The Pi-Rate Ratings

August 3, 2011

The PiRates Have Returned To Dry Land Ready For Football

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Monday, August 15:SunbeltConference

Tuesday, August 16: Mid-American Conference

Wednesday, August 17: ConferenceUSA

Thursday, August 18: Western Athletic Conference

Friday, August 19: Independents

Monday, August 22: Mountain West Conference

Tuesday, August 23: Big East Conference

Wednesday, August 24:AtlanticCoastConference

Thursday, August 25: Pacific 12 Conference

Friday, August 26: Big 12 Conference

Monday, August 29: Southeastern Conference

Tuesday, August 30: Big Ten Conference

 

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

 

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

March 13, 2011

NCAA Basketball Conference Tournaments–March 13 Update

Selection Sunday Is Here

Over the weekend, we here at the PiRate Ratings have been perusing all the statistical information relevant to our popular PiRate Bracket-picking criteria.  What began as a simple back-testing exercise six years ago has evolved into a lengthy formula that has proven to be rather accurate at isolating the real contenders from the pretenders.

 

We have determined which factors are important and which are irrelevant when it comes to the NCAA Tournament.  Last year, with about 1,150 readers coming to our site to read the pre-tournament prediction, we shocked a lot of Blue Mist fanatics by predicting that their beloved Wildcats would fail to reach the Final Four.  We said the same thing about Kansas.  It was a foregone conclusion that the Wildcats and Jayhawks were on a collision course to play in one of those games of the century.

 

We crunched the numbers and predicted Coach K and Duke to win the title.  The choice was not popular.  We were told, sometimes not in the King’s English, how stupid our formula must be to take a not-so-great Duke team (when compared to the really good Duke teams in the past), and how our formula was full of baloney.  We had to laugh when one reader lambasted us using the same words he had used the year before when we tabbed North Carolina as a bigger favorite to win it all than Ronald Reagan was in the 1984 election.

 

For the record, we predicted Kansas and Memphis to make it to the finals in 2008, and we forecasted Florida and UCLA to meet for the championship in 2006.  We also told you to watch out for tiny George Mason that year as they had a criteria score that made them a contender to advance to the Elite Eight.

 

We made a handful of West Virginia fans happy when we called for the Mountaineers to win four games and crash the Final Four party.  We forecasted the Regional Final win over Kentucky before the play-in game tipped off.  On the bright side, for some fans from the Bluegrass, we correctly predicted Murray State to upset Vanderbilt in the first round.

 

This formula has its drawbacks as well as its benefits.  It is strictly a mechanical formula much like a stock screener.  It does not consider a lot of the intangibles, such as emotion, motivation, and intestinal fortitude.  Of course, it removes all the biases and looks only for the pertinent statistics that propelled past teams into the Final Four.

 

For instance, we missed on Butler last year.  We called for UTEP to upset the Bulldogs in the first round in what we thought was the best overall matchup of the first two days.  We missed on other first and second round games as well.  We explicitly state that this formula is geared toward finding the teams that can advance to the Elite Eight and Final Four and finding the team that best emulates past champions.

 

Remember this:  the 1927 New York Yankees, the best baseball team ever (better than the 1939 Yankees in our opinion), lost 44 games during the season.  28.6% of the time, an inferior team defeated the Bronx Bombers.  There are 32 games in the first round, so a record of 23-9 should be considered as dominating as the 1927 Yankees.

 

Let’s say that the top predictors can successfully pick 80% of the tournament games correctly when filling out their brackets.  Apply common mathematics to the 64 advancing teams after the First Four Round is played in Dayton, and that leaves you with 25.6 correct picks in the first round.  That means that 6.4 of the teams you picked are gone, so you cannot win any more games involving those exited teams.

 

In the second round, if you are fortunate to pick 80% correctly once again, 10.24 of the Sweet 16 will be teams you picked to make it to the second week of the tournament.  The other 5.76 teams still around are teams you did not pick, so they cannot help you in your brackets.  Remember, this amount is about the high end of the threshold for the best prognosticators.

 

Applying our 80% success rate in the next two rounds, 4.1 of our teams will make the Elite Eight, and 1.64 of our teams will make the Final Four.  You see just how difficult it can be to fill out your brackets.  It really gives you a headache when the junior executive’s sweet little secretary wins the office pool because she chose her teams based on the number of syllables in their name.  Pure luck sometimes wins over hard work.  That’s life.

We can tell you one thing about this year’s probable NCAA Tournament field.  It is not the most dominating field.  We have yet to finish collecting all the data we need to put numbers to the criteria, but we can tell you that we expect more first round and second round games to be decided in the final minutes than most years.  It makes for a great tournament to watch, but it makes for five headaches for the five of us to live up to our past successes.

 

Tonight, we will begin our NCAA Tournament coverage with a full explanation of our system.  Beginning Monday, we will start to analyze each of the four regionals and tell you which teams have the best chance of advancing to Houston’s Reliant Stadium.

 

Let’s take a look at some unfinished business.  There are four conference tournament championships on tap for today.  One of them can cause a chain reaction and force the bottom team on the bubble into the NIT.

 

Atlantic Coast Conference—Greensboro, NC

#1 North Carolina (26-6)  vs. #2 Duke (29-4)

1:00 PM EDT  ESPN

It’s always great when the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox meet in the American League Playoffs.  Well, it is great if you are not a fan of the other teams.  The Big Two from Tobacco Road meet for a third time this season in the rubber game.  It is the 30th time for both in the ACC Championship Game.

 

North Carolina blew a large lead at Cameron Indoor Stadium in February, but the Tar Heels breezed to a win at the Dean Dome last week to wrap up the regular season championship.  Carolina has not lost since that game at Duke, and the Tar Heels are on a 14-1 streak since mid-January.  It has not been easy for Coach Roy Williams and his team, as they have had to come back from double digit deficits in the second half of both of their tournament games.

 

Duke weathered a mighty scare when Nolan Smith went down with a toe injury in the quarterfinal game against Maryland, but Smith showed no signs that it affected him when he returned Saturday to score 27 points in an easy win over Virginia Tech.

 

This is definitely the game of the day as you prepare for the big announcements this evening.  Flip a coin.  This is a 50-50 affair.  We’ll go with the Tar Heels because they looked better overall down the stretch than the Blue Devils, but we have no real reason to pick one rival over the other.  It will come down to which team has a better shooting eye today and has the most rest.

 

Atlantic 10 Conference—Atlantic City, NJ

#3 Richmond (26-7)  vs. #9 Dayton (22-12)

1:00 PM EDT  CBS

Fans of Michigan State, Virginia Tech, Boston College, Southern Cal, Alabama, and other bubble teams will be rooting like crazy for the Spiders today.  If Dayton upsets Richmond, the last team in the tournament will be exiled to the NIT.

 

Richmond has won six games in a row and 10 of 11.  The Spiders have outscored their opponents by 12 points per game in their current streak, and their Princeton-style offense has really jelled down the stretch.  Their defense has been as potent as their offense.  In the last four games, opponents have connected on just 35.3% of their shots.

 

Dayton connected on just 34.4% of their shots in a nine-point home loss to Richmond in the regular season.  The Flyers were in the middle of a 6-9 slide when they played Richmond in late January.

 

The Flyers came out flying in the A-10 Tournament.  In the first two rounds, Dayton couldn’t miss from outside.  Three-point barrages in both games gave the Flyers early double-digit leads.  Yesterday, the shots did not fall, but the Flyers held on with defense.

 

We do not expect Dayton to jump out to a big lead today.  In fact, we believe they will commit just enough errors for Richmond to exploit with their patient offense and help one bubble team stay alive.

 

Big Ten Conference—Indianapolis

#1 Ohio State (31-2)  vs. #6 Penn State (19-13)

3:30 PM EDT  CBS

If this were only football, we would call this the game of the day.  Then, again, we would probably break out into a discussion about Joe Paterno and his squeaky clean history against Jim Tressel and his e-mail history.

 

On paper, this game looks like a mismatch, but in reality, Ohio State has not dominated this weekend, while Penn State has.

 

The Buckeyes are playing for the first overall seed.  A loss today would give that honor to Kansas.  Penn State appears to be in the Big Dance, but there is still a tiny pinhole of doubt.  A loss would leave the Nittany Lions at 19-14.

 

Ohio State struggled all day against Northwestern’s slowdown.  Penn State can slow this game down and play much better defense than the Wildcats.  We believe the big underdog has a legitimate chance to win the title.

 

Southeastern Conference—Atlanta

#1E  Florida (26-6)  vs. #2E  Kentucky (24-8)
1:00 PM EDT  ABC

Florida does not need much help to win this game and move up as high as a number two seed.  Kentucky’s lack of depth forced Coach John Calipari to stick with his starters long after he needed to do so yesterday, and two Wildcat starters exited the game with ankle injuries in the final minutes.

 

The worse of the two injuries belong to star Doron Lamb, and Lamb may or may not be available to play today.  Florida’s offense forces defenders to cover a lot of territory, and Lamb will not be able to play defense the way it is needed to stop the Gators’ offense.

 

We look for the Gators to put this game away in the first five minutes of the second half.

 

Check back just before the brackets are announced tonight.  We will have our bracket-picking primer online around 5:45 PM Eastern Daylight Time.

March 12, 2011

NCAA Basketball Conference Tournaments–March 12 Update

Bucknell Joins The Dance Party

The Bucknell Bison earned the Patriot League’s automatic bid Friday with a 72-54 victory over Lafayette.  Versatile big man Mike Muscala led the Bison with 18 points while sharpshooter Bryson Johnson added 15.

 

Bucknell improved to 25-8 on the season.  They project to be a 12 or 13-seed.

 

12 More Bids To Go Out Saturday

 

This is the busiest day of the tournament schedule.  13 conferences will crown their champion, and four other conferences will conduct semifinal rounds.  All told, every single one of the 21 games scheduled will be televised nationally.  Do you have enough televisions and a good high-speed computer?

 

Here is a conference-by-conference look at all the action.

 

All Game Times EST

 

Atlantic Coast Conference—Greensboro, NC

Quarterfinal Round

#1 North Carolina  61  #9 Miami  59

#4 Clemson  70  #5 Boston College  47

#2 Duke  87  #7 Maryland  71

#6 Virginia Tech  52  #3 Florida State  51 

 

Semifinal Round

#1 North Carolina (25-6)  vs. #4 Clemson (21-10)  1:30 PM  ESPN 

#2 Duke (28-4)  vs. #6 Virginia Tech (21-11)  3:45 PM  ESPN

 

All four teams are safely in the NCAA Tournament.  The Hokies secured a spot in the Dance with the nail-biting win over the Seminoles.

 

America East Conference

Championship Round

#5 Stony Brook (15-16)  at #2 Boston U (20-13)  12 Noon  ESPN2

 

Boston U won both regular season meetings.  The Terriers won 67-62 at home and 62-49 on the road.  They win with their defense, as they only shoot 40.6% from the field.

 

Atlantic 10 Conference—Atlantic City, NJ

Quarterfinal Round

#9 Dayton  68  #1 Xavier  67

#12 St. Joseph’s  93  #4 Duquesne  90  ot

#2 Temple  96  #10 LaSalle  76

#3 Richmond  55  #6 Rhode Island 45

 

Semifinal Round

#9 Dayton (21-12)  vs. #12 St. Joseph’s (11-21)  1 PM  CBS College

#2 Temple (25-6)  vs. #3 Richmond (24-7)  3:30 PM  CBS College

 

The Bubble teams will have to sweat it out all the way until Sunday.  At least one long shot will advance to the Championship Game.  Neither St. Joe’s nor Dayton is getting an at-large bid, and one of the two will be playing for an automatic bid Sunday.  Both Temple and Richmond are in the Dance.

 

Big 12 Conference—Kansas City

Semifinal Round

#1 Kansas  90  #5 Colorado  83

#2 Texas  70  #3 Texas A&M  58

 

Championship Game

#1 Kansas (31-2)  vs. #2 Texas (27-6)  6 PM  ESPN

 

The Jayhawks are still playing for the overall number one seed, while Texas is probably locked in on a number two seed.  However, with Notre Dame losing, a Longhorn win could put them in the conversation, especially if Duke does not win the ACC Tournament.

 

Big East Conference—New York City

Semifinal Round

#9 Connecticut  76  #4 Syracuse  71  ot

#3 Louisville 83  #2 Notre Dame  77  ot 

 

Championship Game

#3 Louisville (25-8)  vs. #9 Connecticut (25-9)  9 PM  ESPN

 

Connecticut becomes the first team ever to play five games in five days in modern college basketball history.  Will they have anything left in the tank next week when it really counts?  Louisville’s win more than likely killed any chance for the Irish getting a number one seed in the NCAA Tournament.

 

Big Ten Conference—Indianapolis

Quarterfinal Round

#1 Ohio State  67  #8 Northwestern  61 ot

#4 Michigan  60  #5 Illinois  55

#7 Michigan State  74  #2 Purdue  56

#6 Penn State  36  #3 Wisconsin 33

 

Semifinal Round

#1 Ohio State (30-2)  vs. #4 Michigan (20-12)  1:40 PM  CBS

#6 Penn State (18-13)  vs. #7 Michigan State (19-13)  4 PM  CBS

 

Michigan State has now earned a spot in the NCAA Tournament.  Penn State might move from the Bubble to in the tournament with a win over the Spartans.

 

Big West Conference—Anaheim

Semifinal Round

#1 Long Beach State  74  #7 UC-Riverside  63

#5 UC-Santa Barbara 83  #3 Cal State Northridge 63

 

Championship Game

#1 Long Beach State (22-10)  vs. #5 UC-Santa Barbara (17-13)  8 PM  ESPN2

 

Long Beach State won both meetings against the Gauchos in the regular season, and neither game was close.  The 49ers are not going to become another Butler or even repeat the exploits of Northern Iowa last year, but they could scare a favored team in the first round.  If UCSB wins, then they will make a quick exit in the first round.

 

Conference USA—El Paso, TX

Semifinal Round

#4 Memphis  76  #8 East Carolina  56

#3 U T E P  66  #2 Tulsa  54

 

Championship Game

#3 UTEP (25-8)  vs. #4 Memphis (24-9)  11:30 AM  CBS

 

The host Miners blew Memphis off the floor 74-47 in their only regular season meeting.  That game took place on this court.

 

Ivy League Playoff

Harvard (23-5)  vs. Princeton (24-6)  at Yale University  4 PM  ESPN3.com 

 

If Princeton wins a close game, there is an outside chance that the Ivy League could get two bids.

 

Mid-American Conference—Cleveland

Semifinal Round

#6 Akron  79  #2 Western Michigan  68

#1 Kent State 79  #4 Ball State 68

 

Championship Game

#1 Kent State (23-10)  vs. #6 Akron (22-12)  6 PM  ESPN2

 

The winner goes dancing, while the loser can only hope for a trip to Madison Square Garden in late March.

 

M E A C—Winston-Salem, NC

Semifinal Round

#4 Morgan State  61  #1 Bethune-Cookman  48

#2 Hampton  85  #6 Norfolk State  61

 

Championship Game

#2 Hampton (23-8)  vs. #4 Morgan State (17-13)  2 PM  ESPN2

 

Morgan State goes for a four-peat.  The Bears beat Hampton in the regular season 78-72.

 

Mountain West Conference—Las Vegas

Semifinal Round

#1 B Y U  87  #5 New Mexico  76

#2 San Diego State  74  #3 UNLV 72

 

Championship Game

#1 B Y U  (30-3)  vs. #2 San Diego State (31-2)  7 PM  Versus

 

Is the third time the charm for San Diego State?  The Aztecs’ two losses were to the Cougars.  If they can hold Jimmer Fredette under 35 points, we have a feeling that SDSU will cut down the nets. 

 

Both teams are legitimate threats to make it to the Sweet 16 and possibly a round or two farther.

 

Pac-10 Conference—Los Angeles

Semifinal Round

#1 Arizona  67  #4 Southern Cal  62

#3 Washington 69  #7 Oregon 51

 

Championship Game

#1 Arizona (27-6)  vs. #3 Washington (22-10)  6 PM  CBS

 

This should be an exciting game, even though it will not greatly affect the NCAA Tournament seedings.

 

The two teams split the season series, but the Huskies came close to sweeping.  UW won by 17 at home and fell by a single point in Tucson.  We think this is a tossup game.

 

Southeastern Conference—Atlanta

Quarterfinal Round

1W  Alabama 65  4E Georgia 59  ot

2E  Kentucky  75  3W  Ole Miss 66

1E  Florida  85  5E  Tennessee  74

3E  Vanderbilt  87  2W  Mississippi State  81

 

Semifinal Round

1W  Alabama (21-10)  vs. 2E  Kentucky (23-8)  1 PM  ABC

1E  Florida (25-6)  vs.  3E  Vanderbilt (23-9)  3:30 PM  ABC

 

Alabama played themselves into position to get one of the final at-large bids.  The Crimson Tide fans need to route against a Dayton or St. Joseph’s tournament championship in the Atlantic 10, because there is still little room for error for ‘Bama.

 

Kentucky looks unstoppable at times and then looks like a team that doesn’t belong in the tournament at others.  That’s what you get with a bunch of underclassmen and with no depth.

 

We believe this game will be close for most of the day, but the Wildcats will enjoy one nice spurt in both halves to hold off the Tide by six to 12 points.

 

Florida is playing about as well as either of their two National Champion teams.  It is hard to stop a team with five guys capable of scoring 20 points.  The Gators’ have few weaknesses.

 

Vanderbilt is a lot like Florida, but not as talented.  The Commodores have excellent outside shooters, but they cannot create their own shot like Florida’s outside shooters.  They have a couple of excellent inside scorers, but they can disappear against Florida’s inside players.  We look for the Gators to dominate this one from the beginning and win by double digits.

 

Southland Conference—Katy, TX

Championship Game

#1 McNeese State (21-10)  vs. #7 UT-San Antonio (18-13)  4 PM  ESPN2

 

S W A C—Garland, TX

Semifinal Round

#4 Alabama State  73  #1 Texas Southern  66

#6 Grambling  81  #2 Jackson State  75  ot

 

Championship Game

#4 Alabama State (16-17)  vs. #6 Grambling (12-20)  8:30 PM  ESPNU

 

The winner of this game can definitely plan on heading to Dayton for a First Four game.

 

W A C—Las Vegas

Semifinal Round

#1 Utah State  58  #8 San Jose State  54

#2 Boise State 81  #3 New Mexico State  63

 

Championship Game

#1 Utah State (29-3)  vs. #2 Boise State (20-11) 10 PM  ESPN2

 

Utah State is definitely in the Dance, so if the Broncos can pull off the big upset, another bubble will burst somewhere else.

 

Note: St. Mary’s defeated Weber State Friday night 77-54 in a non-conference game that was scheduled only two months ago.  The Gaels appear to be safe as an at-large team.

March 11, 2011

NCAA Basketball Conference Tournaments–March 11 Update

Patriot League Championship—4:45 PM EST On ESPN2

#6 Lafayette (13-18)  at #1 Bucknell (24-8)

 

Lafayette makes an appearance in the conference championship game for the second consecutive year.  The Leopards fell to rival Lehigh last season and were tabbed the best team in the league in the preseason.  They took a step backward and tumbled to sixth in the league.

 

Bucknell closed 2010 with an 8-2 finish and returned all five starters and most of their key reserves.  The Bison continued to play top-notch ball and ran away with the Patriot League title.  Bucknell is on fire, having won nine games in a row by an average of 72-60 and 22 of their last 24 games.

 

The Bison swept the series against their Keystone State rival, winning 75-56 in Lewisburg and 74-69 in overtime at Easton.  Tonight’s game is on the West Branch of the Susquehanna River, so Bucknell will enjoy the home court advantage.

 

In the earlier game in Lewisburg, Bucknell began the second half of a close game by going on a 20-3 run to put the game out of reach.  The Bison held Lafayette to 37% shooting and controlled the boards by 14.  In the game at Lafayette, Bucknell led 61-50 with four and a half minutes to go, but the Bison did not score another point in regulation.  Lafayette scored 11 consecutive points to force overtime and then briefly took a 64-61 lead at the start of the extra period.  The Leopards shot under 40% again and were outrebounded once again.

 

Bucknell goes just seven-deep, and all seven contribute to the offense.  Muscular big man Mike Muscala leads the way with 14.8 points and 7.5 rebounds per game.  The 6-11 Muscala has recorded six double-doubles in the last 15 games.  Bryson Johnson is an excellent long-range shooter, and he shoots 47% from three-point range.  As a team, Bucknell shoots 40.6% from behind the arc.

 

Lafayette led the entire game at Holy Cross in the conference tournament quarterfinal.  The Leopards placed five players in double figure scoring, and they stole the ball nine times to knock off the Crusaders.  In the semifinal round at number two seed American, the Leopards trailed by two points in the final seconds when Jim Mower buried a three-pointer as the clock expired to seal a double overtime victory.

 

If the Leopards are to pull off the big upset and advance to a First Four game in Dayton next week, big man Jared Mintz will have to neutralize Muscala.  Mintz gives away two inches in height, but he has the power to hold his own inside.  Mintz leads the Leopards with a 15.8 point scoring average and 5.8 rebound average.  Mower averages 12.4 points per game.

 

Thursday’s Results And Friday’s Games With NCAA Tournament Repercussions

All Times EST

Atlantic Coast Conference—Greensboro, NC

1st Round

#9 Miami  69  #8 Virginia  62

#5 Boston College  81  #12 Wake Forest  67

#7 Maryland  75  #10 North Carolina State  67

#6 Virginia Tech  59  #11 Georgia Tech  43

 

Quarterfinal Round

#9 Miami (19-13)  vs. #1 North Carolina (24-6)  12 Noon  ESPN2

#5 Boston College (20-11)  vs. #4 Clemson (20-10)  Approx. 2:15 PM  ESPN2

#7 Maryland (19-13)  vs. #2 Duke (27-4)  7 PM  ESPN2

#6 Virginia Tech (20-10)  vs. #3 Florida State (21-9)  Approx. 9:15 PM  ESPN2

 

North Carolina, Duke, Florida State, Clemson, and Boston College are in.  Virginia Tech, Maryland, and Miami are on the bubble.  Miami and Maryland must win today, or they are NIT-bound.  Virginia Tech is in a near must-win situation.  They are on the middle of the bubble.

 

Atlantic 10 Conference—Atlantic City, NJ

No Games Played Thursday

Quarterfinal Round

#9 Dayton (20-12)  vs. #1 Xavier (24-6)  12 Noon  CBS College

#12 St. Joseph’s (10-21)  vs. #4 Duquesne (18-11)  2:30 PM  CBS College

#10 LaSalle (15-17)  vs. #2 Temple (24-6)  6:30 PM  CBS College

#6 Rhode Island (19-12)  vs. #3 Richmond (24-7)  9 PM  CBS College

 

Xavier, Temple, and Richmond are in.  Duquesne must win the tournament to get in, so the bubble teams will be pulling for Dayton or Xavier to stop them in the semifinals.  Keep an eye on Rhode Island.  The Rams are capable of upsetting Richmond and Temple to get to the finals.

 

Big 12 Conference—Kansas City

Quarterfinal Round

#1 Kansas  53  #9 Oklahoma State  52

#5 Colorado  87  #4 Kansas State  75

#2 Texas  74  #10 Oklahoma  54

#3 Texas A&M  86  #6 Missouri  71

 

Semifinal Round

#1 Kansas (30-2)  vs. #5 Colorado (21-12)  7 PM

#2 Texas (26-6)  vs. #3 Texas A&M (24-7)  9:30 PM

 

Kansas, Texas, Texas A&M, Missouri, Kansas State, and Colorado are in.  The Buffalos secured their bid yesterday, so the rest of this tournament is all about the seedings.

 

Big East Conference—New York City

Quarterfinal Round

#9 Connecticut  76  #1 Pittsburgh  74

#4 Syracuse  79  #5 St. John’s  73

#2 Notre Dame  89  #7 Cincinnati  51

#3 Louisville  81  #11 Marquette  56

 

Semifinal Round

#9 Connecticut (24-9)  vs. #4 Syracuse (26-6)  7 PM  ESPN

#2 Notre Dame (26-5)  vs. #3 Louisville (24-8)  Approx. 9:15 PM  ESPN

 

11, yes 11, teams will receive invitations Sunday evening.  This is the strongest league not just this year, but maybe since the Big East placed three teams in the Final Four in 1985.  This should be a great finish to the tournament, and Notre Dame has a chance to move to a number one seed if the Irish win it.  Any one of these four could still be playing in late March.

 

Big Ten Conference—Indianapolis

1st Round

#8 Northwestern  75  #9 Minnesota  65

#7 Michigan State  66  #10 Iowa  61

#6 Penn State  61  #11 Indiana  55

 

Quarterfinal Round

#1 Ohio State (29-2)  vs. #8 Northwestern (18-12) 12 Noon  ESPN

#4 Michigan (19-12)  vs. #5 Illinois (19-12)  Approx 2:20  ESPN

#2 Purdue (25-6)  vs. #7 Michigan State (18-13)  6:30 PM  Big Ten Network

#3 Wisconsin (23-7)  vs. #6 Penn State (17-13)  Approx. 8:45  Big Ten Network

 

Ohio State, Purdue, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Illinois are in.  Michigan State can definitely punch a ticket with an upset over Purdue today, and they are still on the highest part of the bubble if they lose.  Northwestern and Penn State must win the tournament to get in, although the Nittany Lions could get in the discussion with a loss in the finals.  We would not be all that surprised if the Wildcats play Ohio State a close game, at least for 30 to 32 minutes.

 

Big West Conference—Anaheim

Quarterfinal Round

#1 Long Beach State 79  #8 UC-Irvine  72

#5 UC-Santa Barbara  79  #4 Pacific  67

#7 UC-Riverside  70  #2 Cal Poly  66  ot

#3 Cal State Northridge  75  #6 Cal State Fullerton  54

 

Semifinal Round

#1 Long Beach State (21-10)  vs. #5 UC-Santa Barbara (16-13)  9:30 PM  ESPNU

#3 Cal State Northridge (14-17)  vs. #7 UC-Riverside (12-18)  12 Midnight  ESPNU

 

The champion is the only team that will advance.  Long Beach State has a minimal at best chance of winning a first round game if they are the champion.

 

Conference USA—El Paso, TX

Quarterfinal Round

#8 East Carolina  75  #1 U A B  70  ot

#4 Memphis  66  #5 Southern Miss.  63

#3 U T E P  77  #6 Marshall  65

#2 Tulsa  81  #7 Rice  72

 

Semifinal Round

#2 Tulsa (19-12)  vs. #3 U T E P  (24-8)  3 PM 

#4 Memphis (23-9)  vs. #8 East Carolina (18-14)  5:30 PM

 

At this point, no team is guaranteed a spot in the Big Dance.  UAB played their way to the bottom half of the bubble with a loss to ECU.  Memphis and UTEP could possibly get into the conversation if they both advance to the championship game.  For now, we are projecting just the champion to make it into the tournament.  The host Miners enjoy a large home court advantage and should top Tulsa in a thriller today.

 

Mid-American Conference—Cleveland

Quarterfinal Round

#2 Western Michigan 67  #7 Bowling Green  56

#6 Akron  82  #3 Miami (O)  75  2ot

#1 Kent State  73  #8 Buffalo  62

#4 Ball State  76  #5 Ohio U  73  ot

 

Semifinal Round

#2 Western Michigan (20-11)  vs. #6 Akron (21-12)  7 PM

#1 Kent State (22-10)  vs. #4 Ball State (19-12)  9:30 PM

 

The MAC has been down in recent years, but the eventual champion of this tournament could be a formidable opponent as a number 13 or 14 seed for a better team in the first round. 

 

M E A C—Winston-Salem, NC

Quarterfinal Round

#4 Morgan State  77  #5 North Carolina A&T  59

#6 Norfolk State  55  #3 Coppin State 53

 

Semifinal Round

#1 Bethune-Cookman (21-11)  vs. #4 Morgan State (16-13)  6 PM

#2 Hampton (22-8) vs. #6 Norfolk State (12-19)  Approx. 8:15 PM

 

These teams are playing for a probable spot in the First Four.  The first semifinal will be a thriller; the top-seeded Wildcats face the three-time defending champion Bears.

 

Hampton has been a surprise team, and they should have an easier contest and be more rested for the championship.

 

Mountain West Conference—Las Vegas

Quarterfinal Round

#1 B Y U  64  #9 T C U  58

#5 New Mexico  67  #4 Colorado State 61

#2 San Diego State  64  #7 Utah  50

#3 U N L V  69  #6 Air Force 53

 

Semifinal Round

#1 B Y U (29-3)  vs. #5 New Mexico (21-11)  9 PM  CBS College

#2 San Diego State (30-2)  vs. #3 U N L V  (24-7)  11:30 PM  CBS College

 

BYU, San Diego State, and UNLV are in.  Colorado State played themselves into the NIT with the loss yesterday to New Mexico.  As for the Lobos, with a third win over BYU today, they could get into the conversation, but they probably need to earn the automatic bid to go dancing.

 

Pac-10 Conference—Los Angeles

Quarterfinal Round

#1 Arizona 78  #9 Oregon State  69

#4 Southern Cal  70  #5 California  56

#7 Oregon  76  #2 U C L A  59

#3 Washington 89  #6 Washington State 87

 

Semifinal Round

#1 Arizona (26-6)  vs. #4 Southern Cal (19-13)  9 PM  Fox Sports

#3 Washington (21-10)  vs. #7 Oregon (16-16)  11:30 PM  Fox Sports

 

Arizona, UCLA, and Washington are in.  Oregon must win this tournament to get in.  As for Southern Cal, the Trojans might work their way into one of the final bubble spots with an upset over the top-seeded Wildcats tonight.  Last night’s battle of the Evergreen State was one of the most exciting of the tournament season with the Huskies coming from behind to knock off arch-rival Washington State by two.

 

Southeastern Conference—Atlanta

1st Round

#4E  Georgia  69  #5W  Auburn  51

#3W  Ole Miss  66  #6E  South Carolina  55

#5E  Tennessee  74  #4W  Arkansas  68

#3E  Vanderbilt  62  #6W  L S U  50

 

Quarterfinal Round

#1W  Alabama (21-10)  vs. #4E Georgia (20-10)  1 PM

#2E  Kentucky (22-8)  vs. #3W Ole Miss (20-12)  3:30 PM

#1E  Florida (24-6)  vs. #5E  Tennessee (19-13)  7:30 PM

#2W Mississippi State (17-13)  vs. #3E  Vanderbilt (22-9)  10 PM

 

Florida, Kentucky, and Vanderbilt are definitely in.  Tennessee is probably in and would only be out if a lot of surprise winners win the remaining conference tournaments.  The Vols would safely secure a spot with a win over the Gators. 

 

The big game in all of college basketball today is the Georgia-Alabama game.  Call this an extra play-in game.  The winner survives to the Dance, while the loser will be hosting an NIT game next week.

 

Southland Conference—Katy, TX

Semifinal Round

#1 McNeese State  91  #4 Texas State  83

#7 UT-San Antonio  79  #3 Sam Houston State 70

 

Championship Game on Saturday

 

S W A C—Garland, TX

Quarterfinal Round

#4 Alabama State  81  #5 Alabama A&M 61

#6 Grambling  65  #3 Mississippi Valley  62

 

Semifinal Round

#2 Jackson State (17-14)  vs. #6 Grambling (11-20)  3:30 PM

#1 Texas Southern (19-11)  vs. #4 Alabama State (15-17)  9 PM

 

The Champion will probably be forced to play in the First Four.  Jackson State is on a mission after losing in the first round last year as the number one seed.

 

W A C—Las Vegas

Quarterfinal Round

#8 San Jose State  74  #4 Idaho 68

#3 New Mexico State  66  #6 Nevada  60

 

Semifinal Round

#1 Utah State (28-3)  vs. #8 San Jose State (17-14)  9 PM

#2 Boise State (19-11)  vs. #3 New Mexico State (16-16)  11:30 PM  ESPN2

 

Utah State is in and should be the higher seed in their first round game.  If the Aggies are upset, then one more bubble will burst.  The one WAC team that beat USU (Idaho) was knocked out of the conference tournament yesterday.

March 10, 2011

NCAA Basketball Conference Tournaments–March 10 Update

Two Newest Dance Participants

 

Northeast Conference Championship

Long Island  85  Robert Morris  82 ot

 

In what may have been the most exciting championship game of the season, the home-standing Blackbirds and visiting Colonials exchanged leads all night.  Two missed three-point shots in the final seconds, one at the buzzer, was all that prevented this game from going to double overtime.

 

LIU opened with a cold shooting hand, and RMU took the lead.  Once the Blackbirds started hitting their shots, this became a game of runs.  LIU had the hot hand in the second half, but RMU kept getting enough offensive rebounds to keep the Colonials in the game.

 

Jamal Olasewere had a game-high 31 points to go with 11 rebounds; he scored seven points in the overtime.  Team leader Julian Boyd was held to just seven points, but the Blackbirds had excellent showings off the bench.  Jason Brickman tossed in 15 points and dished out eight big assists, while Kenny Onyechi added 13 points.

 

Russell Johnson and Velton Jones teamed up for 42 points for the losers.

 

LIU will be a formidable opponent for their favored foe in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.  Their style of play could cause severe matchup problems for a bigger, slower team, especially if that team is not the strongest ball-handling team.  If they were to be bracketed against BYU in the first round, it would be the thriller of the first round. 

 

Big Sky Conference Championship

Northern Colorado  65  Montana  60

 

This game was anticlimactic following the NEC Championship.  Montana kept the pace slow, and the Grizzlies shot out to a 7-0 lead in the first two and a half minutes.  UNC made a run to take its first lead at 17-16 on a three-point shot by Tate Unruh.

 

The lead switched hands several times the remainder of the half with the buzzer sending the teams to the locker tied at 31-31.

 

Montana maintained a small lead for most of the second half, until star guard Devon Beitzel took over.  His three-pointer at the 4:56 mark gave the Bears the lead for good.  Beitzel continued shooting and then forced Montana to foul him, and the Bears hung on to win.

 

Beitzel did not score until late in the first half, but the Big Sky Conference’s leading scorer finished with 27 points.

 

Montana center Brian Qvale hit a layup with 16 seconds remaining to cut the lead to 62-60, but following two made Beitzel free throws, Art Steward committed a turnover to seal the game. 

 

Steward led the Grizzlies with 16 points, while Qvale added 11.

 

Northern Colorado will be one of those teams that will be glad just to be there at the NCAA Tournament.  The Bears should make a quick exit in game one, unless they are chosen as one of the First Four #16 seeds.

 

13 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
Long Island Northeast 27-4
Morehead State Ohio Valley 24-9
Northern Colorado Big Sky 21-10
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

 

No Championship Games Are Scheduled For Thursday

 

Wednesday’s Results/Thursday’s Schedule

All Times EST

Atlantic Coast Conference—Greensboro, NC

1st Round

#8 Virginia (16-14)  vs. #9 Miami (Fla) (18-13)  12 Noon

#5 Boston College (19-11)  vs. #12 Wake Forest (8-23)  Approx. 2:15 PM

#7 Maryland (18-13)  vs. #10 North Carolina State (15-15)  7 PM  ESPN2

#6 Virginia Tech (19-10)  vs. #11 Georgia Tech (13-17)  Approx. 9:15 PM

 

Big 12 Conference—Kansas City

1st Round

#9 Oklahoma State  53  #8 Nebraska  52

#5 Colorado  77  #12 Iowa State  75

#10 Oklahoma  84  #7 Baylor  67

#6 Missouri  88  #11 Texas Tech  84

 

Quarterfinal Round

#9 Oklahoma State (19-12)  vs. #1 Kansas (29-2)  12:30 PM on ESPN2

#5 Colorado (20-12)  vs. #4 Kansas State (22-9)  3PM

#10 Oklahoma (14-17) vs. #2 Texas (25-6)  7 PM

#6 Missouri (23-9) vs. #3 Texas A&M (23-7)  9:30 PM

 

Big East Conference—New York City

2nd Round

#9 Connecticut  79  #8 Georgetown 62

#5 St. John’s  65  #13 Rutgers 63

#7 Cincinnati  87  #15 South Florida 61

#11 Marquette  67  #6 West Virginia  61

 

Quarterfinal Round

#9 Connecticut (23-9)  vs. #1 Pittsburgh (27-4)  12 Noon  ESPN

#5 St. John’s (21-10)  vs. #4 Syracuse (25-6)  Approx. 2:15 PM  ESPN

#7 Cincinnati (25-7)  vs. #2 Notre Dame (25-5)  7 PM  ESPN

#11 Marquette (20-13)  vs. #3 Louisville (23-8)  Approx. 9:15 PM  ESPN

 

Big Ten Conference—Indianapolis

1st Round

#8 Northwestern (17-12)  vs. #9 Minnesota (17-13)  2:30 PM  ESPN2

#7 Michigan State (17-13)  vs. #10 Iowa (11-19)  4:50 PM  ESPN2

#6 Penn State (16-13)  vs. #11 Indiana (12-19)  7:30 PM  Big Ten Network

 

Big West Conference—Anaheim

Quarterfinal Round

#1 Long Beach State (20-10)  vs. #8 UC-Irvine (13-18)  3 PM

#4 Pacific (16-14)  vs. #5 UC-Santa Barbara (15-13)  5:20 PM

#2 Cal Poly (15-14)  vs. #7 UC-Riverside (11-18)  9 PM

#3 Cal State Northridge (13-17)  vs. #6 Cal State Fullerton (11-19)  11:20 PM

 

Conference USA—El Paso, TX

1st Round

#8 East Carolina  78  #9 Central Florida  60

#5 Southern Miss.  63  #12 Tulane  47

#6 Marshall  97  #11 Houston  87

#10 Rice  58  #7 S M U  57

 

Quarterfinal Round

#8 East Carolina (17-14)  vs. #1 U A B  (22-7)  1PM  CBSC

#5 Southern Miss (22-9)  vs. #4 Memphis (22-9)  3:30 PM  CBSC

#6 Marshall (22-10)  vs. #3 U T E P  (23-8)  7:30 PM  CBSC

#10 Rice (14-17)  vs. #2 Tulsa (18-12)  10 PM  CBSC

 

M A C—Cleveland

Quarterfinal Round

#7 Bowling Green (14-18)  vs. #2 Western Michigan (19-11)  12 Noon

#6 Akron (20-12)  vs. #3 Miami (O) (16-15)  2:30 PM

#8 Buffalo (18-12)  vs. #1 Kent State (21-10)  7 PM

#5 Ohio U (18-14)  vs. #4 Ball State (18-12)  9:30 PM

 

M E A C—Winston-Salem, NC

Note: The MEAC has a unique scheduling format which rewards its top three seeds.  Thus, yesterday, there were both first round and quarterfinal round games scheduled.  The quarterfinal round concludes today.

 

1st Round

#6 Norfolk State  68  #11 Howard 53

 

Quarterfinal Round

#1 Bethune-Cookman  66  #9 South Carolina State 50

#2 Hampton  77  #10 Maryland-Eastern Shore  55

 

Quarterfinal Round Continues

#4 Morgan State (15-13)  vs. #5 North Carolina A&T (15-16)  8 PM

#3 Coppin State (16-13)  vs. #6 Norfolk State (11-19)  7 PM

 

Mountain West Conference—Las Vegas

1st Round

#9 T C U  70  #8 Wyoming  61

 

Quarterfinal Round

#9 T C U (11-21)  vs. #1 Brigham Young (28-3)  3 PM

#5 New Mexico (20-11)  vs. #4 Colorado State (19-11)  5:30 PM

#7 Utah (13-17)  vs. #2 San Diego State (29-2)  9 PM

#6 Air Force (15-14)  vs. #3 U N L V  (23-7)  11:30 PM

 

Pac-10 Conference—Los Angeles

1st Round

#9 Oregon State 69  #8 Stanford 67

#7 Oregon 76  #10 Arizona State 69

 

Quarterfinal Round

#4 Southern Cal (18-13)  vs. #5 California (17-13)  3 PM  Fox Sports

#1 Arizona (25-6)  vs. #9 Oregon State (11-19)  5:30 PM  Fox Sports

#2 U C L A  (22-9)  vs. #7 Oregon (15-16)  9 PM  Fox Sports

#3 Washington (20-10)  vs. #6 Washington State (19-11)  11:30 PM  Fox Sports

 

Southeastern Conference—Atlanta

1st Round

#4E  Georgia (20-10)  vs. #5W  Auburn (11-19)  1 PM

#3W  Ole Miss (19-12)  vs. #6E  South Carolina (14-15)  3:30 PM

#4W  Arkansas (18-12)  vs. #5E  Tennessee (18-13)  7:30 PM

#3W  Vanderbilt (21-9)  vs. #6E L S U  (11-20)  10 PM

 

Southland Conference—Katy, TX

Quarterfinal Round

#1 McNeese State 61  #8 Nicholls State 54

#4 Texas State 72  #5 Southeastern Louisiana 68

#7 Texas-San Antonio 97  #2 Northwestern State (LA) 96

#3 Sam Houston State 61  #6 Stephen F. Austin 45

 

Semifinal Round

#3 Sam Houston State (18-12)  vs. #7 Texas-San Antonio (17-13)  7 PM

#1 McNeese State (20-10)  vs. #4 Texas State (16-15)  9:30 PM

 

S W A C–Garland, TX

Quarterfinal Round

#1 Texas Southern 50  #8 Arkansas-Pine Bluff 45

#2 Jackson State 50  #7 Prairie View 38

 

Quarterfinal Round Continues

#3 Mississippi Valley (13-18)  vs. #6 Grambling (10-20)  12:30 PM

#4 Alabama State (14-17)  vs. #5 Alabama A&M (13-14) 9 PM

 

W A C—Las Vegas

1st Round

#8 San Jose State 75  #5 Hawaii 74

#6 Nevada 90  #7 Fresno State 80

 

2nd Round

#4 Idaho (18-12)  vs. #8 San Jose State (16-14)  3 PM  ESPNU

#3 New Mexico State (15-16)  vs. #6 Nevada (13-18)  5:30 PM  ESPNU

September 2, 2009

2009 Southeastern Conference Preview

2009 Southeastern Conference Preview

A PiRate Look

Welcome to the conference where football is not just a sport; it’s a way of life for millions.  SEC fans at 11 schools act like their teams are football factories and not institutions of higher learning.  The average capacity of the perennial six powers (Florida, Georgia, and Tennessee in the East and Alabama, Auburn, and LSU in the West) exceeds 92,500, and on home game Saturdays, there are more people in the stands of half these teams than there are in the cities in which they are located.

This year, the SEC begins the season as the top-ranked league.  Throw in the fact that the member teams, for the most part, are playing non-conference schedules as weak as the teams in the Sunbelt Conference, and there’s a good chance that nine bowl eligible teams could emerge (which by the way equals the number of bowl tie-ins).

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

For those who have not followed the PiRate Ratings before and wonder about the home field advantage, we do not assign set in stone advantages.  These are assigned on a game-by-game basis.  For instance, if Vanderbilt hosts Tennessee at the end of the year, when the Commodores are 4-7 and the Vols are 9-1, then the game could actually be a “home game on the road” for the Vols.  Tennessee might actually receive a couple of points if it appears 75% of the fans at the stadium will be wearing orange.  If that same Vanderbilt team begins the season 2-0 and hosts New Mexico State, then the Commodores would receive about four to six points.  The PiRates think it’s ridiculous to issue a blank home field advantage for all teams or even assign a range of set home field advantages.

 

Southeastern Conference Preseason PiRate Ratings

 
   

 

Prediction *

 
  Team

PiRate

SEC

Overall

 
  East

 

 

 

 
  Florida

142

8-0

13-0

#
  Georgia

114

5-3

8-4

 
  Tennessee

106

3-5

7-5

 
  Vanderbilt

104

2-6

5-7

 
  South Carolina

103

4-4

6-6

 
  Kentucky

100

1-7

5-7

 
   

 

 

 

 
  West

 

 

 

 
  Ole Miss

120

6-2

10-2

 
  Alabama

120

7-1

11-2

#
  L S U

114

6-2

10-2

 
  Arkansas

108

4-4

8-4

 
  Auburn

105

2-6

5-7

 
  Mississippi St.

91

0-8

1-11

 

 

 

*  Predictions not based on PiRate Rating but

 
 

on expected changes to rating during the year

 
 

# Florida picked to beat Alabama

 
 

in SEC Championship Game

 

 

SEC East

Florida: What is there to say that hasn’t already been said?  It will be a disappointing year if the Gators go 13-0 in the regular season but don’t win every game by more than three touchdowns.  Their 142 preseason PiRate Rating places them in some heavy company.  The only other preseason 140 or higher-rated teams were Nebraska in 1995, Miami of Florida in 2001, and Ohio State in 1975.

Tim Tebow is being called the greatest collegiate player ever.  We don’t know about that, but he is the best college quarterback in the nation in 2009.  He led the Gators in rushing with 673 yards and 12 touchdowns, but Coach Urban Meyer would probably like to cut his carries some to protect him and to showcase his passing arm to the NFL.  We expect Tebow will pass the ball more than the 21 times a game he passed last year.  Look for his attempts to rise to about 28, unless he is out of too many games after Florida has a five touchdown lead at the half, and his passing yardage to top 3,500.

The Gators rushed for 231 yards per game last year, and none of the backs/slot receivers topped 675 yards.  The depth is so great here that five players could top 500 yards.  Jeffrey Demps, Chris Rainey, and Emmanuel Moody will run 1-2-3 at the running back position.

The receiving unit will definitely miss all-everything Percy Harvin, who might make life easier for Brett Favre this year.  Louis Murphy is also gone, so this area is the only area of concern.  Riley Cooper, David Nelson, Deonte Thompson, and tight end Aaron Hernandez still make up one of the three best receiving units in the conference.

When you have the best offensive line in the league and second best to Southern Cal’s nationally, the superior skill players become even more dangerous.  The Pouncey brothers, center Maurkice and guard Mike, may both be ready to place their names in the NFL draft next spring.

There’s no catchy way to describe the Gator defense.  It just doesn’t seem like it could be real.  All 11 starters from last year’s top-flight defense plus 10 of the second 11 return!  That’s 21 of the top 22 players from a defense that gave up just 12.9 points and 285 yards per game.  In this day and age, shutouts don’t occur all that often like they did in past decades, but the Gators could post more than one this season. 21 players recorded double digit tackles, and of course, they are all back. 

In the defensive line, Carlos Dunlap had 9 ½ sacks from his end position.  Jermaine Cunningham had six sacks and four other tackles for loss.  Sophomore Jaye Howard isn’t one of the 21 returning key contributors, but he will be a big one this year from his tackle spot.

The head of the second line of defense is middle linebacker Brandon Spikes, who led UF with 93 tackles.  Ryan Stamper, A. J. Jones, Dustin Doe, Brandon Hicks, and Lorenzo Edwards all have the potential to make an All-SEC team.

In the secondary, safety Ahmad Black intercepted seven passes last year.  Cornerbacks Janoris Jenkins and Joe Haden had six interceptions, and they batted away 25 balls.  The Gators allowed just 53.1% completions, and they actually could bring that number under 50% this year.

The only possible games where the Gators could face a little trouble are the October 10 game at LSU, and the Cocktail Party against Georgia in Jacksonville on October 31.  No matter which team wins the other division, we see Florida winning the SEC Championship Game by three touchdowns.  Who will the Gators play for all the marbles?  It would be interesting to see them square off in Pasadena against Southern Cal, but the Trojans would need help.  A 12-0 USC team will not make it if Oklahoma or Texas goes undefeated.  We think one will, and that team will face the Gators.

Georgia: The Bulldogs are a clear second place pick here, but they begin the season a full four touchdowns behind Florida.  Coach Mark Richt faces a minor rebuilding project on the offensive side, but the defense should be a little stronger this year—maybe as good as the defenses of 2002-2006, when UGA gave up an aggregate of 16 points per game.

The defense will rely on a strong trio of linebackers to stop opponents this year.  Rennie Curran is likely to leave for the pros after this year if he simply repeats last year’s production of 115 tackles, three sacks, and 10 total tackles for loss. 

The front four needs to get a better pass rush, or the secondary will not be able to top last year’s numbers.  The secondary gave up 190 yards per game and 55.7% completions, and strong safety Reshad Jones was the big star last year with five interceptions to go with 76 tackles.  If the pass rush doesn’t improve, those numbers will get a little ugly; in addition to facing Tebow and the other SEC passers, this defense will have to face Zac Robinson on his home turf.

Joe Cox will not approach Matthew Stafford’s passing numbers from 2008, but he won’t be a total bust either.  Cox has an accurate arm, but he doesn’t have the velocity of Stafford.

Replacing running back Knowshon Moreno may be a tougher assignment.  Richard Samuel, Carlton Thomas, and Caleb King will split the carries, but the three of them combined may not gain the 1,400 yards Moreno gained nor score 16 touchdowns.

Even with the departure of Mohamed Massaquoi, the receiving unit will be the strength of the offense.  A. J. Green is one of the top three receivers in the league.  He led the Bulldogs with 56 receptions and 963 yards in 2008.  Michael Moore should see his totals jump, maybe double, this year after grabbing 29 passes for 451 yards last year.

The offensive line should be better this year than last.  Tackle Clint Boling is a returning 1st Team All-SEC player.  Look for the ‘Dogs to match last year’s low number of 17 sacks.

Richt wasn’t scared to schedule a road game against Oklahoma State to begin the season.  This game will be close to a tossup, and the Bulldogs will have a chance at the upset.  Outside of the Florida game, the rest of the schedule is manageable.  The key to returning to a New Year’s Day bowl is the LSU game.  The winner will still be in contention for an at-large BCS Bowl bid.

Tennessee: Welcome to the Orange Soap Opera!  Did Lane Kiffin come away with permanent damage after working for Al Davis?  And Tom Cable didn’t even punch him in the head.  Actually, Kiffin is being crazy like a fox.  Now if he can coach as good as he can market himself, the Volunteers are going to become a top-flight program once again.

Tennessee had one half of a great team last year.  Their defense gave up 16.8 points and only 264 total yards per game.  Adding defensive guru and Lane’s dad Monte Kiffin as defensive coordinator and Ed Orgeron as defensive line coach can only make a good situation better.

Coach Kiffin promised his recruits that they would be given a real chance to play as true freshmen, and he has kept his word.  Freshmen dot the two-deep on both sides of the ball.  The top recruit is running back Bryce Brown, who some say was the overall top high school recruit last year.  He will contribute immediately and maybe start ahead of Montario Hardesty.  UT rushed for just 123 yards and 3.6 yards per carry last year, and Brown gives this unit an immediate boost.  If he stays healthy, and if the offensive line can develop its run blocking skills, Brown could rush for 1,000 yards in year one.

The passing game was nothing to shout about last year, as Jonathan Crompton and Nick Stephens combined for just 146 yards per game and completed less than half of their passes with a TD/INT ratio of 8/8.  Sports pundits said it was the overly difficult offense designed by former offensive coordinator Dave Clawson that accounted for the lack of success. 

The offensive line just wasn’t up to standards last year, and this will be the problem once again.  None of the heralded freshmen are Offensive linemen, and if the returning players don’t improve a good deal, the offense will still struggle against good teams.

The Vols’ best player and maybe the best defensive player in all of college football is strong safety Eric Berry.  Berry intercepted seven passes and knocked down six in 2008.  He recorded 72 tackles, had three QB sacks, and registered 5 ½ other tackles behind the line of scrimmage.  If he played for Florida, Texas, Oklahoma, or Southern Cal, he might be one of the five finalists invited to the Downtown Athletic Club in New York on December 12.

The other two units on the stop side may be a little weaker this year than last, even with the elder Kiffin directing it.  No middle linebacker has come to the forefront, and in Kiffin’s defense, a multi-talented MLB is required.  Rico McCoy is an exceptional outside linebacker.  In the trenches, nose tackle Dan Williams returns after making 8 ½ stops behind the line.  The Vols yielded just 2.8 yards per rush in ’08 and got to enemy quarterbacks 25 times.  They will probably get more sacks this year, but the yards allowed per rush will be higher.

 The schedule gives the Vols a decent shot at getting back to a bowl.  The four out-of-conference games are Western Kentucky, UCLA, Ohio, and Memphis, which will all be played at Neyland Stadium.  The Vols also draw a rebuilding Auburn team at home and finish with Vanderbilt and Kentucky, two teams they have dominated for decades.

Vanderbilt: There’s a television program called “Magic’s Biggest Secrets Finally Revealed,” where a masked magician shows the viewing audience how all the big magic tricks are done.  Recently, enquiring minds just had to know who was behind the mask.  They hired someone to get onto that show as an assistant and pull the mask off and find out just who the guy was.  Guess what, it was Commodore head coach Bobby Johnson!  No, not really, but it might as well had been after the way Johnson produced Vanderbilt’s first winning season since 1982 and first bowl win since January 1, 1956!

Looking at the statistics, Vanderbilt was outgained by 64 yards per game, 76 in conference play.  They scored their fewest amount of points since Johnson’s first year.  They completed less than half of their passes and averaged just 3.7 yards per rush.  How did they win?  They came up with timely plays on defense and special teams, and they were +9 in turnover margin.

The offense should show signs of improvement this year.  Larry Smith, who made his first start in the bowl game, looks to have the tools necessary to play in the SEC.  He’s got a quick release, accurate arm, and decent zip on the ball.

Just who will be on the other end of those passes is the problem.  Vanderbilt lost top receiver Sean Walker to graduation, and it wasn’t like the Commodores were loaded at this position last year.  Former star defensive back D. J. Moore played both ways toward the end of the year, and it was his big plays against Kentucky that gave VU that important sixth win.  Vandy may use two tight ends more often this year to take advantage of good depth there.  Look for Brandon Barden, Austin Monahan, and Justin Green to combine for 50 or more receptions. 

Vanderbilt had a hard time running the ball past the line of scrimmage last year, and they have improved this position with the addition of some talented freshmen.  Jared Hawkins led the team with 593 rushing yards, but he may see fewer chances this year with Warren Norman and Zac Stacy getting significant playing time.

The offensive line returns intact with a lot of depth, and there could be some shuffling in the depth chart.  One player who won’t be shuffled is tackle Thomas Welch, the next Vandy OL who will play in the NFL.

The defense will be just as tough as last year, but only if the two new secondary starters can prove they are SEC caliber defenders.  Replacing Moore and safety Reshard Langford won’t be easy.  Look for better play in the front seven to give the secondary a fair chance at covering receivers.

Vanderbilt’s schedule is the reason they may not repeat last year’s feats.  The Commodores play two bowl teams in their four non-conference games.  They must visit Rice, which won’t be an easy win, and they host Georgia Tech at the end of October.  An even bigger concern is the fact that they have no off weeks.  Injuries will pile up, and the depth isn’t strong enough to withstand more than a couple of lost starts.  Vanderbilt won five games in 2007 and 2005; they may make it a pattern and win five in 2009, unless they can pull off a big upset.

South Carolina: Steve Spurrier has not turned this program around like everybody theorized would happen when he took the job in 2005.  The Gamecocks have won seven, eight, six, and seven games in his first four seasons, only marginally better than before he arrived.  Add to the disappointment the fact that USC has some rebuilding to do on both sides of the ball, and Spurrier will have to perform wonders to get this team to eight wins.

Last year, the offensive line wrecked the offense.  They played like a quintet of matadors.  The Gamecocks rushed for just 94 yards per game, and the quarterbacks went down 39 times and threw 27 interceptions.  Unless new coaching can make them better, there isn’t much chance that there will be much improvement here.

Quarterback Stephen Garcia has the tools needed to be a good SEC passer, but Tim Tebow would have a hard time succeeding if he was rushed as much as Garcia was last year.  Garcia alternated with departed QB Chris Smelley and proved to be more of a dual threat out of the spread offense.

USC lost their top two receivers in Kenny McKinley and Jared Cook, who combined for 91 receptions and 1,225 yards.  True freshman Alshon Jeffrey could eventually be as talented as McKinley, but it won’t happen this year.  Another true freshman, DeMario Bennett should see playing time as well.  The ‘Cocks will have to rely on a receiver by committee approach.

The running game will be handed over to freshman Jarvis Giles, who at least has the moves to avoid a big loss when the defense is already in the backfield at the time of the handoff.  Freshman Kenny Miles may see some snaps as well.

On the defensive side, things are not as sad and gloomy.  New coordinator Ellis Johnson inherits some rather talented troops, and South Carolina could even better last year’s stats (21.1 points and 292 yards allowed per game).  The front seven is considerably stronger than the secondary, so expect to see the focus of attention on getting a great pass rush. 

Linebacker Eric Norwood finished second in the league with nine sacks, but he’s the only returning starter to the unit.  Defensive end Cliff Matthews heads the front line, but there will be some shuffling following the suspension of opposite terminal Clifton Geathers.

There is experienced talent at safety, but cornerback is a different matter.  True freshman Stephon Gilmore and sophomore Akeem Auguste are the new starters.

South Carolina plays too tough ACC opponents (at North Carolina State, Clemson) as well as both Alabama and Ole Miss from the West Division.  The Gamecocks will have to win one or two road games from among Georgia, Tennessee, and Arkansas in order to gain bowl eligibility.

Kentucky: In Lexington, it’s the football and baseball programs that are getting it done these days.  Do they play any other sports there?  It’s hard to believe it, but UK has won three consecutive bowl games.  If Coach Rich Brooks can guide his team to another bowl game this year, he should be nominated for national coach of the year. 

The Wildcats relied more on defense to win games last year, and the stop troops gave up just 21.5 points and 332 yards per game.  Seven starters from that side are now gone, including four of the top five tacklers plus 2nd Team All-SEC end Jeremy Jarmon.

UK still has two potential 1st Team All-Americans on the defensive side.  Trevard Lindley is the best cornerback and second best defensive player in the SEC.  He comes off a season in which he intercepted four passes and knocked away 11 others.

Linebacker Micah Johnson was a 1st Team All-SEC choice last year after making 93 tackles with 13 for lost yardage.  He wasn’t even 100% most of the year, so he should have an even better production in ’09.

Up front, the late loss of Jarmon is going to take its toll.  Corey Peters is the only holdover up front.

There was a major reclamation in the 2008 offense, and it’s still a work in progress.  Quarterback Mike Hartline returns for his second season as the starter.  He completed 55.3% of his passes for 1,666 yards last year.  Former QB Randall Cobb is now strictly a receiver, but he will get snaps in the wildcat formation.

Cobb will team with Chris Matthews and Kyrus Lanxter to form a formidable trio at wide out.  Mathews, a junior college transfer, is big, quick, and agile.  Look for him to make a big contribution this year.

The running attack was not as potent last year following the 2007 graduation of Rafael Little.  Leading rusher Tony Dixon has moved on, but his contribution was minimal at 3.3 yards per carry.  Alfonso Smith, Derrick Locke, and Moncell Allen will share the load this season.

Up front, the offensive line returns three starters from a unit that allowed a league low 13 sacks.  Tackle Zipp Duncan is the leader of this unit.

An easy non-conference schedule (Miami-OH, Louisville, Louisiana-Monroe, and Eastern Kentucky) will give the ‘Cats four wins.  A home game with Mississippi State should be win number five.  Their best chance for a sixth win will come from Auburn, Vanderbilt, and Tennessee.

SEC West

Ole Miss: Houston Nutt couldn’t have picked a better time to inherit a job.  Former coach Ed Orgeron left him with a full cupboard.  In year two at the Nutthouse, Ole Miss is the sexy pick for SEC West Division champion.  The PiRate Ratings formula gives them the edge over Alabama by .09 points to start the season.  All five of us agree that the Rebels will be plenty good, just not the division winner.

The offense was strong all season, and there’s no reason to think it won’t be just as strong or stronger.  Eight starters return to an attack that averaged 32.1 points and 408 yards per game.

Quarterback Jevan Snead has had to take a backseat to two great quarterbacks.  He left Texas after Colt McCoy got the job.  Now, he plays Sham to Tim Tebow’s Secretariat.  Snead passed for 2,762 yards and 26 touchdowns last year.

The running game is stocked with talent, and it’s not just running backs that carry the ball.  Wide out Dexter McCluster led the Rebels with 655 yards rushing (6.0 avg).  He ran the ball out of the wildcat formation.  He tried to pass the ball five times, and he threw two interceptions without a completion.  Cordera Eason,  Brandon Bolden, and Enrique Davis will split time at running back.

McCluster will team with Shay Hodge and top recruit Pat Patterson to form a trio of wide outs.  Tight end Gerald Harris is used more as a blocker.

Speaking of blockers, the Rebels have a big, but slightly inexperienced offensive line.  Tackle John Jerry is a monster at 6’5 and 350 pounds.

Ole Miss improved defensively as the season progressed.  The Rebels gave up 25 points per game in the first half of the year and 11 points per game in the second half.  It all begins up front, where the four starters (Kentrell Lockett and Marcus Tillman at DE and Lawon Scott or Justin Smith and Ted Laurent at DT) form the best front four in the league.  They will send a lot of backs to the ground before they get back to the line of scrimmage.  If Greg Hardy ever returns to 100% health, then this unit will be dominating.  In limited action last year, he made 8 ½ QB sacks.

The back seven are not as talented as the front four, but they are above average compared to the league as a whole.  Linebackers Jonathan Cornell and Allen Walker return after teaming for 86 tackles. 

The secondary is the weakest unit on the stop side.  Three starters return there, with free safety Kendrick Lewis being the closest thing to a star player.  He led the Rebels with 85 tackles, four interceptions, and six passes batted away.

Ole Miss should easily win their four non-league games (Memphis, Southeast Louisiana, UAB, and Northern Arizona).  They avoid both Florida and Georgia from the East.  It will all come down to how they perform in a trio of games to determine whether they can get to Atlanta for a great rematch with Florida.  They host Alabama on October 10, host Arkansas on October 24, and host LSU on November 21.  Even though they get all three of these games at home, we think they will slip up in one of these.  Our founder believes the Thursday night, September 24 game at South Carolina could actually be the hardest game they have on their schedule.

Alabama: It was almost a great story in Tideland in 2008.  Alabama won all 12 of their regular season games and entered the SEC Championship game ranked number one in the nation.  They were a 10-point underdog as the top-ranked team, something that has never happened before in modern times.  They failed to cover and lost by 11 to Florida.  Then, in the Sugar Bowl, they were embarrassed by Utah.

Some teams would fall apart when their prior season ended that way.  We believe the Crimson Tide will be just as hard to beat this year, even with major losses on the attack side.

The offense returns just four starters from last year.  Among the missing are quarterback John Parker Wilson and running back Glen Coffee.  The new quarterback is Greg McElroy, who saw limited action as a freshman last year.  He should be able to approach Wilson’s numbers if he stays healthy, but if he gets injured, ‘Bama is in trouble and will have to go with untested freshmen.

The running game will be okay if Mark Ingram stays eligible to play, and the NCAA investigators don’t go on a fishing expedition trying to declare him ineligible.  Number two back Terry Grant will be used more on passing downs, as he has good hands and great speed to turn a short pass into a long gain.

Julio Jones is in the same boat as Ingram, but if the star wide out loses some games due to the famous fishing trip, the Tide will suffer much more than they would at running back.  Jones led Alabama with 58 receptions and 924 yards.  The next leading returnee, Mike McCoy, had just 16 catches.

Three new starters dot the offensive line.  Guard Mike Johnson is the best of the blockers. 

The Tide defense was stingy last year until the last two games.  In the 12-0 start, they gave up 11.5 points and 249 yards per game.  Most of the key contributors are back for more this year, and the Tide could challenge Florida for top defense in the league.

Middle linebacker Rolando McClain led the defense with 95 tackles and 12 total tackles for loss.  He batted away eight passes as well.  He’ll be joined by three more than capable mates, Don’t’A Hightower, Eryk Anders, and Cory Reamer.

The three-man front is anchored by nose guard Terrence Cody, who at 365 pounds, plugs two gaps by himself.  End Brandon Deaderick is an excellent pass rusher.

The secondary features three returning starters and a top reserve from a year ago.  Cornerbacks  Javier Arenas and Kareem Jackson combined for 17 deflected passes in ’08.  Safety Justin Woodall picked off four passed and knocked away eight others.

The kicking game is first-rate with Leigh Tiffin having the best leg in the conference.

The Tide get a big test to start the season, taking on Virginia Tech in Atlanta.  We believe Coach Nick Saban’s club will win that game in a grind-it-out style.  If so, they should be 5-0 when they travel to Oxford to take on Ole Miss on October 10.  The LSU game in Tuscaloosa on November 7 is the only other game where they won’t be favored by a touchdown or more.  Alabama could go 12-0 in the regular season and lose to Florida in the SEC Championship for the second year in a row. 

Note: Brandon Deaderick was shot in the forearm Monday August 31, and his status for the Virginia Tech game is still undecided.

L S U: 8-5 is not an acceptable record at LSU these days.  It’s been rumored that back-to-back 8-5 records could even get a coach in trouble, even though he won a national championship two years ago.  Warning to Bayou Bengal Fans:  11-2 could get a coach a job at Michigan.

The Tigers return seven starters to both the offense and the defense.  Some exceptional talent returns, but there are a couple of holes in the lineup as well.

Quarterback Jordan Jefferson emerged as a potential star during the big comeback against Troy and later proved himself the position during last year’s Chick-fil-A Bowl.  He has good legs and can run the spread offense better than backup Jarrett Lee.

Jefferson is not the star of this backfield though.  Charles Scott is the top running back in the SEC.  He picked up 1,174 yards and 18 touchdowns last year.  Keiland Williams is an able backup who can make his own hole if one isn’t there.

Brandon LaFell may be the best receiver in the league.  He led LSU with 63 receptions for 929 yards and eight touchdowns.

The offensive line returns three starters, and it is strongest at tackle with Ciron Black and Joseph Barksdale.

The Tigers averaged 30.9 points and 368 yards per game in 2008, and we see those numbers improving to 32 points and 400-425 yards per game.  Defensively, LSU gave up too many points and yards last year (24.2 and 326).  Coach Les Myles brought in former Tennessee defensive coordinator John Chavis to fix the problem.

There won’t be a need for much tinkering in the secondary with three quality starters returning.  Cornerbacks Patrick Peterson and Chris Hawkins and safety Chad Jones combined for 141 tackles, five interceptions, and 18 deflected passes.

All three starting linebackers from last year return, plus team leading tackler Harry Coleman moves up from safety, giving this unit even more athleticism.

The problem area is the defensive line.  Three starters finished their college careers, including the great Tyson Jackson.  End Rahim Alem led the team with eight sacks, and he will lead the rebuilt trenchmen.

The Tigers have one of the best punt and kick returners in the nation in lightning quick Trindon Holliday.  He’s a threat to take any punt back for a score.

LSU is just as talented as Alabama and Ole Miss.  They just get penalized this year for having to play both Florida and Georgia out of the East Division and Alabama and Ole Miss on the road.  They could easily lose all four of these games, and if they do, the natives will be getting restless in Baton Rouge.

Arkansas: Year one wasn’t a pleasant one in Fayetteville for Coach Bobby Petrino.  His Razorbacks were drilled by Alabama, Texas, and Florida in successive games by a combined score of 139-31, and the team never really recovered.  After falling to South Carolina and Mississippi State to drop out of bowl contention, they ended the season on a high note with an upset of LSU.  This year promises to be different.  Arkansas will be bowl eligible once again with an exciting team.

Let’s start the excitement reporting on the attack side.  New quarterback Ryan Mallett left Michigan when Rich Rodriguez came in as coach.  He’s matured physically and mentally in that time, and he could be the best QB in the league after Tebow and Snead.  Mallett has three experienced starters and several able reserves to catch his passes.  We expect the Arkansas passing game to produce 275-300 yards per game this season, but only if the protection improves.  Arkansas QBs were dumped 46 times last year.

Michael Smith returns at running back after topping 1,000 yards last year.  True freshman Ronnie Wingo could see action immediately.

The offensive line needs some repairs after three starters graduated.  One of the returning starters, center Wade Grayson, has been bumped to second string by Seth Oxner, so there should be some improvement there.  Mitch Petrus has a chance to become a 1st Team All-SEC guard after making the 2nd team last year. 

How much the defense improves will determine how many games over .500 this team finishes in 2009.  The top 10 tacklers are back, but the Razorbacks gave up a very generous 31.2 points and 375 yards per game in ’08.  There will be some, but not much improvement this year, as there are liabilities in all three units.

The star of the stop side is tackle Malcolm Sheppard.  He finished second on the team with 68 tackles, and he led with 6 ½ sacks and eight other tackles for loss.

The secondary was burned too many times last year, and it will continue to happen somewhat this season.  There’s been some shuffling in the depth chart, but it appears that the answer has yet to be found.  The loss of Isaac Madison is big.

The linebackers are in better shape than the secondary, but this trio isn’t going to be compared to Alabama or Ole Miss’s trio. 

The Hogs should win all four non-conference games against Missouri State, Texas A&M, Eastern Michigan, and Troy, but the latter three could pull off an upset if Arkansas isn’t ready to play.  The Razorbacks get Auburn, South Carolina, and Mississippi State at home.  They have seven winnable games and, we think they could pull off an upset along the way.  Arkansas could even sneak into the New Year’s Day Bowl picture.

Auburn: The Tigers suffered through a rare losing season, and Coach Tommy Tuberville decided to call it quits at the end.  Like Tennessee, the defense was good enough to win big, but the offense couldn’t adjust to a new philosophy.

Enter Gene Chizik.  An offensive guru, he isn’t.  He’s the architect of defenses that produced undefeated seasons in 2004 at Auburn and 2005 at Texas.  In three years at Iowa State, his teams compiled a 5-19 record. 

Chizik made a great hire at offensive coordinator, taking Gus Malzahn away from Tulsa.  His Tulsa offense scored 47.2 points per game and gained 570 yards per game last year.  Auburn averaged 17.3 points and 302 yards per game.  Look for immediate improvement, but don’t even think about this team averaging 30 points and 400 yards this year.

There has been a change at quarterback, where Chris Todd supplants last year’s starter Kodi Burns.  Burns is a much better runner, while Todd is a much better passer.  Todd didn’t handle former offensive coordinator Tony Franklin’s spread offense.

Todd doesn’t have any stars running routes to catch his passes.  Leading returning receiver Montez Billings will miss at least four games to start the season, and it will take him a week or two to shake the cobwebs off.  Tight end Tommy Trott has the potential to be a difference maker.

Ben Tate has the potential to be a 1,000 yard rusher for the Tigers.  He gained 664 yards last year after gaining over 900 as a sophomore in 2007.  Mario Fannin is excellent compliment to Tate, and Auburn should increase their rushing numbers from 137 to 150 or more yards per game.

The offensive line has beefed up and should do a better job with four guys back who saw extensive action. 

On the defensive side, the back seven should be tough, but the front four will be short on depth.  In the secondary, cornerback Walter McFadden batted away eight passes, and free safety Zac Etheridge led the Tigers with 75 tackles.

Linebackers Josh Bynes and Craig Stevens anchor the second tier of the defense after teaming for 107 tackles in 2008. 

The defensive line will miss tackle Sen’Derrick Marks and his 10 total tackles for loss.  Ends Michael Goggans and Antonio Coleman are tough to run on, and Mike Blanc holds his position as good as any tackle.

Auburn can win six or seven games and return to a minor bowl this year, but it won’t be easy.  The opening game against Louisiana Tech could be a tough one if the Tigers come out tight on offense.  A week two game with Mississippi State could be interesting, after they won 3-2 last year.  The third game, against West Virginia, is the game that will show how well the War Eagles have improved.  Auburn needs to be at least 2-1 after that game in order to make a run to a bowl.  They need to be at least 6-4 after the Furman game, or it won’t happen.

Mississippi State:  Former Florida quarterback coach Dan Mullen takes over as coach in Starkville this year, but he couldn’t bring his QB with him.  That means, it is going to be a long year in Bulldog country. 

Tyson Lee isn’t terrible, especially if his knee is 100% healthy, but he’s a bit on the small side at 5’11.  True freshman Tyler Russell may take over before the year is out.  He’s got one really good receiver to locate in Brandon McRae, who caught 51 passes last year.  Mullen recruited eight receivers, and two or three will see significant action this year.

At running back, Anthony Dixon is capable of rushing for 1,000 yards again after doing so two years ago.  He runs downhill when he gets the ball, and rarely can one man bring him down.

 The offensive line is a problem both in talent and depth.  Two starters return, and inexperienced underclassmen will see a lot of playing time.  A lack of consistent blocking will keep Mullen’s offense from taking off in year one.

The defense is another story.  The Bulldogs gave up just 328 total yards per game last year, and were one of the best against the pass.  It should continue to impress, as Mullen hired Carl Torbush as coordinator.  Expect maybe a minor increase in yards and points given up because the new offense will add total plays to the games.

The front four welcomes three new starters, and they should give up about 150-160 rushing yards again.  The Bulldogs only recorded 19 sacks, so those numbers won’t go down much if at all.

Only one starting linebacker returns from last year, but the star from 2007, Jamar Chaney, returns after missing all of last year.  Chaney should be the leading tackler if he stays healthy.

The secondary has just one returning starter.  Marcus Washington is a decent cornerback, but this unit will be torched by a few teams.

Mullen will open his career 1-0, because the Bulldogs play Jackson State.  After that, things will head south.  Games at Auburn and Vanderbilt, followed by three consecutive home games against LSU, Georgia Tech, and Houston should leave MSU 1-5 heading to Murfreesboro, TN to face Middle Tennessee.  That game could be an embarrassing loss.  If they lose it, we think they will fold up like a tent and drop the final five games by about 150 points.  A 1-11 season would be a weak start, but give Mullen time.  He just might turn things around in Starkville.

Next up: We save our own neighborhood conference for last.  The Big Ten may not be as strong as the Big 12 and SEC this year, but we believe the competition will be much more exciting with upwards of five teams capable of winning the conference championship.

March 16, 2008

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

 

A PiRate Look at the NCAA Basketball Conference Tournaments

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

(NCAA Tournament Coverage Begins Monday)

Conference Tournament Results through Saturday, March 15, 2008

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Previous Concluded Tournaments

Atlantic Sun

Quarterfinals

#4 East Tennessee 81 #5 Lipscomb 74

#6 Gardner-Webb 82  #3 Stetson 63

#2 Jacksonville 65  #7 Mercer 57

#1 Belmont 75  #8 Campbell 66

Semifinals

Jacksonville 89 Gardner-Webb 80

Belmont 69 East Tennessee 65

Saturday, March 8

Championship

Belmont 79  Jacksonville 61

Automatic Qualifier: Belmont 25-8  Avg. RPI 76.3

At-Large Teams:      0

Bubble:                      None

Big Sky                    

Saturday, March 8

Quarterfinals

#4 Idaho State 67  #5 Montana 65

#3 Weber State 65  #6 Montana State 49

Tuesday, March 11 @ Portland, OR

Semifinals

#1 Portland State 72  Idaho State 61

#2 Northern Arizona 75  Weber State 70

Wednesday, March 12 @ Portland, OR

Championship Game

Portland State 67  Northern Arizona 51

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

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

At-Large Teams:      0

Bubble:                      None

Big South

Opening Round

#1 UNC-Asheville 87  #8 Charleston Southern 63

#4 Liberty 103  #5 VMI 88

#2 Winthrop 76  #7 Radford 45

#3 High Point 59  #6 Coastal Carolina 56

Semifinals

UNC-Asheville 75  Liberty 57

Winthrop 61  High Point 53

Saturday, March 8 @ Asheville, NC

Championship Game

Winthrop 66  UNC-Asheville 48

Automatic Qualifier: Winthrop 22-11  Avg. RPI 106.5

At-Large Teams:      0

Bubble:                      None

Colonial Athletic Association

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

#9 Towson State 81  #8 Towson State 66

#5 William & Mary 58 #12 Georgia State 57

#6 Delaware 60  #11 Drexel 51

#7 Northeastern 73 #10 James Madison 59

Saturday, March 8

Quarterfinals

#1 Virginia Commonwealth 57  Towson State 46

William & Mary 63  #4 Old Dominion 60

#3 UNC-Wilmington 82  Delaware 59

#2 George Mason 63  Northeastern 52

Sunday, March 9

Semifinals

William & Mary 56  Virginia Commonwealth 54

George Mason 53  UNC-Wilmington 41

Monday, March 10

Championship Game

George Mason 68  William & Mary 59

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

At-Large Teams:      0 or 1

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

Horizon League              

All Games Played At Indianapolis (Butler host team)

Opening Round

#3 Wright State 60  #10 Detroit 37

#6 Valparaiso 75  #7 UW-Green Bay 67

#4 Illinois-Chicago 70  #9 Youngstown State 59

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

Quarterfinals

Valparaiso 72  Wright State 67

Illinois-Chicago 60 Loyola (Chi.) 49

Saturday, March 8

Semifinals

#2 Cleveland State 78  Valparaiso 73

#1 Butler 66  Illinois-Chicago 50

Tuesday, March 11

Championship

Butler 70  Cleveland State 55

Automatic Qualifier: Butler 29-3  Avg. RPI 16.8

At-Large Teams:      0

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

Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference

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

Opening Round

#8 Manhattan 73  #9 St. Peter’s 59

#10 Canisius 64  #7 Iona 59

Saturday, March 8

Quarterfinals

#1 Siena 66  Manhattan 58

#4 Loyola (Md.) 64  #5 Fairfield 59

#2 Rider 75  Canisius 71

#6 Marist 66  #3 Niagara 62

Sunday, March 9

Semifinals

Siena 65  Loyola (Md.) 63

Rider 76  Marist 71

Monday, March 10

Championship Game

Siena 74  Rider 53

Automatic Qualifier: Siena 22-10  Avg. RPI 66.8

At-Large Teams:      0

Bubble:                      None

Missouri Valley @ St. Louis (Arch Madness)

Opening Round

#8 Indiana State 71  #9 Wichita State 67

#7 Missouri State 69 #10 Evansville 46

Quarterfinals

#1 Drake 68  Indiana State 46

#4 Creighton 74  #5 Bradley 70

#2 Illinois State 63  Missouri State 58

#6 Northern Iowa 54  #3 Southern Illinois 49

Saturday, March 8

Semifinals

Drake 75 Creighton 67

Illinois State 56 Northern Iowa 42

Sunday, March 9

Championship

Drake 79  Illinois State 49

Automatic Qualifier: Drake 28-4  Avg. RPI 10.3

At-Large Teams:      0 or 1

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

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

Northeast

Quarterfinal

#1 Robert Morris 64  #8 Monmouth 50

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

#2 Wagner 71  #7 Long Island 62

#3 Sacred Heart 84  #6 Central Connecticut State 71

Sunday, March 9

Semifinals

Mt. St. Mary’s 83  Robert Morris 65

Sacred Heart 55  Wagner 49

Wednesday, March 12

Championship

Mt. St. Mary’s 68  Sacred Heart 55

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

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

At-Large Teams:      0

Bubble:                      None

Ohio Valley Conference

Quarterfinals @ Higher Seed

#1 Austin Peay 76  #8 Eastern Kentucky 51

#4 UT-Martin 101  #5 Samford 94  3ot

#2 Murray State 77  #7 Tennessee Tech 74

#6 Tennessee State 68  #3 Morehead State 61

Semifinals @ Nashville

Austin Peay 78  UT-Martin 77

Tennessee State 83 Murray State 75

Saturday, March 8

Championship

Austin Peay 82 Tennessee State 64

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

At-Large Teams:      0

Bubble:                      None

Southern Conference

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

Opening Round

#8 Wofford 58  #9 Western Carolina 49

#7 Elon 52  #10 Furman 37

#6 Charleston 66  #11 Citadel 48

Saturday, March 8

Quarterfinals

#1 Davidson 82 Wofford 49

#5 UNC-Greensboro 63  #4 Appalachian State 46

Elon 60  #2 Chattanooga 57

Coll. of Charleston 87  #3 Georgia Southern 73

Sunday, March 9

Semifinals

Davidson 82 UNCG 52

Elon 75  Charleston 61

Monday, March 10

Championship Game

Davidson 65  Elon 49

Automatic Qualifier: Davidson 26-6  Avg. RPI 30.3

At-Large Teams:      0

Bubble:                      None

Summit League @ Tulsa (Oral Roberts host team)                  

Saturday, March 8

Quarterfinals

#1 Oral Roberts 84 #8 Centenary 56

#2 IUPUI 69  #7 Missouri-Kansas City 65

Sunday, March 9

Quarterfinals

#5 IPFW 66  #4 Southern Utah 62

#3 Oakland 80 #6 Western Illinois 66

Monday, March 10

Semifinals

Oral Roberts 58 IPFW 42

IUPUI 80 Oakland 65

Tuesday, March 11

Championship

Oral Roberts 71  IUPUI 64

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

At-Large Teams:      0

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

Sunbelt Conference                   

1st Round

#8 New Orleans 65  #9 Denver 60

#4 Middle Tennessee 74  #13 Louisiana Monroe 69

#12 Troy 70  #5 Louisiana Lafayette 60

#6 North Texas 85  #11 Arkansas State 63

#7 Florida Atlantic 91  #10 Florida International 64

Sunday, March 9 @ Mobile, AL

Quarterfinals

South Alabama 81  New Orleans 77

Middle Tennessee 65  Troy 59

Western Kentucky 84  North Texas 70

Arkansas Little Rock 66  Florida Atlantic 60

Monday, March 10 @ Mobile, AL

Semifinals

Middle Tennessee 82  South Alabama 73

Western Kentucky 70 Arkansas-Little Rock 55

Tuesday, March 11 @ Mobile, AL

Championship

Western Kentucky 67  Middle Tennessee 57

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

At-Large Teams:      0 or 1

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

 West Coast Conference

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

Opening Round

#5 San Francisco 79  # 8 Loyola Marymount 60

#6 Pepperdine 50  #7 Portland 48  ot

Saturday, March 8

Quarterfinals

#4 Santa Clara 51  San Francisco 50

#3 San Diego 75  Pepperdine 55

Sunday, March 9

#1 Gonzaga 52  Santa Clara 48

San Diego 75  #2 St. Mary’s 69  2ot

Monday, March 10

Championship Game

San Diego 69 Gonzaga 62

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

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

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

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

Ivy League Champion

Automatic Qualifier: Cornell 22-5  Avg. RPI 64.5

Recent Tournaments Concluded

America East

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

Opening Round

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

Saturday, March 8

Quarterfinals

#1 Md. Balt. Co. 76  Stony Brook 60

#4 Vermont 65  #5 Binghamton 57

#2 Hartford 68  #7 New Hampshire 65

#6 Boston U. 68  #3 Albany 64  ot

Sunday, March 9

Semifinals

Md. Balt. Co. 73  Vermont 64

Hartford 59  Boston U. 52

Saturday, March 15

Championship Game

Maryland-Baltimore Co. 82  Hartford 65

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

At-Large Teams:      0

Bubble:                      None

Atlantic Coast  @ Charlotte, NC

Thursday, March 13

Opening Round

#9 Florida State 70  #8 Wake Forest 60

#5 Miami 63  #12 North Carolina State 50

#7 Georgia Tech 94  #10 Virginia 76

#11 Boston College 71  #6 Maryland 68

Friday, March 14

Quarterfinals

#1 North Carolina 82  Florida State 70

#4 Virginia Tech 63  Miami 49

#2 Duke 82  Georgia Tech 70

#3 Clemson 82  Boston College 48

Saturday, March 15

Semifinals

North Carolina 68  Virginia Tech 66

Clemson 78  Duke 74

Sunday, March 16

Championship Game

North Carolina 31-2  vs. Clemson 24-8

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

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

Atlantic 10  @ Atlantic City, NJ

Wednesday, March 12

Opening Round

#8 Dayton 63  St. Louis 62  ot

#5 St. Joseph’s 80 #12 Fordham 62

#7 LaSalle 82  #10 Duquesne 79

#6 Charlotte 75  #11 Rhode Island 73

Thursday, March 13

Quarterfinals

#1 Xavier 74  Dayton 65

 St. Joseph’s 61 #4 Richmond 47

#2 Temple 84  LaSalle 75

Charlotte 69  #3 Massachusetts 65

Friday, March 14

Semifinals

St. Joseph’s 61  Xavier 53

Temple 60  Charlotte 45

Saturday, March 15

Championship Game

Temple 69  St. Joseph’s 64

Automatic Qualifier: Temple 21-12  Avg. RPI

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

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

Big East  @ Madison Square Garden in NYC

Wednesday, March 12

Opening Round

#8 Villanova 82  #9 Syracuse 63

#5 West Virginia 58  #12 Providence 53

#7 Pittsburgh 70  #10 Cincinnati 64

#6 Marquette 67  #11 Seton Hall 54

Thursday, March 13

Quarterfinals

#1 Georgetown 82  Villanova 63

West Virginia 78  #4 Connecticut 72

Pittsburgh 76  #2 Louisville 69 ot

Marquette 89  #3 Notre Dame 79

Friday, March 14

Semifinals

Georgetown 72  West Virginia 55

Pittsburgh 68  Marquette 61

Saturday, March 15

Championship Game

Pittsburgh 74  Georgetown 65

Automatic Qualifier: Pittsburgh 26-9  Avg. RPI 15.8

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

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

Big 10  @ Indianapolis, IN

Thursday, March 13

Opening Round

#9 Michigan 55  #8 Iowa 47

#10 Illinois 64  #7 Penn State 63

#6 Minnesota 55  #11 Northwestern 52

Friday, March 14

Quarterfinals

#1 Wisconsin 51  Michigan 34

#4 Michigan State 67  #5 Ohio State 60

 Illinois 74  #2 Purdue 67 ot

Minnesota 59  Indiana 58

Saturday, March 15

Semifinals

Wisconsin 65  Michigan State 63

Illinois 54  Minnesota 50

Sunday, March 16

Championship Game

Wisconsin 28-4  vs. Illinois 16-18

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

Bubble:                      Ohio State-47.3

Big 12  @ Kansas City

Thursday, March 13

Opening Round

#9 Oklahoma State 76  #8 Texas Tech 72

#12 Colorado 91  #5 Baylor 84  2ot

#7 Nebraska 61  #10 Missouri 56

#6 Texas A&M 60  #11 Iowa State 47

Friday, March 14

Quarterfinals

#1 Texas 66  Oklahoma State 59

#4 Oklahoma 54  Colorado 49

#2 Kansas 64  Nebraska 54

 Texas A&M 63  #3 Kansas State 60

Saturday, March 15

Semifinals

Texas 77  Oklahoma 49

Kansas 77  Texas A&M 71

Sunday, March 16

Championship Game

Kansas 30-3  vs. Texas 28-5

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

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

Big West Tournament  @ Anaheim, CA

Wednesday, March 12

Opening Round

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

#7 UC-Riverside 62  Cal Poly 54

Thursday, March 13

Quarterfinals

#3 Cal State Fullerton 81  UC-Riverside 69

UC-Irvine 57  #4 Pacific 56

Friday, March 14

Semifinals

UC-Irvine 55  #1 UC Santa Barbara 50

Cal State Fullerton 83  #2 Cal State Northridge 68 

Saturday, March 15

Championship Game

Cal State Fullerton 81  UC-Irvine 66

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

At-large Teams:       0

Bubble:                      None

Conference USA  @ Memphis

Wednesday, March 12

Opening Round

#5 Southern Miss. 59  #12 Rice 50

#9 Tulane 48  #8 Marshall 47

#7 Tulsa 66  #10 East Carolina 49

#6 UTEP 71  #11 SMU 49

Thursday, March 13

Quarterfinals

#1 Memphis 75  Tulane 56

Southern Mississippi 68  #4 Central Florida 62

Tulsa 78  #2 Ala.-Birmingham 68 ot

UTEP 80  #3 Houston 77

Friday, March 14

Semifinals

Memphis 69  Southern Miss. 53

Tulsa 64  UTEP 62  ot

Saturday, March 15

Championship Game

Memphis 77  Tulsa 51

Automatic Qualifier: Memphis 33-1  Avg. RPI 3

At-large Teams:       0  

Bubble:                      None

Mid-American Conference @ Cleveland

Wednesday, March 12

Opening Round

#8 Toledo 52 #9 Bowling Green 48

#5 Miami (O) 69  #12 Buffalo 68

#7 Eastern Michigan 59  #10 Ball State 55

#6 Central Michigan 83  #11 Northern Illinois 71

Thursday, March 13

Quarterfinals

#1 Kent State 77  Toledo 57

Miami (O) 74  #4 Ohio U 61

#2 Western Michigan 70  Eastern Michigan 61

#3 Akron 81  Central Michigan 60

Friday, March 14

Semifinals

Kent State 49  Miami (O) 47

Akron 73  Western Michigan 62

Saturday, March 15

Championship Game

Kent State 74  Akron 55

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

At-large Teams:       0

Bubble:                      None

MEAC @ Raleigh, NC

Tuesday, March 11

Opening Round

#7 Coppin State 55  #10 Howard 54

#8 South Carolina State 78  #9 Bethune Cookman 69

Wednesday, March 12

Opening Round

#6 Florida A&M 70  Maryland Eastern Shore 61

Quarterfinal Round

Coppin State 75  Hampton 74  ot

Morgan State 77 South Carolina State 68

Thursday, March 13

Quarterfinal Round

#3 Norfolk State 69  Florida A&M 61

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

Friday, March 14

Semifinal Round

Morgan State 61  Delaware State 55

Coppin State 67  Norfolk State 65

Saturday, March 15

Championship Game

Coppin State 62  Morgan State 60

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

At-large Teams:       0

Bubble:                      None

Mountain West  @ Las Vegas

Wednesday, March 12

Opening Round

#9 Colorado State 68  #8 Wyoming 63

Thursday, March 13

Quarterfinals

#1 BYU 89  Colorado State 62

#4 San Diego State 53  #5 Air Force 49

#2 UNLV 89  #7 TCU 88

#6 Utah 82  #3 New Mexico 80 ot

Friday, March 14

Semifinals

BYU 63  San Diego State 54

UNLV 61  Utah 55

Saturday, March 15

Championship Game

UNLV 76  BYU 61

Automatic Qualifier: UNLV 26-7  Avg. RPI 23.8

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

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

Pac-10  @ The Staples Center in Los Angeles

Wednesday, March 12

Opening Round

#9 California 84  #8 Washington 81

#7 Arizona 87 #10 Oregon State 56

Thursday, March 13

Quarterfinals

#1 UCLA 88  California 66

#4 Southern Cal 59  #5 Arizona State 55

#2 Stanford 75  Arizona 64

#3 Washington State 75  Oregon 70

Friday, March 14

Semifinals

UCLA 57  Southern Cal 54

Stanford 75  Washington State 68

Saturday, March 15

Championship Game

UCLA 67  Stanford 64

Automatic Qualifier: UCLA 31-3  Avg. RPI 4.5

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

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

Patriot League

Quarterfinals

#1 American 62  #8 Holy Cross 60

#5 Army 64  #4 Lehigh 61 ot

#7 Bucknell 87  #2 Navy 86 3ot

#3 Colgate 76  #6 Lafayette 74

Sunday, March 9

Semifinals

American  72 Army 60

Colgate 54  Bucknell 40

Friday, March 14

Championship

American 52  Colgate 46

Automatic Qualifier: American 21-11  Avg. RPI 91.8

At-Large Teams:      0

Bubble:                      None

Southeastern  @ Atlanta

Thursday, March 13

Opening Round

#5E South Carolina 77  #4W LSU 73

#3E Vanderbilt 93  #6W Auburn 82

#5W Alabama 80  #4E Florida 69

#6E Georgia 97  #3W Ole Miss 95  ot

Friday, March 14

Quarterfinals

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

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

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

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

Saturday, March 15

Quarterfinals

Georgia 60  Kentucky 56 ot

Semifinals

Arkansas 92  Tennessee 91

Georgia 64  Mississippi State 60

Sunday, March 16

Championship Game

Georgia 16-16  vs. Arkansas 22-10

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

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

Southland  @ Katy, TX (near Houston)

Thursday, March 13

Quarterfinals

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

#5 Northwestern State 71  #4 Southeast Louisiana 51

#7 UT-Arlington 81  #2 Lamar 75

#3 Sam Houston State 64  McNeese State 62 ot

Friday, March 14

Semifinals

Northwestern State 69  Stephen F. Austin 66

UT-Arlington 72  Sam Houston 66

Sunday, March 16

Championship Game

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

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

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

S W A C  @ Birmingham

Wednesday, March 12

Quarterfinals

#1 Alabama State 67  #8 Texas Southern 49

#2 Mississippi Valley 79  #7 Grambling 73

Thursday, March 13

Quarterfinals

#6 Arkansas Pine Bluff 72  Alabama A&M 59

#4 Jackson State 56  #5 Southern 55

Friday, March 14

Semifinals

Jackson St.  77  Alabama State 72  ot

Mississippi Valley 70  Arkansas-Pine Bluff 59

Saturday, March 15

Championship Game

Mississippi Valley 59  Jackson State 58

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

At-large Teams:       0         

Bubble:                      None

WAC @ Las Cruces, NM

Tuesday, March 11

Opening Round

#8 San Jose State 64  Louisiana Tech 62

Thursday, March 13

Quarterfinal Round

#1 Utah State 85  San Jose State 65

#4 Boise State 80  Hawaii 74

#2 Nevada 64  #7 Fresno State 57

#3 New Mexico State 73  #6 Idaho 53

Friday, March 14

Semifinal Round

Boise State 88  Utah State 78

New Mexico St. 83  Nevada 75

Saturday, March 15

Championship Game

Boise State 107  New Mexico State 102  3ot

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

At-large Teams:       0

Bubble:                      None

My Guess At The Field of 65

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

Clinched Automatic Berth in NCAA Tournament (26)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 8. Davidson (26-6)-Southern Champion

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

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

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

12. Butler (29-3)-Horizon Champion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My Guess at the Five Remaining Automatic Bids

27. North Carolina

28. Wisconsin

29. Kansas

30. Arkansas

31. Northwestern State

My Guess at the 34 At-large Teams

The Safe Picks

32. Duke

33. Clemson

34. Miami (Fla.)

35. Michigan State

36. Indiana

37. Texas

38. Tennessee

39. Mississippi State

40. Vanderbilt

41. Xavier

42. Georgetown

43. Louisville

44. Notre Dame

45. Marquette

46. West Virginia

47. Connecticut

48. B Y U

49. Stanford

50. Southern Cal

51. Washington State

52. Arizona

53. South Alabama

54. Gonzaga

55. St. Mary’s

56. Illinois State

57. Texas A&M

58. Oklahoma

59. Purdue

The Bubble-Picking the Final Six

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

New Mexico-Not really on the bubble now–Out

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So, here are the lucky bubblers:

60. Baylor

61. Kansas State

62. Kentucky

63. Ohio State

64. St. Joseph’s

65. South Alabama

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

March 14, 2008

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

 

A PiRate Look at the NCAA Basketball Conference Tournaments

March 14, 2008, 8th Update

Conference Tournament Results through Thursday, March 13, 2008

Concluded Tournaments

Atlantic Sun

Quarterfinals

#4 East Tennessee 81 #5 Lipscomb 74

#6 Gardner-Webb 82  #3 Stetson 63

#2 Jacksonville 65  #7 Mercer 57

#1 Belmont 75  #8 Campbell 66

Semifinals

Jacksonville 89 Gardner-Webb 80

Belmont 69 East Tennessee 65

Saturday, March 8

Championship

Belmont 79  Jacksonville 61

Automatic Qualifier: Belmont 25-8  Avg. RPI 75.3

At-Large Teams:      0

Bubble:                       None

Big Sky                    

Saturday, March 8

Quarterfinals

#4 Idaho State 67  #5 Montana 65

#3 Weber State 65  #6 Montana State 49

Tuesday, March 11 @ Portland, OR

Semifinals

#1 Portland State 72  Idaho State 61

#2 Northern Arizona 75  Weber State 70

Wednesday, March 12 @ Portland, OR

Championship Game

Portland State 67  Northern Arizona 51

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

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

At-Large Teams:      0

Bubble:                       None

Big South

Opening Round

#1 UNC-Asheville 87  #8 Charleston Southern 63

#4 Liberty 103  #5 VMI 88

#2 Winthrop 76  #7 Radford 45

#3 High Point 59  #6 Coastal Carolina 56

Semifinals

UNC-Asheville 75  Liberty 57

Winthrop 61  High Point 53

Saturday, March 8 @ Asheville, NC

Championship Game

Winthrop 66  UNC-Asheville 48

Automatic Qualifier: Winthrop 22-11  Avg. RPI 103.5

At-Large Teams:      0

Bubble:                       None

Colonial Athletic Association

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

#9 Towson State 81  #8 Towson State 66

#5 William & Mary 58 #12 Georgia State 57

#6 Delaware 60  #11 Drexel 51

#7 Northeastern 73 #10 James Madison 59

Saturday, March 8

Quarterfinals

#1 Virginia Commonwealth 57  Towson State 46

William & Mary 63  #4 Old Dominion 60

#3 UNC-Wilmington 82  Delaware 59

#2 George Mason 63  Northeastern 52

Sunday, March 9

Semifinals

William & Mary 56  Virginia Commonwealth 54

George Mason 53  UNC-Wilmington 41

Monday, March 10

Championship Game

George Mason 68  William & Mary 59

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

At-Large Teams:      0 or 1

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

Horizon League              

All Games Played At Indianapolis (Butler host team)

Opening Round

#3 Wright State 60  #10 Detroit 37

#6 Valparaiso 75  #7 UW-Green Bay 67

#4 Illinois-Chicago 70  #9 Youngstown State 59

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

Quarterfinals

Valparaiso 72  Wright State 67

Illinois-Chicago 60 Loyola (Chi.) 49

Saturday, March 8

Semifinals

#2 Cleveland State 78  Valparaiso 73

#1 Butler 66  Illinois-Chicago 50

Tuesday, March 11

Championship

Butler 70  Cleveland State 55

Automatic Qualifier: Butler 29-3  Avg. RPI 15.5

At-Large Teams:      0

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

Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference

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

Opening Round

#8 Manhattan 73  #9 St. Peter’s 59

#10 Canisius 64  #7 Iona 59

Saturday, March 8

Quarterfinals

#1 Siena 66  Manhattan 58

#4 Loyola (Md.) 64  #5 Fairfield 59

#2 Rider 75  Canisius 71

#6 Marist 66  #3 Niagara 62

Sunday, March 9

Semifinals

Siena 65  Loyola (Md.) 63

Rider 76  Marist 71

Monday, March 10

Championship Game

Siena 74  Rider 53

Automatic Qualifier: Siena 22-10  Avg. RPI 71.5

At-Large Teams:      0

Bubble:                       None

Missouri Valley @ St. Louis (Arch Madness)

Opening Round

#8 Indiana State 71  #9 Wichita State 67

#7 Missouri State 69 #10 Evansville 46

Quarterfinals

#1 Drake 68  Indiana State 46

#4 Creighton 74  #5 Bradley 70

#2 Illinois State 63  Missouri State 58

#6 Northern Iowa 54  #3 Southern Illinois 49

Saturday, March 8

Semifinals

Drake 75 Creighton 67

Illinois State 56 Northern Iowa 42

Sunday, March 9

Championship

Drake 79  Illinois State 49

Automatic Qualifier: Drake 28-4  Avg. RPI 11.3

At-Large Teams:      0 or 1

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

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

Northeast

Quarterfinal

#1 Robert Morris 64  #8 Monmouth 50

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

#2 Wagner 71  #7 Long Island 62

#3 Sacred Heart 84  #6 Central Connecticut State 71

Sunday, March 9

Semifinals

Mt. St. Mary’s 83  Robert Morris 65

Sacred Heart 55  Wagner 49

Wednesday, March 12

Championship

Mt. St. Mary’s 68  Sacred Heart 55

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

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

At-Large Teams:      0

Bubble:                       None

Ohio Valley Conference

Quarterfinals @ Higher Seed

#1 Austin Peay 76  #8 Eastern Kentucky 51

#4 UT-Martin 101  #5 Samford 94  3ot

#2 Murray State 77  #7 Tennessee Tech 74

#6 Tennessee State 68  #3 Morehead State 61

Semifinals @ Nashville

Austin Peay 78  UT-Martin 77

Tennessee State 83 Murray State 75

Saturday, March 8

Championship

Austin Peay 82 Tennessee State 64

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

At-Large Teams:      0

Bubble:                       None

Southern Conference

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

Opening Round

#8 Wofford 58  #9 Western Carolina 49

#7 Elon 52  #10 Furman 37

#6 Charleston 66  #11 Citadel 48

Saturday, March 8

Quarterfinals

#1 Davidson 82 Wofford 49

#5 UNC-Greensboro 63  #4 Appalachian State 46

Elon 60  #2 Chattanooga 57

Coll. of Charleston 87  #3 Georgia Southern 73

Sunday, March 9

Semifinals

Davidson 82 UNCG 52

Elon 75  Charleston 61

Monday, March 10

Championship Game

Davidson 65  Elon 49

Automatic Qualifier: Davidson 26-6  Avg. RPI 26.8

At-Large Teams:      0

Bubble:                       None

Summit League @ Tulsa (Oral Roberts host team)                

Saturday, March 8

Quarterfinals

#1 Oral Roberts 84 #8 Centenary 56

#2 IUPUI 69  #7 Missouri-Kansas City 65

Sunday, March 9

Quarterfinals

#5 IPFW 66  #4 Southern Utah 62

#3 Oakland 80 #6 Western Illinois 66

Monday, March 10

Semifinals

Oral Roberts 58 IPFW 42

IUPUI 80 Oakland 65

Tuesday, March 11

Championship

Oral Roberts 71  IUPUI 64

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

At-Large Teams:      0

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

Sunbelt Conference                   

1st Round

#8 New Orleans 65  #9 Denver 60

#4 Middle Tennessee 74  #13 Louisiana Monroe 69

#12 Troy 70  #5 Louisiana Lafayette 60

#6 North Texas 85  #11 Arkansas State 63

#7 Florida Atlantic 91  #10 Florida International 64

Sunday, March 9 @ Mobile, AL

Quarterfinals

South Alabama 81  New Orleans 77

Middle Tennessee 65  Troy 59

Western Kentucky 84  North Texas 70

Arkansas Little Rock 66  Florida Atlantic 60

Monday, March 10 @ Mobile, AL

Semifinals

Middle Tennessee 82  South Alabama 73

Western Kentucky 70 Arkansas-Little Rock 55

Tuesday, March 11 @ Mobile, AL

Championship

Western Kentucky 67  Middle Tennessee 57

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

At-Large Teams:      0 or 1

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

 West Coast Conference

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

Opening Round

#5 San Francisco 79  # 8 Loyola Marymount 60

#6 Pepperdine 50  #7 Portland 48  ot

Saturday, March 8

Quarterfinals

#4 Santa Clara 51  San Francisco 50

#3 San Diego 75  Pepperdine 55

Sunday, March 9

#1 Gonzaga 52  Santa Clara 48

San Diego 75  #2 St. Mary’s 69  2ot

Monday, March 10

Championship Game

San Diego 69 Gonzaga 62

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

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

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

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

Ivy League Champion

Automatic Qualifier: Cornell 22-5  Avg. RPI 67

Clinched Automatic Berth in NCAA Tournament (14)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 8. Davidson (26-6)-Southern Champion

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

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

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

12. Butler (29-3)-Horizon Champion

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

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

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

Active Tournaments

America East

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

Opening Round

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

Saturday, March 8

Quarterfinals

#1 Md. Balt. Co. 76  Stony Brook 60

#4 Vermont 65  #5 Binghamton 57

#2 Hartford 68  #7 New Hampshire 65

#6 Boston U. 68  #3 Albany 64  ot

Sunday, March 9

Semifinals

Md. Balt. Co. 73  Vermont 64

Hartford 59  Boston U. 52

Saturday, March 15

Championship Game

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

At-Large Teams:      0

Bubble:                       None

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

Atlantic Coast  @ Charlotte, NC

Thursday, March 13

Opening Round

#9 Florida State 70  #8 Wake Forest 60

#5 Miami 63  #12 North Carolina State 50

#7 Georgia Tech 94  #10 Virginia 76

#11 Boston College 71  #6 Maryland 68

Friday, March 14

Quarterfinals

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

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

#2 Duke 26-4  vs. Georgia Tech 15-16

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

Saturday, March 15

Semifinals

UNC-FSU  vs. VT-Mia.

Duke-GT  vs. Clem-BC

Sunday, March 16

Championship Game

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

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

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

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

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

Atlantic 10  @ Atlantic City, NJ

Wednesday, March 12

Opening Round

#8 Dayton 63  St. Louis 62  ot

#5 St. Joseph’s 80 #12 Fordham 62

#7 LaSalle 82  #10 Duquesne 79

#6 Charlotte 75  #11 Rhode Island 73

Thursday, March 13

Quarterfinals

#1 Xavier 74  Dayton 65

 St. Joseph’s 61 #4 Richmond 47

#2 Temple 84  LaSalle 75

Charlotte 69  #3 Massachusetts 65

Friday, March 14

Semifinals

Xavier 27-5  vs. St. Joseph’s 20-11

Temple 19-12  vs. Charlotte 20-12

Saturday, March 15

Championship Game

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

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

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

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

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

Big East  @ Madison Square Garden in NYC

Wednesday, March 12

Opening Round

#8 Villanova 82  #9 Syracuse 63

#5 West Virginia 58  #12 Providence 53

#7 Pittsburgh 70  #10 Cincinnati 64

#6 Marquette 67  #11 Seton Hall 54

Thursday, March 13

Quarterfinals

#1 Georgetown 82  Villanova 63

West Virginia 78  #4 Connecticut 72

Pittsburgh 76  #2 Louisville 69 ot

Marquette 89  #3 Notre Dame 79

Friday, March 14

Semifinals

Georgetown 26-4  vs. West Virginia 24-9

Pittsburgh 24-9  vs. Marquette 24-8

Saturday, March 15

Championship Game

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

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

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

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

Big 10  @ Indianapolis, IN

Thursday, March 13

Opening Round

#9 Michigan 55  #8 Iowa 47

#10 Illinois 64  #7 Penn State 63

#6 Minnesota 55  #11 Northwestern 52

Friday, March 14

Quarterfinals

#1 Wisconsin 26-4  vs. Michigan 10-21

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

#2 Purdue 24-7  vs. Illinois 14-18

#3 Indiana 25-6  vs. Minnesota 19-12

Saturday, March 15

Semifinals

Wisc.-Mich  vs. MSU-OSU

Purd-Ill.  Vs. IU-MN

Sunday, March 16

Championship Game

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

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

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

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

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

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

Big 12  @ Kansas City

Thursday, March 13

Opening Round

#9 Oklahoma State 76  #8 Texas Tech 72

#12 Colorado 91  #5 Baylor 84  2ot

#7 Nebraska 61  #10 Missouri 56

#6 Texas A&M 60  #11 Iowa State 47

Friday, March 14

Quarterfinals

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

#4 Oklahoma 21-10  vs. Colorado 12-19

#2 Kansas 28-3  vs. Nebraska 19-11

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

Saturday, March 15

Semifinals

Texas-OK St  vs. Okla-Color

Kans-Nebr  vs. K-St-A&M

Sunday, March 16

Championship Game

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

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

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

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

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

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

Big West Tournament  @ Anaheim, CA

Wednesday, March 12

Opening Round

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

#7 UC-Riverside 62  Cal Poly 54

Thursday, March 13

Quarterfinals

#3 Cal State Fullerton 81  UC-Riverside 69

UC-Irvine 57  #4 Pacific 56

Friday, March 14

Semifinals

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

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

Saturday, March 15

Championship Game

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

At-large Teams:       0

Bubble:                       None

Conference USA  @ Memphis

Wednesday, March 12

Opening Round

#5 Southern Miss. 59  #12 Rice 50

#9 Tulane 48  #8 Marshall 47

#7 Tulsa 66  #10 East Carolina 49

#6 UTEP 71  #11 SMU 49

Thursday, March 13

Quarterfinals

#1 Memphis 75  Tulane 56

Southern Mississippi 68  #4 Central Florida 62

Tulsa 78  #2 Ala.-Birmingham 68 ot

UTEP 80  #3 Houston 77

Friday, March 14

Semifinals

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

Tulsa 19-12  vs. UTEP 19-12

Saturday, March 15

Championship Game

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

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

Bubble:                       None

Mid-American Conference @ Cleveland

Wednesday, March 12

Opening Round

#8 Toledo 52 #9 Bowling Green 48

#5 Miami (O) 69  #12 Buffalo 68

#7 Eastern Michigan 59  #10 Ball State 55

#6 Central Michigan 83  #11 Northern Illinois 71

Thursday, March 13

Quarterfinals

#1 Kent State 77  Toledo 57

Miami (O) 74  #4 Ohio U 61

#2 Western Michigan 70  Eastern Michigan 61

#3 Akron 81  Central Michigan 60

Friday, March 14

Semifinals

Kent State 26-6  vs. Miami (O) 17-14

Western Michigan 20-11  vs. Akron 22-9

Saturday, March 15

Championship Game

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

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

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

Bubble:                       None

MEAC @ Raleigh, NC

Tuesday, March 11

Opening Round

#7 Coppin State 55  #10 Howard 54

#8 South Carolina State 78  #9 Bethune Cookman 69

Wednesday, March 12

Opening Round

#6 Florida A&M 70  Maryland Eastern Shore 61

Quarterfinal Round

Coppin State 75  Hampton 74  ot

Morgan State 77 South Carolina State 68

Thursday, March 13

Quarterfinal Round

#3 Norfolk State 69  Florida A&M 61

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

Friday, March 14

Semifinal Round

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

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

Saturday, March 15

Championship Game

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

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

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

At-large Teams:       0

Bubble:                       None

Mountain West  @ Las Vegas

Wednesday, March 12

Opening Round

#9 Colorado State 68  #8 Wyoming 63

Thursday, March 13

Quarterfinals

#1 BYU 89  Colorado State 62

#4 San Diego State 53  #5 Air Force 49

#2 UNLV 89  #7 TCU 88

#6 Utah 82  #3 New Mexico 80 ot

Friday, March 14

Semifinals

BYU 26-6  vs. San Diego State 20-11

UNLV 24-7  vs. Utah 17-13

Saturday, March 15

Championship Game

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

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

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

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

Pac-10  @ The Staples Center in Los Angeles

Wednesday, March 12

Opening Round

#9 California 84  #8 Washington 81

#7 Arizona 87 #10 Oregon State 56

Thursday, March 13

Quarterfinals

#1 UCLA 88  California 66

#4 Southern Cal 59  #5 Arizona State 55

#2 Stanford 75  Arizona 64

#3 Washington State 75  Oregon 70

Friday, March 14

Semifinals

UCLA 29-3  vs. Southern Cal 21-10

Stanford 25-6  vs. Washington State 24-7

Saturday, March 15

Championship Game

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

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

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

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

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

Patriot League

Quarterfinals

#1 American 62  #8 Holy Cross 60

#5 Army 64  #4 Lehigh 61 ot

#7 Bucknell 87  #2 Navy 86 3ot

#3 Colgate 76  #6 Lafayette 74

Sunday, March 9

Semifinals

American  72 Army 60

Colgate 54  Bucknell 40

Friday, March 14

Championship

Colgate 18-13 at American 20-11

At-Large Teams:      0

Bubble:                       None

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

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

Southeastern  @ Atlanta

Thursday, March 13

Opening Round

#5E South Carolina 77  #4W LSU 73

#3E Vanderbilt 93  #6W Auburn 82

#5W Alabama 80  #4E Florida 69

#6E Georgia 97  #3W Ole Miss 95  ot

Friday, March 14

Quarterfinals

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

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

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

#2E Kentucky 18-11  vs. Georgia 14-16

Saturday, March 15

UT-USC  vs. Ark-Vand.

MSU-Ala  vs. UK-UGa

Sunday, March 16

Championship Game

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Southland  @ Katy, TX (near Houston)

Thursday, March 13

Quarterfinals

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

#5 Northwestern State 71  #4 Southeast Louisiana 51

#7 UT-Arlington 81  #2 Lamar 75

#3 Sam Houston State 64  McNeese State 62 ot

Friday, March 14

Semifinals

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

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

Sunday, March 16

Championship Game

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

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

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

At-large Teams:       0 or 1

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

S W A C  @ Birmingham

Wednesday, March 12

Quarterfinals

#1 Alabama State 67  #8 Texas Southern 49

#2 Mississippi Valley 79  #7 Grambling 73

Thursday, March 13

Quarterfinals

#6 Arkansas Pine Bluff 72  Alabama A&M 59

#4 Jackson State 56  #5 Southern 55

Friday, March 14

Semifinals

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

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

Saturday, March 15

Championship Game

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

At-large Teams:       0         

Bubble:                       None

WAC @ Las Cruces, NM

Tuesday, March 11

Opening Round

#8 San Jose State 64  Louisiana Tech 62

Thursday, March 13

Quarterfinal Round

#1 Utah State 85  San Jose State 65

#4 Boise State 80  Hawaii 74

#2 Nevada 64  #7 Fresno State 57

#3 New Mexico State 73  #6 Idaho 53

Friday, March 14

Semifinal Round

Utah State 24-9  vs. Boise State 23-8

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

Saturday, March 15

Championship Game

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

At-large Teams:       0

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

March 13, 2008

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

 

A PiRate Look at the NCAA Basketball Conference Tournaments

March 13, 2008, 7th Update

Conference Tournament Results through Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Concluded Tournaments

Atlantic Sun

Quarterfinals

#4 East Tennessee 81 #5 Lipscomb 74

#6 Gardner-Webb 82  #3 Stetson 63

#2 Jacksonville 65  #7 Mercer 57

#1 Belmont 75  #8 Campbell 66

Semifinals

Jacksonville 89 Gardner-Webb 80

Belmont 69 East Tennessee 65

Saturday, March 8

Championship

Belmont 79  Jacksonville 61

Automatic Qualifier: Belmont 25-8  Avg. RPI 76

At-Large Teams:      0

Bubble:                      None

Big Sky                    

Saturday, March 8

Quarterfinals

#4 Idaho State 67  #5 Montana 65

#3 Weber State 65  #6 Montana State 49

Tuesday, March 11 @ Portland, OR

Semifinals

#1 Portland State 72  Idaho State 61

#2 Northern Arizona 75  Weber State 70

Wednesday, March 12 @ Portland, OR

Championship Game

Portland State 67  Northern Arizona 51

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

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

At-Large Teams:      0

Bubble:                      None

Big South

Opening Round

#1 UNC-Asheville 87  #8 Charleston Southern 63

#4 Liberty 103  #5 VMI 88

#2 Winthrop 76  #7 Radford 45

#3 High Point 59  #6 Coastal Carolina 56

Semifinals

UNC-Asheville 75  Liberty 57

Winthrop 61  High Point 53

Saturday, March 8 @ Asheville, NC

Championship Game

Winthrop 66  UNC-Asheville 48

Automatic Qualifier: Winthrop 22-11  Avg. RPI 103.5

At-Large Teams:      0

Bubble:                      None

Colonial Athletic Association

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

#9 Towson State 81  #8 Towson State 66

#5 William & Mary 58 #12 Georgia State 57

#6 Delaware 60  #11 Drexel 51

#7 Northeastern 73 #10 James Madison 59

Saturday, March 8

Quarterfinals

#1 Virginia Commonwealth 57  Towson State 46

William & Mary 63  #4 Old Dominion 60

#3 UNC-Wilmington 82  Delaware 59

#2 George Mason 63  Northeastern 52

Sunday, March 9

Semifinals

William & Mary 56  Virginia Commonwealth 54

George Mason 53  UNC-Wilmington 41

Monday, March 10

Championship Game

George Mason 68  William & Mary 59

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

At-Large Teams:      0 or 1

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

Horizon League              

All Games Played At Indianapolis (Butler host team)

Opening Round

#3 Wright State 60  #10 Detroit 37

#6 Valparaiso 75  #7 UW-Green Bay 67

#4 Illinois-Chicago 70  #9 Youngstown State 59

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

Quarterfinals

Valparaiso 72  Wright State 67

Illinois-Chicago 60 Loyola (Chi.) 49

Saturday, March 8

Semifinals

#2 Cleveland State 78  Valparaiso 73

#1 Butler 66  Illinois-Chicago 50

Tuesday, March 11

Championship

Butler 70  Cleveland State 55

Automatic Qualifier: Butler 29-3  Avg. RPI 16

At-Large Teams:      0

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

Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference

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

Opening Round

#8 Manhattan 73  #9 St. Peter’s 59

#10 Canisius 64  #7 Iona 59

Saturday, March 8

Quarterfinals

#1 Siena 66  Manhattan 58

#4 Loyola (Md.) 64  #5 Fairfield 59

#2 Rider 75  Canisius 71

#6 Marist 66  #3 Niagara 62

Sunday, March 9

Semifinals

Siena 65  Loyola (Md.) 63

Rider 76  Marist 71

Monday, March 10

Championship Game

Siena 74  Rider 53

Automatic Qualifier: Siena 22-10  Avg. RPI 71.8

At-Large Teams:      0

Bubble:                      None

Missouri Valley @ St. Louis (Arch Madness)

Opening Round

#8 Indiana State 71  #9 Wichita State 67

#7 Missouri State 69 #10 Evansville 46

Quarterfinals

#1 Drake 68  Indiana State 46

#4 Creighton 74  #5 Bradley 70

#2 Illinois State 63  Missouri State 58

#6 Northern Iowa 54  #3 Southern Illinois 49

Saturday, March 8

Semifinals

Drake 75 Creighton 67

Illinois State 56 Northern Iowa 42

Sunday, March 9

Championship

Drake 79  Illinois State 49

Automatic Qualifier: Drake 28-4  Avg. RPI 11.8

At-Large Teams:      0 or 1

Bubble:                      Illinois State 23-9  RPI avg. 35.5

Northeast

Quarterfinal

#1 Robert Morris 64  #8 Monmouth 50

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

#2 Wagner 71  #7 Long Island 62

#3 Sacred Heart 84  #6 Central Connecticut State 71

Sunday, March 9

Semifinals

Mt. St. Mary’s 83  Robert Morris 65

Sacred Heart 55  Wagner 49

Wednesday, March 12

Championship

Mt. St. Mary’s 68  Sacred Heart 55

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

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

At-Large Teams:      0

Bubble:                      None

Ohio Valley Conference

Quarterfinals @ Higher Seed

#1 Austin Peay 76  #8 Eastern Kentucky 51

#4 UT-Martin 101  #5 Samford 94  3ot

#2 Murray State 77  #7 Tennessee Tech 74

#6 Tennessee State 68  #3 Morehead State 61

Semifinals @ Nashville

Austin Peay 78  UT-Martin 77

Tennessee State 83 Murray State 75

Saturday, March 8

Championship

Austin Peay 82 Tennessee State 64

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

At-Large Teams:      0

Bubble:                      None

Southern Conference

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

Opening Round

#8 Wofford 58  #9 Western Carolina 49

#7 Elon 52  #10 Furman 37

#6 Charleston 66  #11 Citadel 48

Saturday, March 8

Quarterfinals

#1 Davidson 82 Wofford 49

#5 UNC-Greensboro 63  #4 Appalachian State 46

Elon 60  #2 Chattanooga 57

Coll. of Charleston 87  #3 Georgia Southern 73

Sunday, March 9

Semifinals

Davidson 82 UNCG 52

Elon 75  Charleston 61

Monday, March 10

Championship Game

Davidson 65  Elon 49

Automatic Qualifier: Davidson 26-6  Avg. RPI 29.8

At-Large Teams:      0

Bubble:                      None

Summit League @ Tulsa (Oral Roberts host team)                  

Saturday, March 8

Quarterfinals

#1 Oral Roberts 84 #8 Centenary 56

#2 IUPUI 69  #7 Missouri-Kansas City 65

Sunday, March 9

Quarterfinals

#5 IPFW 66  #4 Southern Utah 62

#3 Oakland 80 #6 Western Illinois 66

Monday, March 10

Semifinals

Oral Roberts 58 IPFW 42

IUPUI 80 Oakland 65

Tuesday, March 11

Championship

Oral Roberts 71  IUPUI 64

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

At-Large Teams:      0

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

Sunbelt Conference                   

1st Round

#8 New Orleans 65  #9 Denver 60

#4 Middle Tennessee 74  #13 Louisiana Monroe 69

#12 Troy 70  #5 Louisiana Lafayette 60

#6 North Texas 85  #11 Arkansas State 63

#7 Florida Atlantic 91  #10 Florida International 64

Sunday, March 9 @ Mobile, AL

Quarterfinals

South Alabama 81  New Orleans 77

Middle Tennessee 65  Troy 59

Western Kentucky 84  North Texas 70

Arkansas Little Rock 66  Florida Atlantic 60

Monday, March 10 @ Mobile, AL

Semifinals

Middle Tennessee 82  South Alabama 73

Western Kentucky 70 Arkansas-Little Rock 55

Tuesday, March 11 @ Mobile, AL

Championship

Western Kentucky 67  Middle Tennessee 57

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

At-Large Teams:      0 or 1

Bubble:                      South Alabama (Avg. RPI 39.3)

 West Coast Conference

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

Opening Round

#5 San Francisco 79  # 8 Loyola Marymount 60

#6 Pepperdine 50  #7 Portland 48  ot

Saturday, March 8

Quarterfinals

#4 Santa Clara 51  San Francisco 50

#3 San Diego 75  Pepperdine 55

Sunday, March 9

#1 Gonzaga 52  Santa Clara 48

San Diego 75  #2 St. Mary’s 69  2ot

Monday, March 10

Championship Game

San Diego 69 Gonzaga 62

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

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

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

                                    Gonzaga 25-7  Avg. RPI 27.8

Clinched Automatic Berth in NCAA Tournament (14)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 8. Davidson (26-6)-Southern Champion

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

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

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

12. Butler (29-3)-Horizon Champion

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

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

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

Active Tournaments

America East

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

Opening Round

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

Saturday, March 8

Quarterfinals

#1 Md. Balt. Co. 76  Stony Brook 60

#4 Vermont 65  #5 Binghamton 57

#2 Hartford 68  #7 New Hampshire 65

#6 Boston U. 68  #3 Albany 64  ot

Sunday, March 9

Semifinals

Md. Balt. Co. 73  Vermont 64

Hartford 59  Boston U. 52

Saturday, March 15

Championship Game

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

At-Large Teams:      0

Bubble:                      None

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

Atlantic 10  @ Atlantic City, NJ

Wednesday, March 12

Opening Round

#8 Dayton 63  St. Louis 62  ot

#5 St. Joseph’s 80 #12 Fordham 62

#7 LaSalle 82  #10 Duquesne 79

#6 Charlotte 75  #11 Rhode Island 73

Thursday, March 13

Quarterfinals

#1 Xavier 26-5  vs. Dayton 21-9

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

#2 Temple 18-12  vs. LaSalle 15-16

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

Friday, March 14

Semifinals

1/8 winner  vs. 4/5 winner

2/7 winner  vs. 3/6 winner

Saturday, March 15

Championship Game

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

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

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

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

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

Big East  @ Madison Square Garden in NYC

Wednesday, March 12

Opening Round

#8 Villanova 82  #9 Syracuse 63

#5 West Virginia 58  #12 Providence 53

#7 Pittsburgh 70  #10 Cincinnati 64

#6 Marquette 67  #11 Seton Hall 54

Thursday, March 13

Quarterfinals

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

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

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

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

Friday, March 14

Semifinals

1/8  vs. 4/5

2/7  vs. 3/6

Saturday, March 15

Championship Game

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

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

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

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

Bubble:                      Villanova (avg. RPI 52)

Big West Tournament  @ Anaheim, CA

Wednesday, March 12

Opening Round

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

#7 UC-Riverside 62  Cal Poly 54

Thursday, March 13

Quarterfinals

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

#4 Pacific 21-9  vs. UC-Irvine 16-15

Friday, March 14

Semifinals

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

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

Saturday, March 15

Championship Game

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

At-large Teams:       0

Bubble:                      None

Conference USA  @ Memphis

Wednesday, March 12

Opening Round

#5 Southern Miss. 59  #12 Rice 50

#9 Tulane 48  #8 Marshall 47

#7 Tulsa 66  #10 East Carolina 49

#6 UTEP 71  #11 SMU 49

Thursday, March 13

Quarterfinals

#1 Memphis 30-1  vs. Tulane 17-14

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

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

#3 Houston 22-8  vs. UTEP 18-12

Friday, March 14

Semifinals

1/9  vs. 4/5

2/7  vs. 3/6

Saturday, March 15

Championship Game

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

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

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

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

MEAC @ Raleigh, NC

Tuesday, March 11

Opening Round

#7 Coppin State 55  #10 Howard 54

#8 South Carolina State 78  #9 Bethune Cookman 69

Wednesday, March 12

Opening Round

#6 Florida A&M 70  Maryland Eastern Shore 61

Quarterfinal Round

Coppin State 75  Hampton 74  ot

Morgan State 77 South Carolina State 68

Thursday, March 13

Quarterfinal Round

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

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

Friday, March 14

Semifinal Round

Morgan State 21-9  vs. Del. St.-NCAT

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

Saturday, March 15

Championship Game

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

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

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

At-large Teams:       0

Bubble:                      None

Mid-American Conference @ Cleveland

Wednesday, March 12

Opening Round

#8 Toledo 52 #9 Bowling Green 48

#5 Miami (O) 69  #12 Buffalo 68

#7 Eastern Michigan 59  #10 Ball State 55

#6 Central Michigan 83  #11 Northern Illinois 71

Thursday, March 13

Quarterfinals

#1 Kent State 25-6  vs. Toledo 11-18

#4 Ohio U 19-11  vs. Miami (O) 16-14

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

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

Friday, March 14

Semifinals

1/8  vs. 4/5

2/7  vs. 3/6

Saturday, March 15

Championship Game

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

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

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

Bubble:                      None

Mountain West  @ Las Vegas

Wednesday, March 12

Opening Round

#9 Colorado State 68  #8 Wyoming 63

Thursday, March 13

Quarterfinals

#1 BYU 25-6  vs. Colorado State 7-24

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

#2 UNLV 23-7  vs. #7 TCU 14-15

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

Friday, March 14

Semifinals

1/9  vs. 4/5

2/7  vs. 3/6

Saturday, March 15

Championship Game

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

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

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

Bubble:                      New Mexico (Avg. RPI 52.5)

Pac-10  @ The Staples Center in Los Angeles

Wednesday, March 12

Opening Round

#9 California 84  #8 Washington 81

#7 Arizona 87 #10 Oregon State 56

Thursday, March 13

Quarterfinals

#1 UCLA 28-3  vs. California 16-14

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

#2 Stanford 24-6  vs. Arizona 19-13

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

Friday, March 14

Semifinals

1/9  vs. 4/5

2/7/10  vs. 3/6

Saturday, March 15

Championship Game

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

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

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

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

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

Patriot League

Quarterfinals

#1 American 62  #8 Holy Cross 60

#5 Army 64  #4 Lehigh 61 ot

#7 Bucknell 87  #2 Navy 86 3ot

#3 Colgate 76  #6 Lafayette 74

Sunday, March 9

Semifinals

American  72 Army 60

Colgate 54  Bucknell 40

Friday, March 14

Championship

Colgate 18-13 at American 20-11

At-Large Teams:      0

Bubble:                      None

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

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

S W A C  @ Birmingham

Wednesday, March 12

Quarterfinals

#1 Alabama State 67  #8 Texas Southern 49

#2 Mississippi Valley 79  #7 Grambling 73

Thursday, March 13

Quarterfinals

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

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

Friday, March 14

Semifinals

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

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

Saturday, March 15

Championship Game

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

At-large Teams:       0         

Bubble:                      None

WAC @ Las Cruces, NM

Tuesday, March 11

Opening Round

#8 San Jose State 64  Louisiana Tech 62

Thursday, March 13

Quarterfinal Round

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

#4 Boise State 22-8  vs. Hawaii 11-18

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

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

Friday, March 14

Semifinal Round

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

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

Saturday, March 15

Championship Game

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

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

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

At-large Teams:       0

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

Conference Tournaments Beginning Thursday, March 13

Atlantic Coast  @ Charlotte, NC

Thursday, March 13

Opening Round

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

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

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

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

Friday, March 14

Quarterfinals

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

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

#2 Duke 26-4  vs. 7/10 winner

#3 Clemson 22-8  vs. 6/11 winner

Saturday, March 15

Semifinals

1/8/9  vs. 4/5/12

2/7/10  vs. 3/6/11

Sunday, March 16

Championship Game

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

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

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

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

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

Bubble:                      Virginia Tech, Maryland, Florida State

Big 10  @ Indianapolis, IN

Thursday, March 13

Opening Round

#8 Iowa 13-18  vs. #9 Michigan 9-21

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

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

Friday, March 14

Quarterfinals

#1 Wisconsin 26-4  vs. 8/9 winner

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

#2 Purdue 24-7  vs. 7/10 winner

#3 Indiana 25-6  vs. 6/11 winner

Saturday, March 15

Semifinals

1/8/9  vs. 4/5

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

Sunday, March 16

Championship Game

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

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

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

Bubble:                      Ohio State

Big 12  @ Kansas City

Thursday, March 13

Opening Round

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

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

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

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

Friday, March 14

Quarterfinals

#1 Texas 26-5  vs. 8/9 winner

#4 Oklahoma 21-10  vs. 5/12 winner

#2 Kansas 28-3  vs. 7/10 winner

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

Saturday, March 15

Semifinals

1/8/9  vs. 4/5/12

2/7/10  vs. 3/6/11

Sunday, March 16

Championship Game

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bubble:                      Kansas State, Texas A&M

Southeastern  @ Atlanta

Thursday, March 13

Opening Round

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

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

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

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

Friday, March 14

Quarterfinals

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

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

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

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

Saturday, March 15

A winner vs. B winner

C winner vs. D winner

Sunday, March 16

Championship Game

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bubble:                      Florida, Ole Miss

Southland  @ Katy, TX (near Houston)

Thursday, March 13

Quarterfinals

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

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

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

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

Friday, March 14

Semifinals

SFA/UTSA winner vs. SELA/NWST winner

Lamar/UTA winner vs. SHSY/MSU winner

Sunday, March 16

Championship Game

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

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

At-large Teams:       0 or 1

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

March 12, 2008

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

 

A PiRate Look at the NCAA Basketball Conference Tournaments

March 12, 2008, 6th Update

Conference Tournament Results through Tuesday, March 11, 2008

America East

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

Opening Round

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

Saturday, March 8

Quarterfinals

#1 Md. Balt. Co. 76  Stony Brook 60

#4 Vermont 65  #5 Binghamton 57

#2 Hartford 68  #7 New Hampshire 65

#6 Boston U. 68  #3 Albany 64  ot

Sunday, March 9

Semifinals

Md. Balt. Co. 73  Vermont 64

Hartford 59  Boston U. 52

Saturday, March 15

Championship Game

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

At-Large Teams:      0

Bubble:                      None

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

Atlantic Sun

Quarterfinals

#4 East Tennessee 81 #5 Lipscomb 74

#6 Gardner-Webb 82  #3 Stetson 63

#2 Jacksonville 65  #7 Mercer 57

#1 Belmont 75  #8 Campbell 66

Semifinals

Jacksonville 89 Gardner-Webb 80

Belmont 69 East Tennessee 65

Saturday, March 8

Championship

Belmont 79  Jacksonville 61

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

At-Large Teams:      0

Bubble:                      None

Big Sky                    

Saturday, March 8

Quarterfinals

#4 Idaho State 67  #5 Montana 65

#3 Weber State 65  #6 Montana State 49

Tuesday, March 11 @ Portland, OR

Semifinals

#1 Portland State 72  Idaho State 61

#2 Northern Arizona 75  Weber State 70

Wednesday, March 12 @ Portland, OR

Championship Game

Northern Arizona 21-10  at Portland State 22-9

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

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

At-Large Teams:      0

Bubble:                      None

Big South

Opening Round

#1 UNC-Asheville 87  #8 Charleston Southern 63

#4 Liberty 103  #5 VMI 88

#2 Winthrop 76  #7 Radford 45

#3 High Point 59  #6 Coastal Carolina 56

Semifinals

UNC-Asheville 75  Liberty 57

Winthrop 61  High Point 53

Saturday, March 8 @ Asheville, NC

Championship Game

Winthrop 66  UNC-Asheville 48

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

At-Large Teams:      0

Bubble:                      None

Colonial Athletic Association

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

#9 Towson State 81  #8 Towson State 66

#5 William & Mary 58 #12 Georgia State 57

#6 Delaware 60  #11 Drexel 51

#7 Northeastern 73 #10 James Madison 59

Saturday, March 8

Quarterfinals

#1 Virginia Commonwealth 57  Towson State 46

William & Mary 63  #4 Old Dominion 60

#3 UNC-Wilmington 82  Delaware 59

#2 George Mason 63  Northeastern 52

Sunday, March 9

Semifinals

William & Mary 56  Virginia Commonwealth 54

George Mason 53  UNC-Wilmington 41

Monday, March 10

Championship Game

George Mason 68  William & Mary 59

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

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

At-Large Teams:      0 or 1

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

Horizon League              

All Games Played At Indianapolis (Butler host team)

Opening Round

#3 Wright State 60  #10 Detroit 37

#6 Valparaiso 75  #7 UW-Green Bay 67

#4 Illinois-Chicago 70  #9 Youngstown State 59

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

Quarterfinals

Valparaiso 72  Wright State 67

Illinois-Chicago 60 Loyola (Chi.) 49

Saturday, March 8

Semifinals

#2 Cleveland State 78  Valparaiso 73

#1 Butler 66  Illinois-Chicago 50

Tuesday, March 11

Championship

Butler 70  Cleveland State 55

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

At-Large Teams:      0

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

Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference

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

Opening Round

#8 Manhattan 73  #9 St. Peter’s 59

#10 Canisius 64  #7 Iona 59

Saturday, March 8

Quarterfinals

#1 Siena 66  Manhattan 58

#4 Loyola (Md.) 64  #5 Fairfield 59

#2 Rider 75  Canisius 71

#6 Marist 66  #3 Niagara 62

Sunday, March 9

Semifinals

Siena 65  Loyola (Md.) 63

Rider 76  Marist 71

Monday, March 10

Championship Game

Siena 74  Rider 53

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

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

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

At-Large Teams:      0

Bubble:                      None

Missouri Valley @ St. Louis (Arch Madness)

Opening Round

#8 Indiana State 71  #9 Wichita State 67

#7 Missouri State 69 #10 Evansville 46

Quarterfinals

#1 Drake 68  Indiana State 46

#4 Creighton 74  #5 Bradley 70

#2 Illinois State 63  Missouri State 58

#6 Northern Iowa 54  #3 Southern Illinois 49

Saturday, March 8

Semifinals

Drake 75 Creighton 67

Illinois State 56 Northern Iowa 42

Sunday, March 9

Championship

Drake 79  Illinois State 49

At-Large Teams:      0 or 1

Bubble:                      Illinois State 23-9  RPI avg. 35.5

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

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

Northeast

Quarterfinal

#1 Robert Morris 64  #8 Monmouth 50

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

#2 Wagner 71  #7 Long Island 62

#3 Sacred Heart 84  #6 Central Connecticut State 71

Sunday, March 9

Semifinals

Mt. St. Mary’s 83  Robert Morris 65

Sacred Heart 55  Wagner 49

Wednesday, March 12

Championship

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

At-Large Teams:      0

Bubble:                      None

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

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

Ohio Valley Conference

Quarterfinals @ Higher Seed

#1 Austin Peay 76  #8 Eastern Kentucky 51

#4 UT-Martin 101  #5 Samford 94  3ot

#2 Murray State 77  #7 Tennessee Tech 74

#6 Tennessee State 68  #3 Morehead State 61

Semifinals @ Nashville

Austin Peay 78  UT-Martin 77

Tennessee State 83 Murray State 75

Saturday, March 8

Championship

Austin Peay 82 Tennessee State 64

At-Large Teams:      0

Bubble:                      None

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

Patriot League

Quarterfinals

#1 American 62  #8 Holy Cross 60

#5 Army 64  #4 Lehigh 61 ot

#7 Bucknell 87  #2 Navy 86 3ot

#3 Colgate 76  #6 Lafayette 74

Sunday, March 9

Semifinals

American  72 Army 60

Colgate 54  Bucknell 40

Friday, March 14

Championship

Colgate 18-13 at American 20-11

At-Large Teams:      0

Bubble:                      None

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

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

Southern Conference

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

Opening Round

#8 Wofford 58  #9 Western Carolina 49

#7 Elon 52  #10 Furman 37

#6 Charleston 66  #11 Citadel 48

Saturday, March 8

Quarterfinals

#1 Davidson 82 Wofford 49

#5 UNC-Greensboro 63  #4 Appalachian State 46

Elon 60  #2 Chattanooga 57

Coll. of Charleston 87  #3 Georgia Southern 73

Sunday, March 9

Semifinals

Davidson 82 UNCG 52

Elon 75  Charleston 61

Monday, March 10

Championship Game

Davidson 65  Elon 49

At-Large Teams:      0

Bubble:                      None

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

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

Summit League @ Tulsa (Oral Roberts host team)                  

Saturday, March 8

Quarterfinals

#1 Oral Roberts 84 #8 Centenary 56

#2 IUPUI 69  #7 Missouri-Kansas City 65

Sunday, March 9

Quarterfinals

#5 IPFW 66  #4 Southern Utah 62

#3 Oakland 80 #6 Western Illinois 66

Monday, March 10

Semifinals

Oral Roberts 58 IPFW 42

IUPUI 80 Oakland 65

Tuesday, March 11

Championship

Oral Roberts 71  IUPUI 64

At-Large Teams:      0

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

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

Sunbelt Conference                   

1st Round

#8 New Orleans 65  #9 Denver 60

#4 Middle Tennessee 74  #13 Louisiana Monroe 69

#12 Troy 70  #5 Louisiana Lafayette 60

#6 North Texas 85  #11 Arkansas State 63

#7 Florida Atlantic 91  #10 Florida International 64

Sunday, March 9 @ Mobile, AL

Quarterfinals

South Alabama 81  New Orleans 77

Middle Tennessee 65  Troy 59

Western Kentucky 84  North Texas 70

Arkansas Little Rock 66  Florida Atlantic 60

Monday, March 10 @ Mobile, AL

Semifinals

Middle Tennessee 82  South Alabama 73

Western Kentucky 70 Arkansas-Little Rock 55

Tuesday, March 11 @ Mobile, AL

Championship

Western Kentucky 67  Middle Tennessee 57

At-Large Teams:      0 or 1

Bubble:                      South Alabama (Avg. RPI 39.3)

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

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

 West Coast Conference

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

Opening Round

#5 San Francisco 79  # 8 Loyola Marymount 60

#6 Pepperdine 50  #7 Portland 48  ot

Saturday, March 8

Quarterfinals

#4 Santa Clara 51  San Francisco 50

#3 San Diego 75  Pepperdine 55

Sunday, March 9

#1 Gonzaga 52  Santa Clara 48

San Diego 75  #2 St. Mary’s 69  2ot

Monday, March 10

Championship Game

San Diego 69 Gonzaga 62

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

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

                                    Gonzaga 25-7  Avg. RPI 30.3

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

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

Already Clinched Automatic Berth in NCAA Tournament (12)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 8. Davidson (26-6)-Southern Champion

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

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

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

12. Butler (29-3)-Horizon Champion

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

Only 53 teams left to go!

Conference Tournaments Beginning Tuesday, March 11

MEAC @ Raleigh, NC

Tuesday, March 11

Opening Round

#7 Coppin State 55  #10 Howard 54

#8 South Carolina State 78  #9 Bethune Cookman 69

Wednesday, March 12

Opening Round

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

Quarterfinal Round

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

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

Thursday, March 13

Quarterfinal Round

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

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

Friday, March 14

Semifinal Round

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

Hampton-Coppin vs. Norfolk-FAMU-UMES

Saturday, March 15

Championship Game

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

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

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

At-large Teams:       0

Bubble:                      None

WAC @ Las Cruces, NM

Tuesday, March 11

Opening Round

#8 San Jose State 64  Louisiana Tech 62

Thursday, March 13

Quarterfinal Round

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

#4 Boise State 22-8  vs. Hawaii 11-18

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

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

Friday, March 14

Semifinal Round

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

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

Saturday, March 15

Championship Game

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

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

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

At-large Teams:       0

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

Conference Tournaments Beginning Wednesday, March 14

Atlantic 10  @ Atlantic City, NJ

Wednesday, March 12

Opening Round

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

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

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

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

Thursday, March 13

Quarterfinals

#1 Xavier 26-5  vs. 8/9 winner

#4 Richmond 16-13  vs. 5/12 winner

#2 Temple 18-12  vs. 7/10 winner

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

Friday, March 14

Semifinals

1/8/9 winner  vs. 4/5/12 winner

2/7/10 winner  vs. 3/6/11 winner

Saturday, March 15

Championship Game

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

Bubble:                      U Mass

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

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

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

Big East  @ Madison Square Garden in NYC

Wednesday, March 12

Opening Round

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

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

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

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

Thursday, March 13

Quarterfinals

#1 Georgetown 25-4  vs. 8/9 winner

#4 Connecticut 24-7  vs. 5/12 winner

#2 Louisville 24-7  vs. 7/10 winner

#3 Notre Dame 24-6  vs. 6/11 winner

Friday, March 14

Semifinals

1/8/9  vs. 4/5/12

2/7/10  vs. 3/6/11

Saturday, March 15

Championship Game

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bubble:                      Villanova, Syracuse

Big West Tournament  @ Anaheim, CA

Wednesday, March 12

Opening Round

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

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

Thursday, March 13

Quarterfinals

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

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

Friday, March 14

Semifinals

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

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

Saturday, March 15

Championship Game

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

At-large Teams:       0

Bubble:                      None

Conference USA  @ Memphis

Wednesday, March 12

Opening Round

#5 Southern Miss. 17-13  vs. #12 Rice

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

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

#6 UTEP 17-12  vs. SMU 10-19

Thursday, March 13

Quarterfinals

#1 Memphis 30-1  vs. 8/9 winner

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

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

#3 Houston 22-8  vs. 6/11 winner

Friday, March 14

Semifinals

1/8/9  vs. 4/5/12

2/7/10  vs. 3/6/11

Saturday, March 15

Championship Game

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

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

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

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

Mid-American Conference @ Cleveland

Wednesday, March 12

Opening Round

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

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

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

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

Thursday, March 13

Quarterfinals

#1 Kent State 25-6  vs. 8/9 winner

#4 Ohio U 19-11  vs. 5/12 winner

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

#3 Akron 21-9  vs. 6/11 winner

Friday, March 14

Semifinals

1/8/9  vs. 4/5/12

2/7/10  vs. 3/6/11

Saturday, March 15

Championship Game

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

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

At-large Teams:       1 (Kent State)

Bubble:                      None

Mountain West  @ Las Vegas

Wednesday, March 12

Opening Round

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

Thursday, March 13

Quarterfinals

#1 BYU 25-6  vs. 8/9 winner

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

#2 UNLV 23-7  vs. #7 TCU 14-15

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

Friday, March 14

Semifinals

1/8/9  vs. 4/5

2/7  vs. 3/6

Saturday, March 15

Championship Game

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

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

At-large Teams:       2 (BYU, UNLV)

Bubble:                      New Mexico

Pac-10  @ The Staples Center in Los Angeles

Wednesday, March 12

Opening Round

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

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

Thursday, March 13

Quarterfinals

#1 UCLA 28-3  vs. 8/9 winner

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

#2 Stanford 24-6  vs. 7/10 winner

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

Friday, March 14

Semifinals

1/8/9  vs. 4/5

2/7/10  vs. 3/6

Saturday, March 15

Championship Game

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

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

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

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

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

Bubble:                      Arizona, Arizona State, Oregon

S W A C  @ Birmingham

Wednesday, March 12

Quarterfinals

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

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

Thursday, March 13

Quarterfinals

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

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

Friday, March 14

Semifinals

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

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

Saturday, March 15

Championship Game

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

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

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

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

At-large Teams:       0         

Bubble:                      None

Conference Tournaments Beginning Thursday, March 13

Atlantic Coast  @ Charlotte, NC

Thursday, March 13

Opening Round

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

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

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

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

Friday, March 14

Quarterfinals

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

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

#2 Duke 26-4  vs. 7/10 winner

#3 Clemson 22-8  vs. 6/11 winner

Saturday, March 15

Semifinals

1/8/9  vs. 4/5/12

2/7/10  vs. 3/6/11

Sunday, March 16

Championship Game

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

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

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

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

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

Bubble:                      Virginia Tech, Maryland, Florida State

Big 10  @ Indianapolis, IN

Thursday, March 13

Opening Round

#8 Iowa 13-18  vs. #9 Michigan 9-21

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

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

Friday, March 14

Quarterfinals

#1 Wisconsin 26-4  vs. 8/9 winner

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

#2 Purdue 24-7  vs. 7/10 winner

#3 Indiana 25-6  vs. 6/11 winner

Saturday, March 15

Semifinals

1/8/9  vs. 4/5

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

Sunday, March 16

Championship Game

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

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

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

Bubble:                      Ohio State

Big 12  @ Kansas City

Thursday, March 13

Opening Round

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

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

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

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

Friday, March 14

Quarterfinals

#1 Texas 26-5  vs. 8/9 winner

#4 Oklahoma 21-10  vs. 5/12 winner

#2 Kansas 28-3  vs. 7/10 winner

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

Saturday, March 15

Semifinals

1/8/9  vs. 4/5/12

2/7/10  vs. 3/6/11

Sunday, March 16

Championship Game

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bubble:                      Kansas State, Texas A&M

Southeastern  @ Atlanta

Thursday, March 13

Opening Round

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

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

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

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

Friday, March 14

Quarterfinals

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

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

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

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

Saturday, March 15

A winner vs. B winner

C winner vs. D winner

Sunday, March 16

Championship Game

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bubble:                      Florida, Ole Miss

Southland  @ Katy, TX (near Houston)

Thursday, March 13

Quarterfinals

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

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

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

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

Friday, March 14

Semifinals

SFA/UTSA winner vs. SELA/NWST winner

Lamar/UTA winner vs. SHSY/MSU winner

Sunday, March 16

Championship Game

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

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

At-large Teams:       0 or 1

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

Older Posts »

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.