The Pi-Rate Ratings

March 12, 2019

PiRate Ratings College Basketball For Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Filed under: College Basketball — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — piratings @ 8:29 pm

Wednesday’s PiRate Ratings Spreads

Home

Rating

HCA

Visitor

Rating

Spread

George Washington

93.3

0.0

Massachusetts

97.5

-4.2

Fordham

95.2

1.0

Richmond

99.0

-2.8

North Carolina St.

112.9

0.0

Clemson

112.2

0.7

Virginia Tech

116.5

0.0

Miami (Fla.)

107.5

9.0

Louisville

114.0

0.0

Notre Dame

105.9

8.1

Syracuse

111.3

0.0

Pittsburgh

105.1

6.2

TCU

110.0

0.0

Oklahoma St.

104.8

5.2

Oklahoma

111.3

0.0

West Virginia

104.9

6.4

Providence

106.7

0.0

Butler

108.2

-1.5

St. John’s

107.8

1.5

DePaul

104.9

4.4

Northern Arizona

92.1

0.0

Sacramento St.

94.2

-2.1

Idaho St.

90.7

1.0

Southern Utah

93.0

-1.3

Idaho

85.0

1.0

Montana St.

95.2

-9.2

Rutgers

106

0.0

Nebraska

110.5

-4.5

Illinois

106.2

0.0

Northwestern

107.2

-1.0

Louisiana Tech

101.8

0.0

Florida Atlantic

98.7

3.1

UAB

100.1

0.0

Middle Tennessee

95.2

4.9

North Texas

100.9

1.5

Florida Int’l.

97.4

5.0

Marshall

99.7

0.0

Rice

94.3

5.4

North Carolina A&T

92.2

0.0

Coppin St.

84.9

7.3

Norfolk St.

95.1

1.5

South Carolina St.

87.3

9.3

Colorado St.

99.2

0.0

Boise St.

102.6

-3.4

New Mexico

99.3

0.0

Wyoming

90.3

9.0

Air Force

94.8

0.0

San Jose St.

85.4

9.4

USC

105.7

0.0

Arizona

105.9

-0.2

Colorado

107.0

0.0

California

95.0

12.0

UCLA

104.9

0.0

Stanford

103.9

1.0

Oregon

109.3

0.0

Washington St.

101.6

7.7

Colgate

102.1

2.5

Bucknell

102.0

2.6

Lamar

98.0

0.0

Houston Baptist

93.3

4.7

Texas A&M CC

93.7

0.0

Central Arkansas

91.6

2.1

Missouri

106.1

0.0

Georgia

103.5

2.6

Vanderbilt

102

1.0

Texas A&M

105.4

-2.4

 

Conference Tournaments Update

America East Conference

All games at home floor of higher seeds

Semifinals–Tuesday, March 12

Vermont

84

Binghamton

51

Md.-Baltimore Co.

90

Hartford

85 2ot

*** Championship Game–Saturday, March 16 ***

Seed

Home

Seed

Visitor

1

Vermont (26-6)

3

Maryland-Baltimore Co. (21-12)

 

Atlantic 10 Conference

Site: Barclays Center, Brooklyn, NY

First Round–Wednesday, March 13

Seed

Team

Seed

Team

12

George Washington (8-23)

13

Massachusetts (11-20)

11

Richmond (12-19)

14

Fordham (12-19)

 

 

Atlantic Coast Conference

Site: Spectrum Center, Charlotte, NC

First Round–Tuesday, March 12

Miami (Fla.)

79

Wake Forest

71

Notre Dame

78

Georgia Tech

71

Pittsburgh

80

Boston College

70

 

Second Round–Wednesday, March 13

Seed

Team

Seed

Team

8

North Carolina St. (21-10)

9

Clemson (19-12)

5

Virginia Tech (23-7)

12

Miami (Fla) (14-17)

7

Louisville (19-12)

15

Notre Dame (14-18)

6

Syracuse (19-12)

14

Pittsburgh (14-18)

 

 

Big 12 Conference

Site: Sprint Center, Kansas City, MO

First Round–Wednesday, March 13

Seed

Team

Seed

Team

8

TCU (19-12)

9

Oklahoma St. (12-19)

7

Oklahoma (19-12)

10

West Virginia (12-19)

 

 

Big East Conference

Site: Madison Square Garden, New York, NY

First Round–Wednesday, March 13

Seed

Team

Seed

Team

8

Providence (17-14)

9

Butler (16-15)

7

St. John’s (20-11)

10

DePaul (15-13)

 

 

Big Sky Conference

Site: Century Link Arena, Boise, ID

First Round–Wednesday, March 13

Seed

Team

Seed

Team

8

Northern Arizona (10-20)

9

Sacramento St. (14-15)

7

Southern Utah (14-15)

10

Idaho St. (11-18)

6

Montana St. (14-16)

11

Idaho (5-26)

 

 

Big Ten Conference

Site: United Center, Chicago, IL

First Round–Wednesday, March 13

Seed

Team

Seed

Team

12

Rutgers (14-16)

13

Nebraska (16-15)

11

Illinois (11-20)

14

Northwestern (13-18)

 

 

Colonial Athletic Association

Site: North Charleston Coliseum, North Charleston, SC

Championship Game–Tuesday, March 12

Northeastern

82

Hofstra

74

Champion: Northeastern  (23-10)

 

 

Conference USA

Site: Ford Center, Frisco, TX

First Round–Wednesday, March 13

Seed

Team

Seed

Team

8

Louisiana Tech (19-12)

9

Florida Atlantic (17-14)

5

UAB (18-13)

12

Middle Tennessee (11-20)

7

Florida Int’l. (19-12)

10

North Texas (20-11)

6

Marshall (18-13)

11

Rice (13-18)

 

 

Horizon League (Motor City Madness)

Site: Higher Seed and Little Caesars Arena, Detroit, MI

Championship Game–Tuesday, March 12

Seed

Team

Seed

Team

1

Wright St. (21-12)

2

Northern Kentucky (25-8)

Champion: Northern Kentucky  (26-8)

 

 

Mideastern Athletic Conference

Site: Scope Arena, Norfolk, VA

First Round–Tuesday, March 12

Coppin St.

81

Morgan St.

71

South Carolina St.

63

Md. Eastern Shore

54

 

Quarterfinals–Wednesday, March 13 & Thursday, March 14

Seed

Team

Seed

Team

2 (wed)

North Carolina A&T (18-12)

7

Coppin St. (8-24)

3 (thu)

North Carolina Central (15-15)

11

Delaware St. (6-24)

1 (wed)

Norfolk St. (19-12)

9

South Carolina St. (8-25)

4 (thu)

Howard (16-15)

5

Bethune-Cookman

 

 

Mountain West Conference

Site: Thomas & Mack Center, Las Vegas, NV

First Round–Wednesday, March 13

Seed

Team

Seed

Team

8

Colorado St. (12-19)

9

Boise St. (12-19)

7

New Mexico (13-17)

10

Wyoming (8-23)

6

Air Force (13-17)

11

San Jose St. (4-26)

 

 

Northeast Conference

All games at home floor of higher seeds

Championship Game–Tuesday, March 12

Fairleigh-Dickinson

85

St. Francis (PA)

76

Champion: Fairleigh-Dickinson  (20-13)

 

 

Pac-12 Conference

Site: T-Mobile Arena, Las Vegas, NV

First Round–Wednesday, March 13

Seed

Team

Seed

Team

8

USC (15-16)

9

Arizona (17-14)

5

Colorado (19-11)

12

California (8-22)

7

UCLA (16-15)

10

Stanford (15-15)

6

Oregon (19-12)

11

Washington St. (11-20)

 

 

Patriot League

Played at Colgate

Championship Game–Wednesday, March 13

Seed

Home

Seed

Visitor

1

Colgate (23-10)

2

Bucknell (21-10)

 

 

Southland Conference

Site: Leonard E. Merrell Center, Katy, TX

First Round–Wednesday, March 13

Seed

Team

Seed

Team

5

Lamar (19-12)

8

Houston Baptist (12-17)

6

Texas A&M CC (14-17)

7

Central Arkansas (13-18)

 

 

Southeastern Conference

Site: Bridgestone Arena, Nashville, TN

First Round–Wednesday, March 13

Seed

Team

Seed

Team

12

Missouri (14-16)

13

Georgia (11-20)

11

Texas A&M (13-17)

14

Vanderbilt (9-22)

 

 

Summit League

Site: Denny Sanford Premier Center, Sioux Falls, SD

Championship Game–Tuesday, March12

North Dakota St.

73

Omaha

63

Champion: North Dakota St. (18-15)

 

 

Sun Belt Conference

Site: 1st Rd at Higher Seed, Lakefront Arena, New Orleans, LA

First Round–Tuesday, March 12

Louisiana Monroe

89

Appalachian St.

80

South Alabama

75

Arkansas St.

67

 

Second Round–Thursday, March 14

Seed

Team

Seed

Team

6

Coastal Carolina (15-15)

7

Louisiana Monroe (17-14)

5

Louisiana (19-12)

8

South Alabama (16-16)

 

 

Southwestern Athletic Conference

Site: at Higher Seeds

Quarterfinals–Tuesday, March 12

Prairie View A&M

86

Alcorn St.

66

Grambling

59

Arkansas Pine Bluff

52

Alabama St.

58

Jackson St.

49

Texas Southern

80

Southern

70

 

Semifinals–Friday, March 15

Seed

Team

Seed

Team

1

Prairie View A&M (21-12)

4

Grambling (17-15)

2

Texas Southern (20-12)

6

Alabama St. (12-18)

 

 

West Coast Conference

Site: Orleans Arena, Las Vegas, NV

Championship Game–Tuesday, March 12

Saint Mary’s

60

Gonzaga

47

Champion: Saint Mary’s  (22-11)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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August 3, 2011

The PiRates Have Returned To Dry Land Ready For Football

When we last spoke with you, it was undecided whether we would present football ratings for 2011-12.  At the time, there was no end in sight for the NFL lockout, and we were head strong in support of boycotting the college football season as a show of opposition to the post-season bowls.

 

In July, as our gardens became tumbleweeds in the oppressive heat, we had some extra time on our hands to discuss just what we would do this year.  Upon further review, we have decided to issue our college ratings as usual, but only after we make a special post concerning the bowl games.  That will come next week. 

 

As for the NFL, it will be at least three to three and a half weeks before we can update the ratings due to the tight window of wheeling and dealing.  We will not be able to offer an in-depth preview of each NFL division like in past years—it will just be ratings and a brief synopsis of how we see the races and playoffs.  We will offer a brain-teasing trivia quiz dedicated to those 50 and over who remember the NFL/AFL at its best—in the 1950’s and 1960’s.  For those not gifted with gray hair or hairlessness yet, you just might learn some very interesting facts that you can spring on your friends at your local watering hole.  Some will be very tricky indeed.

 

Beginning August 15, we will begin previewing the college conferences.  Here is the schedule for those conference previews:

 

Monday, August 15:SunbeltConference

Tuesday, August 16: Mid-American Conference

Wednesday, August 17: ConferenceUSA

Thursday, August 18: Western Athletic Conference

Friday, August 19: Independents

Monday, August 22: Mountain West Conference

Tuesday, August 23: Big East Conference

Wednesday, August 24:AtlanticCoastConference

Thursday, August 25: Pacific 12 Conference

Friday, August 26: Big 12 Conference

Monday, August 29: Southeastern Conference

Tuesday, August 30: Big Ten Conference

 

We realize that about 15% of you reading this are fans ofVanderbiltUniversitydown inNashville, who followed our founder when he wrote for Vanderbilt Athletics.  We also realize that about 35% of you reading this are residents of the great state ofWisconsinor Badger fans living in the hinterlands.  Thus, on August 29, there will be expanded coverage of the Vanderbilt Commodores, and on August 30, there will be expanded coverage on the Wisconsin Badgers, as they compete for the first Leaders Division title and another conference championship in the exciting, expanded Big Ten.

 

Check back next week for an all-inclusive post about how you can boycott the bowl sponsors and help bring about a post-season playoff.  We have a fresh way of satisfying both the bowls and a playoff at the same time.  To those that have heard our proposal, we have received 100% approval of our idea.  Check back next week for that idea.

August 13, 2010

2010 Conference USA Preview

Go To: www.piratings.webs.com , where we “beat the spread” 60.4% in 2009!

 

Note: The PiRate Ratings are not meant to be used to predict the outcome of future games.  They are usable only as a basis for the current week’s games.  We do not use these ratings to make our selections.  They are only a starting point.  The predictions given below, as for every college conference and NFL division, are not taken from the ratings themselves.  Many hours of research go into our weekly selections against the spread.

 

2010 Conference USA Preview

28.8 points per game—that is the average score put up by members of Conference USA in conference games last year.  These teams averaged 417 yards of offense per game.  If wide open offenses and 150 scrimmage plays per game are up your alley, you have found the conference to follow.

The most outstanding of these offenses belongs to the Houston Cougars.  This is the third time in the school’s history that Houston has been so dominating on offense.  In the late 1960’s, it was the veer offense.  The Cougars were the last team to reach 100 points in a game when they did so against Tulsa in 1968.  In the late 1980’s, it was the run and shoot offense.  Houston came within five points of repeating the triple digit score when they hung 95 on SMU.  Now, with Case Keenum running a four wide receiver spread offense, could the Cougars possibly be primed to challenge the triple digit mark again?  Two opportunities present them with a great chance in the month of September.  It will be fun to watch—unless you are a fan of one of the two teams that could see it happen. 

C U S A Predictions
Pos Team Conf Overall
C U S A  EAST
1 Southern Mississippi 6-2 9-4
2 Central Florida 6-2 8-4
3 U A B 4-4 6-6
4 Marshall 4-4 6-6
5 East Carolina 2-6 2-10
6 Memphis 0-8 0-12
       
Pos Team Conf Overall
C U S A  WEST
1 Houston 7-1 10-3
2 S M U 6-2 7-5
3 Tulsa 6-2 8-4
4 U T E P 4-4 7-5
5 Rice 4-4 4-8
6 Tulane 0-8 2-10

 

CUSA Championship Game: Houston over Southern Mississippi

 

Liberty Bowl—Houston

Hawaii Bowl—Southern Mississippi

Armed Forces Bowl—S M U

St. Petersburg Bowl—Central Florida

New Orleans Bowl—U T E P

Eagle Bank Bowl–Tulsa

 

Team By Team Breakdown

CUSA East

 

Team East Carolina Pirates
               
Head Coach Ruffin McNeill
               
Colors Purple and Gold
               
City Greenville, NC
               
2009 Record              
Conference 7-1
Overall 9-5
               
PiRate Rating 89.6
               
National Rating 89
               
2010 Prediction  
Conference 2-6
Overall 2-10

 

Offense: Things will be much more exciting in Greenville this season when the Pirates have the ball.  New coach Ruffin McNeill brings the Texas Tech “Air Raid” offense with him from Lubbock.  He also brings former TTU receivers coach Lincoln Riley as his offensive coordinator (youngest coordinator in FBS by three years!)

Gone is the ball-control offense that wasn’t flashy but was effective enough to win back-to-back CUSA titles for former coach Skip Holtz.  ECU will throw the ball more than 40 times a game (maybe over 50).  There is a minor battle going on to decide which of four quarterbacks will start against Tulsa in game one.  It appears that former Boston College QB Dominique Davis will get the nod over Brad Wornick and Rio Johnson, but it would not surprise us if eventually true freshman Shane Carden emerges as the full-time starter. 

The receiving corps returns two key players who could both approach 100 receptions this season. Dwayne Harris and Darryl Feeney teamed for 131 receptions in 2009.  Harris is more of the possession receiver, while Feeney is the breakaway threat.

ECU has had some off the field issues with multiple running backs, and this year’s starter by default has not been immune to that.  Jonathan Williams will get one last chance to live up to his high recruit status, but he only averaged 2.7 yards per carry last year.  The Pirates will run the ball 20-25 times with several draw plays.

The offensive line returns three starters, but the two that graduated were both All-CUSA performers.  Throw in the fact that they must learn an entirely new blocking scheme, and you can expect sacks to possibly triple from the 14 of last year.

We believe the new passing offense will produce a lot of yards through the air, while sacks and weaker blocking will haunt the running game.  Look for about 75 yards rushing and 300-325 passing yards, but only about 24-28 points per game.

Defense: We’re talking trouble with a capital T, and that rhymes with P, and that stands for players, as in nine lost starting players from 2009.  To make matters worse, not a single player in the front seven returns this year to a defense that will be on the field for at least 5-10 more plays this year.

The only experience is in the secondary, where both cornerbacks, Emanuel Davis and Travis Simmons, combined for 121 tackles.  Davis intercepted two passes and knocked away a dozen.  They benefitted from one of the best pass rushes in the league, and they won’t be so fortunate this year.  Even with the experience and talent, expect enemy quarterbacks to find the going easier against the Pirate secondary.

Worse than the lack of a returning starter up front is the possibility that as many as three of the four starters in the trenches could be freshmen or sophomores.  Senior Dustin Lineback should emerge as the star of the linebacking unit, but he only recorded 29 tackles last year.

When you factor into the equation that the new offense will struggle at times and force the defense back on the field much more than last year, it looks like this will be a long year for ECU.  Look for the Pirates to give up 30-35 points and 400+ yards per game.

Schedule: Out of conference games at Virginia Tech and North Carolina are sure losses.  Home games with North Carolina State and Navy also look like losses.  The Pirates get Memphis at home, and that is the only sure win.  We figure they will pick up one more along the way.  2-10 would be a big disappointment, but ECU will take a lot of lumps in transitioning to the new offense.

 

Team Marshall Thundering Herd
               
Head Coach Doc Holliday
               
Colors Green and White
               
City Huntington, WV
               
2009 Record              
Conference 4-4
Overall 7-6
               
PiRate Rating 88.7
               
National Rating 91
               
2010 Prediction              
Conference 4-4
Overall 6-6

 

Offense: Here is another school with a new coach.  Marshall gave the Okay to Doc Holliday to corral the Thundering Herd talent into winners at the CUSA gunfight.  He has enough talent to succeed in year one.  

Holliday has worked for Urban Meyer, so you can expect some form of the spread offense.  The first order of business is to identify who will be piloting the new scheme.  Willy Korn was a high school phenom when he signed with Clemson.  Things didn’t pan out there, and he transferred to Marshall where it was expected he would beat out 2009 incumbent Brian Anderson.  However, our spies in Huntington tell us that Anderson is going to keep his job as starter.  Korn may not even be the number two, because hot shot freshman Eddie Sullivan has a really big arm and fast shoes.  This position is in very good hands.

Anderson will have a quartet of fine receivers to throw to this year.  2009 leader Antavious Wilson caught 60 passes for 724 yards last year.  Aaron Dobson is the speedster of the group.  He won’t catch 60 passes, but the 30-40 he does grab should average more than 15 yards per reception and produce double-digit touchdowns.  Tight end Lee Smith is the hands down best at his position in the conference.

The offensive line is better blocking for the run than pass, but we believe they will pick up the new scheme quickly.  All five projected starters are experienced upperclassmen. 

The formerly strong running game is the one concern on this side of the ball.  The Herd lost a 1,000-yard rusher last year, and 2010 figures to be a season where the leading runner could gain less than 800 yards.  If Korn sees action, he could be used as the running alternative to Anderson.

We believe Marshall’s offensive numbers will increase minimally this year.  Look for 24-26 points and 350-375 total yards.

Defense:  Former Marshall coach Mark Snyder was supposed to be a defensive wizard, after he molded some great defenses at Ohio State.  The Buckeye defenses actually improved under Jim Heacock after Snyder left.  His Herd defenses were mediocre, and that cost him his job. 

This year, the pieces are in place for another mediocre showing.  Marshall will fare well against most opponents’ running games, but they will suffer against the slate of excellent opposing quarterbacks they will face this season.  The secondary is a big concern following the loss of its top two stars.  Free safety Omar Brown and cornerback Ahmed Shakoor return, but there is not much experience or depth in this unit.

The defensive line also returns half of its starting contingent, but there is more depth up front than in the back line.  End Vinny Curry could make 1st Team All-CUSA this year after he registered 8 ½ stops behind the line last year.

The middle trio is the strength on this side of the ball.  Linebackers Kellen Harris and Mario Harvey are both excellent run-stoppers.  They will be called on to contribute more in pass coverage this year to hide the liabilities behind them.

The new offense may force the defense to play a couple more plays per game, and we believe Marshall will give up a couple more points and yards per game this season.  Look for 25-28 points and 375-400 yards allowed.

Schedule: Marshall opens the season at the Giant Horseshoe in Columbus against Ohio State, and then the home-opener the following week is against West Virginia.  The Herd will be 0-2 when they go to Bowling Green in week three.  That will be a must-win game if Marshall is to earn six wins again this season.  They host Ohio U the following week before beginning conference play.  Their first two games in the league come against the top two teams in their division—Southern Mississippi and Central Florida.  They could be 1-5 by then and figure to be 2-4.  Home games with UTEP, Memphis, and Tulane will make the back end of the schedule much more fun for Herd fans.  Look for Marshall to flirt with a winning season but fall short and finish 6-6 or 5-7.

 

 

Team Memphis Tigers
               
Head Coach Larry Porter
               
Colors Blue and Gray
               
City Memphis, TN
               
2009 Record              
Conference 1-7
Overall 2-10
               
PiRate Rating 77.7
               
National Rating 114
               
2010 Prediction              
Conference 0-8
Overall 0-12

 

Offense:  Welcome to a big mess!  Memphis doesn’t have much going for it these days.  If you walk around town, the natives will tell you they wish they lived somewhere else.  There is a malaise there.  You can get away from it by making a trip to the Rendezvous for a plate of ribs, but 2010 is not a fun time for the Bluff City.  Ditto that for Memphis Tiger fans.  Tommy West did not go quietly when he was given his walking papers.  He warned the administration that they needed to make a significant renewed effort to revitalize the football program, or else drop football.  Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither will this football program.  It has been rumored that Memphis will be admitted to the Big East Conference in a few years, but Big East officials deny this.  If it doesn’t happen, Memphis could become the next Villanova.

Okay, let’s talk some real football.  New coach Larry Porter comes from LSU, where the coaching staff has been under fire now for a couple of seasons.  He steps out of one frying pan into another.  The Tigers will have new players starting at quarterback, running back, and two of the receiver positions.  They lost their top two rushers and top two receivers. 

The new quarterback will be under close media scrutiny from day one.  Cannon Smith is the son of Federal Express ex-CEO Fred Smith.  Smith has offered up a 10 million dollar “bribe” to any major conference if they accept Memphis as a member.  Most of us have seen cases where the son of the big shot got preferential treatment (like George Herbert Walker Bush’s son and Joseph Kennedy’s sons).  Smith played in one game for Miami (FL) two years ago, but even if he is worthy of being the starter, there will be too much pressure on him to prove it to the rest of the world.

Making matters worse, there isn’t that much talent for Smith to throw the ball.   Sophomore Marcus Rucker is the best of this bunch, but he had just 18 receptions in 2009.

Don’t expect the next DeAngelo Williams or Curtis Steele to suit up for Memphis this year.  True freshman Jerrell Rhodes will likely get the most carries with Lance Smith supplementing.

The offensive line is better than average but not great.  All 2009 starters return, but they will be called to sustain their blocks up to a half-second longer for the inexperienced quarterbacks and receivers to hook up.  Without Steele, they will have to do more in run blocking as well.

We are extremely pessimistic on this year’s team.  We believe Memphis will struggle to score 17 points per game and be fortunate to produce 325 total yards per game.

Defense: The picture on this side of the ball makes the offense look peachy.  The Tigers are going to crash and burn on this side of the ball in 2010.  Only five starters return to a defense that couldn’t stop the pass last year. 

In their final four games, Memphis surrendered 415 passing yards per game last year, and they lost their top two secondary starters.  Cornerback DA Griffin was out for those four games, and his return gives the Tigers a little solace.

Middle linebacker Jamon Hughes led Memphis with 87 tackles last year.  He could be the lone player on this side of the ball to make the All-CUSA team.

Up front, there is some quality and depth.  Three starters return, and the projected fourth starter saw significant action.  Porter recognizes a need for a better pass rush, and he moved Winston Bowens from linebacker to end.

Memphis gave up 35 points per game last year, and they will not improve this year.  Expect 35-40 points and 450-475 yards allowed.

Schedule:  The non-conference schedule isn’t all that difficult, and in a good year, the Tigers could have possibly won all four of these games.  With the major rebuilding project here, they are likely to lose all four.  They open at Mississippi State and play at Louisville in October.  They host Middle Tennessee and Tennessee.  Throw in Houston, Tulsa, and UTEP from the other division, and the almost sure losses add up to seven.  Inside divisional play, Southern Miss and Central Florida are two more sure losses.  That leaves three games—East Carolina, Marshall, and UAB for Memphis to try to find one win.  It may not happen this year.  0-12 is a possibility.  Cheer up Memphis fans.  Basketball season begins soon.

 

 

Team Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles
               
Head Coach Larry Fedora
               
Colors Black and Gold
               
City Hattiesburg, MS
               
2009 Record              
Conference 5-3
Overall 7-6
               
PiRate Rating 91.1
               
National Rating 84
               
2010 Prediction              
Conference 6-2
Overall 9-4

 

Offense: Coach Larry Fedora has produced two excellently balanced offenses in his first two seasons in Hattiesburg.  The Golden Eagles might be just as balanced this year, but that just means that the decimated attack drops off equally in the running and passing stats. 

The offensive line is the major concern.  Only center Cameron Zipp has any starting experience.  He will be surrounded by upperclassmen who have never started a game, and that is a little bit of a concern.

If the line can gel just enough to be considered average, the rest of this offense should be okay.  Quarterback Austin Davis isn’t Case Keenum or G.J. Kinne, but he is a fine passer.  The Eagles have the best backup quarterback in the conference.  Martevious Young had a 16/3 TD/Int ratio last year when he filled in for the injured Davis. 

Only one starting wide out returns.  DeAndre Brown was a consensus freshman All-American last year after catching 47 passes for 785 yards and nine scores.  Junior college transfer Kelvin Bolden was a high school teammate of Brown, and he has the speed to make defenses pay if they try to stop the bigger Brown.

Southern Miss lost its career rushing leader when Damien Fletcher graduated.  Look for Fedora to use a three-player platoon with V.J. Floyd getting first crack as the starter.  Watch out for freshman Kendrik Hardy, who could see a lot of action in short yardage situations.

Southern Miss will not be as explosive on offense this year.  Look for a drop to 25-28 points and 375-400 total yards per game.

Defense:  This side of the ball is in much better shape.  The Golden Eagles will improve here, and with enough improvement, they could be playing on December 4 as the East Division representative in the CUSA Championship Game.

The entire front seven returns from last year, and that includes four juniors and three seniors.  Tackle Anthony Gray and end Cordarro Law have legitimate NFL talent.  They combined for 21 ½ tackles behind the line last year.

The three linebackers were the top three tacklers on the team.  All three (Martez Smith, Korey Williams, and Ronnie Thornton) could make one of the three-deep All-CUSA teams.  The entire trio plays the run and the pass exceptionally well.

The secondary is the only weak spot on the defense, but with an experienced front seven, their inefficiencies may be hidden.  One player who won’t have to hide is cornerback C. J. Bailey.  He knocked away 13 passes last year.

Throw in a great punt returner in Tracy Lampley, and USM might have the best overall defense in the league this season after giving up 26 points per game last year (42 to Middle Tennessee in the New Orleans Bowl loss).  We believe the Eagles will shave both points and yards off 2009’s averages.  Look for 22-24 points and 350-375 yards allowed.  In this league, those numbers will be good enough to lead. 

Schedule: The opener is a toughie at South Carolina on Thursday night, September 2.  Home games follow with Prairie View and a rebuilding Kansas.  Southern Miss wraps up non-conference play with a visit to a rebuilding Louisiana Tech, so a 3-1 start is quite possible.  In league play, it all comes down to the last three weeks of November, when the Eagles play at Central Florida, host Houston, and finish at Tulsa.  They could lose two of those games and still win the division title.  The game with UCF should determine which of those two schools win the division flag.  We tend to favor USM by the thinnest of margins—maybe 50.1% to 49.9%.

 

 

Team U A B  Blazers
               
Head Coach Neil Callaway
               
Colors Green and Gold
               
City Birmingham, AL
               
2009 Record              
Conference 4-4
Overall 5-7
               
PiRate Rating 90.4
               
National Rating 87
               
2010 Prediction              
Conference 4-4
Overall 6-6

 

Offense: How do you replace Superman?  You can’t, and UAB cannot replace departed quarterback Joe Webb.  Webb was a one-man offense for the Blazers last year, leading the team in rushing with more than 1,400 yards (1,600+ when you factor out sacks) and 11 touchdowns, while passing for 2,300 yards and 21 touchdowns.  He accounted for 32 of UAB’s 39 touchdowns!

Fourth year head coach Neil Callaway has three options to choose from in selecting Webb’s replacement.  While all three are decent runners, none can do what Webb did.  Sophomore David Isabelle, Junior Bryan Ellis, and Juco Emmanuel Taylor have been splitting the snaps in practice so far, and it will take at least one or two scrimmages to determine the winner.

There is quality and experience at wide receiver and tight end.  Wide out Frantrell Forrest and tight end Jeremy Anderson return after finishing one-two in catches last year.  Both combine decent size and speed with good hands, so if the new QB has any accuracy, UAB should be able to move the ball overhead.

The running back spot was more of a decoy and pass blocker last year.  It was so bad that Isabelle was the team’s second leading rusher, and he saw very limited action backing up Webb.  Like the QB position, three players are vying for the one spot.  Justin Brooks is the best downhill runner able to create holes with punishing plunges.  Pat Shed is the dangerous long-gain threat able to make quick cuts and evade tackles.  Daniel Borne is a combination of the other two.  All three will fail to equal the rushing numbers put up by Webb, but they could give the Blazers a more balanced look.

The offensive line is a major asset this year.  It could even be in the top three in the league.  Four starters return from last year, led by tackle Matt McCants, a 6-7 monster.

Look for UAB’s offense to take a step backward in both point and yardage production, but the Blazers will not be a slouch for any opposing defense in this league.  Expect about 23-26 points and 375-400 total yards.

Defense:  Here is where there is much optimism for 2010.  UAB gave up more than 32 points per game last year, but things are looking up on this side of the ball.  12 of the top 13 tacklers return, including the entire defensive line (technically one of these starters, Daniel White, started at outside linebacker).  Three of those linemen, tackles Elliott Henigan and D. J. Reese and end Bryant Turner, have good shots at making one of the All-CUSA teams.  They teamed for 23 stops behind the line, and that number will go up by at least five this year.

Linebackers Lamanski Ware and Marvin Burdette return, but this unit lacks a little something.  None of the linebackers are 1st team all-league material.

The secondary is solid this season.  Free safety Hiram Atwater is one of the three best defensive backs in the league.  He led UAB with 89 tackles last year.  Cornerback Terrell Springs broke up 10 passes last year while finishing third in tackles.

Callaway hopes his secondary players don’t lead the team in tackles this season, but it is likely to happen.  Still, the Blazers will improve on this side of the ball and surrender less than 30 points per game for the first time since Watson Brown was the head coach.  Look for 25-28 points and 380-410 yards allowed

Schedule:  UAB is lucky this year.  They avoid both Houston and Tulsa from the other division.  Out of league play, the Blazers have two winnable games with Florida Atlantic and Troy coming to Legion Field.  Road games at Tennessee and Mississippi State appear to be double-digit losses, even though both SEC teams will finish near the bottom of their respective divisions.  There are a couple of key games that will decide whether UAB can get to six wins for the first time since 2004.  The Blazers host UTEP, Marshall, ECU, and Memphis.  If they win all four, they are looking at 6-6.

 

 

Team U C F Knights
               
Head Coach George O’Leary
               
Colors Black and Gold
               
City Orlando, FL
               
2009 Record              
Conference 6-2
Overall 8-5
               
PiRate Rating 94.5
               
National Rating 76
               
2010 Prediction              
Conference 6-2
Overall 8-4

 

Offense:  UCF has not registered back-to-back winning seasons since 2001 and 2002.  On the other hand, they have not had back-to-back losing seasons either.  It has been feast during the odd years and famine during the even years.  Head Coach George O’Leary’s team looks primed to break that trend easily this year.  The Knights are the co-favorites in this division.

If O’Leary can find an adequate new quarterback to replace Brett Hodges, UCF will become the overwhelming favorite to win the East Division for the second time in four years.  Rob Calabrese has won the starting job twice before, but he apparently wasn’t ready to lead the team.  O’Leary believes the third time is the charm.  The only fly in the ointment may be that he could feel the nerves after being booed at home last year.

The rest of the offense is fairly well set.  At running back, Central Florida returns every player who contributed in the ground game last year, including Brynn Harvey.  Harvey rushed for more than 1,100 yards, scoring 14 times.  He won’t be available until the third or fourth game due to a knee injury he suffered in spring drills, but Jonathan Davis, Ronnie Weaver, and Brendan Davis will fill in admirably until Harvey is full speed once again.

The Knights have a terrific trio of wide receivers returning.  A.J. Guyton, Kamar Aiken, and Jamar Newsome combined for 104 catches and 1,471 yards.

Helping make this offense go is an experienced and very deep offensive line.  Four starters return and eight of the two-deep return.  O’Leary landed a bonanza of quality recruits here, so there is depth galore.

Look for UCF to score 24-28 points and gain 340-370 yards per game on offense this year.  If they can average 28 points per game, they will be tough to beat in the conference.

Defense: Since O’Leary took over in 2004, the Knight defense has given up 33, 29, 29, 27, 24, and 23 points per game per season.  Do you see the pattern?  Expect that patter to continue again this season, because UCF is loaded on this side of the ball.

The Knights have an outstanding set of ends in David Williams and Bruce Miller.  The two senior terminals specialize in making tackles on the offensive side of scrimmage.  Miller registered 13 sacks and five other tackles for loss.  The tackles are inexperienced, but they both tip the scale at 300+ pounds.  It will take more than one blocker to drive them off the line.

The linebacking trio returns two 2009 starters, but it is just like having all three back, because 2008 star Chance Henderson returns after missing last year with an injury.  Lawrence Young and Derrick Hallman combined for 23 ½ tackles for loss.

The secondary ranks with Southern Miss and UAB as the best in the conference.  The Knights are toughest at cornerback where Josh Robinson and Justin Boddie form the best outside defending pair in the league. 

UCF will give up less than 23 points per game this year.  Call if 18-22 points and 325-350 yards a contest.

Schedule: The Knights open with four consecutive non-conference games and then get a week off before starting league play.  They should be 2-2 at that point after beating South Dakota, losing to North Carolina State in a close game, winning at Buffalo, and losing at Kansas State.  They host Southern Miss on November 13, but they must face Houston on the road the week before.  We expect the Cougars to be clicking on all cylinders by then and think that game will be a loss for UCF.  It will all come down to the USM game.  At this moment in time, we favor the Eagles by about a half-point.

 

 

CUSA West

 

Team Houston Cougars
               
Head Coach Kevin Sumlin
               
Colors Red and White
               
City Houston, TX
               
2009 Record              
Conference 6-2
Overall 10-4
               
PiRate Rating 104.3
               
National Rating 46
               
2010 Prediction              
Conference 7-1
Overall 10-3

 

Offense: Ladies and gentlemen, it’s the event you’ve all been waiting for.  Step right up and see the magical Case and his band of merry men prowl and loot through the land.

As we told you at the beginning of this preview, this is the third time that Houston has become an offensive titan in college football.  In 1968, running what we call the Houston veer today, the Cougars averaged 42.5 points per game while rushing for better than 300 yards and passing for more than 200 yards per game.  On November 23, 1968, they reached the century mark in a game against Tulsa (Country music star Larry Gatlin rushed for the touchdown that gave Houston 93).  That team topped 70 points two other times.  Flash forward to 1989.  Houston, out of the run and shoot offense, rode the arm of Heisman Trophy winner Andre Ware to the tune of 53.5 points per game.  That team passed for more than 400 yards per game and almost repeated the feat of the 1968 team when they hung 95 points on SMU and topped 60 points four other times.

While we don’t believe this Houston team will score 50 points per game, it wouldn’t be a complete surprise.  The Cougars have topped 40 points per game the last two years, while averaging 563 yards of total offense both seasons.

Quarterback Case Keenum has a shot at becoming the next Heisman Trophy winner at UH.  He completed better than 70% of his passes last season.  Before you think that most of them were little dump passes, consider this:  he averaged better than eight yards per attempt and 11.5 yards per completion.  As a team, Houston put up 434 passing yards per game.  There is no reason to believe Keenum will not match or even exceed those numbers in his senior season.  He should be a first or second round pick in next year’s draft.

Keenum will benefit from the return of his big four receivers.  James Cleveland, Tyron Carrier, Patrick Edwards, and Charles Sims caught more passes (350) than 117 of the other 119 FBS schools!  This quartet gained 4,023 yards and scored 28 touchdowns.

Unlike most mega-passing teams, Houston can run the ball quite competently.  Both of last season’s big two rushers were set to return, but Charles Sims was declared academically ineligible.  Bryce Beall returns after rushing for 670 yards and seven scores.  He added 32 receptions and scored three times through the air.  Factoring out sacks, Houston exceeded five yards per rush.

The offensive line lost two starters, but the reserved picked up considerable playing time last year.  They gave up only 24 sacks in over 700 passing attempts, and that feat can be repeated again this year.

How much better could this Houston offense be in 2010?  If the defense can improve enough to give the offense a few more plays, and if the key players can stay healthy, this team could challenge the 50-point barrier.  It would not surprise us if Keenum throws for “just” 5,400 yards after topping 5,600 last year, because the running game could top 150 yards per game.  You won’t see a better offense in college football. 

Defense: This is the bugaboo for this team.  If the defense was just average, we would be discussing which BCS Bowl the Cougars would be headed to in January.  Houston gave up more than 30 points and 450 yards per game last year, and if the defensive line doesn’t improve by leaps and bounds, the Cougars could lose two or three games this year by scores of 45-35.

The line gave up a disgusting 227 rushing yards and better than five yards per carry.  In their four losses, the Cougars gave up an average of 253 rushing yards.  One of last year’s starting defensive linemen, Isaiah Thompson, has been moved from nose tackle to offensive guard, as Houston moves to a 3-4 defense.  That leaves UH with just one veteran on the front three. 

The quartet of linebackers has the potential to be much better than last year’s three-man unit.  Inside ‘backer Marcus McGraw was the star of last year’s defense, and he should repeat as 1st Team All-CUSA.  He is equally tough against the run and the pass, and he is going to be a demon on the zone blitz.

The secondary returns two very capable starters in cornerback Jamal Robinson and free safety Nick Saenz.  Robinson intercepted five passes and knocked away eight others.

The Cougars are still not world-beaters on this side of the ball, but they should give up less than 30 points and 425 yards per game this year.

Schedule: A tougher schedule will keep the Cougars out of the BCS Bowl picture.  After an easy opener at home against Texas State and a conference opener at home with UTEP, UH plays at UCLA.  The Cougars must also face an improving Mississippi State team and close the season at Texas Tech.  We can only see a 2-2 mark out of league play.  In the conference, Houston must face Southern Miss and Central Florida from the East.  A road game at SMU should be one of the most entertaining games of the year with a score that looks like a basketball game.  We think Houston will fall one time in league play, but they should still win their division.  The Cougars are our choice to win the CUSA Championship Game and face a beatable SEC team in the Liberty Bowl.

 

 

Team Rice Owls
               
Head Coach David Bailiff
               
Colors Dark Blue and Gray
               
City Houston, TX
               
2009 Record              
Conference 2-6
Overall 2-10
               
PiRate Rating 86.4
               
National Rating 95
               
2010 Prediction              
Conference 4-4
Overall 4-8

 

Offense: The fall was sharp.  Rice followed up its first 10-win season in 60 years with a 10-loss season last year.  Nine starters return on offense, and one of those starters could be benched in favor of a transfer from the Big Ten.

Let’s start with the offensive line.  All five starters and four of the second unit return from last year to make this one of the most experienced blocking corps in the nation.  Guards Jake Hicks and Davon Allen and tackle Scott Mitchell will contend for all-conference honors.  Look for great pass protection and better run-blocking this year.

Quarterback Nick Fanuzzi returns after starting two-thirds of Rice’s games last year.  He passed for just under 1,600 yards last year, and that mark could easily double in 2010.

Fanuzzi will need some newcomers to step up from the group of receivers.  The Owls lost three of their top four from 2009, and the receivers who do return did nothing spectacular. 

The running game should make a major move forward.  After averaging a meager 109 yards on the ground in 2009, the Owls welcome Michigan transfer Sam McGuffie.  McGuffie is the highest-rated recruit to play at Rice in some time, and he should run the ball more than 20 times per game.

Rice won’t approach 2008’s offense numbers, but the Owls will combine a solid running game with a decent passing game to top last year’s output.  Call if 23-26 points and 325-350 total yards per game.

Defense:  This is where improvement must be made.  Rice gave up 43 points and 464 yards per game in 2009.  Nine starters return on this side of the ball too, including the entire defensive line.  The line also returns five other contributors from last year, and it should be much tougher to run on Rice this year.  Look for the pass rush to be much better as well with the return of ends Cheta Ozougwu and Scott Solomon.

Rice plays a 4-2-5 defense, and they have a decent pair of linebackers this season.  Neither will earn all-conference honors.

The biggest weakness is a porous secondary that surrendered 273 passing yards per game and allowed 67% of enemy passes to be completed.  Opposing quarterbacks averaged better than nine yards per attempt against them.  Any quarterback that averages better than nine yards per attempt for the season, and isn’t an option quarterback throwing eight passes a game, would be a Heisman Trophy finalist.  Safety Travis Bradshaw led the Owls with 121 tackles a year ago and earned 3rd team all-conference accolades.

Rice could improve by 10 points per game on defense this year.  Let’s call it about 30-35 points and 410-440 yards allowed per game.

Schedule: The Owls need to fire the schedule-maker.  He has guaranteed that they go no better than 1-3 outside of the league and maybe even 0-4.  The only winnable non-league came will be at North Texas.  Rice hosts Northwestern and Baylor, two private schools that could both be bowl-bound this year.  The fourth non-conference game is the opener at Reliant Stadium against Texas.  In league play, Rice could split their eight games and go 4-4, but they have no chance at a winning season unless they win six league games. 

 

 

Team S M U  Mustangs
               
Head Coach June Jones
               
Colors Crimson and Blue
               
City Dallas, TX
               
2009 Record              
Conference 6-2
Overall 8-5
               
PiRate Rating 92.3
               
National Rating 83
               
2010 Prediction              
Conference 6-2
Overall 7-5

 

Offense: Coach June Jones may draw comparisons to Annie Sullivan before he retires from the game.  Like Sullivan, you can call Jones a “miracle worker.”  He took a weak Hawaii program and created a little dynasty on the island, culminating with a trip to the Sugar Bowl in his last season there.  In just two short seasons in Dallas, he has brought SMU out of a quarter century of doldrums.  The Mustangs returned to a bowl last year for the first time since their pre-Death Penalty days of the 1980’s.

Jones is a mastermind with the passing game, but SMU’s exceptional pass offense will get pushed to the back of the sports pages playing in the same division as Houston.  Quarterback Kyle Padron took over as starter midway through the season following an injury to since departed Bo Levi Mitchell.  The true freshman completed better than 67% of his passes last year for more than 9.5 yards per attempt.  If he can replicate those numbers for a full season, he could top 3,400 yards this year.

SMU lost the services of its best pass receiver in school history.  Emmanuel Sanders took his 98 receptions to the NFL.  Aldrick Robinson has NFL potential.  He caught 47 passes for 800 yards (17.0 avg./catch) last year. 

Missing from the running game is Shawnbrey McNeal, who gained close to 1,200 yards last year.  Jones is very high on true freshmen Darryl Fields and Kevin Pope.  Fields can take a simple dump pass or quick pitch and turn it into a touchdown ala Chris Johnson of the Tennessee Titans.  Pope has the power to run over defenders. 

The offensive line will be manned by five juniors, four of whom started last year.  Three of the four received some form of postseason honors.

Jones should mold another fine offense in Dallas this year.  Look for the Mustangs to improve to 35+ points and 425+ yards per game this year.

Defense: SMU trimmed 11 points and 80 yards off their poor showing of 2008.  Enough talent returns this year to believe that the Mustangs will continue to show improvement.  The defensive line is the strongest unit on this side.  Ends Marquis Frazier and Taylor Thompson teamed up for 9 ½ sacks.  True freshman Mike O’Guin could step in as the new starting nose tackle.  O’Guin tips the scale at 320 pounds, and he will not be easily moved out of the middle.

Three of the starting four linebackers return.  The best of the quartet is outside ‘backer Pete Fleps, who made 83 tackles.

The secondary could be a problem this year, and in a conference where teams pass the ball 40 to 60 times a game, that could become a big problem.  Cornerback Sterling Moore broke up 11 passes last year, but the Mustangs lost two honorable mention all-conference players who teamed up for eight interceptions and 17 passes knocked away.

A solid pass rush could help hide the liabilities in the secondary, but we believe SMU will give up 225-250 passing yards and 375-400 total yards this year, which leads to about 24-28 points surrendered.

Schedule: The non-conference portion of this schedule is rough.  Look for a 1-3 mark as the Mustangs venture to Texas Tech and Navy and host TCU.  Only a home game with anemic Washington State gives them a shot at a win.  Once league play begins, SMU will be able to compete with anybody on their schedule, even Houston and Tulsa.  We actually believe the Mustangs will pen a loss on Houston and be in the division race until the end.  Road games against Rice and UTEP may determine if SMU can sneak through with a division title.  The Mustangs avoid the top two teams from the East.

 

 

Team Tulane Green Wave
               
Head Coach Bob Toledo
               
Colors Olive Green and Sky Blue
               
City New Orleans, LA
               
2009 Record              
Conference 1-7
Overall 3-9
               
PiRate Rating 72.2
               
National Rating 119
               
2010 Prediction              
Conference 0-8
Overall 2-10

 

Offense: It has been eight long years since Tulane last enjoyed a winning season.  The Green Wave has lost eight or more games for five consecutive seasons, and the stigma of Hurricane Katrina still haunts this program.  The Green Wave offense has fallen on hard times, averaging less than 17 points per game the last two seasons.

If TU is to improve on a 3-9 season of a year ago, the offense will have to make a huge leap forward.  Sophomore quarterback Ryan Griffin won’t have to share duties with Joe Kemp this year, as Kemp has been moved to wide receiver.  Griffin could be the best Tulane quarterback since Patrick Ramsey by the time he graduates, but he needs better receivers.  Only one receiver with any real experience returns this year, and Casey Robottom isn’t going to be confused with DeAndre Brown or James Cleveland.

In two seasons, Albert Williams has accumulated 143 rushing yards.  He will be asked to carry the load this year and fill the shoes of last year’s star Andre Anderson.  Expect a major regression here, as TU could rush for less than 100 yards per game.

The offensive line returns four starters, and they have the potential to be an excellent pass blocking front for Griffin.  Center Andrew Nierman is among the best in the league at his position.

It doesn’t look promising for Coach Bob Toledo in his fourth year in New Orleans.  We don’t see him righting the ship in the Crescent City.  Look for Tulane to continue to struggle to score points and access territory.  Call it 17 points and 300-325 yards per game. 

Defense:  The offense looks like a juggernaut compared to this side of the ball.  Tulane has been weak on this side for a long time.  In the last seven years, opponents have averaged an aggregate of 34 points and 415 yards per game.  With but four starters returning on this side of the ball, the Green Wave could be looking at even worse numbers in 2010.

Only one starter returns to the front seven, so this will be a major headache this season.  Tackle Justin Adams is the lone returnee up front, and he is coming off a season in which he registered just 17 tackles.

The secondary has three returning starters, but they will be asked to defend some of the best receivers in the nation for a longer amount of time this year.  None of these experienced defenders will show up on an all-conference team.

We believe Tulane is headed toward a Washington State-type of season.  Look for the Greenies to yield more than 40 points and 450 yards per game this year.

Schedule: Tulane is fortunate that they open at home against Southeast Louisiana.  That could be the only game they win this year.  The Green Wave host Ole Miss and Army and travel to Rutgers out of league play, and these three games look like big losses.  In conference play, it just doesn’t look promising that they can pick up a win.  It doesn’t help that they must play Southern Miss, Central Florida, and Marshall from the other division. 

 

 

Team Tulsa Golden Hurricane
               
Head Coach Todd Graham
               
Colors Blue and Gold
               
City Tulsa, OK
               
2009 Record              
Conference 3-5
Overall 5-7
               
PiRate Rating 92.8
               
National Rating 81
               
2010 Prediction              
Conference 6-2
Overall 8-4

 

Offense: For a team that averaged 29 points and 410 yards per game last year, it was funny to hear fans mutter, “What’s wrong with our offense?”  Tulsa averaged 44 points and 557 yards per game over the course of the last two years.

The offense should rebound with another stellar season this year, but there are a couple causes for concern.  Offensive coordinator Herb Hand left his position in late July to take a non-coordinator position at Vanderbilt.

Coach Todd Graham hopes the team can hit the ground running and not miss a beat.  He has an experienced attack unit that should be able to get over the loss of their top offensive assistant.

Quarterback G. J. Kinne began his career at Texas before transferring to Tulsa.  He fired the ball 345 times last year and completed 61% for 2,732 yards and 22 touchdowns.  He takes a back seat only to Case Keenum in this conference.  With better pass protection this year, he should add at least 1,000 yards to his 2009 total.

Tulsa has one of the three or four best receivers in CUSA.  Damaris Johnson caught 78 passes for 1,131 yards last year. He is also the best combined kick/punt returner in the league.  Joining him on the other side of the line should be Jameel Owens a transfer from Oklahoma.  Owens has the physical tools to be a great possession receiver.

The running backs are used more for their blocking and pass catching abilities than their running abilities.  Kinne was the leading rusher from the spread formation.  Fullback/H-back Charles Clay rushed for just 236 yards last year, but he caught 39 passes and scored 12 total touchdowns.  At 6-3 and 235, he seldom goes down on first contact.  Graham will rely on as many as six players to share the rushing load.

The offensive line had some difficulties last year, and with four starters and all of the second five returning, look for some improvement.  You will not see the quarterbacks go down 46 times like last year.

Tulsa will rebound with a move back over 35 points and 450 yards per game this year.  If the line improves enough, the Golden Hurricane could top 40 points per game.

Defense: Tulsa has not fielded a strong defense since Dave Kragthorpe was the head coach and Graham was the defensive coordinator.  Graham has indicated that he will take more control over the defense this year.

Six starters have been lost from last year, so it will take a monumental coaching effort to keep Tulsa from giving up 30 or more points per game.  Two starters return up front, but Graham brought in three junior college recruits who could all see considerable time in the trenches this season.  Best of the lot is nose guard Darrell Zellars.

Tulsa uses a 3-3-5 defense with two players, a bandit and a spur, playing a hybrid linebacker/safety position.  Spur DeAundre Brown returns after leading TU with 102 stops last year.  He only picked off one pass, and that was Tulsa’s major weakness on defense.  In fact, no returnee had more than one pick last year.

We see some form of improvement in the 2010 numbers, but how much is a mystery.  Our best guess if 25 points and 375 yards allowed.

Schedule: The non-conference schedule is not overly imposing.  The Golden Hurricane should win at least two and maybe three of their four games.  They face Bowling Green and Central Arkansas at Chapman Stadium, and they go on the road to a rebuilding Oklahoma State and Notre Dame.  In league play, it will all come down to a couple of games.  TU plays at SMU on October 9, at Houston on November 13, and closes the regular season with Southern Miss at home.  If they win two of those games, they will reach double figure victories for the third time in the last four years.  We see at least nine regular season wins.

 

 

Team U T E P  Miners
               
Head Coach Mike Price
               
Colors Orange and Navy
               
City El Paso, TX
               
2009 Record              
Conference 3-5
Overall 4-8
               
PiRate Rating 82.3
               
National Rating 103
               
2010 Prediction              
Conference 4-4
Overall 7-5

 

Offense: UTEP has been successful on this side of the ball for the last six years, and 2010 should not be an aberration.  Coach Mike Price returns the best quarterback in the conference not wearing a Houston or Tulsa uniform.  Trevor Vittatoe needs just 2,122 passing yards to become the school’s all-time leading passer.  If he stays healthy, he should do that by late October.  Vittatoe took a step backward last season, but he will have a better offensive line blocking for him this year.

Two quality receivers return for the Miners in wide out Kris Adams and tight end Jonny Moore.  Junior receiver Donavon Kemp has breakaway speed, and if he can learn to hold onto the ball, he could be an “X-factor” in this offense.

The running game has one outstanding rusher but very little depth.  Donald Buckram rushed for nearly 1,600 yards and 18 touchdowns.

The offensive line returns three starters, and the two new starters have past starting experience.  UTEP should move the ball with consistency against every team on the schedule.

This looks like another 30+-point scoring team in the conference.  Call it 32 points and 425 yards this year.

Defense: Poor defensive play has been the Miners’ downfall during the Price era.  The natives are getting restless in El Paso, and another poor showing could bring that era to an end.

The Miners will have troubles up front, where three starters have graduated.  End Robert Soleyjacks is the lone holdover; he made just 19 tackles a year ago.

The linebacking unit loses the defense’s top player from 2009, and there is nobody on the roster who can replace Da’Mon Cromartie-Smith and his 108 tackles.

The news is not any better in the secondary.  Both cornerbacks and the free safety graduated, taking with them 20 deflected passes.  Strong safety Braxton Amy was granted a sixth season of eligibility after missing the last eight games of 2009 to injury.

UTEP will not contend for the division crown because they will not be able to stop the Keenum’s Kinne’s, and Padron’s of the conference.  Look for the Miners to yield 31-34 points and 450 yards per game.

Schedule: UTEP has a chance to become bowl eligible for the first time since 2005 thanks to an easy non-league slate.  The Miners host Arkansas-Pine Bluff and New Mexico State, and they face New Mexico in Albuquerque.  They can win all three of those games.  Only a visit to Arkansas will be bad news.  UTEP avoids UCF and Southern Miss from the East.  They get Memphis, UAB, and Marshall.  We believe they can split their conference games this year and win seven games overall.

 

 

Coming Tomorrow: The WAC Preview—Boise State is primed to run the table once again if the Broncos can get past a tough opening game opponent.

August 29, 2009

2009 Conference USA Preview

2009 Conference USA Preview

A PiRate Look

In the fifth in our series of conference previews, we take a look at Conference USA, where defense is just a suggestion and offense rules.  The 12 member institutions collectively surrendered 30 points per game last year.

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, if Central Florida was to get really lucky and host the mighty King Tebow, it would be expected that the Gator fans would find a way to get to Orlando and make it a home game for the visiting team.  However, if that same UCF team hosted Hawaii a week after the Warriors played at Boston College, then the Knights could enjoy as much as a touchdown in home field advantage.  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.

   

Conference USA Preseason PiRate Ratings

     

 

Prediction *

 

 
    Team

PiRate

CUSA

Overall

 
    CUSA East

 

 

 

 
    East Carolina

102

6-2

7-6

#
    Southern Mississippi

101

6-2

8-4

 
    Marshall

96

4-4

6-6

 
    Memphis

90

2-6

3-9

 
    Central Florida

89

3-5

5-7

 
    U A B

88

2-6

3-9

 
     

 

 

 

 
    CUSA West

 

 

 

 
    Houston

101

6-2

8-4

 
    Tulsa

97

7-1

11-2

#
    U T E P

94

6-2

8-4

 
    Rice

92

2-6

3-9

 
    S M U

86

3-5

5-7

 
    Tulane

80

1-7

2-10

 
     

 

 

 

 
   

# Tulsa over ECU in CUSA Championship Game

   

*  Predictions not based on PiRate Rating but

   

on expected changes to rating during the year

 

CUSA East

East Carolina: The Pirates return 16 starters from a year ago, including nine on the offensive side.  We give them the edge over Southern Miss solely on the basis of their game with the Eagles being at home to close out the year.  For full disclosure, our founder steadfastly believes USM will win this division.

Quarterback Patrick Pinkney is back for his senior season after completing better than 61% of his passes for 2,675 yards and a TD/INT ratio of 13/7.  We believe he will approach 3,000 yards this year with more touchdown passes and the same or even fewer interceptions.  On the other end of those passes will be a talented group of receivers, including Dwayne Harris (58-654) and the speedy Darryl Feeney (16 yards per reception).

The backfield is a weak spot, as nobody on the roster is capable of striking fear into opponents.  As long as they can pick up five to seven yards on a 2nd & long draw play and convert first downs on 3rd & 1 or 2, they will suffice.

The offensive line returns almost intact, as every starter has experience starting in the past.  Look for ECU to increase their offensive numbers to 28 points and 380 yards per game this season.

ECU’s defense was the only one in the league that was somewhat reliable last year.  Seven starters and 13 of the top 17 tacklers return, so the stop troops should be good again this year. 

Nick Johnson anchors this side of the ball from his middle linebacker spot.  He’s coming off a season where he registered 102 tackles including 10 behind the line.

Up front, C.J. Wilson is a monster at end.  A year ago, he recorded 10 ½ sacks and eight other tackles for loss.  He’ll compete for CUSA Player of the Year.

Two defensive backs should contend for league honors this year.  Cornerbacks Dekota Marshall and Emanuel Davis combined five interceptions and 14 passes broken up.  Behind those two, safety Van Eskridge stops receivers for little or no gain after the catch.

The schedule is favorable within the conference, but a killer outside league play.  Expect Virginia Tech and West Virginia to exact revenge this year, while ECU will probably taste defeat at North Carolina.  The other game is a season opener with Appalachian State, the preseason number one team in the FCS.  Appy State won at Michigan two years ago.  The road game with Tulsa comes immediately after the Thursday night tilt with Virginia Tech, and we expect ECU to suffer in that one.  We also think they will have a chance at revenge in December.

Southern Mississippi: East Carolina won’t have an easy road to a repeat division title this year, because the Eagles are loaded on both sides of the ball with nine starters back on both units.  If Southern Miss can pull off an upset over Kansas in Lawrence on September 26, it isn’t totally out of the realm that they could get on a roll and run the table.  No CUSA team has made it to a BCS bowl yet, so it’s something to think about.

Quarterback Austin Davis performed admirably as a freshman last year.  He passed for 3,128 yards and 23 touchdowns against only eight interceptions.  Defenses will not be able to key on him because back Damion Fletcher rushed for 1,313 yards and 10 scores at a six yard per carry clip.  He’s on the NFL scout’s radar. 

All three starting wide receivers from last year return, and they are an excellent trio of pass catchers.  DeAndre Brown nabbed 67 balls for 1,117 yards and 12 scores.  Gerald Baptiste hauled in 35 balls for 480 yards, and Freddie Parham caught 19 balls but only started six times.  All told, this unit is the equal of Houston’s and superior to the other 10 league members’ receiving units.

Four starters return to the offensive line, but overall this group is not as strong as some others in the league.

Defensively, Southern Miss will be strong in the trenches and in the secondary, but there is a question mark with the linebackers, where the top two tacklers from last year are gone.  In the secondary, cornerback C. J. Bailey and safety Chico Hunter will challenge for all-conference honors.  The secondary surrendered 226 yards per game, and that number should remain about the same this year.  However, it may occur due to more opponent passes.

The defense against the run will be improved after giving up 140 yards per game last year.  No, the increase won’t be large, but we predict an improvement to about 120 yards per game.  There will be some vulnerability due to inexperienced linebackers.

The schedule is set up so that if the Eagles upset Kansas and then knock off Louisville on the road, they could quickly move into the top 15 and venture to Greenville to face ECU with either an 11-0 or 10-1 record.  We think it won’t happen, but Southern Miss will challenge for the East title and definitely improve upon their seven-win season of last year.

Marshall: Coach Mark Snyder starts his fifth season in Huntington, and it will be his last one if the Thundering Herd fails to gain bowl eligibility.  The former Ohio State defensive coordinator has a dark horse contender for the division title this year, so a record of at least 6-6 should be a reality.

The roster took a big hit this summer when former CUSA all-freshman guard Josh Evans transferred.  We think Snyder has molded an adequate albeit piecemeal offensive line with Brandon Campbell moving in at left tackle and Ryan Tillman moving down to left guard.

At quarterback, former starter Mark Cann has fallen all the way to third team, and Brian Anderson will begin the season as the starter.  Cann threw too many interceptions, and Anderson has a more accurate arm.  Anderson’s receiving crew isn’t quite as experienced or talented as the teams Marshall will try to surpass in their division, so back Darius Marshall will be called on to move to the next level after rushing for 1,095 yards last season.  He needs to top 1,300 yards this year for the Herd to compete for the division title.

The Defense is going to be better, but it has a long way to go to gain respect after surrendering 28 points and 418 total yards per game in 2008.  The front four can match up with any CUSA rival.  End Albert McClellan has all the tools and will have a monster year if he can remain healthy.  Cornerback DeQuan Bembry is a ball-hawking pass defender who broke up 11 passes in addition to recording 7 ½ tackles behind the line.

Marshall hosts Southern Illinois to start the season, and it won’t be a sure win.  The Salukis are ranked #7 in the FCS preseason poll.  Games at Virginia Tech and West Virginia are sure losses, while a home tilt with Bowling Green must be a win.  Can Marshall break even in conference play?  Definitely, yes, but it may be hard to get that fifth league victory to cinch a bowl bid.  East Carolina and Southern Miss must come to Huntington, and Marshall has the horses to upset them both.  Road games with Memphis, UTEP, and Central Florida need to produce at least two wins for the Herd to go bowling.  It will be close.  Five wins ends Snyder’s reign.

Memphis: The Tigers somehow stay under the radar for most of the year and emerge at the end as a bowl team.  They have been to bowls five of the last six seasons, even though on paper they don’t appear to have the talent to do so.  This year is no different.  The PiRate stats say they have no chance of breaking even and could win just three games, but common sense says they will beat three teams as underdogs and earn a New Orleans Bowl bid or equivalent.

Coach Tommy West has consistently put out balanced offenses, averaging 407 yards per game over the last six seasons.  This year, we expect those numbers to drop by up to 50 yards per game (417 in ’08).  The Tigers lost too much talent and will rebuild on the attack side.  The major problem is the offensive line, where only one starter returns.  Memphis has done well with experienced lines and quality backs.

The Tigers do have a quality back in Curtis Steele, who rushed for 1,223 yards and a 5.6 average.  His numbers could suffer some because there will be times where he is met in the backfield by multiple defenders.

Quarterback Arkelon Hall is average for this league, and with less time to throw, we expect his interceptions to go up and percentage to drop.

Seven starters return on defense.  Last year, UM gave up just 354 total yards per game, but they gave up 27.2 points per game.  Those 354 yards came on just 60 total plays.  Memphis won’t hold onto the ball for 76 plays per game like last year, so we believe that even though the defense could be more talented, it will be on the field for 100 more plays this year; that could mean 500-600 more total yards.  That’s why we believe Memphis will fail to gain bowl eligibility. 

The schedule is on the rough side.  Memphis opens at home with Ole Miss on Sunday, September 6.  Then, they bus to Murfreesboro to play at Middle Tennessee six days later.  We see the Tigers starting 0-2 before getting a breather with Tennessee-Martin.  A game at Tennessee should make their non-conference record 1-3.  In CUSA play, UM gets Marshall, UTEP, East Carolina, and UAB at the Liberty Bowl and plays at Central Florida, Southern Miss, Houston, and Tulsa.  We just cannot see five winnable conference games.

Central Florida: The Knights were the one CUSA team that didn’t have an explosive offense last year.  To be blunt, UCF stunk last year, gaining just 230 total yards per game.  They couldn’t run the ball, and they threw 176 incomplete passes versus just 132 completions.  A mediocre defense meant UCF had one of the better stop troops in the league, but it wasn’t enough to have a winning season.  This year, the offense can only be better, but the defense will be weaker.

Quarterback Rob Calabrese completed less than 40% of his passes, which would have been bad 50 years ago.  It’s not like he can run the ball like Colin Kaepernick.  If Calabrese doesn’t improve immediately this season, look for former Wake Forest QB Brett Hodges to take over. 

The receivers will make whoever throws the ball a better passer this season, as everybody who caught a pass last year returns.  There’s just as much experience returning at running back, and the offensive line should be about as mediocre as last year.  Look for UCF to gain about 275 total yards per game this year and increase their point production from 16.6 to around 21.  Unfortunately, that won’t be enough to win six games.

The defense has a major Achilles Heel.  The secondary lost all four starters, and the new starters will get burned often by Pinckney, Davis, Anderson, Joe Webb, and especially Case Keenum.

The front seven will be considerably stronger this year with linebacker Lawrence Young leading the way.  Young is equally proficient against the run and the pass.

Perhaps the biggest offensive weapon this year could be late signee Jamie Boyle, a kicker/punter with a cannon for a leg.  Boyle is capable of connecting on a 60-yard field goal.

The schedule gives UCF a remote chance of posting six or seven wins.  Home games with Samford, Buffalo, Memphis, Marshall, and Tulane and road games with UAB and Rice are the winnable contests.  Miami and Texas will both destroy the Knights; road games against Southern Miss, East Carolina and a home game with Houston appear to be out of reach.

U A B: The Blazers have fallen on hard times as of late, winning just nine of 36 games the last three years.  UAB will be stronger on both sides of the ball, but a difficult schedule should keep them at the bottom of the standings.

10 Starters return on offense, including quarterback Joe Webb.  Webb completed 59% of his tosses for 2,367 yards last year, but he threw 16 interceptions.  Webb also can run the ball and led UAB with 1,021 yards on the ground.  Should he go down with an injury, it will be big trouble in Birmingham. 

All the key receivers from last year return and running back Rashaud Slaughter has a great pair of hands to catch balls out of the backfield, many of which are nothing more than forward lateral sweep plays.

The offensive line would have had all five starters returning, but tackle Terence Edge will miss the season.  Still, they should open more holes this year and protect the quarterback for a fraction of a second longer.

The defense gave up 31.3 points and 430 yards per game last year.  Unfortunately, the top two tacklers plus another who tied for third have run out of eligibility.  Additionally, the top pass defender has picked up his sheepskin.  A weak pass rush will expose a weak secondary, and the three linebackers are below average talents.  It looks like another long season at Legion Field.  Speaking of the home stadium, Legion Field’s upper deck has been closed to spectators.  That’s a perfect microcosm for this program. 

CUSA West

Houston: The Cougars set the college football world on fire in 1968, when the Houston Veer offense of then coach Bill Yeoman averaged over 300 rushing yards and 200 passing yards per game.  They even scored 100 points against Tulsa.  In the late 1980’s, it was the run and shoot offense that passed for more than 400 yards per game.  Houston almost scored 100 points again, beating SMU 95-21 in 1989.  Now, the Cougars of Coach Kevin Sumlin are poised to run up some new gaudy offensive statistics and perhaps score 70 points in a game again this season (yep, they did that against Tulsa last year).

Quarterback Case Keenum won’t repeat the feat of Andre Ware and become the second UH QB to take home a Heisman Trophy, but the junior signal caller will top 5,000 passing yards once again.  He could approach 50 touchdown passes and post just 10 interceptions.  Keenum has a nice stable of receivers to play catch with, led by Tyron Carrier.  Carrier is coming off a season where he caught 80 passes for 1,026 yards.  Keep an eye on L. J. Castle, who can turn a five yard pass into a 70 yard touchdown.

It’s not all about passing at Houston.  Running back Bryce Beall ran for 1,247 yards last year with 13 touchdowns.  He is a danger to break free for long gains, and Keenum frequently passed to him coming out of the backfield.

The offensive line has three returning starters and should be about as good as last year.  JUCO transfer Roy Watts should start immediately at tackle and gives the Cougars the equivalent of a fourth starter.

The defense should be happy that they don’t have to face the Houston offense in a game, because UH couldn’t stop a feather last year.  They surrendered 31 points and 413 yards per game, and only four starters return from that team.  Worse, they lose Phillip Hunt and his 14 QB sacks.

Linebackers Marcus McGraw and C.J. Cavness will have to lead the defense this year.  The two combined for 180 tackles in 2008.  In the backfield, Brandon Brinkley will be assigned to the opponents’ top receiver.  Brinkley led the team with 15 passes broken up and tied for the lead with four interceptions.

An out-of-conference schedule that includes games against Oklahoma State in Stillwater and Texas Tech will prevent the Cougars from having a chance to sneak into the BCS bowl picture.  They also must face both Tulsa and UTEP on enemy turf, so we don’t believe Houston can win the division.

Tulsa:  Houston’s 563 total yards and 41 points per game was not the best in the nation last year; it wasn’t even the tops in the conference or even the West Division.  Tulsa averaged 47.2 points and 570 total yards per game.  While, the Golden Hurricane have just five starters back on offense and lost a quarterback who passed for more than 4,000 yards and 46 touchdowns, they could put up similar numbers this season.

Coach Todd Graham has three quarterbacks that could start for BCS conference teams.  As of this writing, it looks like Texas transfer G.J. Kinne may have a slight edge over JUCO standout Jacob Brewer and freshman Shavodrick Beaver, who spurned a scholarship offer from Michigan.  Then, there’s backup receiver A. J. Whitmore who will receive snaps out of the wildcat formation.  Graham has hinted that more than one of these talented players could be on the field at the same time, and even all four could be out there for a play.  Imagine trying to prepare for that scenario.

Whoever throws the ball, there will be three excellent receivers with breakaway speed on the other end of those tosses.  Damaris Johnson, Slick Shelley, and Trae Johnson combined for 1,845 yards on 112 catches (16.5 avg per catch) and 21 scores.

The running game will take a hit this year after the loss of Tarrion Adams and his 1,500+ rushing yards.  Jamad Williams and Charles Opeseyltan could share the majority of carries and approach 1,500 combined rushing yards.

The offensive line needs a little rebuilding, as three starters are gone.  If Tulsa fails to win the division, this will probably be the reason why.

On the stop side, the 3-3-5 defense returns four starters to the secondary, and the new starter at the bandit strong safety position (DeAundre Brown) started six games and basically gives them five returning starters.  This was TU’s major fault last year, but it should be a better unit this year.

The pass rush will be led by James Lockett from his blitzing spur safety alignment.  He comes off a year where he recorded 16 ½ tackles behind the line.

The schedule will not allow Tulsa to sneak into the BCS bowl picture.  A road game against in-state rival Oklahoma will put an end to those chances on September 19.  The Golden Hurricane could play spoiler when Boise State comes for a visit on October 14.  The key games in the division are against Houston and UTEP.  If they split those two, which we think they will, TU should go 7-1 in league play and repeat as West champions.

U T E P: On paper, this Miner team looks strong enough to win the league championship, but Mike Price’s teams have not played enough defense to win the West Division much less the conference championship.  We think UTEP will score almost as many points as their two main rivals, but the Miners will find a way to lose a conference game against one of the lower-placed teams due to a breakdown on defense. 

The offense averaged 33 points per game and 407 total yards in 2008, and most of the key components return this year.  Quarterback Trevor Vittatoe may not have put up the gaudy numbers equal to Keenum, but he tossed 33 touchdown passes against just nine interceptions.  He played a good portion of the season with a lame ankle, so his numbers could be more Keenum-like this year.

Vittatoe’s top two targets return this season.  Kris Adams and Jeff Moturi teamed for 101 receptions for 1,613 yards and 23 touchdowns.  The running game is as lame as the passing game is spectacular.  Nobody topped 500 yards last year, and we look for three or four players to share the load again this year.  However, we don’t expect the rushing numbers to change much—about 125 yards per game.

The progress of the defense will determine if this club can challenge for conference honors.  UTEP gave up an eye-popping 37 points and 469 yards per game in 2008, and with four of the top five tacklers gone, there isn’t much room for improvement.  UTEP uses a 3-3-5 defense, but they don’t have capable blitzers to disrupt offenses.  There isn’t much depth either, so a couple of injuries to starters could be big trouble.

The schedule is the only reason why the Miners have any chance to win the division this year.  They get both Houston and Tulsa at the Sun Bowl.  We think that they will lose at least one of those games and then fall in an upset on the road to Memphis, Tulane, SMU, or Rice.  Out of conference, the Miners host Buffalo and Kansas and venture to New Mexico State and Texas.  We say they will split those games and gain bowl eligibility for the first time since 2005.

Rice: The Owls had their best team since the 1953 squad beat Alabama in the Cotton Bowl with the aid of the only major college penalty that ever resulted in an automatic touchdown, when an Alabama player (Tommy Lewis) raced from the bench to tackle Rice’s back Dicky Maegle.  Rice didn’t need that type of penalty to win the Texas Bowl and finish 10-3; they had the machine gun arm of quarterback Chase Clement.

Clement graduated after passing for 4,119 yards and 44 touchdowns with just seven interceptions.  Also gone are the top two receivers, who merely combined for 198 catches and 33 touchdowns and the top two running backs.  Throw in three new starters in the offensive line and a new offensive coordinator, and the Owls’ offense could plummet from 41 points and 471 yards per game to about 25 points and 375 yards per game.

The defense will be much better this year after surrendering 33 points and 452 yards per game in 2008.  Nine starters return and all 11 second teamers are back as well.  This side of the ball will have excellent depth even though the overall talent is marginally average.  The back seven are the strength of the team, led by Andrew Sendejo from his free safety position.  He paced the Owls with 94 stops a year ago.

The schedule is tough this year, as a home game with Tulane appears to be the only sure conference win.  Outside the league, the Owls face Texas Tech and Oklahoma State on the road and host Vanderbilt and Navy.  It looks like 1-3 at best and maybe just two wins in league play.

S M U:  June Jones had two losing seasons in nine years as coach at Hawaii, and he could have two losing seasons in two years at SMU.  It’s going to be close, but we think the Mustangs will fall one game short of a break even season.  Watch out for them in 2010.

Quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell performed quite well as a freshman, tossing 24 touchdowns and picking up 2,865 yards.  He also gave the ball away 23 times, and he should cut down on that number with a year’s experience under his belt.

Two dandy receivers as well as four other key contributors return to the fold this year.  Aldrick Robinson and Emmanuel Sanders teamed for 126 catches for 2,005 yards and 2o scores.  Until some semblance of a running game forms, this offense will never have a chance to get unleashed.  SMU rushed for just 41 yards per game, the worst amongst FBS schools.  There isn’t a back on the roster capable of striking fear into opponents.

The offensive line has some decent pass blockers, but they just cannot open running lanes.  Center Mitch Enright could challenge for league honors.

The defense was consistently appalling against both the run and the pass last year, giving up 226 yards rushing and 254 yards passing per game.  Eight starters return including six of the top seven tacklers.  Linebacker is the team strength with Pete Fleps and Youri Yenga capable of earning all-conference honors.

The secondary has some ball hawks with Derrius Bell, Rock Dennis, and Bryan McCann teaming up for 20 passes swatted away in ’08.

An opening game with Stephen F Austin will give the offense a chance to put up some fat numbers.  A road game against UAB could move the record to 2-0, and if so, the Mustangs just may gather enough momentum to move north in the standings.  Washington State on the road is not infallible, and it’s foreseeable that SMU could win that one as well.  A week off precedes the first blowout loss when SMU goes to TCU.  A home game with East Carolina could help decide the other division champion.  After a home game with Navy, the Mustangs face consecutive powers Houston and Tulsa on the road, and they should lose them both by big numbers.  

Tulane: This program has never fully recovered from the hurricane.  Last season’s 2-10 record may be hard to top this year and could easily be matched in 2009.

Coach Bob Toledo’s squad couldn’t move the ball or stop opponents for most of 2008 thanks to a young squad and numerous injuries to key players.  Running back Andre Anderson was headed to a 1,500 yard season before going down for the season.  After his injury, the Green Wave could only muster 64 rushing yards per game.

TU will hand the quarterbacking duties over to sophomore Joe Kemp, who beat out last year’s starter Kevin Moore.  Moore tossed 13 interceptions against just eight touchdown passes, and Kemp should better those numbers with ease if he stays healthy. 

Jeremy Williams is the top returning receiver after grabbing 27 balls for 437 yards last season in less than half the season.  He suffered multiple injuries and missed the last seven games.  Without him, the TU passing game dropped off by 75 yards per game.

The offensive line returns three starters from a year ago, but there is a depth problem and the overall talent is among the weakest in the league.

Likewise, there are big problems on the other side of the ball, where Tulane just couldn’t consistently stop anybody.  There are no stars at linebacker and no depth in the secondary.  The front four has some talent, with tackle Reggie Scott leading the way.  Keep an eye on rush end Logan Kelley, who led the Green Wave with seven sacks even though he didn’t start.

The special teams’ unit returns the punter, place-kicker, punt returner, and kick returners from last year.

Tulane last fielded a winning team in 2002, and it will be at least another year for the Greenies to challenge.  The schedule this season includes non-conference games at home against BYU and on the road at LSU.  The other two out-of-league tilts are winnable—McNeese State and at Army, but we think TU will lose at West Point.  The Green Wave will have to pull off an upset to avoid going 0-8 in league play, but we believe they will pull off one upset.

Next up: A look at the Mountain West Conference, where two or even three teams have the talent to earn an at-large BCS bowl bid.

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.

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