago 50

Tuesday, March 11

Championship

Butler 70  Cleveland State 55

Automatic Qualifier: Butler 29-3  Avg. RPI 16.8

At-Large Teams:      0

Bubble:                      None (Cleveland State is just below the Bubble and should get a bid to the NIT or the new CBI)

Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference

All Games Played At Albany, NY (Siena host team)

Opening Round

#8 Manhattan 73  #9 St. Peter’s 59

#10 Canisius 64  #7 Iona 59

Saturday, March 8

Quarterfinals

#1 Siena 66  Manhattan 58

#4 Loyola (Md.) 64  #5 Fairfield 59

#2 Rider 75  Canisius 71

#6 Marist 66  #3 Niagara 62

Sunday, March 9

Semifinals

Siena 65  Loyola (Md.) 63

Rider 76  Marist 71

Monday, March 10

Championship Game

Siena 74  Rider 53

Automatic Qualifier: Siena 22-10  Avg. RPI 66.8

At-Large Teams:      0

Bubble:                      None

Missouri Valley @ St. Louis (Arch Madness)

Opening Round

#8 Indiana State 71  #9 Wichita State 67

#7 Missouri State 69 #10 Evansville 46

Quarterfinals

#1 Drake 68  Indiana State 46

#4 Creighton 74  #5 Bradley 70

#2 Illinois State 63  Missouri State 58

#6 Northern Iowa 54  #3 Southern Illinois 49

Saturday, March 8

Semifinals

Drake 75 Creighton 67

Illinois State 56 Northern Iowa 42

Sunday, March 9

Championship

Drake 79  Illinois State 49

Automatic Qualifier: Drake 28-4  Avg. RPI 10.3

At-Large Teams:      0 or 1

Bubble:                      Illinois State 23-9  RPI avg. 34 [Beginning to look safe]

                                    Creighton 21-10  RPI avg. 46.3 [added to bubble watch due to upsets]

Northeast

Quarterfinal

#1 Robert Morris 64  #8 Monmouth 50

#4 Mt. St. Mary’s 80  #5 Quinnipiac 70

#2 Wagner 71  #7 Long Island 62

#3 Sacred Heart 84  #6 Central Connecticut State 71

Sunday, March 9

Semifinals

Mt. St. Mary’s 83  Robert Morris 65

Sacred Heart 55  Wagner 49

Wednesday, March 12

Championship

Mt. St. Mary’s 68  Sacred Heart 55

Automatic Qualifier: Mount St. Mary’s 18-14  Avg. RPI 157

The Mount won its three tournament games by an average score of 77-63 thanks to great shooting and the ability to hustle on the boards.  That worked against the NEC, but it won’t be enough to get past the first round in the Big Dance.  This is a #16-seed that will make a quick exit.

At-Large Teams:      0

Bubble:                      None

Ohio Valley Conference

Quarterfinals @ Higher Seed

#1 Austin Peay 76  #8 Eastern Kentucky 51

#4 UT-Martin 101  #5 Samford 94  3ot

#2 Murray State 77  #7 Tennessee Tech 74

#6 Tennessee State 68  #3 Morehead State 61

Semifinals @ Nashville

Austin Peay 78  UT-Martin 77

Tennessee State 83 Murray State 75

Saturday, March 8

Championship

Austin Peay 82 Tennessee State 64

Automatic Qualifier: Austin Peay 24-10  Avg. RPI 82

At-Large Teams:      0

Bubble:                      None

Southern Conference

All Games Played At Charleston, SC (College of Charleston host team)

Opening Round

#8 Wofford 58  #9 Western Carolina 49

#7 Elon 52  #10 Furman 37

#6 Charleston 66  #11 Citadel 48

Saturday, March 8

Quarterfinals

#1 Davidson 82 Wofford 49

#5 UNC-Greensboro 63  #4 Appalachian State 46

Elon 60  #2 Chattanooga 57

Coll. of Charleston 87  #3 Georgia Southern 73

Sunday, March 9

Semifinals

Davidson 82 UNCG 52

Elon 75  Charleston 61

Monday, March 10

Championship Game

Davidson 65  Elon 49

Automatic Qualifier: Davidson 26-6  Avg. RPI 30.3

At-Large Teams:      0

Bubble:                      None

Summit League @ Tulsa (Oral Roberts host team)                  

Saturday, March 8

Quarterfinals

#1 Oral Roberts 84 #8 Centenary 56

#2 IUPUI 69  #7 Missouri-Kansas City 65

Sunday, March 9

Quarterfinals

#5 IPFW 66  #4 Southern Utah 62

#3 Oakland 80 #6 Western Illinois 66

Monday, March 10

Semifinals

Oral Roberts 58 IPFW 42

IUPUI 80 Oakland 65

Tuesday, March 11

Championship

Oral Roberts 71  IUPUI 64

Automatic Qualifier: Oral Roberts 24-8  Avg. RPI 49

At-Large Teams:      0

Bubble:                      None (IUPUI’s RPI is too low for consideration)

Sunbelt Conference                   

1st Round

#8 New Orleans 65  #9 Denver 60

#4 Middle Tennessee 74  #13 Louisiana Monroe 69

#12 Troy 70  #5 Louisiana Lafayette 60

#6 North Texas 85  #11 Arkansas State 63

#7 Florida Atlantic 91  #10 Florida International 64

Sunday, March 9 @ Mobile, AL

Quarterfinals

South Alabama 81  New Orleans 77

Middle Tennessee 65  Troy 59

Western Kentucky 84  North Texas 70

Arkansas Little Rock 66  Florida Atlantic 60

Monday, March 10 @ Mobile, AL

Semifinals

Middle Tennessee 82  South Alabama 73

Western Kentucky 70 Arkansas-Little Rock 55

Tuesday, March 11 @ Mobile, AL

Championship

Western Kentucky 67  Middle Tennessee 57

Automatic Qualifier: Western Kentucky 27-6  Avg. RPI 37.3

At-Large Teams:      0 or 1

Bubble:                      South Alabama (Avg. RPI 37.3) [Looking Good after yesterday’s upsets]

 West Coast Conference

All Games Played At San Diego (San Diego host team)

Opening Round

#5 San Francisco 79  # 8 Loyola Marymount 60

#6 Pepperdine 50  #7 Portland 48  ot

Saturday, March 8

Quarterfinals

#4 Santa Clara 51  San Francisco 50

#3 San Diego 75  Pepperdine 55

Sunday, March 9

#1 Gonzaga 52  Santa Clara 48

San Diego 75  #2 St. Mary’s 69  2ot

Monday, March 10

Championship Game

San Diego 69 Gonzaga 62

Automatic Qualifier: San Diego 21-13  Avg. RPI 93.3

At-Large Teams:      0, 1 or 2 (Gonzaga & St. Mary’s)

Bubble:                      St. Mary’s 25-6  Avg. RPI 36.5 [Should be safe thanks to Pac-10 teams losing]

                                    Gonzaga 25-7  Avg. RPI 30 [Absolute certainty]

Ivy League Champion

Automatic Qualifier: Cornell 22-5  Avg. RPI 64.5

Recent Tournaments Concluded

America East

1st Three Rounds At Binghamton, NY.  Championship Game At Higher Seed

Opening Round

#8 Stony Brook 73  vs. #9 Maine 65  ot

Saturday, March 8

Quarterfinals

#1 Md. Balt. Co. 76  Stony Brook 60

#4 Vermont 65  #5 Binghamton 57

#2 Hartford 68  #7 New Hampshire 65

#6 Boston U. 68  #3 Albany 64  ot

Sunday, March 9

Semifinals

Md. Balt. Co. 73  Vermont 64

Hartford 59  Boston U. 52

Saturday, March 15

Championship Game

Maryland-Baltimore Co. 82  Hartford 65

Automatic Qualifier: Maryland-Baltimore County 24-8  Avg. RPI 87.5

At-Large Teams:      0

Bubble:                      None

Atlantic Coast  @ Charlotte, NC

Thursday, March 13

Opening Round

#9 Florida State 70  #8 Wake Forest 60

#5 Miami 63  #12 North Carolina State 50

#7 Georgia Tech 94  #10 Virginia 76

#11 Boston College 71  #6 Maryland 68

Friday, March 14

Quarterfinals

#1 North Carolina 82  Florida State 70

#4 Virginia Tech 63  Miami 49

#2 Duke 82  Georgia Tech 70

#3 Clemson 82  Boston College 48

Saturday, March 15

Semifinals

North Carolina 68  Virginia Tech 66

Clemson 78  Duke 74

Sunday, March 16

Championship Game

North Carolina 31-2  vs. Clemson 24-8

At-large Teams:       3, 4, or 5 (UNC-2, Duke-6, Clem-19.5, Miami-34.8)        

Bubble:                      Virginia Tech (Avg RPI 54.5),  Florida State ( Avg RPI 59.3)

Atlantic 10  @ Atlantic City, NJ

Wednesday, March 12

Opening Round

#8 Dayton 63  St. Louis 62  ot

#5 St. Joseph’s 80 #12 Fordham 62

#7 LaSalle 82  #10 Duquesne 79

#6 Charlotte 75  #11 Rhode Island 73

Thursday, March 13

Quarterfinals

#1 Xavier 74  Dayton 65

 St. Joseph’s 61 #4 Richmond 47

#2 Temple 84  LaSalle 75

Charlotte 69  #3 Massachusetts 65

Friday, March 14

Semifinals

St. Joseph’s 61  Xavier 53

Temple 60  Charlotte 45

Saturday, March 15

Championship Game

Temple 69  St. Joseph’s 64

Automatic Qualifier: Temple 21-12  Avg. RPI

At-large Teams:       1 or 2 (Xavier [9 RPI] for sure

Bubble:                      U Mass (43.5 RPI), Dayton (great RPI Avg. of 33), St. Joe’s (42.5 RPI)

Big East  @ Madison Square Garden in NYC

Wednesday, March 12

Opening Round

#8 Villanova 82  #9 Syracuse 63

#5 West Virginia 58  #12 Providence 53

#7 Pittsburgh 70  #10 Cincinnati 64

#6 Marquette 67  #11 Seton Hall 54

Thursday, March 13

Quarterfinals

#1 Georgetown 82  Villanova 63

West Virginia 78  #4 Connecticut 72

Pittsburgh 76  #2 Louisville 69 ot

Marquette 89  #3 Notre Dame 79

Friday, March 14

Semifinals

Georgetown 72  West Virginia 55

Pittsburgh 68  Marquette 61

Saturday, March 15

Championship Game

Pittsburgh 74  Georgetown 65

Automatic Qualifier: Pittsburgh 26-9  Avg. RPI 15.8

At-large Teams:       6 or 7 (G’town-7.8, UL-13.3, ND-27.5, UConn-19.3, WVU-29.3, Marq.-22)

Bubble:                      Villanova (avg. RPI 51) [It looks iffy for the Wildcats-50-50]

Big 10  @ Indianapolis, IN

Thursday, March 13

Opening Round

#9 Michigan 55  #8 Iowa 47

#10 Illinois 64  #7 Penn State 63

#6 Minnesota 55  #11 Northwestern 52

Friday, March 14

Quarterfinals

#1 Wisconsin 51  Michigan 34

#4 Michigan State 67  #5 Ohio State 60

 Illinois 74  #2 Purdue 67 ot

Minnesota 59  Indiana 58

Saturday, March 15

Semifinals

Wisconsin 65  Michigan State 63

Illinois 54  Minnesota 50

Sunday, March 16

Championship Game

Wisconsin 28-4  vs. Illinois 16-18

At-large Teams:       4 or 5 (Wisconsin-11.5, Purdue-45, Indiana-22.5, Michigan State-14.5)          

Bubble:                      Ohio State-47.3

Big 12  @ Kansas City

Thursday, March 13

Opening Round

#9 Oklahoma State 76  #8 Texas Tech 72

#12 Colorado 91  #5 Baylor 84  2ot

#7 Nebraska 61  #10 Missouri 56

#6 Texas A&M 60  #11 Iowa State 47

Friday, March 14

Quarterfinals

#1 Texas 66  Oklahoma State 59

#4 Oklahoma 54  Colorado 49

#2 Kansas 64  Nebraska 54

 Texas A&M 63  #3 Kansas State 60

Saturday, March 15

Semifinals

Texas 77  Oklahoma 49

Kansas 77  Texas A&M 71

Sunday, March 16

Championship Game

Kansas 30-3  vs. Texas 28-5

At-large Teams:       4 or 5 (Texas-5, Kansas-6.8, Oklahoma-28.3)         

Bubble:                      Baylor-43.8, Kansas State-49.5, Texas A&M-40.3

Big West Tournament  @ Anaheim, CA

Wednesday, March 12

Opening Round

#5 UC-Irvine 77  #8 Long Beach State 63

#7 UC-Riverside 62  Cal Poly 54

Thursday, March 13

Quarterfinals

#3 Cal State Fullerton 81  UC-Riverside 69

UC-Irvine 57  #4 Pacific 56

Friday, March 14

Semifinals

UC-Irvine 55  #1 UC Santa Barbara 50

Cal State Fullerton 83  #2 Cal State Northridge 68 

Saturday, March 15

Championship Game

Cal State Fullerton 81  UC-Irvine 66

Automatic Qualifier: Cal State Fullerton 24-8  Avg RPI 80.5

At-large Teams:       0

Bubble:                      None

Conference USA  @ Memphis

Wednesday, March 12

Opening Round

#5 Southern Miss. 59  #12 Rice 50

#9 Tulane 48  #8 Marshall 47

#7 Tulsa 66  #10 East Carolina 49

#6 UTEP 71  #11 SMU 49

Thursday, March 13

Quarterfinals

#1 Memphis 75  Tulane 56

Southern Mississippi 68  #4 Central Florida 62

Tulsa 78  #2 Ala.-Birmingham 68 ot

UTEP 80  #3 Houston 77

Friday, March 14

Semifinals

Memphis 69  Southern Miss. 53

Tulsa 64  UTEP 62  ot

Saturday, March 15

Championship Game

Memphis 77  Tulsa 51

Automatic Qualifier: Memphis 33-1  Avg. RPI 3

At-large Teams:       0  

Bubble:                      None

Mid-American Conference @ Cleveland

Wednesday, March 12

Opening Round

#8 Toledo 52 #9 Bowling Green 48

#5 Miami (O) 69  #12 Buffalo 68

#7 Eastern Michigan 59  #10 Ball State 55

#6 Central Michigan 83  #11 Northern Illinois 71

Thursday, March 13

Quarterfinals

#1 Kent State 77  Toledo 57

Miami (O) 74  #4 Ohio U 61

#2 Western Michigan 70  Eastern Michigan 61

#3 Akron 81  Central Michigan 60

Friday, March 14

Semifinals

Kent State 49  Miami (O) 47

Akron 73  Western Michigan 62

Saturday, March 15

Championship Game

Kent State 74  Akron 55

Automatic Qualifier: Kent State 28-6  Avg. RPI 22.5

At-large Teams:       0

Bubble:                      None

MEAC @ Raleigh, NC

Tuesday, March 11

Opening Round

#7 Coppin State 55  #10 Howard 54

#8 South Carolina State 78  #9 Bethune Cookman 69

Wednesday, March 12

Opening Round

#6 Florida A&M 70  Maryland Eastern Shore 61

Quarterfinal Round

Coppin State 75  Hampton 74  ot

Morgan State 77 South Carolina State 68

Thursday, March 13

Quarterfinal Round

#3 Norfolk State 69  Florida A&M 61

#4 Delaware State 64  #5 North Carolina A&T 62

Friday, March 14

Semifinal Round

Morgan State 61  Delaware State 55

Coppin State 67  Norfolk State 65

Saturday, March 15

Championship Game

Coppin State 62  Morgan State 60

Automatic Qualifier: Coppin State 16-20  Avg. RPI 224.3 (I smell play-in round)

At-large Teams:       0

Bubble:                      None

Mountain West  @ Las Vegas

Wednesday, March 12

Opening Round

#9 Colorado State 68  #8 Wyoming 63

Thursday, March 13

Quarterfinals

#1 BYU 89  Colorado State 62

#4 San Diego State 53  #5 Air Force 49

#2 UNLV 89  #7 TCU 88

#6 Utah 82  #3 New Mexico 80 ot

Friday, March 14

Semifinals

BYU 63  San Diego State 54

UNLV 61  Utah 55

Saturday, March 15

Championship Game

UNLV 76  BYU 61

Automatic Qualifier: UNLV 26-7  Avg. RPI 23.8

At-large Teams:       1 BYU (Avg. RPI 25.5)

Bubble:                      New Mexico (Avg. RPI 59) [Almost assuredly out of contention]

Pac-10  @ The Staples Center in Los Angeles

Wednesday, March 12

Opening Round

#9 California 84  #8 Washington 81

#7 Arizona 87 #10 Oregon State 56

Thursday, March 13

Quarterfinals

#1 UCLA 88  California 66

#4 Southern Cal 59  #5 Arizona State 55

#2 Stanford 75  Arizona 64

#3 Washington State 75  Oregon 70

Friday, March 14

Semifinals

UCLA 57  Southern Cal 54

Stanford 75  Washington State 68

Saturday, March 15

Championship Game

UCLA 67  Stanford 64

Automatic Qualifier: UCLA 31-3  Avg. RPI 4.5

At-large Teams:       3 or 4 (Stanford-14.8, Washington State-20.5, Southern Cal-29.3)

Bubble:                      Arizona-38.5 , Oregon-57.3  Arizona State-79.3

Patriot League

Quarterfinals

#1 American 62  #8 Holy Cross 60

#5 Army 64  #4 Lehigh 61 ot

#7 Bucknell 87  #2 Navy 86 3ot

#3 Colgate 76  #6 Lafayette 74

Sunday, March 9

Semifinals

American  72 Army 60

Colgate 54  Bucknell 40

Friday, March 14

Championship

American 52  Colgate 46

Automatic Qualifier: American 21-11  Avg. RPI 91.8

At-Large Teams:      0

Bubble:                      None

Southeastern  @ Atlanta

Thursday, March 13

Opening Round

#5E South Carolina 77  #4W LSU 73

#3E Vanderbilt 93  #6W Auburn 82

#5W Alabama 80  #4E Florida 69

#6E Georgia 97  #3W Ole Miss 95  ot

Friday, March 14

Quarterfinals

#1E Tennessee 28-3  vs. South Carolina 14-17

#2W Arkansas 20-10  vs. Vanderbilt 26-6

#1W Mississippi St. 21-9  vs. Alabama 17-15

#2E Kentucky 18-11  vs. Georgia 14-16 (Postponed until Saturday @ Noon EDT)

Saturday, March 15

Quarterfinals

Georgia 60  Kentucky 56 ot

Semifinals

Arkansas 92  Tennessee 91

Georgia 64  Mississippi State 60

Sunday, March 16

Championship Game

Georgia 16-16  vs. Arkansas 22-10

At-large Teams:       5 (Tennessee-1, Miss. State-42.3, Kentucky-57.5, Arkansas-26.8, Vanderbilt-11.3)

Bubble:                      Florida-76, Ole Miss-48.8 (see ya in the NIT Gators and Rebels)

Southland  @ Katy, TX (near Houston)

Thursday, March 13

Quarterfinals

#1 Stephen F. Austin 71  #8 Texas San Antonio 60

#5 Northwestern State 71  #4 Southeast Louisiana 51

#7 UT-Arlington 81  #2 Lamar 75

#3 Sam Houston State 64  McNeese State 62 ot

Friday, March 14

Semifinals

Northwestern State 69  Stephen F. Austin 66

UT-Arlington 72  Sam Houston 66

Sunday, March 16

Championship Game

Northwestern State 15-17  vs. Texas-Arlington 20-11

At-large Teams:       0 or 1  (99% chance it will be 0)

Bubble:                      Stephen F. Austin-68.8 (road wins at Oklahoma and San Diego not enough)

S W A C  @ Birmingham

Wednesday, March 12

Quarterfinals

#1 Alabama State 67  #8 Texas Southern 49

#2 Mississippi Valley 79  #7 Grambling 73

Thursday, March 13

Quarterfinals

#6 Arkansas Pine Bluff 72  Alabama A&M 59

#4 Jackson State 56  #5 Southern 55

Friday, March 14

Semifinals

Jackson St.  77  Alabama State 72  ot

Mississippi Valley 70  Arkansas-Pine Bluff 59

Saturday, March 15

Championship Game

Mississippi Valley 59  Jackson State 58

Automatic Qualifier: Mississippi Valley 17-15  Avg. RPI 231 (the lowest in the field)

At-large Teams:       0         

Bubble:                      None

WAC @ Las Cruces, NM

Tuesday, March 11

Opening Round

#8 San Jose State 64  Louisiana Tech 62

Thursday, March 13

Quarterfinal Round

#1 Utah State 85  San Jose State 65

#4 Boise State 80  Hawaii 74

#2 Nevada 64  #7 Fresno State 57

#3 New Mexico State 73  #6 Idaho 53

Friday, March 14

Semifinal Round

Boise State 88  Utah State 78

New Mexico St. 83  Nevada 75

Saturday, March 15

Championship Game

Boise State 107  New Mexico State 102  3ot

Automatic Qualifier: Boise State 25-8  Avg. RPI 88

At-large Teams:       0

Bubble:                      None

My Guess At The Field of 65

I am not the expert at predicting the field on Sunday morning like some I know, but I did get 64 of the 65 correct last year.  So, even though that was probably luck, here goes again this season with my best guess.  Of course, as of know, I am sure to get 26 correct, since that’s how many automatic bids have been earmed.

Clinched Automatic Berth in NCAA Tournament (26)

 1. Cornell (22-5)-Ivy League Champion

 2. Winthrop (22-11)-Big South Champion

 3. Austin Peay (24-10)-Ohio Valley Champion

 4. Belmont (25-8)-Atlantic Sun Champion

 5. Drake (28-4)-Missouri Valley Champion

 6. George Mason (23-10)-Colonial Champion

 7. Siena (22-10)-Metro Atlantic Champion

 8. Davidson (26-6)-Southern Champion

 9. San Diego (21-13)-West Coast Champion

10. Oral Roberts (24-8)-Summit Champion

11. Western Kentucky (27-6)-Sunbelt Champion

12. Butler (29-3)-Horizon Champion

13. Mount St. Mary’s (18-14)-Northeast Champion

14. Portland State (23-9)-Big Sky Champion

15. American U. (21-11)-Patriot Champion

16. Maryland-Baltimore County (24-8)-America East Champion

17. Memphis (33-1)-Conference USA Champion

18. Pittsburgh (26-9)-Big East Champion

19. Boise State (25-8)-Western Athletic Champion

20. Temple (21-12)-Atlantic 10 Champion

21. Kent State (28-6)-Mid-American Champion

22. Coppin State (16-20)-Mideastern Athletic Champion

23. U N L V (26-7)-Mountain West Champion

24. U C L A (31-3)-Pac-10 Champion

25. Mississippi Valley (17-15)-Southwestern Athletic Champion

26. Cal State Fullerton (24-8)-Big West Champion

5 Automatic and 34 at-large bids still to be determined

My Guess at the Five Remaining Automatic Bids

27. North Carolina

28. Wisconsin

29. Kansas

30. Arkansas

31. Northwestern State

My Guess at the 34 At-large Teams

The Safe Picks

32. Duke

33. Clemson

34. Miami (Fla.)

35. Michigan State

36. Indiana

37. Texas

38. Tennessee

39. Mississippi State

40. Vanderbilt

41. Xavier

42. Georgetown

43. Louisville

44. Notre Dame

45. Marquette

46. West Virginia

47. Connecticut

48. B Y U

49. Stanford

50. Southern Cal

51. Washington State

52. Arizona

53. South Alabama

54. Gonzaga

55. St. Mary’s

56. Illinois State

57. Texas A&M

58. Oklahoma

59. Purdue

The Bubble-Picking the Final Six

Arizona State-RPI is in the high 70’s-Out

Baylor-RPI is less than 45/9-7 record in a top 3 conf./win @ Notre Dame–IN

Creighton-RPI just below 45/1-5 vs. RPI top 50-just barely misses

Dayton-RPI in low 30’s/4-6 vs. top 50/11-7 vs. top 100/8-8 in A-10-can’t justify it

Florida State-7-9 ACC record-Lost any chance by not upsetting UNC

Kansas State-RPI over 45/10-6 in conf./win over Kansas–IN

Kentucky-It doesn’t matter how low of an RPI; the voting is biased–IN

Massachusetts-RPI is less than 45 but A-10 won’t get 4 teams–Out

New Mexico-Not really on the bubble now–Out

Ohio State-RPI is iffy/3-9 vs. top 50/lost 7 of final 11/10 wins in B10-IN but just barely

Ole Miss-7-9 SEC mark and first-round loss–Out

Oregon-RPI in 50’s/4-9 vs. top 50/tough schedule/9-9 in P10-Out (one of last 2 out)

St. Joseph‘s-RPI better than 45/4-7 vs. top 50/2 wins over Xavier–IN

South Alabama-RPI in 30’s/beat Miss St./Swept WKU–IN

Villanova-8th place tie in Big East is too much to overcome-Out but just barely

Virginia Commonwealth-Colonial is not good enough for 2 teams–Out

Virginia Tech-1-8 vs. top 50 will not get it done even in ACC–Out

So, here are the lucky bubblers:

60. Baylor

61. Kansas State

62. Kentucky

63. Ohio State

64. St. Joseph’s

65. South Alabama

Now, if either Illinois or Georgia win today, then who will have a burst bubble?  If one upset occurs, say bye bye to Ohio State.  If both teams pull off the upset, then out goes St. Joe’s.

March 14, 2008

A PiRate Look at the NCAA Basketball Conference Tournaments–March 14, 2008, 8th Update

 

A PiRate Look at the NCAA Basketball Conference Tournaments

March 14, 2008, 8th Update

Conference Tournament Results through Thursday, March 13, 2008

Concluded Tournaments

Atlantic Sun

Quarterfinals

#4 East Tennessee 81 #5 Lipscomb 74

#6 Gardner-Webb 82  #3 Stetson 63

#2 Jacksonville 65  #7 Mercer 57

#1 Belmont 75  #8 Campbell 66

Semifinals

Jacksonville 89 Gardner-Webb 80

Belmont 69 East Tennessee 65

Saturday, March 8

Championship

Belmont 79  Jacksonville 61

Automatic Qualifier: Belmont 25-8  Avg. RPI 75.3

At-Large Teams:      0

Bubble:                       None

Big Sky                    

Saturday, March 8

Quarterfinals

#4 Idaho State 67  #5 Montana 65

#3 Weber State 65  #6 Montana State 49

Tuesday, March 11 @ Portland, OR

Semifinals

#1 Portland State 72  Idaho State 61

#2 Northern Arizona 75  Weber State 70

Wednesday, March 12 @ Portland, OR

Championship Game

Portland State 67  Northern Arizona 51

Automatic Qualifier: Portland State 23-9  Avg. RPI 84.3

Portland State will pose problems for a first-round opponent not used to playing against a team that overplays the passing lanes.  If the Vikings snatch away double figure steals, they can compete in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.  PSU will have problems with a physical, inside muscle team that knows how to take care of the ball, like a Michigan State.

At-Large Teams:      0

Bubble:                       None

Big South

Opening Round

#1 UNC-Asheville 87  #8 Charleston Southern 63

#4 Liberty 103  #5 VMI 88

#2 Winthrop 76  #7 Radford 45

#3 High Point 59  #6 Coastal Carolina 56

Semifinals

UNC-Asheville 75  Liberty 57

Winthrop 61  High Point 53

Saturday, March 8 @ Asheville, NC

Championship Game

Winthrop 66  UNC-Asheville 48

Automatic Qualifier: Winthrop 22-11  Avg. RPI 103.5

At-Large Teams:      0

Bubble:                       None

Colonial Athletic Association

All Games Played At Richmond, VA (Virginia Commonwealth host team)

#9 Towson State 81  #8 Towson State 66

#5 William & Mary 58 #12 Georgia State 57

#6 Delaware 60  #11 Drexel 51

#7 Northeastern 73 #10 James Madison 59

Saturday, March 8

Quarterfinals

#1 Virginia Commonwealth 57  Towson State 46

William & Mary 63  #4 Old Dominion 60

#3 UNC-Wilmington 82  Delaware 59

#2 George Mason 63  Northeastern 52

Sunday, March 9

Semifinals

William & Mary 56  Virginia Commonwealth 54

George Mason 53  UNC-Wilmington 41

Monday, March 10

Championship Game

George Mason 68  William & Mary 59

Automatic Qualifier: George Mason 23-10  Avg. RPI 57.3

At-Large Teams:      0 or 1

Bubble:                       Virginia Commonwealth 24-7  RPI Avg.: 57.8 [Still needs help]

Horizon League              

All Games Played At Indianapolis (Butler host team)

Opening Round

#3 Wright State 60  #10 Detroit 37

#6 Valparaiso 75  #7 UW-Green Bay 67

#4 Illinois-Chicago 70  #9 Youngstown State 59

#8 Loyola (Chi.) 57  #5 UW-Milwaukee 51

Quarterfinals

Valparaiso 72  Wright State 67

Illinois-Chicago 60 Loyola (Chi.) 49

Saturday, March 8

Semifinals

#2 Cleveland State 78  Valparaiso 73

#1 Butler 66  Illinois-Chicago 50

Tuesday, March 11

Championship

Butler 70  Cleveland State 55

Automatic Qualifier: Butler 29-3  Avg. RPI 15.5

At-Large Teams:      0

Bubble:                       None (Cleveland State is just below the Bubble and should get a bid to the NIT)

Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference

All Games Played At Albany, NY (Siena host team)

Opening Round

#8 Manhattan 73  #9 St. Peter’s 59

#10 Canisius 64  #7 Iona 59

Saturday, March 8

Quarterfinals

#1 Siena 66  Manhattan 58

#4 Loyola (Md.) 64  #5 Fairfield 59

#2 Rider 75  Canisius 71

#6 Marist 66  #3 Niagara 62

Sunday, March 9

Semifinals

Siena 65  Loyola (Md.) 63

Rider 76  Marist 71

Monday, March 10

Championship Game

Siena 74  Rider 53

Automatic Qualifier: Siena 22-10  Avg. RPI 71.5

At-Large Teams:      0

Bubble:                       None

Missouri Valley @ St. Louis (Arch Madness)

Opening Round

#8 Indiana State 71  #9 Wichita State 67

#7 Missouri State 69 #10 Evansville 46

Quarterfinals

#1 Drake 68  Indiana State 46

#4 Creighton 74  #5 Bradley 70

#2 Illinois State 63  Missouri State 58

#6 Northern Iowa 54  #3 Southern Illinois 49

Saturday, March 8

Semifinals

Drake 75 Creighton 67

Illinois State 56 Northern Iowa 42

Sunday, March 9

Championship

Drake 79  Illinois State 49

Automatic Qualifier: Drake 28-4  Avg. RPI 11.3

At-Large Teams:      0 or 1

Bubble:                       Illinois State 23-9  RPI avg. 35.5 [Beginning to look safe]

                                    Creighton 21-10  RPI avg. 48.8 [added to bubble watch due to upsets]

Northeast

Quarterfinal

#1 Robert Morris 64  #8 Monmouth 50

#4 Mt. St. Mary’s 80  #5 Quinnipiac 70

#2 Wagner 71  #7 Long Island 62

#3 Sacred Heart 84  #6 Central Connecticut State 71

Sunday, March 9

Semifinals

Mt. St. Mary’s 83  Robert Morris 65

Sacred Heart 55  Wagner 49

Wednesday, March 12

Championship

Mt. St. Mary’s 68  Sacred Heart 55

Automatic Qualifier: Mount St. Mary’s 18-14  Avg. RPI 155.8

The Mount won its three tournament games by an average score of 77-63 thanks to great shooting and the ability to hustle on the boards.  That worked against the NEC, but it won’t be enough to get past the first round in the Big Dance.  This is a #16-seed that will make a quick exit.

At-Large Teams:      0

Bubble:                       None

Ohio Valley Conference

Quarterfinals @ Higher Seed

#1 Austin Peay 76  #8 Eastern Kentucky 51

#4 UT-Martin 101  #5 Samford 94  3ot

#2 Murray State 77  #7 Tennessee Tech 74

#6 Tennessee State 68  #3 Morehead State 61

Semifinals @ Nashville

Austin Peay 78  UT-Martin 77

Tennessee State 83 Murray State 75

Saturday, March 8

Championship

Austin Peay 82 Tennessee State 64

Automatic Qualifier: Austin Peay 24-10  Avg. RPI 79.5

At-Large Teams:      0

Bubble:                       None

Southern Conference

All Games Played At Charleston, SC (College of Charleston host team)

Opening Round

#8 Wofford 58  #9 Western Carolina 49

#7 Elon 52  #10 Furman 37

#6 Charleston 66  #11 Citadel 48

Saturday, March 8

Quarterfinals

#1 Davidson 82 Wofford 49

#5 UNC-Greensboro 63  #4 Appalachian State 46

Elon 60  #2 Chattanooga 57

Coll. of Charleston 87  #3 Georgia Southern 73

Sunday, March 9

Semifinals

Davidson 82 UNCG 52

Elon 75  Charleston 61

Monday, March 10

Championship Game

Davidson 65  Elon 49

Automatic Qualifier: Davidson 26-6  Avg. RPI 26.8

At-Large Teams:      0

Bubble:                       None

Summit League @ Tulsa (Oral Roberts host team)                

Saturday, March 8

Quarterfinals

#1 Oral Roberts 84 #8 Centenary 56

#2 IUPUI 69  #7 Missouri-Kansas City 65

Sunday, March 9

Quarterfinals

#5 IPFW 66  #4 Southern Utah 62

#3 Oakland 80 #6 Western Illinois 66

Monday, March 10

Semifinals

Oral Roberts 58 IPFW 42

IUPUI 80 Oakland 65

Tuesday, March 11

Championship

Oral Roberts 71  IUPUI 64

Automatic Qualifier: Oral Roberts 24-8  Avg. RPI 49.5

At-Large Teams:      0

Bubble:                       None (IUPUI’s RPI is too low for consideration)

Sunbelt Conference                   

1st Round

#8 New Orleans 65  #9 Denver 60

#4 Middle Tennessee 74  #13 Louisiana Monroe 69

#12 Troy 70  #5 Louisiana Lafayette 60

#6 North Texas 85  #11 Arkansas State 63

#7 Florida Atlantic 91  #10 Florida International 64

Sunday, March 9 @ Mobile, AL

Quarterfinals

South Alabama 81  New Orleans 77

Middle Tennessee 65  Troy 59

Western Kentucky 84  North Texas 70

Arkansas Little Rock 66  Florida Atlantic 60

Monday, March 10 @ Mobile, AL

Semifinals

Middle Tennessee 82  South Alabama 73

Western Kentucky 70 Arkansas-Little Rock 55

Tuesday, March 11 @ Mobile, AL

Championship

Western Kentucky 67  Middle Tennessee 57

Automatic Qualifier: Western Kentucky 27-6  Avg. RPI 35

At-Large Teams:      0 or 1

Bubble:                       South Alabama (Avg. RPI 35.8) [Looking Good after yesterday’s upsets]

 West Coast Conference

All Games Played At San Diego (San Diego host team)

Opening Round

#5 San Francisco 79  # 8 Loyola Marymount 60

#6 Pepperdine 50  #7 Portland 48  ot

Saturday, March 8

Quarterfinals

#4 Santa Clara 51  San Francisco 50

#3 San Diego 75  Pepperdine 55

Sunday, March 9

#1 Gonzaga 52  Santa Clara 48

San Diego 75  #2 St. Mary’s 69  2ot

Monday, March 10

Championship Game

San Diego 69 Gonzaga 62

Automatic Qualifier: San Diego 21-13  Avg. RPI 90

At-Large Teams:      0, 1 or 2 (Gonzaga & St. Mary’s)

Bubble:                       St. Mary’s 25-6  Avg. RPI 37.3 [Should be safe thanks to Pac-10 teams losing]

                                    Gonzaga 25-7  Avg. RPI 27.8 [Absolute certainty]

Ivy League Champion

Automatic Qualifier: Cornell 22-5  Avg. RPI 67

Clinched Automatic Berth in NCAA Tournament (14)

 1. Cornell (22-5)-Ivy League Champion

 2. Winthrop (22-11)-Big South Champion

 3. Austin Peay (24-10)-Ohio Valley Champion

 4. Belmont (25-8)-Atlantic Sun Champion

 5. Drake (28-4)-Missouri Valley Champion

 6. George Mason (23-10)-Colonial Champion

 7. Siena (22-10)-Metro Atlantic Champion

 8. Davidson (26-6)-Southern Champion

 9. San Diego (21-13)-West Coast Champion

10. Oral Roberts (24-8)-Summit Champion

11. Western Kentucky (27-6)-Sunbelt Champion

12. Butler (29-3)-Horizon Champion

13. Mount St. Mary’s (18-14)-Northeast Champion

14. Portland State (23-9)-Big Sky Champion

17 Automatic and 34 at-large bids still to be determined

Active Tournaments

America East

1st Three Rounds At Binghamton, NY.  Championship Game At Higher Seed

Opening Round

#8 Stony Brook 73  vs. #9 Maine 65  ot

Saturday, March 8

Quarterfinals

#1 Md. Balt. Co. 76  Stony Brook 60

#4 Vermont 65  #5 Binghamton 57

#2 Hartford 68  #7 New Hampshire 65

#6 Boston U. 68  #3 Albany 64  ot

Sunday, March 9

Semifinals

Md. Balt. Co. 73  Vermont 64

Hartford 59  Boston U. 52

Saturday, March 15

Championship Game

Hartford 18-15  at Maryland-Baltimore Co. 23-8

At-Large Teams:      0

Bubble:                       None

UMBC didn’t have to play Binghamton, and that made their task much easier.  Hartford had a tough time with two weak opponents to get this far, and the clock will strike midnight for them Saturday.  While these two teams split a pair of one-point games during the regular season, I believe UMBC should win this rubber match by 10 or more points and earn their first trip to the Big Dance, where they could be a #14 seed.  Of particular interest in this championship game will be the match-up of two, small, but beefy forwards.  Hartford’s Warren McLendon and UMBC’s Darryl Proctor will battle it out for close to 40 minutes and make this game worth watching.

Atlantic Coast  @ Charlotte, NC

Thursday, March 13

Opening Round

#9 Florida State 70  #8 Wake Forest 60

#5 Miami 63  #12 North Carolina State 50

#7 Georgia Tech 94  #10 Virginia 76

#11 Boston College 71  #6 Maryland 68

Friday, March 14

Quarterfinals

#1 North Carolina 29-2  vs. Florida State 19-13

#4 Virginia Tech 18-12  vs. Miami 22-9

#2 Duke 26-4  vs. Georgia Tech 15-16

#3 Clemson 22-8  vs. Boston College 14-16

Saturday, March 15

Semifinals

UNC-FSU  vs. VT-Mia.

Duke-GT  vs. Clem-BC

Sunday, March 16

Championship Game

Duke and North Carolina are more than likely headed to a rubber game Sunday, but keep an eye on Miami and Clemson.  The Hurricanes are a solid team capable of going deep into the NCAA Tournament, but they can be inconsistent and lose a game they should win.  Clemson has something to prove after last season’s crash and burn.

You can kiss Maryland’s chances goodbye after the Terps blew a nice lead against Boston College and lost.  Should American lose in the American Patriot League Championship game, they would be a great opening round NIT opponent for the Terps.

Virginia Tech and Florida State still have work to do and need upset wins today.

At-large Teams:       4, 5, or 6 (UNC-2, Duke-4, Clem-21, Miami-30.3)

Bubble:                       Virginia Tech (Avg RPI 61),  Florida State ( Avg RPI 64)

Atlantic 10  @ Atlantic City, NJ

Wednesday, March 12

Opening Round

#8 Dayton 63  St. Louis 62  ot

#5 St. Joseph’s 80 #12 Fordham 62

#7 LaSalle 82  #10 Duquesne 79

#6 Charlotte 75  #11 Rhode Island 73

Thursday, March 13

Quarterfinals

#1 Xavier 74  Dayton 65

 St. Joseph’s 61 #4 Richmond 47

#2 Temple 84  LaSalle 75

Charlotte 69  #3 Massachusetts 65

Friday, March 14

Semifinals

Xavier 27-5  vs. St. Joseph’s 20-11

Temple 19-12  vs. Charlotte 20-12

Saturday, March 15

Championship Game

At-large Teams:       1 or 2 (Xavier [9 RPI] for sure,

Bubble:                       U Mass (43 RPI), Dayton (great RPI Avg. of 31.3), St. Joe’s (52.3 RPI)

U Mass blew a huge lead and lost to Charlotte in a mild to moderate upset.  Now Charlotte gets Temple, and the winner will more than likely play Xavier for the title.  The Musketeers must first dispose of St. Joe’s, and it will be a tough game.  The Hawks are now one big upset win from moving squarely into bubbleville.

Temple needs to get to the finals to have any bubble chances, but the Owls are talented enough to earn the automatic bid.

I believe Dayton has the chance to be the team with the highest RPI that is left out of the Dance.

Big East  @ Madison Square Garden in NYC

Wednesday, March 12

Opening Round

#8 Villanova 82  #9 Syracuse 63

#5 West Virginia 58  #12 Providence 53

#7 Pittsburgh 70  #10 Cincinnati 64

#6 Marquette 67  #11 Seton Hall 54

Thursday, March 13

Quarterfinals

#1 Georgetown 82  Villanova 63

West Virginia 78  #4 Connecticut 72

Pittsburgh 76  #2 Louisville 69 ot

Marquette 89  #3 Notre Dame 79

Friday, March 14

Semifinals

Georgetown 26-4  vs. West Virginia 24-9

Pittsburgh 24-9  vs. Marquette 24-8

Saturday, March 15

Championship Game

West Virginia took control of the game early and held off to beat Connecticut.  I think the Mountaineers are going to give Georgetown a great game, and if their legs are not tired, WVU could pull off the upset.

Pittsburgh is playing its best ball since early in the season, and Marquette has possibly looked like the best team in the tournament to date.  The semifinal doubleheader today is going to be dynamite.

At-large Teams:       7 or 8 (G’town, UL, ND, UConn, WVU, Marq., Pitt  all have RPIs under 40)

Bubble:                       Villanova (avg. RPI 51.3) [It looks iffy for the Wildcats-50-50]

Big 10  @ Indianapolis, IN

Thursday, March 13

Opening Round

#9 Michigan 55  #8 Iowa 47

#10 Illinois 64  #7 Penn State 63

#6 Minnesota 55  #11 Northwestern 52

Friday, March 14

Quarterfinals

#1 Wisconsin 26-4  vs. Michigan 10-21

#4 Michigan State 24-7  vs. #5 Ohio State 19-12

#2 Purdue 24-7  vs. Illinois 14-18

#3 Indiana 25-6  vs. Minnesota 19-12

Saturday, March 15

Semifinals

Wisc.-Mich  vs. MSU-OSU

Purd-Ill.  Vs. IU-MN

Sunday, March 16

Championship Game

This tournament is about to get exciting.  I believe at least three of today’s lower seeds have a reasonable chance of pulling off the upset and giving some bubble teams’ coaches and players another couple of sleepless nights.  Ohio State beating Michigan State would only be a mild upset, but these two teams can both take advantage of the other’s weaknesses. 

Illinois has looked really good in many of their losses this year, and while they aren’t about to make a run to the Sweet 16, the Illini could upset Purdue today.  The Boilermakers didn’t finish strong, and I’m not sure they are going to pull out of this late-season tailspin.

Minnesota is not playing for an at-large bid, but Tubby Smith is an outstanding conference tournament preparer.  I think the Gophers have an outside shot at winning this thing and securing an automatic bid.  Indiana is not the same club they were with Kelvin Sampson, and the Hoosiers are ripe for the upset today.  The Gophers couldn’t have asked for a better draw (the same goes for Illinois).

Only Wisconsin appears safe today.  The Badgers should methodically and slowly pull away from Michigan.  I expect a final in the range of 65-50.

At-large Teams:       4 or 5 (Wisconsin–12, Purdue-35.8, Indiana-17.3, Michigan State-13.5)

Bubble:                       Ohio State-45 (still needs to prove their worth)

Big 12  @ Kansas City

Thursday, March 13

Opening Round

#9 Oklahoma State 76  #8 Texas Tech 72

#12 Colorado 91  #5 Baylor 84  2ot

#7 Nebraska 61  #10 Missouri 56

#6 Texas A&M 60  #11 Iowa State 47

Friday, March 14

Quarterfinals

#1 Texas 26-5  vs. Oklahoma State 17-14

#4 Oklahoma 21-10  vs. Colorado 12-19

#2 Kansas 28-3  vs. Nebraska 19-11

#3 Kansas State 20-10  vs. Texas A&M 23-9

Saturday, March 15

Semifinals

Texas-OK St  vs. Okla-Color

Kans-Nebr  vs. K-St-A&M

Sunday, March 16

Championship Game

We have a #12-seed still alive in the quarterfinals, and if Colorado upsets Oklahoma today, the fans in Boulder may have to light up a couch or two on Arapahoe and Broadway.  The loss hurt, but didn’t kill Baylor’s chances of getting an at-large berth.

An Oklahoma State upset over Texas could bump the Cowboys up enough spots in the RPI to get them into the discussion should they then beat Oklahoma or Colorado tomorrow.

At first glance, you’d think Kansas has an easy game today and will beat Nebraska by as much as they did in the football season.  However, this Cornhusker team is not that bad.  Diminutive 5-7 guard Cookie Miller is worth the price of admission to watch, but big man Aleks Maric is the reason the ‘Huskers have an outside chance against Kansas today.  Maric is probably the best player you have never heard of if you live outside the Big 12 region.  The Aussie averages better than 16 points and 10 boards per game, and he has gotten better as the season has progressed, recording double-doubles in 12 of the last 13 games.  In the last seven games, he has connected on better than 67% of his shots.  The 6-11 and 270-pound bruiser makes Billy Paultz (for you old geezers like me) and Bill Laimbeer (for you younger old geezers) look like lambs.

The Kansas State and Texas A&M game could be one of the five best games of the entire day.  State’s Michael Beasley wants to prove he is not only the best freshman in years, he wants to prove he’s the best power forward since Tim Duncan.  Texas A&M has no Acie Law, and the Aggies are a step down from last year, but Coach Mark Turgeon has his squad probably one win away from wrapping up an at-large bid.

At-large Teams:       4 or 5 (Texas-5, Kansas-9, Oklahoma-24.8) 

Bubble:                       Baylor-44.8, Kansas State-42.3, Texas A&M-47.3

Big West Tournament  @ Anaheim, CA

Wednesday, March 12

Opening Round

#5 UC-Irvine 77  #8 Long Beach State 63

#7 UC-Riverside 62  Cal Poly 54

Thursday, March 13

Quarterfinals

#3 Cal State Fullerton 81  UC-Riverside 69

UC-Irvine 57  #4 Pacific 56

Friday, March 14

Semifinals

#1 UC Santa Barbara 23-7 vs. UC-Irvine 17-15

#2 Cal State Northridge 21-8 vs. Cal State Fullerton 22-8

Saturday, March 15

Championship Game

UC-Irvine, coming off two wins in two days, faces a rested top-seeded UCSB team that should pummel them if the Anteaters are fatigued.  Cal State Fullerton and Cal State Northridge should hook up in a close game, and the winner of that game could be fatigued in the final.  Things are looking good for UCSB, but the other semifinal should produce a talented winner.

At-large Teams:       0

Bubble:                       None

Conference USA  @ Memphis

Wednesday, March 12

Opening Round

#5 Southern Miss. 59  #12 Rice 50

#9 Tulane 48  #8 Marshall 47

#7 Tulsa 66  #10 East Carolina 49

#6 UTEP 71  #11 SMU 49

Thursday, March 13

Quarterfinals

#1 Memphis 75  Tulane 56

Southern Mississippi 68  #4 Central Florida 62

Tulsa 78  #2 Ala.-Birmingham 68 ot

UTEP 80  #3 Houston 77

Friday, March 14

Semifinals

Memphis 31-1  vs. Southern Miss. 19-13

Tulsa 19-12  vs. UTEP 19-12

Saturday, March 15

Championship Game

The two teams that could have earned at-large bids both lost, so the only way CUSA will get two teams into the Dance is if someone knocks off Memphis.  I can’t see it happening.

At-large Teams:       0 or 1 (Memphis has 99.99% chance of winning automatic bid)

Bubble:                       None

Mid-American Conference @ Cleveland

Wednesday, March 12

Opening Round

#8 Toledo 52 #9 Bowling Green 48

#5 Miami (O) 69  #12 Buffalo 68

#7 Eastern Michigan 59  #10 Ball State 55

#6 Central Michigan 83  #11 Northern Illinois 71

Thursday, March 13

Quarterfinals

#1 Kent State 77  Toledo 57

Miami (O) 74  #4 Ohio U 61

#2 Western Michigan 70  Eastern Michigan 61

#3 Akron 81  Central Michigan 60

Friday, March 14

Semifinals

Kent State 26-6  vs. Miami (O) 17-14

Western Michigan 20-11  vs. Akron 22-9

Saturday, March 15

Championship Game

Can Miami upset Kent State and destroy another bubble team’s weekend?  They might have the right emotional oomph to pull off the trick.  The Golden Flashes are already in the tournament win or lose, while Miami must win the tournament. 

Akron is technically the lower seed in the other semifinal, but the Zips are clearly the favorite in their match with WMU and the team with the best shot of beating Kent State.

At-large Teams:       1 (Kent State avg. RPI 28.5)

Bubble:                       None

MEAC @ Raleigh, NC

Tuesday, March 11

Opening Round

#7 Coppin State 55  #10 Howard 54

#8 South Carolina State 78  #9 Bethune Cookman 69

Wednesday, March 12

Opening Round

#6 Florida A&M 70  Maryland Eastern Shore 61

Quarterfinal Round

Coppin State 75  Hampton 74  ot

Morgan State 77 South Carolina State 68

Thursday, March 13

Quarterfinal Round

#3 Norfolk State 69  Florida A&M 61

#4 Delaware State 64  #5 North Carolina A&T 62

Friday, March 14

Semifinal Round

Morgan State 21-9  vs. Delaware State 14-15

Coppin State 14-20 vs. Norfolk State 16-14

Saturday, March 15

Championship Game

Note: There will be a bonus game prior to the Championship Game to be played between North Carolina Central (3-26) and Winston-Salem State (12-17), two future MEAC teams.

Here is an example of how an abnormal seeding could hurt this conference.  Coppin State is the surprise team in this tournament.  They have made it to the semifinal round against Norfolk State.  Because Hampton was expected to win this game as the #2-seed, their loss to CSU gives the Eagles an extra day to rest and prepare for this game. 

Morgan State is still alive, and they represent the MEAC’s best chance of pulling off a first-round win.

At-large Teams:       0

Bubble:                       None

Mountain West  @ Las Vegas

Wednesday, March 12

Opening Round

#9 Colorado State 68  #8 Wyoming 63

Thursday, March 13

Quarterfinals

#1 BYU 89  Colorado State 62

#4 San Diego State 53  #5 Air Force 49

#2 UNLV 89  #7 TCU 88

#6 Utah 82  #3 New Mexico 80 ot

Friday, March 14

Semifinals

BYU 26-6  vs. San Diego State 20-11

UNLV 24-7  vs. Utah 17-13

Saturday, March 15

Championship Game

UNLV barely survived at home in the first round, while New Mexico saw its NCAA at-large dreams quashed.  Utah will catch a more focused Runnin’ Rebels squad today, and I expect Coach Lon Kruger to have his team ready against Utah.  The Utes were overly extended yesterday just like UNLV.  I expect the Rebs to win.

BYU will have a tougher time today against San Diego State than they did yesterday against Colorado State.  The Aztecs had a close, but not exerted, game with Air Force.

At-large Teams:       2 (BYU [Avg. RPI 25.3], UNLV [Avg. RPI 25.5)

Bubble:                       New Mexico (Avg. RPI 58.5) [Almost assuredly out of contention]

Pac-10  @ The Staples Center in Los Angeles

Wednesday, March 12

Opening Round

#9 California 84  #8 Washington 81

#7 Arizona 87 #10 Oregon State 56

Thursday, March 13

Quarterfinals

#1 UCLA 88  California 66

#4 Southern Cal 59  #5 Arizona State 55

#2 Stanford 75  Arizona 64

#3 Washington State 75  Oregon 70

Friday, March 14

Semifinals

UCLA 29-3  vs. Southern Cal 21-10

Stanford 25-6  vs. Washington State 24-7

Saturday, March 15

Championship Game

So much for the grudge match.  I guess UCLA had an axe to grind, and they sharpened their blades on Cal.  The sharp edges then did more damage, as two or three bubble teams heard the bursting sound.  Oregon, Arizona State, and possibly Arizona are now in trouble.

Today’s UCLA-USC semifinal match marks the first time the two Los Angeles schools have faced off in the Pac-10 Tournament.  Having the game at The Staples Center makes it all the more exciting.  The two teams won on the other’s home court this year.

The Stanford-Washington State nightcap will not be as exciting.  Washington State games generally are slow, passive games, and Stanford doesn’t have the type of talent to force the Cougars into a faster tempo.  It should be close, but not one to remember.

At-large Teams:       4 or 5 (UCLA-6, Stanford-16, Washington State-21.3, Southern Cal-28.5)

Bubble:                       Arizona-39.8 , Oregon-55.8  (‘Zona is probably okay, but Ducks are in trouble)

Patriot League

Quarterfinals

#1 American 62  #8 Holy Cross 60

#5 Army 64  #4 Lehigh 61 ot

#7 Bucknell 87  #2 Navy 86 3ot

#3 Colgate 76  #6 Lafayette 74

Sunday, March 9

Semifinals

American  72 Army 60

Colgate 54  Bucknell 40

Friday, March 14

Championship

Colgate 18-13 at American 20-11

At-Large Teams:      0

Bubble:                       None

This should be a close game, and it wouldn’t surprise me if it went to overtime.  American beat Colgate twice by eight points this year, and I expect the Red Raiders to be ready to exact some revenge. 

American has won nine of its last 10 games, and the Eagles have the best backcourt in the Patriot League.  In tournaments, guard play is very important, as the backcourt that makes more errors or forces the fewer errors usually comes from the losing team.  I’ll go with American in this one, which will allow Coach Jeff Jones to get back to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since he was at Virginia in the 1990’s.

Southeastern  @ Atlanta

Thursday, March 13

Opening Round

#5E South Carolina 77  #4W LSU 73

#3E Vanderbilt 93  #6W Auburn 82

#5W Alabama 80  #4E Florida 69

#6E Georgia 97  #3W Ole Miss 95  ot

Friday, March 14

Quarterfinals

#1E Tennessee 28-3  vs. South Carolina 14-17

#2W Arkansas 20-10  vs. Vanderbilt 26-6

#1W Mississippi St. 21-9  vs. Alabama 17-15

#2E Kentucky 18-11  vs. Georgia 14-16

Saturday, March 15

UT-USC  vs. Ark-Vand.

MSU-Ala  vs. UK-UGa

Sunday, March 16

Championship Game

As Chester A. Riley (the 1940’s and 50’s radio character played by William Bendix) used to say, “What a revoltin’ development this is!”  Ole Miss and Florida took quick exits, and the SEC is down to five teams going dancing unless a surprise team cuts down the nets Sunday.

As Secret Agent Maxwell Smart used to say, “Would you believe,”  Would you believe Alabama and Georgia are still playing in Atlanta.  This Tide team looked more like C.M. Newton’s Alabama squads of the mid-1970’s, while Georgia looked like a team trying to save a coach they love from having to file unemployment insurance.

Agent 86 also was famous for saying, “Missed it by that much,” and that’s what I think Vanderbilt, Alabama, and Georgia will be saying today.  Arkansas, Mississippi State, and Kentucky should win close games that go down to the wire. 

As the Lone Ranger used to say, “Hi-yo Silver, Away!”  Today, we will be saying that to Dave Odom, as he coaches his last game at South Carolina and rides off into the sunset.  Even though Tennessee has performed lousy in the SEC Tournament for more than a decade, I think the Vols will come out and put a whippin’ on the garnet and black today.  Devan Downey would have to have a career day, and Evaldas Baniulis would have to hit about seven treys for the Gamecocks to have a chance.

And as Lieutenant Columbo used to say, “Just one more thing.”  Kentucky may end up with an RPI in the 50’s if they lose today, but we all know they will receive a bid to the Dance.  It’s just like selecting Willie Mays to the All-Star game in 1973 when he was barely hitting .200.  You will be able to “say hey” to Billy Gillispie’s team at a regional somewhere next week (I am not implying UK’s play to date has been like Willie Mays in 1973.  The Cats are good enough to make it to the Sweet 16).

At-large Teams:       5 (Tennessee-1, Miss. State-39.8, Kentucky-49.8, Arkansas-40.8, Vanderbilt-10)

Bubble:                       Florida-71, Ole Miss-53.5 (see ya in the NIT Gators and Rebels)

Southland  @ Katy, TX (near Houston)

Thursday, March 13

Quarterfinals

#1 Stephen F. Austin 71  #8 Texas San Antonio 60

#5 Northwestern State 71  #4 Southeast Louisiana 51

#7 UT-Arlington 81  #2 Lamar 75

#3 Sam Houston State 64  McNeese State 62 ot

Friday, March 14

Semifinals

Stephen F. Austin 26-4  vs. Northwestern State 14-17

UT-Arlington 19-11  vs. Sam Houston 23-7

Sunday, March 16

Championship Game

A Stephen F. Austin and Sam Houston State final would be exactly what the doctor ordered for this conference tournament.  With all the upsets, SFA is back in the conversation as a possible at-large team, but only if they were to lose to Sam Houston.  If UT-Arlington beats the Bearkats, then all bets are off.

The Lumberjacks didn’t look like world beaters yesterday, but their defense gave them a comfortable 11-point win over UT-San Antonio.  They meet a Northwestern State team that will try to get them out of their comfort zone and into a running game.  SFA prevented this from happening in their regular season tilt, and I expect more of the same today.  The Lumberjacks have an overwhelming advantage inside and should control the boards and win by double digits.

Sam Houston walloped UT-Arlington twice during the regular season, dominating inside both times.  While it is hard to beat a conference rival thrice in one season, sometimes a team just doesn’t match up well with an opponent.  UTA hasn’t found an answer to SHS’s star player Ryan Bright or backcourt leader Shamir McDaniel.  In the game in Arlington, the Mavericks watched Bearkat backup DeLuis Ramirez come off the bench and score a double-double.

At-large Teams:       0 or 1

Bubble:                       Stephen F. Austin-57.5  (road wins against Oklahoma and San Diego)

S W A C  @ Birmingham

Wednesday, March 12

Quarterfinals

#1 Alabama State 67  #8 Texas Southern 49

#2 Mississippi Valley 79  #7 Grambling 73

Thursday, March 13

Quarterfinals

#6 Arkansas Pine Bluff 72  Alabama A&M 59

#4 Jackson State 56  #5 Southern 55

Friday, March 14

Semifinals

Alabama State 20-9  vs. Jackson St. 13-19

Mississippi Valley 15-15 vs. Arkansas-Pine Bluff 13-17

Saturday, March 15

Championship Game

With the top two seeds enjoying a day off yesterday, they will be well-rested and prohibitive favorites today.  If Alabama State loses today or tomorrow, you can already put the SWAC Tournament Champion on the Play-in Bracket and do it in pen.  Even if Alabama State wins, you can pencil them in that slot.

At-large Teams:       0         

Bubble:                       None

WAC @ Las Cruces, NM

Tuesday, March 11

Opening Round

#8 San Jose State 64  Louisiana Tech 62

Thursday, March 13

Quarterfinal Round

#1 Utah State 85  San Jose State 65

#4 Boise State 80  Hawaii 74

#2 Nevada 64  #7 Fresno State 57

#3 New Mexico State 73  #6 Idaho 53

Friday, March 14

Semifinal Round

Utah State 24-9  vs. Boise State 23-8

Nevada 21-10  vs. New Mexico St. 20-13

Saturday, March 15

Championship Game

The top four seeds have made it to the semifinals, and that always makes for a great finish to a tournament.  New Mexico State dominated on their home floor, but the remaining teams have what it takes to win in Las Cruces.  Utah State looked strong yesterday, and the Aggies’ starters got some rest.  That just may be enough to get them by Boise State today. 

At-large Teams:       0

Bubble:                       None (Utah State has an avg. RPI of 65, which is too low)

March 13, 2008

A PiRate Look at the NCAA Basketball Conference Tournaments–March 13, 2008–7th Update

 

A PiRate Look at the NCAA Basketball Conference Tournaments

March 13, 2008, 7th Update

Conference Tournament Results through Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Concluded Tournaments

Atlantic Sun

Quarterfinals

#4 East Tennessee 81 #5 Lipscomb 74

#6 Gardner-Webb 82  #3 Stetson 63

#2 Jacksonville 65  #7 Mercer 57

#1 Belmont 75  #8 Campbell 66

Semifinals

Jacksonville 89 Gardner-Webb 80

Belmont 69 East Tennessee 65

Saturday, March 8

Championship

Belmont 79  Jacksonville 61

Automatic Qualifier: Belmont 25-8  Avg. RPI 76

At-Large Teams:      0

Bubble:                      None

Big Sky                    

Saturday, March 8

Quarterfinals

#4 Idaho State 67  #5 Montana 65

#3 Weber State 65  #6 Montana State 49

Tuesday, March 11 @ Portland, OR

Semifinals

#1 Portland State 72  Idaho State 61

#2 Northern Arizona 75  Weber State 70

Wednesday, March 12 @ Portland, OR

Championship Game

Portland State 67  Northern Arizona 51

Automatic Qualifier: Portland State 23-9  Avg. RPI 84.3

Portland State will pose problems for a first-round opponent not used to playing against a team that overplays the passing lanes.  If the Vikings snatch away double figure steals, they can compete in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.  PSU will have problems with a physical, inside muscle team that knows how to take care of the ball, like a Michigan State.

At-Large Teams:      0

Bubble:                      None

Big South

Opening Round

#1 UNC-Asheville 87  #8 Charleston Southern 63

#4 Liberty 103  #5 VMI 88

#2 Winthrop 76  #7 Radford 45

#3 High Point 59  #6 Coastal Carolina 56

Semifinals

UNC-Asheville 75  Liberty 57

Winthrop 61  High Point 53

Saturday, March 8 @ Asheville, NC

Championship Game

Winthrop 66  UNC-Asheville 48

Automatic Qualifier: Winthrop 22-11  Avg. RPI 103.5

At-Large Teams:      0

Bubble:                      None

Colonial Athletic Association

All Games Played At Richmond, VA (Virginia Commonwealth host team)

#9 Towson State 81  #8 Towson State 66

#5 William & Mary 58 #12 Georgia State 57

#6 Delaware 60  #11 Drexel 51

#7 Northeastern 73 #10 James Madison 59

Saturday, March 8

Quarterfinals

#1 Virginia Commonwealth 57  Towson State 46

William & Mary 63  #4 Old Dominion 60

#3 UNC-Wilmington 82  Delaware 59

#2 George Mason 63  Northeastern 52

Sunday, March 9

Semifinals

William & Mary 56  Virginia Commonwealth 54

George Mason 53  UNC-Wilmington 41

Monday, March 10

Championship Game

George Mason 68  William & Mary 59

Automatic Qualifier: George Mason 23-10  Avg. RPI 58.5

At-Large Teams:      0 or 1

Bubble:                      Virginia Commonwealth 24-7  RPI Avg.: 57.8

Horizon League              

All Games Played At Indianapolis (Butler host team)

Opening Round

#3 Wright State 60  #10 Detroit 37

#6 Valparaiso 75  #7 UW-Green Bay 67

#4 Illinois-Chicago 70  #9 Youngstown State 59

#8 Loyola (Chi.) 57  #5 UW-Milwaukee 51

Quarterfinals

Valparaiso 72  Wright State 67

Illinois-Chicago 60 Loyola (Chi.) 49

Saturday, March 8

Semifinals

#2 Cleveland State 78  Valparaiso 73

#1 Butler 66  Illinois-Chicago 50

Tuesday, March 11

Championship

Butler 70  Cleveland State 55

Automatic Qualifier: Butler 29-3  Avg. RPI 16

At-Large Teams:      0

Bubble:                      None (Cleveland State is just below the Bubble and should get a bid to the NIT)

Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference

All Games Played At Albany, NY (Siena host team)

Opening Round

#8 Manhattan 73  #9 St. Peter’s 59

#10 Canisius 64  #7 Iona 59

Saturday, March 8

Quarterfinals

#1 Siena 66  Manhattan 58

#4 Loyola (Md.) 64  #5 Fairfield 59

#2 Rider 75  Canisius 71

#6 Marist 66  #3 Niagara 62

Sunday, March 9

Semifinals

Siena 65  Loyola (Md.) 63

Rider 76  Marist 71

Monday, March 10

Championship Game

Siena 74  Rider 53

Automatic Qualifier: Siena 22-10  Avg. RPI 71.8

At-Large Teams:      0

Bubble:                      None

Missouri Valley @ St. Louis (Arch Madness)

Opening Round

#8 Indiana State 71  #9 Wichita State 67

#7 Missouri State 69 #10 Evansville 46

Quarterfinals

#1 Drake 68  Indiana State 46

#4 Creighton 74  #5 Bradley 70

#2 Illinois State 63  Missouri State 58

#6 Northern Iowa 54  #3 Southern Illinois 49

Saturday, March 8

Semifinals

Drake 75 Creighton 67

Illinois State 56 Northern Iowa 42

Sunday, March 9

Championship

Drake 79  Illinois State 49

Automatic Qualifier: Drake 28-4  Avg. RPI 11.8

At-Large Teams:      0 or 1

Bubble:                      Illinois State 23-9  RPI avg. 35.5

Northeast

Quarterfinal

#1 Robert Morris 64  #8 Monmouth 50

#4 Mt. St. Mary’s 80  #5 Quinnipiac 70

#2 Wagner 71  #7 Long Island 62

#3 Sacred Heart 84  #6 Central Connecticut State 71

Sunday, March 9

Semifinals

Mt. St. Mary’s 83  Robert Morris 65

Sacred Heart 55  Wagner 49

Wednesday, March 12

Championship

Mt. St. Mary’s 68  Sacred Heart 55

Automatic Qualifier: Mount St. Mary’s 18-14  Avg. RPI 156.3

The Mount won its three tournament games by an average score of 77-63 thanks to great shooting and the ability to hustle on the boards.  That worked against the NEC, but it won’t be enough to get past the first round in the Big Dance.  This is a #16-seed that will make a quick exit.

At-Large Teams:      0

Bubble:                      None

Ohio Valley Conference

Quarterfinals @ Higher Seed

#1 Austin Peay 76  #8 Eastern Kentucky 51

#4 UT-Martin 101  #5 Samford 94  3ot

#2 Murray State 77  #7 Tennessee Tech 74

#6 Tennessee State 68  #3 Morehead State 61

Semifinals @ Nashville

Austin Peay 78  UT-Martin 77

Tennessee State 83 Murray State 75

Saturday, March 8

Championship

Austin Peay 82 Tennessee State 64

Automatic Qualifier: Austin Peay 24-10  Avg. RPI 80.5

At-Large Teams:      0

Bubble:                      None

Southern Conference

All Games Played At Charleston, SC (College of Charleston host team)

Opening Round

#8 Wofford 58  #9 Western Carolina 49

#7 Elon 52  #10 Furman 37

#6 Charleston 66  #11 Citadel 48

Saturday, March 8

Quarterfinals

#1 Davidson 82 Wofford 49

#5 UNC-Greensboro 63  #4 Appalachian State 46

Elon 60  #2 Chattanooga 57

Coll. of Charleston 87  #3 Georgia Southern 73

Sunday, March 9

Semifinals

Davidson 82 UNCG 52

Elon 75  Charleston 61

Monday, March 10

Championship Game

Davidson 65  Elon 49

Automatic Qualifier: Davidson 26-6  Avg. RPI 29.8

At-Large Teams:      0

Bubble:                      None

Summit League @ Tulsa (Oral Roberts host team)                  

Saturday, March 8

Quarterfinals

#1 Oral Roberts 84 #8 Centenary 56

#2 IUPUI 69  #7 Missouri-Kansas City 65

Sunday, March 9

Quarterfinals

#5 IPFW 66  #4 Southern Utah 62

#3 Oakland 80 #6 Western Illinois 66

Monday, March 10

Semifinals

Oral Roberts 58 IPFW 42

IUPUI 80 Oakland 65

Tuesday, March 11

Championship

Oral Roberts 71  IUPUI 64

Automatic Qualifier: Oral Roberts 24-8  Avg. RPI 52.5

At-Large Teams:      0

Bubble:                      None (IUPUI’s RPI of 68 is too low for consideration)

Sunbelt Conference                   

1st Round

#8 New Orleans 65  #9 Denver 60

#4 Middle Tennessee 74  #13 Louisiana Monroe 69

#12 Troy 70  #5 Louisiana Lafayette 60

#6 North Texas 85  #11 Arkansas State 63

#7 Florida Atlantic 91  #10 Florida International 64

Sunday, March 9 @ Mobile, AL

Quarterfinals

South Alabama 81  New Orleans 77

Middle Tennessee 65  Troy 59

Western Kentucky 84  North Texas 70

Arkansas Little Rock 66  Florida Atlantic 60

Monday, March 10 @ Mobile, AL

Semifinals

Middle Tennessee 82  South Alabama 73

Western Kentucky 70 Arkansas-Little Rock 55

Tuesday, March 11 @ Mobile, AL

Championship

Western Kentucky 67  Middle Tennessee 57

Automatic Qualifier: Western Kentucky 27-6  Avg. RPI 38

At-Large Teams:      0 or 1

Bubble:                      South Alabama (Avg. RPI 39.3)

 West Coast Conference

All Games Played At San Diego (San Diego host team)

Opening Round

#5 San Francisco 79  # 8 Loyola Marymount 60

#6 Pepperdine 50  #7 Portland 48  ot

Saturday, March 8

Quarterfinals

#4 Santa Clara 51  San Francisco 50

#3 San Diego 75  Pepperdine 55

Sunday, March 9

#1 Gonzaga 52  Santa Clara 48

San Diego 75  #2 St. Mary’s 69  2ot

Monday, March 10

Championship Game

San Diego 69 Gonzaga 62

Automatic Qualifier: San Diego 21-13  Avg. RPI 90

At-Large Teams:      0, 1 or 2 (Gonzaga & St. Mary’s)

Bubble:                      St. Mary’s 25-6  Avg. RPI 39.8

                                    Gonzaga 25-7  Avg. RPI 27.8

Clinched Automatic Berth in NCAA Tournament (14)

 1. Cornell (22-5)-Ivy League Champion

 2. Winthrop (22-11)-Big South Champion

 3. Austin Peay (24-10)-Ohio Valley Champion

 4. Belmont (25-8)-Atlantic Sun Champion

 5. Drake (28-4)-Missouri Valley Champion

 6. George Mason (23-10)-Colonial Champion

 7. Siena (22-10)-Metro Atlantic Champion

 8. Davidson (26-6)-Southern Champion

 9. San Diego (21-13)-West Coast Champion

10. Oral Roberts (24-8)-Summit Champion

11. Western Kentucky (27-6)-Sunbelt Champion

12. Butler (29-3)-Horizon Champion

13. Mount St. Mary’s (18-14)-Northeast Champion

14. Portland State (23-9)-Big Sky Champion

17 Automatic and 34 at-large bids still to be determined

Active Tournaments

America East

1st Three Rounds At Binghamton, NY.  Championship Game At Higher Seed

Opening Round

#8 Stony Brook 73  vs. #9 Maine 65  ot

Saturday, March 8

Quarterfinals

#1 Md. Balt. Co. 76  Stony Brook 60

#4 Vermont 65  #5 Binghamton 57

#2 Hartford 68  #7 New Hampshire 65

#6 Boston U. 68  #3 Albany 64  ot

Sunday, March 9

Semifinals

Md. Balt. Co. 73  Vermont 64

Hartford 59  Boston U. 52

Saturday, March 15

Championship Game

Hartford 18-15  at Maryland-Baltimore Co. 23-8

At-Large Teams:      0

Bubble:                      None

UMBC didn’t have to play Binghamton, and that made their task much easier.  Hartford had a tough time with two weak opponents to get this far, and the clock will strike midnight for them Saturday.  While these two teams split a pair of one-point games during the regular season, I believe UMBC should win this rubber match by 10 or more points and earn their first trip to the Big Dance, where they could be a #14 seed.  Of particular interest in this championship game will be the match-up of two, small, but beefy forwards.  Hartford’s Warren McLendon and UMBC’s Darryl Proctor will battle it out for close to 40 minutes and make this game worth watching.

Atlantic 10  @ Atlantic City, NJ

Wednesday, March 12

Opening Round

#8 Dayton 63  St. Louis 62  ot

#5 St. Joseph’s 80 #12 Fordham 62

#7 LaSalle 82  #10 Duquesne 79

#6 Charlotte 75  #11 Rhode Island 73

Thursday, March 13

Quarterfinals

#1 Xavier 26-5  vs. Dayton 21-9

#4 Richmond 16-13  vs. St. Joseph’s 19-11

#2 Temple 18-12  vs. LaSalle 15-16

#3 Massachusetts 21-9 vs. Charlotte 19-12

Friday, March 14

Semifinals

1/8 winner  vs. 4/5 winner

2/7 winner  vs. 3/6 winner

Saturday, March 15

Championship Game

At-large Teams:       1 or 2 (Xavier [9 RPI] for sure, U Mass [41 RPI] maybe)

Bubble:                      U Mass, Dayton (great RPI Avg. of 30.8)

Xavier is in the Big Dance even if they drop their first A-10 Tournament game.  U Mass finished the season on a roll, as Coach Travis Ford had his Minutemen playing like a Rick Pitino Kentucky team out of the 199o’s (gee, I wonder why?)

Rhode Island looked tourney-worthy a couple of months ago, but they went in the tank and are NIT-bound.  Dayton beat St. Louis and must defeat Xavier to get to the semifinals and have a legitimate shot at an at-large berth.  I don’t see that happening. 

Keep an eye on Coach Fran Dunphy’s Temple Owls.  They flew under the radar screen all year, but they have the talent to get to the finals Saturday.  They should have little trouble against LaSalle, even though it’s a Philadelphi rivalry game, in the quarterfinals, and they match up well with U Mass in a probable semifinal match.

Big East  @ Madison Square Garden in NYC

Wednesday, March 12

Opening Round

#8 Villanova 82  #9 Syracuse 63

#5 West Virginia 58  #12 Providence 53

#7 Pittsburgh 70  #10 Cincinnati 64

#6 Marquette 67  #11 Seton Hall 54

Thursday, March 13

Quarterfinals

#1 Georgetown 25-4  vs. Villanova 20-11

#4 Connecticut 24-7  vs. West Virginia 23-9

#2 Louisville 24-7  vs. Pittsburgh 23-9

#3 Notre Dame 24-6  vs. Marquette 23-8

Friday, March 14

Semifinals

1/8  vs. 4/5

2/7  vs. 3/6

Saturday, March 15

Championship Game

The Big East Tournament is always exciting, especially since the league expanded to 16 teams.  By limiting the tourney to 12 teams, it usually means that eight or more teams have a realistic shot at winning the tournament.  With the higher seeds winning in the opening round, it’s left the Big East with eight outstanding teams all whom should be in the Field of 65.  The octet all possess 20 or more wins, and any of the group could cut down the MSG nets Saturday night.  What more could you want?

Syracuse played themselves into the NIT by laying an egg yesterday against Villanova.  I think the win put the Wildcats one win away from securing a spot into the Dance.

I think today’s West Virginia-Connecticut game will supply the eventual champion of this tournament.  Both teams are playing their best ball right now, and this should be the game of the day.

At-large Teams:       7 or 8 (G’town, UL, ND, UConn, WVU, Marq., Pitt  all have RPIs under 40)

Bubble:                      Villanova (avg. RPI 52)

Big West Tournament  @ Anaheim, CA

Wednesday, March 12

Opening Round

#5 UC-Irvine 77  #8 Long Beach State 63

#7 UC-Riverside 62  Cal Poly 54

Thursday, March 13

Quarterfinals

#3 Cal State Fullerton 21-8  vs. UC-Riverside 9-20

#4 Pacific 21-9  vs. UC-Irvine 16-15

Friday, March 14

Semifinals

#1 UC Santa Barbara 23-7 vs. lowest remaining seed

#2 Cal State Northridge 21-8 vs. highest remaining seed

Saturday, March 15

Championship Game

The Big West rewards its top teams.  The top two seeds receive byes to the semifinals, while teams three and four receive first round byes.  In this type of seeding, the top two teams have huge advantages and almost always produce the tournament champion.  I expect that to be true here.  Cal State Fullerton and Pacific should win their quarterfinal games and give UCSB and CSN great semifinal games.  It wouldn’t surprise me in the least to see the Titans or Tigers make it to the finals, but not both.  If only one of the top two seeds advance to the Championship Game, I expect that team to win the automatic bid over the three or four-seed.  UCSB has an excellent backcourt, and it’s the better backcourts that have been winning in conference tournament play so far.  I expect them to beat CS-Fullerton for the Title.

At-large Teams:       0

Bubble:                      None

Conference USA  @ Memphis

Wednesday, March 12

Opening Round

#5 Southern Miss. 59  #12 Rice 50

#9 Tulane 48  #8 Marshall 47

#7 Tulsa 66  #10 East Carolina 49

#6 UTEP 71  #11 SMU 49

Thursday, March 13

Quarterfinals

#1 Memphis 30-1  vs. Tulane 17-14

#4 Central Florida 16-14  vs. Southern Mississippi 18-13

#2 Ala.-Birmingham 22-9  vs. Tulsa 18-12

#3 Houston 22-8  vs. UTEP 18-12

Friday, March 14

Semifinals

1/9  vs. 4/5

2/7  vs. 3/6

Saturday, March 15

Championship Game

Back in the late 1930’s the talk every spring amongst the American League baseball teams centered on which team would finish second.  It was a foregone conclusion that the Yankees would finish first by more than a dozen games.  That’s what has become of CUSA basketball.  Memphis is the murderer’s row of the league, and the only thing to decide is the team that will play the part of the Washington Generals to the Tigers in the Championship Game.

The opening day of this tournament couldn’t have been any more boring.  This tournament should continue to be one worth skipping except for a possible UAB-Houston semifinal death match.  The Blazers have the easier quarterfinal game, because UTEP could give the Cougars a good run for their money.  The team that loses to Memphis in the finals should be on the upper half of the bubble, while the semifinal loser should see their bubble burst.

At-large Teams:       0 or 1 (Memphis has 99.99% chance of winning automatic bid)

Bubble:                      Tourney Runner-up if it is Houston (Avg. RPI 66) or UAB (Avg. RPI 46)

MEAC @ Raleigh, NC

Tuesday, March 11

Opening Round

#7 Coppin State 55  #10 Howard 54

#8 South Carolina State 78  #9 Bethune Cookman 69

Wednesday, March 12

Opening Round

#6 Florida A&M 70  Maryland Eastern Shore 61

Quarterfinal Round

Coppin State 75  Hampton 74  ot

Morgan State 77 South Carolina State 68

Thursday, March 13

Quarterfinal Round

#3 Norfolk State 15-14  vs. winner of Florida A&M 15-16

#4 Delaware State 13-15  vs. #5 North Carolina A&T 15-15

Friday, March 14

Semifinal Round

Morgan State 21-9  vs. Del. St.-NCAT

Coppin State 14-20 vs. Norfolk-FAMU-UMES

Saturday, March 15

Championship Game

Note: There will be a bonus game prior to the Championship Game to be played between North Carolina Central (3-26) and Winston-Salem State (12-17), two future MEAC teams.

Morgan State gives the MEAC its best chance to win an NCAA Tournament game, but it’s no given they will survive the MEAC Tournament.  Even though the Golden Bears won 13 of their final 14 games, the MEAC Tournament is the Saratoga Race Track of the NCAA-it’s where champions get upset.  Just ask Delaware State last year.  The Hornets were more dominating in 2007 than Morgan State has been this year, but they fell to Florida A&M in the title game. 

Who might be this season’s FAMU?  I’d keep an eye on Jerry Eaves’ North Carolina A&T team.  The Aggies have the depth to win three games in three days, and they have enough scoring options so that somebody will have a hot hand every game.

At-large Teams:       0

Bubble:                      None

Mid-American Conference @ Cleveland

Wednesday, March 12

Opening Round

#8 Toledo 52 #9 Bowling Green 48

#5 Miami (O) 69  #12 Buffalo 68

#7 Eastern Michigan 59  #10 Ball State 55

#6 Central Michigan 83  #11 Northern Illinois 71

Thursday, March 13

Quarterfinals

#1 Kent State 25-6  vs. Toledo 11-18

#4 Ohio U 19-11  vs. Miami (O) 16-14

#2 Western Michigan 19-11  vs. Eastern Michigan 14-16

#3 Akron 21-9  vs. Central Michigan 14-16

Friday, March 14

Semifinals

1/8  vs. 4/5

2/7  vs. 3/6

Saturday, March 15

Championship Game

It’s hard to imagine any of the four teams winning yesterday getting past today, except maybe Miami.  There was a Grand Canyon-sized difference between the top four teams and the rest of the league.  If the top four teams advance to the semifinals, it should make for exciting basketball on Friday and Saturday.

Kent State has a good shot at getting into the Big Dance if they lose on Saturday.  It the Flashes fall on Friday, then it gets dicey.  Ohio U can knock off the top-seed, and I give the Bobcats about a 45% chance of doing so if they meet in the semis.  On the other side of the bracket, I expect #3-seed Akron to survive to the final round.  The Zips were massacred at Western Michigan in perhaps their worst game of the season.  They will get their revenge in a probable semifinal match.

At-large Teams:       1 (Kent State avg. RPI 27.3)

Bubble:                      None

Mountain West  @ Las Vegas

Wednesday, March 12

Opening Round

#9 Colorado State 68  #8 Wyoming 63

Thursday, March 13

Quarterfinals

#1 BYU 25-6  vs. Colorado State 7-24

#4 San Diego State 19-11  vs. #5 Air Force 16-13

#2 UNLV 23-7  vs. #7 TCU 14-15

#3 New Mexico 24-7 vs. #6 Utah 16-13

Friday, March 14

Semifinals

1/9  vs. 4/5

2/7  vs. 3/6

Saturday, March 15

Championship Game

The Mountain West Conference always puts on a good show at tournament time.  Being in Vegas makes it all the more worth attending.  This year, the MWC has two at-large worthy teams in BYU and UNLV.  I think both are safe regardless of how they fare in the MWC Tournament.  The question then is can another team win the automatic bid, allowing three teams to make it to the Dance?  The answer is yes!  When he was at Southwest Missouri and Iowa, Coach Steve Alford’s teams performed above their regular season level come tourney time.  He won the Big 10 Tournament one season with a mediocre team.  This year, he has a rather strong New Mexico team, and the Lobos are more than capable of cutting down the nets Saturday.  They will have to get past the host Runnin’ Rebels to make it to the title game, but the Lobos are talented enough to do it. UNM won eight of their final nine games, with the lone loss being an overtime heartbreak against BYU.

The other possible surprise in this tournament could be San Diego State.  After losing their regular season finale to the Falcons, the Aztecs should beat Air Force in the quarterfinals, and they could be primed to upset BYU in the semis.  During the regular season, SDSU matched up well with the top-seeded Cougars.

At-large Teams:       2 (BYU [Avg. RPI 24.8], UNLV [Avg. RPI 26.8)

Bubble:                      New Mexico (Avg. RPI 52.5)

Pac-10  @ The Staples Center in Los Angeles

Wednesday, March 12

Opening Round

#9 California 84  #8 Washington 81

#7 Arizona 87 #10 Oregon State 56

Thursday, March 13

Quarterfinals

#1 UCLA 28-3  vs. California 16-14

#4 Southern Cal 20-10  vs. #5 Arizona State 19-11

#2 Stanford 24-6  vs. Arizona 19-13

#3 Washington State 23-7  vs. Oregon 18-12

Friday, March 14

Semifinals

1/9  vs. 4/5

2/7/10  vs. 3/6

Saturday, March 15

Championship Game

The Pac-10 Tournament became all the more power-charged last night when California pulled out a last second victory over Washington.  Tonight, Cal gets its rematch with UCLA after the Bruins got away with cheating in a victory over the Bears a week ago.  I expect this to be a physical game, and it wouldn’t surprise me if it got out of hand at some point.  Expect to see several foul shots attempted.

The USC-Arizona State game today will be an interesting one to watch.  The Trojans finished the regular season winning five of six games, and that one loss came at Arizona State.  The Sun Devils need to win at least two games and maybe the tournament to get into the Dance.

Arizona couldn’t have asked for a better first round match with lifeless Oregon State.  The Beavers couldn’t compete in the Big West this year, much less the Pac-10, and they were cooked before the first TV timeout last night.  Wildcat Acting Coach Kevin O’Neill rested his regulars, and they should be fresh against Oregon.  The Ducks must win to have any chance at all of an at-large bid, while Arizona is iffy right now.  A Wildcat win will secure them a spot in the Dance.

At-large Teams:       4 or 5 (UCLA-6, Stanford-18, Washington State-21.5, Southern Cal-31)

Bubble:                      Arizona-37 , Arizona State-71.8, Oregon-54.8

Patriot League

Quarterfinals

#1 American 62  #8 Holy Cross 60

#5 Army 64  #4 Lehigh 61 ot

#7 Bucknell 87  #2 Navy 86 3ot

#3 Colgate 76  #6 Lafayette 74

Sunday, March 9

Semifinals

American  72 Army 60

Colgate 54  Bucknell 40

Friday, March 14

Championship

Colgate 18-13 at American 20-11

At-Large Teams:      0

Bubble:                      None

This should be a close game, and it wouldn’t surprise me if it went to overtime.  American beat Colgate twice by eight points this year, and I expect the Red Raiders to be ready to exact some revenge. 

American has won nine of its last 10 games, and the Eagles have the best backcourt in the Patriot League.  In tournaments, guard play is very important, as the backcourt that makes more errors or forces the fewer errors usually comes from the losing team.  I’ll go with American in this one, which will allow Coach Jeff Jones to get back to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since he was at Virginia in the 1990’s.

S W A C  @ Birmingham

Wednesday, March 12

Quarterfinals

#1 Alabama State 67  #8 Texas Southern 49

#2 Mississippi Valley 79  #7 Grambling 73

Thursday, March 13

Quarterfinals

#3 Alabama A&M 14-14  vs. #6 Arkansas Pine Bluff 12-17

#4 Jackson State 12-19  vs. #5 Southern 11-18

Friday, March 14

Semifinals

Alabama State 20-9  vs. Jackson St. or Southern

Mississippi Valley 15-15 vs. Ala. A&M or Ark.-PB

Saturday, March 15

Championship Game

Alabama State handily won the regular season SWAC title and became the only team to finish the year with a winning record.  If they don’t win the conference tournament, this league will field possibly the weakest ever NCAA Play-in Round participant.  They got past their first round opponent with relative ease and get a day off before facing the winner of today’s Jackson State-Southern game.  That should help the Hornets get to the final round.  All basketball fans need to cheer the Hornets to victory, because no other SWAC team should have to face the humiliation of losing by 20-30 points in the play-in round.  ASU can not only compete in the play-in, they could win the game.

At-large Teams:       0         

Bubble:                      None

WAC @ Las Cruces, NM

Tuesday, March 11

Opening Round

#8 San Jose State 64  Louisiana Tech 62

Thursday, March 13

Quarterfinal Round

#1 Utah State 23-9  vs. San Jose State 13-18

#4 Boise State 22-8  vs. Hawaii 11-18

#2 Nevada 20-10  vs. #7 Fresno State 13-18

#3 New Mexico State 19-13  vs. #6 Idaho 8-20

Friday, March 14

Semifinal Round

Utah State-San Jose St.  vs. Boise State-Hawaii

Nevada-Fresno State  vs. New Mexico St.-Idaho

Saturday, March 15

Championship Game

In a conference where four teams tied for the regular season championship, it is obvious that the tournament will be interesting with lots of nail-biter games.  If the four co-champions survive to the semifinal round, the WAC will be the talk of the West.  You have to consider New Mexico State the favorite, as they are really tough to beat in Las Cruces.  You have to pull for Utah State this year.  Last season, the Aggies lost in the title game to New Mexico State 72-70.  In 2006, they lost in overtime in the final to Nevada.  One more basket in either year would have won the Championship for them.

Nevada wasn’t supposed to fare this well this season after losing superstar Nick Fazekas to graduation.  Coach Mark Fox may be in the hunt for a big time job soon.

Unfortunately for this league, no team appears to be on the radar screen for at-large consideration.  No team has an RPI average near bubble range.

At-large Teams:       0

Bubble:                      None (no team is in the 60’s in RPI)

Conference Tournaments Beginning Thursday, March 13

Atlantic Coast  @ Charlotte, NC

Thursday, March 13

Opening Round

#8 Wake Forest 17-12  vs. #9 Florida State 18-13

#5 Miami 21-9  vs. #12 North Carolina State 15-15

#7 Georgia Tech 14-16  vs. #10 Virginia 15-14

#6 Maryland 18-13  vs. #11 Boston College 13-16

Friday, March 14

Quarterfinals

#1 North Carolina 29-2  vs. 8/9 winner

#4 Virginia Tech 18-12  vs. 5/12 winner

#2 Duke 26-4  vs. 7/10 winner

#3 Clemson 22-8  vs. 6/11 winner

Saturday, March 15

Semifinals

1/8/9  vs. 4/5/12

2/7/10  vs. 3/6/11

Sunday, March 16

Championship Game

It’s the ACC that we owe the idea of the post-season tournament and the shot clock.  This league has always fielded a post-season tournament to decide its official NCAA Tournament team, even in the days when just one team went per major conference.  Because of this, some underdogs decided to try to win by stalling the ball.  In the days before a shot clock, it led to boring games some years and a downright farce in another year.  North Carolina State upset Duke 12-10 in the semifinals 40 years ago.  They upset South Carolina in the 1970 Championship Game by stalling and winning 42-39.

Thankfully, that can no longer happen.  So, what do I expect from the 2008 ACC Tournament?  I don’t expect a repeat of 1976 when second to last place (4-8 in the ACC) Virginia, led by Wonderful Wally Walker, upset North Carolina State, Maryland, and North Carolina (all ranked) to win the title.  None of the bottom four teams have a chance.  The middle four teams have some quality talent.  I especially like Miami and expect the Hurricanes to beat NC State and Virginia Tech to earn a trip to the semifinals.  Once there, they would almost assuredly face North Carolina, a team they fell to by 16 points at home.  I don’t think they can get to the final, but a trip to the semis will give the ‘Canes a better seeding in the Dance.

Duke can be beaten inside, but in tournament play, it almost always comes down to backcourt play.  The Blue Devils should comfortably win their quarterfinal match against either Georgia Tech or Virginia.  Their semifinal game would pit them against Maryland or Clemson (or Boston College if the Eagles pulled off two upsets).  This year, the Terps and Tigers didn’t handle the Duke offense too well.  It means there is a good possibility that the big two could face off one more time for the ACC title.  If Clemson could somehow survive and make it to the Championship Game against North Carolina, that would make for terrific copy.   The Tar Heels have been Clemson’s nemesis for decades, and this season may have been the worst example.  UNC beat CU twice in overtime.

As for the three bubble teams, in order to have a realistic shot, it’s semifinals or bust for the Hokies, Terps, and ‘Noles.

At-large Teams:       4, 5, or 6 (UNC, Duke, Clem, Miami)      

Bubble:                      Virginia Tech, Maryland, Florida State

Big 10  @ Indianapolis, IN

Thursday, March 13

Opening Round

#8 Iowa 13-18  vs. #9 Michigan 9-21

#7 Penn State 15-15  vs. #10 Illinois 13-18

#6 Minnesota 18-12  vs. #11 Northwestern 8-21

Friday, March 14

Quarterfinals

#1 Wisconsin 26-4  vs. 8/9 winner

#4 Michigan State 24-7  vs. #5 Ohio State 19-12

#2 Purdue 24-7  vs. 7/10 winner

#3 Indiana 25-6  vs. 6/11 winner

Saturday, March 15

Semifinals

1/8/9  vs. 4/5

2/7/10 vs. 3/6/11

Sunday, March 16

Championship Game

I’ve had the opportunity to follow the Big 10 closer this season than ever before, and I have to say I was a little disappointed.  I believe I am witnessing the same thing in basketball that happened to this conference in football.  Four teams have incredible muscle and finesse, but none of them have the quickness to go deep into the tourney.  I’d be surprised to see more than one team make the Sweet 16, and I don’t see any Big 10 team making the Final Four or maybe the Elite Eight.

Wisconsin lost two close games to Purdue but aced the rest of the league.  Indiana braved a late-season coaching change and didn’t play as well under Dan Dakich.  Purdue lost two of their final five games, while Michigan State split its final 10 games.  Ohio State lost six times in February.  So, the Badgers have to be considered the overwhelming favorite in Indianapolis.  Among the also-rans, the winner of the Penn State and Illinois game has the best chance of breaking through with a big upset and crashing into the semifinals.   That would mean Purdue would be a quarterfinal victim.  I’d also keep a close eye on Minnesota.  If Tubby Smith’s Gophers get by Northwestern (they should win by 15-20 points), they have a decent shot against Indiana in the next round.  That could conceivably lead to Minnesota playing Illinois or Penn State for a berth in the finals.  If the Gophers make it to Sunday, they would then have to get by arch-rival Wisconsin for a trip to the Big Dance.  I’ll stick with the Badgers to win the tournament and enter NCAA play as the league’s one true threat to advance past the Sweet 16.

At-large Teams:       4 or 5 (Wisconsin, Purdue, Indiana, Michigan State) 

Bubble:                      Ohio State

Big 12  @ Kansas City

Thursday, March 13

Opening Round

#8 Texas Tech 16-14  vs. #9 Oklahoma State 16-14

#5 Baylor 21-9  vs. #12 Colorado 11-19

#7 Nebraska 18-11  vs. #10 Missouri 16-15

#6 Texas A&M 22-9  vs. #11 Iowa State 14-17

Friday, March 14

Quarterfinals

#1 Texas 26-5  vs. 8/9 winner

#4 Oklahoma 21-10  vs. 5/12 winner

#2 Kansas 28-3  vs. 7/10 winner

#3 Kansas State 20-10  vs. 6/11 winner

Saturday, March 15

Semifinals

1/8/9  vs. 4/5/12

2/7/10  vs. 3/6/11

Sunday, March 16

Championship Game

No Big 12 team has appeared in the Final Four in the last four tournaments.  The Big 12 placed two teams in the Final Four in both 2002 and 2003, but no league team has ever cut down the nets.  Kansas won the title when they were in the Big Eight in 1988 and Big Seven in 1952.  Can either drought end this year?  Yes!  Kansas and Texas both have the talent to make a run to the Final Four.

Kansas State is a wildcard team in this tournament.  I don’t think the country’s best player, Michael Beasley, can carry the Wildcats to the Big 12 Tournament Championship, but KSU can beat any team in the league.  They just cannot beat three teams in three days in my opinion.

Baylor and Texas A&M find themselves much in the same boat as Kansas State; they are both good enough to upset Kansas or Texas but not Kansas and Texas.

Oklahoma is better than Baylor and Texas A&M, and the Sooners are about on par with Kansas State.  However, I don’t think OU can beat either Texas or Kansas, and they will have a tough enough time with Baylor in the quarterfinals.  They might win that one, but they will exit in the semifinals against Texas.

Oklahoma State and Texas Tech will be an interesting first round match of coaches who are sons of legends.  I think the offspring of Eddie Sutton will beat the offspring of Bobby Knight.  As for the Cowboys, once they dispense of Tech, they just might give Texas the scare of their life; heck, they could catch the Longhorns napping and actually pull off the big upset.  If that happens, OSU will be itching to exact some revenge on Oklahoma in the semis.  If they make it to Sunday, and someone like Kansas State has knocked out Kansas, the ‘Pokes might be cutting down the nets.  Thus, OSU is my dark horse choice if one of the big two does not win it.

At-large Teams:       4 or 5 (Texas, Kansas, Oklahoma, Baylor)         

Bubble:                      Kansas State, Texas A&M

Southeastern  @ Atlanta

Thursday, March 13

Opening Round

#5E South Carolina 13-17  vs. #4W LSU 13-17

#3E Vanderbilt 25-6  vs. #6W Auburn 14-15

#4E Florida 21-10  vs. #5W Alabama 16-15

#6E Georgia 13-16  vs. #3W Ole Miss 21-9

Friday, March 14

Quarterfinals

[A]: #1E Tennessee 28-3  vs. USC/LSU winner

[B]: #2W Arkansas 20-10  vs. Vand./Aub. Winner

[C]: #1W Mississippi St. 21-9  vs. Fla./Ala. Winner

[D]: #2E Kentucky 18-11  vs. Ga./OM winner

Saturday, March 15

A winner vs. B winner

C winner vs. D winner

Sunday, March 16

Championship Game

I wish the SEC would do like the rest of the basketball world and dissolve their divisions like the Big 12 and ACC do.  It makes it hard to set up brackets when you have two of each numbered seed.  That said, this tournament is up for grabs, and I do not expect the top-seeded Tennessee Volunteers to win it.  The Vols have not fared well in the SEC Tournament during the Bruce Pearl era, and I’m not really sure he is concerned about winning it.  The difference between a number one and number two seed is minimal, and his team would benefit from a few more days rest.

So, who should win the tournament?  Let’s eliminate Kentucky, because they don’t have the depth, and their hot shooting is bound to come to an end. 

Vanderbilt isn’t tough enough on the boards, and their only inside threat is too foul prone; also, they would have to win four games in four days, and they don’t have the mental toughness to do that. 

Mississippi State has some questions in their backcourt.  While their frontcourt can dominate anybody, I do not expect the Bulldogs to hide their backcourt deficiencies three consecutive days. 

Arkansas has the talent to go the distance, so let’s make them one of the contenders. 

Florida and Ole Miss are close to having their bubbles burst.  Florida must win at least twice to have any chance, while Ole Miss must still be playing Sunday to get into the discussion.  The Gators have the backcourt strength and just enough inside muscle to make a run to the title.  Ole Miss should get by Georgia (if they do, I expect Bulldog Coach Dennis Felton to get the axe), and they have a decent shot against Kentucky on Friday.  I think that’s as far as they can get in the tourney, if their third round opponent was Mississippi State or Florida.  In the rare event that Alabama won twice, then the Rebels could make it to Sunday.

LSU was a much better team after John Brady left, and by the final weekend, the Tigers were a tough out.  If they beat South Carolina in the opening round, they could be all Tennessee can handle Friday.

Auburn, South Carolina, and Alabama could all win their first game, but don’t expect to see any of them still alive on Saturday.

Georgia has mailed it in, and I’d be shocked if they play Ole Miss close in the first round.

Arkansas is my favorite to pull off the upset.  Kentucky and Mississippi State have the next best chances to win, while Tennessee and Florida are the only other teams I think can win the title.

At-large Teams:       5 (Tennessee, Miss. State, Kentucky, Arkansas, Vanderbilt

Bubble:                      Florida, Ole Miss

Southland  @ Katy, TX (near Houston)

Thursday, March 13

Quarterfinals

#1 Stephen F. Austin 25-4  vs. #8 Texas San Antonio 13-16

#4 Southeast Louisiana 17-12  vs. #5 Northwestern State 13-17

#2 Lamar 19-10  vs. #7 UT-Arlington 18-11

#3 Sam Houston State 22-7  vs. McNeese State 13-15

Friday, March 14

Semifinals

SFA/UTSA winner vs. SELA/NWST winner

Lamar/UTA winner vs. SHSY/MSU winner

Sunday, March 16

Championship Game

Until March 1st, there was a strong possibility that the Southland had a chance at putting two teams into the Field of 65.  Stephen F. Austin won at Oklahoma and at San Diego earlier in the year and moved into the low 40’s in the RPI in late February.  Then, the Lumberjacks lost at home to UT-Arlington, dropping them to the bottom of the bubble.  While they still have an RPI in the same range as Virginia Tech and Villanova, they would only be up for at-large consideration if they lost in the Southland Tournament.  One loss in the tournament would drop them 10 spots or more and out of contention, so the Lumberjacks must win the automatic bid to get into the Dance.

It’s no guarantee that SFA can waltz through this field.  The Lumberjacks will have to defeat either Lamar, Sam Houston, or UT-Arlington in the Championship Game, and any one of that trio can outscore SFA.  

At-large Teams:       0 or 1

Bubble:                      Stephen F. Austin  (road wins against Oklahoma and San Diego)

March 12, 2008

A PiRate Look at the NCAA Basketball Conference Tournaments–March 12, 2008, 6th Update

 

A PiRate Look at the NCAA Basketball Conference Tournaments

March 12, 2008, 6th Update

Conference Tournament Results through Tuesday, March 11, 2008

America East

1st Three Rounds At Binghamton, NY.  Championship Game At Higher Seed

Opening Round

#8 Stony Brook 73  vs. #9 Maine 65  ot

Saturday, March 8

Quarterfinals

#1 Md. Balt. Co. 76  Stony Brook 60

#4 Vermont 65  #5 Binghamton 57

#2 Hartford 68  #7 New Hampshire 65

#6 Boston U. 68  #3 Albany 64  ot

Sunday, March 9

Semifinals

Md. Balt. Co. 73  Vermont 64

Hartford 59  Boston U. 52

Saturday, March 15

Championship Game

Hartford 18-15  at Maryland-Baltimore Co. 23-8

At-Large Teams:      0

Bubble:                      None

UMBC didn’t have to play Binghamton, and that made their task much easier.  Hartford had a tough time with two weak opponents to get this far, and the clock will strike midnight for them Saturday.  While these two teams split a pair of one-point games during the regular season, I believe UMBC should win this rubber match by 10 or more points and earn their first trip to the Big Dance, where they could be a #14 seed.  Of particular interest in this championship game will be the match-up of two, small, but beefy forwards.  Hartford’s Warren McLendon and UMBC’s Darryl Proctor will battle it out for close to 40 minutes and make this game worth watching.

Atlantic Sun

Quarterfinals

#4 East Tennessee 81 #5 Lipscomb 74

#6 Gardner-Webb 82  #3 Stetson 63

#2 Jacksonville 65  #7 Mercer 57

#1 Belmont 75  #8 Campbell 66

Semifinals

Jacksonville 89 Gardner-Webb 80

Belmont 69 East Tennessee 65

Saturday, March 8

Championship

Belmont 79  Jacksonville 61

The Bruins broke out of their two-game mini-slump and hit the outside shots.  When Belmont gets hot from behind the arc, they are tough against any opponent.  At 25-8, they should not be a #16 or #15 seed playing a Final Four team in the first round like they have the past two seasons.

At-Large Teams:      0

Bubble:                      None

Big Sky                    

Saturday, March 8

Quarterfinals

#4 Idaho State 67  #5 Montana 65

#3 Weber State 65  #6 Montana State 49

Tuesday, March 11 @ Portland, OR

Semifinals

#1 Portland State 72  Idaho State 61

#2 Northern Arizona 75  Weber State 70

Wednesday, March 12 @ Portland, OR

Championship Game

Northern Arizona 21-10  at Portland State 22-9

Portland State has won 13 of its last 14 games.  The Vikings swept Northern Arizona during the season and get to host the championship game.  At home in the Big Sky, PSU went undefeated.  The Viking backcourt is by far the best in the league, and their frontcourt, led by big Canadian Scott Morrison, isn’t exactly a liability. It looks like an easy trip to the Big Dance for Coach Ken Bone and his squad, correct?  Not on your life! 

Northern Arizona has run off six consecutive victories, and the Lumberjacks have a dominating inside presence in Kyle Landry.  In the two games against PSU, Landry didn’t produce in the 14-point loss, but he had a great game in the narrow three-point loss.  He needs to go for about 18 points and 10 rebounds tonight to make this a great game.  The Lumberjacks’ backcourt is strong, but not as strong as their opponent tonight.  If you watch this game, look at how the teams’ two play-makers perform in the early going.  If one has better fluidity running his team’s offense, that may tip you off as to which team is going to win.  For Portland State, look at #10 Jeremiah Dominguez (tiny 5-6 sparkplug); for NAU, monitor #21 Josh Wilson

At-Large Teams:      0

Bubble:                      None

Big South

Opening Round

#1 UNC-Asheville 87  #8 Charleston Southern 63

#4 Liberty 103  #5 VMI 88

#2 Winthrop 76  #7 Radford 45

#3 High Point 59  #6 Coastal Carolina 56

Semifinals

UNC-Asheville 75  Liberty 57

Winthrop 61  High Point 53

Saturday, March 8 @ Asheville, NC

Championship Game

Winthrop 66  UNC-Asheville 48

Winthrop’s defense completely shut down the UNCA offense, and the home team panicked when they found themselves down by eight points.  This Eagle team is not as talented as last year’s great squad, but they could cause a headache for the opposing coach in a first-round NCAA Tournament game.

At-Large Teams:      0

Bubble:                      None

Colonial Athletic Association

All Games Played At Richmond, VA (Virginia Commonwealth host team)

#9 Towson State 81  #8 Towson State 66

#5 William & Mary 58 #12 Georgia State 57

#6 Delaware 60  #11 Drexel 51

#7 Northeastern 73 #10 James Madison 59

Saturday, March 8

Quarterfinals

#1 Virginia Commonwealth 57  Towson State 46

William & Mary 63  #4 Old Dominion 60

#3 UNC-Wilmington 82  Delaware 59

#2 George Mason 63  Northeastern 52

Sunday, March 9

Semifinals

William & Mary 56  Virginia Commonwealth 54

George Mason 53  UNC-Wilmington 41

Monday, March 10

Championship Game

George Mason 68  William & Mary 59

George Mason’s experience and superior team play earned them another trip to the Dance, but unlike their last appearance in 2006, this one may last just one game.  This team isn’t nearly as strong inside as the Final Four squad, and it will prove costly against a first-round opponent that will more than likely be just as quick and have more muscle.  Expect GMU to be no better than a #13 seed.

VCU is on the bubble, but the Rams just may be NIT-bound.  I expect Coach Anthony Grant to be somewhere else in October.  With a plethora of bigger jobs open, he will be offered a chance to become an instant millionaire.  If his team gets the shaft and doesn’t get an at-large bid, that will convince him to leave VCU for a place where a 24-7 record always gets you in the Field of 65-some place like Baton Rouge, LA.

At-Large Teams:      0 or 1

Bubble:                      Virginia Commonwealth 24-7  RPI Avg.: 61.3 *     * = average of four RPIs I can get for free.

Horizon League              

All Games Played At Indianapolis (Butler host team)

Opening Round

#3 Wright State 60  #10 Detroit 37

#6 Valparaiso 75  #7 UW-Green Bay 67

#4 Illinois-Chicago 70  #9 Youngstown State 59

#8 Loyola (Chi.) 57  #5 UW-Milwaukee 51

Quarterfinals

Valparaiso 72  Wright State 67

Illinois-Chicago 60 Loyola (Chi.) 49

Saturday, March 8

Semifinals

#2 Cleveland State 78  Valparaiso 73

#1 Butler 66  Illinois-Chicago 50

Tuesday, March 11

Championship

Butler 70  Cleveland State 55

Butler deserves to be at least a #4-seed and probably a #3-seed.  This Bulldog team may be the best squad in the Midwest this year.  Look at their resume.  They beat Michigan by 14.  They slaughtered Ohio State by 19 on a night where they couldn’t throw it in the ocean but relied on spectacular defense.  They knocked off both Florida State at home and Texas Tech in Lubbock by double digits, and they added a win at Virginia Tech.  They may not be my pick for the mid-major with the best chance of making the Final Four, but no big conference school is going to be happy having them as an opponent.  This team should make the Sweet 16, and if they get a dream draw and don’t have to play teams that have exceptional quickness with poise, they could go deeper.

At-Large Teams:      0

Bubble:                      None (Cleveland State is just below the Bubble and should get a bid to the NIT)

Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference

All Games Played At Albany, NY (Siena host team)

Opening Round

#8 Manhattan 73  #9 St. Peter’s 59

#10 Canisius 64  #7 Iona 59

Saturday, March 8

Quarterfinals

#1 Siena 66  Manhattan 58

#4 Loyola (Md.) 64  #5 Fairfield 59

#2 Rider 75  Canisius 71

#6 Marist 66  #3 Niagara 62

Sunday, March 9

Semifinals

Siena 65  Loyola (Md.) 63

Rider 76  Marist 71

Monday, March 10

Championship Game

Siena 74  Rider 53

Siena outplayed Rider, and Coach Fran McCaffrey had his squad ready to go, while Rider coach Tommy Dempsey didn’t make the proper adjustments for his squad to stay in contention.  Too many times, Rider put up ridiculous shots when Jason Thompson was still trying to get into position.  Not only did it prevent the league’s most dominant low post player (maybe the best ever out of the MAAC) from dominating inside, it allowed Siena to get a leg up on their possession. 

I don’t see the Saints pulling off an upset like they did when they knocked off Pac-10 champ Stanford almost 20 years ago, but they should keep a first round game close enough not to be embarrassed.

I hope Rider gets a chance to play in the NIT.  Thompson needs more national coverage; he’s going to be tough to defend in the NBA.

At-Large Teams:      0

Bubble:                      None

Missouri Valley @ St. Louis (Arch Madness)

Opening Round

#8 Indiana State 71  #9 Wichita State 67

#7 Missouri State 69 #10 Evansville 46

Quarterfinals

#1 Drake 68  Indiana State 46

#4 Creighton 74  #5 Bradley 70

#2 Illinois State 63  Missouri State 58

#6 Northern Iowa 54  #3 Southern Illinois 49

Saturday, March 8

Semifinals

Drake 75 Creighton 67

Illinois State 56 Northern Iowa 42

Sunday, March 9

Championship

Drake 79  Illinois State 49

At-Large Teams:      0 or 1

Bubble:                      Illinois State 23-9  RPI avg. 35.5

Drake looked like a Final Four team Sunday.  The Bulldogs’ defense was reminiscent of Jerry Tarkanian’s Amoeba Defense at UNLV in 1990 and 1991.  The team effort was outstanding, and if the Bulldogs continue to play with the same intensity, they will be at least a Sweet 16 team if not an Elite Eight team.  Drake has one Final Four appearance in its history.  In 1969, the Bulldogs had a dominating inside presence with Willie Wise, Willie McCarter, and Dolph Pulliam.  In the six-year run as National Champs spanning from the years of Lew Alcindor/Kareem Abdul Jabbar to Bill Walton, it was the 1969 Drake team that came the closest to dethroning the Bruins.  UCLA almost blew a double digit lead late in the game and had to hold on for a three-point victory.  The Bruins then slaughtered Purdue in the championship, while Drake blew away by 20 points a North Carolina team led by Charlie Scott in the consolation game.

Even though they were embarrassed, Illinois State is firmly on the bubble.  The MVC usually gets multiple teams into the Field of 65, and the Redbirds proved to be the second best team.

Northeast

Quarterfinal

#1 Robert Morris 64  #8 Monmouth 50

#4 Mt. St. Mary’s 80  #5 Quinnipiac 70

#2 Wagner 71  #7 Long Island 62

#3 Sacred Heart 84  #6 Central Connecticut State 71

Sunday, March 9

Semifinals

Mt. St. Mary’s 83  Robert Morris 65

Sacred Heart 55  Wagner 49

Wednesday, March 12

Championship

Mt. St. Mary’s 17-14 at Sacred Heart 18-13

At-Large Teams:      0

Bubble:                      None

This is a weird set of circumstances here.  Mt. St. Mary’s looked impressive in downing Quinnipiac in the quarterfinals, but what the Mountaineers did to top seed Robert Morris Sunday night was incredible.  They completely destroyed a team that hadn’t lost since January 13th, and now the Mount is the hottest team in the league.

On the other side of the bracket, Sacred Heart held off Wagner to advance to the finals.  It isn’t much of a surprise that the Pioneers have advanced to the championship game, which they will host Wednesday night.  SHU was supposed to be the top dog in the league this year, and the team underachieved.  Maybe, they will right their wrongs this week and grab the crown they were supposed to obtain all along.  With MSM riding an emotional high, it figures they won’t bring their A-game to Fairfield.

Ohio Valley Conference

Quarterfinals @ Higher Seed

#1 Austin Peay 76  #8 Eastern Kentucky 51

#4 UT-Martin 101  #5 Samford 94  3ot

#2 Murray State 77  #7 Tennessee Tech 74

#6 Tennessee State 68  #3 Morehead State 61

Semifinals @ Nashville

Austin Peay 78  UT-Martin 77

Tennessee State 83 Murray State 75

Saturday, March 8

Championship

Austin Peay 82 Tennessee State 64

At-Large Teams:      0

Bubble:                      None

Austin Peay totally dominated the championship game, and it was never in doubt after about 10 minutes of action.  The Governors have a veteran team; they don’t have enough inside muscle to advance in the NCAA Tournament, but if their offense is clicking, they could make it interesting.

Patriot League

Quarterfinals

#1 American 62  #8 Holy Cross 60

#5 Army 64  #4 Lehigh 61 ot

#7 Bucknell 87  #2 Navy 86 3ot

#3 Colgate 76  #6 Lafayette 74

Sunday, March 9

Semifinals

American  72 Army 60

Colgate 54  Bucknell 40

Friday, March 14

Championship

Colgate 18-13 at American 20-11

At-Large Teams:      0

Bubble:                      None

This should be a close game, and it wouldn’t surprise me if it went to overtime.  American beat Colgate twice by eight points this year, and I expect the Red Raiders to be ready to exact some revenge. 

American has won nine of its last 10 games, and the Eagles have the best backcourt in the Patriot League.  In tournaments, guard play is very important, as the backcourt that makes more errors or forces the fewer errors usually comes from the losing team.  I’ll go with American in this one, which will allow Coach Jeff Jones to get back to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since he was at Virginia in the 1990’s.

Southern Conference

All Games Played At Charleston, SC (College of Charleston host team)

Opening Round

#8 Wofford 58  #9 Western Carolina 49

#7 Elon 52  #10 Furman 37

#6 Charleston 66  #11 Citadel 48

Saturday, March 8

Quarterfinals

#1 Davidson 82 Wofford 49

#5 UNC-Greensboro 63  #4 Appalachian State 46

Elon 60  #2 Chattanooga 57

Coll. of Charleston 87  #3 Georgia Southern 73

Sunday, March 9

Semifinals

Davidson 82 UNCG 52

Elon 75  Charleston 61

Monday, March 10

Championship Game

Davidson 65  Elon 49

At-Large Teams:      0

Bubble:                      None

In the 1973 Belmont Stakes, the great Secretariat ran so far ahead of the field, it was if he took a wrong turn and ended up on another track.  As he was flying down the stretch, the CBS announcer commented that Secretariat was “running like a tremendous machine!”  That’s the way Davidson has been to the rest of the SoCon field.  The Wildcats just show up and play their average game, and that’s good enough to beat any league foe by double digits.  Monday night, the Wildcats did nothing spectacular, but they destroyed Elon in the Championship game. 

What should worry Davidson fans is the fact that this team hasn’t been tested for three months.  The effort that easily won them the conference championship game will not suffice against a Purdue, Mississippi State, Stanford, or Clemson.  It will not get them a win over Butler, Drake, or even San Diego.  It might be enough to beat Winthrop, Siena, or Austin Peay, but this Wildcat team knows it is good enough to play even into April.  If Davidson plays like they did against Wofford and UNC-Greensboro in the first two tournament games or like they did against Georgia Southern in the regular season finale, they can be the 2008 version of George Mason.  They know they can compete against North Carolina, Duke, and UCLA, so there isn’t a team than can intimidate them.  It’s all up to the players; if they bring their A-game to the Dance, they will advance to the Sweet 16 and have a shot at becoming one of the members of the last quartet in the tourney.  They missed by a few seconds of doing just that in 1968 and 1969, when North Carolina edged them by four and two points respectively in the East Regional Finals.

Summit League @ Tulsa (Oral Roberts host team)                  

Saturday, March 8

Quarterfinals

#1 Oral Roberts 84 #8 Centenary 56

#2 IUPUI 69  #7 Missouri-Kansas City 65

Sunday, March 9

Quarterfinals

#5 IPFW 66  #4 Southern Utah 62

#3 Oakland 80 #6 Western Illinois 66

Monday, March 10

Semifinals

Oral Roberts 58 IPFW 42

IUPUI 80 Oakland 65

Tuesday, March 11

Championship

Oral Roberts 71  IUPUI 64

At-Large Teams:      0

Bubble:                      None (IUPUI’s RPI is too low for consideration)

Oral Roberts takes care of the ball, plays very good defense, and rebounds well.  They rarely beat themselves, but I don’t see the Golden Eagles playing past the first weekend of the Big Dance, and I don’t give them much chance to play more than one game.  I expect they will draw a third or fourth place team from a power conference, and they don’t have the talent to compete against a Connecticut, Oklahoma, Clemson, or Southern Cal.

Sunbelt Conference                   

1st Round

#8 New Orleans 65  #9 Denver 60

#4 Middle Tennessee 74  #13 Louisiana Monroe 69

#12 Troy 70  #5 Louisiana Lafayette 60

#6 North Texas 85  #11 Arkansas State 63

#7 Florida Atlantic 91  #10 Florida International 64

Sunday, March 9 @ Mobile, AL

Quarterfinals

South Alabama 81  New Orleans 77

Middle Tennessee 65  Troy 59

Western Kentucky 84  North Texas 70

Arkansas Little Rock 66  Florida Atlantic 60

Monday, March 10 @ Mobile, AL

Semifinals

Middle Tennessee 82  South Alabama 73

Western Kentucky 70 Arkansas-Little Rock 55

Tuesday, March 11 @ Mobile, AL

Championship

Western Kentucky 67  Middle Tennessee 57

At-Large Teams:      0 or 1

Bubble:                      South Alabama (Avg. RPI 39.3)

Western Kentucky looked like a team that belonged in the Big Dance in the Sunbelt Tournament.  The Hilltoppers handled North Texas, UALR, and MTSU by an average of 13 points.  WKU has enough talent to be a match-up problem for many teams.  I could see the Hilltoppers taking a patient team out of their comfort zone and with the aid of one quick run put a game out of reach.  In a year where at least a half dozen mid-majors have the talent to advance to the Sweet 16, you have to include Western in the mix.  If Jeremy Evans continues to play the way he did in the last two games, this team could make a run at the Final Four.  The only real weakness was a lack of an outstanding post presence, but Evans not only rectified that liability in the semis and finals, he helped offset a shooting slump by star shooter Courtney Lee.

South Alabama will sit on pins and needles until next Sunday.  The Jaguars have an RPI good enough to get them an at-large invitation, but there are still too many tournaments left that could produce a surprise winner and burst some bubbles.

 West Coast Conference

All Games Played At San Diego (San Diego host team)

Opening Round

#5 San Francisco 79  # 8 Loyola Marymount 60

#6 Pepperdine 50  #7 Portland 48  ot

Saturday, March 8

Quarterfinals

#4 Santa Clara 51  San Francisco 50

#3 San Diego 75  Pepperdine 55

Sunday, March 9

#1 Gonzaga 52  Santa Clara 48

San Diego 75  #2 St. Mary’s 69  2ot

Monday, March 10

Championship Game

San Diego 69 Gonzaga 62

At-Large Teams:      0, 1 or 2 (Gonzaga & St. Mary’s)

Bubble:                      St. Mary’s 25-6  Avg. RPI 39.5

                                    Gonzaga 25-7  Avg. RPI 30.3

Here’s where some bubble teams are a bit nervous.  The host team San Diego Toreros knocked off St. Mary’s and Gonzaga.  St. Mary’s and Gonzaga both deserve at-large bids, so three WCC teams getting invitations will hurt teams like Florida, Villanova, Syracuse, Ohio State, Kansas State, and the like.

As for USD, remember this is a team that won at Kentucky this year.  They could win a first round game.

Already Clinched Automatic Berth in NCAA Tournament (12)

 1. Cornell (22-5)-Ivy League Champion

 2. Winthrop (22-11)-Big South Champion

 3. Austin Peay (24-10)-Ohio Valley Champion

 4. Belmont (25-8)-Atlantic Sun Champion

 5. Drake (28-4)-Missouri Valley Champion

 6. George Mason (23-10)-Colonial Champion

 7. Siena (22-10)-Metro Atlantic Champion

 8. Davidson (26-6)-Southern Champion

 9. San Diego (21-13)-West Coast Champion

10. Oral Roberts (24-8)-Summit Champion

11. Western Kentucky (27-6)-Sunbelt Champion

12. Butler (29-3)-Horizon Champion

This may be the best first dozen automatic qualifiers ever.  Of this group, at least six have a chance of winning first round games, while three or four are good enough to make it to the Sweet 16.

Only 53 teams left to go!

Conference Tournaments Beginning Tuesday, March 11

MEAC @ Raleigh, NC

Tuesday, March 11

Opening Round

#7 Coppin State 55  #10 Howard 54

#8 South Carolina State 78  #9 Bethune Cookman 69

Wednesday, March 12

Opening Round

#6 Florida A&M 14-16  vs. #11 Maryland Eastern Shore 4-27

Quarterfinal Round

#2 Hampton 18-11 vs. Coppin State 13-20

#1 Morgan State 20-9 vs. South Carolina State 13-19

Thursday, March 13

Quarterfinal Round

#3 Norfolk State 15-14  vs. winner of FAMU-UMES

#4 Delaware State 13-15  vs. #5 North Carolina A&T 15-15

Friday, March 14

Semifinal Round

Morgan St.-SC State  vs. Del. St.-NCAT

Hampton-Coppin vs. Norfolk-FAMU-UMES

Saturday, March 15

Championship Game

Note: There will be a bonus game prior to the Championship Game to be played between North Carolina Central (3-26) and Winston-Salem State (12-17), two future MEAC teams.

Morgan State gives the MEAC its best chance to win an NCAA Tournament game, but it’s no given they will survive the MEAC Tournament.  Even though the Golden Bears won 13 of their final 14 games, the MEAC Tournament is the Saratoga Race Track of the NCAA-it’s where champions get upset.  Just ask Delaware State last year.  The Hornets were more dominating in 2007 than Morgan State has been this year, but they fell to Florida A&M in the title game. 

Who might be this season’s FAMU?  I’d keep an eye on Jerry Eaves’ North Carolina A&T team.  The Aggies have the depth to win three games in three days, and they have enough scoring options so that somebody will have a hot hand every game.

At-large Teams:       0

Bubble:                      None

WAC @ Las Cruces, NM

Tuesday, March 11

Opening Round

#8 San Jose State 64  Louisiana Tech 62

Thursday, March 13

Quarterfinal Round

#1 Utah State 23-9  vs. San Jose State 13-18

#4 Boise State 22-8  vs. Hawaii 11-18

#2 Nevada 20-10  vs. #7 Fresno State 13-18

#3 New Mexico State 19-13  vs. #6 Idaho 8-20

Friday, March 14

Semifinal Round

Utah State-San Jose St.  vs. Boise State-Hawaii

Nevada-Fresno State  vs. New Mexico St.-Idaho

Saturday, March 15

Championship Game

In a conference where four teams tied for the regular season championship, it is obvious that the tournament will be interesting with lots of nail-biter games.  If the four co-champions survive to the semifinal round, the WAC will be the talk of the West.  You have to consider New Mexico State the favorite, as they are really tough to beat in Las Cruces.  You have to pull for Utah State this year.  Last season, the Aggies lost in the title game to New Mexico State 72-70.  In 2006, they lost in overtime in the final to Nevada.  One more basket in either year would have won the Championship for them.

Nevada wasn’t supposed to fare this well this season after losing superstar Nick Fazekas to graduation.  Coach Mark Fox may be in the hunt for a big time job soon.

Unfortunately for this league, no team appears to be on the radar screen for at-large consideration.  No team has an RPI average near bubble range.

At-large Teams:       0

Bubble:                      None (no team is in the 60’s in RPI)

Conference Tournaments Beginning Wednesday, March 14

Atlantic 10  @ Atlantic City, NJ

Wednesday, March 12

Opening Round

#8 Dayton 20-9  vs. #9 St. Louis 16-14

#5 St. Joseph’s 18-11  vs. #12 Fordham 12-16

#7 LaSalle 14-16  vs. #10 Duquesne 17-12

#6 Charlotte 18-12 vs. #11 Rhode Island 21-10

Thursday, March 13

Quarterfinals

#1 Xavier 26-5  vs. 8/9 winner

#4 Richmond 16-13  vs. 5/12 winner

#2 Temple 18-12  vs. 7/10 winner

#3 Massachusetts 21-9 vs. 6/11 winner

Friday, March 14

Semifinals

1/8/9 winner  vs. 4/5/12 winner

2/7/10 winner  vs. 3/6/11 winner

Saturday, March 15

Championship Game

At-large Teams:       1 or 2 (Xavier for sure, U Mass maybe)

Bubble:                      U Mass

Xavier is in the Big Dance even if they drop their first A-10 Tournament game.  U Mass finished the season on a roll, as Coach Travis Ford had his Minutemen playing like a Rick Pitino Kentucky team out of the 199o’s (gee, I wonder why?)

Rhode Island and Dayton both looked tourney-worthy a couple of months ago, but they are seeded too low to be considered serious at-large candidates.  Dayton would have to beat St. Louis and Xavier to get to the semifinals, and I don’t see that happening.  URI would need victories over Charlotte and U Mass to get to the semis, and while I don’t see that happening either, they have a much better chance of getting there than the Flyers do in their part of the bracket.

Keep an eye on Coach Fran Dunphy’s Temple Owls.  They flew under the radar screen all year, but they have the talent to get to the finals Saturday.  They should have little trouble against LaSalle or Duquesne in the quarterfinals, and they match up well with U Mass in a probable semifinal match.

Big East  @ Madison Square Garden in NYC

Wednesday, March 12

Opening Round

#8 Villanova 19-11  vs. #9 Syracuse 19-12

#5 West Virginia 22-9  vs. #12 Providence 15-15

#7 Pittsburgh 22-9  vs. #10 Cincinnati 13-17

#6 Marquette 22-8  vs. #11 Seton Hall 17-14

Thursday, March 13

Quarterfinals

#1 Georgetown 25-4  vs. 8/9 winner

#4 Connecticut 24-7  vs. 5/12 winner

#2 Louisville 24-7  vs. 7/10 winner

#3 Notre Dame 24-6  vs. 6/11 winner

Friday, March 14

Semifinals

1/8/9  vs. 4/5/12

2/7/10  vs. 3/6/11

Saturday, March 15

Championship Game

The Big East Tournament is always exciting, especially since the league expanded to 16 teams.  By limiting the tourney to 12 teams, it usually means that eight or more teams have a realistic shot at winning the tournament. 

This year, the most important game may be the opening round match between Villanova and Syracuse.  The winner moves up on the bubble, while the loser can plan on playing another home game in the venerable NIT.

Another interesting opening round game will be the Marquette-Seton Hall contest.  Seton Hall has not at-large hopes, but they have an ideal bracket to be the surprise team.  Their path to the finals would necessitate them beating Marquette, Notre Dame, and Louisville or Pittsburgh.  They would avoid Connecticut and Georgetown, the two tough physical teams they probably cannot beat.

If I had to predict a champion in this Tournament (and it would be a crapshoot pick), I would go with U Conn.  The Huskies know they are in the NCAA Tournament regardless of the outcome at Madison Square Garden, but I think Jim Calhoun has his squad playing at their peak.  I expect U Conn to make it to the Elite 8.  A Georgetown-U Conn semifinal match will be one for the ages. 

The other team to watch out for in this tournament is West Virginia.  One win guarantees the Mountaineers an at-large bid, and Providence should be the necessary fodder.  WVU and U Conn will make one of the most interesting quarterfinal games of any tournament.

 Yes, the games at MSG should be as exciting and worthy of purchasing a ducat as any Red Sox-Yankees series up in the Bronx.  Give me court-side seats, a couple of Manhattan Kosher hot dogs, and a potato knish (no egg crème needed), and I will be more than happy to attend this tournament and watch every minute of every game.  Since Billy Crystal will be busy playing for the Yankees, I’ll take his seats.

At-large Teams:       7 or 8 (G’town, UL, ND, UConn, WVU, Marq., Pitt)

Bubble:                      Villanova, Syracuse

Big West Tournament  @ Anaheim, CA

Wednesday, March 12

Opening Round

#5 UC-Irvine 15-15  vs. #8 Long Beach State 6-24

#6 Cal Poly 12-17  vs. #7 UC-Riverside 8-20

Thursday, March 13

Quarterfinals

#3 Cal State Fullerton 21-8  vs. Lower Seed that wins on Wednesday

#4 Pacific 21-9  vs. Higher Seed that wins on Wednesday

Friday, March 14

Semifinals

#1 UC Santa Barbara 23-7 vs. lowest remaining seed

#2 Cal State Northridge 21-8 vs. highest remaining seed

Saturday, March 15

Championship Game

The Big West rewards its top teams.  The top two seeds receive byes to the semifinals, while teams three and four receive first round byes.  In this type of seeding, the top two teams have huge advantages and almost always produce the tournament champion.  I expect that to be true here.  Cal State Fullerton and Pacific should win their quarterfinal games and give UCSB and CSN great semifinal games.  It wouldn’t surprise me in the least to see the Titans or Tigers make it to the finals, but not both.  If only one of the top two seeds advance to the Championship Game, I expect that team to win the automatic bid over the three or four-seed.  UCSB has an excellent backcourt, and it’s the better backcourts that have been winning in conference tournament play so far.  I expect them to beat CS-Fullerton for the Title.

At-large Teams:       0

Bubble:                      None

Conference USA  @ Memphis

Wednesday, March 12

Opening Round

#5 Southern Miss. 17-13  vs. #12 Rice

#8 Marshall 16-13  vs. #9 Tulane 16-14

#7 Tulsa 17-12  vs. #10 East Carolina 11-18

#6 UTEP 17-12  vs. SMU 10-19

Thursday, March 13

Quarterfinals

#1 Memphis 30-1  vs. 8/9 winner

#4 Central Florida 16-14  vs. 5/12 winner

#2 Ala.-Birmingham 22-9  vs. 7/10 winner

#3 Houston 22-8  vs. 6/11 winner

Friday, March 14

Semifinals

1/8/9  vs. 4/5/12

2/7/10  vs. 3/6/11

Saturday, March 15

Championship Game

Back in the late 1930’s the talk every spring amongst the American League baseball teams centered on which team would finish second.  It was a foregone conclusion that the Yankees would finish first by more than a dozen games.  That’s what has become of CUSA basketball.  Memphis is the murderer’s row of the league, and the only thing to decide is the team that will play the part of the Washington Generals to the Tigers in the Championship Game.

UAB and Houston are the co-favorites for making it to the title game.  The Blazers have the easier quarterfinal game, because UTEP could give the Cougars a good run for their money.  The team that loses to Memphis in the finals should be on the upper half of the bubble, while the semifinal loser should see their bubble burst.

At-large Teams:       0 or 1 (Memphis has 99.99% chance of winning automatic bid)

Bubble:                      Tourney Runner-up if it is Houston or UAB

Mid-American Conference @ Cleveland

Wednesday, March 12

Opening Round

#8 Toledo 10-18  vs. #9 Bowling Green 13-16

#5 Miami (O) 15-14  vs. #12 Buffalo 10-19

#7 Eastern Michigan 13-16  vs. #10 Ball State 6-23

#6 Central Michigan 13-16  vs. #11 Northern Illinois 6-21

Thursday, March 13

Quarterfinals

#1 Kent State 25-6  vs. 8/9 winner

#4 Ohio U 19-11  vs. 5/12 winner

#2 Western Michigan 19-11  vs. 7/10 winner

#3 Akron 21-9  vs. 6/11 winner

Friday, March 14

Semifinals

1/8/9  vs. 4/5/12

2/7/10  vs. 3/6/11

Saturday, March 15

Championship Game

It’s hard to imagine any team playing on Wednesday still playing on Friday.  There was a Grand Canyon-sized difference between the top four teams and the rest of the league.  If the top four teams advance to the semifinals, it should make for exciting basketball on Friday and Saturday.

Kent State has a good shot at getting into the Big Dance if they lose on Saturday.  It the Flashes fall on Friday, then it gets dicey.  Ohio U can knock off the top-seed, and I give the Bobcats about a 45% chance of doing so if they meet in the semis.  On the other side of the bracket, I expect #3-seed Akron to survive to the final round.  The Zips were massacred at Western Michigan in perhaps their worst game of the season.  They will get their revenge in a probable semifinal match.

At-large Teams:       1 (Kent State)

Bubble:                      None

Mountain West  @ Las Vegas

Wednesday, March 12

Opening Round

#8 Wyoming 12-17  vs. Colorado State 6-24

Thursday, March 13

Quarterfinals

#1 BYU 25-6  vs. 8/9 winner

#4 San Diego State 19-11  vs. #5 Air Force 16-13

#2 UNLV 23-7  vs. #7 TCU 14-15

#3 New Mexico 24-7 vs. #6 Utah 16-13

Friday, March 14

Semifinals

1/8/9  vs. 4/5

2/7  vs. 3/6

Saturday, March 15

Championship Game

The Mountain West Conference always puts on a good show at tournament time.  Being in Vegas makes it all the more worth attending.  This year, the MWC has two at-large worthy teams in BYU and UNLV.  I think both are safe regardless of how they fare in the MWC Tournament.  The question then is can another team win the automatic bid, allowing three teams to make it to the Dance?  The answer is yes!  When he was at Southwest Missouri and Iowa, Coach Steve Alford’s teams performed above their regular season level come tourney time.  He won the Big 10 Tournament one season with a mediocre team.  This year, he has a rather strong New Mexico team, and the Lobos are more than capable of cutting down the nets Saturday.  They will have to get past the host Runnin’ Rebels to make it to the title game, but the Lobos are talented enough to do it. UNM won eight of their final nine games, with the lone loss being an overtime heartbreak against BYU.

The other possible surprise in this tournament could be San Diego State.  After losing their regular season finale to the Falcons, the Aztecs should beat Air Force in the quarterfinals, and they could be primed to upset BYU in the semis.  During the regular season, SDSU matched up well with the top-seeded Cougars.

At-large Teams:       2 (BYU, UNLV)

Bubble:                      New Mexico

Pac-10  @ The Staples Center in Los Angeles

Wednesday, March 12

Opening Round

#8 Washington 16-15  vs. #9 California 15-14

#7 Arizona 18-13  vs. #10 Oregon State 6-24

Thursday, March 13

Quarterfinals

#1 UCLA 28-3  vs. 8/9 winner

#4 Southern Cal 20-10  vs. #5 Arizona State 19-11

#2 Stanford 24-6  vs. 7/10 winner

#3 Washington State 23-7  vs. Oregon 18-12

Friday, March 14

Semifinals

1/8/9  vs. 4/5

2/7/10  vs. 3/6

Saturday, March 15

Championship Game

There are several conference tournaments that should be quite exciting, but I expect the Pac-10 Tournament to be an all-out war with nine teams having a chance to cut down the nets.  There are several intangible factors coming into play here.

Top-seed UCLA won not just one but two controversial games at Pauley Pavilion to close out the regular season.  The win over Cal was as bad as a Lyndon Johnson election.  The Golden Bears must get by Washington to have a rematch with the Bruins, and if that game comes about, I expect it to be one where there could be a fight if the game gets rough.  It’s not a foregone conclusion that Cal will make it to the second round, as Washington is fighting for its post-season life.  While the Huskies never got their formerly strong offense untracked, they showed signs of life in the second half of the Pac-10 schedule.  Cal and UW split their games this season with the visiting team winning both time.  It should be a great game.

The USC-Arizona State game on Thursday will be an interesting one to watch.  The Trojans finished the regular season winning five of six games, and that one loss came at Arizona State.  The Sun Devils need to win at least two games and maybe the tournament to get into the Dance.

With the announcement that Lute Olson plans on returning to Arizona next season dominating the headlines in Tucson, I expect the Wildcats to be distracted just enough to struggle with lifeless Oregon State in the first round and go home after losing to Stanford in the quarterfinals.  I expect the Cardinal to be in the semifinals against a surprising Oregon Ducks squad.  I expect Oregon, playing for Coach Ernie Kent’s job, to upset Washington State in the quarterfinals after losing to the Cougars twice in the regular season.  The Ducks are on the bottom of the bubble heading to LA, and they need to win at least twice to have a realistic shot.  This Duck team underachieved this year, and they have the talent to make it to Saturday.

At-large Teams:       4 or 5 (UCLA, Stanford, Washington State, Southern Cal)

Bubble:                      Arizona, Arizona State, Oregon

S W A C  @ Birmingham

Wednesday, March 12

Quarterfinals

#1 Alabama State 19-9  vs. #8 Texas Southern 7-24

#2 Mississippi Valley 14-15  vs. #7 Grambling 7-18

Thursday, March 13

Quarterfinals

#3 Alabama A&M 14-14  vs. #6 Arkansas Pine Bluff 12-17

#4 Jackson State 12-19  vs. #5 Southern 11-18

Friday, March 14

Semifinals

Ala. St. or Tx Sou.  vs. Jackson St. or Southern

Miss Vall. or Grambling vs. Ala. A&M or Ark.-OB

Saturday, March 15

Championship Game

Alabama State handily won the regular season SWAC title and became the only team to finish the year with a winning record.  If they don’t win the conference tournament, this league will field possibly the weakest ever NCAA Play-in Round participant.

It’s no given that the Hornets will win the tourney.  They lost at home to Alcorn State, a team that finished 7-24 and lost to Tougaloo (an NAIA team that finished fourth in its conference).  #2-seed Mississippi Valley won their final six games, but they too lost to Alcorn State. 

So, if this tournament is really up for grabs, like I believe it is, which dark horse team might emerge as the upset champion and advance to Dayton, Ohio, March 18th?  I think Jackson State has a good chance at beating Southern in the first round and upsetting Alabama State in the semis.  It also wouldn’t surprise me to see Arkansas Pine Bluff make it to the finals as well.

One caveat:  The top two seeds get an a day off if they win their opening round games, and that could be just enough to get them to the title game.  The SWAC would love nothing more than to see Alabama State win three games and enter the Dance at 22-9.  Imagine Texas Southern winning the tournament and making it at 10-24.  It isn’t that far of a stretch, as the Tigers have a history of playing much better in March.  At least they took Alcorn State to overtime before losing.

At-large Teams:       0         

Bubble:                      None

Conference Tournaments Beginning Thursday, March 13

Atlantic Coast  @ Charlotte, NC

Thursday, March 13

Opening Round

#8 Wake Forest 17-12  vs. #9 Florida State 18-13

#5 Miami 21-9  vs. #12 North Carolina State 15-15

#7 Georgia Tech 14-16  vs. #10 Virginia 15-14

#6 Maryland 18-13  vs. #11 Boston College 13-16

Friday, March 14

Quarterfinals

#1 North Carolina 29-2  vs. 8/9 winner

#4 Virginia Tech 18-12  vs. 5/12 winner

#2 Duke 26-4  vs. 7/10 winner

#3 Clemson 22-8  vs. 6/11 winner

Saturday, March 15

Semifinals

1/8/9  vs. 4/5/12

2/7/10  vs. 3/6/11

Sunday, March 16

Championship Game

It’s the ACC that we owe the idea of the post-season tournament and the shot clock.  This league has always fielded a post-season tournament to decide its official NCAA Tournament team, even in the days when just one team went per major conference.  Because of this, some underdogs decided to try to win by stalling the ball.  In the days before a shot clock, it led to boring games some years and a downright farce in another year.  North Carolina State upset Duke 12-10 in the semifinals 40 years ago.  They upset South Carolina in the 1970 Championship Game by stalling and winning 42-39.

Thankfully, that can no longer happen.  So, what do I expect from the 2008 ACC Tournament?  I don’t expect a repeat of 1976 when second to last place (4-8 in the ACC) Virginia, led by Wonderful Wally Walker, upset North Carolina State, Maryland, and North Carolina (all ranked) to win the title.  None of the bottom four teams have a chance.  The middle four teams have some quality talent.  I especially like Miami and expect the Hurricanes to beat NC State and Virginia Tech to earn a trip to the semifinals.  Once there, they would almost assuredly face North Carolina, a team they fell to by 16 points at home.  I don’t think they can get to the final, but a trip to the semis will give the ‘Canes a better seeding in the Dance.

Duke can be beaten inside, but in tournament play, it almost always comes down to backcourt play.  The Blue Devils should comfortably win their quarterfinal match against either Georgia Tech or Virginia.  Their semifinal game would pit them against Maryland or Clemson (or Boston College if the Eagles pulled off two upsets).  This year, the Terps and Tigers didn’t handle the Duke offense too well.  It means there is a good possibility that the big two could face off one more time for the ACC title.  If Clemson could somehow survive and make it to the Championship Game against North Carolina, that would make for terrific copy.   The Tar Heels have been Clemson’s nemesis for decades, and this season may have been the worst example.  UNC beat CU twice in overtime.

As for the three bubble teams, in order to have a realistic shot, it’s semifinals or bust for the Hokies, Terps, and ‘Noles.

At-large Teams:       4, 5, or 6 (UNC, Duke, Clem, Miami)      

Bubble:                      Virginia Tech, Maryland, Florida State

Big 10  @ Indianapolis, IN

Thursday, March 13

Opening Round

#8 Iowa 13-18  vs. #9 Michigan 9-21

#7 Penn State 15-15  vs. #10 Illinois 13-18

#6 Minnesota 18-12  vs. #11 Northwestern 8-21

Friday, March 14

Quarterfinals

#1 Wisconsin 26-4  vs. 8/9 winner

#4 Michigan State 24-7  vs. #5 Ohio State 19-12

#2 Purdue 24-7  vs. 7/10 winner

#3 Indiana 25-6  vs. 6/11 winner

Saturday, March 15

Semifinals

1/8/9  vs. 4/5

2/7/10 vs. 3/6/11

Sunday, March 16

Championship Game

I’ve had the opportunity to follow the Big 10 closer this season than ever before, and I have to say I was a little disappointed.  I believe I am witnessing the same thing in basketball that happened to this conference in football.  Four teams have incredible muscle and finesse, but none of them have the quickness to go deep into the tourney.  I’d be surprised to see more than one team make the Sweet 16, and I don’t see any Big 10 team making the Final Four or maybe the Elite Eight.

Wisconsin lost two close games to Purdue but aced the rest of the league.  Indiana braved a late-season coaching change and didn’t play as well under Dan Dakich.  Purdue lost two of their final five games, while Michigan State split its final 10 games.  Ohio State lost six times in February.  So, the Badgers have to be considered the overwhelming favorite in Indianapolis.  Among the also-rans, the winner of the Penn State and Illinois game has the best chance of breaking through with a big upset and crashing into the semifinals.   That would mean Purdue would be a quarterfinal victim.  I’d also keep a close eye on Minnesota.  If Tubby Smith’s Gophers get by Northwestern (they should win by 15-20 points), they have a decent shot against Indiana in the next round.  That could conceivably lead to Minnesota playing Illinois or Penn State for a berth in the finals.  If the Gophers make it to Sunday, they would then have to get by arch-rival Wisconsin for a trip to the Big Dance.  I’ll stick with the Badgers to win the tournament and enter NCAA play as the league’s one true threat to advance past the Sweet 16.

At-large Teams:       4 or 5 (Wisconsin, Purdue, Indiana, Michigan State) 

Bubble:                      Ohio State

Big 12  @ Kansas City

Thursday, March 13

Opening Round

#8 Texas Tech 16-14  vs. #9 Oklahoma State 16-14

#5 Baylor 21-9  vs. #12 Colorado 11-19

#7 Nebraska 18-11  vs. #10 Missouri 16-15

#6 Texas A&M 22-9  vs. #11 Iowa State 14-17

Friday, March 14

Quarterfinals

#1 Texas 26-5  vs. 8/9 winner

#4 Oklahoma 21-10  vs. 5/12 winner

#2 Kansas 28-3  vs. 7/10 winner

#3 Kansas State 20-10  vs. 6/11 winner

Saturday, March 15

Semifinals

1/8/9  vs. 4/5/12

2/7/10  vs. 3/6/11

Sunday, March 16

Championship Game

No Big 12 team has appeared in the Final Four in the last four tournaments.  The Big 12 placed two teams in the Final Four in both 2002 and 2003, but no league team has ever cut down the nets.  Kansas won the title when they were in the Big Eight in 1988 and Big Seven in 1952.  Can either drought end this year?  Yes!  Kansas and Texas both have the talent to make a run to the Final Four.

Kansas State is a wildcard team in this tournament.  I don’t think the country’s best player, Michael Beasley, can carry the Wildcats to the Big 12 Tournament Championship, but KSU can beat any team in the league.  They just cannot beat three teams in three days in my opinion.

Baylor and Texas A&M find themselves much in the same boat as Kansas State; they are both good enough to upset Kansas or Texas but not Kansas and Texas.

Oklahoma is better than Baylor and Texas A&M, and the Sooners are about on par with Kansas State.  However, I don’t think OU can beat either Texas or Kansas, and they will have a tough enough time with Baylor in the quarterfinals.  They might win that one, but they will exit in the semifinals against Texas.

Oklahoma State and Texas Tech will be an interesting first round match of coaches who are sons of legends.  I think the offspring of Eddie Sutton will beat the offspring of Bobby Knight.  As for the Cowboys, once they dispense of Tech, they just might give Texas the scare of their life; heck, they could catch the Longhorns napping and actually pull off the big upset.  If that happens, OSU will be itching to exact some revenge on Oklahoma in the semis.  If they make it to Sunday, and someone like Kansas State has knocked out Kansas, the ‘Pokes might be cutting down the nets.  Thus, OSU is my dark horse choice if one of the big two does not win it.

At-large Teams:       4 or 5 (Texas, Kansas, Oklahoma, Baylor)         

Bubble:                      Kansas State, Texas A&M

Southeastern  @ Atlanta

Thursday, March 13

Opening Round

#5E South Carolina 13-17  vs. #4W LSU 13-17

#3E Vanderbilt 25-6  vs. #6W Auburn 14-15

#4E Florida 21-10  vs. #5W Alabama 16-15

#6E Georgia 13-16  vs. #3W Ole Miss 21-9

Friday, March 14

Quarterfinals

[A]: #1E Tennessee 28-3  vs. USC/LSU winner

[B]: #2W Arkansas 20-10  vs. Vand./Aub. Winner

[C]: #1W Mississippi St. 21-9  vs. Fla./Ala. Winner

[D]: #2E Kentucky 18-11  vs. Ga./OM winner

Saturday, March 15

A winner vs. B winner

C winner vs. D winner

Sunday, March 16

Championship Game

I wish the SEC would do like the rest of the basketball world and dissolve their divisions like the Big 12 and ACC do.  It makes it hard to set up brackets when you have two of each numbered seed.  That said, this tournament is up for grabs, and I do not expect the top-seeded Tennessee Volunteers to win it.  The Vols have not fared well in the SEC Tournament during the Bruce Pearl era, and I’m not really sure he is concerned about winning it.  The difference between a number one and number two seed is minimal, and his team would benefit from a few more days rest.

So, who should win the tournament?  Let’s eliminate Kentucky, because they don’t have the depth, and their hot shooting is bound to come to an end. 

Vanderbilt isn’t tough enough on the boards, and their only inside threat is too foul prone; also, they would have to win four games in four days, and they don’t have the mental toughness to do that. 

Mississippi State has some questions in their backcourt.  While their frontcourt can dominate anybody, I do not expect the Bulldogs to hide their backcourt deficiencies three consecutive days.  

Arkansas has the talent to go the distance, so let’s make them one of the contenders. 

Florida and Ole Miss are close to having their bubbles burst.  Florida must win at least twice to have any chance, while Ole Miss must still be playing Sunday to get into the discussion.  The Gators have the backcourt strength and just enough inside muscle to make a run to the title.  Ole Miss should get by Georgia (if they do, I expect Bulldog Coach Dennis Felton to get the axe), and they have a decent shot against Kentucky on Friday.  I think that’s as far as they can get in the tourney, if their third round opponent was Mississippi State or Florida.  In the rare event that Alabama won twice, then the Rebels could make it to Sunday.

LSU was a much better team after John Brady left, and by the final weekend, the Tigers were a tough out.  If they beat South Carolina in the opening round, they could be all Tennessee can handle Friday.

Auburn, South Carolina, and Alabama could all win their first game, but don’t expect to see any of them still alive on Saturday.

Georgia has mailed it in, and I’d be shocked if they play Ole Miss close in the first round.

Arkansas is my favorite to pull off the upset.  Kentucky and Mississippi State have the next best chances to win, while Tennessee and Florida are the only other teams I think can win the title.

At-large Teams:       5 (Tennessee, Miss. State, Kentucky, Arkansas, Vanderbilt

Bubble:                      Florida, Ole Miss

Southland  @ Katy, TX (near Houston)

Thursday, March 13

Quarterfinals

#1 Stephen F. Austin 25-4  vs. #8 Texas San Antonio 13-16

#4 Southeast Louisiana 17-12  vs. #5 Northwestern State 13-17

#2 Lamar 19-10  vs. #7 UT-Arlington 18-11

#3 Sam Houston State 22-7  vs. McNeese State 13-15

Friday, March 14

Semifinals

SFA/UTSA winner vs. SELA/NWST winner

Lamar/UTA winner vs. SHSY/MSU winner

Sunday, March 16

Championship Game

Until March 1st, there was a strong possibility that the Southland had a chance at putting two teams into the Field of 65.  Stephen F. Austin won at Oklahoma and at San Diego earlier in the year and moved into the low 40’s in the RPI in late February.  Then, the Lumberjacks lost at home to UT-Arlington, dropping them to the bottom of the bubble.  While they still have an RPI in the same range as Virginia Tech and Villanova, they would only be up for at-large consideration if they lost in the Southland Tournament.  One loss in the tournament would drop them 10 spots or more and out of contention, so the Lumberjacks must win the automatic bid to get into the Dance.

It’s no guarantee that SFA can waltz through this field.  The Lumberjacks will have to defeat either Lamar, Sam Houston, or UT-Arlington in the Championship Game, and any one of that trio can outscore SFA.  

At-large Teams:       0 or 1

Bubble:                      Stephen F. Austin  (road wins against Oklahoma and San Diego)

March 10, 2008

A PiRate Look At The NCAA Basketball Conference Tournaments–March 10, 2008

 

A PiRate Look at the NCAA Basketball Conference Tournaments

March 10, 2008, 5th Update

Conference Tournament Results through Sunday, March 09, 2008

America East

1st Three Rounds At Binghamton, NY.  Championship Game At Higher Seed

Opening Round

#8 Stony Brook 73  vs. #9 Maine 65  ot

Saturday, March 8

Quarterfinals

#1 Md. Balt. Co. 76  Stony Brook 60

#4 Vermont 65  #5 Binghamton 57

#2 Hartford 68  #7 New Hampshire 65

#6 Boston U. 68  #3 Albany 64  ot

Sunday, March 9

Semifinals

Md. Balt. Co. 73  Vermont 64

Hartford 59  Boston U. 52

Saturday, March 15

Championship Game

Hartford 18-15  at Maryland-Baltimore Co. 23-8

At-Large Teams:      0

Bubble:                      None

UMBC didn’t have to play Binghamton, and that made their task much easier.  Hartford had a tough time with two weak opponents to get this far, and the clock will strike midnight for them Saturday.  While these two teams split a pair of one-point games during the regular season, I believe UMBC should win this rubber match by 10 or more points and earn their first trip to the Big Dance, where they could be a #14 seed.  Of particular interest in this championship game will be the matchup of two, small, but beefy forwards.  Hartford’s Warren McLendon and UMBC’s Darryl Proctor will battle it out for close to 40 minutes and make this game worth watching.

Atlantic Sun

Quarterfinals

#4 East Tennessee 81 #5 Lipscomb 74

#6 Gardner-Webb 82  #3 Stetson 63

#2 Jacksonville 65  #7 Mercer 57

#1 Belmont 75  #8 Campbell 66

Semifinals

Jacksonville 89 Gardner-Webb 80

Belmont 69 East Tennessee 65

Saturday, March 8

Championship

Belmont 79  Jacksonville 61

The Bruins broke out of their two-game mini-slump and hit the outside shots.  When Belmont gets hot from behind the arc, they are tough against any opponent.  At 25-8, they should not be a #16 or #15 seed playing a Final Four team in the first round like they have the past two seasons.

At-Large Teams:      0

Bubble:                      None

Big Sky

Saturday, March 8

Quarterfinals

#4 Idaho State 67  #5 Montana 65

#3 Weber State 65  #6 Montana State 49

Tuesday, March 11 @ Portland, OR

Semifinals

#1 Portland State (21-9)  vs. Idaho State 12-18

#2 Northern Arizona (20-10) vs. Weber State 16-13

Wednesday, March 12 @ Portland, OR

Championship Game

If Portland State has the same intensity they had in February, they are going to waltz through this tournament.  The Vikings won their last 12 conference games, including slaughters at Montana State 96-68 and at Montana 108-56 as the regular season ended.

PSU won all their conference home games this year, but in half of them, they had to pull out squeakers.  Idaho State wasn’t one of those squeakers, and the Vikings should win their semifinal game with ease, allowing Coach Ken Bone to empty the bench rather early in the second half.

The one team that has the best shot at the Vikings is #3-seed and defending tournament champion Weber State.  The Wildcats lost by three at PSU, and the game stayed tight the entire 40 minutes.  Weber State can win by taking advantage of its quickness.

As for #2-seed Northern Arizona, the Lumberjacks match up well with Weber State but not with Portland State.  NAU dominated on the boards and forced a lot of turnovers on WSU in their two games with the Wildcats.  Against PSU, the Lumberjacks’ defense forced turnovers, but gave up too many easy shots and couldn’t hold their own on the boards.

At-Large Teams:      0

Bubble:                      None

Big South

Opening Round

#1 UNC-Asheville 87  #8 Charleston Southern 63

#4 Liberty 103  #5 VMI 88

#2 Winthrop 76  #7 Radford 45

#3 High Point 59  #6 Coastal Carolina 56

Semifinals

UNC-Asheville 75  Liberty 57

Winthrop 61  High Point 53

Saturday, March 8 @ Asheville, NC

Championship Game

Winthrop 66  UNC-Asheville 48

Winthrop’s defense completely shut down the UNCA offense, and the home team panicked when they found themselves down by eight point.  This Eagle team is not as talented as last year’s great squad, but they could cause a headache for the opposing coach in a first-round NCAA Tournament game.

At-Large Teams:      0

Bubble:                      None

Colonial Athletic Association

All Games Played At Richmond, VA (Virginia Commonwealth host team)

#9 Towson State 81  #8 Towson State 66

#5 William & Mary 58 #12 Georgia State 57

#6 Delaware 60  #11 Drexel 51

#7 Northeastern 73 #10 James Madison 59

Saturday, March 8

Quarterfinals

#1 Virginia Commonwealth 57  Towson State 46

William & Mary 63  #4 Old Dominion 60

#3 UNC-Wilmington 82  Delaware 59

#2 George Mason 63  Northeastern 52

Sunday, March 9

Semifinals

William & Mary 56  Virginia Commonwealth 54

George Mason 53  UNC-Wilmington 41

Monday, March 10

Championship Game

William & Mary 17-15  vs. George Mason 22-10

William & Mary is trying to crash the party.  The Tribe barely edged last place Georgia State in the opening round.  Then, they knocked off the league’s hottest team in Old Dominion in the quarterfinals.  To top that off, they dismissed league champion VCU (and on the Rams’ home floor to boot) to advance to the finals.  Can they win four games in four days, including knocking off three of the top four teams in the league?  I think they will fall a bit short tonight.  George Mason still has a couple players left over from their Final Four team in 2006.  The game won’t be pretty, and 55 points could easily be enough to win.

As for VCU, the Rams just may have been reduced to an NIT team.  They are on the bubble, but if one or two more upsets in other conferences force surprise teams into the field, the Rams are going to be jilted.

At-Large Teams:      0 or 1

Bubble:                      Virginia Commonwealth 24-7  RPI Avg.: 61.3 *     * = average of four RPIs I can get for free.

Horizon League

All Games Played At Indianapolis (Butler host team)

Opening Round

#3 Wright State 60  #10 Detroit 37

#6 Valparaiso 75  #7 UW-Green Bay 67

#4 Illinois-Chicago 70  #9 Youngstown State 59

#8 Loyola (Chi.) 57  #5 UW-Milwaukee 51

Quarterfinals

Valparaiso 72  Wright State 67

Illinois-Chicago 60 Loyola (Chi.) 49

Saturday, March 8

Semifinals

#2 Cleveland State 78  Valparaiso 73

#1 Butler 66  Illinois-Chicago 50

Tuesday, March 11

Championship

Cleveland State 21-11 at Butler 28-3

Butler is already in the Dance win or lose the Championship Game of the Horizon League.  Cleveland State is on the bubble for an NIT trip if they lose this game, so the Vikings have more to play for in this game.  CSU lost a close game at Butler in February, and I expect them to bring their A-game for the title match.  Butler still has home court advantage, and the Bulldogs are a seasoned squad.  CSU’s chances of an upset hinge on the shooting of forward J’Nathan Bullock.  If he’s hot, then the Vikes have a chance at the upset.  If he shoots 35% like he has in the two regular season games with Butler, then Butler wins and becomes a #3 or 4 seed.

At-Large Teams:      1 (Butler)

Bubble:                      None

Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference

All Games Played At Albany, NY (Siena host team)

Opening Round

#8 Manhattan 73  #9 St. Peter’s 59

#10 Canisius 64  #7 Iona 59

Saturday, March 8

Quarterfinals

#1 Siena 66  Manhattan 58

#4 Loyola (Md.) 64  #5 Fairfield 59

#2 Rider 75  Canisius 71

#6 Marist 66  #3 Niagara 62

Sunday, March 9

Semifinals

Siena 65  Loyola (Md.) 63

Rider 76  Marist 71

Monday, March 10

Championship Game

Rider 23-9 at Siena 21-10

Just because this game is being played at top seed Siena, don’t automatically think the Saints are the favorites in this game.  Rider won at Siena by 14 points in the regular season, and the Broncos are riding a five-game winning streak.  Rider will rely on the league’s best player in years, Jason Thompson, who averages 20.5 points and 12 rebounds per game.  In the two games against Siena, Thompson score 49 points and pulled down 45 rebounds!  However, he played the full 40 minutes against Marist last night, and he could show signs of fatigue.

At-Large Teams:      0

Bubble:                      None

Missouri Valley @ St. Louis (Arch Madness)

Opening Round

#8 Indiana State 71  #9 Wichita State 67

#7 Missouri State 69 #10 Evansville 46

Quarterfinals

#1 Drake 68  Indiana State 46

#4 Creighton 74  #5 Bradley 70

#2 Illinois State 63  Missouri State 58

#6 Northern Iowa 54  #3 Southern Illinois 49

Saturday, March 8

Semifinals

Drake 75 Creighton 67

Illinois State 56 Northern Iowa 42

Sunday, March 9

Championship

Drake 79  Illinois State 49

At-Large Teams:      0 or 1

Bubble:                      Illinois State 23-9  RPI avg. 35.5

Drake looked like a Final Four team yesterday.  The Bulldogs’ defense was reminiscent of Jerry Tarkanian’s Amoeba Defense at UNLV in 1990 and 1991.  The team effort was outstanding, and if the Bulldogs continue to play with the same intensity, they will be at least a Sweet 16 team if not an Elite Eight team.  Drake has one Final Four appearance in its history.  In 1969, the Bulldogs had a dominating inside presence with Willie Wise, Willie McCarter, and Dolph Pulliam.  In the six-year run as National Champs spanning from the years of Lew Alcindor/Kareem Abdul Jabbar to Bill Walton, it was the 1969 Drake team that came the closest to dethroning the Bruins.  UCLA almost blew a double digit lead late in the game and had to hold on for a three-point victory.  The Bruins then slaughtered Purdue in the championship, while Drake blew away by 20 points a North Carolina team led by Charlie Scott in the consolation game.

Even though they were embarrassed, Illinois State is firmly on the bubble.  The MVC usually gets multiple teams into the Field of 65, and the Redbirds proved to be the second best team.

Northeast

Quarterfinal

#1 Robert Morris 64  #8 Monmouth 50

#4 Mt. St. Mary’s 80  #5 Quinnipiac 70

#2 Wagner 71  #7 Long Island 62

#3 Sacred Heart 84  #6 Central Connecticut State 71

Sunday, March 9

Semifinals

Mt. St. Mary’s 83  Robert Morris 65

Sacred Heart 55  Wagner 49

Wednesday, March 12

Championship

Mt. St. Mary’s 17-14 at Sacred Heart 18-13

At-Large Teams:      0

Bubble:                      None

This is a weird set of circumstances here.  Mt. St. Mary’s looked impressive in downing Quinnipiac in the quarterfinals, but what the Mountaineers did to top seed Robert Morris last night is incredible.  They completely destroyed a team that hadn’t lost since January 13th, and now the Mount is the hottest team in the league.

On the other side of the bracket, Sacred Heart held off Wagner to advance to the finals.  It isn’t much of a surprise that the Pioneers have advanced to the championship game, which they will host Wednesday night.  SHU was supposed to be the top dog in the league this year, and the team underachieved.  Maybe, they will right their wrongs this week and grab the crown they were suppose to obtain all along.  With MSM riding an emotional high, it figures they won’t bring their A-game to Fairfield.

Ohio Valley Conference

Quarterfinals @ Higher Seed

#1 Austin Peay 76  #8 Eastern Kentucky 51

#4 UT-Martin 101  #5 Samford 94  3ot

#2 Murray State 77  #7 Tennessee Tech 74

#6 Tennessee State 68  #3 Morehead State 61

Semifinals @ Nashville

Austin Peay 78  UT-Martin 77

Tennessee State 83 Murray State 75

Saturday, March 8

Championship

Austin Peay 82 Tennessee State 64

At-Large Teams:      0

Bubble:                      None

Austin Peay totally dominated the championship game, and it was never in doubt after about 10 minutes of action.  The Governors have a veteran team, but they don’t have enough inside muscle to advance in the NCAA Tournament, but if their offense is clicking, they could make it interesting.

Patriot League

Quarterfinals

#1 American 62  #8 Holy Cross 60

#5 Army 64  #4 Lehigh 61 ot

#7 Bucknell 87  #2 Navy 86 3ot

#3 Colgate 76  #6 Lafayette 74

Sunday, March 9

Semifinals

American  72 Army 60

Colgate 54  Bucknell 40

Friday, March 14

Championship

Colgate 18-13 at American 20-11

At-Large Teams:      0

Bubble:                      None

This should be a close game, and it wouldn’t surprise me if it went to overtime.  American beat Colgate twice by eight points this year, and I expect the Red Raiders to be ready to exact some revenge. 

American has won nine of its last 10 games, and the Eagles have the best backcourt in the Patriot League.  In tournaments, guard play is very important, as the backcourt that makes the most errors or forces the fewer errors usually comes from the losing team.  I’ll go with American in this one, which will allow Coach Jeff Jones to get back to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since he was at Virginia in the 1990’s.

Southern Conference

All Games Played At Charleston, SC (College of Charleston host team)

Opening Round

#8 Wofford 58  #9 Western Carolina 49

#7 Elon 52  #10 Furman 37

#6 Charleston 66  #11 Citadel 48

Saturday, March 8

Quarterfinals

#1 Davidson 82 Wofford 49

#5 UNC-Greensboro 63  #4 Appalachian State 46

Elon 60  #2 Chattanooga 57

Coll. of Charleston 87  #3 Georgia Southern 73

Sunday, March 9

Semifinals

Davidson 82 UNCG 52

Elon 75  Charleston 61

Monday, March 10

Championship Game

Davidson 25-6  vs. Elon 14-18

At-Large Teams:      0 or 1

Bubble:                      Davidson

It’s one thing to hold a 22-loss Furman team to 37 points.  It’s one bigger thing to upset #2-seed Chattanooga.  It’s an even bigger thing to upset tournament host Charleston by 14 points.  However, it’s an impossible team to beat Davidson if you are another member of the Southern Conference.  The Wildcats are one win away from advancing to the Big Dance seeded in the upper half of a 16-team regional.  Another blowout win could influence the Selection Committee into seeding the Wildcats as high as sixth and no lower than eighth.  If they can sneak in as a sixth seed, they have a chance to go far into the tournament.  This is a team that had North Carolina on the ropes back in November, took Duke down to the wire, and gave UCLA a tough game at Anaheim, leading by as much as 18 points.  On a neutral floor in mid-March and with non-biased officiating, this team has the potential to do what George Mason did two years ago.

Summit League @ Tulsa (Oral Roberts host team)

Saturday, March 8

Quarterfinals

#1 Oral Roberts 84 #8 Centenary 56

#2 IUPUI 69  #7 Missouri-Kansas City 65

Sunday, March 9

Quarterfinals

#5 IPFW 66  #4 Southern Utah 62

#3 Oakland 80 #6 Western Illinois 66

Monday, March 10

Semifinals

Oral Roberts 22-8 vs. IPFW 13-17

IUPUI 25-6 vs. Oakland 17-13

Tuesday, March 11

Championship

At-Large Teams:      0 or 1

Bubble:                      Oral Roberts

Oral Roberts has a much easier path to the finals than IUPUI.  IPFW shouldn’t be much of a challenge for ORU.  The Golden Eagles dominated every aspect of the game when they slaughtered the Mastodons 88-56 a few weeks back.  I don’t expect the underdog to make up a 32-point gap.  They might lose by less than 20 points, but that’s about all you can expect.

IUPUI and Oakland will be the more exciting game.  Both teams won by double digits on their home floor when they played in the regular season, and on a neutral floor, it’s close to a 50-50 tossup.  The winner is probably going to be too fatigued to give ORU their best effort tomorrow night.

Sunbelt Conference

1st Round

#8 New Orleans 65  #9 Denver 60

#4 Middle Tennessee 74  #13 Louisiana Monroe 69

#12 Troy 70  #5 Louisiana Lafayette 60

#6 North Texas 85  #11 Arkansas State 63

#7 Florida Atlantic 91  #10 Florida International 64

Sunday, March 9 @ Mobile, AL

Quarterfinals

South Alabama 81  New Orleans 77

Middle Tennessee 65  Troy 59

Western Kentucky 84  North Texas 70

Arkansas Little Rock 66  Florida Atlantic 60

Monday, March 10 @ Mobile, AL

Semifinals

South Alabama 26-5  vs. Middle Tennessee 16-14

Western Kentucky 25-6 vs. UALR 20-10

Tuesday, March 11 @ Mobile, AL

Championship

At-Large Teams:      1 (South Alabama)

Bubble:                      Western Kentucky

Western Kentucky looked like a team that belonged in the Big Dance Sunday night, as the Hilltoppers handled North Texas by 14 points.  South Alabama had their hands filled with UNO, but with the win, the Jaguars probably secured an at-large invitation if they need to rely on one.  I expect the Jags to take care of Middle Tennessee tonight since they have some revenge on their minds.  Western may have the tougher time of it tonight, but I expect them to come through.  If tomorrow night’s championship is a USA-WKU tilt, it will be one you have to watch.  Can USA beat WKU three times in one season?  We’ll have to wait a few hours to see if that develops.

 West Coast Conference

All Games Played At San Diego (San Diego host team)

Opening Round

#5 San Francisco 79  # 8 Loyola Marymount 60

#6 Pepperdine 50  #7 Portland 48  ot

Saturday, March 8

Quarterfinals

#4 Santa Clara 51  San Francisco 50

#3 San Diego 75  Pepperdine 55

Sunday, March 9

#1 Gonzaga 52  Santa Clara 48

San Diego 75  #2 St. Mary’s 69  2ot

Monday, March 10

Championship Game

San Diego 20-13  vs. Gonzaga 25-6

At-Large Teams:      0, 1 or 2 (Gonzaga & St. Mary’s)

Bubble:                      St. Mary’s 25-6  Avg. RPI 40.8

Here’s where some bubble teams are a bit nervous.  The host team San Diego Toreros have knocked off St. Mary’s and advanced to the WCC Championship Game.  They face perennial champion Gonzaga, but this is no gimme game for Coach Mark Few’s Bulldogs.  USD is coached by Few’s former assistant Bill Grier, who will have his team prepared for battle against the Goliath of the league.

The key to tonight’s game may be which Gyno Pomare shows up for USD.  He was a non-factor in the two games against Gonzaga in the regular season, and the Toreros need him to score 12-15 points and pull down 7-10 boards tonight as a minimum.

Already Clinched Automatic Berth in NCAA Tournament (5)

1. Cornell-Ivy League Champion

2. Winthrop-Big South Champion

3. Austin Peay-Ohio Valley Champion

4. Belmont-Atlantic Sun Champion

5. Drake-Missouri Valley Champion

Only 60 teams left to go!

Conference Tournaments Beginning Tuesday, March 11

MEAC @ Raleigh, NC

Tuesday, March 11

Opening Round

#7 Coppin State 12-20  vs. #10 Howard 6-25

#8 South Carolina State 12-19  vs. #9 Bethune Cookman 11-20

Wednesday, March 12

Opening Round

#6 Florida A&M 14-16  vs. #11 Maryland Eastern Shore 4-27

Quarterfinal Round

#2 Hampton 18-11 vs. winner of Coppin State-Howard

#1 Morgan State 20-9 vs. winner of South Carolina State-Bethune Cookman

Thursday, March 13

Quarterfinal Round

#3 Norfolk State 15-14  vs. winner of FAMU-UMES

#4 Delaware State 13-15  vs. #5 North Carolina A&T 15-15

Friday, March 14

Semifinal Round

Morgan St.-SC State-BCU  vs. Del. St.-NCAT

Hampton-Coppin-Howard vs. Norfolk-FAMU-UMES

Saturday, March 15

Championship Game

Note: There will be a bonus game prior to the Championship Game to be played between North Carolina Central (3-26) and Winston-Salem State (12-17), two future MEAC teams.

Morgan State gives the MEAC its best chance to win an NCAA Tournament game, but it’s no given they will survive the MEAC Tournament.  Even though the Golden Bears won 13 of their final 14 games, the MEAC Tournament is the Saratoga Race Track of the NCAA-it’s where champions get upset.  Just ask Delaware State last year.  The Hornets were more dominating in 2007 than Morgan State has been this year, but they fell to Florida A&M in the title game. 

Who might be this season’s FAMU?  I’d keep an eye on Jerry Eaves’ North Carolina A&T team.  The Aggies have the depth to win three games in three days, and they have enough scoring options so that somebody will have a hot hand every game.

WAC @ Las Cruces, NM

Tuesday, March 11

Opening Round

#8 San Jose State 12-18  vs. Louisiana Tech 6-23

Thursday, March 13

Quarterfinal Round

#1 Utah State 23-9  vs. San Jose State-La. Tech winner

#4 Boise State 22-8  vs. Hawaii 11-18

#2 Nevada 20-10  vs. #7 Fresno State 13-18

#3 New Mexico State 19-13  vs. #6 Idaho 8-20

Friday, March 14

Semifinal Round

Utah State-San Jose St.-La. Tech  vs. Boise State-Hawaii

Nevada-Fresno State  vs. New Mexico St.-Idaho

Saturday, March 15

Championship Game

In a conference where four teams tied for the regular season championship, it is obvious that the tournament will be interesting with lots of nail-biter games.  If the four co-champions survive to the semifinal round, the WAC will be the talk of the West.  You have to consider New Mexico State the favorite, as they are really tough to beat in Las Cruces.  You have to pull for Utah State this year.  Last season, the Aggies lost in the title game to New Mexico State 72-70.  In 2006, they lost in overtime in the final to Nevada.  One more basket in either year would have won the Championship for them.

Nevada wasn’t supposed to fare this well this season after losing superstar Nick Fazekas to graduation.  Coach Mark Fox may be in the hunt for a big time job soon.

Unfortunately for this league, no team appears to be on the radar screen for at-large consideration.  No team has an RPI average near bubble range.

March 8, 2008

A PiRate Look At The NCAA Basketball Conference Tournaments–March 8, 2008

 

A PiRate Look at the NCAA Basketball Conference Tournaments

March 8, 2008, 4th Update

Conference Tournament Results through Friday, March 07, 2008

America East

1st Three Rounds At Binghamton, NY.  Championship Game At Higher Seed

Opening Round

#8 Stony Brook 73  vs. #9 Maine 65  ot

Saturday, March 8

Quarterfinals

#1 Md. Balt. Co. (21-8)  vs. Stony Brook (7-22)

#4 Vermont (15-14)  vs. #5 Binghamton (14-15)

#2 Hartford (16-15)  vs. #7 New Hampshire (9-19)

#3 Albany (15-14)  vs. #6 Boston U. (13-16)

Sunday, March 9

Semifinals

UMBC-Stony Brook vs. Vermont-Binghamton

Hartford-New Hampshire vs. Albany-Boston

Saturday, March 15

Championship Game @ Higher Seed

At-Large Teams:      0

Bubble:                      None

UMBC will have a tough time getting by host Binghamton in a possible semifinal match.  The Bearcats beat the top seed at home in the regular season and almost swept them when they played in Catonsville.  I look for the winner of that game to cut down the nets on the 15th.

Atlantic Sun

Quarterfinals

#4 East Tennessee 81 #5 Lipscomb 74

#6 Gardner-Webb 82  #3 Stetson 63

#2 Jacksonville 65  #7 Mercer 57

#1 Belmont 75  #8 Campbell 66

Semifinals

Jacksonville 89 Gardner-Webb 80

Belmont 69 East Tennessee 65

Saturday, March 8

Championship

Jacksonville (18-12) vs. Belmont (24-8)

Belmont has not played up to their capabilities in the first two rounds and wouldn’t be in the championship game if not for a technical foul on an East Tennessee player with less than 15 seconds remaining in the semifinal game.  Jacksonville was impressive in their semifinal match with Gardner-Webb.  Unless the Bruins turn it around in less than 24 hours, Jacksonville will cut down the nets tonight.

At-Large Teams:      0

Bubble:                      None

Big Sky

Saturday, March 8

Quarterfinals

#5 Montana (14-15) at #4 Idaho State (11-18)

#6 Montana State (15-14) at #3 Weber State (15-13)

Tuesday, March 11 @ Portland, OR

Semifinals

#1 Portland State (21-9)  vs. Lower Remaining Seed

#2 Northern Arizona (20-10) vs. Higher Remaining Seed

Wednesday, March 12 @ Portland, OR

Championship Game

If Portland State has the same intensity they had in February, they are going to waltz through this tournament.  The Vikings won their last 12 conference games, including slaughters at Montana State 96-68 and at Montana 108-56 as the regular season ended.

PSU won all their conference home games this year, but in half of them, they had to pull out squeakers.  The one team that has the best shot at the Vikings is #3-seed and defending tournament champion Weber State.  The Wildcats lost by three at PSU, and the game stayed tight the entire 40 minutes.  Weber State can win by taking advantage of its quickness.

As for #2-seed Northern Arizona, the Lumberjacks match up well with Weber State but not with Portland State.  NAU dominated on the boards and forced a lot of turnovers on WSU in their two games with the Wildcats.  Against PSU, the Lumberjacks’ defense forced turnovers, but gave up too many easy shots and couldn’t hold their own on the boards.

At-Large Teams:      0

Bubble:                      None

Big South

Opening Round

#1 UNC-Asheville 87  #8 Charleston Southern 63

#4 Liberty 103  #5 VMI 88

#2 Winthrop 76  #7 Radford 45

#3 High Point 59  #6 Coastal Carolina 56

Semifinals

UNC-Asheville 75  Liberty 57

Winthrop 61  High Point 53

Saturday, March 8 @ Asheville, NC

Championship Game

UNC-Asheville (23-8)  vs. Winthrop (21-11)

The top two seeds advanced to the finals.  UNCA defeated Winthrop twice this year, so Winthrop will be poised to get revenge in the one that really matters.  Winthrop led the Bulldogs for most of the first half when they played at the Justice Center in Asheville earlier this year, but UNCA went on a huge run to win by 15.  UNCA was hot from behind the arc, and it opened up the inside.

At-Large Teams:      0

Bubble:                      None

Colonial Athletic Association

All Games Played At Richmond, VA (Virginia Commonwealth host team)

#9 Towson State 81  #8 Towson State 66

#5 William & Mary 58 #12 Georgia State 57

#6 Delaware 60  #11 Drexel 51

#7 Northeastern 73 #10 James Madison 59

Saturday, March 8

Quarterfinals

Virginia Commonwealth (23-6)  vs. Towson State (13-17)

Old Dominion (17-14)  vs. William & Mary (15-15)

UNC-Wilmington (19-12)  vs. Delaware (14-16)

George Mason (20-10)  vs. Northeastern (14-16)

Sunday, March 9

Semifinals

VCU-Towson  vs. ODU-Wm. & Mary

UNCW-Delaware vs. GMU-Northeastern

Monday, March 10

Championship Game

This should be a well-played, interesting tournament.  Virginia Commonwealth hosts the tournament and is the top-seed, but Old Dominion was playing the best ball down the stretch.  UNC-Wilmington and George Mason give this league four really good teams, all of which can win an opening round NCAA Tournament game.

At-Large Teams:      0 or 1

Bubble:                      Virginia Commonwealth

Horizon League

All Games Played At Indianapolis (Butler host team)

Opening Round

#3 Wright State 60  #10 Detroit 37

#6 Valparaiso 75  #7 UW-Green Bay 67

#4 Illinois-Chicago 70  #9 Youngstown State 59

#8 Loyola (Chi.) 57  #5 UW-Milwaukee 51

Quarterfinals

Valparaiso 72  Wright State 67

Illinois-Chicago 60 Loyola (Chi.) 49

Saturday, March 8

Semifinals

Cleveland State (20-11)  vs. Valparaiso (21-12)

Butler (27-3)  vs. Illinois-Chicago (18-14)

Tuesday, March 11

Championship

Butler lost at home to Drake, but I doubt the Bulldogs will lose at home to any Horizon League opponent.  Cleveland State is playing well right now, and the Vikings gave Butler a good game in Indianapolis three weeks ago, having the game tied with less than 13 minutes to go before losing by five.  Valparaiso is flying under the radar, but Homer Drew knows how to get a team to the Dance.

At-Large Teams:      1 (Butler)

Bubble:                      None

Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference

All Games Played At Albany, NY (Siena host team)

Opening Round

#8 Manhattan 73  vs. #9 St. Peter’s 59

#10 Canisius 64  #7 Iona 59

Saturday, March 8

Quarterfinals

#1 Siena (19-10)  vs. Manhattan (12-18)

#4 Loyola (Md.) (18-13)  vs. #5 Fairfield (14-15)

#2 Rider (21-9)  vs. Canisius (6-24)

#3 Niagara (19-9)  vs. #6 Marist (17-13)

Sunday, March 9

Semifinals

Siena-Manhattan  vs. Loyola-Fairfield

Rider-Canisius  vs. Niagara-Marist

Monday, March 10

Championship Game

The top four seeds are basically even in talent.  Siena has home court advantage, but the Saints had a better road record than home record in conference play.  Niagara enters the tournament as the hottest team, winning five of their final six games.  However, the one loss came by 16 points at Siena.

At-Large Teams:      0

Bubble:                      None

Missouri Valley @ St. Louis (Arch Madness)

Opening Round

#8 Indiana State 71  #9 Wichita State 67

#7 Missouri State 69 #10 Evansville 46

Quarterfinals

#1 Drake 68  Indiana State 46

#4 Creighton 74  #5 Bradley 70

#2 Illinois State 63  Missouri State 58

#6 Northern Iowa 54  #3 Southern Illinois 49

Saturday, March 8

Semifinals

Drake (26-4) vs. Creighton (21-9)

Illinois State (23-8)  vs. Northern Iowa (18-13)

Sunday, March 9

Championship

At-Large Teams:      1 (Drake)

Bubble:                      Illinois State

Southern Illinois is gone, but Creighton is still around.  It is my belief that the Blue Jays will defeat the top-seed today and then win the tournament championship tomorrow.  Illinois State may earn an at-large bid with an impressive win over Northern Iowa today.  An ISU-Creighton final would be a great game.

Northeast

Quarterfinal

#1 Robert Morris 64  #8 Monmouth 50

#4 Mt. St. Mary’s 80  #5 Quinnipiac 70

#2 Wagner 71  #7 Long Island 62

#3 Sacred Heart 84  #6 Central Connecticut State 71

Sunday, March 9

Semifinals

Mt. St. Mary’s (16-14) at Robert Morris (26-6)

Sacred Heart (17-13) at Wagner (23-7)

Wednesday, March 12 @ Higher Seed

Championship

At-Large Teams:      0

Bubble:                      None

Robert Morris hasn’t lost since January 13; the Colonials have won 14 straight games by an average score of 76-64.  #2-seed Wagner went 5-0 in overtime games and won several others in regulation by one to five points.  The Seahawks should not panic late in close games, and that could be a major plus in a close tournament game.  Sacred Heart cannot be overlooked.  They looked tough in dismissing CCSU in the quarterfinals.

Ohio Valley Conference

Quarterfinals @ Higher Seed

#1 Austin Peay 76  #8 Eastern Kentucky 51

#4 UT-Martin 101  #5 Samford 94  3ot

#2 Murray State 77  #7 Tennessee Tech 74

#6 Tennessee State 68  #3 Morehead State 61

Semifinals @ Nashville

Austin Peay 78  UT-Martin 77

Tennessee State 83 Murray State 75

Saturday, March 8

Championship

Austin Peay 23-10 vs. Tennessee State 16-15

At-Large Teams:      0

Bubble:                      None

As predicted, Tennessee State has upset two teams to make it to the finals.  The Tigers and the Governors should be worth watching tonight in the Championship game.  Austin Peay fell at TSU February 18th, and that’s the Govs only loss in their last 11 games.  APSU’s Drake Reed hit the second of two free throws with two seconds left to edge UT-Martin in last night’s semifinal game.

Tennessee State forced APSU into numerous turnovers, most via steals of the ball.  They parlayed many of those steals into points.  If the same thing happens tonight, the home town Tigers will be cutting down the nets in Nashville tonight.

Patriot League

Quarterfinals

#1 American 62  #8 Holy Cross 60

#5 Army 64  #4 Lehigh 61 ot

#7 Bucknell 87  #2 Navy 86 3ot

#3 Colgate 76  #6 Lafayette 74

Sunday, March 9

Semifinals

Army (14-15) at American (19-11)

Bucknell (12-18) at Colgate (17-13)

Friday, March 14

Championship

At Higher Seed

At-Large Teams:      0

Bubble:                      None

The first round scores in this tournament revealed just how balanced this league is.  American and Colgate are no locks for winning at home over their opponents, but you have to favor them playing for the title next Friday evening. 

Southern Conference

All Games Played At Charleston, SC (College of Charleston host team)

Opening Round

#8 Wofford 58  #9 Western Carolina 49

#7 Elon 52  #10 Furman 37

#6 Charleston 66  #11 Citadel 48

Saturday, March 8

Quarterfinals

#1 Davidson (23-6)  vs. Wofford (16-15)

#4 Appalachian State (18-12)  vs. #5 UNC-Greensboro (18-11)

#2 Chattanooga (18-12)  vs. Elon (12-18)

#3 Georgia Southern (20-11)  vs. Charleston (15-16)

Sunday, March 9

Semifinals

Davidson-Wofford  vs. Appy State-UNCG

Chatt-Elon  vs. Ga. Sou.-Charleston

Monday, March 10

Championship Game

At-Large Teams:      0 or 1

Bubble:                      Davidson

How can any SoCon team beat Davidson?  Who can do it?  Only Davidson can do it to themselves.  The Wildcats made a mockery of the league for the second year in a row, going 20-0.  In their final regular season game and playing on the home court of the next best team in the league in a game that only had pride on the line, DU blew away Georgia Southern by 20 points.  Against the top four contenders (Ga. Sou., Chatt., Appy State, and UNCG), Davidson won by an average score of 81-66.  Any team beating the Wildcats will have pulled off an upset similar to the Miracle on Ice in 1980.

Summit League @ Tulsa (Oral Roberts host team)

Saturday, March 8

Quarterfinals

#1 Oral Roberts (21-8)  vs. #8 Centenary (10-20)

#2 IUPUI (24-6) vs. #7 Missouri-Kansas City (11-20)

Sunday, March 9

Quarterfinals

#4 Southern Utah (11-18)  vs. #5 IPFW (12-17)

#3 Oakland (16-13)  vs. #6 Western Illinois (12-17)

Monday, March 10

Semifinals

ORU-Centenary vs. S. Utah-IPFW

IUPUI-UMKC vs. Oakland-W. Ill.

Tuesday, March 11

Championship

At-Large Teams:      0 or 1

Bubble:                      Oral Roberts

Oral Roberts was 18-5 and in good shape for an at-large bid until they finished the regular season 3-3 and lost in the Bracket Buster to Creighton on a late three-pointer. #2-seed IUPUI went 11-1 down the stretch, and the Jaguars won several of those games by large margins (an average of 14.5 points per game).  I think the Jags will beat ORU in the title game.

Sunbelt Conference

1st Round

#8 New Orleans 65  #9 Denver 60

#4 Middle Tennessee 74  #13 Louisiana Monroe 69

#12 Troy 70  #5 Louisiana Lafayette 60

#6 North Texas 85  #11 Arkansas State 63

#7 Florida Atlantic 91  #10 Florida International 64

Sunday, March 9 @ Mobile, AL

Quarterfinals

New Orleans (19-12) vs. South Alabama (25-5)

Middle Tennessee (15-14) vs. Troy (12-18)

North Texas (20-10) vs. Western Kentucky (24-6)

Florida Atlantic (15-17) vs. Arkansas Little Rock (19-10)

Monday, March 10 @ Mobile, AL

Semifinals

UNO/USA vs. MTSU/Troy

N. Tex./WKU vs. FAU/UALR

Tuesday, March 11 @ Mobile, AL

Championship

At-Large Teams:      1 (South Alabama)

Bubble:                      Western Kentucky

This is one tournament the bubble teams will be watching closely.  As many as three teams could possibly emerge from this fete with tickets to the Dance, although I expect the league will be lucky to land a second participant.  South Alabama needs only to beat New Orleans Sunday to solidify their at-large hopes.  Western Kentucky might need to win the championship, but the Hilltoppers definitely must make it to the final game to have any chance whatsoever.  North Texas will be a tough quarterfinal match for WKU.

 West Coast Conference

All Games Played At San Diego (San Diego host team)

Opening Round

#5 San Francisco 79  # 8 Loyola Marymount 60

#6 Pepperdine 50  #7 Portland 48  ot

Saturday, March 8

Quarterfinals

#4 Santa Clara (14-15)  vs. San Francisco (10-20)

#3 San Diego (18-13)  vs. Pepperdine (11-20)

Sunday, March 9

#1 Gonzaga 24-6  vs. Santa Clara-San Francisco

#2 St. Mary’s 25-5  vs. San Diego-Pepperdine

Monday, March 10

Championship Game

At-Large Teams:      2 (Gonzaga & St. Mary’s)

Bubble:                      None

The bubble teams across the nation will be rooting hard for either Gonzaga or St. Mary’s to win the tournament.  If San Diego can get hot at home and beat both of the behemoths, the WCC will send three teams to the Dance, and another bubble will pop.  The opening day of this tournament couldn’t field four weaker teams.  The quartet combined for 86 losses.  All four will be gone after the second round.  The host Toreros have an easy road to the semifinals, where they should be fresh for St. Mary’s.  It should be a great game that extends the winner and allows Gonzaga to sweep the regular season and tournament yet again.

Already Clinched Automatic Berth in NCAA Tournament (1)

1. Cornell-Ivy League Champion

Have fun watching all the exciting games.  I hope it isn’t 13 degrees below zero where you are this morning.

March 6, 2008

A PiRate Look At The NCAA Basketball Conference Tournaments–3rd Update

 

A PiRate Look at the NCAA Basketball Conference Tournaments

March 6, 2008, 3rd Update

Wednesday’s Conference Tournament Results

Atlantic Sun

#2 Jacksonville 65  #7 Mercer 57

#1 Belmont 75  #8 Campbell 66

Belmont almost blew a 19-point lead to survive in a game where they didn’t show up to play.  Jacksonville didn’t look like champion material, but the Dolphins took care of Mercer.

Thursday

#3 Stetson 16-15 vs. #6 Gardner-Webb 15-15

#4 East Tennessee 18-12 vs. #5 Lipscomb 15-15

Friday

Jacksonville 17-12 vs. Stetson/Gardner-Webb Winner

Belmont 23-8 vs. East Tennessee/Lipscomb Winner

Saturday

Championship

At-Large Teams:      0

Bubble:                      None

Patriot League

#1 American 62  #8 Holy Cross 60

#5 Army 64  #4 Lehigh 61 ot

#7 Bucknell 87  #2 Navy 86 3ot

#3 Colgate 76  #6 Lafayette 74

How about this opening round?  WOW!  All four games went down to the buzzer, with two going to overtime.  Two of the lower seeds won on the road.  Any of the four teams left can win.  American is not playing their best ball, so I would have to favor Colgate by a slim margin over the other three.

 Sunday

Army 14-15 at American 19-11

Bucknell 12-18 at Colgate 17-13

March 14

Championship Game at Higher Seed

At-Large Teams:      0

Bubble:                      None

Sunbelt Conference

#8 New Orleans 65  #9 Denver 60

#4 Middle Tennessee 74  #13 Louisiana Monroe 69

#12 Troy 70  #5 Louisiana Lafayette 60

#6 North Texas 85  #11 Arkansas State 63

#7 Florida Atlantic 91  #10 Florida International 64

It was a great night for Troy, as their women’s team also came up with a big win.  Middle Tennessee may be more than they can handle in the next round.  South Alabama better be ready for UNO, because the Privateers are going to scare the daylights out of them Sunday.  Western Kentucky isn’t a sure thing to beat North Texas either. 

Sunday

New Orleans 19-12 vs. South Alabama 25-5

Middle Tennessee 15-14 vs. Troy 12-18

North Texas 20-10 vs. Western Kentucky 24-6

Florida Atlantic 15-17 vs. Arkansas Little Rock 19-10

At-Large Teams:      1 (South Alabama)

Bubble:                      Western Kentucky

Other Tournaments Underway

Big South

March 6 @ Asheville, NC

UNC-Asheville 22-8  vs. Liberty 16-15

Winthrop 20-11  vs. High Point 17-13

I expect the top two seeds to advance to the finals.  UNCA defeated Winthrop twice this year, so Winthrop will be poised to get revenge in the one that really matters.  Winthrop led the Bulldogs for most of the first half when they played at the Justice Center in Asheville earlier this year, but UNCA went on a huge run to win by 15.  UNCA was hot from behind the arc, and it opened up the inside.

March 8 @ Higher Seed

Championship Game

At-Large Teams:      0

Bubble:                      None

Horizon League

All Games Played At Indianapolis (Butler host team)

March 7

Wright State 21-9  vs. Valparaiso 20-12

Illinois-Chicago 17-14   vs. Loyola (Chi.) 12-18

March 8

Cleveland State 20-11  vs. Wright State/Valpo Winner

Butler 27-3  vs. Illinois-Chicago/Loyola (Chi.) Winner

At-Large Teams:      1 (Butler)

Bubble:                      None

Butler lost at home to Drake, but I doubt the Bulldogs will lose at home to any Horizon League opponent.  Cleveland State is playing well right now, and the Vikings gave Butler a good game in Indianapolis three weeks ago, having the game tied with less than 13 minutes to go before losing by five.  Wright State also played well at Butler, losing by five as well. 

Ohio Valley Conference

All Games Played At Nashville

Tennessee State had the most impressive win in the opening round, and the Tigers defeated top two seeds APSU and Murray within the past three weeks.  While Austin Peay is still the team to beat, the Tigers are confident they can knock off both the Racers Friday and the Governors Saturday to win the automatic bid.  UT-Martin has a chance against Peay, because Lester Hudson can carry a team on his back.  He won’t have to, as teammate Marquis Weddle will help carry the load.

March 7

Austin Peay 22-10  vs. UT-Martin 17-15

Murray State 18-12  vs. Tennessee State 15-15

March 8

Championship Game

At-Large Teams:      0

Bubble:                      None

Conference Tournaments Beginning Friday, March 7

America East

1st Three Rounds At Binghamton, NY.  Championship Game At Higher Seed

#8 Stony Brook 6-22  vs. #9 Maine 7-22

March 8

#1 Md. Balt. Co. 21-8  vs. Stony Brook/Maine Winner

#4 Vermont 15-14  vs. #5 Binghamton 14-15

#2 Hartford 16-15  vs. #7 New Hampshire 9-19

#3 Albany 15-14  vs. #6 Boston U. 13-16

March 9

UMBC-Stony Brook-Maine vs. Vermont-Binghamton

Hartford-New Hampshire vs. Albany-Boston

March 15

Championship Game

At-Large Teams:      0

Bubble:                      None

UMBC will have a tough time getting by host Binghamton in a possible semifinal match.  The Bearcats beat the top seed at home in the regular season and almost swept them when they played in Catonsville.  I look for the winner of that game to cut down the nets on the 15th.

Colonial Athletic Association

All Games Played At Richmond, VA (Virginia Commonwealth host team)

#8 Hofstra 12-17  vs. #9 Towson State 12-17 (VCU 23-6)

#5 William & Mary  vs. #12 Georgia State (ODU 17-14)

#6 Delaware  vs. #11 Drexel (UNCW 19-12)

#7 Northeastern  vs. #10 James Madison (GMU 20-10)

March 8

Virginia Commonwealth 23-6  vs. Hofstra/Towson Winner

Old Dominion 17-14  vs. William & Mary/Georgia State Winner

UNC-Wilmington 19-12  vs. Delaware/Drexel Winner

George Mason 20-10  vs. Northeastern/James Madison Winner

March 9

VCU-Hofstra-Towson  vs. ODU-Wm. & Mary-Georgia State

UNCW-Delaware-Drexel  vs. GMU-Northeastern-JMU

March 10

Championship Game

At-Large Teams:      0 or 1

Bubble:                      Virginia Commonwealth

VCU is the obvious choice to win the tournament that is being played on their home floor, but they aren’t the runaway choice.  Old Dominion beat both VCU and George Mason down the stretch, with the win against the Rams coming in Richmond.  UNC-Wilmington beat ODU twice and won at George Mason, but the Seahawks didn’t come close either time against VCU.  They may have an axe to grind in a third match with the Rams, but it would still be hard to defeat VCU in Richmond.

Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference

All Games Played At Albany, NY (Siena host team)

#8 Manhattan 11-18  vs. #9 St. Peter’s 6-23

#7 Iona 12-19  vs. #10 Canisius 5-24

March 8

#1 Siena 19-10  vs. Manhattan/St. Peter’s Winner

#4 Loyola (Md.) 18-13  vs. #5 Fairfield 14-15

#2 Rider 21-9  vs. Iona/Canisius Winner

#3 Niagara 19-9  vs. Marist 17-13

March 9

Siena-Manhattan-St. Peter’s  vs. Loyola-Fairfield

Rider-Iona-Canisius  vs. Niagara-Marist

March 10

Championship Game

At-Large Teams:      0

Bubble:                      None

The top four seeds are basically even in talent.  Siena has home court advantage, but the Saints had a better road record than home record in conference play.  Niagara enters the tournament as the hottest team, winning five of their final six games.  However, the one loss came by 16 points at Siena.

Southern Conference

All Games Played At Charleston, SC (College of Charleston host team)

#8 Wofford 15-15  vs. #9 Western Carolina 10-20

#7 Elon 11-18  vs. #10 Furman 7-22

#6 Charleston 14-16  vs. #11 Citadel 6-23

March 8

#1 Davidson 23-6  vs. Wofford/Western Carolina Winner

#4 Appalachian State 18-12  vs. #5 UNC-Greensboro 18-11

#2 Chattanooga 18-12  vs. Elon/Furman Winner

#3 Georgia Southern 20-11  vs. Charleston/Citadel Winner

March 9

Davidson-Wofford-Western Carolina  vs. Appy State-UNCG

Chatt-Elon-Furman  vs. Ga. Sou.-Chas.-Citadel

March 10

Championship Game

At-Large Teams:      0 or 1

Bubble:                      Davidson

How can any SoCon team beat Davidson?  Who can do it?  Only Davidson can do it to themselves.  The Wildcats made a mockery of the league for the second year in a row, going 20-0.  In their final regular season game and playing on the home court of the next best team in the league in a game that only had pride on the line, DU blew away Georgia Southern by 20 points.  Against the top four contenders (Ga. Sou., Chatt., Appy State, and UNCG), Davidson won by an average score of 81-66.  Any team beating the Wildcats will have pulled off an upset similar to the Miracle on Ice in 1980.

 West Coast Conference

All Games Played At San Diego (San Diego host team)

#5 San Francisco 9-20  vs. # 8 Loyola Marymount 5-25

#6 Pepperdine 10-20  vs. #7 Portland 9-21

March 8

#4 Santa Clara 14-15  vs. San Francisco/Loyola Marymount Winner

#3 San Diego 18-13  vs. Pepperdine/Portland Winner

March 9

#1 Gonzaga 24-6  vs. Santa Clara-San Francisco-Loyola Marymount

#2 St. Mary’s 25-5  vs. San Diego-Pepperdine-Portland

March 10

Championship Game

At-Large Teams:      2 (Gonzaga & St. Mary’s)

Bubble:                      None

The bubble teams across the nation will be rooting hard for either Gonzaga or St. Mary’s to win the tournament.  If San Diego can get hot at home and beat both of the behemoths, the WCC will send three teams to the Dance, and another bubble will pop.  The opening day of this tournament couldn’t field four weaker teams.  The quartet combined for 86 losses.  All four will be gone after the second round.  The host Toreros have an easy road to the semifinals, where they should be fresh for St. Mary’s.  It should be a great game that extends the winner and allows Gonzaga to sweep the regular season and tournament yet again.

The Other Conference Races

Already Clinched Automatic Berth in NCAA Tournament (1)

1. Cornell-Ivy League Champion

Atlantic Coast

At Large Teams:      5 or 6

Bubble:                      Maryland

North Carolina, Duke, and Clemson are locks.  Virginia Tech and Miami are close to becoming locks and will be so with one more win.  Maryland has lost four of their last six, including a home loss to Clemson.  The Terps must win at Virginia and then take one game in the ACC Tournament to feel safe.  No other team can get in without winning the conference tournament.

Atlantic 10

At Large Teams:      2 or 3

Bubble:                      Dayton

Xavier is the only sure thing as of today.  U Mass is close and should be safe if they win at George Washington Saturday.  Dayton is mired in a tie for eighth place at 7-8 in the league, but the Flyers’ RPI is still in the 30’s.  If they beat St. Joseph’s Saturday to finish the regular season 8-8/20-9, then they could work their way onto the bubble by advancing to the tournament semifinals.  St. Joe’s, Rhode Island, and Temple could still conceivably move to the bubble by getting to the finals of the conference tournament, but they still would be in jeopardy of being left out.

Big East

At Large Teams:      7 or 8

Bubble:                      Syracuse, Villanova

Louisville, Georgetown, Notre Dame, Connecticut, and Marquette are locks.  West Virginia and Pittsburgh are almost there and should get in short of total collapses.  Syracuse and Villanova still have work to do.  It’s hard to see the Big East getting nine teams.  Syracuse has dropped five of their last seven and must defeat Marquette to close out the regular season and then probably pull off a first round win at MSG and possibly upset someone in the quarterfinals.  Villanova is in the same boat.  The Wildcats absolutely must win at Providence and then do some damage in the Big East Tournament.

Big 10

At Large Teams:      4 or 5

Bubble:                      Ohio State, Minnesota

Wisconsin, Indiana, Purdue, and Michigan State are locks.  Ohio State helped themselves big time by knocking off Purdue; a regular season finale win at home against Michigan State could do the trick.  If they lose that game, the Buckeyes must get to the semifinal round of the Big 10 Tournament to have a shot.  Minnesota could get into the picture with a win at Illinois to close out the regular season followed by a surprise showing in the Big 10 Tourney.  They would have to get to the championship game to be on the bubble at 22-12.

Big 12

At Large Teams:      5, 6, or 7

Bubble:                      Oklahoma, Texas A&M, Baylor   (Tiny Bubble: Texas Tech, Oklahoma State)

Kansas, Texas, and Kansas State are safely in the Dance.  After that, the picture is a little more cloudy.  Oklahoma, Texas A&M and Baylor have high enough RPIs to be in the upper heights of the bubble.  However, if any of this trio loses their final regular season game and then gets dropped in their first game of the conference tournament, they could be sweating come Selection Sunday.  Texas Tech and Oklahoma State can still get in the mix, but I don’t think they will do so.  If there are enough surprise conference tournament winners, this league will definitely lose one bid.

Big West

At Large Teams:      0

Bubble:                      0

There are four teams with enough talent to pull off an opening round upset in the NCAA Tournament, but none of them have a strong enough resume to be considered for an at-large bid.  Cal State Northridge 19-8, Cal State Fullerton 20-8, UC Santa Barbara 21-7, and Pacific 21-9 are that quartet.  The three teams that don’t get in the Field of 65 should all be highly considered for the NIT.

Conference USA

At Large Teams:      1 or 2

Bubble:                      UAB, Houston

Memphis is obviously in, and if they win the CUSA Tournament, there is a chance they will be the only league team dancing.  UAB lost by one at home to Memphis, and now they close out the regular season by playing the Tigers in the Bluff City.  A Blazer win would move them to within one conference tournament win of getting in as an at-large team.  Houston needs a win at UTEP, and then the Cougars would have to get to the title game in the CUSA Tourney to have a legitimate shot at an at-large bid.

Mid-American

At Large Teams:      1

Bubble:                      None

Kent State is now a lock for an at-large bid, but if any other team is going to make it to the Big Dance, they will have to win the MAC Tournament.  Akron and Ohio U are both capable of beating Kent State four times out of 10 on a neutral floor.

M E A C

At Large Teams:      0

Bubble:                      None

Morgan State has won 12 of their last 13 games, and the Golden Bears are talented enough to pull off an upset in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament.  Of course, they have a big obstacle to successfully counter first.  The MEAC Tournament is almost always chock full of surprises.  Six other teams could have what it takes to put together a quick hot streak and cut down the nets in Raleigh on March 15.  Watch out for FAMU.  The Rattlers have won four straight games and already own a victory over Morgan State.  This tournament should be well worth the price of admission for the potential ticket buyer.

Mountain West

At Large Teams:      2

Bubble:                      New Mexico

BYU and UNLV haven’t received much publicity this year.  Maybe, there’s been too much snow in Utah and too many celebrities in Las Vegas stealing the headlines, but the Cougars and Runnin’ Rebels are both quite good.  New Mexico isn’t chopped liver either.  The Lobos are squarely on the bubble, and they will get in if they advance to the semifinal round of the MWC Tourney and there aren’t too many conference tournament upsets.

Pac-10

At Large Teams:      4, 5, 6, or 7

Bubble:                      Arizona, Southern Cal, Arizona State, Oregon

The Pac-10 is rather strong until you get to number 10 Oregon State.  When you have two great teams like UCLA and Stanford, and seven really good teams, it makes it hard for those seven really good teams to climb above mediocrity in the standings.  It is my opinion that this is the best league in the nation, and the RPI ratings show it to be tied for first with the ACC.  Therefore, I expect a team could get in the Big Dance with a regular season conference record of 8-10, if that team fares well in the conference tournament.

UCLA, Stanford, and Washington State are safe locks.  Southern California finishes the regular season at home against Stanford and Cal, and a win in either game will push them over the top.  The two Arizona schools must close out the regular season in the State of Oregon.  Both should handle Oregon State.  If either can knock off Oregon, that should move them into the better half of the bubble.  As far as the Ducks go, Oregon probably needs to beat both Arizona teams and then advance to the semifinals of the Pac-10 Tournament.

California and Washington are now out of the picture, but both teams are better than probably 25 of the teams that will be part of the Field of 65.

Southeastern

At Large Teams:      4 or 5 

Bubble:                      Arkansas

Tennessee, Vanderbilt, Mississippi State, and Kentucky are in the Dance.  Arkansas needs a win over Alabama this weekend plus one win in the SEC Tournament.  Ole Miss can only get there by winning the Tournament, even if they win at Georgia to close out the regular season.

Southland

At Large Teams:      0 or 1

Bubble:                      Stephen F. Austin

This should be an interesting tournament.  You have Stephen F. Austin, which until falling at home to UT-Arlington last week, was in good shape for an at-large bid.  Now, their at-large possibilities are limited at best to winning all their games until the Southland Conference Championship Game.  Lamar has the best league record, and they had won 10 games in a row until losing to McNeese State last Saturday.  Sam Houston is hanging in there in the third position at 22-6, and you have to watch out for Northwestern State which routinely plays their best ball in March.

S W A C

At Large Teams:      0

Bubble:                      None

It’s Alabama State or bust.  The Hornets are the only SWAC team capable of advancing with a winning record to the play-in round of the NCAA Tournament.  When the conference tournament convenes in Birmingham,  Alabama State will be the favorite, but the chance that someone other than the Hornets wins the tourney is greater than 50%.  Last place Alcorn State won at Alabama State a couple weeks ago, so the spread from first to last isn’t that great. 

W A C

At Large Teams:      0

Bubble:                      None

The WAC Tournament will decide which single team gets a Dance invitation, as there are no teams close enough to the bubble to be considered.  New Mexico State hosts the tournament, and the Aggies have a scoring margin of 83-62 in their last nine games at the Pan American Center.  NMSU might be the third or fourth seed in the tourney, but they are the heavy favorite to win the lone league bid.

Nevada, Utah State, and Boise State are the other three really good teams in the league, and Nevada is the only WAC team to have won in Las Cruces this year.

March 5, 2008

A PiRate Look At The NCAA Basketball Conference Tournaments–2nd update

 

A PiRate Look at the NCAA Basketball Conference Tournaments

March 4, 2008, 2nd Update

It’s the beginning of the NCAA Conference Tournament season, a near fortnight of action leading up to Selection Sunday on March 16th.

The first conference tournament games began last night (Tuesday, March 4th).  Here are the results from those games:

Big South

#2 Winthrop 76  #7 Radford 45

#3 High Point 59  #6 Coastal Carolina 56

#1 UNC-Asheville 87  #8 Charleston Southern 63

#4 Liberty 103  #5 VMI 88

Semifinals

Winthrop 20-11 vs. High Point 17-13

UNC-Asheville 22-8 vs. Liberty 16-15

The two top seeds looked like NCAA Tournament teams last night.  Winthrop looks to be the best team right now, but I still favor UNCA because of their great depth.  Depth takes on added importance in conference tournaments.

Horizon League

#3 Wright State 60  #10 Detroit 37

#6 Valparaiso 75  #7 UW-Green Bay 67

#4 Illinois-Chicago 70  #9 Youngstown State 59

#8 Loyola (Chi.) 57  #5 UW-Milwaukee 51

Quarterfinals

Wright State 21-9 vs. Valparaiso 20-12  (winner faces Cleveland State)

Illinois-Chicago 17-14 vs. Loyola (Chi.) 12-18 (winner faces Butler)

#1 Butler (16-2/27-3) and #2 Cleveland State (12-6/20-11) have byes until the semifinal round.

There are still four teams left in this tournament that are capable of upsetting Butler.  Illinois-Chicago might be a tough opponent for 20 minutes, but the Flames cannot win at Butler.  They should dismiss Loyola rather easily.

The other side of the bracket couldn’t be any more exciting.  Cleveland State gets a huge advantage with two byes, while their opponent will have played two games to reach the semis.

Ohio Valley

#1 Austin Peay 76  #8 Eastern Kentucky 51

#4 UT-Martin 101  #5 Samford 94 3ot

#2 Murray State 77  #7 Tennessee Tech 74

#6 Tennessee State 68  #3 Morehead State 61

Semifinals

Austin Peay 22-10 vs. UT-Martin 17-15

Murray State 18-12 vs. Tennessee State 14-16

This is one final four where the top seed has about a 28% chance of winning and the other three teams have 24% chances of winning.  If you live down South in the Nashville area and you love basketball, you should get out to the OVC Tournament Friday Night for two great games.

A few more conferences begin tonight.  I have already previewed them in the prior story, but here they are again, so you don’t have to go back to the prior one.  Check back tomorrow for another update including previews of tournaments beginning Friday and Saturday, as well as reports of the other conferences still playing in the regular season.

Tournaments Beginning Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Atlantic Sun

This is the second tournament being played in Nashville this week.  Lipscomb will be hosting the A-Sun at Allen Arena.  The Bisons came on strong as the season concluded, and they are tough on their home floor.  Top-seed Belmont has to make all of a three-mile jaunt down Belmont Boulevard to play in this tournament, so the Bruins are still the heavy favorite to three-peat and face another Final Four contender in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament.

The A-Sun awards its top two seeds by giving them a day’s rest between the quarterfinal and semifinal round; of course, this assumes that they survive the first round.  The two weakest seeds also get a chance to rest if they can pull off a first round upset. 

Wednesday, March 5

#2 Jacksonville (12-4/16-12) vs. #7 Mercer (6-10/11-18)

Jacksonville narrowly edged the Bears both times they played this year.  The Dolphins blew a 17-point lead and had to hit a shot at the buzzer to win at Mercer, and then they blew a 13-point lead against Mercer in Jacksonville before getting hot and winning in overtime.  If the Dolphins get well ahead of Mercer, both teams will be thinking about the other two times.  My guess here is that Jacksonville will not get that big lead this time, and if Mercer makes a run, the Dolphins could be heading back to Florida early.  Give Mercer at least a 40-45% chance of winning this game.  The winner then gets a day off before facing the winner of the Stetson-Gardner-Webb game.

#1 Belmont (14-2/22-8) vs. #8 Campbell (5-11/10-19)

The eighth-seeded Fighting Camels were one of two teams to peg a loss on Belmont in the A-Sun.  Belmont exacted their revenge by slaughtering Campbell to clinch the regular season championship.  The Bruins enter the tournament riding a 10-game winning streak, and Coach Rick Byrd won’t allow his troops to overlook Campbell.  Look for a big Bruin win, by at least a dozen points.  Then, with a day off, they will have the upper hand in the semifinal game, even if the opponent is Lipscomb.  This Belmont team won at Cincinnati and at Alabama earlier this season, so they won’t be in awe of their first round opponent in the Big Dance if they win their third A-Sun title in a row.  This team has the capability of becoming the next Winthrop or Davidson.

Thursday, March 6

#3 Stetson (11-5/16-15) vs. #6 Gardner-Webb (9-7/15-15)

The number six seed in the Atlantic Sun Tournament won by 16 points at the probable number three seed in the Southeastern Conference.  Yes, Gardner-Webb destroyed Kentucky at Rupp Arena back in November.  The season went south from there, as the Bulldogs finished in the middle of the pack in the league.  Stetson lost at GW in their only meeting this season.  Stetson couldn’t throw it in the ocean in that game, and I don’t expect the Hatters to hit 34.5% of their shots this time around.  Look for a hard-fought close game that could come down to the last possession.  I expect the margin of victory to be less than five points.  Unfortunately for the winner, they will have to turn around and play the following day against a rested Jacksonville or Mercer. 

#4 East Tennessee (11-5/18-12) at #5 Lipscomb (9-7/15-15)

The host Bisons were 2-5 in the league and 8-13 overall in late January, but then they turned things around with a 7-2 finish down the stretch.  One of the two losses came at the hands of East Tennessee in Johnson City by three points.  The Buccaneers also won at Lipscomb in another close game, and they are now faced with the task of beating a hot team three times in one season and twice on their home floor.  ETSU Coach Murray Bartow has a tough assignment, and if he get his charges to pull off the hat trick, their reward will be facing a rested Belmont on short notice.  I doubt ETSU can get to the finals, but Lipscomb is capable of beating ETSU and Belmont back-to-back.  I think the Bisons will prevail, setting up a third “Battle of the Boulevard” Friday night.

Patriot League

The Patriot League Tournament is nothing more than playoffs, inasmuch as every game is played on the home floor of the higher seed rather than in one location.  In what was one of the better conference races, American emerged as the top seed.  This year, there is so much parity in this conference that the number eight seed Holy Cross Crusaders could easily win the tournament, even though they would have to win three games on the road.

#8 Holy Cross (5-9/15-13) at #1 American (10-4/18-11)

Last place HCU actually won at American earlier this season.  American will definitely not overlook the Crusaders.  HCU will try to shorten the game and have a minimum number of possessions, hoping that center Tim Clifford can use his inside prowess and pull off a repeat performance that led the Crusaders to the win over American.  In that game, Clifford connected on nine of 11 shots and finished with 24 points.  It may take an effort similar to that game, but it isn’t impossible.  Still, you have to favor the Eagles to win with a probability of 80-85%.

#5 Army (6-8/13-15) at #4 Lehigh (7-7/14-14)

This will be a game in the 50’s or low 60’s, and it should go down to the wire.  Lehigh won both regular season games by five points.  They blew a 16-point lead at home and saw Army cut 13 points off that lead in a matter of minutes.  At Army, the Cadets blew a 15-point lead.  I think Lehigh will win again, and it could easily be by five points yet again.

#7 Bucknell (6-8/11-18) at #2 Navy (9-5/16-13)

Navy had a chance to win the regular season title and couldn’t win at Colgate.  Now, the Midshipmen face a school they have had a tough time defeating in recent years.  When they edged Bucknell in Annapolis three weeks ago, it marked their only win over the Bison in four years.  This game will be close the entire way, and it will take a big effort by Navy’s big three of Greg Spink, Chris Harris, and Kaleo Kina.  The trio combined for 68 points in the win at Alumni Hall.

#6 Lafayette (6-8/15-14) at #3 Colgate (7-7/16-13)

Colgate finished the season as the Patriot League’s hottest team, and I believe the Raiders are the true team to beat in the conference tournament.  Lafayette was the coldest team down the stretch.  After starting Patriot League play 4-0, the Leopards lost eight of 10.  I can see no reason why these trends will change over the course of a couple days.  Look for Colgate to win by five to 10 points.

Sunbelt

This is a league where two teams could obtain NCAA bids, especially if someone can topple top-seed and host team South Alabama.  Western Kentucky is the one team that can do it, and USA beat them both times they played this year.  It will be hard to beat the Hilltoppers three times in a row, even in Mobile.  Western’s RPI is in the high 40’s, so it isn’t totally impossible for WKU to get an at-large bid.

The top three teams get first round byes, while teams 4-13 play on the campus of the better seed.  While WKU had the second best record, the West Division champion Arkansas-Little Rock gets the number two seed, while the Hilltoppers drop to number three.

#13 UL-Monroe (4-14/10-20) at #4 Middle Tennessee (11-7/14-14)

Middle Tennessee closed the season winning seven of their last 10 games including knocking off regular season champion South Alabama.  The Blue Raiders should advance to the quarterfinals with a win over ULM, but it won’t be easy.  The Warhawks thumped MTSU in Monroe, leading by double digits most of the game.  ULM lost their final four regular season games by an average margin of 14.5 points.  Look for the Blue Raiders to get revenge and advance to the quarterfinals where they will meet winner of Troy and UL-Lafayette.

#12 Troy (4-14/11-18) at #5 UL-Lafayette (11-7/15-14)

ULL finished the season as hot as anybody in the league.  The Ragin’ Cagins won five of their final six and played great defense, yielding just 60.7 points per game in that stretch.  Additionally, ULL possessed an excellent inside game while they were moving up in the standings.  You have to consider them a dark horse candidate for winning the tournament.  Troy hasn’t much of a chance in this game.  They don’t match up well against ULL and will be dominated inside the paint.  A ULL-MTSU quarterfinal match would be a great battle.

#11 Arkansas State (5-13/10-19) at #6 North Texas (10-8/19-10)

Arkansas State will bow out quickly in this game.  The Indians are already looking ahead to the future and the possibility that Nolan Richardson could become their next coach.  Meanwhile, North Texas won five of six to close the season on a run.  The Mean Green pegged a loss on South Alabama, and out of conference, UNT defeated Oklahoma State and New Mexico State.  This team can not only win the conference tournament, they can win in the Big Dance.  Look for a big North Texas win and a date against Western Kentucky in the next round.

#10 Florida Int’l (6-12/9-19) at #7 Florida Atlantic (8-10/14-17)

FAU was 1-7 in Sunbelt play before finishing 7-3 in the final five weeks, averaging 82.5 points per game.  Two of those three losses came to the big two, WKU and USA.  The other loss, though, came at the hands of their arch-rival and opening round opponent, FIU.  In fact, the Golden Panthers defeated the Owls both times this year.  Look for FAU to get some revenge and win the one that really counts.  The winner of this game will play Arkansas-Little Rock in the next round.  FAU has the talent to win that game and advance to the semifinals, but they have to get past their nemesis first.

#9 Denver (7-11/11-18) at #8 New Orleans (8-10/18-12)

UNO was 14-5 at one point this year with wins over North Carolina State, Tulane, and Lamar.  Then, they swooned.  The Privateers lost seven of their last 11 games.  One of those wins was a six-point defeat of Denver in Denver.  The Pioneers lost their final six games after being in contention in the West Division halfway through the conference schedule.  In a battle of teams headed nowhere, look for UNO to win unimpressively and then flop in their next game against top seed South Alabama.

Tournaments Beginning Thursday, March 6, 2008

Missouri Valley

The Valley had the eighth best RPI among the conferences this year, so you have to figure that more than one member will find a spot in the Field of 65.  Drake is a lock, while Illinois State is squarely on the bubble.   Southern Illinois and Creighton are long shots for at-large consideration, but they are talented enough to win this year’s Arch Madness.

# 8 Indiana St. (8-10/14-15)  vs. # 9 Wichita St. (4-14/11-19) 

These are two teams headed in the same direction, but unfortunately, its’ the wrong direction.  Neither team looked impressive down the stretch.  They hooked up in Terre Haute two weeks ago, and Wichita State led by 20 with less than 15 minutes to play.  ISU went on a 23-3 run in the next six minutes to tie the game and went on to win by 10 in overtime.  Look for Wichita State to keep this game close all the way and have a chance to get a bit of revenge with an upset over the Sycamores.  The winner gets top-seed Drake, a team that has not been playing their best ball at the end of the season.

# 7 Missouri State (8-10/16-15)  vs. # 10 Evansville (3-15/9-20)

Can a team that not only was blown out by another team, they had the score doubled against them, turn around and beat that same team 19 days later?  Missouri State beat Evansville 76-38 on February 19, and the Bears beat the Purple Aces by 19 earlier in the season.  Sure, it can be hard to beat a team three times in a row, but then again North Carolina could play New Jersey Institute of Technology 30 times a year and win all 30.  Look for the Bears to win by double digits for the third time and advance to face Illinois State in the next round, where they will be sent packing.

# 4 Creighton (10-8/20-9) vs. # 5 Bradley (9-9/17-14) will play Friday in the second round with the winner facing the winner of Drake and either Indiana State or Wichita State.

# 3 Southern Illinois (11-7/17-13) vs. # 6 UNI (9-9/17-13) will play Friday in the second round with the winner facing the winner of the Illinois State and either Missouri State or Evansville.

I look for the champion of this conference to come from the #2-3-7-10 bracket.  I expect Illinois State and Southern Illinois to face off in the semifinals with the winner cutting down the nets the following night.

Northeast Conference

This conference had an exciting regular season with multiple teams looking like they were top dog at some point in the season.  Robert Morris stayed hotter longer, so they earned the top seed.  Even with the higher-seeded team hosting every game, you can virtually place the top six teams’ names in a hat and draw to pick the winner.  If I had to choose one team, I wouldn’t choose.

#8 Monmouth (4-14/7-23) at #1 Robert Morris (16-2/25-6)

Can a team with 23 losses have the respect of a team with a 25-6 record in a game played on the home floor of the 25-win team?  You bet they can.  Monmouth almost beat Robert Morris January 31st, losing 61-60.  RMU will not be looking ahead, and the Colonials will be ready to play.  RMU will advance with a 15-point win.

#5 Quinnipiac (11-7/15-14) at #4 Mount St. Mary’s (11-7/15-14)

A quick glance at their records prove this game should be close.  Mt. St. Mary’s has no more than one point home court advantage if any, but the two teams did win the home and home on their home floors.  Quinnipiac forward DeMario Anderson leads the Bobcats in scoring, rebounding, assists, and steals, and he owns a 50-foot buzzer beater this year.  That’s the type of player who can carry a team on his back for a couple of days and get his team into the finals. 

Mt. St. Mary’s is one of the current hot teams in the NEC, having won five of six to close the season.  If they can neutralize or lessen the dominance of the Bobcats’ inside game, the Mountaineers should keep this game close and have a chance to win at the end.

#7 Long Island (7-11/15-14) at #2 Wagner (15-3/22-7)

LIU finished the season 5-4 after going 2-7 in the first half of the conference schedule.  Wagner was even hotter down the stretch, finishing 7-1.  The Seahawks had a rather tough time with The Blackbirds this season.  Wagner only beat LIU by three at home and lost by 20 at LIU.  Expect this game to be hard-fought and see multiple lead changes.  In the end, the Wagner bench will outperform the LIU bench and help the Seahawks advance.

#6 Central Connecticut State (10-8/14-15) at #3 Sacred Heart (13-5/16-13)

Sacred Heart has a huge advantage here in this game.  CCSU won at Sacred Heart 100-87 just three days ago, and now the Blue Devils have to win at the William Pitt Center for the second time in four days.  CCSU will not hit 66.7% of their shots this time, and I believe the Pioneers will get their revenge.  A second round match with Wagner would be a can’t miss game.

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