The Pi-Rate Ratings

January 29, 2019

The PiRate Ratings Look At The One Bid Leagues

Mid-Major teams have been pulling off big time upsets for many years longer than the 68-team field era.  Back in the days when just 32 teams made the NCAA Tournament, Cal State Fullerton snuck into the Elite 8 and came within a couple possessions of advancing to the Final Four in 1978.  Before that, Texas Western had to be considered a Mid-Major team in their run to the National Championship in 1966, even though the Miners were no surprise team that year as they entered the NCAA Tournament as the number two-ranked team in the polls.

In the recent era, all the fun with Mid-Majors began with George Mason in 2006.  That GMU team was a controversial at-large pick after they lost in the Colonial Athletic Tournament.  Since then, Virginia Commonwealth, Wichita State, and most recently Loyola of Chicago have made it to the Final Four.  Of course, Butler made it to within a couple inches of a National Championship on its way to back-to-back Championship Game appearances.

Is there a Mid-Major in 2019 that could do the unthinkable and go all the way?  If you consider Nevada or Buffalo a Mid-Major, then it could happen. If you consider Nevada and Buffalo like Gonzaga, then probably not, but there are many teams that could win an opening round game and a couple that could sneak into the Sweet 16.  Here’s a breakdown of the potential one-bid leagues.

 

America East Conference

Four teams have separated themselves from the rest of the pack, but for now this is a three-team race between Vermont (6-1/16-5) and Stony Brook (5-1/17-4) , the two teams that have dominated this league in the past and and Maryland-Baltimore County (5-2/13-9), the team that won the conference tournament last year before becoming the first ever 16-seed to beat a 1-seed.
Last week, UMBC beat Vermont, and then Vermont blew Stony Brook off their own floor, giving every team a loss in league play. Wednesday night UMBC host Stony Brook, so this race will see movement in the upper half of the standings.
Fourth place U Mass-Lowell (4-2/12-9) has a four-game winning streak, which includes a win over UMBC. The River Hawks host Vermont this Saturday, so this race could be a tight four-way competition by the weekend.

 

Atlantic 10 Conference

The A-10 moves into Mid-Major territory this year, because this looks like a one-bid league. In a 14-team league with some weak teams bringing up the pack, it is obvious that there must also be either a few really strong teams or several competitive teams, and in this case, the league has eight competing for the conference championship and six that are legitimate threats as potential first round NCAA Tournament underdogs. Former Final Four surprise team George Mason (7-1/13-8) looks better than their overall record. The Patriots lost by one point at Kansas State, and they competed with Cincinnati, Baylor, and Vermont. Coach Dave Paulsen did a great job at Bucknell, and he has slowly brought GMU back to the top of the standings in the league.
Davidson (6-1/15-5) has turned up the defensive intensity in league play, and the Wildcats are limiting league foes to 39% shooting, 26% three-point shooting, and 59 points per game. Coach Bob McKillop is in his 30th season at DC, and he has the talent to take his 10th team to the Big Dance.
If you are looking for a team on the rise, look no further than Duquesne (5-2/14-6), where Coach Keith Dambrot has quickly turned the fortunes around in this once strong program. Dambrot owned the MAC at Akron with eight league titles in 11 years, and he is working his magic with the Dukes, making them the equal of big brother Pitt in the Steel City.
Saint Lous (5-2/14-6) lost a heart-breaker by a point against Davidson this past Saturday, and the Billikens could be a half-game out of first place had the breaks gone their way at the end. Former Oklahoma State coach Travis Ford has revived this program that suffered three consecutive 21-loss seasons.
Virginia Commonwealth (5-2/14-6) didn’t skip a beat when Will Wade left for LSU, and Mike Rhoades took over the program and brought back the Havoc Defense. VCU is killing it on the defensive end of the floor, limiting opponents to 38% shooting and forcing a lot of turnovers. The offense began to look competent in the Rams’ big win at Duquesne last time out. Keep an eye on VCU. If their offense continued to improve, they might be the team to beat in this league, and they have the defense to upset an opponent in the NCAA Tournament.
A Former VCU coach, Anthony Grant has resurrected his coaching career at Dayton (5-2/13-7), where the Flyers have won eight of 10 games riding the backs of their two big men, Josh Cunningham and Obadiah Toppin. The two forwards are instant offense in the paint, but they have excellent range and can drain the three if left open.

 

Atlantic Sun Conference

This may be the best two-team race in all of college basketball, and you should make a note to tune into ESPN+ tonight and catch the big game between the two league powers vying for the top spot in the league. There might be consideration to take both teams in the NCAA Tournament if they continue to dominate this league.
Liberty (7-0/18-4) hosts Lipscomb (7-0/16-4) at 7:00 PM Eastern Time, and the winner will find itself in the top 35 in the NET Ratings if they also win Saturday. This game will feature the high-flying offense of Lipscomb against the tough defense of Liberty.
In their eight-game winning streak that started with the big upset of UCLA, the Flames have limited opponents to 55 points per game while scoring 71 points per game. Liberty is undefeated at home, and they have an experienced coach in Ritchie McKay, who took New Mexico to the NCAA Tournament in the previous decade.
Lipscomb is the reigning conference tournament champions, under Coach Casey Alexander. The Bisons program was once the Duke of NAIA, and Alexander continues to win with a roster full of local players in the talent-rich Nashville area. Lipscomb scores 85 points per game by following the basic rules of the new advanced metrics–their offense is designed to get a lot of open three-point shots and to draw a lot of fouls with quick and straight moves to the basket.
NJIT (5-2/17-5) is the one team that could sneak past the two top teams in the conference tournament, but still must play Liberty twice, as well as play at Lipscomb, so the Highlanders might be fighting just to earn the number three seed in the A-Sun Tournament.

 

Big Sky Conference

An exciting three-team race has developed in this league, which is down a bit this year and probably will not field a team capable of challenging for an opening round win in the Big Dance. Northern Colorado (8-2/14-7) has a half-game lead over Montana (7-2/14-6) and Weber St. (7-2/13-7).
Northern Colorado has the top player in the league in Jordan Davis, who averages 24 points per game and has scored in double figures in every game this year. The problem with the Bears is that sometimes the rest of the team relies too much on Davis to do everything, and it leads to offensive lapses.
Montana has won eight of 10 games with balanced scoring and by taking care of the ball. The Grizzlies have four players averaging between 13 and 16 points per game. The Grizzlies went on a big winning streak in January and February last year to sweep the regular season and tournament championships.
Weber State may be the best equipped to play tough against a power conference team in the NCAA Tournament. The Wildcats have the second best scorer in the Big Sky in Jerrick Harding, who scores better than 21 points per game. Inside, they have the league’s two best rebounders. Brekkot Chapman clears the glass on the defensive end, and Zach Braxton gets a lot of offensive boards and second chance points.

 

Big South Conference

Radford (7-0/15-6) is the clear best team in this league, and the Highlanders own a top 25 win this year having won at Texas after Thanksgiving. All five starters returned from last year’s conference tournament champion team that unfortunately had to play Villanova in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
Coach Mike Jones has one of the most unique backgrounds with a wide range of coaching styles in his days as an assistant. He has been on staffs coached by Shaka Smart, John Beilein, and he was on Dennis Felton’s staff at Georgia, when the Bulldogs pulled off one of the most incredible feats in modern basketball history. In 2008, he helped guide Georgia to the SEC Tournament Championship after the tournament was forced to move from the Georgia Dome to Georgia Tech’s Alexander Coliseum following the direct hit from a tornado that rendered the Georgia Dome too dangerous to continue. Georgia was forced to play two games in one day and win four games in three days in order to earn an NCAA Tournament bid, and the Bulldogs did it.

In addition Jones is the son of a former ABA basketball star Jimmie Jones, who I saw play for the Memphis Pros in the early 1970’s.

 

Big West Conference

This league will probably only garner a 15-seed in the NCAA Tournament, but there is some really good basketball being played in the Big West, and more than one head coach might be in line for a pay raise and move to a power conference.
UC-Irvine (5-1/17-5) and UC Santa Barbara (4-1/15-4) are the heavy co-favorites, but there is enough parity in the Big West for somebody else to earn the league’s automatic bid.
Former Alabama and North Carolina State coach Mark Gottfried has resurfaced at Cal State Northridge (3-2/9-12), and the Matadors play at a frenetic pace that might cause another earthquake one night. CSUN has two big scorers averaging better than 20 points per game in Lamine Diane (23.5ppg) and Terrell Gomez (20.1 ppg). Diane averages a double-double, and CSUN has a roster to watch out for in a three-day tournament.

Hawaii (3-2/12-7) is always handicapped by having to play difficult road trips. For those that do not pay attention to geography, the Rainbow Warriors basically have to fly the equivalent of New York City to Phoenix, Arizona, every time they go from the island to LAX, and then they must travel by bus to places like Irvine, Fullerton, and Santa Barbara.

 

Colonial Athletic Association

What team has the nation’s longest winning streak? If you said the current number one Tennessee Volunteers, you are wrong by two games. The Vols have won 14 in a row, but Hofstra (9-0/19-3) has won 16 games in a row. The Pride have fielded some great teams in the past under former coaches Jay Wright (that Jay Wright) and Butch Van Breda Kolff. Current Coach Joe Mihalich comes from the Paul Westhead coaching tree, but Hofstra does not play anything like the legendary offensive mastermind.
Mihalich’s team is one of the most efficient on the offensive side of the ball, as the Pride average about 120 points for every 100 possessions in CAA play. They connect on almost 51% of their field goal attempts, 42% of their three-point attempts, and better than 80% of their free throw attempts in conference play. The name of the game is to put the ball through the hoop, and the Pride certainly accomplishes that most nights. Add the best turnover ratio with a high percentage of forced turnovers coming by the all important steal, and you have a team with the ability to sneak into the Sweet 16 with the right matchup.

 

Conference USA

This has been a league where outstanding coaches have made major impacts before going to bigger and better Power Conference programs. Kermit Davis, Jr. has taken his genius to Ole Miss. Michael White is now at Florida. Jerod Haase is at Stanford.
The current hot coach is Grant McCasland, who has guided North Texas to a 6-2/18-3 mark so far this year. McCasland has a history of producing powerful teams at lower classifications including a national junior college championship. The Mean Green lead the league, but they have a brutal finish to their schedule. Aside from the fact that they must play four of their next six games on the road in some difficult places to win, this league is experimenting with a new scheduling method, where the final two weeks of games will be scheduled based on conference standings. So, North Texas will likely have to play the best three teams in the league to finish the regular season, while a team like Western Kentucky (4-4/11-10) will get to play middle of the pack teams and arrive at the CUSA Tournament without having to play the same schedule.

WKU has the talent (highest two rated players, including 5-star center Charles Bassey) to win the league’s automatic bid, but that talent has not gelled. Teams can gain confidence entering conference tournament play by mopping up against mediocre competition, so I expect the eventual conference champion to come from off the pace due to the new scheduling experiment.

Other middle of the pack teams that should compete for the lone bid are Marshall (5-3/12-9), Lousiana Tech (5-4/15-7), and Florida International (4-4/13-8)

 

Horizon League

Northern Kentucky (8-1/18-4) has the talent and coaching to pull off a first round NCAA Tournament shocker. The Norse have not been a Division 1 program for very long, after being a division two power for years. Coach John Brannen has his team prepared to play hard night after night, and he could be in line for promotion to a big program with a good showing in March. In these times, seldom do you see a team that can pass the ball as well as great teams from the past like North Carolina under Dean Smith and Indiana under Bob Knight. NKU is one of the few remaining teams that know how to move the ball rather than dribble for 15 seconds of fake offense. If the Norse can get a little more rebounding power, they have the tools to be a dangerous 14-seed against a 3-seed that overlooks them.

 

Ivy League

As per usual, this league brings up the rear in playing its conference schedule. Here we are at the end of January, and the eight Ivy teams have played two conference games each. It is too early to get a grip on this race, because last place Penn (0-2/12-6) has played rival Princeton (2-0/10-5) in both conference games, losing two close games. At the same time, the Quakers own the Big Five this year with wins over Villanova, La Salle, St. Joe’s, and Temple. They also own a blowout win over Miami of Florida.
Princeton won at Arizona State, but they also lost at Duke by 51 points. With four consecutive conference road games coming up, expect the Tigers to be no better than 4-2 in a couple weeks.
Yale (2-0/12-3) swept travel partner Brown (0-2/12-6) in two close games. The Bulldogs have the most balanced scoring in the East with five players scoring double figures per game and two more averaging better than eight per game. Yale’s big liability is there inability to hold onto the ball. The Bulldogs turn the ball over too many times, and that will keep them from advancing if they win the Ivy League Tournament.

 

Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference

The MAAC has been mired near the bottom of the conferences for many years, and this league will most likely produce a 16-seed in this year’s tournament with a decent chance that said qualifier will be forced to play a First Four game in Dayton. The problem with the MAAC is that the regular season champion has not won the conference tournament since 2010!
That is not good news for the league’s only decent team. Rider (6-1/11-8) won the regular season championship last year with a similar strong offensive efficiency, but the Broncos laid an egg agaist 9th seed Saint Peter’s in the quarterfinals of the MAAC Tournament with a 30% shooting effort.
In recent years, the 4-seed has won more conference tournament titles with around 11 or 12 conference wins. This year, that could be Siena (4-3/9-11), Iona (5-3/7-12), or Canisius (5-2/8-11). If any of these three win the bid, it’s Dayton here they come.

 

Mid-American Conference

The MAC has a chance to move to a two-bid conference two different ways. Buffalo (6-1/18-2) is going to the Dance unless the Bulls totally collapse, so if another team wins the always competitive conference tournament, there definitely will be two MAC teams in the Field of 68. If Buffalo wins both the regular season and conference tournament, there is a chance that Toledo (4-3/16-4) or Bowling Green (6-1/14-6) could sneak in as an at-large team if there are no upsets in the Power Conference tournaments.
Northern Illinois (4-3/11-9) was the team that knocked off Buffalo, which is a reason why the MAC Tournament every year is exciting with a lot of plot twists. The regular season division champions always have a rough going in Cleveland.

 

Mideastern Athletic Conference

The MEAC owns three of the five 15-seed NCAA Tournament victories over 2-seeds, but the champion in recent years has not only been placed on the 16-seed line, they have had to play a First Four game in Dayton.
This year, Norfolk State (7-0/12-10) (Beat 2-seed Missouri in 2012 Dance) and North Carolina A&T (6-0/11-9) lead the pack and figure to contend for that spot in Dayton. The two co-leaders use different methods to win, and if they should meet in the MEAC Championship Game, it will be one not to miss. Norfolk State has the inside punch and rebounding ability, but the Spartans sometimes have a difficult time taking care of the ball. NC A&T has some liabilities in the paint, but the Aggies can guard the perimeter and know how to take care of the ball.

 

Missouri Valley Conference

Arch Madness is always fun in Saint Louis every year, and this year should be one of the better in recent years. Loyola of Chicago (6-2/13-8) became the nation’s darling last year in their run to the Final Four, and the Ramblers lead the way again this season, but this team is not clicking like last year’s team. Drake (5-3/16-5) also has a Final Four team in its past, which by the way came the closest to beating a Kareem Abdul Jabbar-led UCLA team.
This Valley has balance, and the next four teams after the two above have enough talent to get hot for three days and steal the lone bid. Keep an eye on Missouri State (4-4/10-11). Coach Dana Ford was a Gregg Marshall assistant at Wichita State, when the Shockers owned the Valley, and in the last week, the Bears looked just like one of those Wichita teams in blowout victories over Loyola and Bradley. MSU outscored the two victims 125-72. They out-shot Loyola 63%-37%, and they held the Ramblers to an incredible eight rebounds for the game!

 

Northeast Conference

Short of some other low major conferences sending 20-loss teams to the Big Dance, the champion of the NEC is doomed to play a First Four game in Dayton. There isn’t a particularly strong team in the league this year.
Robert Morris (7-1/12-9) is one team that has won a game in Dayton before losing big as a 16-seed in the next game. St. Francis of Brooklyn (5-3/13-8) has never been in the NCAA Tournament. There isn’t another league team with the talent to win a game in Dayton this year.

 

Ohio Valley Conference

Like its first cousin, the Atlantic Sun Conference, the OVC has multiple teams capable of winning in the NCAA Tournament. There are actually four talented teams this year, as well as a potential top three draft pick in the 2019 NBA Draft.
Murray State (7-1/16-3) has been sort of like the Kentucky of the OVC. The Racers have won the conference championship under nine different head coaches, one of them being current head man Matt McMahon. Led by superstar Ja Morant, the Racers have competed on the road against good SEC teams. Morant might be the best and toughest point guard in the nation. He averages 24 points and 10.5 assists per game, and he does it without taking ill-advised shots. He does tend to make some bad decisions passing the ball, but he is tough as nails. Against top rival Belmont (6-2/15-4), he played 37 minutes, 35 of them with a sprained ankle.
Speaking of Belmont, the Bruins hit a rough spot for a week, but they have rebounded to win by double digits at Murray. Coach Rick Byrd’s teams always pass and shoot brilliantly, but in recent years, he has been able to bring in and train big guys to compete against the power conference teams inside the paint.
Jacksonville State (7-1/15-6) owns both of the wins over Belmont, and former Western Kentucky coach Ray Harper has taken three teams to the NCAA Tournament in his previous seven years as a Division 1 coach. The Gamecocks know how to play tough man-to-man defense, and teams like JSU tend to play their best in conference tournament play.
Don’t overlook Austin Peay (6-2/14-7). The Governors can fill it up from outside, and a hot streak in March could send this team to its first NCAA Tournament berth in four years. Coach Matt Figgers comes from the Frank Martin coaching tree, and Martin’s teams always peak at the right time. If this APSU team peaks in March, they are just talented enough to win the conference tournament.

 

Patriot League

It’s a down year in the Patriot League this season, but there could be something exciting that comes from the lack of having that one rather good team. Army (6-2/11-10) is tied for first with Lehigh (6-2/13-6) and perennial champion Bucknell (6-2/12-8). The Black Knights have never appeared in the NCAA Tournament, even when Bob Knight or Mike Krzyzewski coached the Academy. In 29 years in the Patriot League, Army has finished with a winning conference record just one time, so if Coach Jimmy Allen can guide his roster of 20 players (yes, you read that correctly) to the Big Dance this year, it will be quite a milestone. Army’s two conference losses were by one and two points, and in their current four-game winning streak, they have outscore their conference rivals by 11.5 points per game.

 

Southern Conference

The Socon has four teams this year strong enough to do damage in the NCAA Tournament, possibly even contend for a Sweet 16 berth. The league will most likely get just one bid, but there could be a second team that sneaks into the Dance. The problem is that with four really good teams, the second best team is going to lose too many games, or all four teams will see their won-loss records affected by the parity.
Wofford (9-0/17-4) has been to four NCAA Tournaments during Coach Mike Young’s tenure, with the Terriers coming close twice against power conference teams. This is Young’s best team in Spartanburg, and the Terriers haven’t lost since Christmas. In their eight-game winning streak, Wofford has a scoring margin of 84-66. Three of their four losses were to top 25 teams.
UNC-Greensboro (8-1/19-3) and East Tennessee State (7-2/17-5) might be better NCAA Tournament representatives than Wofford due to unique playing styles and the makeup of their rosters. UNCG’s one conference loss was a devastating one, as Wofford beat them by 29 points. On the other hand, the Spartans played SEC powers Kentucky and LSU rather closely before losing.
ETSU has won nine of their last 10 games, and the Buccaneers still have a home game with Wofford. Coach Steve Forbes took the 2016 Bucs to the NCAA Tournament after losing to UNCG and Wofford in the regular season, so don’t discount the chance that the Bucs can repeat the feat in 2019.
As good as these three teams are, one other team actually has a top 25 win this year. Furman (5-4/16-5) won at Villanova and began the season with a 12-0 record. They are just 4-5 in their last nine games, including losses to the other three top teams.

 

Southland Conference

This league has fallen back near the bottom of the conference pack the last couple of years, and unless there are some really bad teams pulling off upsets to get to the Big Dance, the league’s qualifier will most likely be placed in Dayton in the First Four.
Sam Houston State (7-0/12-8) has emerged from the shadows of Abilene Christian (6-2/17-4) to take command of the conference race, but the Bearkats have road games to play against the top contenders and could relinquish their game and a half lead over ACU.

 

Southwestern Athletic Conference

In recent years, this has been the lowest ranked conference in Division 1, but this league has a storied history with teams that have outperformed their expectations. Almost every team must play “paycheck” road games in November and December to fund their programs, so usually every single team begins conference play with a winning percentage under 30%.
Prairie View (7-0/9-11) played its first 12 games on the road and began the season 1-11. The Panthers have since won eight games in a row by better than 10 points per game. Alabama State (6-1/8-10) played two home games early, but they were against two non-scholarship Division 3 teams. The Hornets will get a chance to sting Prairie View on the Panthers’ home floor a week from tonight.
Texas Southern (4-3/9-11) has a history of getting hot at the right time and winning the SWAC Tournament. The Tigers might be the potential most competitive league team in the NCAA Tournament, as they own a win at Baylor, at Oregon, and at Georgia, as well as competitive losses at Iowa State and Arizona State. Coach Johnny Jones has taken LSU and North Texas to past NCAA Tournaments.

 

Summit League

South Dakota State (7-1/17-6) has become one of those teams that the nation knows about because they seem to win their conference every year. The Jackrabbits have won five of the last seven conference tournaments, but they have yet to put a mark on the left side of the won-loss ledger once they arrived at the Dance. They have come close in the first round against two Big Ten teams in recent years, and this year might give SDSU a third try against a Michigan, Michigan State, or Purdue as a 15-seed against a 2-seed.
SDSU’s chief rivals this year are Omaha (6-2/12-9) and Purdue Fort Wayne (5-3/13-10). Both teams have the potential to run off 100 points on a given night, but neither has the defense to win three games in three days, unless SDSU falters, and their path to the automatic bid comes against weak opponents.

 

Sun Belt Conference

This may be the most balanced league in college basketball as seven teams are not that different from each other. Georgia State (6-2/15-6) and Texas State (6-2/17-4) lead the rest of the pack, but neither team is strong enough to dominate the rest of the league.
Texas-Arlington (5-3/9-12), Georgia Southern (5-3/13-8), UL-Monroe (4-3/11-8), Louisiana (4-3/13-7), and Coastal Carolina (4-3/10-9) could just as easily get hot and win the SBC Tournament, but whoever wins is likely to quickly exit as a 14 or 15-seed.
Georgia State has won the automatic bid two of the last four seasons, and Coach Ron Hunter has the one of the league’s two most recent NCAA Tournament victories, knocking off 3-seed Baylor in 2015. Texas State has the best defense of the top contenders, but the Bobcats have the weakest offense of the contenders.

Georgia Southern Coach Mark Byington comes from the Bobby Cremins coaching tree, which makes him a branch of the Frank McGuire tree. The Eagles can pick teams apart with steal after steal and get out and run in transition. Many times, teams like this begin to gel in February and early March, so watch out for Georgia Southern come SBC Tournament time. The only possible pitfall is that sometimes teams like this get to March very fatigued.

 

Western Athletic Conference

In recent years, New Mexico State (5-1/16-4) has enjoyed a dynasty in the WAC with NCAA Tournament berths six out of the last seven seasons and eight in the last dozen years. NMSU has done this with four different head coaches, but the best of the quartet might be current head man Chris Jans. The Aggies could have a team capable of breaking through in the NCAA Tournament this year, as they scared the daylights out of Kansas, leading the Jayhawks into the second half.
NMSU will not be handed the conference championship of tournament championship, as there are two or three other teams that can knock them off. In recent years, Grand Canyon (6-1/13-7) has been the Aggies’ chief nemesis. Former NBA Mr. Hustle Dan Majerle has built GCU in his own image, and the Antelopes “hit the dirt” as often as Vince Coleman and Maury Wills used to do on the diamond. Teams that don’t hustle pay the price against the Antelopes, and now Majerle has enough talent to get to the Big Dance.

The team that has emerged as the surprise leader in the league is Cal State Bakersfield (6-1/14-6). Coach Rod Barnes has experience taking teams picked to finish in the middle of the pack to the conference penthouse in the past. He won an SEC championship at Ole Miss and took three Rebel teams to the NCAA Tournament. He has already upset New Mexico State in the WAC Championship Game to earn a bid at Bakersfield.

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August 14, 2018

2018 FBS Independents Preview

Note: The preseason ratings you see in the previews may not be the same as the ratings you see for the first game. We update every team’s rating based on player injuries, changes to the depth charts, and other factors that may change during preseason practice.

Some of our Group of 5 Conference won-loss predictions were figured before the beginning of August preseason practices. Thus, it could be that a player or players on some teams have already suffered season-ending or multiple game injuries or have left their teams, and these won-loss predictions no longer accurately reflect our ratings. We hope that by the time we preview the Power 5 conferences, we will know who is not going to be available (players and head coaches).

The number of FBS Independents has ballooned by 50% as Liberty moves up to FBS football and New Mexico State returns to this group after spending four years in the Sun Belt Conference.

There is no real affiliation between the six teams in the independent ranks. The top program, Notre Dame, is all but a member of the Atlantic Coast Conference. The Irish play five ACC teams every year. In the past, Notre Dame may have been hurt by not being affiliated with a conference. That is no longer the case. Notre Dame has an easier path to the FBS Playoffs now that the top 4 teams qualify. With no conference championship game to play and the ability to arrange their schedule in the most convenient way, Notre Dame is a serious contender this year to make their first appearance in the playoffs.
If the Irish run the table or finish a strong 11-1, it will be the defense that carries them to the promised land. After surrendering 21.5 points per game and 369 yards per game in 2017, the outlook for 2018 looks better. A solid linebacking corps ranks among the nation’s elite. Middle linebacker Te’von Coney and outside linebacker Drue Tranquill may be the best duo in the nation in ruining enemy drives. Julian Love has a chance to be named an All-American from his cornerback position. The Irish are deep and talented on the back line of defense. The front four is the weakness of the defense, but in this case, the weakness means they are maybe the 30th best defensive line in the nation.

Look for an improved pass rush this year. Road games against Northwestern and Southern Cal are the two toughest on the schedule, and the Irish are strong enough this year to win both and should at least split these two games.

Brigham Young was one of the perennial best passing teams for decades during the Lavell Edwards days. A who’s who of quarterbacks including Ty Detmer, Jim McMahon, Marc Wilson, Gifford Nielsen, and Virgil Carter gave the Cougars the necessary tools to make the offense click. In recent years, not only has BYU not had a dangerous passer, passing has become a liability in Provo. Coach Kalani Sitake may have just one more year to turn things around before finding himself on another mission. The season may depend on whether the offensive line can keep senior Tanner Mangum upright and out of the hospital, something it has failed doing the previous two seasons. He is recovering from an Achilles’ injury and will lack a lot of mobility.

Speaking of passing, that word is not in the dictionary in West Point, NY. Army attempted just five passes per game last year, and completed just over 1 1/2 of those attempts per game. Still, with only 28 passing yards per game, the Black Knights averaged almost 31 points per game by leading the nation in rushing yardage. The 10-3 season was the best at West Point since 1996. The Cadets will take a small backward step this year with a decimated offense needing to rebuild, but the defense could limit opponents to 330 yards and 20 points per game this year.

Mark Whipple is a quarterback whisperer. He has a long history of getting the most out of his passers. Throughout his career, Whipple has helped tutor Greg Landry during his USFL stint, Ben Roethlisberger with the Steelers (including a Super Bowl Championship season), and Donovan McNabb when he threw for the most yards in his career and led the Eagles to the NFC Championship Game. As offensive coordinator at Miami in 2009, he got the most out of Jacory Harris. So, it should be no surprise that the man that took Massachusetts to a I-AA championship his first go around in Amherst, is on the verge of making the FBS version of the Minutemen into a bowl-eligible team. UMass finished 4-8 last year with enough near misses to make a bowl game if they had gone the other way. This year, with experienced quarterback Andrew Ford, we expect the Minutemen to crash through the barrier and enjoy a won-loss record on the plus side of .500. If Ford stays healthy for 12 games, he should crash through the 3,500 passing yard barrier and make a run at 4,000. He has talented and experienced receivers returning as well as the most experienced and talented offensive line protecting him since he arrived on campus. UMass should score around 35-38 points per game, and while the defense is still quite suspect, the Minutemen should win seven games and receive their first bowl bid since they played in the 1972 Boardwalk Bowl.

New Mexico State left the Sun Belt on good footing, as the Aggies finished with a bowl win and winning season in their SBC swan song. The Sun Belt was never a good fit for this team; this school would be an excellent addition to the Mountain West, where rival New Mexico already plays, or Conference USA, where rival UTEP plays. Coach Doug Martin has enough key talent returning on both sides of the ball to return to a bowl in 2018, but they will have to stay healthy in the back half of their schedule after facing a brutal beginning. NMSU will play on August 25 against Wyoming and a short five days later, play at Minnesota. Then, on September 8, the Aggies have another tough road game at Utah State.  They could 0-3 to start the season.

Liberty finished 6-5 in their final year in FCS football last season. The Flames beat Baylor, so they will not be intimidated this year when they line up against teams like Old Dominion, North Texas, and New Mexico. Coach Turner Gill’s team won last year with a brilliant passing attack, as they frequently outscored their opponents in their wins. They gave up more than 40 points in two of those wins! In Liberty’s favor, most of their brilliant offense returns in 2018, but the schedule is about 20 points stronger per game this year than last. Don’t expect Liberty to contend for a winning season in year one in the FBS.

There is no FBS Independents media group that meets and hears speeches from the coaches and then interviews players before voting in a preseason poll. Rather than leave this section empty, I will show you how a conglomerate of 10 of my peers believe the teams will finish.

Independents 1st Place Votes
1. Notre Dame 10 60
2. Army 0 47
3. BYU 0 43
4. New Mexico State 0 26
5. Massachusetts 0 24
6. Liberty 0 10

The PiRate Ratings mostly agree with these other 10 very successful computer geniuses, and where we don’t it is probably because they are correct, and we are not.

FBS Independents
Team Overall PiRate Mean Bias Average
Notre Dame 0-0 125.6 121.5 123.7 123.6
BYU 0-0 95.9 97.0 96.3 96.4
Army 0-0 95.6 96.4 95.5 95.9
Massachusetts 0-0 89.8 92.4 92.0 91.4
N. Mexico St. 0-0 82.0 85.3 82.5 83.3
Liberty 0-0 75.2 73.9 74.2 74.5
Independents Averages 94.0 94.4 94.0 94.2

New Coaches
There are no new coaches among the six independents. Sitake is most definitely on the hot seat at BYU, and if something were to happen in South Bend, and the Irish terribly under-perform, Brian Kelly might be in trouble. However, we cannot see a scenario happening with Notre Dame this year, and the Irish have a better chance of going 12-0 than 6-6.

Predicted Won-Loss Records

Independents Record
Notre Dame 12-0
Army 8-4
New Mexico State 7-5
Massachusetts 7-5
BYU 6-6
Liberty 2-10

Bowl Tie-ins
This year, no Independents have a definite bowl contract. Notre Dame counts toward the ACC when bowls pick representative, and they can be selected ahead of any ACC rival if they have at least one win fewer than the ACC alternative. In other words, if Duke is 9-3 and the Irish are 8-4, bowls can take Notre Dame ahead of Wake Forest. If Duke is 10-2 and Notre Dame is 8-4, then Duke must be selected before Notre Dame.
BYU has an agreement with ESPN that if the Cougars become bowl eligible, ESPN will place them in one of their televised bowls as an at-large opponent.

Liberty is not eligible for a bowl this season, but there are technicalities involved that could send the Flames to the Cure Bowl.
New Mexico State has a secondary bowl tie-in with the New Mexico Bowl.

Coming Tomorrow–The American Athletic Conference

March 9, 2011

NCAA Basketball Conference Tournaments–March 9 Update

Filed under: College Basketball — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , — piratings @ 8:25 am

Three More Tickets Punched

Horizon League Championship

Butler 59  Milwaukee 44

 The Bulldogs held Milwaukee to 30% shooting from the field, and Matt Howard connected on seven of nine shots to pace Butler with 18 points, as the defending National Final runner-up earned another spot in the Big Dance.

 Summit League Championship

Oakland 90  Oral Roberts 76 

The Golden Grizzlies displayed a great offensive show with the aid of numerous first half steals by Drew Valentine and Reggie Hamilton to build a double-digit lead by the break.  After withstanding an early second half run by the Golden Eagles, Oakland pulled away to win the automatic bid.  

Keith Benson topped Oakland with 28 points and 14 rebounds.  Hamilton added 25 with six assists, while Will Hudson recorded a double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds.

 

Sunbelt Conference Championship

U A L R  64  North Texas  63 

The Trojans won their first Sunbelt Championship and earned their first bid to the NCAA Tournament since 1990.

 

SBC Player of the Year Solomon Bozeman drove from the backcourt to the left side of the top of the key and drained a three-pointer with 1.5 seconds remaining to give UALR the decisive points.  Bozeman scored a game-high 20 points. 

North Texas had led by seven points with less than two minutes to go, but the Mean Green wilted under the Trojan pressure defense.  With one last chance to try to win, UNT committed a turnover on the inbounds pass. 

11 Automatic Qualifiers To Date

Team Conference Record
Arkansas-Little Rock Sunbelt  19-16
Belmont  Atlantic South 30-4
Butler  Horizon 23-9
Gonzaga West Coast 24-9
Indiana State  Missouri Valley  20-13
Morehead State  Ohio Valley  24-9
Oakland  Summit  25-9
Old Dominion Colonial 27-6
St. Peter’s Metro Atlantic 20-13
UNC-Asheville Big South 19-13
Wofford Southern 21-12

 

Two Tickets To Be Punched Tonight

Big Sky Tournament Championship @ 9PM ET On ESPN2

#2 Montana (21-9) at #1 Northern Colorado (20-10)

 

Semifinal Round

Montana 57  Weber State 40

Northern Colorado 73  Northern Arizona 70

 

These two split their regular season series with Northern Colorado winning 63-45 in Greeley, and Montana winning 55-42 in Missoula.  Tonight’s game will be played at Butler-Hancock Hall in Greeley, so Northern Colorado will enjoy the home court advantage. 

This game is a great study in contrasts.  Northern Colorado is a quicker team, but Montana is a stronger team.  Northern Colorado has one exceptionally dominant player, while Montana has more, albeit less exceptional, weapons.

 

The Bears’ offense runs through 6-1 senior guard Devon Beitzel.  Beitzel averages a league-best 21 points per game, and he is deadly at the free throw line, where he connects on 91% of his tosses. 

The rest of the team collectively shoots under 41% from the field and commits more turnovers than assists, so if the Grizzlies can stop Beitzel, or at least limit his touches, they have a chance of defending their crown.

 

Montana has the dominant big man in the conference in 6-11/260 senior center Brian Qvale.  If the Grizzlies can keep this game a half-court affair, they stand a great chance of winning with Qvale plugging the middle on defense and controlling the boards at both ends of the court.  Qvale averages 15 points and nine boards a game, and he had a double-double with 16 points and 17 rebounds in the semifinal round.  Montana likes to limit possessions, so those numbers are even more impressive than they look. 

In the win over UNC, Montana held the Bears to 23.3% shooting, while they shot just 32.6% in the loss at Greeley.

 

It is our opinion that the visiting number two seed will pull off the mild upset over the host numbone seed, but it is not a strong feeling. 

 Northeast Conference Tournament Championship @ 7PM ET On ESPN2

#3 Robert Morris (18-13) at #1 Long Island (26-5)

Semifinal Round

Long Island 69  Central Connecticut 67

Robert Morris 64  Quinnipiac 62

Brooklyn has not been this excited over one of their own sports teams since the Dodgers won the 1955 World Series.  Long Island is one of the most exciting teams in the nation, and their 26-5 record has throngs of Brooklynites cramming into the Wellness, Recreation, and Athletic Center.  The WRAC holds just 2,500 seats, but you can bet that more than that amount will find their way into the game tonight, as they “Pack the WRAC.” 

Those fans will be converging to the corner of Ashland and Dekalb tonight, dressed in all white, to watch what could be a blowout win for their team.   

LIU is on a roll.  The Blackbirds have won 12 games in a row (longest current streak in the nation) and 20 of their previous 21 games.  They average almost 83 points per game.  The Blackbirds have exceptional depth with eight players capable of scoring 15 or more points. 

 

The Blackbirds pose difficult matchups with their roster, as they rely on quick guards and medium-sized forwards with great leaping ability to play at a fast pace.  There is no center on the roster, but the two 6-7 forwards have controlled the boards in most games this year. 

Those forwards are Julian Boyd and Jamal Olasewere, who team up for 25.4 points and 15.7 rebounds per game.

 5-10 backup guard Jason Brickman plays just 22 minutes per game, but he leads the team with 5.3 assists per game.  When he comes in the game, the pace picks up, and the Blackbirds shoot a lot of threes in transition.

 

Robert Morris is definitely not cannon fodder.  The Colonials are the two-time defending NEC Tournament champions, and they believe they can three peat even on the road in hostile conditions. 

The Colonials have won eight games in a row, relying on a stellar defense that limits possessions and pressures the guards.  They are missing their leading scorer, as 5-9 guard Karon Abraham’s season ended two weeks ago with a torn Achilles Tendon.  On the positive side, Abraham missed RMU’s win at LIU on December 2, as he was serving a multi-game suspension. 

Velton Jones and Russell Johnson will have to shine tonight for the Colonials to pull off the upset.  The duo are the only double figure scorers left, but both shoot less than 39% from the field. 

Without Abraham, RMU shoots just 33.7% from behind the arc, so the only way they can possibly win tonight is to replicate the formula that was successful more than three months ago—control the tempo and prevent LIU from getting off any uncontested three-pointers. 

We believe this game will begin slowly with RMU taking the lead in the early stages.  Somewhere in the first half, LIU will go on one of their patented runs and gain the lead.  Then, a second spurt will give them a commanding lead.  RMU might cut into that lead, but we believe in the end, the Blackbirds will be celebrating at the WRAC.  We do not believe the Brooklynites will be crying “Wait ‘Til Next Year.”  This will be like October of 1955 in the borough.

 

Yesterday’s Other Tournament Results

Atlantic 10 Conference

First Round

LaSalle 75  St. Bonaventure 73  2ot

St. Joseph’s 71  George Washington 59  ot

Rhode Island 70  St. Louis 61

Dayton 78  U Mass 50

 

Big East Conference

First Round

Connecticut 97  DePaul 71

Rutgers 76  Seton Hall 70 ot

South Florida 70  Villanova 69

Marquette 87  Providence 66 

M A C

First Round

Bowling Green 74  Northern Illinois 54

Ohio U 74  Toledo 57

Akron 67  Eastern Michigan 53

Buffalo 64  Central Michigan 50

 

M E A C

First Round

MD-Eastern Shore 87  F A M U 85  2ot

S. C. State 64  Delaware State 59 

Ivy League Playoff Set

Princeton defeated rival Penn 70-58 last night in Philadelphia, forcing a one-game playoff for the Ivy League’s automatic berth.  Princeton (24-6) will take on co-champion Harvard (23-5) Saturday afternoon at 4PM Eastern Time.  The game will be played at Yale University in New Haven, CT, and it can be seen live on ESPN3.com.

Princeton has appeared in all seven Ivy League tiebreaking playoff games in the history of the league.  This is Harvard’s first Ivy League basketball championship of any kind.  The Crimson last appeared in the NCAA Tournament in 1946. 

There is a chance that the loser of this game could hold a slim chance of earning an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament.  Harvard is ranked #35 in the RPI, while Princeton is ranked #49.  Harvard has two wins over top 50 teams as well as three losses.  Their biggest win was at Boston College.  Princeton has just one win against the top 50 and two losses.  For the Ivy to earn two bids, the Tigers have to win Saturday and hope Harvard’s high RPI is enough to earn the second bid. 

Conference Tournaments In Action Today

Big 12 Conference

Tournament Site: Kansas City

1st Round Games

#8 Nebraska (19-11) vs. #9 Oklahoma State (18-12)  12:30 PM ET

#5 Colorado (19-12) vs. #12 Iowa State (16-15)  3 PM ET

#7 Baylor (18-12) vs. #10 Oklahoma (13-17)  7PM ET

#6 Missouri (22-9) vs. #11 Texas Tech (13-18) 9:30 PM ET 

Big East Conference

Tournament Site: New York City

2nd Round Games

#8 Georgetown (21-9) vs. #9 Connecticut (22-9)  12 Noon ET on ESPN

#5 St. John’s (20-10) vs. #13 Rutgers (15-16)  Approx. 2:15 PM ET on ESPN

#7 Cincinnati (24-7) vs. #15 South Florida (10-22)  7 PM ET on ESPN

#6 West Virginia (20-10) vs. #11 Marquette (19-13)  Approx. 9:15 PM ET on ESPN 

Conference USA

Tournament Site: El Paso, TX

1st Round Games

#8 East Carolina (16-14) vs. #9 Central Florida (19-10)  1 PM ET

#5 Southern Miss (21-9) vs. #12 Tulane (13-16)  3:30 PM ET

#6 Marshall (21-10) vs. #11 Houston (12-17)  7:30 PM ET

#7 S M U (17-13) vs. #10 Rice (13-17)  10 PM ET 

M E A C

Tournament Site: Winston-Salem, NC

Note: The MEAC has a unique way of scheduling their tournament.  As a result, one first round game will be played today as well as two quarterfinal round games.  The other two quarterfinal round games will be played Thursday. 

1st Round

#6 Norfolk State () vs. #11 Howard ()  3 PM ET

Quarterfinal Round

#1 Bethune-Cookman (20-11) vs. #9 South Carolina State (10-21)  7 PM ET

#2 Hampton (21-8) vs. #10 Maryland-Eastern Shore (9-21)  9:30 PM ET 

Mountain West Conference

Tournament Site: Las Vegas

1st Round

#8 Wyoming (10-20) vs. #9 T C U (10-21)  5 PM ET 

Pac-10 Conference

Tournament Site: Los Angeles

1st Round

#8 Stanford (15-15) vs. #9 Oregon State (10-19)  9 PM ET on Fox Sports Net

#7 Oregon (14-16) vs. #10 Arizona State (12-18)  11:30 PM ET on Fox Sports Net 

Southland Conference

Tournament Site: Katy, TX (Houston Area)

Quarterfinal Round

#2 Northwestern State (LA) (18-13) vs. #7 Texas-San Antonio (16-13)  1 PM ET

#3 Sam Houston (17-12) vs. #6 Stephen F. Austin (18-10)  3:30 PM ET

#1 McNeese State (19-10) vs. #8 Nicholls State (14-13)  7 PM ET

#4 Texas State (15-15) vs. #5 Southeastern Louisiana (15-13)  9:30 PM ET 

S W A C

Tournament Site: Garland, TX (Dallas-Ft. Worth Area) 

Quarterfinal Round

#2 Jackson State (16-14) vs. #7 Prairie View (10-21)  12:30 PM ET

#1 Texas Southern (18-11) vs. #8 Arkansas-Pine Bluff (7-23)  9 PM ET

W A C

Tournament Site: Las Vegas

1st Round

#5 Hawaii (18-11) vs. #8 San Jose State (15-14)  3 PM ET

#6 Nevada (12-18) vs. #7 Fresno State (14-16)  5:30 PM ET

March 8, 2011

NCAA Basketball Conference Tournaments–March 8 Update

 

The Four Newest Dance Invitees

Did you see those conference championship games last night?  Was this the Monday Night Fights or basketball?  There were more cut men and cut women than in your average boxing card.

 

When it is all or nothing for these smaller conferences, you get what we saw last night—teams playing like their lives were on the line.

 

Colonial Athletic Association

Old Dominion 70

Virginia Commonwealth 65

 

Old Dominion 27-6

 

The Monarchs are capable of making a semi-surprise run in the Big Dance.  They lead the nation in rebounding margin, and they can score points in the paint. 

 

Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference

St. Peter’s 62

Iona 57

 

St. Peter’s 20-13

 

The Peacocks beat Alabama earlier in the season, and their defense could keep them within striking defense in an opening round game, but we cannot see SPC advancing to the second round.

 

Southern Conference

Wofford 77

College of Charleston 67

 

Wofford 21-12

 

The Terriers finally beat the Cougars (we predicted this yesterday), and they will not roll over and play dead in the first round.  This team returns to the Dance for the second consecutive season, and they will not back down.  They may not advance, but they will not be in awe of their heavily favored first round opponent.

 

West Coast Conference

Gonzaga 75

Saint Mary’s 63

 

Gonzaga 24-9

 

This edition of Zags may not be the most talented in the Coach Mark Few era, but they are playing their best ball at the right time.  It will depend on their bracket, but this team has Sweet 16 potential.

 

Three More Invitations Go Out Tonight

By 11:15 PM Eastern Time tonight, we will know the names of three more NCAA Tournament participants.  Let’s break down these games.

 

Horizon League Championship @ 9PM ET on ESPN

Butler (22-9)  at  Milwaukee (19-12)

 

Butler defeated Cleveland State in the semifinal round Saturday evening, while Milwaukee topped Valparaiso.  During the regular season, Milwaukee swept the Bulldogs, winning 76-52 at home and 86-80 in overtime on the road.  The top-seeded Panthers host this game.

 

Both teams are red hot coming into this title match.  Milwaukee has gone 10-1 in their last 11 games, and the only loss was in the Bracketbuster to Buffalo.  Their defense is what got them here, as they shoot only 43% from the field and 65% at the foul line.

 

Three Panthers average double figures in scoring, led by Anthony Hill.  Hill averages just under 16 points per game, but he broke out with a 24-point, 11-rebound performance in the semifinal game against Valpo.  Kaylon Williams is the X-factor for Panthers.  He can score when needed, rebound with the big men, and run the offense.  He recorded a triple-double earlier in the season against Butler (10 points-10 rebounds-10 assists), and he added a double-double in the second win over the Bulldogs.

 

Butler missed Gordon Hayward even more than most experts predicted.  The Bulldogs played a tough pre-conference schedule and limped into February.  With their backs against the wall, they reeled off eight consecutive victories to get to the title game tonight.

 

Most basketball fans know Matt Howard and Shelvin Mack from last year’s team that made the surprise run to the National Championship Game.  The duo has teamed for 32 points and 6.5 rebounds per game this year.  However, it has been the emergence of 6-11 sophomore center Andrew Smith that has allowed Butler to turn things around and look like a force to be reckoned with once again.  Smith averaged 11 points per game over the second half of the season.  In the eight game winning streak, he has averaged 32 minutes per game and pulled down close to eight rebounds per game.  His 63% field goal percentage has forced defenses to stop him first, giving Howard and Mack more room to get open.  Smith was a non-factor in the two games against Milwaukee, and he is the key to tonight’s game.  If he plays 32 minutes and gets double figure points and eight rebounds, Butler will be cutting down the nets yet again.

 

Summit League Championship @ 9PM ET on ESPN2

Site: Sioux Falls, SD

Oakland (24-9)  vs. Oral Roberts (19-14)

 

If you like high-scoring, fast-paced games, you will definitely clear your schedule to view this one.  Oakland is the second best offensive team in the nation, averaging 86 points per game (92 ppg in their last 10 games).  The Grizzlies connect on close to 50% of their field goal attempts, and they tend to hit spurts where they score 10 points in two minutes.  Oral Roberts averages 81 points per game and has no qualms running with Oakland.

 

Both teams are riding major winning streaks entering tonight’s title game.  Oakland has won 17 of their last 18 games, while the Golden Eagles have won 10 in a row.  In the regular season, Oakland won both high-scoring games, but both were nail-biters that went down to the wire. 

 

Oakland has a tall and short combination that has done a lot of the damage on opponents.  6-11 center Keith Benson is the best player in the league.  Benson averages 17.7 points and 10 rebounds per game.  He showed he can do it against the big schools, as he had 17 points and 12 rebounds in a close loss to Michigan State and 26 points and 10 rebounds in a big win at Tennessee. 

 

5-11 guard Reggie Hamilton is a threat to top 20 points any night.  He is quick and can get open without help from screens.

 

Oral Roberts has a star in its own right.  Dominique Morrison averages just under 20 points per game, and he doesn’t need to heave up 25 shots per game to get those points.  Morrison shoots 51.3% from the field, 40% from behind the three-point line, and 78.4% at the foul line.  He scored 56 points in the two games against Oakland.

 

This should be a great game, and we don’t believe Oakland is that much of a favorite.  ORU has been to the Big Dance four times in the last six years, while Oakland is the defending tournament champion.  We expect the winner to top 90 points in this game, and it is too close to call.  We say Oakland has about a 54% chance and Oral Roberts a 46% chance of winning.

 

Sunbelt Conference Championship @ 7PM ET on ESPN2

Site: Hot Springs, AR

 

North Texas (22-10)  vs. U A L R (18-16)

 

On paper this looks like a mismatch, even though the teams finished one game apart in the regular season.  North Texas finished fourth in the West with an 8-8 league mark, while Little Rock finished fifth at 7-9.

 

North Texas was one of the biggest underachievers this season.  The Mean Green returned four starters from their 2010 conference champion team and were expected to win again this year with the best backcourt and one of the best frontcourts in the league.  Instead, a 3-9 swoon in the middle of the season placed them out of contention for the West crown.  Since that awful slide, UNT has recovered with five consecutive victories.

 

6-5 senior guard Tristan Thompson has led the way for the Mean Green in the tournament, scoring 80 points in the first three games.  He has done a lot of the damage at the foul line, where he is 31-35 in Hot Springs, including an unbelievable 20-20 performance in the win over top-seed Florida Atlantic.  Thompson combines a quick move to the basket with a sweet shot from outside.  Beefy forward George Odufuwa averages 11 points and 10.2 rebounds per game, and UALR has a tough matchup problem against him.

 

The Trojans dropped both regular season games to North Texas, mostly because they could not compete under the basket.  Their chance to win this game will come down to limiting possessions and trying to win 55-50.  They have won three games in the tournament by getting to the foul line and hitting foul shots, while using the clock and taking 30 seconds to shoot on most possessions.  UALR’s big star in this tournament has been senior guard Solomon Bozeman.  Like Thompson, Bozeman has gotten to the free throw line and made the most of his opportunities.  He has connected on 37 of 42 attempts including an eye-popping 19 of 22 against Middle Tennessee last night.

 

We expect a low-possession, low-scoring game.  There may be fewer than 100 field goal attempts tonight.  North Texas has been there before, while UALR has never won the Sunbelt Conference Tournament.  We think that trend will continue, but it wouldn’t surprise us if this game stays relatively close for the entire 40 minutes.  We could see North Texas winning 60-54.

 

The Other Tournaments In Action Today

 

Atlantic 10 Conference

First Round At Higher Seed Home Court

 

#9 Dayton (19-12) at #8 U Mass (15-14)  9PM ET on CBSC

#12 St. Joseph’s (9-21) at #5 George Washington (17-13)  7PM ET on CBSC

#10 LaSalle (14-17) at #7 St. Bonaventure (16-13)  5 PM ET on CBSC

#11 St. Louis (12-18) at #6 Rhode Island (18-12)  7 PM ET no TV

 

Big East Conference

Madison Square Garden in New York City

 

#16 Depaul (7-23) vs. #9 Georgetown (21-9) 12 Noon ET on ESPN2

#13 Rutgers (14-16) vs. #12 Seton Hall (13-17) Approx. 2:15 PM ET on ESPN2

#15 South Florida (9-22) vs. #10 Villanova (21-10) 7PM ET on ESPNU

#14 Providence (15-16) vs. #11 Marquette (18-13) Approx 9:15 ET on ESPNU

 

Big Sky Conference

Semifinal Round At Higher Seed Home Court

#3 Weber State (18-11) at #2 Montana (20-9)

#4 Northern Arizona (19-11) at #1 Northern Colorado (19-10)

 

Mid-American Conference

1st Round At Higher Seed Home Court  All Games At 7PM ET

 

#10 Northern Illinois (9-20) at #7 Bowling Green (13-18)

#11 Eastern Michigan (9-21) at #6 Akron (19-12)

#9 Central Michigan (10-20) at #8 Buffalo (17-12)

#12 Toledo (4-27) at #5 Ohio U (17-14)

 

Mideastern Athletic Conference

Lawrence Joel Coliseum in Winston-Salem, NC

 

#9 South Carolina State (9-21) vs. #8 Delaware State (9-20)  9PM ET

#10 Maryland-Eastern Shore (8-21) vs. #7 Florida A&M (12-19)  6:30 PM ET

 

Note: One more 1st round game Wednesday plus two quarterfinal games

 

 

March 7, 2011

NCAA Basketball Conference Tournaments–March 7 Update

NCAA Tournament Qualifier #4

Congratulations to the Indiana State Sycamores, the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament champions.  ISU defeated Missouri State Sunday by a score of 60-56, giving them eight wins in their last nine games.  This Sycamore team is not to be confused with the 1979 National Finalists with some guy named Larry Bird doing a lot of the scoring, but ISU (20-13) has enough talent to pull off an upset in the first round.  The last time they were in the Big Dance, ISU upset Oklahoma 70-68 in the first round of the 2001 tourney; they lost 85-68 to Gonzaga in the next round.  The Sycamores lost by nine at Notre Dame and by 13 against Purdue, so they can compete against Top 10 teams.

 

Indiana State joins UNC-Asheville, Belmont, and Morehead State as automatic qualifiers in the NCAA Tournament.

 

Four More Teams To Enter The Dance Party Tonight

The field of automatic qualifiers doubles from four to eight tonight.  Let’s take a look at the four conference championships for Monday.

 

Colonial Athletic Association

Virginia Commonwealth (23-10)  vs. Old Dominion (26-6)

7:00 PM EST on ESPN

 

In the semifinal round, VCU upset top-seed George Mason 79-63, while Old Dominion ousted Hofstra 77-69.  Bubble teams will be cheering hard for ODU because if VCU wins, the CAA could send an extra team to the Dance.  George Mason and ODU are virtually assured at-large spots, but VCU will be College Insiders, CBI or NIT-bound if they lose tonight.

 

ODU has won eight games in a row and 12 of 13.  Big forward Frank Hassell has continued to improve and impress down below, and Notre Dame can tell you how well he plays in the postseason; ODU beat the Irish in the first round of last year’s NCAA Tournament.

 

VCU slumped at the end of the regular season, losing four of their final five games (and the one win was in the Bracketbuster) to fall from first to fourth.  The Rams won nine games in a row in the middle of the season, including a road victory over their opponent tonight. 

 

Forward Jamie Skeen will be the key man to watch.  If he can match or beat Hassell point-for-point and rebound-for-rebound, VCU should pull off the victory.  If Hassell wins the battle, then the Monarchs will live up to their preseason billing as best in the league. 

 

If the game comes down to the backcourt, then VCU has the superior tandem there with Bradford Burgess and Joey Rodriguez.  If the battle comes down to the rebounding game, ODU will win and maybe win by 10-20 points.

 

Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference

St. Peter’s (19-13)  vs.  Iona (22-10)

7:00 PM EST on ESPN2

 

St. Peter’s pulled off the big upset in this tournament, defeating #1-seed Fairfield 62-48 in yesterday’s semifinal round.  Iona slaughtered Rider 83-59 to earn their spot in the championship game.  The Gaels won their opener by 30 over Siena, so they are the clear-cut favorite tonight.

 

St. Peter’s is an experienced team.  The Peacocks’ top four players are seniors—Wesley Jenkins, Jeron Belin, Nick Leon, and Ryan Bacon.  The quartet averages a combined 45 points a game with all four averaging more than 10 points a game.  Their strongest asset is their defensive ability, and teams have a tough time scoring on SPU.  Unfortunately, the Peacocks barely top 40% shooting from the field and less than 64% at the foul line.  To win tonight, they need to connect on at least 45% of their shots and get some second chance opportunities.

 

Iona has the look of a champion.  The Gaels have won nine games in a row by an average margin of 18.6 points per game.  They swept SPU by 18 and 14 in the regular season.  Star forward Michael Glover has recorded 17 double-doubles, and the only thing that could prevent him from making it 18 tonight would be his early exit from the game due to the game being a blowout.

 

As you can surmise, we think Iona will put this game away with a big run about halfway into the opening half after a five to eight-minute period to calm the nerves.

 

Southern Conference

College of Charleston (24-9)  vs.  Wofford (20-12)

9:00 PM EST on ESPN2

 

Semifinal Scores

College of Charleston 63  Furman 58

Wofford 86  Western Carolina 72

 

The top two teams in the league meet for the third time and Charleston won the first two meetings.  The Cougars won the battle on the boards in both games and in turn took several more shots.  Andrew Goudelock was unstoppable in both games, and Wofford must do something to keep the ball out of his hands tonight and prevent him from scoring his average of 23 points per game to have a chance.

 

The Terriers are the defending SoCon Tournament champions, and they were the overwhelming pick to repeat as champions this year.  They will need a repeat of yesterday’s performance to pull off the upset.  Wofford connected on 54% of their field goals, 50% of their three-point attempts, and 80% at the foul line.  Their big three, Noah Dahlman, Jamar Diggs, and Cameron Rundles, teamed for 52 points and 16 rebounds.  Wofford also has excellent depth with three players capable of coming off the bench and scoring points and pulling down rebounds in massive numbers.

 

Charleston proved to be the better team in the regular season sweep, but we tend to believe this night will belong to Wofford.  The Terriers are playing up to their potential, while the Cougars are not. 

 

West Coast Conference

Saint Mary’s (24-7)  vs. Gonzaga (23-9)

9:00 PM EST on ESPN

 

Semifinal Round

Saint Mary’s 73  Santa Clara 64

Gonzaga 71  San Francisco 67

 

This is the game of the night.  We tend to believe both teams have done enough to punch a ticket to the tournament, but still, this will be a hard-fought rivalry game.

 

The teams split their regular season series, both winning close games on the other’s home court.  If you like offense, then this is the game for you.  Both teams routinely top 80 points per game, and both have enjoyed many nights where they shot in excess of 50% from the field.

 

Gonzaga has won eight games in a row, and the Bulldogs utilize great depth to wear down opponents.  They can go 10-deep with very little drop in talent, as no player averages over 14 points per game, and only one tops six rebounds per game. 

 

SMC relies on a trio of talented players in Mickey McConnell, Rob Jones, and Matthew Dellavedova.  They team up to average 43.3 points per game.  McConnell is one of the best outside shooters in the nation, and he is virtually automatic at the charity stripe.

 

This game is a tossup in the truest since, and we expect it to go down to the final minute for the third time this season.  They could not settle it in 40 minutes the last time they faced off, so this has to be considered a 50-50 game.  We will go with Gonzaga’s 50% chance tonight.

 

Continuing Tournaments

America East Conference

Semifinal Round

Boston U. 55  Hartford 49

Stony Brook 69  Vermont 47

 

Championship Game—Saturday, March 12@ 12 Noon on ESPN2

Stony Brook (15-16) at Boston U (20-13)

 

Northeast Conference

Semifinal Round

Long Island 69  Central Connecticut 67

Robert Morris 64  Quinnipiac 62

 

Championship Game—Wednesday, March 9 @ 7PM on ESPN2

Robert Morris (18-13) at Long Island (26-5)

 

Patriot League

Semifinal Round

Lafayette 73  American 71  2ot

Bucknell 66  Lehigh 64

 

Championship Game—Friday, March 11 @ 4:45 PM on ESPN2

Lafayette (13-18) at Bucknell (24-8)

 

Summit League

Quarterfinal Round

South Dakota State  85  I P F W  75

I U P U I  79  Missouri-KC  55 

 

Semifinal Round—Monday, March 7 @ Sioux Falls, SD

Oakland (23-9)  vs.  South Dakota State (19-11) @ 7:00 PM EST

Oral Roberts (18-14)  vs.  I U P U I (19-13) @ 9:30 PM EST

 

Sunbelt Conference

Quarterfinal Round

Western Kentucky 81  Louisiana-Lafayette 76

North Texas 78  Florida Atlantic 64

Middle Tennessee 73  Florida International 38

U A L R  59  Arkansas State 52

 

Semifinal Round—Monday, March 7 @ Hot Springs, AR

Western Kentucky (16-15)  vs. North Texas (21-10) @ 7:00 PM EST

Middle Tennessee (16-15)  vs.  U A L R (17-16) @ 9:30 PM EST

 

Coming Tomorrow: The Big Sky Conference and Horizon League Tournament Championships are decided, and four more conference tournaments begin.  Check back Tuesday afternoon for more coverage.

March 5, 2011

NCAA Basketball Conference Tournaments–March 6 Update

Congratulations To Three Champions

Three teams have punched their tickets to the Big Dance.

 

Big South Conference

UNC-Asheville 60  Coastal Carolina 47

 

UNC-Asheville 19-13

 

Atlantic Sun Conference

Belmont 87  North Florida 46

 

Belmont 30-4

 

Ohio Valley Conference

Morehead State 80  Tennessee Tech 73

 

Morehead State 24-9

 

Scores From Other Conference Tournaments

 

America East Conference

Vermont 57  Binghamton 46

Stony Brook 67  Albany 61

Boston U 69  New Hampshire 60

Hartford 66  Maine 63

 

Sunday, March 6 Semifinal Round

Vermont 23-7  vs. Stony Brook 14-16

Boston U. 19-13  vs. Hartford 11-19

 

Big Sky Conference

Weber State 79  Eastern Washington 70

Northern Arizona 65  Montana State 62

 

Tuesday, March 8 Semifinal Round

Montana 20-9  vs. Weber State 18-11

Northern Colorado 19-10  vs. Northern Arizona 19-11

 

Colonial Athletic Association

George Mason 68  Georgia State 45

Virginia Commonwealth 62  Drexel 60

Old Dominion 59  Delaware 50

Hofstra 72  William & Mary 56

 

Sunday, March 6 Semifinal Round

George Mason 26-5  vs.  Virginia Commonwealth 22-10

Old Dominion 25-6  vs. Hofstra 21-10

 

Horizon League

Butler 76  Cleveland State 68

Milwaukee 70  Valparaiso 63

 

Tuesday, March 8 Championship Game

Butler 22-9  vs. Milwaukee 19-12

 

Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference

Fairfield 55  Marist 31

St. Peter’s 70  Loyola (MD) 60

Rider 79  Canisius 64

Iona 94  Siena 64

 

Sunday, March 6 Semifinal Round

Fairfield 24-6  vs. St. Peter’s 18-13

Rider 23-9  vs. Iona 21-10

 

Missouri Valley Conference

Missouri State 60  Creighton 50

Indiana State 61  Wichita State 54

 

Sunday, March 6 Championship Game

Missouri State 25-7  vs. Indiana State 19-13

 

Southern Conference

Western Carolina 77 UNC-Greensboro 66

Wofford 67  Appalachian State 56

Furman 61  Chattanooga 52

College of Charleston 78  Elon 60

 

Sunday, March 6 Semifinal Round

Western Carolina 18-14  vs. Wofford 19-12

Furman 22-9  vs. College of Charleston 23-9

 

Summit League

Oakland 82  Southern Utah 66

Oral Roberts 72  North Dakota State 65

 

Sunday, March 6 Quarterfinal Round Continues

I P F W  18-11  vs. South Dakota State 18-11

I U P U I  18-13  vs. Missouri-Kansas City 16-13

 

Sunbelt Conference

Western Kentucky 66  Louisiana-Monroe 50

North Texas 83  Troy 69

Florida Int’l 53  Denver 49

U A L R  82  South Alabama 68

 

Sunday, March 6 Quarterfinal Round

Louisiana-Lafayette 14-14  vs. Western Kentucky 15-15

Florida Atlantic 21-9  vs. North Texas 20-10

Middle Tennessee 15-15  vs. Florida Int’l  11-18

Arkansas State 17-14  vs. U A L R  16-16

 

West Coast Conference

Santa Clara 76  Loyola Marymount 68

San Francisco 76  Pepperdine 59

 

Sunday, March 6 Semifinal Round

St. Mary’s 23-7  vs. Santa Clara 19-13

Gonzaga 22-9  vs. San Francisco 17-13

March 4, 2011

NCAA Basketball Conference Tournaments–March 5 Update 1

Two new conference tournaments begin today (Saturday), but more importantly the first three spots in the Big Dance Card will be filled.

 

All Times EST

Summit League Tournament

Tournament Site: Sioux Falls, SD

Saturday, March 5: Quarterfinal Round

G 1: #1 Oakland vs. #8 Southern Utah  7PM

G 2: #2 Oral Roberts vs. #7 North Dakota State 9:30 PM

 

Sunday, March 6: Quarterfinal Round

G 3 #4 I P F W vs. #5 North Dakota State 7 PM

G 4 #3 I U P U I vs. #6 Missouri-Kansas City 9:30 PM

 

Monday, March 7: Semifinal Round

G 5: G 1 Winner vs. G 3 Winner 7 PM

G 6: G 2 Winner vs. G 4 Winner  9:30 PM

 

Tuesday, March 8: Championship Game at 9PM on ESPN2

G 5 Winner vs. G 6 Winner

 

Hot Team:  Oral Roberts has won eight consecutive games by an average margin of 12.6 points per game.   This includes a key win over IUPUI that clinched the second seed.

 

Oakland enters the tournament riding a five-game winning streak.  The Golden Grizzlies won 15 of their final 16 regular season games.

 

Not Hot:  Missouri-Kansas City lost its last three games, but they were to three of the top four teams in the league.

 

Team Nobody Wants To Play: South Dakota State is only one hour from Sioux Falls, and the Jackrabbits will fill the arena.  Oakland would much rather play four-seed I P F W in the semifinals.  If SDSU wins their quarterfinal game, look for them to give Oakland fits in a semifinal match.

 

Oakland as Favorite:  The Golden Grizzlies finished 17-1 in league play, so they must be considered solid favorites.  Their lone league loss came at IUPUI, and in their 18 conference games they had a +14.2 scoring margin.    

 

Our Pick:  We will stick with the favorite to win here, even though we believe they will struggle to win their semifinal and final game.

 

 

Sunbelt Conference Tournament

Tournament Site: Hot Springs, AR (using Summit Arena and Convention Center Court)

 

Saturday, March 5: Opening Round

G 1: #3E Western Kentucky vs. #6W Louisiana-Monroe  7:45 PM (Convention Center)

G 2: #4W North Texas vs. #5E Troy  7:30 PM (Summit Arena)

G 3: #3W Denver vs. #6E Florida International  9:45 PM   (Summit Arena)

G 4: #4E South Alabama vs. #5W U A L R  10PM (Convention Center)

 

Sunday, March 6: Quarterfinal Round

G 5: G 1 Winner vs. #2W Louisiana-Lafayette  7:30 PM (Summit Arena)

G 6: G 2 Winner vs. #1E Florida Atlantic  7:45 PM (Convention Center)

G 7: G 3 Winner vs. #2E Middle Tennessee  10 PM (Convention Center)

G 8: G 4 Winner vs. #1W Arkansas State  9:45 PM (Summit Arena)

 

Monday, March 7: Semifinal Round (Summit Arena)

G 9: G 5 Winner vs. G 6 Winner  7PM

G10: G 7 Winner vs. G 8 Winner  9:30 PM

 

Tuesday, March 8: Championship Game (Summit Arena)

G11: G 9 Winner vs. G 10 Winner at 7PM on ESPN2

 

Hot Team: Louisiana-Lafayette has won 11 consecutive games, but seven of those wins were by five points or less or in overtime.  The Ragin’ Cajuns defeated both division winners in that stretch

 

Not Hot: Denver dropped from first to third when they lost their last three games and six of their final eight.  The Pioneers had won eight consecutive games in midseason, but they lost their offensive touch down the stretch.

 

Team That Nobody Wants To Play: After starting conference play 0-4, Western Kentucky righted the ship and won eight of their last 12 conference games.  The Hilltoppers greatly underachieved, and with two studs in Steffphon Pettigrew and Sergio Kerusch, WKU can beat anybody in the SBC.

 

Florida Atlantic As Favorite: The Owls started 8-0 in league play before faltering a bit down the stretch.  We do not feel strongly that FAU can win three games in three days.  In fact, we believe they will not even be around for the championship game. 

 

Our Pick: When UL-Lafayette takes on Western Kentucky in the quarterfinal round, we believe the winner of that game will upset FAU in the semifinal round and go on to win the league’s lone bid to the Dance.

 

The First Three Bids Go Out Today

 

The league championship games are on tap for Saturday.  Let’s look at the scores from Friday with the schedule for the three conference championship games.

 

Big South Conference— 4:00 PM on ESPN2

#3 UNC-Asheville (18-13) at #1 Coastal Carolina (28-4)

 

UNCA beat Charleston Southern 72-63 and High Point 62-45.  Coastal Carolina beat Gardner-Webb 83-72 and VMI 89-81

 

Atlantic Sun Conference—6:00 PM on ESPN2

Site: Macon, GA

#1 Belmont (29-4) vs. #6 North Florida (15-18)

 

Belmont defeated Kennesaw State 72-57 and Mercer 80-72.  North Florida defeated Jacksonville 68-64 and East Tennessee 59-55

 

Ohio Valley Conference—8:00 PM on ESPN2

Site: Nashville

#2 Morehead State (23-9) vs. #4 Tennessee Tech (20-11)

 

Morehead State beat Austin Peay 68-49.  Tennessee Tech beat UT-Martin 83-59 and Murray State 64-59.

 

Scores From Other Conference Tournaments

 

Colonial Athletic Association

#9 Georgia State 58  #8 UNC-Wilmington 52

#5 Drexel 75  #12 Towson  69

#7 Delaware 60  #10 Northeastern 58

#11 William & Mary 72  #6 James Madison 68

 

Quarterfinal Round—Saturday

#1 George Mason vs. #9 Georgia State

#4 Virginia Commonwealth vs. #5 Drexel

#2 Old Dominion vs. #7 Delaware

#3 Hofstra vs. #11 William & Mary

 

Horizon League

#3 Cleveland State 73  #6 Wright State 59

#4 Valparaiso 88  #5 Detroit 78

 

Semifinal Round—Saturday

#1 Milwaukee vs. #4 Valparaiso

#2 Butler vs. #3 Cleveland State

 

M A A C

#9 Marist 73  #8 Niagara 61

#7 Siena 68  #10 Manhattan 66 OT

 

Quarterfinal Round—Saturday

#1 Fairfield vs. #9 Marist

#4 St. Peter’s vs. #5 Loyola (MD)

#3 Rider vs. #6 Canisius

#2 Iona vs. #7 Siena

 

Missouri Valley

#1 Missouri State 58  #8 Southern Illinois 56

#5 Creighton 60  #4 Northern Iowa 57

#2 Wichita State 70  #10 Bradley 56

#3 Indiana State 52  #6 Evansville 50

 

Semifinal Round—Saturday

#1 Missouri State vs. #5 Creighton

#2 Wichita State vs. #3 Indiana State

 

Southern Conference

#5N UNC-Greensboro 71  #4S Davidson 64

#3N Appalachian State 65  #6S Georgia Southern 57

#3S Furman 61  #6N Samford 48

#4N Elon 85  #5S Citadel 74

 

Quarterfinal Round—Saturday

#1N Western Carolina vs. #5N UNC-Greensboro

#2S Wofford vs. #3N Appalachian State

#2N Chattanooga vs. #3S Furman

#1S College of Charleston vs. #4N Elon

 

West Coast Conference

#8 Loyola Marymount 72  #5 Portland 68

#6 Pepperdine 84  #7 San Diego 81

 

Quarterfinal Round—Saturday

#4 Santa Clara vs. #8 Loyola Marymount

#3 San Francisco vs. #6 Pepperdine

 

Ivy League Results (Princeton and Harvard)

Harvard 79  Penn 64

Princeton 77  Dartmouth 55

 

Princeton is now 11-1.  Harvard is now 11-2.  The two teams square off in Cambridge tonight.  If Princeton wins, the Tigers clinch the Ivy League title.  If Harvard wins, then Princeton must win at Penn Tuesday night to force a playoff for the Ivy League title.

March 3, 2011

NCAA Basketball Conference Tournaments–March 4 Update

Three more conference tournaments begin Friday, making it 11 tournaments in action.  The MAAC, Southern Conference, and West Coast Conference tournaments get underway.  

 

All Times EST

Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Tournament

Tournament Site: Bridgeport, CT

Friday, March 4: Opening Round

G 1: #8 Niagara (9-22) vs. #9 Marist (5-26)

G 2: #7 Siena (12-17) vs. #10 Manhattan (6-24)

 

Saturday, March 5: Quarterfinal Round

G 3: G 1 Winner vs. #1 Fairfield (23-6)

G 4: #4 St. Peter’s (17-13) vs. Loyola (Chi) (15-14)

G 5: G 2 Winner vs. #2 Iona (20-10)

G 6: #3 Rider (22-9) vs. #6 Canisius (15-14)

 

Sunday, March 6: Semifinal Round

G 7: G3 Winner vs. G 4 Winner

G 8: G 5 Winner vs. G 6 Winner

 

Monday, March 7: Championship Game At 7 PM on ESPN2

G 7 Winner vs. G 8 Winner

 

Hot Team: It depends on how you look at it.  Rider won their last five games, seven of their final eight, and 10 of their last 12.  Included in this was a road win at top seed Fairfield.

 

Iona won their final seven games including a victory over Fairfield as well.

 

Fairfield, prior to the season-ending loss to Iona had won five in a row and 12 of 13.

 

Not Hot: St. Peter’s was 9-3 in conference play and ended up 11-7 with an extra loss in the Bracketbuster.

 

Team Nobody Wants To Play: The obvious choice here is top-seeded Fairfield.  The Stags don’t get to play in their home gym, but they do get to play in their home town.

 

Fairfield as Favorite:  We are inclined to go against the Stags here, but not by much.  Iona and Rider should meet in the semifinals, and the winner of that game has a 50-50 chance of besting Fairfield in the final.

 

Our Pick:  Let’s go with the hottest team that has shown an ability to put away opponents quickly.  We’ll pick Iona to win in a mild upset.

 

 

Southern Conference Tournament

Tournament Site: Chattanooga, TN

 

Friday, March 4: Opening Round

G 1: #4S Davidson (17-13) vs. #5N UNC-Greensboro (6-23)

G 2: #3N Appalachian State (15-14) vs. #6S Georgia Southern (5-26)

G 3: #3S Furman (20-9) vs. #6N Samford (12-18)

G 4: #4N Elon (13-16) vs. #5S Citadel (10-21)

 

Saturday, March 5: Quarterfinal Round

G 5: G 1 Winner vs. #1N Western Carolina (17-14)

G 6: G 2 Winner vs. #2S Wofford (18-12)

G 7: G 3 Winner vs. #2N Chattanooga (16-15)

G 8: G 4 Winner vs. #1S College of Charleston (22-9)

 

Sunday, March 6: Semifinal Round

G 9: G 5 Winner vs. G 6 Winner

G10: G 7 Winner vs. G 8 Winner

 

Monday, March 7: Championship Game at 9:00 PM on ESPN2

G 9 Winner vs. G 10 Winner

 

Hot Team: Wofford won their final five regular season games by an average of 15.8 points per game.  Included in that run was an incredible 39 point win at Chattanooga, the host team for this tournament. 

 

Davidson closed with nine wins in their last ten games.  This includes an 11-point win over College of Charleston, a 14-point win over Chattanooga, and a nine-point win at Wofford.

 

Not Hot: After winning seven in a row, top-seeded College of Charleston dropped its last two games, allowing Wofford to tie them for the South Division title. 

 

Team Nobody Wants To Play: Chattanooga is the host team, and the Mocs are a much better team at home. 

 

College of Charleston as Favorite: C of C is not a heavy favorite.  In fact, we would classify the Cougars as a co-favorite at best. 

 

Our Pick: Wofford is a team on a mission.  The Terriers came close last year, and they have the horses to win three games in three days.  Forward Noah Dahlman can take over a game at both ends of the court.

 

West Coast Conference Tournament

Tournament Site: Las Vegas

 

Friday, March 4: Opening Round

G 1: #5 Portland (20-10) vs. #8 Loyola Marymount (10-20)

G 2: #6 Pepperdine (11-20) vs. #7 San Diego (6-23)

 

Saturday, March 5: Quarterfinal Round

G 3: G 1 Winner vs. #4 Santa Clara (18-13)

G 4: G 2 Winner vs. #3 San Francisco (16-13)

 

Sunday, March 6: Semifinal Round

G 5: G 3 Winner vs. #1 St. Mary’s (23-7)

G 6: G 4 Winner vs. #2 Gonzaga (22-9)

 

Monday, March 7: Championship Round at 9:00 PM on ESPN

G 5 Winner vs. G 6 Winner

 

Hot Team: Gonzaga is peaking at the right time.  The Bulldogs won their last seven games by an average of 19 points a game.  Six of their nine losses were to quality teams.

 

Not Hot: St. Mary’s lost three games in a row before topping Portland in their regular season finale.  Of course, two of those losses were to Utah State and Gonzaga.

 

Team Nobody Wants To Play: Portland was not expected to win 20 regular season games again after losing so much to graduation, but the Pilots cannot be dismissed.  They could easily upset Santa Clara in the Quarterfinal Round, and then St. Mary’s will have to worry about an upset in the Semifinal Round.

 

St. Mary’s as Favorite: We don’t consider the Gaels the favorite in this tournament.  Gonzaga is clearly the better team at this point of the season.  GU’s path to the Championship Game will be easier than SMU’s.

 

Our Pick: Coach Mark Few has the Bulldogs playing their best at the right time.  We believe Gonzaga is the prohibitive favorite in this tournament.

 

Thursday’s Tournament Game Scores

 

America East Conference

#8 Binghamton 91  #9 Maryland-Baltimore Co. 65

 

Binghamton advances to take on top-seed Vermont when the Quarterfinal round commences Saturday.

 

Atlantic Sun Conference

#5 Mercer 73  #4 Lipscomb 63

#6 North Florida 68  #3 Jacksonville 64

 

The lower seeds won both games on Thursday.  Mercer, the host team, now advances to the Semifinal round to face top-seed Belmont, while North Florida takes on East Tennessee.

 

Big South Conference

#3 UNC-Asheville 62  #7 High Point 45

#1 Coastal Carolina  89  #4 V M I  81

 

Coastal Carolina hosts UNCA for the automatic bid at 4 PM Saturday.

 

Missouri Valley Conference

#8 Southern Illinois  57  #9 Illinois State  54

#10 Bradley 63  #7 Drake  48

 

Southern Illinois moves on to face top-seed Missouri State, while the last place seed Bradley faces number two seed Wichita State.

 

#4 Northern Iowa faces #5 Creighton, and #3 Indiana State faces #6 Evansville in the other quarterfinal games.

 

Northeast Conference

#1 Long Island  90  #8 St. Francis (PA)  75

#4 Central Connecticut State  64  #5 St. Francis (NY)  62

#2 Quinnipiac  78  #7 Mount St. Mary’s  59

#3 Robert Morris  78  #6 Wagner  74

 

LIU hosts CCSU and Quinnipiac hosts Robert Morris in the Semifinal round Sunday.

 

Ohio Valley Conference

#4 Tennessee Tech  83  #8 UT-Martin 59

#3 Austin Peay  76  #7 Southeast Missouri 60

 

Tennessee Tech brings a six-game winning streak into their semifinal match with top-seed Murray State.  Austin Peay faces Morehead State in the other semifinal game Friday night.

March 2, 2011

NCAA Basketball Conference Tournaments–March 3 Update

We add three more conference tournaments to the active list today.  The America East,  Missouri Valley, and Northeast Conference tournaments commence; this brings the active tournament list to eight.

 

All Times EST

America East Conference Tournament

Tournament Site: 1st Three Rounds at Hartford, CT

Championship Game Played On Home Court Of Higher Seeded Finalist

Thursday, March 3: Opening Round

G 1: #8 Maryland-Baltimore County (5-24) vs. #9 Binghamton (7-22)

 

Saturday, March 5: Quarterfinal Round

G 2: MD-Balt. Co./Binghamton Winner vs. #1 Vermont (22-7)

G 3: #4 Albany (16-15) vs. #5 Stony Brook (13-16)

G 4: #2 Boston U (18-13) vs. #7 New Hampshire (12-17)

G 5: #3 Maine (15-14) vs. #6 Hartford (10-19)

 

Sunday, March 6: Semifinal Round

G 6: G 2 Winner vs. G 3 Winner

G 7: G 4 Winner vs. G 5 Winner

 

Saturday, March 12: Championship Game

G 6 Winner vs. G 7 Winner at Higher Seed at 12 Noon on ESPN2

 

Hot Team: Boston U has won eight games in a row by an average of 12.1 points per game.  Included in that streak is a road win at top seed Vermont.  The Terriers swept the Catamounts this year and may have to make it three out of three to get to the Big Dance.

 

Not Hot: The bottom three seeds enter tournament play coming off multiple game losing streaks, but the big news here is that Vermont dropped its last two games after winning the previous ten in a row.

 

Team Nobody Wants To Play: Stony Brook underachieved all season.  Expected to contend for the conference title, the Seawolves finished a disappointing 8-8 in league play.  Stony Brook would have won three or four more conference games had Tommy Brenton not suffered a knee injury before the season began.

 

Vermont as Favorite:  The Catamounts have an easy quarterfinal game, but they will be in for a rough game in the semifinals.  If they win there, they may have to face Boston U for a third time after losing twice to the Terriers.  We do not consider Vermont as the clear-cut favorite in this tournament; in fact, we believe that Boston U, Maine, and Albany are almost co-favorites with the Catamounts.   

 

Our Pick:  We like Maine to upset the top two seeds and steal the automatic bid.  The Black Bears play competently on the road, and they have the best offense in the league.

 

Missouri Valley Conference

(Arch Madness)

Tournament Site: St. Louis

 

Thursday, March 3: Opening Round

G 1: #8 Southern Illinois (12-18) vs. #9 Illinois State (12-18)

G 2: #7 Drake (13-17) vs. #10 Bradley (11-19)

 

Friday, March 4: Quarterfinal Round

G 3: G 1 Winner vs. #1 Missouri State (23-7)

G 4: #4 Northern Iowa (19-12) vs. #5 Creighton (18-13)

G 5: G 2 Winner vs. #2 Wichita State (23-7)

G 6: #3 Indiana State (17-13) vs. #6 Evansville (15-14)

 

Saturday, March 5: Semifinal Round

G 7: G 3 Winner vs. G 4 Winner

G 8: G 5 Winner vs. G 6 Winner

 

Sunday, March 6: Championship

G 7 Winner vs. G 8 Winner at 2:00 PM on CBS

 

Hot Team: Missouri State won their last six conference games and lost only the bracketbuster game at Valparaiso in that time frame.

 

Not Hot: Northern Iowa was in contention for an at-large bid at 18-6 when the Panthers lost at Drake.  NIU concluded the regular season losing six of seven games.

 

Team Nobody Wants To Play: Missouri State may be the top seed, but Wichita State has performed much better on the road this year.

 

Missouri State as Favorite: The Bears are on a roll, but they cannot be considered a prohibitive favorite.  This league has several teams talented enough to advance to the NCAA Tournament.  Even #10 Seed Bradley is capable of winning this tournament.  The Braves won five of their final eight games.

 

Our Pick: Wichita State has a strong defense, plus what we think is the easier path to the Championship Game than Missouri State.  Northern Iowa knows they must win the tournament to gain re-admittance to the Big Dance.  A prospective semifinal match between UNI and MSU could be one of those memorable games that drain the winner and leave them with little left in the tank for the Championship Game.  We’ll pick the Shockers.

 

Northeast Conference

All Games Played At Home Court Of Higher Seed

 

Thursday, March 3: Quarterfinal Round

G 1: #8 St Francis (PA) (9-20) at #1 Long Island (24-5)

G 2: #5 St. Francis (NY) (15-14) at #4 Central Connecticut State (18-11)

G 3: #7 Mount St. Mary’s (11-20) at #2 Quinnipiac (21-8)

G 4: #6 Wagner (13-16) at #3 Robert Morris (16-13)

 

Sunday, March 6: Semifinal Round

(Tournament Re-seeds after Quarterfinals

Lowest Remaining Seed at Highest Remaining Seed

2nd Lowest Remaining Seed at 2nd Highest Remaining Seed

 

Wednesday, March 9: Championship Game

Semifinal Winners Meet At Higher Seed’s Home Court At 7:00 PM on ESPN2

 

Hot Team: How about four hot teams?  LIU won their last ten games and 18 of their final 19.  Quinnipiac won nine of their final ten, losing only at LIU.  Robert Morris won their final six games by an average of 11 points per game.  St. Francis (NY) won their final four games after losing two close games to LIU.

 

Not Hot: Central Connecticut had a shot at second place until they lost their last three games.  The Blue Devils had been hot in the middle of the schedule, winning 13 of 15 games.

 

Team That Nobody Wants To Play: Robert Morris is the two-time defending conference tournament champion,  and in Karon Abraham, they have a sharpshooter that can light it up when he is on.  Can he be on for three straight games?  We think not.

 

Long Island as Favorite: The Blackbirds can score as ably as any team in the nation, and they won 13 of 16 games away from home.  They are decided favorites in this tournament, and they know they will be confined to the NIT if they do not secure an automatic bid.

 

Our Pick: The NEC re-seeds the brackets after the first round (think NFL playoffs), so LIU will could conceivably play the #8, #7, and #6 seeds to get to the NCAA Tournament.  Regardless of whether they play the top teams or the bottom teams, they will play at home as long as they stay alive.  We do not see much opportunity for an upset, as LIU has a dominating inside presence with Julian Boyd and Jamal Olasewere.

 

Tournaments Underway

 

Atlantic Sun Conference

#1 Belmont 72  #8 Kennesaw State 57

#2 East Tennessee 54  #7 Campbell 53

 

The quarterfinal round continues Thursday as #3 Jackonsville plays #6 North Florida, and #4 Lipscomb plays the host team in #5 Mercer.

 

Ohio Valley Conference

#8 UT-Martin  68  #5 Tennessee State 64

#7 Southeast Missouri 65  #6 Eastern Kentucky 49

 

The Quarterfinal round begins Thursday night as #3 Austin Peay takes on #7 Southeast Missouri and #4 Tennessee Tech faces #8 UT-Martin.  The top two seeds, Murray State and Morehead State get a second bye into the Semifinal round.

 

Patriot League

#1 Bucknell  78  #8 Army  51

#2 American 69  #7 Colgate 53

#6 Lafayette 77  #3 Holy Cross 70

#4 Lehigh  87  #5 Navy 75

 

The Semifinal Round is Sunday with Bucknell hosting Lehigh and American hosting Lafayette.

 

March 1, 2011

NCAA Basketball Conference Tournaments–March 2 Update

Three more conference tournaments begin on Wednesday.  The Atlantic Sun, Ohio Valley, and Patriot Leagues bring to five the number of tournaments going on.

 

All Times EST

Atlantic Sun Conference Tournament

Tournament Site: Macon, GA

Wednesday, March 2: Quarterfinals

G 1: #1 Belmont (27-4) vs. #8 Kennesaw State (8-22)

G 2: #2 East Tennessee (21-10) vs. #7 Campbell (12-18)

 

Thursday, March 3: Quarterfinals

G 3: #4 Lipscomb (17-12) vs. #5 Mercer (14-17)

G 4: #3 Jacksonville (19-10) vs. #6 North Florida (13-18)

 

Friday, March 4: Semifinals

G 5: G 1 Winner vs. G 3 Winner

G 6: G 2 Winner vs. G 4 Winner

 

Saturday, March 5: Championship

G 5 Winner vs. G 6 Winner at 6:00 PM on ESPN2

 

Hot Team: Belmont went 19-1 in league play.  The Bruins are riding a nine-game winning streak entering the tournament.

 

Not Hot: Kennesaw State, Belmont’s opening round opponent, has lost five in a row, the last of which was a 47-point loss at home to the Bruins.

 

Team Nobody Wants To Play:  Nobody wants to play Belmont, but besides the overwhelming favorite, Mercer is the home team.  The Bears were 7-3 at home in conference play, losing to Belmont, East Tennessee, and North Florida.

 

Belmont as Favorite:  It will be a major upset if anybody beats the Bruins.  If they win the tournament, the Bruins will be making their fourth NCAA appearance in the last six years.  If they were to lose in the final round, there is a very remote chance they could earn an at-large bid.

 

Our Pick: We would be crazy to go against perhaps the biggest favorite in conference tournament play this season.  Belmont could be a #12 seed at 30-4.

 

Ohio Valley Conference

Tournament Site: Nashville

Wednesday, March 2: First Round

G 1: #5 Tennessee State (14-15) vs. #8 UT-Martin (11-20)

G 2: #6 Eastern Kentucky (15-15) vs. #7 Southeast Missouri (9-21)

 

Thursday, March 3: Quarterfinal Round

G 3: G 1 Winner vs. #4 Tennessee Tech (18-11)

G 4: G 2 Winner vs. #3 Austin Peay (19-12)

 

Friday, March 4: Semifinal Round

G 5: G 3 Winner vs. #1 Murray State (23-7)

G 6: G 4 Winner vs. #2 Morehead State (22-9)

 

Saturday, March 5: Championship

G 5 Winner vs. G 6 Winner at 8 PM on ESPN2

 

Hot Team: Murray State won three in a row to grab the top seed in the tournament, but Tennessee Tech won their final five and nine of their final 11.  Tennessee State also won their last three.

 

Not Hot: Eastern Kentucky never recovered from the overtime loss at home to arch-rival Morehead State.  The Colonels dropped their final four games.

 

Team Nobody Wants To Play: Although it is not on their campus, Tennessee State won 11 of 13 games at home this season.  Municipal Auditorium is two miles from their campus.

 

Murray State as Favorite: The Racers have won more OVC tournaments than any team, so it comes as no surprise for Murray to be the favorite.  However, Morehead State is just as deserving here.  The OVC awards the top two seeds trips to the semifinals.  A Murray-Morehead Championship game would be the best this league has to offer.  The two teams split the season series, winning on their home floors.

 

Our Pick: We believe the Eagles will edge the Racers in the rubber match.  With the nation’s leading rebounder in Kenneth Faried, Morehead State may get enough inside points when it counts the most.

 

Patriot League

All Games Played At Higher Seed’s Home Floor

 

Wednesday, March 2: Quarterfinals

G 1: #8 Army (11-18) at #1 Bucknell (22-8)

G 2: #5 Navy (11-19) at #4 Lehigh (15-14)

G 3: #7 Colgate (7-22) at #2 American (21-8)

G 4: #6 Lafayette (11-18) at #3 Holy Cross (8-20)

 

Sunday, March 6: Semifinal Round

G 5: G1 Winner vs. G 2 Winner at higher seed’s home floor

G 6: G 3 Winner vs. G 4 Winner at higher seed’s home floor

 

Friday, March 11: Championship Game

G 5 Winner vs. G 6 Winner at higher seed’s home floor at 4:45 PM on ESPN2

 

Hot Team: The top two teams are on a tear.  Bucknell won their final seven games by more than 11 points per game.  American won their final five games and 14 of their final 17.  Two of those three losses were to Bucknell.

 

Not Hot: Army lost their final seven games and will lose their eighth in a row at Bucknell.

 

Team Nobody Wants To Play: Lafayette underachieved all season, and the Leopards have enough talent to upset a higher seed.

 

Bucknell as Favorite: The Bison lost by 20 at last place Army, so don’t etch their name into the trophy just yet.  They will beat Army in the rubber match, and a semifinal game against Navy or Lehigh should be another easy win.  However, Lafayette or American could give them trouble in a championship game. 

 

Our Pick: We will go with the top seed playing three games at home.  Bucknell is not as good as they were when they upset Kansas and Arkansas in back-to-back seasons, but the Bison are still the class of the Patriot League.

 

Now, let’s check what happened Tuesday in the Big South Conference and Horizon League.

 

Big South Conference

 

Quarterfinal Round

#7 High Point 66  #2 Liberty 60

#3 UNC-Asheville 72  #6 Charleston Southern 63

#1 Coastal Carolina 83  #8 Gardner-Webb 72

#4 V M I 78  #5 Winthrop 73

 

Thursday, March 3: Semifinal Round

#7 High Point (13-18) at #3 UNC-Asheville (18-13)

#4 V M I (19-12) at #1 Coastal Carolina (28-4)

 

Horizon League

 

First Round

#3 Cleveland State 73  #10 Illinois-Chicago 61

#6 Wright State 60  #7 Green Bay 50

#4 Valparaiso 80 #9 Youngstown State 71

#5 Detroit 90  #8 Loyola (Chi) 69

 

Friday, March 4: Quarterfinal Round

#3 Cleveland State (26-7) vs. #6 Wright State (20-13)

#4 Valparaiso (23-10) vs. #5 Detroit (18-15)

 

Saturday, March 5: Semifinal Round

Cleveland State-Wright State Winner vs. #2 Butler (21-9)

Valparaiso-Detroit Winner vs. #1 Milwaukee (18-12)

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