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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 1, 2011

NCAA Basketball Conference Tournaments–March 2 Update

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

 

All Times EST

Atlantic Sun Conference Tournament

Tournament Site: Macon, GA

Wednesday, March 2: Quarterfinals

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

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

 

Thursday, March 3: Quarterfinals

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

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

 

Friday, March 4: Semifinals

G 5: G 1 Winner vs. G 3 Winner

G 6: G 2 Winner vs. G 4 Winner

 

Saturday, March 5: Championship

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Ohio Valley Conference

Tournament Site: Nashville

Wednesday, March 2: First Round

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

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

 

Thursday, March 3: Quarterfinal Round

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

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

 

Friday, March 4: Semifinal Round

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

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

 

Saturday, March 5: Championship

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Patriot League

All Games Played At Higher Seed’s Home Floor

 

Wednesday, March 2: Quarterfinals

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

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

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

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

 

Sunday, March 6: Semifinal Round

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

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

 

Friday, March 11: Championship Game

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Big South Conference

 

Quarterfinal Round

#7 High Point 66  #2 Liberty 60

#3 UNC-Asheville 72  #6 Charleston Southern 63

#1 Coastal Carolina 83  #8 Gardner-Webb 72

#4 V M I 78  #5 Winthrop 73

 

Thursday, March 3: Semifinal Round

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

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

 

Horizon League

 

First Round

#3 Cleveland State 73  #10 Illinois-Chicago 61

#6 Wright State 60  #7 Green Bay 50

#4 Valparaiso 80 #9 Youngstown State 71

#5 Detroit 90  #8 Loyola (Chi) 69

 

Friday, March 4: Quarterfinal Round

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

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

 

Saturday, March 5: Semifinal Round

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

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

March 5, 2008

A PiRate Look At The NCAA Basketball Conference Tournaments–2nd update

 

A PiRate Look at the NCAA Basketball Conference Tournaments

March 4, 2008, 2nd Update

It’s the beginning of the NCAA Conference Tournament season, a near fortnight of action leading up to Selection Sunday on March 16th.

The first conference tournament games began last night (Tuesday, March 4th).  Here are the results from those games:

Big South

#2 Winthrop 76  #7 Radford 45

#3 High Point 59  #6 Coastal Carolina 56

#1 UNC-Asheville 87  #8 Charleston Southern 63

#4 Liberty 103  #5 VMI 88

Semifinals

Winthrop 20-11 vs. High Point 17-13

UNC-Asheville 22-8 vs. Liberty 16-15

The two top seeds looked like NCAA Tournament teams last night.  Winthrop looks to be the best team right now, but I still favor UNCA because of their great depth.  Depth takes on added importance in conference tournaments.

Horizon League

#3 Wright State 60  #10 Detroit 37

#6 Valparaiso 75  #7 UW-Green Bay 67

#4 Illinois-Chicago 70  #9 Youngstown State 59

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

Quarterfinals

Wright State 21-9 vs. Valparaiso 20-12  (winner faces Cleveland State)

Illinois-Chicago 17-14 vs. Loyola (Chi.) 12-18 (winner faces Butler)

#1 Butler (16-2/27-3) and #2 Cleveland State (12-6/20-11) have byes until the semifinal round.

There are still four teams left in this tournament that are capable of upsetting Butler.  Illinois-Chicago might be a tough opponent for 20 minutes, but the Flames cannot win at Butler.  They should dismiss Loyola rather easily.

The other side of the bracket couldn’t be any more exciting.  Cleveland State gets a huge advantage with two byes, while their opponent will have played two games to reach the semis.

Ohio Valley

#1 Austin Peay 76  #8 Eastern Kentucky 51

#4 UT-Martin 101  #5 Samford 94 3ot

#2 Murray State 77  #7 Tennessee Tech 74

#6 Tennessee State 68  #3 Morehead State 61

Semifinals

Austin Peay 22-10 vs. UT-Martin 17-15

Murray State 18-12 vs. Tennessee State 14-16

This is one final four where the top seed has about a 28% chance of winning and the other three teams have 24% chances of winning.  If you live down South in the Nashville area and you love basketball, you should get out to the OVC Tournament Friday Night for two great games.

A few more conferences begin tonight.  I have already previewed them in the prior story, but here they are again, so you don’t have to go back to the prior one.  Check back tomorrow for another update including previews of tournaments beginning Friday and Saturday, as well as reports of the other conferences still playing in the regular season.

Tournaments Beginning Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Atlantic Sun

This is the second tournament being played in Nashville this week.  Lipscomb will be hosting the A-Sun at Allen Arena.  The Bisons came on strong as the season concluded, and they are tough on their home floor.  Top-seed Belmont has to make all of a three-mile jaunt down Belmont Boulevard to play in this tournament, so the Bruins are still the heavy favorite to three-peat and face another Final Four contender in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament.

The A-Sun awards its top two seeds by giving them a day’s rest between the quarterfinal and semifinal round; of course, this assumes that they survive the first round.  The two weakest seeds also get a chance to rest if they can pull off a first round upset. 

Wednesday, March 5

#2 Jacksonville (12-4/16-12) vs. #7 Mercer (6-10/11-18)

Jacksonville narrowly edged the Bears both times they played this year.  The Dolphins blew a 17-point lead and had to hit a shot at the buzzer to win at Mercer, and then they blew a 13-point lead against Mercer in Jacksonville before getting hot and winning in overtime.  If the Dolphins get well ahead of Mercer, both teams will be thinking about the other two times.  My guess here is that Jacksonville will not get that big lead this time, and if Mercer makes a run, the Dolphins could be heading back to Florida early.  Give Mercer at least a 40-45% chance of winning this game.  The winner then gets a day off before facing the winner of the Stetson-Gardner-Webb game.

#1 Belmont (14-2/22-8) vs. #8 Campbell (5-11/10-19)

The eighth-seeded Fighting Camels were one of two teams to peg a loss on Belmont in the A-Sun.  Belmont exacted their revenge by slaughtering Campbell to clinch the regular season championship.  The Bruins enter the tournament riding a 10-game winning streak, and Coach Rick Byrd won’t allow his troops to overlook Campbell.  Look for a big Bruin win, by at least a dozen points.  Then, with a day off, they will have the upper hand in the semifinal game, even if the opponent is Lipscomb.  This Belmont team won at Cincinnati and at Alabama earlier this season, so they won’t be in awe of their first round opponent in the Big Dance if they win their third A-Sun title in a row.  This team has the capability of becoming the next Winthrop or Davidson.

Thursday, March 6

#3 Stetson (11-5/16-15) vs. #6 Gardner-Webb (9-7/15-15)

The number six seed in the Atlantic Sun Tournament won by 16 points at the probable number three seed in the Southeastern Conference.  Yes, Gardner-Webb destroyed Kentucky at Rupp Arena back in November.  The season went south from there, as the Bulldogs finished in the middle of the pack in the league.  Stetson lost at GW in their only meeting this season.  Stetson couldn’t throw it in the ocean in that game, and I don’t expect the Hatters to hit 34.5% of their shots this time around.  Look for a hard-fought close game that could come down to the last possession.  I expect the margin of victory to be less than five points.  Unfortunately for the winner, they will have to turn around and play the following day against a rested Jacksonville or Mercer. 

#4 East Tennessee (11-5/18-12) at #5 Lipscomb (9-7/15-15)

The host Bisons were 2-5 in the league and 8-13 overall in late January, but then they turned things around with a 7-2 finish down the stretch.  One of the two losses came at the hands of East Tennessee in Johnson City by three points.  The Buccaneers also won at Lipscomb in another close game, and they are now faced with the task of beating a hot team three times in one season and twice on their home floor.  ETSU Coach Murray Bartow has a tough assignment, and if he get his charges to pull off the hat trick, their reward will be facing a rested Belmont on short notice.  I doubt ETSU can get to the finals, but Lipscomb is capable of beating ETSU and Belmont back-to-back.  I think the Bisons will prevail, setting up a third “Battle of the Boulevard” Friday night.

Patriot League

The Patriot League Tournament is nothing more than playoffs, inasmuch as every game is played on the home floor of the higher seed rather than in one location.  In what was one of the better conference races, American emerged as the top seed.  This year, there is so much parity in this conference that the number eight seed Holy Cross Crusaders could easily win the tournament, even though they would have to win three games on the road.

#8 Holy Cross (5-9/15-13) at #1 American (10-4/18-11)

Last place HCU actually won at American earlier this season.  American will definitely not overlook the Crusaders.  HCU will try to shorten the game and have a minimum number of possessions, hoping that center Tim Clifford can use his inside prowess and pull off a repeat performance that led the Crusaders to the win over American.  In that game, Clifford connected on nine of 11 shots and finished with 24 points.  It may take an effort similar to that game, but it isn’t impossible.  Still, you have to favor the Eagles to win with a probability of 80-85%.

#5 Army (6-8/13-15) at #4 Lehigh (7-7/14-14)

This will be a game in the 50’s or low 60’s, and it should go down to the wire.  Lehigh won both regular season games by five points.  They blew a 16-point lead at home and saw Army cut 13 points off that lead in a matter of minutes.  At Army, the Cadets blew a 15-point lead.  I think Lehigh will win again, and it could easily be by five points yet again.

#7 Bucknell (6-8/11-18) at #2 Navy (9-5/16-13)

Navy had a chance to win the regular season title and couldn’t win at Colgate.  Now, the Midshipmen face a school they have had a tough time defeating in recent years.  When they edged Bucknell in Annapolis three weeks ago, it marked their only win over the Bison in four years.  This game will be close the entire way, and it will take a big effort by Navy’s big three of Greg Spink, Chris Harris, and Kaleo Kina.  The trio combined for 68 points in the win at Alumni Hall.

#6 Lafayette (6-8/15-14) at #3 Colgate (7-7/16-13)

Colgate finished the season as the Patriot League’s hottest team, and I believe the Raiders are the true team to beat in the conference tournament.  Lafayette was the coldest team down the stretch.  After starting Patriot League play 4-0, the Leopards lost eight of 10.  I can see no reason why these trends will change over the course of a couple days.  Look for Colgate to win by five to 10 points.

Sunbelt

This is a league where two teams could obtain NCAA bids, especially if someone can topple top-seed and host team South Alabama.  Western Kentucky is the one team that can do it, and USA beat them both times they played this year.  It will be hard to beat the Hilltoppers three times in a row, even in Mobile.  Western’s RPI is in the high 40’s, so it isn’t totally impossible for WKU to get an at-large bid.

The top three teams get first round byes, while teams 4-13 play on the campus of the better seed.  While WKU had the second best record, the West Division champion Arkansas-Little Rock gets the number two seed, while the Hilltoppers drop to number three.

#13 UL-Monroe (4-14/10-20) at #4 Middle Tennessee (11-7/14-14)

Middle Tennessee closed the season winning seven of their last 10 games including knocking off regular season champion South Alabama.  The Blue Raiders should advance to the quarterfinals with a win over ULM, but it won’t be easy.  The Warhawks thumped MTSU in Monroe, leading by double digits most of the game.  ULM lost their final four regular season games by an average margin of 14.5 points.  Look for the Blue Raiders to get revenge and advance to the quarterfinals where they will meet winner of Troy and UL-Lafayette.

#12 Troy (4-14/11-18) at #5 UL-Lafayette (11-7/15-14)

ULL finished the season as hot as anybody in the league.  The Ragin’ Cagins won five of their final six and played great defense, yielding just 60.7 points per game in that stretch.  Additionally, ULL possessed an excellent inside game while they were moving up in the standings.  You have to consider them a dark horse candidate for winning the tournament.  Troy hasn’t much of a chance in this game.  They don’t match up well against ULL and will be dominated inside the paint.  A ULL-MTSU quarterfinal match would be a great battle.

#11 Arkansas State (5-13/10-19) at #6 North Texas (10-8/19-10)

Arkansas State will bow out quickly in this game.  The Indians are already looking ahead to the future and the possibility that Nolan Richardson could become their next coach.  Meanwhile, North Texas won five of six to close the season on a run.  The Mean Green pegged a loss on South Alabama, and out of conference, UNT defeated Oklahoma State and New Mexico State.  This team can not only win the conference tournament, they can win in the Big Dance.  Look for a big North Texas win and a date against Western Kentucky in the next round.

#10 Florida Int’l (6-12/9-19) at #7 Florida Atlantic (8-10/14-17)

FAU was 1-7 in Sunbelt play before finishing 7-3 in the final five weeks, averaging 82.5 points per game.  Two of those three losses came to the big two, WKU and USA.  The other loss, though, came at the hands of their arch-rival and opening round opponent, FIU.  In fact, the Golden Panthers defeated the Owls both times this year.  Look for FAU to get some revenge and win the one that really counts.  The winner of this game will play Arkansas-Little Rock in the next round.  FAU has the talent to win that game and advance to the semifinals, but they have to get past their nemesis first.

#9 Denver (7-11/11-18) at #8 New Orleans (8-10/18-12)

UNO was 14-5 at one point this year with wins over North Carolina State, Tulane, and Lamar.  Then, they swooned.  The Privateers lost seven of their last 11 games.  One of those wins was a six-point defeat of Denver in Denver.  The Pioneers lost their final six games after being in contention in the West Division halfway through the conference schedule.  In a battle of teams headed nowhere, look for UNO to win unimpressively and then flop in their next game against top seed South Alabama.

Tournaments Beginning Thursday, March 6, 2008

Missouri Valley

The Valley had the eighth best RPI among the conferences this year, so you have to figure that more than one member will find a spot in the Field of 65.  Drake is a lock, while Illinois State is squarely on the bubble.   Southern Illinois and Creighton are long shots for at-large consideration, but they are talented enough to win this year’s Arch Madness.

# 8 Indiana St. (8-10/14-15)  vs. # 9 Wichita St. (4-14/11-19) 

These are two teams headed in the same direction, but unfortunately, its’ the wrong direction.  Neither team looked impressive down the stretch.  They hooked up in Terre Haute two weeks ago, and Wichita State led by 20 with less than 15 minutes to play.  ISU went on a 23-3 run in the next six minutes to tie the game and went on to win by 10 in overtime.  Look for Wichita State to keep this game close all the way and have a chance to get a bit of revenge with an upset over the Sycamores.  The winner gets top-seed Drake, a team that has not been playing their best ball at the end of the season.

# 7 Missouri State (8-10/16-15)  vs. # 10 Evansville (3-15/9-20)

Can a team that not only was blown out by another team, they had the score doubled against them, turn around and beat that same team 19 days later?  Missouri State beat Evansville 76-38 on February 19, and the Bears beat the Purple Aces by 19 earlier in the season.  Sure, it can be hard to beat a team three times in a row, but then again North Carolina could play New Jersey Institute of Technology 30 times a year and win all 30.  Look for the Bears to win by double digits for the third time and advance to face Illinois State in the next round, where they will be sent packing.

# 4 Creighton (10-8/20-9) vs. # 5 Bradley (9-9/17-14) will play Friday in the second round with the winner facing the winner of Drake and either Indiana State or Wichita State.

# 3 Southern Illinois (11-7/17-13) vs. # 6 UNI (9-9/17-13) will play Friday in the second round with the winner facing the winner of the Illinois State and either Missouri State or Evansville.

I look for the champion of this conference to come from the #2-3-7-10 bracket.  I expect Illinois State and Southern Illinois to face off in the semifinals with the winner cutting down the nets the following night.

Northeast Conference

This conference had an exciting regular season with multiple teams looking like they were top dog at some point in the season.  Robert Morris stayed hotter longer, so they earned the top seed.  Even with the higher-seeded team hosting every game, you can virtually place the top six teams’ names in a hat and draw to pick the winner.  If I had to choose one team, I wouldn’t choose.

#8 Monmouth (4-14/7-23) at #1 Robert Morris (16-2/25-6)

Can a team with 23 losses have the respect of a team with a 25-6 record in a game played on the home floor of the 25-win team?  You bet they can.  Monmouth almost beat Robert Morris January 31st, losing 61-60.  RMU will not be looking ahead, and the Colonials will be ready to play.  RMU will advance with a 15-point win.

#5 Quinnipiac (11-7/15-14) at #4 Mount St. Mary’s (11-7/15-14)

A quick glance at their records prove this game should be close.  Mt. St. Mary’s has no more than one point home court advantage if any, but the two teams did win the home and home on their home floors.  Quinnipiac forward DeMario Anderson leads the Bobcats in scoring, rebounding, assists, and steals, and he owns a 50-foot buzzer beater this year.  That’s the type of player who can carry a team on his back for a couple of days and get his team into the finals. 

Mt. St. Mary’s is one of the current hot teams in the NEC, having won five of six to close the season.  If they can neutralize or lessen the dominance of the Bobcats’ inside game, the Mountaineers should keep this game close and have a chance to win at the end.

#7 Long Island (7-11/15-14) at #2 Wagner (15-3/22-7)

LIU finished the season 5-4 after going 2-7 in the first half of the conference schedule.  Wagner was even hotter down the stretch, finishing 7-1.  The Seahawks had a rather tough time with The Blackbirds this season.  Wagner only beat LIU by three at home and lost by 20 at LIU.  Expect this game to be hard-fought and see multiple lead changes.  In the end, the Wagner bench will outperform the LIU bench and help the Seahawks advance.

#6 Central Connecticut State (10-8/14-15) at #3 Sacred Heart (13-5/16-13)

Sacred Heart has a huge advantage here in this game.  CCSU won at Sacred Heart 100-87 just three days ago, and now the Blue Devils have to win at the William Pitt Center for the second time in four days.  CCSU will not hit 66.7% of their shots this time, and I believe the Pioneers will get their revenge.  A second round match with Wagner would be a can’t miss game.

March 3, 2008

A PiRate Look at the NCAA Basketball Conference Tournaments–March 3, 2008

 

A PiRate Look at the NCAA Basketball Conference Tournaments

1st Update

It’s the beginning of the NCAA Conference Tournament season, a near fortnight of action leading up to Selection Sunday on March 16th.

The first conference tournament games begin tomorrow (Tuesday, March 4th) evening.  So let’s take a look at these early tournaments.

Before we start, as I predicted Friday morning, Cornell’s weekend sweep has clinched their first Ivy League title since 1988.  The Big Red is the first automatic qualifiers for the 2008 NCAA Tournament.  This Ivy League champion is unlike most in recent years; Cornell can run and shoot from both inside and outside.  They can score 80 points against a major conference opponent.  If they come out in their opening game and hit the trey, they could be primed for upsetting a better seed and advancing to the round of 32.

Tournaments Beginning Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Big South

1st Round games will be held at the higher seeds.  The semifinals will be held on the campus of UNC-Asheville, while the championship game will take place at the home of the higher remaining seed.

#7 Radford (5-9/10-19) at #2 Winthrop (10-4/19-11)

Winthrop swept Radford in the regular season winning 77-59 at Radford in January and 74-59 at Winthrop a little over two weeks ago.  Winthrop saw its chance of winning the regular season title go down the tubes when the Eagles fell at home to UNC-Asheville Saturday.  The Eagles lost four of their final nine games, so they may be ripe for an upset.  I just don’t think it will happen against Radford because the Highlanders are weak defensively, and a good pattern offense like Winthrop’s will repeatedly find the holes and exploit that weakness.  Look for Winthrop to advance to the semifinals.

#6 Coastal Carolina (6-8/13-14) at #3 High Point (8-6/16-13)

The underdog actually swept the host team this season.  Can CCU make it three out of three?  They sure can, but I favor High Point to win by about a 65% probability.  The Panthers only lost at home that one game against CCU, and you have to figure they will be primed to avenge this loss.  CCU won at High Point by hitting 12, 3-pointers (eight by star guard Jack Leasure).  The Panthers have a decided advantage inside, especially with senior forward Arizona Reid who routinely records double doubles.  Look for High Point to win and then upset Winthrop in the semifinals to advance to the Big South Championship Game on March 8.

#8 Charleston Southern (4-10/10-19) at #1 UNC-Asheville (10-4/21-8)

I expect the top-seeded Bulldogs to breeze to a 15-20 point win in this opening round game.  After a late season swoon that saw UNCA drop four straight games, the Bulldogs recovered to win their final three including a season finale win at Winthrop to complete the sweep and take the conference championship.  I expect UNCA to advance to the championship game, especially if their second round opponent is Liberty.  If they have to play VMI in the semifinals, it could be a bit tricky.  A game against High Point, with the lone NCAA bid on the line, would be a can’t miss contest.

#5 VMI (6-8/14-14) at #4 Liberty (7-7/15-15)

This will be the most interesting first round game, as most #4-5 matches are.  VMI is the nation’s top scoring team at 92 points per game, but the Keydets also give up the 87 points per game.  Liberty is a patient, slow-down team that does not want to get in a running game.  In conference tournament action, I like to favor the team that is more likely to come out loose and not play like their arm muscles are contracting as they shoot.  Therefore, I am going with the visiting Keydets to win this game and advance to the semifinals, where they will scare the daylights out of UNC-Asheville.  Remember, VMI made it to the championship game of this tournament last year with a little weaker team than this one.  If the Keydets can get 10 steals tomorrow, they will still be playing on Thursday.

Horizon League

Butler ran away with the regular season title and with an RPI rating around #20, the Bulldogs are safe as an at-large team if they fail to win the conference tournament.  They host the quarterfinal and semifinal rounds, and if they are in the finals, they will host that as well.

The Horizon League format is a little different than the normal 10-team bracket.  Seeds 3-10 play in the opening two rounds, while seeds 1-2 get byes to the semifinals. 

#10 Detroit (3-15/7-22) at #3 Wright State (12-6/20-9)

Wright State had a tough time with Detroit when the Titans came to Dayton two weeks ago.  In fact, it took a last second shot for the Raiders to win.  After that game, which was the Raiders 11th straight win, Wright State dropped their final three games to be forced into playing in the opening round.  I don’t think the Raiders will come into this game ready to play, and it might allow Detroit to keep it close once again.  While I think the Raiders will eventually win, look for the Titans to be within striking distance in the final minutes.  Wright State will advance, but the Raiders might be returning home after the quarterfinals.

#7 UW-Green Bay (9-9/15-14) at #6 Valparaiso (9-9/19-12)

These teams have played each other twice with one game going to overtime.  In the 85 minutes of action, Valpo had two big runs, but UWGB controlled the action the rest of the time.  That’s how this game will be decided.  If Valpo goes on a quick run, outscoring The Phoenix by 10 points in three minutes or less, the Crusaders are going to win the game.  If UWGB can control the tempo, they will win.  It’s a dead tossup even with Valpo’s home court advantage.  The winner has an excellent shot at upsetting Wright State in the quarterfinal round, but little chance of unseating Cleveland State in the semis.

#9 Youngstown State (5-13/9-20) at #4 Illinois-Chicago (9-9/16-14)

Youngstown State mailed it in down the stretch, losing 11 of their last 13 games after being halfway decent up to then.  Illinois-Chicago showed a bit of improvement in February, and unless they just come out flat, the Flames should torch the Penguins.  Once they get past this game, they will be facing a quarterfinal opponent that is weaker than they are.  If they make it to the semifinal round, they will be facing Butler at Butler.  ‘Nuf Ced!

#8 Loyola (Chi.) (6-12/11-18) at #5 UW-Milwaukee (9-9/14-15)

UWM lost seven of their final nine games, but one of the two Panther wins came at home against Loyola.  The Ramblers lost six close games in the second half of the schedule, and they are capable of winning this game.  UWM probably has a 70% chance of winning, but I don’t see them going any farther in the tournament.

#1 Butler (16-2/27-3) and #2 Cleveland State (12-6/20-11) have byes until the semifinal round.

Ohio Valley

Opening round games are on the campuses of the higher-seeded teams.  The semifinals and finals will be held in Nashville, at the old Municipal Auditorium.  This is not on any member’s campus, although Tennessee State, UT-Martin, and Austin Peay will benefit from the close proximity to the Music City for their fans.

#8 Eastern Kentucky (10-10/14-15) at #1 Austin Peay (16-4/21-10)

After beating SE Missouri on February 9th, EKU had won seven of eight games to move to 10-5 in the league.  Then, the Colonels’ season fell apart.  They lost five of their final six games, with the one win coming out of conference.  With a shot at a number three seed in their grasps entering the final weekend, they fell at home to Austin Peay and Tennessee State.  Meanwhile, Austin Peay finished the regular season on a hot streak, winning eight of their final nine.  The Governors won all 10 league home games, but only by an average margin of 9.4 points per game.  I believe EKU will give APSU a good game but fall about six points short.  Look for the Governors to advance to Nashville as the odds-on favorite to win the championship.

#5 Samford (10-10/14-15) at #4 UT-Martin (11-9/16-15)

Here’s one time where I believe a #4-#5 contest will not be close.  Samford has the type of offense that gets easier to defend the more times you face it.  The Bulldogs only average 58.6 points per game, and they didn’t reach 50 either time they faced UTM this season (two losses).  UT-Martin has a player who can score as many points as Samford in this game.  Lester Hudson is a 6-3 guard who can score 35 points, pull down 10 rebounds, dish out 10 assists, and steal the ball 10 times in a game.  In fact, he’s the only player in NCAA Division I history to officially record a quadruple double in a game (I believe Oscar Robertson did this a couple of times when he played at Cincinnati 50 years ago, but assists and steals were not kept as official stats then).  Look for UT-Martin to win this game by a score of something like 70-55.  Then, the Skyhawks are going to prove to be trouble for Austin Peay in Nashville Friday night.

#7 Tennessee Tech (10-10/13-18) at #2 Murray State (13-7/17-12)

Tennessee Tech finished their regular season by defeating Murray State in Cookeville.  Murray will be ready to get their revenge.  In the past, when a team has beaten a team and then has to play them the very next game, the other team usually wins.  The only team that regularly defeated a team twice in a row had the name “UCLA” on their uniform and had John Wooden coaching back in the days when the Pac-8 schedule frequently had the Bruins playing the same opponent in successive games.  I look for the Racers to get their revenge in a big way and advance to Nashville.  Once their, Murray State may be primed for an upset loss.  I just don’t think this Murray team has it all together.

#6 Tennessee State (10-10/13-16) at #3 Morehead State (12-8/15-14)

Morehead State finished the conference season losing four of their final seven games after being 9-4 and having a chance to win the league at one point.  The Eagles just beat Tennessee State in Morehead last week, and this time, the Tigers may be ready to pull off the upset.  TSU led Morehead by more than 20 points in the second half, before the Eagles came back with a late run to win.  I think the Tigers are going to remember that when they face off tomorrow night, and I expect the underdog to pull off the upset.  TSU finished the season winning three of their last four including a win over Austin Peay.  The Tigers are capable of cutting down the nets Saturday night.

Tournaments Beginning Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Atlantic Sun

This is the second tournament being played in Nashville this week.  Lipscomb will be hosting the A-Sun at Allen Arena.  The Bisons came on strong as the season concluded, and they are tough on their home floor.  Top-seed Belmont has to make all of a three-mile jaunt down Belmont Boulevard to play in this tournament, so the Bruins are still the heavy favorite to three-peat and face another Final Four contender in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament.

The A-Sun awards its top two seeds by giving them a day’s rest between the quarterfinal and semifinal round; of course, this assumes that they survive the first round.  The two weakest seeds also get a chance to rest if they can pull off a first round upset. 

Wednesday, March 5

#2 Jacksonville (12-4/16-12) vs. #7 Mercer (6-10/11-18)

Jacksonville narrowly edged the Bears both times they played this year.  The Dolphins blew a 17-point lead and had to hit a shot at the buzzer to win at Mercer, and then they blew a 13-point lead against Mercer in Jacksonville before getting hot and winning in overtime.  If the Dolphins get well ahead of Mercer, both teams will be thinking about the other two times.  My guess here is that Jacksonville will not get that big lead this time, and if Mercer makes a run, the Dolphins could be heading back to Florida early.  Give Mercer at least a 40-45% chance of winning this game.  The winner then gets a day off before facing the winner of the Stetson-Gardner-Webb game.

#1 Belmont (14-2/22-8) vs. #8 Campbell (5-11/10-19)

The eighth-seeded Fighting Camels were one of two teams to peg a loss on Belmont in the A-Sun.  Belmont exacted their revenge by slaughtering Campbell to clinch the regular season championship.  The Bruins enter the tournament riding a 10-game winning streak, and Coach Rick Byrd won’t allow his troops to overlook Campbell.  Look for a big Bruin win, by at least a dozen points.  Then, with a day off, they will have the upper hand in the semifinal game, even if the opponent is Lipscomb.  This Belmont team won at Cincinnati and at Alabama earlier this season, so they won’t be in awe of their first round opponent in the Big Dance if they win their third A-Sun title in a row.  This team has the capability of becoming the next Winthrop or Davidson.

Thursday, March 6

#3 Stetson (11-5/16-15) vs. #6 Gardner-Webb (9-7/15-15)

The number six seed in the Atlantic Sun Tournament won by 16 points at the probable number three seed in the Southeastern Conference.  Yes, Gardner-Webb destroyed Kentucky at Rupp Arena back in November.  The season went south from there, as the Bulldogs finished in the middle of the pack in the league.  Stetson lost at GW in their only meeting this season.  Stetson couldn’t throw it in the ocean in that game, and I don’t expect the Hatters to hit 34.5% of their shots this time around.  Look for a hard-fought close game that could come down to the last possession.  I expect the margin of victory to be less than five points.  Unfortunately for the winner, they will have to turn around and play the following day against a rested Jacksonville or Mercer. 

#4 East Tennessee (11-5/18-12) at #5 Lipscomb (9-7/15-15)

The host Bisons were 2-5 in the league and 8-13 overall in late January, but then they turned things around with a 7-2 finish down the stretch.  One of the two losses came at the hands of East Tennessee in Johnson City by three points.  The Buccaneers also won at Lipscomb in another close game, and they are now faced with the task of beating a hot team three times in one season and twice on their home floor.  ETSU Coach Murray Bartow has a tough assignment, and if he get his charges to pull off the hat trick, their reward will be facing a rested Belmont on short notice.  I doubt ETSU can get to the finals, but Lipscomb is capable of beating ETSU and Belmont back-to-back.  I think the Bisons will prevail, setting up a third “Battle of the Boulevard” Friday night.

Patriot League

The Patriot League Tournament is nothing more than playoffs, inasmuch as every game is played on the home floor of the higher seed rather than in one location.  In what was one of the better conference races, American emerged as the top seed.  This year, there is so much parity in this conference that the number eight seed Holy Cross Crusaders could easily win the tournament, even though they would have to win three games on the road.

#8 Holy Cross (5-9/15-13) at #1 American (10-4/18-11)

Last place HCU actually won at American earlier this season.  American will definitely not overlook the Crusaders.  HCU will try to shorten the game and have a minimum number of possessions, hoping that center Tim Clifford can use his inside prowess and pull off a repeat performance that led the Crusaders to the win over American.  In that game, Clifford connected on nine of 11 shots and finished with 24 points.  It may take an effort similar to that game, but it isn’t impossible.  Still, you have to favor the Eagles to win with a probability of 80-85%.

#5 Army (6-8/13-15) at #4 Lehigh (7-7/14-14)

This will be a game in the 50’s or low 60’s, and it should go down to the wire.  Lehigh won both regular season games by five points.  They blew a 16-point lead at home and saw Army cut 13 points off that lead in a matter of minutes.  At Army, the Cadets blew a 15-point lead.  I think Lehigh will win again, and it could easily be by five points yet again.

#7 Bucknell (6-8/11-18) at #2 Navy (9-5/16-13)

Navy had a chance to win the regular season title and couldn’t win at Colgate.  Now, the Midshipmen face a school they have had a tough time defeating in recent years.  When they edged Bucknell in Annapolis three weeks ago, it marked their only win over the Bison in four years.  This game will be close the entire way, and it will take a big effort by Navy’s big three of Greg Spink, Chris Harris, and Kaleo Kina.  The trio combined for 68 points in the win at Alumni Hall.

#6 Lafayette (6-8/15-14) at #3 Colgate (7-7/16-13)

Colgate finished the season as the Patriot League’s hottest team, and I believe the Raiders are the true team to beat in the conference tournament.  Lafayette was the coldest team down the stretch.  After starting Patriot League play 4-0, the Leopards lost eight of 10.  I can see no reason why these trends will change over the course of a couple days.  Look for Colgate to win by five to 10 points.

Sunbelt

This is a league where two teams could obtain NCAA bids, especially if someone can topple top-seed and host team South Alabama.  Western Kentucky is the one team that can do it, and USA beat them both times they played this year.  It will be hard to beat the Hilltoppers three times in a row, even in Mobile.  Western’s RPI is in the high 40’s, so it isn’t totally impossible for WKU to get an at-large bid.

The top three teams get first round byes, while teams 4-13 play on the campus of the better seed.  While WKU had the second best record, the West Division champion Arkansas-Little Rock gets the number two seed, while the Hilltoppers drop to number three.

#13 UL-Monroe (4-14/10-20) at #4 Middle Tennessee (11-7/14-14)

Middle Tennessee closed the season winning seven of their last 10 games including knocking off regular season champion South Alabama.  The Blue Raiders should advance to the quarterfinals with a win over ULM, but it won’t be easy.  The Warhawks thumped MTSU in Monroe, leading by double digits most of the game.  ULM lost their final four regular season games by an average margin of 14.5 points.  Look for the Blue Raiders to get revenge and advance to the quarterfinals where they will meet winner of Troy and UL-Lafayette.

#12 Troy (4-14/11-18) at #5 UL-Lafayette (11-7/15-14)

ULL finished the season as hot as anybody in the league.  The Ragin’ Cagins won five of their final six and played great defense, yielding just 60.7 points per game in that stretch.  Additionally, ULL possessed an excellent inside game while they were moving up in the standings.  You have to consider them a dark horse candidate for winning the tournament.  Troy hasn’t much of a chance in this game.  They don’t match up well against ULL and will be dominated inside the paint.  A ULL-MTSU quarterfinal match would be a great battle.

#11 Arkansas State (5-13/10-19) at #6 North Texas (10-8/19-10)

Arkansas State will bow out quickly in this game.  The Indians are already looking ahead to the future and the possibility that Nolan Richardson could become their next coach.  Meanwhile, North Texas won five of six to close the season on a run.  The Mean Green pegged a loss on South Alabama, and out of conference, UNT defeated Oklahoma State and New Mexico State.  This team can not only win the conference tournament, they can win in the Big Dance.  Look for a big North Texas win and a date against Western Kentucky in the next round.

#10 Florida Int’l (6-12/9-19) at #7 Florida Atlantic (8-10/14-17)

FAU was 1-7 in Sunbelt play before finishing 7-3 in the final five weeks, averaging 82.5 points per game.  Two of those three losses came to the big two, WKU and USA.  The other loss, though, came at the hands of their arch-rival and opening round opponent, FIU.  In fact, the Golden Panthers defeated the Owls both times this year.  Look for FAU to get some revenge and win the one that really counts.  The winner of this game will play Arkansas-Little Rock in the next round.  FAU has the talent to win that game and advance to the semifinals, but they have to get past their nemesis first.

#9 Denver (7-11/11-18) at #8 New Orleans (8-10/18-12)

UNO was 14-5 at one point this year with wins over North Carolina State, Tulane, and Lamar.  Then, they swooned.  The Privateers lost seven of their last 11 games.  One of those wins was a six-point defeat of Denver in Denver.  The Pioneers lost their final six games after being in contention in the West Division halfway through the conference schedule.  In a battle of teams headed nowhere, look for UNO to win unimpressively and then flop in their next game against top seed South Alabama.

Tournaments Beginning Thursday, March 6, 2008

Missouri Valley

The Valley had the eighth best RPI among the conferences this year, so you have to figure that more than one member will find a spot in the Field of 65.  Drake is a lock, while Illinois State is squarely on the bubble.   Southern Illinois and Creighton are long shots for at-large consideration, but they are talented enough to win this year’s Arch Madness.

# 8 Indiana St. (8-10/14-15)  vs. # 9 Wichita St. (4-14/11-19) 

These are two teams headed in the same direction, but unfortunately, its’ the wrong direction.  Neither team looked impressive down the stretch.  They hooked up in Terre Haute two weeks ago, and Wichita State led by 20 with less than 15 minutes to play.  ISU went on a 23-3 run in the next six minutes to tie the game and went on to win by 10 in overtime.  Look for Wichita State to keep this game close all the way and have a chance to get a bit of revenge with an upset over the Sycamores.  The winner gets top-seed Drake, a team that has not been playing their best ball at the end of the season.

# 7 Missouri State (8-10/16-15)  vs. # 10 Evansville (3-15/9-20)

Can a team that not only was blown out by another team, they had the score doubled against them, turn around and beat that same team 19 days later?  Missouri State beat Evansville 76-38 on February 19, and the Bears beat the Purple Aces by 19 earlier in the season.  Sure, it can be hard to beat a team three times in a row, but then again North Carolina could play New Jersey Institute of Technology 30 times a year and win all 30.  Look for the Bears to win by double digits for the third time and advance to face Illinois State in the next round, where they will be sent packing.

# 4 Creighton (10-8/20-9) vs. # 5 Bradley (9-9/17-14) will play Friday in the second round with the winner facing the winner of Drake and either Indiana State or Wichita State.

# 3 Southern Illinois (11-7/17-13) vs. # 6 UNI (9-9/17-13) will play Friday in the second round with the winner facing the winner of the Illinois State and either Missouri State or Evansville.

I look for the champion of this conference to come from the #2-3-7-10 bracket.  I expect Illinois State and Southern Illinois to face off in the semifinals with the winner cutting down the nets the following night.

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