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March 9, 2011

NCAA Basketball Conference Tournaments–March 9 Update

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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

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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 24, 2010

Sweet 16 Preview

 

From Sweet to Elite

Advanced Level Bracketnomics

 

Hello PiRate Basketball fans.  Our system worked well, but the idiots (us) in charge of the data didn’t have the guts to play all the upsets.  We still have nine teams alive, and our top-rated teams according to our system are still there, except for Kansas. 

We told you in the first round that Georgetown and Vanderbilt were the most ripe for upset bids based on their R+T scores just barely above zero.  We were there on other double-digit ups as well.

Before we preview the Sweet 16 games, let’s refresh you on the PiRate formula components.

Scoring Margin—We look for teams with a minimum scoring margin of 8 points per game, give precedence to teams with double-digit scoring margins, and develop huge crushes on teams with scoring margins of 15 or more points per game.  We award one point for as little as a 5-point scoring margin, 3 points for 8 or more, and 5 points for 10 or more. 

Teams with a negative margin who have made it to the Sweet 16 are eliminated and are automatically picked to lose the next game (unless of course there is a rare instance of their opponent also qualifying for elimination.)

Field Goal % Margin—We look for teams that have a +7.5 or better difference in field goal percentage versus opponents’ field goal percentage.  We give special consideration to teams with double-digit field goal percentage margins, and if we see a team hitting better than 48.0% and yielding less than 38.0%, we circle that team in red because they are going to be tough to beat if they are a member of one of the Big Six conferences (ACC, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-10, or SEC).  We award one point for FG% margins of 5.0 or more, 3 points for margins of 7.5% or more, and 5 points for double-digit margins. 

Like above, teams arriving at the Sweet 16 with a negative field goal margin are eliminated.

Rebound Margin—This is actually part of a multiple statistical entry, as we combine it with turnover margin as well.  However, we do separate rebounding because offensive put backs are vitally important in the Big Dance.  We are looking for teams with a +5.0 or better rebounding margin.  We award one point for a rebounding margin of 3.0 or better and 3 points for a margin of 5.0 or better. 

Teams with a negative rebounding margin receive -2 points, but they are not eliminated yet.

Turnover Margin & Steals Per Game—Teams with negative rebounding margins can make up for it with exceptional turnover margins, especially if they get a lot of steals that lead to great fast break opportunities.  We don’t award points solely on turnover margin and steals; we incorporate those stats into a multi-statistical formula we call “R+T.” 

R+T is a formula that applies weighted advantages to steals and turnover margin, while adding rebounding margin into the equation.  Rebounding margin is already factored into the formula by itself, but it receives fewer awarded points.  This stat balances out the rebounding with the scoring and field goal margin, and it allows us to look at the number of extra scoring opportunities a team normally receives. 

The Formula for R+T is:  R+ (.2S*1.2T), where R is rebounding margin, S is steals per game, and T is turnover margin.  Whenever this stat is negative, this team is immediately eliminated.  If this stat is less than one, don’t figure on this team staying around in the Dance.  All four teams that fell below one in R+T lost in the first round, including heavy favored Georgetown and Vanderbilt.  We award the result of the R+T in points.

Power Conference & Strength of Schedule—We give extra weight to teams that are members of the Big Six conferences.  We give a little weight to the teams from the top of the mid-majors (such as Missouri Valley, West Coast, Colonial, and Mountain West).  We deduct for teams from the lower conferences (such as America East, MAAC, Big West, and Patriot). 

We look at the strength of schedule as produced by cbssports.com, and multiply that number by 100.  50.00 is a mid-point, so if that number is 52.37, we consider that schedule to be 2.37 points stronger than average.  If the number is 46.28, then that schedule is 3.72 points weaker than average.  This is incorporated into our criteria.

Record Away From Home—Every team is playing on a neutral floor, so we throw out the home won-loss records.  A team that is 26-9 overall, but 17-0 at home is actually a .500 team away from home.  Likewise, in some rare instances a team might be 22-10 with a home record of 14-6 and a record away from home of 8-4.  Winning two –thirds of one’s games away from home would make this team more likely to beat the 26-9 team on a neutral floor, all else being equal.

Before the first round, our formula picked Duke as the overall favorite based on their 34.4 PiRate score.  The Blue Devils no longer own the top score after the first two rounds.  Their criteria score fell a little, while another team elevated just enough to post a higher score.  The new leader in the clubhouse is none other than Kansas State.  This surprised us all here, but the Wildcats were impressive in wins over North Texas and BYU.  Their defense was stifling, and their offense, while not spectacular, clicked in spurts.  KSU controlled the boards in both games as well.

The Wildcats have had few great moments since in the last 20+ years.  This team is starting to bring back memories of the glory days in the Little Apple when Tex Winter introduced his triple-post (triangle) offense and Jack Gardner had the Cats running and gunning.

Of the 16 teams remaining, five come from conferences outside of the Big Six conferences, but each of the quintet’s PiRate criteria scores reveals that they belong in the Sweet 16.  None of the five (none of the entire 16) have scores in single digits.

Now, it’s time to look at the eight, Sweet 16 games, using these criteria.  The number you see in (Parentheses) after the team is their PiRate Criteria Score.  All of these scores have been update to reflect their two wins in the Big Dance.                                                                            

 

East Regional

 

#1 Kentucky (29.22) vs. #12 Cornell (14.56)

The Wildcats are the one team that also qualifies in the 48-38% field goal margin.  John Calipari no longer officially owns any Final Four appearances to his name, after the NCAA upheld the vacating of all Memphis wins during Derrick Rose’s playing career (his U Mass team had to vacate that appearance as well).  So, we can say he is still looking for his first official visit to the Final Four.  We don’t know with 100% certainty if the Wildcats will make it there, but we are safe in saying they will be one of the Elite 8.  Cornell cannot stop DeMarcus Cousins inside unless they totally sell out on the perimeter.  John Wall and Eric Bledsoe will make the Big Red pay for that tactic, and then Patrick Patterson will break their backs if he hits a three.

Cornell might stay close through one or two TV timeouts, but this game should get out of hand before halftime.

 

Prediction: Kentucky 88  Cornell 64

 

#2 West Virginia (29.08) vs. #11 Washington (21.93)

West Virginia wins ugly.  The Mountaineers don’t look pretty, but they keep pounding at opponents until they see an opening.  Then, like a crafty boxer, they exploit that opening and grab the lead on points.  They rarely record a knockout, but they are great at keeping the lead once they get it in the final half.

Washington does look pretty when they play.  Lorenzo Romar’s teams vaguely resemble many of the great UCLA teams from the past.  With Quincy Pondexter and Isaiah Thomas providing a great one-two punch, it is hard to stop the Huskies from scoring 70 or more points.

West Virginia doesn’t usually win games if they give up more than 75 points.  Coach Bob Huggins will devise a game plan to force UW’s big threats to work harder for open shots, and Washington will not reach 75 points in this game.

Prediction: West Virginia 73  Washington 66

 

South Regional

 

#3 Baylor (26.04) vs. #10 St. Mary’s (15.47)

This looks like a classic mismatch between a power team from a power conference and a team that should be just glad to have made it this far.  It could be, but we like the way St. Mary’s plays, and we think Coach Randy Bennett is possibly the next Lute Olsen if he so chooses to move on to a school from one of the Big Six conferences.

This will be a great battle between big men.  Baylor’s Ekpe Udoh and St, Mary’s Omar Samhan should balance each other out.  Samhan is a little better offensively, but Udoh is a little better defensively.  Samhan is the more likely to get in foul trouble.

Baylor has more potent weapons in LaceDarius Dunn and Tweety Carter, but the Gaels have more depth.  We just don’t see the Bears running away with this game.  We will pick them to advance.

Prediction: Baylor 78  St. Mary’s 71

 

#1 Duke (30.48) vs. #4 Purdue (15.37)

Credit must be given to the Boilermakers for making it this far without Robbie Hummel.  They played hard and won a couple of tough games.  Unfortunately, Purdue goes up against one of the big boys.  This is their final game of the season.

Duke may have fallen a notch in winning their first two games, but having to play the play-in winner lowered their strength of schedule.  Emptying the bench may have artificially lowered their criteria score, and we still think Coach K is sitting pretty with his club in a great bracket.

Prediction: Duke 81  Purdue 67

 

Midwest Regional

 

#2 Ohio State (22.24) vs. #6 Tennessee (21.16)

These may not be the two best teams left in the Big Dance, or even in this regional, but they may be the two best-coached teams.  Buckeye head guy Thad Matta has definitely produced a better record than his talent on hand should have produced, and Volunteer coach Bruce Pearl has squeezed every last drop of juice out of his big orange.

Two years ago, when Ohio State was the top-rated team, Tennessee built up a 20-point lead against OSU, before the Buckeyes chipped away and came back for the win in this same round.  Vol center Wayne Chism can remember that game well.

We look for this to possibly be the most entertaining game of this round, but we have to go with the Big Ten in this one.  Tennessee is having to go with players that would be considered bench-warmers at Ohio State for almost one quarter of the available playing time.  Pearl will either have to play five reserves for their usual 48 combined minutes per game or go with his top seven until they drop.  Either way, it tips the scale in favor of Brutus.

Prediction: Ohio State 69  Tennessee 63

 

#5 Michigan State (20.92) vs. #9 Northern Iowa (13.76)

This is another game where we have to discount a team for the loss of a player.  Spartan star guard Kalin Lucas is out for the rest of the year with a ruptured Achilles tendon.  He is the Spartans’ leading scorer, leader at getting to the foul line, leading passer, and best perimeter defender.  Losing him is almost like losing Magic Johnson. 

One thing MSU still has in its favor is a brutalizing inside force with a three-headed rebounding monster.  Raymar Morgan, Draymond Green, and Delvon Roe will see to it that Northern Iowa will not get many second-chance points.

Northern Iowa is primed to exploit MSU’s misfortune, but we expect the Panthers to come out flat following the huge upset over Kansas.  Jordan Eglseder is going to need help inside as the Spartans attempt to force their offense to score inside the paint.  Adam Koch cannot afford to risk foul trouble, so we see some difficulty here for NIU.  We also do not believe that Ali Farokhmanesh will drain threes all night in this game.  We can see him going 2 for 9.

It’s rather obvious that this is going to be a very low-scoring game, at least until the final minutes when one team may be getting a dozen trips to the foul line.

Prediction: Michigan State 56  Northern Iowa 51

 

 

West Regional

 

#1 Syracuse (27.88) vs. #5 Butler (19.35)

Quickness over brute force strength should be the difference in this game.  Syracuse has been flying a little bit under the radar so far, and the Orangemen are about to reveal to the rest of the nation that they are an Elite 8 team. 

Butler cannot be overlooked, as the Bulldogs are now the best team in the Hoosier state.  However, Butler doesn’t have the horses to exploit the cracks in the SU 2-3 matchup zone.  We see the Bulldogs going through stretches where they cannot score, and you can’t beat Syracuse that way.

A ‘Cuse win should set up the best Regional Final of the four, regardless of their opponent on Saturday.

Prediction: Syracuse 74  Butler 60

 

#2 Kansas State (31.21) vs. #6 Xavier (18.37)

Xavier has become a household name in the Big Dance, so it’s no longer much of a surprise to see the Musketeers advancing in this tournament.  They just happened to get the wrong team in the Sweet 16, because we just cannot see them matching up inside against the purple and white.  Kansas State can bring two wide-bodies off the bench, and the Wildcats’ guards can hit the glass as well.

The storyline of this game is that KSU will hold Xavier under 40% from the field and rarely give the Musketeers an offensive rebound.  Teams just don’t win in the Sweet 16 unless they can either control the boards of shoot a high percentage.

We look for the Wildcats to set up the game of the tournament in the West Regional Finals on Saturday.

Prediction: Kansas State 77  Xavier 61

 

Check back with us Saturday before game time for a preview of the Elite 8 Regional Final games.

 

March 17, 2010

Brackets, Brackets, Brackets & A Preview Of The First Round

Question:  How many of you reading this are beginning to come down with some symptoms that will force you to call in sick for work the next two days?  Big Dance Fever seems to strike hard every year at this time.

Now that you are in your pajamas in bed with your TV set to CBS, your computer set to March Madness on Demand, and your brackets as your bed partner, you can begin your two day miraculous recovery.

Before you send off your bracket picks, take a look at the PiRate method for picking teams to advance.  You should re-read the Sunday, March 14, 2010 blog to better understand this method.

Without further adieu, let’s dig in.

1. Which teams meet the upper range criteria in every category?  That means they outscored their opponents by eight or more per game; their field goal percentage was greater than 7.5% better than their opponents; they outrebounded their opponents by five or more per game; they forced at least three more turnovers per game than they committed; and they stole the ball 7.5 or more times per game.

ANSWER—Only two teams met this criteria this year, and neither are members of a big six conference.  Murray State not only met all criteria, they met the upper limits.  The Racers outscored opponents by 17 points per game.  They had a field goal percentage margin of 11.7%.  They outrebounded opponents by six per game and forced 2.7 more turnover per game than they committed.  Best of all, Murray averaged 10 steals per game.  Their R+T was an outstanding 12.48.  Alas, Murray’s schedule strength was just 46.02, and that is too low to consider the Racers a threat to make it to the Elite 8.  Sweet 16 is not totally out of the question.

The second team that met this criteria, but not as well as Murray State, was Brigham Young.  The Cougars outscored opponents by 17.8 points per game.  They shot 7.9% from the field better than their opponents.  They outrebounded the opposition by 5.1.  Their turnover margin was 4.1.  They averaged 8.5 steals per game, and their R+T was an amazing 13.46.  BYU’s schedule strength was 52.52, which is adequate enough to see the Cougars as a serious threat to advance to the second week in this tournament.

2. Which teams can be immediately eliminated due to a negative R+T rating?

ANSWER—Usually upwards of 8-10 teams can be eliminated every season due to poor R+T ratings.  In the Big Dance, this rating, which measures the number of extra scoring opportunities, is vital to winning.  Only two teams can be eliminated right off the bat, and not many people would think of picking them to win any way.  Those two teams are New Mexico State and UC-Santa Barbara.

Several teams just barely qualified with R+T ratings just above zero.  Two of those that just qualified are top 20 teams.  Georgetown and Vanderbilt could be ripe for upset bids in either the first or second round. 

The Hoyas face Ohio U in the first round, and the Bobcats don’t have the merits to pull the upset.  In a second round match, Tennessee definitely meets the criteria to advance to the Sweet 16, so the Volunteers could be a strong pick to knock off Georgetown and advance to St. Louis.

Vanderbilt draws Murray State in the first round, and the Racers could easily pull off the first upset by a double-digit seed.  Murray would then face either Butler or UTEP in a second round game, and the Racers would have a legitimate chance to advance to the second week.

3. Forget all this talk of first round upsets.  Which teams are capable of winning it all?

ANSWER—We thought you’d never ask.  Every year when we compose these ratings, we apply the PiRate formula and look for teams scoring 15 or above to find the real contenders.  Because we have added won-loss record away from home this year, we have elevated that real contender number to 18.  17 teams met that criteria this year.  Before we list them in order, we must clarify something.  After the first two rounds, and after the second two rounds, we recalculate these ratings.  Some teams still alive will cease to meet the minimum score and no longer be considered a serious threat, while one or two teams might move into this elite group.

This year, one team fared much better than all the others.  Thus, that team becomes our favorite to win all the marbles in Indianapolis.

Is that team Kansas or Kentucky?  Guess what?  It is neither.  The one team that scores almost six points better than any other is none other than Duke.  Could Coach K be on his way to title number three in Durham?  We love his seeding, and we definitely see the Blue Devils winning their first four to earn a ticket to Indianapolis.  As a matter of fact, as we see it, the selection committee did several huge favors for the Blue Devils.  First, they get the winner of the play-in game, so they will have a great scouting report.  Of course, this game will be a breather.  On Sunday, Duke will play either Cal or Louisville, and it could actually be the toughest of their four games on the way to the Final Four.  Because Villanova and Purdue are fading as fast as the sun in Barrow, Alaska, in October, there’s a chance that both could be gone before the Sweet 16.

After Duke, six other teams scored 20 or more points in the criteria rating.  They are Kansas, Kansas State, BYU, Syracuse, West Virginia, and Baylor in that order.

Kentucky comes in at number eight, followed closely by New Mexico, Villanova, Michigan State, Maryland, Texas, Tennessee, Old Dominion, Murray State, and Georgetown.  Yes, the Hoyas still qualify as one of the real contenders, but just by a razor’s edge.  Their R+T score is rather low.

The best of the rest (those that just barely missed the 18-point score) are: Siena, Utah State, Washington, Ohio State, and Wisconsin.  These 22 teams are the ones that you should consider for your Sweet 16.

Here is a look at the 32 first round games.  The number in (parentheses) represents the PiRate Bracketnomics criteria number.

First-Round Games

 

East Regional

 

#1 Kentucky (19.8) vs. #16 East Tennessee (1.6)

This is your typical one vs. 16 mismatch.  Kentucky will not win by 50 like they might have in the days of Rick Pitino; they might outscore the Buccaneers by 20 points in two separate segments in this game and yet win by only 20 points.

The Wildcats will dominate the glass, and ETSU won’t be able to force enough turnovers to make this a game.  We see UK holding the Bucs to about 35% shooting and 60 or fewer points.

Prediction: Kentucky 74  East Tennessee 53

 

#8 Texas (19.0) vs. #9 Wake Forest (4.9)

The Longhorns were a big disappointment after being ranked at the top at 17-0 earlier in the year.  Looking at their stats, it’s definitely hard to see how they lost nine times in their final 16 games.

Texas just barely misses qualifying as superior in every PiRate Bracketnomics’ category.  They outscored opponents by 11.5 points per game, shot 6.7% from the field better than their opponents, finished +6.8 in rebounding and +1.1 in turnover margin, and they averaged 7.8 steals per game.  They compiled these stats playing in one of the two toughest leagues.

Wake Forest lost five of their final six games and fell several places in their seeding.  The Demon Deacons have a negative turnover margin, which is always a tough thing to overcome in the Big Dance.

This game should be interesting due to the fact that neither team is playing as well as they could.  We think Texas will play a little more cohesively in the opening round and survive and advance. 

Prediction: Texas 77  Wake Forest 72

 

#5 Temple (14.5) vs. #12 Cornell (10.2)

A lot of prognosticators are going with Cornell to become yet another 12-seed upset winner and even advance to the Sweet 16, becoming the first Ivy League team to make it that far since Penn lost to Duke in the Sweet 16 in 1980.

The Big Red earned the respect of the nation when they played at Kansas and lost by just five points.

This was Temple’s best team in years—maybe the best since 1988.  The Owls, as they have for decades, play tough defense on the perimeter, denying the ball from being passed inside and getting tight on three-point shooters.  They don’t force many turnovers, but they commit less than 11 per game. 

Cornell coach Steve Donahue was an assistant to Temple coach Fran Dunphy, so these coaches know what to expect in this game.  We’re going with this five-seed to avoid the upset.

Prediction: Temple 68  Cornell 60

 

#4 Wisconsin (16.1) vs. #13 Wofford (5.3)

The Badgers cannot take the Terriers lightly.  Wofford is another 13-seed team capable of pulling off an upset.  Expect 40 minutes of half-court offense with less than 130 total points scored.

Both teams tend to rely on one player to bear the scoring burden.  For Wisconsin, guard Trevon Hughes is the go-to guy.  For Wofford, forward Noah Dahlman is the key offensive threat.

It will be easier for Wisconsin to shut down Dahlman than Wofford to shut down Hughes, and Hughes has a little better quartet of teammates. 

Prediction: Wisconsin 63  Wofford 56

 

#6 Marquette (12.2) vs. #11 Washington (16.9)

This will be one game you will want to tune in if you have March Madness on Demand.  We think it will be very entertaining.

Marquette will move the ball around the perimeter and take a lot of threes.  If they hit 35% or better, they will be tough to beat.  However, the Golden Eagles are weak on the boards, and if those treys don’t fall, they cannot win.

Washington is not getting much respect coming out of the weak Pac-10.  The Huskies won their final seven games including the league tournament to earn an automatic berth here.  They can score points in bunches, and even though they are on the small side, they are the best rebounding team in the Pac-10.  That happens to be Marquette’s weakness.  That happens to be why UW will still be playing Sunday.

Prediction: Washington 82  Marquette 75

 

#3 New Mexico (19.6) vs. #14 Montana (3.2)

At first glance, this looks like another blowout that you see when a number three takes on a number 14.  However, Montana is not to be disregarded without a fight.  The Grizzlies found themselves down by more than 20 points to Weber State in the Big Sky Championship Game and came back to win.

Montana plays tough defense and works patiently for intelligent shots.  This style of play may be a bit boring, but it can be quite effective if the players stay within the frame of the philosophy.

New Mexico wins games through tough hustle.  The Lobos are tough on the boards, and they seldom turn the ball over more than a dozen times per game.  They can pose tough matchup problems for a lot of teams, because they can post up their guards and bring their forwards out high to shoot the three.  We’ll go with the Lobos to win, but it may be a lot more difficult than most people expect.

Prediction: New Mexico 72  Montana 63

 

#7 Clemson (12.3) vs. #10 Missouri (14.7)

This will be a helter-skelter game from start to finish.  These teams are both reliant upon forcing turnovers and converting them into fast break points.  We expect a lot of physical play with the referees letting a lot of contact go.

Missouri relies a little too much on its outside game, while Clemson has some inside presence.  In the Big Dance, the teams that can get offensive putbacks are usually the teams that survive and advance.  We don’t think Missouri will have an answer for Clemson forward Trevor Booker.

Prediction: Clemson 77  Missouri 72

 

#2 West Virginia (23.5) vs. #15 Morgan State (-0.2)

Morgan State has been here before.  The Bears lost to Oklahoma in the first round last year.  Coach Todd Bozeman likes for his team to move the ball up the floor quickly and bang it inside.  That might work in the MEAC, but this is not the MEAC.

West Virginia looks a little sloppy at times, and the Mountaineers don’t shoot the ball all too well, but they play tough defense and dominate on the boards.  WVU enters this tournament with a chip on its shoulder after flopping in the first round against Dayton last year.  Coach Bob Huggins’ squad has played in several nail-biters this year, and they should be ready to play.

Prediction: West Virginia 69  Morgan State 52

 

South Regional

#1 Duke (34.4) vs. #16 Arkansas Pine Bluff (-11.5)

Well, we blew the play-in game, but luckily that’s a Mulligan in bracket picking.

Duke will get a breather game in their opener.  The Blue Devils will apply pressure man-to-man defense and force the Golden Lions to commit numerous turnovers.  Duke’s big guys will repeatedly get offensive rebounds when the Blue Devils miss shots, and those players will clean the defensive glass as well.

UAPB should be fortunate that they won the play-in game.  They will give up more points in the first half of this game than they did in the entire game Tuesday night.

Prediction: Duke 87 Arkansas Pine Bluff 59

 

#8 California (11.4) vs. #9 Louisville (9.5)

Louisville beat Syracuse twice this year, but the Cardinals are not nearly as good this year as they were last year.   This UL team lacks the little something extra to advance very far in this tournament.

Cal won their first outright Pac-10 regular season title since Darrall Imhoff led the Bears to the National Championship Game against Ohio State in the 1959-60 season.  This edition of Bears is the polar opposite to that earlier version.  Cal is strictly a perimeter-oriented team that must shoot the ball well in order to win.

This one is a true tossup game.  It will be a contest of better offense vs. better defense.  Cal has to travel almost 3,200 miles, and the long trip could be their undoing.

Prediction: Louisville 72  California 68

 

#5 Texas A&M (12.7) vs. #12 Utah State (17.3)

This is one of those 5-12 games where the PiRate system shows the underdog to be the better team.  Utah State would be the outright favorite in this game if they played a little better defensively, especially on the perimeter.

Texas A&M played one of the toughest schedules in the nation, and the Aggies showed they could go head-to-head with them.  Their defense is tough, and the Aggies from Texas should hold the Aggies from Utah well below their scoring and shooting averages.  A&M doesn’t shoot the ball all that well, and this should be a close game.  We’ll go against the PiRate chalk and take the Big 12 team.

Prediction: Texas A&M 70  Utah State 66

 

#4 Purdue (15.4) vs. #13 Siena (17.8)

This year, we like the 13-seeds better than the 12-seeds as upset possibilities.  Purdue would probably have been a 10-seed or even missed the tournament altogether had Robbie Hummel been injured all season.  Without Hummel, the Boilermakers are not much better than your average NIT team.

Siena defeated Vanderbilt in the first round of the 2008 NCAA Tournament and Ohio State in the first round last year.  The Saints may be a little better this year thanks to a balanced team.  Siena has four starters that can score 20 points on any given night.  They have an inside presence with Alex Franklin and Ryan Rossiter combining for more than 19 rebounds per game.  Throw in a +3 turnover margin, and the Saints get seven more scoring opportunities per game than their opposition. 

We will call the upset in this game, but we give a warning.  Star players have missed NCAA Tournament games in the past, and those starless teams found a way to win.  Loyola Marymount won three games in the Big Dance after Hank Gathers died.  Going back several years to 1965, Wichita State made it to the Final Four after losing their top two players to eligibility.

Prediction: Siena 70  Purdue 65

 

#6 Notre Dame (6.5) vs. #11 Old Dominion (18.8)

This should be an entertaining game with a lot of inside action.  Notre Dame’s Luke Harangody missed multiple games due to injury in February, and the Irish defense stepped up and did the job.  With the big forward back, the Irish are playing their best ball of the season.  While they finished the season winning just eight of their final 13 games, those five losses came by a combined nine points.

Old Dominion is one of those teams like Butler and St. Mary’s that big-six conference teams don’t want to play.  The Monarchs dominate on the boards and seldom give up a high-percentage shot. 

We look for this one to stay close throughout, and the difference could be which team has the better outside shooting day.  If one team has a decent enough outside shooting day to force defenses to stretch, their inside game will become too strong to lose.

While ODU has much better total numbers, we think Notre Dame will get the job done.

Prediction: Notre Dame 71  Old Dominion 66

 

#3 Baylor (21.39) vs. #14 Sam Houston St. (10.33)

Watch out for Baylor!  The Bears rate in that elite group of teams capable of getting to Indianapolis.  In the Bracketnomics Class blog, we mentioned that you needed to be alert for a team that shoots 48% from the field and allows only 38%.  Baylor is one of two teams that meet this criteria.

The Bears also dominate on the glass, and if it weren’t for a negative turnover margin, we would pick them as a Final Four team.  Some future opponent will exploit this liability and defeat them, but it won’t be Sam Houston.

The Bearkats are an interesting and fun team to watch play.  They begin firing threes the moment they enter the gym.  It won’t get the job done in this game.

Prediction: Baylor 81  Sam Houston 67

 

#7 Richmond (10.0) vs. #10 St. Mary’s (10.1)

This game could come down to pace.  If Richmond presses the tempo and makes this a maximum possession game, the Spiders will have a decided advantage.  Richmond needs to speed the game up to force St. Mary’s into unforced errors.

Seldom in the opening round of the tournament do we ever see a team consciously trying to speed up the game.  Nerves and uncertainty usually slow these games down until midway through the second half.

St. Mary’s will win this game if the total number of field goal attempts is 115 or less.  If the pace is average to below average, their seven-man rotation will be able to avoid fatigue.  Center Omar Samhan can control the lane in this game and give the Gaels a strong advantage inside.

Prediction: St. Mary’s 73  Richmond 67

 

#2 Villanova (19.5) vs. #15 Robert Morris(-2.9)

This game should be a mismatch, but it could take some time before the Wildcats pull away.  VU finished the regular season on a 4-6 slide, but the Wildcats lost five of those games to NCAA Tournament teams from their conference.

Once this game begins, we look for the Colonials to keep it within striking distance for a couple of time outs before Villanova slowly pulls away.

Prediction: Villanova 78  Robert Morris 63

 

Midwest Regional

 

#1 Kansas (28.7) vs. #16 Lehigh (0.22)

If there is a chance that one team will top 100 points in the first round without going into multiple overtimes, this game is the one.  Kansas will begin its march to the Final Four with a tune-up game. 

Lehigh will take 25 or more three-pointers in this game, but we believe the Jayhawk defense will force many bad shots from the outside.  KU will then score 1.3-1.5 points per possession.  We’re sorry if you get stuck with this game and cannot get another.

Prediction: Kansas 94  Lehigh 61

 

#8 UNLV (11.7) vs. #9 Northern Iowa (11.7)

How about this for tossup game status?  Not only is this an eight-nine game, their criteria scores are equal.

This game comes down to how well the Panthers can stop the Runnin’ Rebels outside shooting game.  We think UNI will be able to hold the UNLV backcourt of Tre’Von Willis, Oscar Bellfield, Anthony Marshall, and reserve Kendall Wallace under their norms.  At the same time, look for UNI brute center Jordan Eglseder and forward Adam Koch to dominate on the inside.  Combine that with a defense that fits the opponents’ offense like a glove, and we see the Missouri Valley team advancing.

Prediction: Northern Iowa 58  UNLV 53

 

#5 Michigan State (19.5) vs. #12 New Mexico St. (3.4)

We cannot see a 12-seed upset in this game.  The Aggies have a negative R+T rating, which means they typically allow more scoring opportunities than they create.  Against a seasoned NCAA Tournament team, one coming off a visit to the national title game, that won’t be the winning recipe.

Michigan State will win the rebounding battle by 10 or more in this game.  If the Spartans don’t turn the ball over 18 or more times, they will be comfortably ahead by the first TV timeout of the second half.

Guard Chris Allen is expected to return to action after serving a one-game suspension for arguing with the coaching staff.

Prediction: Michigan State 75  New Mexico State 62

 

#4 Maryland (19.5) vs. #13 Houston (1.9)

Houston got hot and won the CUSA tournament after being picked to contend for the conference championship and finishing in the middle of the pack.  The Cougars cannot rebound.  While Maryland is only so-so on the boards, the Terps will win this battle by at least five caroms.

Houston relies on putting pressure on the ball and trying to play in the passing lanes to get steals and force turnovers.  Maryland takes care of the ball and can exploit this type of defense.

Throw in the fact that the Terps play tough defense, and this one looks like a huge mismatch.  Maryland comes mighty close to qualifying for the special field goal percentage criteria.  They connect on 47.2% of their shots and hold opponents to 38.8%.

Prediction: Maryland 83  Houston 70

 

#6 Tennessee (18.9) vs. #11 San Diego State (15.6)

This has the makings of a good game between similar styles.  Tennessee likes to force turnovers and run the break for quick baskets.  In the half-court offense, they try to work the ball inside.  The Volunteers aren’t the best outside shooting team.

San Diego State plays like your typical Steve Fisher-coached team.  The Aztecs have a dominating inside game and hold a +6.7 rebounding edge over their opposition.  The Aztecs aren’t great three-point shooters either, but inside the arc, they shoot almost 55%.

Tennessee is mad at being lowered to a number six seed in a year where they knocked off Kansas and Kentucky, but the Vols went only 10-7 away from home.  They are primed to make a run to the Sweet 16 if the team has enough gas in the tank.

Prediction: Tennessee 72  San Diego State 65

 

#3 Georgetown (18.0) vs. #14 Ohio U (0.7)

This game is a mismatch similar to your typical 1-seed vs. 16-seed game.  Ohio should have been a lower seed.  The Bobcats finished below .500 in a weak MAC this year, and they have no chance against the Hoyas.

Georgetown is not as complete this year as in past seasons.  They are a definite upset possibility, but it won’t happen in this round.  The key to the Hoyas advancing to the Sweet 16 will be how much the regulars can rest in this one. 

Prediction: Georgetown 72  Ohio 59

 

#7 Oklahoma State (6.2) vs. #10 Georgia Tech (9.5)

A very strong Big 12 allowed the Cowboys to move up to a seven-seed, when their performance looks more like a 10-seed.  Georgia Tech belongs as a 10-seed, so this game should be close and exciting.

OSU is a hot and cold team that won’t be around next week.  They either hit from behind the arc or get beat. 

Georgia Tech isn’t a world-beater, but the Yellow Jackets play somewhat consistently.  They will control the boards in this game, but they are turnover prone.  OSU’s shot at winning hinges on how many times they can force Tech into floor mistakes.  We think they will come up a bit short, but this game should be 40 minutes of entertaining ball.

Prediction: Georgia Tech 72  Oklahoma State 68

 

#2 Ohio State (16.8) vs. #15 UCSB (-4.5)

The Buckeyes won 16 of their final 18 games including the regular season and tournament championship in the Big Ten.  Evan Turner is a mini-Magic Johnson.  He can do it all, and he deserves serious consideration for national player of the year.  He isn’t a one-man team, but the Buckeyes’ only liability is a lack of depth.  They go only seven deep, and the two key reserves don’t contribute all that much.

UCSB is one of the two teams that must be immediately eliminated due to a negative R+T rating.  Their stay in the Dance will last just one number, and they will feel like their rival cut in on them in the middle of the song.

Prediction: Ohio State 76  UCSB 54

 

West Regional

 

#1 Syracuse (23.6) vs. #16 Vermont (-3.8)

The ‘Cuse is primed for another run to the Final Four.  Except for a lack of depth, this team would be even with Duke and Kansas.  It won’t bother them in the first two rounds, as the Orange won’t be extended by pressure defense.

This is not the Vermont team of 2005 that actually won an opening round game.  This version of Catamounts is just happy to be here, and they will put up no fuss and wave bye-bye after 40 minutes of tournament action.

We expect Vermont to keep it close for maybe 8-12 minutes before Syracuse goes on a big run and puts this one away before the intermission.

Prediction: Syracuse 90  Vermont 64

 

#8 Gonzaga (13.4) vs. #9 Florida State (14.4)

We don’t believe this will be Gonzaga’s year to advance to the Sweet 16.  The Bulldogs don’t dominate on the glass and pick up nothing in turnover margin. 

This Florida State team reminds us a lot of the Seminole teams of Hugh Durham.  They play aggressive man-to-man defense and work the ball for intelligent shots. 

Gonzaga needs a good shooting effort every time in order to win, and the Seminoles hold opponents to just 37.4% from the field. 

Prediction: Florida State 67  Gonzaga 63

 

#5 Butler (14.2) vs. #12 UTEP (15.8)

This is a game that all five of us here would like to attend.  We think it will be the best of the 5-12 games, and it won’t be an upset if UTEP wins.  These teams are fairly even, and both are talented enough to advance to the second week.

If the question were, “which game has the best chance of going to overtime?” this game would receive strong consideration. 

We will go with the Miners to win a great game and become the favorite in the next round in a possible second classic matchup against another double-digit seed.  This is the 12-seed that has the best chance of pulling off the “upset.”  We don’t call a 50-50 game an upset.

Prediction: UTEP 79  Butler 77 in overtime

 

#4 Vanderbilt (11.2) vs. #13 Murray State (18.0)

Murray State rates as one of four teams not from a big six conference that we believe has the talent to make it to the Sweet 16.  The Racers are actually the most complete team in the tournament and best fit the criteria to go to the Final Four, but their schedule strength lowers their criteria out of that rarified air.

Murray outscores their opponents by 17 points per game.  They shoot better than 50% from the field, and they allow only 38.6% shooting on defense.  They control the boards with a +6.0 margin, and they force more than 17 turnovers per game with 10 steals per game.

Vanderbilt was a fatigued team down the stretch, closing 8-5 after opening 16-3.  In that last 13 games, they outscored their opponents by just two per game.  The Commodores just barely avoid being eliminated from consideration with an R+T of 0.6.  They outrebound their opponents by 0.7 per game and have a slightly negative turnover margin.  They rely too much on free throw shooting, and fouls are not called as frequently in the Big Dance.

We look for this to be a great game, but we’re going with another #13 seed to pull off the upset.

Prediction: Murray State 75  Vanderbilt 69

 

#6 Xavier (15.1) vs. #11 Minnesota (10.4)

Morgan State, Butler, Ohio State, Michigan State, Illinois, Wisconsin, and Purdue are a good list of teams in the Big Dance.  Minnesota owns wins over these seven Samurais.  Xavier doesn’t have a showcase win this year, and the Musketeers are not as tough as they have been in recent seasons.

Tubby Smith’s teams always play well in the Big Dance, while this is the first go around for Xavier coach Chris Mack.  In yet another mild upset, we believe Minnesota will advance to the second round.

Prediction: Minnesota 69  Xavier 66

 

#3 Pittsburgh (8.7) vs. #14 Oakland (4.3)

For those of you who believe the Selection Committee tries to put certain teams together, you might not see the irony in the pairing of these two teams.  First, Oakland is not from California.  The Golden Grizzlies are from Rochester, Michigan.  Pittsburgh is located in the Oakland suburb of the Steel City.  So, when we say the team from Oakland will win the game, we aren’t talking about the Golden State Warriors, and we’re not talking about the team with the word “Oakland” on their jerseys.

This is not the year for the Panthers.  Their numbers aren’t all that good, and they will not advance to the Elite 8 this year.  However, they will cruise in the opening round after maybe facing a struggle through the first couple of TV timeouts.

Prediction: Pittsburgh 67  Oakland 58

 

#7 BYU (24.5) vs. #10 Florida (10.5)

Many prognosticators are calling for the Gators to pull the small upset in the opening round, but we cannot see it happening.

BYU ranks along with Murray State as having the most complete criteria components in the tournament.  The Cougars outscore their opposition by nearly 18 per game.  They do tend to rely on a lot of foul shooting and three-point shots, but BYU also gets a lot of easy baskets via the fast break and secondary offense.  Their R+T rating is a whopping 13.5, as they own a +5.1 rebounding margin, +4.1 turnover margin, and pick off 8.5 passes per game.  Since they have a shooting percentage of 48.6%, they will score a lot of points.

Florida returns to the Big Dance for the first time since they won their second consecutive national title in 2007.  This team is lacking what those two champions had—a dominating inside game.  Center Vernon Macklin is capable of putting up decent numbers, but the Gators rely on perimeter players Erving Walker and Kenny Boynton to get the job done.  Walker is just 5-8, and he will have a tough time against the tall and lanky BYU guards.

Look for Jimmer Fredette and Jackson Emery to outduel the Florida guards, and the Cougars will prevail in a fast-paced game.

Prediction: BYU 85  Florida 77

 

#2 Kansas State (25.9) vs. #15 North Texas (-3.22)

After Duke, Kansas State may have drawn the best possible bracket.  The Wildcats have the talent to win this regional and possibly set up a fourth game with their in-state rival in the National Semifinal. 

This will be a fun team to watch.  Kansas State coach Frank Martin is a combination of Al McGuire and Bobby Knight with a little Bob Huggins thrown in.  He’s the coach most likely to implode or spontaneous combust during a game.  His antics are working this year, and his players respond by playing like their life is on the line.

North Texas will get killed on the boards in this game, and they don’t have a ball-hawking defense to even it out with a great turnover margin.  Unlike conference rival Western Kentucky, the Mean Green will not carry on the Sunbelt Conference’s recent success in the tourney.

Prediction: Kansas State 82  North Texas 65

 

Our Bracket

 

You have seen the 32 teams we believe will win the first round games.  Here is how we fill out the rest of our bracket.

Second Round Winners

 

Kentucky over Texas in a close game

Wisconsin over Temple

New Mexico over Washington

West Virginia over Clemson

Duke over Louisville

Texas A&M over Siena

Baylor over Notre Dame

Villanova over St. Mary’s

Kansas over Northern Iowa

Michigan State over Maryland in a great game

Tennessee over Georgetown

Ohio State over Georgia Tech

Syracuse over Florida State

UTEP over Murray State

Minnesota over Pittsburgh

Kansas State over BYU in a thriller

Sweet 16 Winners

Kentucky over Wisconsin

West Virginia over New Mexico

Duke over Texas A&M

Baylor over Villanova

Kansas over Michigan State but a fantastic upset bid

Ohio State over Tennessee

Syracuse over UTEP

Kansas State over Minnesota

Elite 8 Winners

West Virginia over Kentucky

Duke over Baylor

Kansas over Ohio State

Kansas State over Syracuse

Semifinal Winners

 

Duke over West Virginia

Kansas State over Kansas (The Wildcats finally beat KU in their fourth try)

National Championship

 

Duke over Kansas State

Might Coach K pull a John Wooden and announce his retirement after winning the semifinal game?  Might he be tempted to take a very large pay raise to coach the Nets for a year or two and then enjoy real retirement like his mentor The General is enjoying?

March 2, 2010

And They’re Off…

Let’s Start The Partying

 

It may feel like it’s mid-January in most of the nation, but the calendar doesn’t lie.  It’s time to start the sports reality show called “Big Dancing With The Stars; Trying Not To Be The Biggest Loser.”  Yes, the conference tournaments begin to tip-off tonight.

15 conferences begin tournament play in the next four days.  Let’s take a look at the brackets.

America East Conference

Site: Hartford, CT until the Championship Game.  Championship Game on the home court of the higher seed.

Late Note:#5 seed Binghamton has withdrawn from the conference tournament, making this an 8-team tournament that will now begin Saturday.

Saturday, March 6

G1-#1 Stony Brook (21-8) vs. #9 Albany (7-24)

G2-#4 Boston U (17-12) vs. #6 Hartford (8-21)

G3-#2 Vermont (22-9) vs. #8 Maryland-Balt. Co. (4-25)

G4-#3 Maine (19-10) vs. #7 New Hampshire (12-16)

Sunday, March 7

G5-Game 1 Winner vs. Game 2 Winner

G6-Game 3 Winner vs. Game 4 Winner

Saturday, March 13

Game 6 Winner vs. Game 7 Winner at higher seed’s home court

Boston U is the hot team as tournament play begins.  The Terriers have an easy first round game thanks to Binghamton pulling out.  Look for a very interesting semifinal match between BU and Stony Brook.

Look for New Hampshire to give Maine a great game and have a great shot at the upset.  Beating Vermont in the next round won’t happen.  The Catamounts have a clear path to the title game, and if Boston can upset Stony Brook, Vermont would host the title game.

Atlantic Sun Conference

Site: Macon, GA

Wednesday, March 3

G1-#1 Lipscomb (17-12) vs. #8 Kennesaw St. (12-19)

G2-#2 Jacksonville (18-11) vs. #7 North Florida (13-17)

Thursday, March 4

G3-#3 Belmont (19-11) vs. #6 Mercer (14-16)

G4-#4 Campbell (19-10) vs. #5 East Tennessee (17-14)

Friday, March 5

Game 1 Winner vs. Game 4 Winner

Game 2 Winner vs. Game 3 Winner

Saturday, March 6

Semifinal Winners

Lipscomb won its last four games to earn a four-way tie for first.  The Bisons got the top-seed based on head to head results against the other three teams.  Their path to the championship game is not an easy one.  In the opening round, they face a Kennesaw team that gave them fits in both games, earning a split.  

Campbell has the most complete game of any team in this tournament, and they could be the team to beat from their number four seeding.  They also split with Lipscomb, and a possible semifinal match with the Bisons could be the game of the tournament.

Belmont and Jacksonville should handle their first round opponents, and in a semifinal match, the Dolphins have the upper hand when matching up.  A Jacksonville-Campbell final game would be interesting.  Both teams defended their home court in the regular season, winning by double digits.

Big Sky Conference

Site: All games played at higher seed

Saturday, March 6

#6 Portland State (12-17) at #3 Montana State (15-13)

#5 Northern Arizona (14-13) at #4 Montana (19-9)

Tuesday, March 9

Lower Remaining Seed at #1 Weber State (19-9)

Higher Remaining Seed at #2 Northern Colorado (24-6)

Wednesday, March 10

Lower Remaining Seed at Higher Remaining Seed

 

Big South Conference

Site: Quarterfinals at higher seed/Semifinals at Coastal Carolina/Finals at higher seed

Tuesday, March 2

G1-#8 VMI (10-18) at #1 Coastal Carolina (26-5)

G2-#7 Charleston Southern (13-16) at #2 Radford (18-11)

G3-#6 Liberty (15-15) at #3 Winthrop (16-13)

G4-#5 High Point (15-14) at #4 UNC-Asheville (14-15)

Thursday, March 4 (at Coastal Carolina)

Game 1 Winner vs. Game 4 Winner

Game 2 Winner vs. Game 3 Winner

Friday, March 5

Lower Remaining Seed at Higher Remaining Seed

The top two teams are clearly the two best in this league, as they dispenses of all the competition coming down the stretch.  Radford has a dominating inside player capable of causing matchup problems for a good team in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.  Keep an eye on Art Parakhouski, a 6-11 hulk from Belarus.  He makes Radford the favorite to meet Coastal Carolina for a great rubber match worth watching.

Colonial Athletic Association

Site: Richmond, VA

Friday, March 5

G1-#8 Towson (9-20) vs. #9 UNC-Wilmington (9-21)

G2-#5 Va. Commonwealth (20-8) vs. #12 Delaware (7-23)

G3-#7 Hofstra (18-13) vs. #10 Georgia State (12-19)

G4-#6 Drexel (16-15) vs. #11 James Madison (12-19)

Saturday, March 6

G5-#1 Old Dominion (23-8) vs. Game 1 Winner

G6-#4 George Mason (17-13) vs. Game 2 Winner

G7-#2 Northeastern (19-11) vs. Game 3 Winner

G8-#3 William & Mary (20-9) vs. Game 4 Winner

Sunday, March 7

Game 5 Winner vs. Game 6 Winner

Game 7 Winner vs. Game 8 Winner

Monday, March 8

Semifinal Winners

There’s decent parity in this league, and any of the top seven seeds could emerge the victor.  Hofstra is the hottest team in the league, having finished the regular season with six consecutive wins and nine out of ten, including a double digit win at Northeastern.

Old Dominion has a road win against Georgetown this year, and the Monarchs would be a bubble team if they lost in the semifinals or finals.

Horizon League

Site: 1st Round at Higher Seed/All Others at Indianapolis

Tuesday, March 2

G1-#10 Youngstown (8-21) at #3 Green Bay (20-11)

G2-#9 Illinois-Chicago (8-21) at #4 Milwaukee (18-13)

G3-#8 Loyola (Chi) (14-15) at #5 Cleveland St. (15-16)

G4-#7 Detroit (18-13) at #6 Valparaiso (15-16)

Friday, March 5

G5-Game 1 Winner vs. Game 4 Winner

G6-Game 2 Winner vs. Game 3 Winner

Saturday, March 6

Butler (26-4) vs. Game 6 Winner

Wright St. (19-11) vs. Game 5 Winner

Tuesday, March 9

Semifinal Winners

It’s all about Butler in this tournament.  The Bulldogs are going dancing win or lose, but they could move up to a number three seed by winning on March 9.  Detroit is the only team that gave Butler any trouble this year, so it could become interesting if the Titans beat Valpo, Green Bay, and Wright State to make it to the finals.

M A A C

Site: Albany, NY

Friday, March 5

G1-#7 Canisius (14-16) vs. #10 Marist (1-28)

G2-#8 Loyola (Md) (13-16) vs. #9 Manhattan (10-19)

Saturday, March 6

G3-#1 Siena (24-6) vs. Game 2 Winner

G4-#2 Fairfield (20-9) vs. Game 1 Winner

G5-#3 Iona (21-9) vs. #6 Niagara (17-14)

G6-#4 St. Peter’s (16-13) vs. #5 Rider (16-15)

Sunday, March 7

Game 3 Winner vs. Game 6 Winner

Game 4 Winner vs. Game 5 Winner

Monday, March 8

Semifinal Winners

Siena’s resume does not allow them a Mulligan in this tournament.  The Saints have no signature wins, and they got their hat handed to them in the Bracketbuster game against Butler.  Siena has to win this tournament or it’s the NIT for them this year.

Fairfield gave Siena two close ballgames this year, and it could be hard for the Saints to beat the Stags three times.  

Iona is flying under the radar.  The Gaels won nine in a row in midseason, and they have the talent to make it to Monday night’s game.

Missouri Valley Conference

Site: St. Louis (Arch Madness)

Thursday, March 4

G1-#7 Missouri State (19-11) vs. #10 Evansville (9-20)

G2-#8 Drake (13-18) vs. #9 Southern Illinois (15-14)

Friday, March 5

G3-#1 Northern Iowa (25-4) vs. Game 2 Winner

G4-#2 Wichita State (23-8) vs. Game 1 Winner

G5-#3 Illinois State (21-9) vs. #6 Indiana St. (17-13)

G6-#4 Creighton (16-14) vs. #5 Bradley (15-14)

Saturday, March 6

Game 3 Winner vs. Game 6 Winner

Game 4 Winner vs. Game 5 Winner

Sunday, March 7

Semifinal Winners

Northern Iowa won the regular season title by three games, but don’t consider the Panthers an overwhelming favorite.  A good case could be made for any of the top five teams, and nobody wants to play Ninth-seeded Southern Illinois.

This will be a great tournament, and you should make it a point to watch these games if you have access. 

UNI is a pretty safe bet to garner an at-large bid if they don’t win the automatic bid.  Wichita State was once in the discussion for an at-large bid after a 16-2 start, but the shockers finished 7-6.

Northeast Conference

Site: All Games Played at Higher Seed

Thursday, March 4

G1-#8 Monmouth (12-18) at #1 Quinnipiac (21-8)

G2-#7 Cent. Connecticut (12-17) at #2 Robert Morris (20-11)

G3-#6 St. Francis (Pa) (11-18) at #3 Mt. St. Mary’s (15-14)

G4-#5 Fairleigh Dickinson (11-20) at #4 Long Island (13-16)

Sunday, March 7

Game 1 Winner vs. Game 4 Winner at higher seed

Game 2 Winner vs. Game 3 Winner at higher seed

Wednesday, March 10

Semifinal Winners at higher seed

Rarely is the number three seed considered the favorite, but in the NEC, Mt. St. Mary’s must be considered just that.  The Mountaineers won their final 10 games, which included victories over the two top seeds.  MSM has been in the tournament title game the last two years, winning in 2008.  Point Guard Jeremy Goode cut down on his turnovers down the stretch and played more like he was capable of playing.  Look for the 5-9 hotshot to play his best and guide the Mountaineers back to the Championship Game, where they are liable to face Quinnipiac.

Bobcat star James Feldeine was held to just four points in the last meeting with MSM; he will be ready for blood in a title match.

Ohio Valley Conference

Site: 1st Round at higher seed/All Others at Nashville

Tuesday, March 2

G1-#8 Tennessee State (9-22) at #1 Murray State (27-4)

G2-#7 Jacksonville St. (11-18) at #2 Morehead St. (21-9)

G3-#6 Tennessee Tech (14-16) at #3 Austin Peay (17-14)

G4-#5 East. Kentucky (20-11) at #4 East. Illinois (18-11)

Friday, March 5

Game 1 Winner vs. Game 4 Winner

Game 2 Winner vs. Game 3 Winner

Saturday, March 6

Semifinal Winners

Murray State won 27 games during the regular season, but even if the Racers lose in the title game, they will fall to the NIT.

Morehead State is the defending OVC Champion, and the Eagles have the league’s top player in Kenneth Faried (16.8 ppg/13.0 rpg).  Morehead won 17 of 20 down the stretch including a win over Murray St.

Austin Peay is always a force to be reckoned with in this tournament.  The Governors have been a regular in the championship round.

Patriot League

Site: All Games Played at Higher Seed

Wednesday, March 3

G1-#8 Army (14-14) at #1 Lehigh (19-10)

G2-#7 Holy Cross (8-21) at #2 Bucknell (14-16)

G3-#6 Colgate (10-18) at #3 Lafayette (17-12)

G4-#5 Navy (13-16) at #4 American (10-19)

Sunday, March 7

Game 1 Winner vs. Game 4 Winner at Higher Seed

Game 2 Winner vs. Game 3 Winner at Higher Seed

Friday, March 12

Semifinal Winners at Higher Seed

A month ago, Bucknell stood at 6-14 and looked like a possible 20-game loser.  The Bison turned it around and rebounded to go 8-2 down the stretch with a win over Lehigh.  One of the two losses was also to Lehigh, so this does not make Bucknell the favorite.

There is no clear-cut favorite in this league.  In fact, sixth-seeded Colgate has been playing as well an any team as the tournament opens.  The Raiders had Lehigh on the ropes a couple weeks ago before falling short at the end.

Southern Conference

Site: Charlotte

Friday, March 5

G1-#3N Chattanooga (14-17) vs. #6S Ga. Southern (9-22)

G2-#4N UNC-Greensboro (7-22) vs. #5S Furman (13-16)

G3-#3S Davidson (16-14) vs. #6N Elon (8-22)

G4-#4S Citadel (15-15) vs. #5N Samford (11-19)

Saturday, March 6

G5-#1N Appalachian St. (20-11) vs. Game 4 Winner

G6-#1S Wofford (23-8) vs. Game 2 Winner

G7-#2N Western Carolina (21-10) vs. Game 3 Winner

G8-#2S Charleston (20-10) vs. Game 1 Winner

Sunday, March 7

Game 5 Winner vs. Game 8 Winner

Game 6 Winner vs. Game 7 Winner

Monday, March 8

Semifinal Winners

With Davidson just a middle of the pack team, the Socon Tournament becomes a wide-open race.  The top four seeds all have the talent to run the table, but Wofford must be considered the favorite.  The Terriers won their final 10 games and 19 of 21, after starting 4-6.

Keep an eye on College of Charleston.  Coach Bobby Cremins has talent at the guard spot, and he knows how to get to the Big Dance.

Summit League

Site: Sioux Falls, SD

Saturday, March 6

G1-#1 Oakland (23-8) vs. #8 Mo.-Kansas City (12-17)

G2-#2 I U P U I (22-9) vs. #7 Western Illinois (13-16)

Sunday, March 7

G3-#3 Oral Roberts (19-12) vs. #6 N. Dakota St. (11-17)

G4-#4 S. Dakota St. (14-15) vs. #5 I P F W (15-14)

Monday, March 8

Game 1 Winner vs. Game 4 Winner

Game 2 Winner vs. Game 3 Winner

Tuesday, March 9

Semifinal Winners

Oakland’s path to the Championship Game is not all that easy.  Last place UMKC was no pushover, and the Grizzlies didn’t win all that convincingly in the regular season.  A possible semifinal match with the host team, South Dakota State, will be even harder.  The Jackrabbits have the best backcourt in the league, but they are a little weak inside.  That’s where Oakland is strongest with 6-11 center Keith Benson, the league’s top player.

IUPUI won 12 of its final 14 games and blew Oakland off the floor by 24 points.  The Jaguars have an easier path to the title game.

Sunbelt Conference

Site: Hot Springs, AR (in two separate gyms)

Saturday, March 6

G1-#4 Western Kentucky (19-12) VS. #13 New Orleans (8-21)

G2-#5 Arkansas St. (16-13) vs. #12 Ark.-Little Rock (8-21)

G3-#6 Denver (17-12) vs. #11 Florida Int’l (7-24)

G4-#7 UL-Lafayette (13-16) vs. #10 UL-Monroe (11-18)

G5-#8 Fla. Atlantic (14-15) vs. #9 South Alabama (16-14)

Sunday, March 7

G6-#1 Troy (18-11) vs. Game 5 Winner

G7-#2 North Texas (21-8) vs. Game 4 Winner

G8-#3 Middle Tennessee (19-12) vs. Game 3 Winner

G9-Game 1 Winner vs. Game 2 Winner

Monday, March 8

Game 6 Winner vs. Game 9 Winner

Game 7 Winner vs. Game 8 Winner

Tuesday, March 9

Semifinal Winners

The top four seeds enter this tournament on high notes, but none are higher than Western Kentucky.  The Hilltoppers went 7-7 during the 14-games missed to injury by beefy forward Sergio Kerusch.  WKU defeated Vanderbilt, Murray State, and Mississippi State in the pre-conference schedule, and they could be headed back to the Big Dance for the third year in a row, as they ride a six-game winning streak entering the tournament.

North Texas comes into this tournament on an eight-game winning streak.  The Mean Green edged WKU in overtime during the time Kerusch was out.

Arkansas State is coming into this tournament as a darkhorse, but watch out for Red Wolves.  Former LSU coach John Brady’s squad swept North Texas; both wins were by double digits.  

West Coast Conference

Site: Las Vegas

Friday, March 5

G1-#5 Loyola Marymount (16-14) vs. #8 Pepperdine (7-23)

G2-#6 San Diego (10-20) vs. #7 Santa Clara (11-20)

Saturday, March 6

G3-#3 Portland (19-9) vs. Game 2 Winner

G4-#4 San Francisco (12-17) vs. Game 1 Winner

Sunday, March 7

Gonzaga (24-5) vs. Game 4 Winner

St. Mary’s (24-5) vs. Game 3 Winner

Monday, March 8

Semifinal Winners

For once, this is a three-team race.  Gonzaga swept St. Mary’s and Portland and will more than likely have to face one of the two for the championship.  It’s hard to beat a good team three times in a row, but the Bulldogs have the talent to do so.

St. Mary’s and Portland split a pair of really tight games, so there is no clear cut favorite if they meet in the Semifinals.  The Gaels benefit from getting an extra day off.

If any team from the first day of play has a chance, it is Loyola Marymount.  The Lions beat Gonzaga and Portland in February.  First year coach Max Good took a team picked to be last in the league and brought them home at 7-7 in WCC play.

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