The Pi-Rate Ratings

August 28, 2009

2009 Western Athletic Conference Preview

2009 Western Athletic Conference Preview

A PiRate Look

In the fourth in our series of conference previews, we take a look at the Western Athletic Conference, where Boise State has dominated this loop like no other team has dominated their conference in the 21st Century.  The Broncos have never lost a home game in the WAC, and they have won six of seven conference titles.  It took a 12-0 Hawaii team in 2007 to edge them in Honolulu to prevent them from a total skunking of the league.  The 2009 WAC preview was the first conference where the staff at the PiRate Ratings had to discuss at length before issuing predictions.  The raw preseason ratings gave Utah State the third best beginning rating, but none of us believed the Aggies will finish there, even though we all agree they are very much improved this year.

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

For those who have not followed the PiRate Ratings before and wonder about the home field advantage, we do not assign set in stone advantages.  These are assigned on a game-by-game basis.  For instance, if New Mexico State was to get really lucky and host Texas or Oklahoma, it would be expected that the Longhorn or Sooner fans would find a way to get to Las Cruces and make it a home game for the visiting team.  However, if that same Aggie team hosted Army a week after Army played at Air Force, then the Aggies could enjoy as much as five points in home field advantage.  The PiRates think it’s ridiculous to issue a blank home field advantage for all teams or even assign a range of set home field advantages.

   

Western Athletic Conference Preseason Ratings

     

 

Prediction *

 
    Team

PiRate

WAC

Overall

 
    Boise State

109

7-1

10-2

 
    Nevada

98

7-1

9-3

 
    Utah State

96

4-4

5-7

 
    Fresno State

95

6-2

7-5

 
    Louisiana Tech

94

5-3

7-5

 
    San Jose State

92

4-4

5-7

 
    Hawaii

86

1-7

3-10

 
    New Mexico State

78

1-7

2-10

 
    Idaho

75

1-7

1-11

 
     

 

 

 

 
    *  Predictions not based on PiRate Rating but  
    on expected changes to rating during the year  

 

Boise State: Can the Broncos run the table in the regular season yet again?  This year, we think that won’t happen for two reasons.  They have non-conference games against Oregon and Tulsa, and we think they will lose one of them.  Also, we believe Fresno State has an excellent shot to pull off the upset in conference play.  Now, we’re still picking BSU to win the conference, but we think it will be with one conference loss.

Quarterback Kellen Moore is already the second best passer in the WAC as a sophomore, and he should top 3,000 yards passing with 25-30 touchdown passes this year.  His percentage (69.4% in ’08) could drop a little because his receiving corps has less experience this season.  The running game could regress without former star Ian Johnson and with a question mark in the offensive line.

Defensively, there is a great deal of rebuilding to do in the front seven, where only two starters return.  The secondary is the strength of the team with safeties Jeron Johnson and George Iloka and cornerbacks Brandyn Thompson and Kyle Wilson leaps and bounds more talented than the next best WAC secondary.

Nevada: The Wolf Pack could play at Boise State on Black Friday with a chance to steal the conference championship.  If the game was played at Mackay Stadium, it might be a 50-50 proposition.  Nevada should have its best team this decade with most of the key elements returning to the defending top offense in the league and one of the best in the nation (509 total yards per game in ’08).

It all starts under center where quarterback Colin Kaepernick is the king of the WAC.  Last year, he rushed for 1,130 yards and passes for 2,849 yards, accounting for 39 touchdowns!  Factor out quarterback sacks, and he averaged over eight yards per rush.  He may rush less and pass more this year because Nevada returns the WAC’s top running back, a sure-handed wide receiver, and a tight end with great hands.  Add to it a strong recruiting class where one or two freshmen receivers could supply great depth.

That top running back is Vai Taua, who rushed for 1,521 yards with 15 touchdowns last year.  Taua reminds us some of Green Bay Packer Ryan Grant.  Behind Taua is a stable of able backs, so the Wolfpack should rush for 275-300 yards per game and could easily top six yards per rush again this season.

There are some new receivers this year, but they will be greatly aided by the fact that defense must try to stop or slow down the run first.  Look for Kaepernick to pass for around 250 yards per game.

The offensive line returns two excellent tackles.  Mike Gallett and Alonzo Durham both earned 2nd team All-WAC honors last year and both could make it to the first team this year.

Defensively, Nevada has liabilities, but they should be able to hold most opponents under 35 points.  With a team capable of easily topping 40 points per game, giving up 30 could be enough to challenge for the league crown.  The strength lies in the terminals as ends Kevin Basped and Dontay Moch combined for 36 tackles behind the line of scrimmage (21 ½ sacks).

The schedule may keep Nevada from a top 25 finish.  The Wolf Pack play at Notre Dame to open the season, and this game could be interesting for most of the day.  A road game at Colorado State could be the pivotal game.  Nevada can still have a decent year if they start 0-2, but they won’t challenge for the conference title after that.  A home game with a rebuilding Missouri team gives them a good shot at an upset, and the following game against UNLV should be exciting.  Unfortunately, the game with Boise State is on the field of blue, and we don’t believe Nevada is up to the task.  It looks like a second place finish and nine regular season wins.

Utah State: We double and triple-checked our statistical formula to make sure this rating was correct; it was.  The PiRate formula believes USU will be one of the five most improved teams in FBS football.  Personally, we believe they will be a better team, but not the third best in the WAC.

Gary Andersen takes over as head coach after serving as the defensive coordinator at Utah for five years.  The Aggies will shift to a no-huddle spread offense from the shotgun, and they have the talent on offense to make it go. 

Quarterback Diondre Borel isn’t as talented as the top passers in this league, but he should be able to approach 2,500 yards and 15-20 touchdowns.  A poor man’s Colin Kaepernick, Borel could approach 800 yards rushing as well.

Borel will have a boatload of average receivers at hand.  While none of them will be all-conference performers, the depth will allow Andersen to shuttle them in and keep them fresh.  Borel will need three of the receivers to step up because he has very little help in the backfield.

The offensive line will be stronger this season, and center Brennan McFadden will receive first place votes for all-WAC.  Look for the Aggies to rush for about 125 yards per game and pass for about 225.  It should give them a great shot at averaging more than 25 points per game for the first time in eight years.

The defense was really weak in 2008, and they face an added obstacle trying to improve this year.  USU games averaged 136 plays per game last year, and with the new offense, they will probably average close to 150 plays this year.  That should lead to about seven more defensive plays, so the Aggies will yield 30-35 points and 400 total yards per game again this year.

What will keep State from posting a winning record is their killer schedule.  Out of conference, they travel to Utah, Texas A&M, and BYU.  Only a home game with Southern Utah will give them a win prior to conference play.  What hurts more is that the weakest conference opponents host the Aggies, while the strongest teams come to Logan.  USU will not upset Boise State or Nevada at home, but Idaho, Hawaii, and New Mexico State cannot be counted as automatic wins.  It adds up to another losing season, but the Aggies could pull off an upset along the way.

Fresno State: The Bulldogs are almost always a tough team to beat, but they always lose to somebody they should have beaten.  That’s why FSU has always been the bridesmaid and never the bride in the WAC.  This year, Coach Pat Hill has enough talent on hand to play head-to-head at home with Boise State, but they could also lose to teams like San Jose State, Louisiana Tech, and even Utah State.

What’s keeping the Bulldogs from seriously challenging Boise State is an experienced quarterback.  Hill has stated that three different players will see playing time early in the season.  Whoever ends up as the regular will have one of the league’s top receivers as well as three other really good receivers at the other end of those passes.  Look for Seyi Ajirotutu to appear on the nation’s receiving leaders.  He could top 1,000 yards in receptions.

Three running backs who each topped 600 yards rushing return this year.  Anthony Harding, Lonyae Miller, and Ryan Matthews combined for 2,250 rushing yards and 19 scores, and they should top that mark this year.

The offensive line needs two new tackles, and with a new quarterback, that could mean a few extra sacks and interceptions. 

The Bulldog defense surrendered 31 points and 411 yards per game in 2008, and those figures are going to drop this season.  We see them coming in at 26 points and 380 yards.  The top four tacklers return from last year, as well as the top two pass defenders.  Look for middle linebacker Ben Jacobs to play for pay in two years.  He made 113 tackles and broke up five passes in 2008.  He’ll be an excellent Tampa 2 defender.

The schedule is manageable, and if the ball bounces the right way, Fresno could pull off a couple of road upsets against teams from BCS conferences.  We don’t see them winning at Illinois, but Cincinnati and Wisconsin are not impossible this year.  UC Davis provides an easy opening win, and all three quarterbacks could get some positive game experience.  The Boise State game is at Bulldog Stadium on Friday night, September 18.

Louisiana Tech: Long-time Georgia football coach Vince Dooley won more than 200 games in a quarter century in Athens.  Most of those teams moved the football by the rush.  Now, his son Derek is following in his footsteps.  Louisiana Tech may line up in the one back offense like most teams these days, but they still deliver the goods by running the ball more than 60% of the time.  Running back Daniel Porter rushed for 1,164 yards and nine touchdowns last year, and he’ll be running behind an offensive line that returns intact from last year.  He could top 1,500 yards this year.

The Bulldogs will not challenge for the WAC title this year unless the passing game improves by 50% or more.  Returning quarterback Ross Jenkins completed just 52.9% of his passes last year for only 1,155 yards and seven scores.  He needs to increase that number to 1,700 yards or more or else the offense will bog down against the WAC teams with good run defenses.  Phillip Livas is the best receiver on the team, but he will need some support.

Defensively, the Bulldogs will be tough again up front.  After allowing just 104 rushing yards per game in 2008, there’s a good chance that number will drop to double digits this season.  All four starting defensive linemen return as does three of the second team quartet.  The problem for LT is that they couldn’t stop an average passing attack last year, and unless some new secondary members become stars, the Bulldogs could give up 275 passing yards per game again this year.

The schedule begins with road games against Auburn and Navy.  The Bulldogs could start 0-2 and just as easily could start 2-0.  If they upset the Tigers and handle the Midshipmen, they should be 4-0 when they play Nevada in Reno on Friday night, October 9.  Boise State is a home game also played on a Friday night.  The only certain loss on the schedule this year is a game at LSU on November 14.  If the Bulldogs come up with any semblance of a passing game and pass defense, they could contend for the conference title.  Of course, conference titles are rather common in the Dooley family, with papa Vince and Uncle Bill owning a bundle of them.

San Jose State: Until the Spartans learn how to move the ball and score points, they will remain in the middle of the pack in the WAC.  SJSU averaged a paltry 283 total yards per game last year and less than 20 points per game.  The defense stayed on the field too long, and it collapsed late in the season.

The Spartans could only gain 87 rushing yards per game in 2008, and to make matters worse, they lost their only decent rusher.  That number should move into triple digits this year, even with a raw set of backs toting the pigskin.  All five starting offensive linemen from last year return.

Quarterback Kyle Reed could be one of the most improved quarterbacks in the league this year.  If a couple of competent receivers can be found, and if tight end Terrance Williams can continue to improve, we project that Reed could pass for more than 200 yards per game with a better TD/INT ratio this year (9/6 in ’08).  If the receivers don’t come through, then SJSU will continue to falter with an anemic offense.

The Spartan defense returns a top-flight front seven, but the back four could be suspect.  End Carl Ihenacho will compete for 1st team All-WAC honors this year after recording 18 ½ tackles behind the line with seven sacks last year.  Brother Duke Ihenacho anchors the second line of defense.  He recorded 5 ½ tackles behind the line, intercepted five passes, and broke up six others.

The secondary surrendered just 170 passing yards last year, but with three new starters, that number could inflate by 35-50 yards per game.

The schedule is the big bugaboo for the Spartans.  An opening game at Southern Cal, followed by a home game with Utah and a game up the road at Stanford could leave them at 0-3.  Fresno State, Boise State, and Louisiana Tech are also road games, so San Jose State would have to beat everybody else on their schedule to repeat the 6-6 record of last year.

Hawaii: June Jones is now two seasons removed from Hawaii, and the downslide in Honolulu will continue.  The Warriors no longer have the devastating passing game that can outscore opponents regardless of how porous the defense might be.  Now, the defense will be even weaker, while the offense is run of the mill.  It all adds up to a major drop in the standings.

The Warriors return just a pair of starters from a defense that yielded 29 points and 361 total yards per game.  Expect those numbers to climb to 35 points and 425 yards allowed.  The secondary will be torn to shreds by Moore, Kaepernick, Borel, and a few others.  Nary a player on the roster has ever started a game in the defensive backfield.

The front seven is only marginally more experienced as end John Fonoti and linebacker Brashton Satele return, but they were not major contributors last season.

The offense is pedestrian at best.  Without Jones and the great passing of Colt Brennan, Hawaii’s numbers fell from 43 to 25 points and 512 to 346 total yards per game.  Quarterback Greg Alexander returns after sharing starting duties last year.  Alexander has experience and depth in his receiving unit, so the Hawaii passing numbers should jump from about 250 to near 300 yards per game this year.

The running game needs improvement, but it’s doubtful those numbers will increase this year.  We figure Hawaii will be forced to pass more due to having to attempt to come back from deficits, and the offensive line may not be up to the task to open enough running lanes.

Another major problem this year are the special teams.  UH couldn’t keep a kicker on campus and didn’t know who would start until Scott Enos arrived late from a junior college.  A true freshman will be the punter.

The schedule is always tough when every road game travels from two to five time zones.  The road games this year find Hawaii travelling to Washington State, UNLV, Louisiana Tech, Idaho, Nevada, and San Jose State.  We believe they will go 0-6 in these games.  Navy, Wisconsin, and Central Arkansas visit Honolulu, as well as conference foes Fresno State, Boise State, Utah State, and New Mexico State.  It looks like the Warriors could be headed to double digit losses this year.

NOTE: Satele out for the season with a shoulder injury

New Mexico State: The Hal Mumme era is over in Las Cruces, and the Aggies could do no better than 4-8 during his tenure.  Enter DeWayne Walker, the former defensive coordinator at UCLA.  Walker’s Bruin defense held Southern Cal to nine points in a 2006 upset, and he coached UCLA in the 2007 Las Vegas Bowl after Karl Dorrell left.

Walker made some major changes when he assumed control.  Gone is the spread passing formation replaced by a more balanced attack.  With NMSU career passing leader Chase Holbrook gone, the job will be inherited by junior college transfer Jeff Fleming.  Expect the Aggie passing attack to shrink from over 300 passing yards per game to just over 200 yards per game.  Running backs Marquell Colston, Tommy Glenn, and Ronald Opetaia will get more carries this year after combining for 683 yards last year.  They will be running behind a line with about the same experience as last year’s line, but the extra rushing attempts (and the reduction in sacks from 44 by almost half) should add up to about 100 rushing yards per game compared to an NCAA 2nd worst 55.

The defense will begin to make strides toward respectability this year.  After surrendering 34 points and 380 yards per game last year, even with massive losses on the stop side.  A fine duo at linebacker returns in Jason Scott and Nick Paden.  The front four has no returning starters, so the pass rush and defense against the run should suffer some early until Walker can “coach ‘em up.”

The schedule gives NMSU a chance to get off to a fast start, and the Aggies could gain some confidence early.  They open at home against Idaho, and that game should be a toss-up.  Next, they host Prairie View.  That will be the last game where they will be favored to win.  Road trips to Ohio State, Boise State, and Louisiana Tech should be unpleasant.

Idaho: Coach Robb Akey’s Vandals doubled their win total last year from the year before, but unfortunately that meant a 2-10 record after a 1-11 record in 2007.  Idaho has not finished over .500 since 1999, and that streak will not end this year.

Quarterback Nathan Enderle returns this year after passing for more than 2,000 yards and 20 touchdowns last year.  He also tossed 17 interceptions, but he often had to run for his life due to poor pass blocking.  The pass blocking may actually be weaker this year, so expect another year of turnovers.

The running backs may take some of the heat off the passing game.  Donte Jackson and Princeton McCarty combined for 1,176 yards, and Jackson has the potential to be a 1,000 yard rusher.

The passing game could suffer due to the loss of top receiver Eddie Williams, who had more than double the receptions of anybody else on the squad.

The defense was horrible last year, giving up 43 points and 472 yards per game!  Don’t expect much improvement this year, because three of the five decent defenders from last year have graduated.  The defensive line has no pass rushing threats, and the linebacking unit took a major hit.  The secondary returns three starters, but none of them would start at most of the other WAC schools.

The schedule is a killer for this team, and if the Vandals fail to win at New Mexico State in the season opener, it’s going to be a hard road to find a win on the schedule.  A home tilt against Hawaii could be the only other winnable game this year.

Next up: A look at Conference USA. Can this conference finally supply an at-large participant in a BCS Bowl?

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August 27, 2009

2009 Mid-American Conference Preview

2009 Mid-American Conference Preview

A PiRate Look

In the second in our series of conference previews, we look at what just may be the most exciting league with the most wide-open styles of play.  Once just a light version of the old Big Ten, the Mid-American Conference has its own unique personality.  There are no three yards and a cloud of dust teams left.  Today, the MAC more closely resembles the old American Football League of the 1960’s.

Last year, Buffalo and Ball State were expected to be middle of the pack teams in their divisions, but the Bulls and Cardinals surprised the so-called experts and met in the conference championship.  Buffalo pulled off the big upset of the then unbeaten Cardinals, and then in an even bigger surprise Bull head coach Turner Gill spurned offers to move into a BCS conference coaching position to stay in Buffalo.

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 Ohio U was to get really lucky and host Ohio State, it would be expected that the Buckeye fans would find a way to get to Athens and make it a home game for the visiting team.  However, if that same Ohio U team hosted Hawaii when the Rainbows played at Idaho the week before, then the Bobcats could enjoy as much as a touchdown in home field advantage.  The PiRates think it’s ridiculous to issue a blank home field advantage for all teams or even assign a range of set home field advantages.

 

Mid-American Conference Preseason PiRatings

   

 

Prediction *

  Team

PiRate

MAC

Overall

  EAST

 

 

 

  Buffalo

95

6-2

7-5

  Temple

92

6-2

8-5

  Ohio U

90

6-2

8-4

  Akron

89

3-5

4-8

  Bowling Green

87

2-6

2-10

  Kent State

86

2-6

4-8

  Miami (O)

77

2-6

2-10

   

 

 

 

  WEST

 

 

 

  Central Michigan

100

7-1

9-4

  Eastern Michigan

93

4-4

5-7

  Western Michigan

92

5-3

6-6

  Ball State

90

4-4

7-5

  Toledo

90

4-4

4-8

  Northern Illinois

89

1-7

3-9

   

 

 

 

 

*  Predictions not based on PiRate Rating but

 

on expected changes to rating during the year

   

 

 

 

 

CMU expected to defeat Temple in the MAC

 

Championship Game

 

 

MAC East

Buffalo: The Bulls still have some offensive weapons in running back James Starks and receiver Naaman Roosevelt, but they have a glaring hole where quarterback Drew Willy has graduated.  There are holes to fill in the offensive line as well, but the Bulls should still score about 25-28 points per game.  Defensively, the secondary and linebackers return intact from last year, but the defensive line faces major rebuilding.  In a league where almost every team has an explosive offense, just one defensive weakness can be enough to lose a ball game.  Buffalo could actually improve their conference record and fail to repeat as East Champions.

Temple: The Owls were arguably the weakest team in major college football in 2005 and 2006, but Coach Al Golden has the program headed in the right direction.  Temple narrowly missed out on an eight-win season, but finished 5-7 because they lost three different games on the final play.  This should be the year where the Owls finally break through with their first winning season since 1990 and first bowl invitation since 1979.  The defense should improve its yardage allowed by 30 to 50 yards and points allowed by three to five.  In a league where all the contenders can easily score 28 or more points per game, allowing less than 20 should be enough for the Owls to be a serious contender for the division title.  TU needs to come up with more balance on offense, as the Owls have failed to average 100 rushing yards per game in the last four seasons.  This is the one contender that will need to win games 21-17 instead of 38-34.

Ohio U: Coach Frank Solich has another contender in Athens this year, as the Bobcats should top 250 passing yards per game with two competent quarterbacks and three quality receivers.  If the rebuilt offensive line develops, then Ohio could emerge as the East champion.  Their defensive liability against the run could cost them against the better running opponents, and that spells trouble when they play at Ball State and Buffalo in consecutive games.

Akron: The Zips christen a new stadium this year.  Gone are games at the Rubber Bowl, as they move to the on-campus Infocision Stadium.  Coach J.D. Brookhart finds his seat not hot yet, but quite tepid.  If Akron fails to show improvement with a new high percentage passing offense, it isn’t out of the realm of possibility that there could be a coaching change.  An experienced offensive line will need to step up and provide excellent protection for quarterback Chris Jacquemain who has a tendency to throw interceptions when under pressure.  The Zip running game will take a step back after losing 1,300+ yard runner Dennis Kennedy.  Defensively, the Zips should be stronger the farther back in the formation.  Akron should be one of those MAC teams to top 30 points per game, but they should give up 35.

Bowling Green: This Falcons have enjoyed winning seasons in six of the past eight years with one breakeven year, but things are about to turn south.  New coach Dave Clawson faces an immediate rebuilding situation.  The defense has been decimated with graduation, and the fairly experienced offense should struggle learning a new system.  Clawson’s offense proved to be too hard for Tennessee to implement last season, and the lack of production cost Phil Fulmer his job.  Quarterback Tyler Sheehan will see defenses begging him to hand the ball off, as the Falcons will struggle to run the ball against the better defensive front sevens.  Defensively, BGU is going to be weak in the all-important cornerback positions, and that could spell big trouble.  The Falcons will be forced to play their secondary deeper than normal, and opponents will average at least a yard more per play.  Look for Bowling Green to average 21-24 points per game but yield 30-35 and struggle to win more than two times.

Kent State: It’s been 37 years since the Golden Flashes made their one and only bowl appearance, and it’s going to be 38 after this season.  Kent State should be one of the top two rushing teams in the MAC, but they probably have the league’s weakest passing attack.  Defensively, Kent State gave up 32 points per game last year, and they will probably repeat that performance.  Their key game is September 19, when Iowa State visits Dix Stadium.  The Flashes handed that game over to the Cyclones last year in Ames, and if they pull off the mild upset, it could domino into a couple of extra wins.  If they lose that game, then KSU will be lucky to escape double digit losses.

Miami of Ohio: This once proud program known as the cradle of coaches for producing numerous big-time coaches (Paul Brown, Woody Hayes, Bo Schembechler, Bill Mallory, Ara Parseghian, Weeb Eubank, Paul Dietzel, Jim Tressel, and Randy Walker among others) has become the doormat of the MAC.  After going 2-10 last year, Coach Shane Montgomery was let go.  New coach Mike Haywood inherits a team bereft of talent.  Quarterback Daniel Raudabaugh improved late in the 2008 season, but he’s got to prove that he can be more consistent and put touchdowns on the board.  A weak 2008 defense should regress even more in 2009, as the top four tacklers are gone.  The Redhawks will not compete in their out of conference part of the schedule with games against Kentucky (on a neutral field), at Boise State, at home against Cincinnati, and at Northwestern.  Home games with Bowling Green and Northern Illinois give Miami its best chance to avoid a winless season.

MAC West

Central Michigan: In a very competitive league, the Chippewas appear to be the top banana.  Quarterback Dan LeFevour should be the next big MAC passer to matriculate to the NFL.  To add to their riches, CMU has three excellent receivers in Antonio Brown, Bryan Anderson, and Kito Poblah.  The offensive line has to be rebuilt, but LeFevour gets rid of the ball quickly and can get out of the pocket and run the ball when needed.  Great running quarterbacks make it easier on a green offensive front.  Green is not a word to apply to the defense.  CMU returns 10 starters and 15 of their top 17 tacklers.  The Chippewas surrendered better than 30 points and 420 yards per game in 2008, and those numbers should improve by seven points and 40-50 yards.  CMU should easily top 30 points per game and maybe approach 40, so the Chippewas should dominate in the league in 2009.  CMU won’t be this year’s Ball State because their non-conference schedule includes games against Arizona, Michigan State, and Boston College all on the road.

Eastern Michigan: Yes, this is not a typo.  The Eagles could be a big surprise this year in the MAC.  New head coach Ron English knows a thing of two about defense, and EMU should improve just enough on the stop side to turn the close losses of last year into wins this year.  EMU’s offense will be considerably better this year, and the Eagles quietly gained almost 420 yards per game in 2008.  Quarterback Andy Schmitt has the talent to pass for 3,000 yards, and wide out Jacory Stone should top 1,000 yards in receptions.  Josh LeDuc could top all MAC tight ends in receptions and yardage, and he provides a nice target in the middle of the field.  We’re not ready to call EMU a contender in the West, but this team beat Central Michigan 56-52 in the regular season finale last year.  It wouldn’t surprise us if the Eagles post their first winning season since 1995, but they more than likely will come up just short due to a depth problem on the defensive side.

Western Michigan: A rebuilding defense that probably surrenders 425 yards and 28-35 points per game will keep WMU from seriously challenging CMU for the West title this year.  Offensively, The Broncos are not that far behind their rivals in Mt. Pleasant.  Quarterback Tim Hiller is just behind LeFevour in talent and should be on an NFL roster in 2010.  Hiller should top 4,000 yards passing if he stays healthy, and it wouldn’t surprise us if he reaches the 40 touchdown pass mark.  WMU has its best chance to upset Michigan when they kick off the season at The Big House.  If they win that one, the fans in Ann Arbor will be ready to reach out to Les Miles.  The Broncos host CMU on October 17, and if they can pull off the upset, then they have a chance to sneak away with the division title.  The trouble game for the Broncos could be the November 14 contest at Eastern Michigan, which follows a week after playing at Michigan State.

Ball State: The Cardinals enter the 2009 on a two-game losing streak and without the head coach who won led BSU from two to four to five to six to 12 wins.  New coach Stan Parrish owns one of the worst career coaching records on the FBS level, having gone 2-31-1 (2-9, 0-10-1, and 0-11) at Kansas State 20-plus years ago.  It won’t be his fault when the Cardinals regress to the lower half of the West standings.  Quarterback Nate Davis is gone after putting up even better numbers than LeFevour, and his replacement will be someone with zero experience.  Kelly Page will be seeing the wrong colored jersey in his face too many times, as the offensive line was shredded by graduation.  Star running back Miquale Lewis returns after rushing for 1,736 yards and 22 touchdowns last year, but we expect his yards per carry to drop from 5.4 to 4.5 or less.  Ball State should still post a winning record, but they will do so because they have the easiest non-conference schedule in the league.

Toledo: The Rockets break in a new coach in Tim Beckman.  Beckman inherits an experienced offensive line but the other side of the line needs some rebuilding.  Quarterback Aaron Opelt is the only reason why we don’t have the Rockets rated high enough to compete in the division.  TU should be able to consistently run the ball, but teams may frequently put eight defenders in the box to force the Rockets to beat them through the air.  After losing nine times in 2008, we expect Toledo to improve, but by no more than one game.  Their non-conference schedule does them no favors, as they open with Purdue on the road, host Colorado, face Ohio State in Cincinnati, and venture to Florida International, where they will render in the Florida steam.

Northern Illinois: This is a program that is about to head downhill in the short term.  First year coach Jerry Kill guided the Huskies to six wins and a bowl bid, but NIU lost too much on defense and just enough on offense to prevent improvement this year.  It all adds up to a possible overall last place finish in the MAC.  Cheer up Huskie fans; your team is really young with enough talent to be really good in two years.  For now, hope NIU takes care of business against Western Illinois and Idaho and finds a way to pull off a conference win at home.

Next up: A quick look at the Independents.  Can Charlie Weis keep the fans happy at Notre Dame?  Will Army finally beat Navy?

March 21, 2008

A PiRate Look At The 2008 NCAA Basketball Tournament–March 22, 2008 (3rd Update)

 

A PiRate Look At The 2008 NCAA Basketball Tournament

March 22, 2008 (3rd Update)

Thursday almost brought one major surprise when Duke escaped with a one-point win over Belmont.  Most of the other Thursday games were a little ho-hum.  The PiRate Criteria Rating was 15-1 on the day, losing only on the Texas A&M and BYU game, a game I said was the most competitive of the day.  Additionally, I predicted that UCLA would set a record for fewest points allowed in the modern day NCAA Tournament; they did just that by holding the weakest team in the tournament, Mississippi Valley State, to just 29 points.

Friday was the day that ruined brackets all over America.  The four lower seeds in Tampa all upset the four higher seeds.  While I didn’t do as well Friday (9-7) as I did Thursday, my big teams all advanced and are still alive.  That’s what this criteria looks to accomplish-find the teams that have what it takes to get to San Antonio.

Now, we’re down to 32 and by Sunday night, the Sweet 16 will be all that’s left.  Let’s take a look at the PiRate Criteria as it applied to the second round.  Due to time constraints, I will be using statistics that do not reflect the first round tournament games.

East Region

#1 North Carolina (33-2)

Scoring Margin: 16.9

FG% Margin: 6.2

Rebound Margin: 11.6

TO Margin: 1.9

Steals: 8.5

R + T: 15.48

PiRate: 15

SOS: .5921

#9 Arkansas (23-11)

Scoring Margin: 6.6

FG% Margin: 4.9

Rebound Margin: 4.5

TO Margin: -0.3

Steals: 7.0

R + T: 4.0

PiRate: 0

SOS: .5701

North Carolina has too much inside game for Steve Hill to stop and too much outside game for the Razorbacks to sag in the lane.  The Tar Heels will be on cruise control as they waltz to the Sweet 16.  Adding an extra few points for home state (cross town) advantage, you come up with another double digit win for the Tar Heels.

Prediction: North Carolina by 14

#5 Notre Dame (25-7)

Scoring Margin: 10.1

FG% Margin: 4.7

Rebound Margin: 5.8

TO Margin: -0.4

Steals: 6.4

R + T: 5.19

PiRate: 7

SOS: .5414

#4 Washington State (25-8)

Scoring Margin: 10.0

FG% Margin: 5.6

Rebound Margin: 0.1

TO Margin: 3.0

Steals: 6.3

R + T: 4.64

PiRate: 9

SOS: .5613

The best of the rest in the Big East meets the best of the rest in the Pac-10.  This game is obviously a tossup, as the criteria indicates.  Washington State has a slight edge in the final numbers, and they have extra impetus here to make up for what they thought was a blown chance in the second round last year.

While something in my gut says the Irish are going to win, my criteria forces me to go with Washington State in a close ball game.

Prediction: Washington State by 4

#6 Oklahoma (23-11)

Scoring Margin: 5.0

FG% Margin: 3.6

Rebound Margin: 3.0

TO Margin: 0.4

Steals: 6.6

R + T: 3.63

PiRate: 2

SOS: .5753

#3 Louisville (25-8)

Scoring Margin: 10.6

FG% Margin: 7.0

Rebound Margin: 3.0

TO Margin: 1.2

Steals: 8.1

R + T: 5.33

PiRate: 8

SOS: .5852

The Big 12 and the Big East have enjoyed early success in the Big Dance this year, and now representatives from both conferences face off in this game.

Oklahoma was quite impressive in their win over St. Joe’s, while Louisville had little more than a workout against Boise State.  Rick Pitino certainly knows how to prepare his team in the NCAA Tournament, and I expect his Cardinals to move on to the Sweet 16.

Prediction: Louisville by 8

#7 Butler (30-3)

Scoring Margin: 10.5

FG% Margin: 2.1

Rebound Margin: -1.1

TO Margin: 3.6

Steals: 6.3

R + T: 4.34

PiRate: 6

SOS: .5181

# 2 Tennessee (30-4)

Scoring Margin: 12.9

FG% Margin: 2.9

Rebound Margin: 1.2

TO Margin: 5.4

Steals: 9.3

R + T: 13.25

PiRate: 13

SOS: .6063

Butler will not be intimidated by the Vols.  The Bulldogs clobbered Tennessee last year in the semifinals of the Pre-season NIT.

Tennessee has not played its best ball in the last couple of weeks.  It could be the Vols have players hitting the wall as they prepare to play their full-court pressing, fast breaking style of play in game 35.

Butler cannot really take advantage of Tennessee’s lone weakness.  The Bulldogs don’t rebound the ball with enough authority to dominate the glass in this game, and I think second chance points could be a major factor in this game.

Prediction: Tennessee by 7

Midwest Region

#1 Kansas (32-3)

Scoring Margin: 19.9

FG% Margin: 12.3

Rebound Margin: 7.9

TO Margin: 3.0

Steals: 9.0

R + T: 14.38

PiRate: 21

SOS: .5594

#8 UNLV (27-7)

Scoring Margin: 8.0

FG% Margin: 1.6

Rebound Margin: -1.6

TO Margin: 4.3

Steals: 7.9

R + T: 6.55

PiRate: 5

SOS: .5496

The Jayhawks are solid at every position and in every phase of the game.  UNLV will not be able to keep the rebounding statistics close to even.  I expect KU to win the battle of the boards by five to 10.  The Runnin’ Rebels will have a hard time scoring consistently without some form of transition game, while Kansas should pick up 10-15 points thanks to their fast break and early offense.  The Big 12 is showing itself to be maybe the best conference so far, and I am selecting the Jayhawks to win with relative ease.

Prediction: Kansas by 15

#12 Villanova (21-12)

Scoring Margin: 3.5

FG% Margin: -0.9

Rebound Margin: 2.7

TO Margin: 2.4

Steals: 8.1

R + T: 7.37

PiRate: -1

SOS: .5586

#13 Siena (23-10)

Scoring Margin: 5.7

FG% Margin: 0.0

Rebound Margin: -4.5

TO Margin: 6.3

Steals: 9.4

R + T: 9.71

PiRate: 5

SOS: .5218

Villanova may have been the final at-large team in the field, but they proved their worth by coming back from an 18-point deficit to beat the team that took North Carolina to the wire last weekend.  Now, the Wildcats find themselves as the sole remaining team from the City of Brotherly Love.  Their win gave the Big East a 7-1 mark in the first round.

Siena did not upset Vanderbilt; they won by 21, and that’s no upset.  It’s plain to see that experts all over the nation, including Seth Davis, called this one correctly.  The Saints went marching all over the Commodores.  Now, they aim for a berth in the Sweet 16, and they match up well with Villanova.  The Wildcats extended themselves in their come-from-behind win, and they should bounce a little on Sunday.

Siena’s quickness just may be enough to advance the Saints into the third round.  I expect an even better scoring performance by Siena’s big three scorers, and I expect Coach Fran McCaffery’s cagers to steal the ball enough times to get some cheap baskets in the stretch.

Prediction: Siena by 4

#11 Kansas State (21-11)

Scoring Margin: 9.8

FG% Margin: 2.1

Rebound Margin: 8.1

TO Margin: 1.3

Steals: 7.7

R + T: 10.5

PiRate: 11

SOS: .5697

#3 Wisconsin (30-4)

Scoring Margin: 13.5

FG% Margin: 7.0

Rebound Margin: 5.7

TO Margin: 4.8

Steals: 6.3

R + T: 12.96

PiRate: 17

SOS: .5518

This should be an interesting game worth watching.  Kansas State didn’t have its best effort and still looked amazing against Southern Cal.  The Wildcats can play even better than that, especially when Michael Beasley doesn’t get in quick foul trouble.  I don’t expect the men from the Little Apple to commit as many fouls in this game.

Wisconsin keeps winning like they are a push-button, mechanical team.  They play at a rather consistent pace and just don’t lose because of their actions; you have to beat them with superior talent and strategy, because this team is as fundamentally sound as a team can be.

I believe Coach Ryan will devise a game plan that slows down Beasley and forces Bill Walker out of his comfort zone.  At the same time, I expect K-State’s defense to shut down Wisconsin for long stretches and make the Badgers look human.  In the end, I’ll go with the Badgers to recover and score just enough points to win.  Look for a score in the neighborhood of 60-55.  If Wisconsin goes into a long drought in the second half, then KSU will take a commanding lead and hold on for the upset.  It wouldn’t be that much of an upset, because the Wildcats should have been seeded in the upper half of the brackets.

Prediction: Wisconsin by an iffy 5

#10 Davidson (27-6)

Scoring Margin: 15.8

FG% Margin: 5.8

Rebound Margin: 4.3

TO Margin: 4.6

Steals: 8.1

R + T: 13.24

PiRate: 15

SOS: .5252

#2 Georgetown (28-5)

Scoring Margin: 11.7

FG% Margin: 11.9

Rebound Margin: 2.6

TO Margin: -0.4

Steals: 7.1

R + T: 1.92

PiRate: 8

SOS: .5670

The criteria shows that Davidson has a real chance in this game.  The Wildcats came from behind in a hard-fought game to knock off Gonzaga, while Georgetown played a so-so game against a team that is virtually the same as an in-state opponent.

I expect Stephen Curry’s shooting percentage to go south, while Georgetown performs up to standards.  I just don’t see the Wildcats having enough inside to win, but they had stretches this year in their games against North Carolina and UCLA where they handled themselves on the boards against even better inside teams.

I won’t totally discount Davidson, especially since the criteria says they will win.  I’ll stick with the #2-seed to get by on defense and rebounding to pull out a win in a rough game.

Prediction: Georgetown by 8

South Region

#1 Memphis (34-1)

Scoring Margin: 19.1

FG% Margin: 8.3

Rebound Margin: 6.5

TO Margin: 4.4

Steals: 8.7

R + T: 15.69

PiRate: 19

SOS: .5749

#8 Mississippi State (23-10)

Scoring Margin: 8.0

FG% Margin: 9.3

Rebound Margin: 5.1

TO Margin: -2.6

Steals: 6.0

R + T: 1.36

PiRate: 7

SOS: .5523

This game will be physical and could get ugly.  This is a backyard brawl between two schools that have rivalries in more than one sport.  Mississippi State doesn’t have the ball handlers to break Memphis’s press and score in transition.  That will allow the Tigers to gamble a little on their press and force a few more turnovers.

Mississippi State will intimidate the Tigers in the paint and force Memphis’s big men to alter their shots.  It will give the Bulldogs a fighting chance in this game.

All year, I have wondered if Memphis has been seasoned enough.  However, upon looking at their strength of schedule, those fears have been unfounded.  Look for the top seed to advance.

Prediction: Memphis by 9

#5 Michigan State (26-8)

Scoring Margin: 9.3

FG% Margin: 7.9

Rebound Margin: 7.1

TO Margin: -1.2

Steals: 6.1

R + T: 5.34

PiRate: 8

SOS: .5636

#4 Pittsburgh (27-9)

Scoring Margin: 8.9

FG% Margin: 3.8

Rebound Margin: 4.4

TO Margin: 1.9

Steals: 6.8

R + T: 7.50

PiRate: 8

SOS: .5723

This will be the equivalent of the Bears and Packers playing football in the 1930’s.  Both of these teams can play muscle basketball with the best of them.  The criteria calls this one a 50-50 proposition, so I have to vote to break the tie.  I’m going with Pittsburgh for two reasons.  First, they are playing their best ball of the season and are riding a nice winning streak.  Second, Michigan State has a habit of occasionally going into a funk on offense. 

The Panthers will make it hard for Drew Neitzel to get many open looks from outside, and it will take an epic performance by Raymar Morgan to counter it.  I expect Pitt’s great depth in the frontcourt will eventually wear down the Spartans inside.

Prediction: Pittsburgh by 7

#6 Marquette (25-9)

Scoring Margin:  11.5

FG% Margin: 3.5

Rebound Margin: 2.4

TO Margin: 3.8

Steals: 9.6

R + T: 11.16

PiRate: 13

SOS: .5753

#3 Stanford (27-7)

Scoring Margin:  10.1

FG% Margin: 5.5

Rebound Margin: 8.0

TO Margin: -0.5

Steals: 4.4

R + T: 7.47

PiRate: 8

SOS: .5547

Marquette has the better criteria here by a healthy margin.  The Golden Eagles looked a little off in their opening round game with Kentucky, but that may have been more Kentucky’s doing.  Stanford’s defense will look ordinary compared to the Wildcats. 

At the other end of the floor, Stanford’s hope is to dominate the boards and get multiple offensive rebounds and second chance points.  I think the Cardinal will lose the turnover battle by at least three or four, so a decided rebounding margin will be a must.  I’m guessing that won’t happen.

Prediction: Marquette by 6

#7 Miami (Fla.) (23-10)

Scoring Margin: 7.0 

FG% Margin: 3.1

Rebound Margin: 2.1

TO Margin: 1.2

Steals: 6.1

R + T: 3.86

PiRate: 1

SOS: .5599

#2 Texas (29-6)

Scoring Margin: 11.1 

FG% Margin: 6.3

Rebound Margin: 2.5

TO Margin: 2.9

Steals: 6.2

R + T: 6.82

PiRate: 8

SOS: .5950

The ACC only put four teams into the Dance, and three of them won in the first round.  The Big 12 saw five of its six entrants survive to the second round.  Something has to give Sunday.

Miami’s second half against St. Mary’s showed a Hurricane team that was capable of competing with any team in the tournament.  Texas blew Austin Peay off the floor before the first TV timeout, and the Longhorns will come into this game fresh and ready to give the Big 12 another victory.

Prediction: Texas by 10

West Region

#1 U C L A (32-3)

Scoring Margin: 15.0 

FG% Margin: 4.8

Rebound Margin: 8.4

TO Margin: 2.5

Steals: 7.4

R + T: 12.84

PiRate: 14

SOS: .5771

#9 Texas A&M (25-10)

Scoring Margin: 9.6  

FG% Margin: 7.3

Rebound Margin: 7.1

TO Margin: -1.5

Steals: 4.5

R + T: 5.48

PiRate: 6

SOS: .5561

UCLA’s defensive effort in the opening round was nothing short of spectacular, even against lowly Mississippi Valley.  Texas A&M played a complete game against BYU.  I expect the Aggies to be pests in this game and keep it close for most of the day.

The match-ups only slightly favor the Bruins, but the venue favors the sky blue and gold even more.  Look for Ben Howland’s squad to move on to the Sweet 16, but it won’t be another repeat of Thursday night.

Prediction: UCLA by 9

#12 Western Kentucky (28-6)

Scoring Margin: 11.6  

FG% Margin: 5.1

Rebound Margin: 3.3

TO Margin: 3.8

Steals: 7.8

R + T: 10.41

PiRate: 15

SOS: .5123

#13 San Diego (22-13)

Scoring Margin: 2.2 

FG% Margin: 1.0

Rebound Margin: 1.8

TO Margin: 0.3

Steals: 6.8

R + T: 2.29

PiRate: 0

SOS: .5283

As former New York Yankee broadcaster Mel Allen used to say, “How about that?”  The number 12 and number 13 seed advanced twice in Tampa.  According to the PiRate criteria, Western Kentucky is a hidden gem.  The Hilltoppers made it to the Final Four in 1971, only to have their appearance forfeited.  Might WKU be on a course to get there again?  I think they will come up short by at least one and possibly two games, but I think they will be one of the final 16 teams with a chance to do just that.

I don’t give San Diego much chance in this game, because I’m not sure they can come back down to Earth after knocking off Connecticut Friday.  Two years ago, George Mason was able to stay up after winning big game after big game, but that team had a double digit criteria number-just like WKU.

Prediction: Western Kentucky by 7

#6 Purdue (25-8)

Scoring Margin: 7.5 

FG% Margin: -1.1

Rebound Margin: -0.1

TO Margin: 4.8

Steals: 8.5

R + T: 9.69

PiRate: 2

SOS: .5204

#3 Xavier (28-6)

Scoring Margin: 13.0 

FG% Margin: 7.4

Rebound Margin: 6.2

TO Margin: -0.2

Steals: 5.6

R + T: 5.93

PiRate: 8

SOS: .5720

Xavier fiddled for 32 minutes Thursday before wearing down Georgia.  The Musketeers should play more consistently in this second round game, and it should be enough to send their Big 10 bully back to Indiana.

Xavier should control the boards and shoot a higher percentage from the field than the Boilermakers.  Unless they commit 18 or more turnovers, with a good eight being PU steals or they shoot below 35%, they will get too many additional chances to score to possibly lose.

Prediction: Xavier by 7

#7 West Virginia (25-10)

Scoring Margin: 11.9 

FG% Margin: 3.5

Rebound Margin: 2.0

TO Margin: 4.8

Steals: 7.2

R + T: 10.29

PiRate: 13

SOS: .5616

#2 Duke (28-5)

Scoring Margin: 14.8 

FG% Margin: 3.1

Rebound Margin: 0.5

TO Margin: 5.0

Steals: 8.7

R + T: 10.94

PiRate: 13

SOS: .5857

Here is my upset pick for Saturday.  West Virginia has the horses to exploit Duke’s weakness in the paint.  These two teams’ criteria couldn’t be much closer, and Duke’s schedule strength advantage of 2.4 isn’t going to tilt the game in their favor.

West Virginia is improving every week, whereas Duke appears to be hitting a valley.  The win over Belmont was not the result of overlooking their #15-seeded opponents.  The Blue Devils just didn’t look like they were capable of putting Belmont away at any point in the game.

Prediction: West Virginia by 6

March 19, 2008

A PiRate Look At The 2008 NCAA Basketball Tournament–March 19, 2008 (2nd Update)

 

A PiRate Look At The 2008 NCAA Basketball Tournament

March 19, 2008 (2nd Update)

There’s a pandemic hitting this country this week.  Millions of Americans are coming down with a 48-hour illness and will have to stay home from work Thursday, March 20 and Friday, March 21.  If this applies to you, then I have some medicine that will make you more comfortable.  Consume this special PiRate juice; I call it bracketcillin.

If you have read my prior two postings, I have explained my criteria for selecting teams to advance.  Without repeating it totally, I look for teams with large scoring margins, large field goal percentage margins, a combination of rebounding and turnover margins, and strength of schedule to separate the pretenders from the contenders.  I assign numbers based on this result to find the teams with the best chances of advancing deep into the tournament.

Here is a preview of the first round games on Thursday and Friday.  Following that, I will then fill out my bracket for you.

East Region

#1 North Carolina (32-2)

Scoring Margin: 16.9

FG% Margin: 6.2

Rebound Margin: 11.6

TO Margin: 1.9

Steals: 8.5

R + T: 15.48

PiRate: 15

SOS: .5921

#16 Mount St. Mary’s (19-14)

Scoring Margin: 2.8

FG% Margin: 3.1

Rebound Margin: -1.4

TO Margin: 0.7

Steals: 7.3

R + T: -0.17

PiRate: Eliminate with -(R+T) rating

SOS: .4924

This one is a no-brainer.  Mount St. Mary’s will have no answer for the Tar Heels inside game, and they won’t be able to stop the transition game either.  UNC will quickly put this game away and be quite rested for Sunday’s second round game.  If MSM didn’t have a negative R+T rating, their PiRate score would be -2.  Carolina’s schedule gives them an extra 10 points for an advantage of 25 to -2.  You can also throw in a three points for home state advantage.  This does not equate to a 30-point spread; it correlates to a 50-point margin.  I look for Roy Williams to empty the bench early enough to prevent the score from getting that lopsided. 

Prediction: North Carolina by 28

#8 Indiana (25-7)

Scoring Margin: 10.4

FG% Margin: 5.4

Rebound Margin: 6.7

TO Margin: -0.2

Steals: 7.0

R + T: 6.36

PiRate: 8

SOS: .5549

#9 Arkansas (22-11)

Scoring Margin: 6.6

FG% Margin: 4.9

Rebound Margin: 4.5

TO Margin: -0.3

Steals: 7.0

R + T: 4.0

PiRate: 0

SOS: .5701

Before using the criteria to select a winner here, we must penalize Indiana five points for having a late season coaching change, one that greatly affected the Hoosiers’ performance.  IU was clearly not the same team with Dan Dakich as head coach as they were with Kelvin Sampson leading the team.

Arkansas gets 1.5 points benefit from having a stronger schedule.  Combine this with Indiana’s losing five points, and the difference becomes 1.5 points.  I’ll still go with Indiana to win the game, but the game should be close. 

Prediction: Indiana by 4.

#5 Notre Dame (24-7)

Scoring Margin: 10.1

FG% Margin: 4.7

Rebound Margin: 5.8

TO Margin: -0.4

Steals: 6.4

R + T: 5.19

PiRate: 7

SOS: .5414

#12 George Mason (23-10)

Scoring Margin: 7.6

FG% Margin: 5.0

Rebound Margin: 4.0

TO Margin: -0.2

Steals: 5.6

R + T: 3.73

PiRate: 1

SOS: .5166

This George Mason team does not have the same gaudy stats that their 2006 Final Four team had.  While the Patriots scoring, shooting, and rebounding margins are quite good, their turnover and R+T margins don’t approach that of two years ago.

Notre Dame possesses similar statistics to GMU, but they are just a little better and played a tougher schedule.  Go with the Irish to win a game that is still in doubt with 10 minutes to play. 

Prediction: Notre Dame by 7

#4 Washington State (24-8)

Scoring Margin: 10.0

FG% Margin: 5.6

Rebound Margin: 0.1

TO Margin: 3.0

Steals: 6.3

R + T: 4.64

PiRate: 9

SOS: .5613

#13 Winthrop (22-11)

Scoring Margin: 7.4

FG% Margin: 5.1

Rebound Margin: 3.7

TO Margin: 2.3

Steals: 8.5

R + T: 8.39

PiRate: 7

SOS: .5072

Watch out here!  Winthrop is good enough to upset the Cougars in the first round Thursday night and compete for a Sweet 16 berth Saturday evening.  Their criteria score is not as strong as some of the other mid-majors, but it’s good enough to win an opening round game.

Washington State has really good numbers as well, and the Cougars are probably the worst possible opponent for Winthrop to face.  WSU will not give away the ball and will not take a ton of ill-advised shots.  Coach Tony Bennett’s squad plays smart, albeit passive, ball on offense with tight defense.  This will work against Winthrop, but the first time the Cougars face an up-tempo team that can force turnovers, they will be going home. 

Prediction: Washington State by 8

#6 Oklahoma (22-11)

Scoring Margin: 5.0

FG% Margin: 3.6

Rebound Margin: 3.0

TO Margin: 0.4

Steals: 6.6

R + T: 3.63

PiRate: 2

SOS: .5753

#11 St. Joseph’s (21-12)

Scoring Margin: 6.0

FG% Margin: 4.3

Rebound Margin: 0.0

TO Margin: 1.5

Steals: 7.2

R + T: 2.59

PiRate: 2

SOS: .5559

If you are looking for a double-digit seed to advance in the first round, you have to consider this game.  St. Joe’s matches up well with Oklahoma.  The Sooners rely on an inside game and don’t scare many people with their outside shooting.  St. Joe’s defense is excellent in the paint, and I expect the Hawks to neutralize the one-two punch of Blake Griffin and Longar Longar.

This game will come down to which team commits the fewer mistakes/forces more mistakes.  It’s a complete toss-up, so you will have to make a guess as to which team advances.  I’m going with St. Joe’s only because Phil Martelli’s teams have done well in the early rounds.

Prediction: St. Joe’s by 3

#3 Louisville (24-8)

Scoring Margin: 10.6

FG% Margin: 7.0

Rebound Margin: 3.0

TO Margin: 1.2

Steals: 8.1

R + T: 5.33

PiRate: 8

SOS: .5852

#14 Boise State (25-8)

Scoring Margin: 6.6

FG% Margin: 7.0

Rebound Margin: 2.3

TO Margin: -0.9

Steals: 6.4

R + T: 0.92

PiRate: 0

SOS: .4904

This smells like a blowout.  Boise State will be coming off a huge high after winning at New Mexico State in triple overtime for the WAC Tournament Championship.  Louisville will be looking to rebound after being dismissed by Pitt in overtime. 

Other than having one of the best field goal percentages, Boise State is pedestrian at-best elsewhere.  Louisville’s pressure defense may not force many turnovers, but I expect the Cards to take the Broncos out of their offense and force shots BSU wouldn’t normally take.  Also, look for Louisville’s great depth to tire the BSU regulars.  Once fatigued, the BSU shooting prowess will disappear, and so will the Broncos’ chances.

Prediction: Louisville by 14

#7 Butler (29-3)

Scoring Margin: 10.5

FG% Margin: 2.1

Rebound Margin: -1.1

TO Margin: 3.6

Steals: 6.3

R + T: 4.34

PiRate: 6

SOS: .5181

#10 South Alabama (26-6)

Scoring Margin: 10.6

FG% Margin: 5.9

Rebound Margin: 6.5

TO Margin: 0.3

Steals: 6.1

R + T: 6.94

PiRate: 10

SOS: .5178

If the mid-majors held their own tournament with 32 teams, these two squads would be expected to compete for Final Four berths.  Both of them are good enough to defeat a major conference opponent in a first round match, but one of them will be going home.  I believe both teams were seeded lower than they should have been seeded.

South Alabama actually has a little better criteria score than Butler, even though the Bulldogs have been highly ranked all season.  The strengths of schedule are basically even.  It is rare that I pick against the criteria scores, but Butler has three starters left over from last season’s Sweet 16 team, and they played better down the stretch.  I’m going against the form here, so beware.  The criteria picks USA by about five points, but I’m overriding the results and going with the more seasoned five.

Prediction: Butler by 4

# 2 Tennessee (29-4)

Scoring Margin: 12.9

FG% Margin: 2.9

Rebound Margin: 1.2

TO Margin: 5.4

Steals: 9.3

R + T: 13.25

PiRate: 13

SOS: .6063

# 15 American (21-11)

Scoring Margin: 3.2

FG% Margin: 3.4

Rebound Margin: 2.4

TO Margin: 1.5

Steals: 4.5

R + T: 4.02

PiRate: 1

SOS: .5034

American has had a couple of really good teams and really good players in the past like Kermit Washington and Russell Bowers, but this is the Eagles first time in the Big Dance.  They better start dancing as soon as the music starts because they will only get one song.  This team cannot match up with Tennessee’s exceptional quickness. 

The Volunteers are vulnerable if an opponent with an exceptional half-court defense and dominating inside game can additionally hold onto the ball.  They might face that type of team in the second round, but not the first.  Tennessee will take some really dumb shots occasionally, but on the other hand, the orange and white will never feel intense pressure late in games and be afraid to shoot when open.  It’s a wash in the early rounds, and the Vols will breeze with a big win.  The criteria score difference is a whopping 22, which equates to a major blowout.

Prediction: Tennessee by 35

Midwest Region

#1 Kansas (31-3)

Scoring Margin: 19.9

FG% Margin: 12.3

Rebound Margin: 7.9

TO Margin: 3.0

Steals: 9.0

R + T: 14.38

PiRate: 21

SOS: .5594

#16 Portland State (23-9)

Scoring Margin: 6.8

FG% Margin: 2.7

Rebound Margin: 2.4

TO Margin: 0.8

Steals: 7.0

R + T: 3.74

PiRate: 1

SOS: .4867

Portland State got shafted in this tournament.  The Vikings are better than all four #15 seeds and at least equal to the #14 seeds.  Instead, PSU must face the team with the best criteria in the entire tournament.  Scott Morrison will be in over his head in this game, and Jeremiah Dominguez will find Mario Chalmers too talented to exploit.

Kansas possesses the statistical criteria that resembles the fingerprint of past national champions and Final Four teams.  Not many teams from a power conference have outscored opponents by 20 points per game, shot better than 12% per game from the field, had a +8 rebounding margin, a +3 turnover margin and averaged 9 steals a game all in the same season.  Duke in 1999, UNLV in 1991, UCLA in 1973, 1972, and St. Bonaventure in 1970 all pulled off the trick; all five made it to the Final Four.  Coach Bill Self has slowly molded the Jayhawks into a power team after being more of a finesse team under Roy Williams.  This KU team is better than Self’s Illinois team that made it to the finals in 2005.  I’m sticking with the Jayhawks until they are no longer in the tourney, and I expect them to be playing in April.

Prediction: Kansas by 28

#8 UNLV (26-7)

Scoring Margin: 8.0

FG% Margin: 1.6

Rebound Margin: -1.6

TO Margin: 4.3

Steals: 7.9

R + T: 6.55

PiRate: 5

SOS: .5496

#9 Kent State (28-6)

Scoring Margin: 7.6

FG% Margin: 5.8

Rebound Margin: 1.4

TO Margin: 1.6

Steals: 8.5

R + T: 4.66

PiRate: 3

SOS: .5267

Kent State may have been given a little too much credit for winning the regular season and MAC Tournament this year.  A Bracket-Buster win at St. Mary’s proved the Golden Flashes were quite good, but they look more like a #11 seed than a #9 seed.

UNLV is one of those teams nobody really wants to play.  They are pesky and don’t back down.  This Runnin’ Rebels team is in no way similar to the teams from the Tarkanian era.  Coach Lon Kruger’s teams play the same way as he played under Jack Hartman at Kansas State in the 1970’s.  Hartman was tutored by his coach, the legendary Hank Iba, so if you know your basketball history, you know what type of team UNLV is this year.

The Rebels won’t advance too far because they don’t have the inside might to compete against the likes of Kansas.  However, they will still be playing Saturday night.

Prediction: UNLV by 8

#5 Clemson (24-9)

Scoring Margin: 9.9

FG% Margin: 2.2

Rebound Margin: 2.4

TO Margin: 3.0

Steals: 9.9

R + T: 9.53

PiRate: 9

SOS: .5740

#12 Villanova (20-12)

Scoring Margin: 3.5

FG% Margin: -0.9

Rebound Margin: 2.7

TO Margin: 2.4

Steals: 8.1

R + T: 7.37

PiRate: -1

SOS: .5586

Here is definitely one game where the #12 seed is not going to upset the #5 seed.  Watch out for Clemson.  In a game where fouls will not be called as much as they are in the regular season (last night’s play-in game had several no-calls that would have been 10-yard penalties in football), Clemson’s foul shooting woes may not come into play.

The Tigers are almost as good as Tennessee; the CU press defense and inside game are better, while their outside game is much weaker. 

Villanova just barely earned their invitation and would have been left out had Illinois beaten Wisconsin Sunday.  The Wildcats will have to hit some three-pointers to win this game, and they just don’t have the accuracy to do so.  While I expect ‘Nova to stay in this game with some scoring runs, Clemson will cause enough confusion to experience one additional spurt.

Prediction: Clemson by 7

#4 Vanderbilt (26-7)

Scoring Margin: 6.2

FG% Margin: 3.1

Rebound Margin: -0.8

TO Margin: 0.5

Steals: 6.0

R + T: -0.08

PiRate: Eliminate with negative R+T rating

SOS: .5613

#13 Siena (22-10)

Scoring Margin: 5.7

FG% Margin: 0.0

Rebound Margin: -4.5

TO Margin: 6.3

Steals: 9.4

R + T: 9.71

PiRate: 5

SOS: .5218

If you watched the NCAA Selection Show Sunday night, you saw CBS’s Seth Davis immediately call for the underdog Saints to upset Vanderbilt.  It came out of his mouth so quickly, you wonder on what information he was basing this quick pick.  At first I thought it was a bias against an elite school, but on closer examination, I found out I owed Mr. Davis an apology.  I’m sorry Seth.

This has the potential to be the biggest opening round upset, although I still think the Commodores have a 55-60% chance of winning.  According to the criteria, we are supposed to eliminate any team with a negative R+T.  Vanderbilt’s R+T of -0.08 is definitely a negative number, but it really can be rounded to zero.  Using zero as their R+T gives them a criteria score of -1.  Siena’s criteria rating of 5 and Vanderbilt’s schedule strength number of 4 make this a two-point criteria advantage for the Saints.  That’s enough to make this a toss-up game.  Now, add to this the fact that Vanderbilt came within a poor no-call of advancing to the Elite 8 last year, and they have three returning starters plus a dominating post player in freshman A.J. Ogilvy, and it adds up to a very slim Commodore win.  However, that’s as far as this team is going this year.

Prediction: Vanderbilt by 2

#6 Southern California (21-11)

Scoring Margin: 5.9

FG% Margin: 9.0

Rebound Margin: 0.5

TO Margin: -1.4

Steals: 5.7

R + T: -1.42

PiRate: Eliminate with negative R+T rating

SOS: .5835

#11 Kansas State (20-11)

Scoring Margin: 9.8

FG% Margin: 2.1

Rebound Margin: 8.1

TO Margin: 1.3

Steals: 7.7

R + T: 10.5

PiRate: 11

SOS: .5697

Kansas State is a much better team than Kent State, and the committee needed to flip-flop these two teams.  The Wildcats are inconsistent, but even on an off night, they would handle the Golden Flashes.

As for this game, I expect Michael Beasley to outperform O.J. Mayo in this can’t miss game.  You will see the nation’s best player, the 6-10 freshman Beasley, record a double double (about 25 points and 12 rebounds) and the nation’s most exciting freshman, 6-5 guard Mayo (expect 20 points, 5 rebounds, and a couple of steals).

As for the game itself, USC has a negative R+T rating, and this one isn’t close enough to give an exemption, especially when KSU has a dominating inside presence and takes care of the ball.  I’m looking for the purple and white to shock the Trojans, not by winning a toss-up game, but by winning with relative ease.

Prediction: Kansas State by 11

#3 Wisconsin (29-4)

Scoring Margin: 13.5

FG% Margin: 7.0

Rebound Margin: 5.7

TO Margin: 4.8

Steals: 6.3

R + T: 12.96

PiRate: 17

SOS: .5518

#14 Cal State Fullerton (24-8)

Scoring Margin: 9.9

FG% Margin: 1.1

Rebound Margin: 1.7

TO Margin: 4.0

Steals: 9.0

R + T: 10.34

PiRate: 11

SOS: .4881

Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan won four national championships at the Division III level at Wisconsin-Platteville.  While his first two title teams were run and gun squads that put more than two points per minute on the scoreboard, his last two title teams used the playing style the Badgers now employ.  Ryan’s teams are tough defensively and careful offensively.  That will work almost every time when his team is more talented.  UW is talented enough to methodically handle their opponents in the first two rounds, but I cannot see the Badgers getting past the second weekend, especially if that means knocking off both Georgetown and Kansas.

Cal State Fullerton isn’t exactly chopped liver; as a #11 seed, I would have given them a 50-50 chance of upsetting USC.  The Titans are sneaky fast and exceptionally accurate from the field.  Their team resembles the Rupp’s Runts Kentucky team of 1966 and the 1964 national champion UCLA team.  Their front line goes 6-5, 6-5, and 6-4, yet they have a seasonal rebounding advantage of 1.7 per game. 

Wisconsin’s defense will curtail the Titans, holding them to 60 points or less.  The Badgers will be patient and work the ball inside to take advantage of the size difference.  UW will get enough offensive rebounds and put backs to score well more than one point per possession.  It adds up to an eventual double digit victory and a happy night on State Street in Madtown. 

Prediction: Wisconsin by 16

#7 Gonzaga (25-7)

Scoring Margin: 13.3

FG% Margin: 9.1

Rebound Margin: 5.2

TO Margin: 0.8

Steals: 7.6

R + T: 6.66

PiRate: 12

SOS: .5373

#10 Davidson (26-6)

Scoring Margin: 15.8

FG% Margin: 5.8

Rebound Margin: 4.3

TO Margin: 4.6

Steals: 8.1

R + T: 13.24

PiRate: 15

SOS: .5252

If you are of conspiratorial mind, you might be wondering how two of the top four mid-major teams ended up facing each other in the first round.  If you believe South Alabama and Butler are the other top two mid-major teams (taking into account that Drake and Xavier are not mid-major but major), and half of the mid-major elite will be eliminated in the first round, then you have a real conspiracy.  I choose to look at this as a gift.  At least two of the elite mid-majors will be guaranteed to advance to the second round where they will be formidable opponents for major powers.  In fact, I have proposed in the media in the past to separate the majors and mid-majors until the Sweet 16 or even Elite 8 by giving the top major teams byes for one or more rounds (I’ll explain that proposal next week).

As far as this game is concerned, both of these teams earn their keep with their perimeter games.  Davidson’s outside shooting is led by Stephen Curry, a poor man’s Chris Lofton.  Gonzaga is more of a shoot by committee team.  The Bulldogs have better depth but no stars.   On paper, this is a true toss-up, but there is one major intangible.  The game will take place in Raleigh, where Davidson can bus the 150 miles.  Gonzaga’s flight from Spokane to Raleigh across three time zones and 2,500 miles will negatively affect their performance.  Give the Wildcats three more criteria points for excellent home state advantage, and that will tilt the game in their favor.  Then, watch out for them Sunday afternoon, as they are the best double-digit, mid-major seed.

Prediction: Davidson by 3

#2 Georgetown (27-5)

Scoring Margin: 11.7

FG% Margin: 11.9

Rebound Margin: 2.6

TO Margin: -0.4

Steals: 7.1

R + T: 1.92

PiRate: 8

SOS: .5670

#15 Maryland-Baltimore County (24-8)

Scoring Margin: 6.6

FG% Margin: 2.2

Rebound Margin: -0.8

TO Margin: 3.2

Steals: 6.2

R + T: 3.96

PiRate: 2

SOS: .4738

There isn’t much need to devote too much space to this game, since it is a classic mismatch.  UMBC might open the game with a little run to take a short-lived lead, but after the first TV timeout, Georgetown will take control of the game and be comfortably ahead by the under eight minutes timeout in the first half.

UMBC has no answer for the Hoyas’ inside game.  I expect Georgetown to hold the Retrievers to 35-38% shooting, win the battle of the boards by more than 10, and shoot better than 50% from the field.  It adds up to a big win, but the Hoyas are going to ride into an ambush on Sunday.

South Region

#1 Memphis (33-1)

Scoring Margin: 19.1

FG% Margin: 8.3

Rebound Margin: 6.5

TO Margin: 4.4

Steals: 8.7

R + T: 15.69

PiRate: 19

SOS: .5749

#16 Texas-Arlington (21-11)

Scoring Margin: 5.4

FG% Margin: 8.0

Rebound Margin: 3.4

TO Margin: -1.6

Steals: 6.7

R + T: 0.83

PiRate: 3

SOS: .4763

Memphis is one of the teams in this tournament with criteria statistics that match those of historical Final Four teams.  The Tigers don’t approach the statistical dominance of Kansas, but they are talented enough to go all the way.  They should advance at least to the Elite 8 once again.

UT-Arlington at best was the third best team out of the Southland Conference this season, and the best team received a whipping in the NIT last night.  The Mavericks are for sure one and done, and their one won’t be too much fun. 

Prediction: Memphis by 32

#8 Mississippi State (22-10)

Scoring Margin: 8.0

FG% Margin: 9.3

Rebound Margin: 5.1

TO Margin: -2.6

Steals: 6.0

R + T: 1.36

PiRate: 7

SOS: .5523

#9 Oregon (18-13)

Scoring Margin: 4.4

FG% Margin: 4.2

Rebound Margin: 1.9

TO Margin: -1.5

Steals: 4.6

R + T: 0.24

PiRate: -2

SOS: .5647

Both of these teams have fatal flaws that will keep them from advancing too far in the tournament.  Mississippi State does not handle the ball all that well.  The Bulldogs can punish opponents with a muscle game and block 10 shots in 40 minutes.  However, they can be taken out of their offense with pressure, and they can be beaten with the fast break.  Additionally, you have to wonder how big of an emotional hit they took when they fell to a Georgia team that was playing its second game in six hours after going to overtime in the first one.

Oregon can certainly fast break as competently as any team, but the Ducks tend to make too many mental mistakes to exploit Mississippi State’s liabilities.  Oregon must shoot the ball well in order to have any chance in this game, and I don’t think it will happen.  Normally, the green and gold hit 48.5% of their shots.  I think they will get 60 attempts, which means they should hit 29 of them.  However, throw in about five more blocked shots than normal, and figure that three of those shots would have gone in, and it reduces Oregon to 43.3%.  The Ducks won’t win with that poor shooting percentage.

Prediction: Mississippi State by 5

#5 Michigan State (25-8)

Scoring Margin: 9.3

FG% Margin: 7.9

Rebound Margin: 7.1

TO Margin: -1.2

Steals: 6.1

R + T: 5.34

PiRate: 8

SOS: .5636

#12 Temple (21-12)

Scoring Margin: 4.0

FG% Margin: 4.9

Rebound Margin: -0.8

TO Margin: 0.1

Steals: 6.3

R + T: -0.65

PiRate: Eliminated with negative R+T rating

SOS: .5593

Michigan State usually makes it to the Sweet 16 and almost always wins their first tournament game.  Of course, they are almost always a top-four seed when they make the Big Dance.

Temple has historically been a team that advances farther than expected in the tournament.  That was under John Chaney; now they are led by Fran Dunphy.  Dunphy had some classics across town at Penn, but he only ever won one NCAA game. 

This game will come down to how well Temple can shoot from outside.  The Owls have won many games with excellent foul shooting, and as I have said all week, foul shooting becomes less important overall in the NCAA Tournament.  Look for the Spartans to force Temple into enough bad shots and to control the boards.

Michigan State by 9

#4 Pittsburgh (26-9)

Scoring Margin: 8.9

FG% Margin: 3.8

Rebound Margin: 4.4

TO Margin: 1.9

Steals: 6.8

R + T: 7.50

PiRate: 8

SOS: .5723

#13 Oral Roberts (24-8)

Scoring Margin: 7.9

FG% Margin: 4.7

Rebound Margin: 2.5

TO Margin: 0.8

Steals: 6.3

R + T: 3.71

PiRate: 1

SOS: .5114

Pittsburgh is a hot team coming into this tournament.  The Panthers withstood some injuries that depleted the roster until late in the season, and Coach Jamie Dixon told the press before the Big East Tournament that his squad was playing its best basketball of the year.  Pitt dispensed of Oklahoma State earlier this season, and ORU is a junior version of the Cowboys.

Oral Roberts is a sound team that doesn’t beat itself.  That works against teams in the Summit League, but it won’t feed the bulldog against Big East powers.  The Golden Eagles don’t have a defensive answer for Pitt’s power game.

Prediction: Pittsburgh by 13

#6 Marquette (24-9)

Scoring Margin:  11.5

FG% Margin: 3.5

Rebound Margin: 2.4

TO Margin: 3.8

Steals: 9.6

R + T: 11.16

PiRate: 13

SOS: .5753

#11 Kentucky (18-12)

Scoring Margin: 3.3 

FG% Margin: 7.5

Rebound Margin: 1.8

TO Margin: -2.6

Steals: 6.7

R + T: -2.38

PiRate: Eliminated with negative R+T rating

SOS: .5732

While there is no Dwayne Wade on this roster, the 2008 Marquette team compares quite favorably with the 2003 Marquette team that made it to the Final Four.  The 2008 team is better at forcing turnovers via the steal, and that’s what gives the men from Milwaukee an excellent shot at making it to a second week in the tournament.

Kentucky just barely qualified as an at-large team, and they are missing their key cog in center Patrick Patterson.  Without the talented big man, the Cats have no chance to make it past the first weekend, and I think they will be one and done this year.

Look for Marquette to play aggressively, wearing down the depth-poor blue mist.  Kentucky will keep it close for a half, but they will tire in the final 20 minutes, and that will allow the Golden Eagles to cruise to victory.

Prediction: Marquette by 8

#3 Stanford (26-7)

Scoring Margin:  10.1

FG% Margin: 5.5

Rebound Margin: 8.0

TO Margin: -0.5

Steals: 4.4

R + T: 7.47

PiRate: 8

SOS: .5547

#14 Cornell (22-5)

Scoring Margin: 9.0 

FG% Margin: 7.0

Rebound Margin: 1.2

TO Margin: 0.7

Steals: 6.0

R + T: 2.21

PiRate: 4

SOS: .4704

Stanford has the talent and criteria statistics to advance to the Elite 8, but as of late, the Cardinal have weaknesses that can be exploited by certain teams.  Stanford can go in long shooting slumps against teams that pack their defense inside to stop Brook Lopez. 

Cornell became only the third Ivy League school to go 14-0 in league play (Penn and Princeton have done it before).  The Big Red enter the Dance waltzing on a 16-game winning streak.  Unfortunately, their stay in the cotillion will last one afternoon.  Cornell is one of those teams that rely on winning by dominating the free throw shooting stat.  As mentioned ad nauseum already, free throw shooting prowess will not carry a team in the Big Dance, unless it is to protect the lead in the final 90 seconds.  I don’t see Cornell leading the game with a minute and half to go, and off they’ll go back to Cayuga’s waters.

Prediction: Stanford by 13

#7 Miami (Fla.) (22-10)

Scoring Margin: 7.0 

FG% Margin: 3.1

Rebound Margin: 2.1

TO Margin: 1.2

Steals: 6.1

R + T: 3.86

PiRate: 1

SOS: .5599

#10 St. Mary’s (25-6)

Scoring Margin: 12.8 

FG% Margin: 5.7

Rebound Margin: 3.7

TO Margin: 1.3

Steals: 7.4

R + T: 6.01

PiRate: 8

SOS: .5130

As most #7-10 matches tend to be, this will be a close game that should go down to the wire.  Miami hasn’t danced in six years.  The Hurricanes have a talented backcourt, led by Jack McClinton. 

St. Mary’s was 23-3 before losing three of their final five games.  The Gaels have the talent to get to the 2nd round, but it will depend on how well they can defend the perimeter.

The criteria clearly shows St. Mary’s to be the superior team, even when the strength of schedule is factored in.  So, I’m going with the mild upset here.

Prediction: St. Mary’s by 3

#2 Texas (28-6)

Scoring Margin: 11.1 

FG% Margin: 6.3

Rebound Margin: 2.5

TO Margin: 2.9

Steals: 6.2

R + T: 6.82

PiRate: 8

SOS: .5950

#15 Austin Peay (24-10)

Scoring Margin: 3.9  

FG% Margin: -1.5

Rebound Margin: -2.4

TO Margin: 4.1

Steals: 9.7

R + T: 7.14

PiRate: -1

SOS: .4965

Texas has to be included in your Elite 8 bracket.  The Longhorns are loaded with talent and have good criteria representation.  D.J. Augustin runs the offense as well as any play-maker in the nation.  Damion James and Connor Atchley combine to give the burnt orange the best rebounding duo in the Big 12 after Michael Beasley and any Kansas State student.

Austin Peay does one thing quite well-play aggressive defense.  I just don’t see them having much success in taking the ball away from the Longhorns.  It should be a long afternoon for them in Little Rock Friday.  In what will continue to be a bad month for governors in this country, look for the round ball Govs to fall by less than 4,300 dollars points. 

Prediction: Texas by 23

West Region

U C L A (31-3)

Scoring Margin: 15.0 

FG% Margin: 4.8

Rebound Margin: 8.4

TO Margin: 2.5

Steals: 7.4

R + T: 12.84

PiRate: 14

SOS: .5771

#16 Mississippi Valley State (17-15)

Scoring Margin: -3.1  

FG% Margin: -3.6

Rebound Margin: -1.7

TO Margin: 1.1

Steals: 6.2

R + T: -0.06

PiRate: Eliminated with negative R+T rating

SOS: .4571

What is the lowest score any team has scored in the NCAA Tournament since the advent of the 3-point shot and 35-second clock?  In 2001, Michigan State defeated Alabama State 69-35 in the first round.  If UCLA comes out with the same intensity they have the previous two seasons when they held their opening round opponents to 44 and 42 points, the Bruins could hold the Delta Devils to less than a point per minute.

Mississippi Valley should have been in the play-in game because they are the weakest team in the NCAA Tournament.  They will be lucky to hit one third of their shots in this game; they won’t get more than three or four offensive rebounds if that much.  They will turn the ball over five or more times than the Bruins, and they will give up more than 1.2 points per possession in this game.

UCLA can name the score in what is a virtual home game in Anaheim.  I expect Ben Howland to give every Bruin on the roster significant playing time in this game, so don’t expect a 60-point win.  The Bruins have their faults, but they won’t be damaging until at least the end of next week.

Prediction: UCLA by 34

#8 B Y U (27-7)

Scoring Margin: 11.0 

FG% Margin: 7.4

Rebound Margin: 4.8

TO Margin: -0.6

Steals: 5.9

R + T: 3.95

PiRate: 5

SOS: .5306

#9 Texas A&M (24-10)

Scoring Margin: 9.6  

FG% Margin: 7.3

Rebound Margin: 7.1

TO Margin: -1.5

Steals: 4.5

R + T: 5.48

PiRate: 6

SOS: .5561

This is the most competitive of the ultra-competitive #8-9 contests.  It is truly a 50-50 match.  Both teams are talented enough to give UCLA fits Saturday night, but the Thursday winner may have to extend themselves to get to that game.

Both teams are strong on the boards.  BYU is better offensively by a wide margin, while A&M is better defensively.  I think the game will be decided at the guard positions, and the Cougars have the better duo.

Prediction: B Y U by 6

#5 Drake (28-4)

Scoring Margin: 12.3 

FG% Margin: 1.9

Rebound Margin: 3.1

TO Margin: 4.0

Steals: 7.6

R + T: 10.40

PiRate: 14

SOS: .5436

#12 Western Kentucky (27-6)

Scoring Margin: 11.6  

FG% Margin: 5.1

Rebound Margin: 3.3

TO Margin: 3.8

Steals: 7.8

R + T: 10.41

PiRate: 15

SOS: .5123

If these two teams were playing two Big 10 opponents in the first round, someone like Purdue or Indiana, I might pick both of them to pull off upsets.  These two squads are both strong enough to make it to the Sweet 16.

Drake is not considered a mid-major since the Missouri Valley Conference is among the top eight leagues.  The Bulldogs hit a valley after they had already clinched the MVC regular season championship, but they recovered to whip their three conference tournament opponents by an average of 20 points per game.  Keno Davis is my choice for National Coach of the Year.  His team has been one of the best outside shooting squads in the NCAA this year, as the Bulldogs average more than nine made three-pointers per game.

Western Kentucky has a team similar in playing style to Tennessee.  They press and run the fast break.  For most of the season, it was the outstanding guard play of Courtney Lee, Tyrone Brazelton, and Ty Rogers that carried the load for the Hilltoppers.  However, in the Sunbelt Conference Tournament, the emergence of forward Jeremy Evans gave Coach Darrin Horn a new weapon.

The criteria shows both of these teams to be worthy of going all the way to San Antonio.  Western’s schedule strength is a little suspect, while Drake’s is stronger by only three points.  That will eventually prove to be the Bulldog’s downfall.

Prediction: Drake by 3

#4 Connecticut (24-8)

Scoring Margin: 9.1 

FG% Margin: 7.9

Rebound Margin: 6.2

TO Margin: -1.4

Steals: 5.8

R + T: 4.25

PiRate: 7

SOS: .5681

#13 San Diego (21-13)

Scoring Margin: 2.2 

FG% Margin: 1.0

Rebound Margin: 1.8

TO Margin: 0.3

Steals: 6.8

R + T: 2.29

PiRate: 0

SOS: .5283

This Connecticut team is missing one key proponent that will keep the Huskies from advancing to the Elite 8 this year.  Other than A.J. Price, they cannot pick up cheap baskets via the steal.  It leads to a negative turnover margin.  The Huskies will be okay due to exceptional rebounding until they run into a team that can hold their own on the boards.  Then, the three or four fewer possessions they would normally add thanks to having those steals will cause them to lose.  It could happen against Drake in round two, or it could happen against UCLA, Texas A&M, or BYU in the Sweet 16. 

San Diego is just happy to be here.  The Toreros enjoyed a big weekend last week with wins over St. Mary’s and Gonzaga.  That made their season.  They won’t compete with UConn for very long.  USD will not be able to take advantage of UConn’s deficiencies.

Prediction: Connecticut by 14

#6 Purdue (24-8)

Scoring Margin: 7.5 

FG% Margin: -1.1

Rebound Margin: -0.1

TO Margin: 4.8

Steals: 8.5

R + T: 9.69

PiRate: 2

SOS: .5204

#11 Baylor (21-10)

Scoring Margin: 7.0  

FG% Margin: 2.7

Rebound Margin: 0.1

TO Margin: 1.7

Steals: 7.4

R + T: 3.12

PiRate: 2

SOS: .5569

This is a real toss-up game.  The two teams are not mirror images, but there isn’t much difference in them either.  Both teams live by the jump shot and die by the jump shot, but Purdue’s guards are better defensively than Baylor’s guards.  Neither team is particularly proficient inside the paint, and the winner will be going home Sunday because of it.

I’m going with the Boilermakers for two reasons.  First, they have an incredible +4.8 turnover margin, and I expect turnovers to play a huge part in this game.  Second, even though the Boilermakers ended the season on a stale note, the Bears were even worse down the stretch.  They lost to Colorado in the first round of the Big 12 Tournament to finish the season 5-8 in their final 13 games.  Purdue split their last six games after winning 11 in a row, including a sweep of Wisconsin.

Prediction: Purdue by 6

#3 Xavier (27-6)

Scoring Margin: 13.0 

FG% Margin: 7.4

Rebound Margin: 6.2

TO Margin: -0.2

Steals: 5.6

R + T: 5.93

PiRate: 8

SOS: .5720

#14 Georgia (17-16)

Scoring Margin: 1.1 

FG% Margin: 0.1

Rebound Margin: 4.1

TO Margin: -1.8

Steals: 6.8

R + T: 1.16

PiRate: -1

SOS: .5658

Can Georgia continue to shock the basketball world?  How can a team beat two NCAA-bound teams in the same day, and then turn around 16 hours later and beat a third NCAA-bound team?  Maybe North Carolina might be able to do it, but this is a team that won four conference games all year and then won four in a weekend.

The Bulldogs only have eight players, and their best player isn’t 100% healthy.  Now, they must face a top 10 team that has beaten the likes of Indiana and Kansas State and took Tennessee to the buzzer.  Xavier has the look of a Sweet 16 team; the Musketeers have no weakness.  Their TO margin is basically 0, and they don’t get many steals, but they make up for it with exceptional rebounding and the ability to make opponents miss. 

It would be a great story if the Cinderella Bulldogs could win a game in this tournament, but I don’t see it happening.  Still, 17-17 is a fantastic finish for a team that experienced more obstacles than the Donner Family.

Prediction: Xavier by 11

#7 West Virginia (24-10)

Scoring Margin: 11.9 

FG% Margin: 3.5

Rebound Margin: 2.0

TO Margin: 4.8

Steals: 7.2

R + T: 10.29

PiRate: 13

SOS: .5616

#10 Arizona (19-14)

Scoring Margin: 5.4  

FG% Margin: 3.9

Rebound Margin: -1.5

TO Margin: 0.6

Steals: 5.6

R + T: -0.69

PiRate: Eliminated with negative R+T rating

SOS: .6006

Arizona has the second best strength of schedule in the Big Dance, but that isn’t enough to justify the Wildcats winning a game in the West Regional.  Arizona doesn’t rebound and doesn’t force turnovers, and their half court defense isn’t particularly strong.  It means a quick exit in the tournament and the end of the Kevin O’Neill era in Tucson.

West Virginia is a sleeper team in this tournament.  Unlike when John Beilein coached the Mountaineers and they were a perimeter-oriented team that lived and died by the three-pointer, this team coached by Bob Huggins can hold their own on the boards, prevent power teams from hurting them inside, and play both a power and finesse game.  I think WVU will win this one rather easily and then give Duke a great game on Saturday.

Prediction: West Virginia by 12

#2 Duke (27-5)

Scoring Margin: 14.8 

FG% Margin: 3.1

Rebound Margin: 0.5

TO Margin: 5.0

Steals: 8.7

R + T: 10.94

PiRate: 13

SOS: .5857

#15 Belmont (25-8)

Scoring Margin: 6.6 

FG% Margin: -0.5

Rebound Margin: 1.8

TO Margin: 1.8

Steals: 8.6

R + T: 5.52

PiRate: 0

SOS: .4816

In the past, Duke would win an opening round game like this by 30-40 points.  They still may do so Thursday night, but there is a chance they will only win this game by 20-25.  This Duke squad is more of a turnover-forcing fast break team and less of a pound it inside team.  Eventually, and possibly as early as Saturday, this will be their downfall.

Belmont is making their third consecutive trip to the Big Dance.  The first two times, they looked great…at least until the first TV timeout.  In 2006, they led eventual NCAA runner-up UCLA four minutes into the game.  Last year, they led eventual Final Four participant Georgetown almost to the second TV timeout.  Maybe this year, they will keep the game close halfway into the first half.

Prediction: Duke by 26

Filling Out The Bracket

Okay, so you can see from the previews which teams I am picking to advance to the round of 32.  How do the ratings apply from there, and can you use them to fill the bracket out to the end?  Sure you can.  I’ve been doing it for several years, and once or twice I picked the entire Final Four (they got there differently than how I picked, but they did get there).

In the second round, Here’s how I see the games (Look for complete previews of Round 2 Saturday morning).

North Carolina over Indiana

Notre Dame over Washington St. in a fantastic game

Louisville over St. Joe’s

Tennessee over Butler but harder than expected

Kansas over UNLV

Clemson over Vanderbilt

Wisconsin over Kansas State in a great battle

Georgetown over Davidson but it should be close and could be the big upset

Memphis over Mississippi State in a hard-fought game

Pittsburgh over Michigan State in a physical game

Marquette over Stanford in a mild surprise

Texas over St. Mary’s

UCLA over BYU

Connecticut over Drake in a close nail-biter

Xavier over Purdue

Duke over West Virginia in the game of the day

Sweet 16

North Carolina over Notre Dame

Tennessee over Louisville in an exciting game

Kansas over Clemson

Georgetown over Wisconsin in a 55-50-type game

Pittsburgh over Memphis in the surprise of this round

Texas over Marquette

UCLA over Connecticut

Duke over Xavier

Elite 8

North Carolina over Tennessee

Kansas over Georgetown

Texas over Pittsburgh

UCLA over Duke

Final 4

Kansas over North Carolina

UCLA over Texas

Championship

Kansas over UCLA

March 18, 2008

A PiRate Look At The 2008 NCAA Basketball Tournament–March 18, 2008 (1st Update)

 

A PiRate Look At The 2008 NCAA Basketball Tournament

March 18, 2008 (1st Update)

Yesterday, I gave you my Bracketnomics 505 crash course, where I relayed what I thought were the most pertinent statistical criteria to look at when filling out your brackets.  If you have read that story and earned your M.S. in Bracketnomics, now is the time to work on your doctorate.  Let’s apply the criteria to this year’s Field of 65, and then use tonight’s play-in game between Coppin State and Mount St. Mary’s as an example.

Here’s how I have been taking the criteria listed yesterday and applying numerical grades to it to come up with a list of contenders, dark horses, and pretenders. 

1. Scoring Margin

Award 5 points for every team with a scoring margin difference of 10 or more

Award 3 points for every team with a scoring margin difference of 8.0-9.9

Award 1 point for every team with a scoring margin difference of 5.0-7.9

Award 0 points for every team with a scoring margin difference of 0-4.9

Award -3 points for every team with a negative scoring margin

2. Field Goal % Margin

Award 5 points for every team with a FG% margin difference of 10% or more

Award 3 points for every team with a FG% margin difference of 7.5 to 9.9

Award 1 point for every team with a FG% margin difference of 5.0-7.4

Award 0 points for every team with a FG% margin difference of 0.0-4.9

Award -3 points for every team with a FG% margin difference below 0

3. Rebound Margin

Award 3 points for every team with a Rebound margin difference of 5 or more

Award 1 point for every team with a Rebound margin difference of 3.0-4.9

Award 0 points for every team with a Rebound margin difference of 0-2.9

Award -2 points for every team with a Rebound margin difference below 0

4. Turnover Margin

Award 3 points for every team with a Turnover margin difference of 3 or more

Award 1 point for every team with a Turnover margin difference of 1.5-2.9

Award 0 points for every team with a Turnover margin difference of 0-1.4

Award -2 points for every team with a Turnover margin below 0

3&4. R+T (add to the individual 3 and 4 above)

My formula for R+T is [R + ({.2*S}*{1.2*T})]  Where R is rebounding margin, S is avg. steals per game, and T is turnover margin

Award 5 points for every team with an R+T of 10 or more

Award 3 points for every team with an R+T of 7.5-9.9

Award 1 point for every team with an R+T of 5-7.4

Award 0 points for every team with an R+T of 0-4.9

Completely eliminate from consideration all teams with a negative R+T

5. Schedule Strength

There are no point values assigned here.  Use this to compare when looking at team vs. team.  Take the difference in the Strength of Schedule as given by cbs.sportsline.com and multiple it by 100.  For example, Davidson’s SOS is .5252 and North Carolina’s is .5921.  If they face each other, give the Tar Heels an extra 7 criteria points [(.5921-.5252)*100]=6.69 rounds to 7

If you want to compile all this information yourself, the best way is to go to all 65 official athletic websites of the teams in the Big Dance.  That’s where I found my statistical information.  Some of these stats are available in other places, but I have already found many to be riddled with mistakes or not up-to-date.  All 65 school sites are accurate and timely.

Tomorrow, Wednesday, I will report on the criteria scores for the 64 remaining schools in the NCAA Tournament.  I will review the first round contests by applying the criteria.  There is one game tonight-the play-in match in Dayton between Mount St. Mary’s and Coppin State.  Let’s take a look at the game PiRate style.

Mount St. Mary’s 18-14

Point Differential: 2.6

FG% Differential: 3.1

Rebound Margin: -1.4

TO Margin:  0.7

Stls/G: 7.3

R+T: -0.17

Score: -2 & Eliminate From Consideration due to negative R+T

Schedule: .4924

Coppin State 16-20

Point Differential: -6.0

FG% Differential: -4.3

Rebound Margin: -4.4

TO Margin:  1.9

Stls/G: 7.2

R+T: -1.12

Score: -7 & Eliminate From Consideration due to negative R+T

Schedule: .4796

Schedule Points: Mount St. Mary’s +1.28

Neither of these two teams has any chance of advancing past Friday.  I don’t think either one could beat any of the #15 seeds this year.  Enjoy this game much like you would enjoy watching batting practice prior to a Major League game.  Mount St. Mary’s has a criteria score that is six points better, but both teams come under the guise of elimination based upon their negative R+T scores.  When this happens, we throw out the criteria scores.  So, we must pick our winner based on other variables. 

Coppin State was 4-19 and then went 12-1 to finish 16-20.  That 12-1 finish is eye-popping, even when it came within the MEAC.  Mount St. Mary’s won eight of their final nine, including three decisive wins in the NEC Tourney.  I’ll take The Mount to come through with a win by about nine points with a score around 71-62.

March 16, 2008

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

 

A PiRate Look at the NCAA Basketball Conference Tournaments

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

(NCAA Tournament Coverage Begins Monday)

Conference Tournament Results through Saturday, March 15, 2008

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Previous Concluded Tournaments

Atlantic Sun

Quarterfinals

#4 East Tennessee 81 #5 Lipscomb 74

#6 Gardner-Webb 82  #3 Stetson 63

#2 Jacksonville 65  #7 Mercer 57

#1 Belmont 75  #8 Campbell 66

Semifinals

Jacksonville 89 Gardner-Webb 80

Belmont 69 East Tennessee 65

Saturday, March 8

Championship

Belmont 79  Jacksonville 61

Automatic Qualifier: Belmont 25-8  Avg. RPI 76.3

At-Large Teams:      0

Bubble:                      None

Big Sky                    

Saturday, March 8

Quarterfinals

#4 Idaho State 67  #5 Montana 65

#3 Weber State 65  #6 Montana State 49

Tuesday, March 11 @ Portland, OR

Semifinals

#1 Portland State 72  Idaho State 61

#2 Northern Arizona 75  Weber State 70

Wednesday, March 12 @ Portland, OR

Championship Game

Portland State 67  Northern Arizona 51

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

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

At-Large Teams:      0

Bubble:                      None

Big South

Opening Round

#1 UNC-Asheville 87  #8 Charleston Southern 63

#4 Liberty 103  #5 VMI 88

#2 Winthrop 76  #7 Radford 45

#3 High Point 59  #6 Coastal Carolina 56

Semifinals

UNC-Asheville 75  Liberty 57

Winthrop 61  High Point 53

Saturday, March 8 @ Asheville, NC

Championship Game

Winthrop 66  UNC-Asheville 48

Automatic Qualifier: Winthrop 22-11  Avg. RPI 106.5

At-Large Teams:      0

Bubble:                      None

Colonial Athletic Association

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

#9 Towson State 81  #8 Towson State 66

#5 William & Mary 58 #12 Georgia State 57

#6 Delaware 60  #11 Drexel 51

#7 Northeastern 73 #10 James Madison 59

Saturday, March 8

Quarterfinals

#1 Virginia Commonwealth 57  Towson State 46

William & Mary 63  #4 Old Dominion 60

#3 UNC-Wilmington 82  Delaware 59

#2 George Mason 63  Northeastern 52

Sunday, March 9

Semifinals

William & Mary 56  Virginia Commonwealth 54

George Mason 53  UNC-Wilmington 41

Monday, March 10

Championship Game

George Mason 68  William & Mary 59

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

At-Large Teams:      0 or 1

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

Horizon League              

All Games Played At Indianapolis (Butler host team)

Opening Round

#3 Wright State 60  #10 Detroit 37

#6 Valparaiso 75  #7 UW-Green Bay 67

#4 Illinois-Chicago 70  #9 Youngstown State 59

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

Quarterfinals

Valparaiso 72  Wright State 67

Illinois-Chicago 60 Loyola (Chi.) 49

Saturday, March 8

Semifinals

#2 Cleveland State 78  Valparaiso 73

#1 Butler 66  Illinois-Chicago 50

Tuesday, March 11

Championship

Butler 70  Cleveland State 55

Automatic Qualifier: Butler 29-3  Avg. RPI 16.8

At-Large Teams:      0

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

Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference

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

Opening Round

#8 Manhattan 73  #9 St. Peter’s 59

#10 Canisius 64  #7 Iona 59

Saturday, March 8

Quarterfinals

#1 Siena 66  Manhattan 58

#4 Loyola (Md.) 64  #5 Fairfield 59

#2 Rider 75  Canisius 71

#6 Marist 66  #3 Niagara 62

Sunday, March 9

Semifinals

Siena 65  Loyola (Md.) 63

Rider 76  Marist 71

Monday, March 10

Championship Game

Siena 74  Rider 53

Automatic Qualifier: Siena 22-10  Avg. RPI 66.8

At-Large Teams:      0

Bubble:                      None

Missouri Valley @ St. Louis (Arch Madness)

Opening Round

#8 Indiana State 71  #9 Wichita State 67

#7 Missouri State 69 #10 Evansville 46

Quarterfinals

#1 Drake 68  Indiana State 46

#4 Creighton 74  #5 Bradley 70

#2 Illinois State 63  Missouri State 58

#6 Northern Iowa 54  #3 Southern Illinois 49

Saturday, March 8

Semifinals

Drake 75 Creighton 67

Illinois State 56 Northern Iowa 42

Sunday, March 9

Championship

Drake 79  Illinois State 49

Automatic Qualifier: Drake 28-4  Avg. RPI 10.3

At-Large Teams:      0 or 1

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

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

Northeast

Quarterfinal

#1 Robert Morris 64  #8 Monmouth 50

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

#2 Wagner 71  #7 Long Island 62

#3 Sacred Heart 84  #6 Central Connecticut State 71

Sunday, March 9

Semifinals

Mt. St. Mary’s 83  Robert Morris 65

Sacred Heart 55  Wagner 49

Wednesday, March 12

Championship

Mt. St. Mary’s 68  Sacred Heart 55

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

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

At-Large Teams:      0

Bubble:                      None

Ohio Valley Conference

Quarterfinals @ Higher Seed

#1 Austin Peay 76  #8 Eastern Kentucky 51

#4 UT-Martin 101  #5 Samford 94  3ot

#2 Murray State 77  #7 Tennessee Tech 74

#6 Tennessee State 68  #3 Morehead State 61

Semifinals @ Nashville

Austin Peay 78  UT-Martin 77

Tennessee State 83 Murray State 75

Saturday, March 8

Championship

Austin Peay 82 Tennessee State 64

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

At-Large Teams:      0

Bubble:                      None

Southern Conference

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

Opening Round

#8 Wofford 58  #9 Western Carolina 49

#7 Elon 52  #10 Furman 37

#6 Charleston 66  #11 Citadel 48

Saturday, March 8

Quarterfinals

#1 Davidson 82 Wofford 49

#5 UNC-Greensboro 63  #4 Appalachian State 46

Elon 60  #2 Chattanooga 57

Coll. of Charleston 87  #3 Georgia Southern 73

Sunday, March 9

Semifinals

Davidson 82 UNCG 52

Elon 75  Charleston 61

Monday, March 10

Championship Game

Davidson 65  Elon 49

Automatic Qualifier: Davidson 26-6  Avg. RPI 30.3

At-Large Teams:      0

Bubble:                      None

Summit League @ Tulsa (Oral Roberts host team)                  

Saturday, March 8

Quarterfinals

#1 Oral Roberts 84 #8 Centenary 56

#2 IUPUI 69  #7 Missouri-Kansas City 65

Sunday, March 9

Quarterfinals

#5 IPFW 66  #4 Southern Utah 62

#3 Oakland 80 #6 Western Illinois 66

Monday, March 10

Semifinals

Oral Roberts 58 IPFW 42

IUPUI 80 Oakland 65

Tuesday, March 11

Championship

Oral Roberts 71  IUPUI 64

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

At-Large Teams:      0

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

Sunbelt Conference                   

1st Round

#8 New Orleans 65  #9 Denver 60

#4 Middle Tennessee 74  #13 Louisiana Monroe 69

#12 Troy 70  #5 Louisiana Lafayette 60

#6 North Texas 85  #11 Arkansas State 63

#7 Florida Atlantic 91  #10 Florida International 64

Sunday, March 9 @ Mobile, AL

Quarterfinals

South Alabama 81  New Orleans 77

Middle Tennessee 65  Troy 59

Western Kentucky 84  North Texas 70

Arkansas Little Rock 66  Florida Atlantic 60

Monday, March 10 @ Mobile, AL

Semifinals

Middle Tennessee 82  South Alabama 73

Western Kentucky 70 Arkansas-Little Rock 55

Tuesday, March 11 @ Mobile, AL

Championship

Western Kentucky 67  Middle Tennessee 57

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

At-Large Teams:      0 or 1

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

 West Coast Conference

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

Opening Round

#5 San Francisco 79  # 8 Loyola Marymount 60

#6 Pepperdine 50  #7 Portland 48  ot

Saturday, March 8

Quarterfinals

#4 Santa Clara 51  San Francisco 50

#3 San Diego 75  Pepperdine 55

Sunday, March 9

#1 Gonzaga 52  Santa Clara 48

San Diego 75  #2 St. Mary’s 69  2ot

Monday, March 10

Championship Game

San Diego 69 Gonzaga 62

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

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

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

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

Ivy League Champion

Automatic Qualifier: Cornell 22-5  Avg. RPI 64.5

Recent Tournaments Concluded

America East

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

Opening Round

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

Saturday, March 8

Quarterfinals

#1 Md. Balt. Co. 76  Stony Brook 60

#4 Vermont 65  #5 Binghamton 57

#2 Hartford 68  #7 New Hampshire 65

#6 Boston U. 68  #3 Albany 64  ot

Sunday, March 9

Semifinals

Md. Balt. Co. 73  Vermont 64

Hartford 59  Boston U. 52

Saturday, March 15

Championship Game

Maryland-Baltimore Co. 82  Hartford 65

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

At-Large Teams:      0

Bubble:                      None

Atlantic Coast  @ Charlotte, NC

Thursday, March 13

Opening Round

#9 Florida State 70  #8 Wake Forest 60

#5 Miami 63  #12 North Carolina State 50

#7 Georgia Tech 94  #10 Virginia 76

#11 Boston College 71  #6 Maryland 68

Friday, March 14

Quarterfinals

#1 North Carolina 82  Florida State 70

#4 Virginia Tech 63  Miami 49

#2 Duke 82  Georgia Tech 70

#3 Clemson 82  Boston College 48

Saturday, March 15

Semifinals

North Carolina 68  Virginia Tech 66

Clemson 78  Duke 74

Sunday, March 16

Championship Game

North Carolina 31-2  vs. Clemson 24-8

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

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

Atlantic 10  @ Atlantic City, NJ

Wednesday, March 12

Opening Round

#8 Dayton 63  St. Louis 62  ot

#5 St. Joseph’s 80 #12 Fordham 62

#7 LaSalle 82  #10 Duquesne 79

#6 Charlotte 75  #11 Rhode Island 73

Thursday, March 13

Quarterfinals

#1 Xavier 74  Dayton 65

 St. Joseph’s 61 #4 Richmond 47

#2 Temple 84  LaSalle 75

Charlotte 69  #3 Massachusetts 65

Friday, March 14

Semifinals

St. Joseph’s 61  Xavier 53

Temple 60  Charlotte 45

Saturday, March 15

Championship Game

Temple 69  St. Joseph’s 64

Automatic Qualifier: Temple 21-12  Avg. RPI

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

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

Big East  @ Madison Square Garden in NYC

Wednesday, March 12

Opening Round

#8 Villanova 82  #9 Syracuse 63

#5 West Virginia 58  #12 Providence 53

#7 Pittsburgh 70  #10 Cincinnati 64

#6 Marquette 67  #11 Seton Hall 54

Thursday, March 13

Quarterfinals

#1 Georgetown 82  Villanova 63

West Virginia 78  #4 Connecticut 72

Pittsburgh 76  #2 Louisville 69 ot

Marquette 89  #3 Notre Dame 79

Friday, March 14

Semifinals

Georgetown 72  West Virginia 55

Pittsburgh 68  Marquette 61

Saturday, March 15

Championship Game

Pittsburgh 74  Georgetown 65

Automatic Qualifier: Pittsburgh 26-9  Avg. RPI 15.8

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

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

Big 10  @ Indianapolis, IN

Thursday, March 13

Opening Round

#9 Michigan 55  #8 Iowa 47

#10 Illinois 64  #7 Penn State 63

#6 Minnesota 55  #11 Northwestern 52

Friday, March 14

Quarterfinals

#1 Wisconsin 51  Michigan 34

#4 Michigan State 67  #5 Ohio State 60

 Illinois 74  #2 Purdue 67 ot

Minnesota 59  Indiana 58

Saturday, March 15

Semifinals

Wisconsin 65  Michigan State 63

Illinois 54  Minnesota 50

Sunday, March 16

Championship Game

Wisconsin 28-4  vs. Illinois 16-18

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

Bubble:                      Ohio State-47.3

Big 12  @ Kansas City

Thursday, March 13

Opening Round

#9 Oklahoma State 76  #8 Texas Tech 72

#12 Colorado 91  #5 Baylor 84  2ot

#7 Nebraska 61  #10 Missouri 56

#6 Texas A&M 60  #11 Iowa State 47

Friday, March 14

Quarterfinals

#1 Texas 66  Oklahoma State 59

#4 Oklahoma 54  Colorado 49

#2 Kansas 64  Nebraska 54

 Texas A&M 63  #3 Kansas State 60

Saturday, March 15

Semifinals

Texas 77  Oklahoma 49

Kansas 77  Texas A&M 71

Sunday, March 16

Championship Game

Kansas 30-3  vs. Texas 28-5

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

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

Big West Tournament  @ Anaheim, CA

Wednesday, March 12

Opening Round

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

#7 UC-Riverside 62  Cal Poly 54

Thursday, March 13

Quarterfinals

#3 Cal State Fullerton 81  UC-Riverside 69

UC-Irvine 57  #4 Pacific 56

Friday, March 14

Semifinals

UC-Irvine 55  #1 UC Santa Barbara 50

Cal State Fullerton 83  #2 Cal State Northridge 68 

Saturday, March 15

Championship Game

Cal State Fullerton 81  UC-Irvine 66

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

At-large Teams:       0

Bubble:                      None

Conference USA  @ Memphis

Wednesday, March 12

Opening Round

#5 Southern Miss. 59  #12 Rice 50

#9 Tulane 48  #8 Marshall 47

#7 Tulsa 66  #10 East Carolina 49

#6 UTEP 71  #11 SMU 49

Thursday, March 13

Quarterfinals

#1 Memphis 75  Tulane 56

Southern Mississippi 68  #4 Central Florida 62

Tulsa 78  #2 Ala.-Birmingham 68 ot

UTEP 80  #3 Houston 77

Friday, March 14

Semifinals

Memphis 69  Southern Miss. 53

Tulsa 64  UTEP 62  ot

Saturday, March 15

Championship Game

Memphis 77  Tulsa 51

Automatic Qualifier: Memphis 33-1  Avg. RPI 3

At-large Teams:       0  

Bubble:                      None

Mid-American Conference @ Cleveland

Wednesday, March 12

Opening Round

#8 Toledo 52 #9 Bowling Green 48

#5 Miami (O) 69  #12 Buffalo 68

#7 Eastern Michigan 59  #10 Ball State 55

#6 Central Michigan 83  #11 Northern Illinois 71

Thursday, March 13

Quarterfinals

#1 Kent State 77  Toledo 57

Miami (O) 74  #4 Ohio U 61

#2 Western Michigan 70  Eastern Michigan 61

#3 Akron 81  Central Michigan 60

Friday, March 14

Semifinals

Kent State 49  Miami (O) 47

Akron 73  Western Michigan 62

Saturday, March 15

Championship Game

Kent State 74  Akron 55

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

At-large Teams:       0

Bubble:                      None

MEAC @ Raleigh, NC

Tuesday, March 11

Opening Round

#7 Coppin State 55  #10 Howard 54

#8 South Carolina State 78  #9 Bethune Cookman 69

Wednesday, March 12

Opening Round

#6 Florida A&M 70  Maryland Eastern Shore 61

Quarterfinal Round

Coppin State 75  Hampton 74  ot

Morgan State 77 South Carolina State 68

Thursday, March 13

Quarterfinal Round

#3 Norfolk State 69  Florida A&M 61

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

Friday, March 14

Semifinal Round

Morgan State 61  Delaware State 55

Coppin State 67  Norfolk State 65

Saturday, March 15

Championship Game

Coppin State 62  Morgan State 60

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

At-large Teams:       0

Bubble:                      None

Mountain West  @ Las Vegas

Wednesday, March 12

Opening Round

#9 Colorado State 68  #8 Wyoming 63

Thursday, March 13

Quarterfinals

#1 BYU 89  Colorado State 62

#4 San Diego State 53  #5 Air Force 49

#2 UNLV 89  #7 TCU 88

#6 Utah 82  #3 New Mexico 80 ot

Friday, March 14

Semifinals

BYU 63  San Diego State 54

UNLV 61  Utah 55

Saturday, March 15

Championship Game

UNLV 76  BYU 61

Automatic Qualifier: UNLV 26-7  Avg. RPI 23.8

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

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

Pac-10  @ The Staples Center in Los Angeles

Wednesday, March 12

Opening Round

#9 California 84  #8 Washington 81

#7 Arizona 87 #10 Oregon State 56

Thursday, March 13

Quarterfinals

#1 UCLA 88  California 66

#4 Southern Cal 59  #5 Arizona State 55

#2 Stanford 75  Arizona 64

#3 Washington State 75  Oregon 70

Friday, March 14

Semifinals

UCLA 57  Southern Cal 54

Stanford 75  Washington State 68

Saturday, March 15

Championship Game

UCLA 67  Stanford 64

Automatic Qualifier: UCLA 31-3  Avg. RPI 4.5

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

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

Patriot League

Quarterfinals

#1 American 62  #8 Holy Cross 60

#5 Army 64  #4 Lehigh 61 ot

#7 Bucknell 87  #2 Navy 86 3ot

#3 Colgate 76  #6 Lafayette 74

Sunday, March 9

Semifinals

American  72 Army 60

Colgate 54  Bucknell 40

Friday, March 14

Championship

American 52  Colgate 46

Automatic Qualifier: American 21-11  Avg. RPI 91.8

At-Large Teams:      0

Bubble:                      None

Southeastern  @ Atlanta

Thursday, March 13

Opening Round

#5E South Carolina 77  #4W LSU 73

#3E Vanderbilt 93  #6W Auburn 82

#5W Alabama 80  #4E Florida 69

#6E Georgia 97  #3W Ole Miss 95  ot

Friday, March 14

Quarterfinals

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

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

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

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

Saturday, March 15

Quarterfinals

Georgia 60  Kentucky 56 ot

Semifinals

Arkansas 92  Tennessee 91

Georgia 64  Mississippi State 60

Sunday, March 16

Championship Game

Georgia 16-16  vs. Arkansas 22-10

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

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

Southland  @ Katy, TX (near Houston)

Thursday, March 13

Quarterfinals

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

#5 Northwestern State 71  #4 Southeast Louisiana 51

#7 UT-Arlington 81  #2 Lamar 75

#3 Sam Houston State 64  McNeese State 62 ot

Friday, March 14

Semifinals

Northwestern State 69  Stephen F. Austin 66

UT-Arlington 72  Sam Houston 66

Sunday, March 16

Championship Game

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

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

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

S W A C  @ Birmingham

Wednesday, March 12

Quarterfinals

#1 Alabama State 67  #8 Texas Southern 49

#2 Mississippi Valley 79  #7 Grambling 73

Thursday, March 13

Quarterfinals

#6 Arkansas Pine Bluff 72  Alabama A&M 59

#4 Jackson State 56  #5 Southern 55

Friday, March 14

Semifinals

Jackson St.  77  Alabama State 72  ot

Mississippi Valley 70  Arkansas-Pine Bluff 59

Saturday, March 15

Championship Game

Mississippi Valley 59  Jackson State 58

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

At-large Teams:       0         

Bubble:                      None

WAC @ Las Cruces, NM

Tuesday, March 11

Opening Round

#8 San Jose State 64  Louisiana Tech 62

Thursday, March 13

Quarterfinal Round

#1 Utah State 85  San Jose State 65

#4 Boise State 80  Hawaii 74

#2 Nevada 64  #7 Fresno State 57

#3 New Mexico State 73  #6 Idaho 53

Friday, March 14

Semifinal Round

Boise State 88  Utah State 78

New Mexico St. 83  Nevada 75

Saturday, March 15

Championship Game

Boise State 107  New Mexico State 102  3ot

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

At-large Teams:       0

Bubble:                      None

My Guess At The Field of 65

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

Clinched Automatic Berth in NCAA Tournament (26)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 8. Davidson (26-6)-Southern Champion

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

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

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

12. Butler (29-3)-Horizon Champion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My Guess at the Five Remaining Automatic Bids

27. North Carolina

28. Wisconsin

29. Kansas

30. Arkansas

31. Northwestern State

My Guess at the 34 At-large Teams

The Safe Picks

32. Duke

33. Clemson

34. Miami (Fla.)

35. Michigan State

36. Indiana

37. Texas

38. Tennessee

39. Mississippi State

40. Vanderbilt

41. Xavier

42. Georgetown

43. Louisville

44. Notre Dame

45. Marquette

46. West Virginia

47. Connecticut

48. B Y U

49. Stanford

50. Southern Cal

51. Washington State

52. Arizona

53. South Alabama

54. Gonzaga

55. St. Mary’s

56. Illinois State

57. Texas A&M

58. Oklahoma

59. Purdue

The Bubble-Picking the Final Six

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

New Mexico-Not really on the bubble now–Out

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So, here are the lucky bubblers:

60. Baylor

61. Kansas State

62. Kentucky

63. Ohio State

64. St. Joseph’s

65. South Alabama

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

March 14, 2008

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

 

A PiRate Look at the NCAA Basketball Conference Tournaments

March 14, 2008, 8th Update

Conference Tournament Results through Thursday, March 13, 2008

Concluded Tournaments

Atlantic Sun

Quarterfinals

#4 East Tennessee 81 #5 Lipscomb 74

#6 Gardner-Webb 82  #3 Stetson 63

#2 Jacksonville 65  #7 Mercer 57

#1 Belmont 75  #8 Campbell 66

Semifinals

Jacksonville 89 Gardner-Webb 80

Belmont 69 East Tennessee 65

Saturday, March 8

Championship

Belmont 79  Jacksonville 61

Automatic Qualifier: Belmont 25-8  Avg. RPI 75.3

At-Large Teams:      0

Bubble:                       None

Big Sky                    

Saturday, March 8

Quarterfinals

#4 Idaho State 67  #5 Montana 65

#3 Weber State 65  #6 Montana State 49

Tuesday, March 11 @ Portland, OR

Semifinals

#1 Portland State 72  Idaho State 61

#2 Northern Arizona 75  Weber State 70

Wednesday, March 12 @ Portland, OR

Championship Game

Portland State 67  Northern Arizona 51

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

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

At-Large Teams:      0

Bubble:                       None

Big South

Opening Round

#1 UNC-Asheville 87  #8 Charleston Southern 63

#4 Liberty 103  #5 VMI 88

#2 Winthrop 76  #7 Radford 45

#3 High Point 59  #6 Coastal Carolina 56

Semifinals

UNC-Asheville 75  Liberty 57

Winthrop 61  High Point 53

Saturday, March 8 @ Asheville, NC

Championship Game

Winthrop 66  UNC-Asheville 48

Automatic Qualifier: Winthrop 22-11  Avg. RPI 103.5

At-Large Teams:      0

Bubble:                       None

Colonial Athletic Association

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

#9 Towson State 81  #8 Towson State 66

#5 William & Mary 58 #12 Georgia State 57

#6 Delaware 60  #11 Drexel 51

#7 Northeastern 73 #10 James Madison 59

Saturday, March 8

Quarterfinals

#1 Virginia Commonwealth 57  Towson State 46

William & Mary 63  #4 Old Dominion 60

#3 UNC-Wilmington 82  Delaware 59

#2 George Mason 63  Northeastern 52

Sunday, March 9

Semifinals

William & Mary 56  Virginia Commonwealth 54

George Mason 53  UNC-Wilmington 41

Monday, March 10

Championship Game

George Mason 68  William & Mary 59

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

At-Large Teams:      0 or 1

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

Horizon League              

All Games Played At Indianapolis (Butler host team)

Opening Round

#3 Wright State 60  #10 Detroit 37

#6 Valparaiso 75  #7 UW-Green Bay 67

#4 Illinois-Chicago 70  #9 Youngstown State 59

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

Quarterfinals

Valparaiso 72  Wright State 67

Illinois-Chicago 60 Loyola (Chi.) 49

Saturday, March 8

Semifinals

#2 Cleveland State 78  Valparaiso 73

#1 Butler 66  Illinois-Chicago 50

Tuesday, March 11

Championship

Butler 70  Cleveland State 55

Automatic Qualifier: Butler 29-3  Avg. RPI 15.5

At-Large Teams:      0

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

Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference

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

Opening Round

#8 Manhattan 73  #9 St. Peter’s 59

#10 Canisius 64  #7 Iona 59

Saturday, March 8

Quarterfinals

#1 Siena 66  Manhattan 58

#4 Loyola (Md.) 64  #5 Fairfield 59

#2 Rider 75  Canisius 71

#6 Marist 66  #3 Niagara 62

Sunday, March 9

Semifinals

Siena 65  Loyola (Md.) 63

Rider 76  Marist 71

Monday, March 10

Championship Game

Siena 74  Rider 53

Automatic Qualifier: Siena 22-10  Avg. RPI 71.5

At-Large Teams:      0

Bubble:                       None

Missouri Valley @ St. Louis (Arch Madness)

Opening Round

#8 Indiana State 71  #9 Wichita State 67

#7 Missouri State 69 #10 Evansville 46

Quarterfinals

#1 Drake 68  Indiana State 46

#4 Creighton 74  #5 Bradley 70

#2 Illinois State 63  Missouri State 58

#6 Northern Iowa 54  #3 Southern Illinois 49

Saturday, March 8

Semifinals

Drake 75 Creighton 67

Illinois State 56 Northern Iowa 42

Sunday, March 9

Championship

Drake 79  Illinois State 49

Automatic Qualifier: Drake 28-4  Avg. RPI 11.3

At-Large Teams:      0 or 1

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

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

Northeast

Quarterfinal

#1 Robert Morris 64  #8 Monmouth 50

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

#2 Wagner 71  #7 Long Island 62

#3 Sacred Heart 84  #6 Central Connecticut State 71

Sunday, March 9

Semifinals

Mt. St. Mary’s 83  Robert Morris 65

Sacred Heart 55  Wagner 49

Wednesday, March 12

Championship

Mt. St. Mary’s 68  Sacred Heart 55

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

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

At-Large Teams:      0

Bubble:                       None

Ohio Valley Conference

Quarterfinals @ Higher Seed

#1 Austin Peay 76  #8 Eastern Kentucky 51

#4 UT-Martin 101  #5 Samford 94  3ot

#2 Murray State 77  #7 Tennessee Tech 74

#6 Tennessee State 68  #3 Morehead State 61

Semifinals @ Nashville

Austin Peay 78  UT-Martin 77

Tennessee State 83 Murray State 75

Saturday, March 8

Championship

Austin Peay 82 Tennessee State 64

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

At-Large Teams:      0

Bubble:                       None

Southern Conference

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

Opening Round

#8 Wofford 58  #9 Western Carolina 49

#7 Elon 52  #10 Furman 37

#6 Charleston 66  #11 Citadel 48

Saturday, March 8

Quarterfinals

#1 Davidson 82 Wofford 49

#5 UNC-Greensboro 63  #4 Appalachian State 46

Elon 60  #2 Chattanooga 57

Coll. of Charleston 87  #3 Georgia Southern 73

Sunday, March 9

Semifinals

Davidson 82 UNCG 52

Elon 75  Charleston 61

Monday, March 10

Championship Game

Davidson 65  Elon 49

Automatic Qualifier: Davidson 26-6  Avg. RPI 26.8

At-Large Teams:      0

Bubble:                       None

Summit League @ Tulsa (Oral Roberts host team)                

Saturday, March 8

Quarterfinals

#1 Oral Roberts 84 #8 Centenary 56

#2 IUPUI 69  #7 Missouri-Kansas City 65

Sunday, March 9

Quarterfinals

#5 IPFW 66  #4 Southern Utah 62

#3 Oakland 80 #6 Western Illinois 66

Monday, March 10

Semifinals

Oral Roberts 58 IPFW 42

IUPUI 80 Oakland 65

Tuesday, March 11

Championship

Oral Roberts 71  IUPUI 64

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

At-Large Teams:      0

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

Sunbelt Conference                   

1st Round

#8 New Orleans 65  #9 Denver 60

#4 Middle Tennessee 74  #13 Louisiana Monroe 69

#12 Troy 70  #5 Louisiana Lafayette 60

#6 North Texas 85  #11 Arkansas State 63

#7 Florida Atlantic 91  #10 Florida International 64

Sunday, March 9 @ Mobile, AL

Quarterfinals

South Alabama 81  New Orleans 77

Middle Tennessee 65  Troy 59

Western Kentucky 84  North Texas 70

Arkansas Little Rock 66  Florida Atlantic 60

Monday, March 10 @ Mobile, AL

Semifinals

Middle Tennessee 82  South Alabama 73

Western Kentucky 70 Arkansas-Little Rock 55

Tuesday, March 11 @ Mobile, AL

Championship

Western Kentucky 67  Middle Tennessee 57

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

At-Large Teams:      0 or 1

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

 West Coast Conference

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

Opening Round

#5 San Francisco 79  # 8 Loyola Marymount 60

#6 Pepperdine 50  #7 Portland 48  ot

Saturday, March 8

Quarterfinals

#4 Santa Clara 51  San Francisco 50

#3 San Diego 75  Pepperdine 55

Sunday, March 9

#1 Gonzaga 52  Santa Clara 48

San Diego 75  #2 St. Mary’s 69  2ot

Monday, March 10

Championship Game

San Diego 69 Gonzaga 62

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

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

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

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

Ivy League Champion

Automatic Qualifier: Cornell 22-5  Avg. RPI 67

Clinched Automatic Berth in NCAA Tournament (14)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 8. Davidson (26-6)-Southern Champion

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

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

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

12. Butler (29-3)-Horizon Champion

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

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

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

Active Tournaments

America East

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

Opening Round

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

Saturday, March 8

Quarterfinals

#1 Md. Balt. Co. 76  Stony Brook 60

#4 Vermont 65  #5 Binghamton 57

#2 Hartford 68  #7 New Hampshire 65

#6 Boston U. 68  #3 Albany 64  ot

Sunday, March 9

Semifinals

Md. Balt. Co. 73  Vermont 64

Hartford 59  Boston U. 52

Saturday, March 15

Championship Game

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

At-Large Teams:      0

Bubble:                       None

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

Atlantic Coast  @ Charlotte, NC

Thursday, March 13

Opening Round

#9 Florida State 70  #8 Wake Forest 60

#5 Miami 63  #12 North Carolina State 50

#7 Georgia Tech 94  #10 Virginia 76

#11 Boston College 71  #6 Maryland 68

Friday, March 14

Quarterfinals

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

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

#2 Duke 26-4  vs. Georgia Tech 15-16

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

Saturday, March 15

Semifinals

UNC-FSU  vs. VT-Mia.

Duke-GT  vs. Clem-BC

Sunday, March 16

Championship Game

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

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

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

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

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

Atlantic 10  @ Atlantic City, NJ

Wednesday, March 12

Opening Round

#8 Dayton 63  St. Louis 62  ot

#5 St. Joseph’s 80 #12 Fordham 62

#7 LaSalle 82  #10 Duquesne 79

#6 Charlotte 75  #11 Rhode Island 73

Thursday, March 13

Quarterfinals

#1 Xavier 74  Dayton 65

 St. Joseph’s 61 #4 Richmond 47

#2 Temple 84  LaSalle 75

Charlotte 69  #3 Massachusetts 65

Friday, March 14

Semifinals

Xavier 27-5  vs. St. Joseph’s 20-11

Temple 19-12  vs. Charlotte 20-12

Saturday, March 15

Championship Game

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

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

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

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

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

Big East  @ Madison Square Garden in NYC

Wednesday, March 12

Opening Round

#8 Villanova 82  #9 Syracuse 63

#5 West Virginia 58  #12 Providence 53

#7 Pittsburgh 70  #10 Cincinnati 64

#6 Marquette 67  #11 Seton Hall 54

Thursday, March 13

Quarterfinals

#1 Georgetown 82  Villanova 63

West Virginia 78  #4 Connecticut 72

Pittsburgh 76  #2 Louisville 69 ot

Marquette 89  #3 Notre Dame 79

Friday, March 14

Semifinals

Georgetown 26-4  vs. West Virginia 24-9

Pittsburgh 24-9  vs. Marquette 24-8

Saturday, March 15

Championship Game

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

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

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

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

Big 10  @ Indianapolis, IN

Thursday, March 13

Opening Round

#9 Michigan 55  #8 Iowa 47

#10 Illinois 64  #7 Penn State 63

#6 Minnesota 55  #11 Northwestern 52

Friday, March 14

Quarterfinals

#1 Wisconsin 26-4  vs. Michigan 10-21

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

#2 Purdue 24-7  vs. Illinois 14-18

#3 Indiana 25-6  vs. Minnesota 19-12

Saturday, March 15

Semifinals

Wisc.-Mich  vs. MSU-OSU

Purd-Ill.  Vs. IU-MN

Sunday, March 16

Championship Game

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

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

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

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

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

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

Big 12  @ Kansas City

Thursday, March 13

Opening Round

#9 Oklahoma State 76  #8 Texas Tech 72

#12 Colorado 91  #5 Baylor 84  2ot

#7 Nebraska 61  #10 Missouri 56

#6 Texas A&M 60  #11 Iowa State 47

Friday, March 14

Quarterfinals

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

#4 Oklahoma 21-10  vs. Colorado 12-19

#2 Kansas 28-3  vs. Nebraska 19-11

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

Saturday, March 15

Semifinals

Texas-OK St  vs. Okla-Color

Kans-Nebr  vs. K-St-A&M

Sunday, March 16

Championship Game

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

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

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

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

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

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

Big West Tournament  @ Anaheim, CA

Wednesday, March 12

Opening Round

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

#7 UC-Riverside 62  Cal Poly 54

Thursday, March 13

Quarterfinals

#3 Cal State Fullerton 81  UC-Riverside 69

UC-Irvine 57  #4 Pacific 56

Friday, March 14

Semifinals

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

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

Saturday, March 15

Championship Game

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

At-large Teams:       0

Bubble:                       None

Conference USA  @ Memphis

Wednesday, March 12

Opening Round

#5 Southern Miss. 59  #12 Rice 50

#9 Tulane 48  #8 Marshall 47

#7 Tulsa 66  #10 East Carolina 49

#6 UTEP 71  #11 SMU 49

Thursday, March 13

Quarterfinals

#1 Memphis 75  Tulane 56

Southern Mississippi 68  #4 Central Florida 62

Tulsa 78  #2 Ala.-Birmingham 68 ot

UTEP 80  #3 Houston 77

Friday, March 14

Semifinals

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

Tulsa 19-12  vs. UTEP 19-12

Saturday, March 15

Championship Game

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

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

Bubble:                       None

Mid-American Conference @ Cleveland

Wednesday, March 12

Opening Round

#8 Toledo 52 #9 Bowling Green 48

#5 Miami (O) 69  #12 Buffalo 68

#7 Eastern Michigan 59  #10 Ball State 55

#6 Central Michigan 83  #11 Northern Illinois 71

Thursday, March 13

Quarterfinals

#1 Kent State 77  Toledo 57

Miami (O) 74  #4 Ohio U 61

#2 Western Michigan 70  Eastern Michigan 61

#3 Akron 81  Central Michigan 60

Friday, March 14

Semifinals

Kent State 26-6  vs. Miami (O) 17-14

Western Michigan 20-11  vs. Akron 22-9

Saturday, March 15

Championship Game

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

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

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

Bubble:                       None

MEAC @ Raleigh, NC

Tuesday, March 11

Opening Round

#7 Coppin State 55  #10 Howard 54

#8 South Carolina State 78  #9 Bethune Cookman 69

Wednesday, March 12

Opening Round

#6 Florida A&M 70  Maryland Eastern Shore 61

Quarterfinal Round

Coppin State 75  Hampton 74  ot

Morgan State 77 South Carolina State 68

Thursday, March 13

Quarterfinal Round

#3 Norfolk State 69  Florida A&M 61

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

Friday, March 14

Semifinal Round

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

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

Saturday, March 15

Championship Game

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

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

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

At-large Teams:       0

Bubble:                       None

Mountain West  @ Las Vegas

Wednesday, March 12

Opening Round

#9 Colorado State 68  #8 Wyoming 63

Thursday, March 13

Quarterfinals

#1 BYU 89  Colorado State 62

#4 San Diego State 53  #5 Air Force 49

#2 UNLV 89  #7 TCU 88

#6 Utah 82  #3 New Mexico 80 ot

Friday, March 14

Semifinals

BYU 26-6  vs. San Diego State 20-11

UNLV 24-7  vs. Utah 17-13

Saturday, March 15

Championship Game

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

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

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

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

Pac-10  @ The Staples Center in Los Angeles

Wednesday, March 12

Opening Round

#9 California 84  #8 Washington 81

#7 Arizona 87 #10 Oregon State 56

Thursday, March 13

Quarterfinals

#1 UCLA 88  California 66

#4 Southern Cal 59  #5 Arizona State 55

#2 Stanford 75  Arizona 64

#3 Washington State 75  Oregon 70

Friday, March 14

Semifinals

UCLA 29-3  vs. Southern Cal 21-10

Stanford 25-6  vs. Washington State 24-7

Saturday, March 15

Championship Game

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

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

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

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

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

Patriot League

Quarterfinals

#1 American 62  #8 Holy Cross 60

#5 Army 64  #4 Lehigh 61 ot

#7 Bucknell 87  #2 Navy 86 3ot

#3 Colgate 76  #6 Lafayette 74

Sunday, March 9

Semifinals

American  72 Army 60

Colgate 54  Bucknell 40

Friday, March 14

Championship

Colgate 18-13 at American 20-11

At-Large Teams:      0

Bubble:                       None

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

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

Southeastern  @ Atlanta

Thursday, March 13

Opening Round

#5E South Carolina 77  #4W LSU 73

#3E Vanderbilt 93  #6W Auburn 82

#5W Alabama 80  #4E Florida 69

#6E Georgia 97  #3W Ole Miss 95  ot

Friday, March 14

Quarterfinals

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

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

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

#2E Kentucky 18-11  vs. Georgia 14-16

Saturday, March 15

UT-USC  vs. Ark-Vand.

MSU-Ala  vs. UK-UGa

Sunday, March 16

Championship Game

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Southland  @ Katy, TX (near Houston)

Thursday, March 13

Quarterfinals

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

#5 Northwestern State 71  #4 Southeast Louisiana 51

#7 UT-Arlington 81  #2 Lamar 75

#3 Sam Houston State 64  McNeese State 62 ot

Friday, March 14

Semifinals

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

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

Sunday, March 16

Championship Game

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

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

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

At-large Teams:       0 or 1

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

S W A C  @ Birmingham

Wednesday, March 12

Quarterfinals

#1 Alabama State 67  #8 Texas Southern 49

#2 Mississippi Valley 79  #7 Grambling 73

Thursday, March 13

Quarterfinals

#6 Arkansas Pine Bluff 72  Alabama A&M 59

#4 Jackson State 56  #5 Southern 55

Friday, March 14

Semifinals

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

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

Saturday, March 15

Championship Game

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

At-large Teams:       0         

Bubble:                       None

WAC @ Las Cruces, NM

Tuesday, March 11

Opening Round

#8 San Jose State 64  Louisiana Tech 62

Thursday, March 13

Quarterfinal Round

#1 Utah State 85  San Jose State 65

#4 Boise State 80  Hawaii 74

#2 Nevada 64  #7 Fresno State 57

#3 New Mexico State 73  #6 Idaho 53

Friday, March 14

Semifinal Round

Utah State 24-9  vs. Boise State 23-8

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

Saturday, March 15

Championship Game

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

At-large Teams:       0

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

March 13, 2008

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

 

A PiRate Look at the NCAA Basketball Conference Tournaments

March 13, 2008, 7th Update

Conference Tournament Results through Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Concluded Tournaments

Atlantic Sun

Quarterfinals

#4 East Tennessee 81 #5 Lipscomb 74

#6 Gardner-Webb 82  #3 Stetson 63

#2 Jacksonville 65  #7 Mercer 57

#1 Belmont 75  #8 Campbell 66

Semifinals

Jacksonville 89 Gardner-Webb 80

Belmont 69 East Tennessee 65

Saturday, March 8

Championship

Belmont 79  Jacksonville 61

Automatic Qualifier: Belmont 25-8  Avg. RPI 76

At-Large Teams:      0

Bubble:                      None

Big Sky                    

Saturday, March 8

Quarterfinals

#4 Idaho State 67  #5 Montana 65

#3 Weber State 65  #6 Montana State 49

Tuesday, March 11 @ Portland, OR

Semifinals

#1 Portland State 72  Idaho State 61

#2 Northern Arizona 75  Weber State 70

Wednesday, March 12 @ Portland, OR

Championship Game

Portland State 67  Northern Arizona 51

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

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

At-Large Teams:      0

Bubble:                      None

Big South

Opening Round

#1 UNC-Asheville 87  #8 Charleston Southern 63

#4 Liberty 103  #5 VMI 88

#2 Winthrop 76  #7 Radford 45

#3 High Point 59  #6 Coastal Carolina 56

Semifinals

UNC-Asheville 75  Liberty 57

Winthrop 61  High Point 53

Saturday, March 8 @ Asheville, NC

Championship Game

Winthrop 66  UNC-Asheville 48

Automatic Qualifier: Winthrop 22-11  Avg. RPI 103.5

At-Large Teams:      0

Bubble:                      None

Colonial Athletic Association

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

#9 Towson State 81  #8 Towson State 66

#5 William & Mary 58 #12 Georgia State 57

#6 Delaware 60  #11 Drexel 51

#7 Northeastern 73 #10 James Madison 59

Saturday, March 8

Quarterfinals

#1 Virginia Commonwealth 57  Towson State 46

William & Mary 63  #4 Old Dominion 60

#3 UNC-Wilmington 82  Delaware 59

#2 George Mason 63  Northeastern 52

Sunday, March 9

Semifinals

William & Mary 56  Virginia Commonwealth 54

George Mason 53  UNC-Wilmington 41

Monday, March 10

Championship Game

George Mason 68  William & Mary 59

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

At-Large Teams:      0 or 1

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

Horizon League              

All Games Played At Indianapolis (Butler host team)

Opening Round

#3 Wright State 60  #10 Detroit 37

#6 Valparaiso 75  #7 UW-Green Bay 67

#4 Illinois-Chicago 70  #9 Youngstown State 59

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

Quarterfinals

Valparaiso 72  Wright State 67

Illinois-Chicago 60 Loyola (Chi.) 49

Saturday, March 8

Semifinals

#2 Cleveland State 78  Valparaiso 73

#1 Butler 66  Illinois-Chicago 50

Tuesday, March 11

Championship

Butler 70  Cleveland State 55

Automatic Qualifier: Butler 29-3  Avg. RPI 16

At-Large Teams:      0

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

Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference

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

Opening Round

#8 Manhattan 73  #9 St. Peter’s 59

#10 Canisius 64  #7 Iona 59

Saturday, March 8

Quarterfinals

#1 Siena 66  Manhattan 58

#4 Loyola (Md.) 64  #5 Fairfield 59

#2 Rider 75  Canisius 71

#6 Marist 66  #3 Niagara 62

Sunday, March 9

Semifinals

Siena 65  Loyola (Md.) 63

Rider 76  Marist 71

Monday, March 10

Championship Game

Siena 74  Rider 53

Automatic Qualifier: Siena 22-10  Avg. RPI 71.8

At-Large Teams:      0

Bubble:                      None

Missouri Valley @ St. Louis (Arch Madness)

Opening Round

#8 Indiana State 71  #9 Wichita State 67

#7 Missouri State 69 #10 Evansville 46

Quarterfinals

#1 Drake 68  Indiana State 46

#4 Creighton 74  #5 Bradley 70

#2 Illinois State 63  Missouri State 58

#6 Northern Iowa 54  #3 Southern Illinois 49

Saturday, March 8

Semifinals

Drake 75 Creighton 67

Illinois State 56 Northern Iowa 42

Sunday, March 9

Championship

Drake 79  Illinois State 49

Automatic Qualifier: Drake 28-4  Avg. RPI 11.8

At-Large Teams:      0 or 1

Bubble:                      Illinois State 23-9  RPI avg. 35.5

Northeast

Quarterfinal

#1 Robert Morris 64  #8 Monmouth 50

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

#2 Wagner 71  #7 Long Island 62

#3 Sacred Heart 84  #6 Central Connecticut State 71

Sunday, March 9

Semifinals

Mt. St. Mary’s 83  Robert Morris 65

Sacred Heart 55  Wagner 49

Wednesday, March 12

Championship

Mt. St. Mary’s 68  Sacred Heart 55

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

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

At-Large Teams:      0

Bubble:                      None

Ohio Valley Conference

Quarterfinals @ Higher Seed

#1 Austin Peay 76  #8 Eastern Kentucky 51

#4 UT-Martin 101  #5 Samford 94  3ot

#2 Murray State 77  #7 Tennessee Tech 74

#6 Tennessee State 68  #3 Morehead State 61

Semifinals @ Nashville

Austin Peay 78  UT-Martin 77

Tennessee State 83 Murray State 75

Saturday, March 8

Championship

Austin Peay 82 Tennessee State 64

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

At-Large Teams:      0

Bubble:                      None

Southern Conference

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

Opening Round

#8 Wofford 58  #9 Western Carolina 49

#7 Elon 52  #10 Furman 37

#6 Charleston 66  #11 Citadel 48

Saturday, March 8

Quarterfinals

#1 Davidson 82 Wofford 49

#5 UNC-Greensboro 63  #4 Appalachian State 46

Elon 60  #2 Chattanooga 57

Coll. of Charleston 87  #3 Georgia Southern 73

Sunday, March 9

Semifinals

Davidson 82 UNCG 52

Elon 75  Charleston 61

Monday, March 10

Championship Game

Davidson 65  Elon 49

Automatic Qualifier: Davidson 26-6  Avg. RPI 29.8

At-Large Teams:      0

Bubble:                      None

Summit League @ Tulsa (Oral Roberts host team)                  

Saturday, March 8

Quarterfinals

#1 Oral Roberts 84 #8 Centenary 56

#2 IUPUI 69  #7 Missouri-Kansas City 65

Sunday, March 9

Quarterfinals

#5 IPFW 66  #4 Southern Utah 62

#3 Oakland 80 #6 Western Illinois 66

Monday, March 10

Semifinals

Oral Roberts 58 IPFW 42

IUPUI 80 Oakland 65

Tuesday, March 11

Championship

Oral Roberts 71  IUPUI 64

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

At-Large Teams:      0

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

Sunbelt Conference                   

1st Round

#8 New Orleans 65  #9 Denver 60

#4 Middle Tennessee 74  #13 Louisiana Monroe 69

#12 Troy 70  #5 Louisiana Lafayette 60

#6 North Texas 85  #11 Arkansas State 63

#7 Florida Atlantic 91  #10 Florida International 64

Sunday, March 9 @ Mobile, AL

Quarterfinals

South Alabama 81  New Orleans 77

Middle Tennessee 65  Troy 59

Western Kentucky 84  North Texas 70

Arkansas Little Rock 66  Florida Atlantic 60

Monday, March 10 @ Mobile, AL

Semifinals

Middle Tennessee 82  South Alabama 73

Western Kentucky 70 Arkansas-Little Rock 55

Tuesday, March 11 @ Mobile, AL

Championship

Western Kentucky 67  Middle Tennessee 57

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

At-Large Teams:      0 or 1

Bubble:                      South Alabama (Avg. RPI 39.3)

 West Coast Conference

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

Opening Round

#5 San Francisco 79  # 8 Loyola Marymount 60

#6 Pepperdine 50  #7 Portland 48  ot

Saturday, March 8

Quarterfinals

#4 Santa Clara 51  San Francisco 50

#3 San Diego 75  Pepperdine 55

Sunday, March 9

#1 Gonzaga 52  Santa Clara 48

San Diego 75  #2 St. Mary’s 69  2ot

Monday, March 10

Championship Game

San Diego 69 Gonzaga 62

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

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

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

                                    Gonzaga 25-7  Avg. RPI 27.8

Clinched Automatic Berth in NCAA Tournament (14)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 8. Davidson (26-6)-Southern Champion

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

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

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

12. Butler (29-3)-Horizon Champion

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

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

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

Active Tournaments

America East

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

Opening Round

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

Saturday, March 8

Quarterfinals

#1 Md. Balt. Co. 76  Stony Brook 60

#4 Vermont 65  #5 Binghamton 57

#2 Hartford 68  #7 New Hampshire 65

#6 Boston U. 68  #3 Albany 64  ot

Sunday, March 9

Semifinals

Md. Balt. Co. 73  Vermont 64

Hartford 59  Boston U. 52

Saturday, March 15

Championship Game

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

At-Large Teams:      0

Bubble:                      None

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

Atlantic 10  @ Atlantic City, NJ

Wednesday, March 12

Opening Round

#8 Dayton 63  St. Louis 62  ot

#5 St. Joseph’s 80 #12 Fordham 62

#7 LaSalle 82  #10 Duquesne 79

#6 Charlotte 75  #11 Rhode Island 73

Thursday, March 13

Quarterfinals

#1 Xavier 26-5  vs. Dayton 21-9

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

#2 Temple 18-12  vs. LaSalle 15-16

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

Friday, March 14

Semifinals

1/8 winner  vs. 4/5 winner

2/7 winner  vs. 3/6 winner

Saturday, March 15

Championship Game

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

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

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

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

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

Big East  @ Madison Square Garden in NYC

Wednesday, March 12

Opening Round

#8 Villanova 82  #9 Syracuse 63

#5 West Virginia 58  #12 Providence 53

#7 Pittsburgh 70  #10 Cincinnati 64

#6 Marquette 67  #11 Seton Hall 54

Thursday, March 13

Quarterfinals

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

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

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

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

Friday, March 14

Semifinals

1/8  vs. 4/5

2/7  vs. 3/6

Saturday, March 15

Championship Game

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

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

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

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

Bubble:                      Villanova (avg. RPI 52)

Big West Tournament  @ Anaheim, CA

Wednesday, March 12

Opening Round

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

#7 UC-Riverside 62  Cal Poly 54

Thursday, March 13

Quarterfinals

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

#4 Pacific 21-9  vs. UC-Irvine 16-15

Friday, March 14

Semifinals

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

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

Saturday, March 15

Championship Game

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

At-large Teams:       0

Bubble:                      None

Conference USA  @ Memphis

Wednesday, March 12

Opening Round

#5 Southern Miss. 59  #12 Rice 50

#9 Tulane 48  #8 Marshall 47

#7 Tulsa 66  #10 East Carolina 49

#6 UTEP 71  #11 SMU 49

Thursday, March 13

Quarterfinals

#1 Memphis 30-1  vs. Tulane 17-14

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

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

#3 Houston 22-8  vs. UTEP 18-12

Friday, March 14

Semifinals

1/9  vs. 4/5

2/7  vs. 3/6

Saturday, March 15

Championship Game

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

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

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

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

MEAC @ Raleigh, NC

Tuesday, March 11

Opening Round

#7 Coppin State 55  #10 Howard 54

#8 South Carolina State 78  #9 Bethune Cookman 69

Wednesday, March 12

Opening Round

#6 Florida A&M 70  Maryland Eastern Shore 61

Quarterfinal Round

Coppin State 75  Hampton 74  ot

Morgan State 77 South Carolina State 68

Thursday, March 13

Quarterfinal Round

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

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

Friday, March 14

Semifinal Round

Morgan State 21-9  vs. Del. St.-NCAT

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

Saturday, March 15

Championship Game

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

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

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

At-large Teams:       0

Bubble:                      None

Mid-American Conference @ Cleveland

Wednesday, March 12

Opening Round

#8 Toledo 52 #9 Bowling Green 48

#5 Miami (O) 69  #12 Buffalo 68

#7 Eastern Michigan 59  #10 Ball State 55

#6 Central Michigan 83  #11 Northern Illinois 71

Thursday, March 13

Quarterfinals

#1 Kent State 25-6  vs. Toledo 11-18

#4 Ohio U 19-11  vs. Miami (O) 16-14

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

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

Friday, March 14

Semifinals

1/8  vs. 4/5

2/7  vs. 3/6

Saturday, March 15

Championship Game

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

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

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

Bubble:                      None

Mountain West  @ Las Vegas

Wednesday, March 12

Opening Round

#9 Colorado State 68  #8 Wyoming 63

Thursday, March 13

Quarterfinals

#1 BYU 25-6  vs. Colorado State 7-24

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

#2 UNLV 23-7  vs. #7 TCU 14-15

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

Friday, March 14

Semifinals

1/9  vs. 4/5

2/7  vs. 3/6

Saturday, March 15

Championship Game

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

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

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

Bubble:                      New Mexico (Avg. RPI 52.5)

Pac-10  @ The Staples Center in Los Angeles

Wednesday, March 12

Opening Round

#9 California 84  #8 Washington 81

#7 Arizona 87 #10 Oregon State 56

Thursday, March 13

Quarterfinals

#1 UCLA 28-3  vs. California 16-14

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

#2 Stanford 24-6  vs. Arizona 19-13

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

Friday, March 14

Semifinals

1/9  vs. 4/5

2/7/10  vs. 3/6

Saturday, March 15

Championship Game

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

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

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

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

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

Patriot League

Quarterfinals

#1 American 62  #8 Holy Cross 60

#5 Army 64  #4 Lehigh 61 ot

#7 Bucknell 87  #2 Navy 86 3ot

#3 Colgate 76  #6 Lafayette 74

Sunday, March 9

Semifinals

American  72 Army 60

Colgate 54  Bucknell 40

Friday, March 14

Championship

Colgate 18-13 at American 20-11

At-Large Teams:      0

Bubble:                      None

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

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

S W A C  @ Birmingham

Wednesday, March 12

Quarterfinals

#1 Alabama State 67  #8 Texas Southern 49

#2 Mississippi Valley 79  #7 Grambling 73

Thursday, March 13

Quarterfinals

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

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

Friday, March 14

Semifinals

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

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

Saturday, March 15

Championship Game

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

At-large Teams:       0         

Bubble:                      None

WAC @ Las Cruces, NM

Tuesday, March 11

Opening Round

#8 San Jose State 64  Louisiana Tech 62

Thursday, March 13

Quarterfinal Round

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

#4 Boise State 22-8  vs. Hawaii 11-18

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

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

Friday, March 14

Semifinal Round

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

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

Saturday, March 15

Championship Game

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

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

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

At-large Teams:       0

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

Conference Tournaments Beginning Thursday, March 13

Atlantic Coast  @ Charlotte, NC

Thursday, March 13

Opening Round

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

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

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

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

Friday, March 14

Quarterfinals

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

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

#2 Duke 26-4  vs. 7/10 winner

#3 Clemson 22-8  vs. 6/11 winner

Saturday, March 15

Semifinals

1/8/9  vs. 4/5/12

2/7/10  vs. 3/6/11

Sunday, March 16

Championship Game

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

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

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

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

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

Bubble:                      Virginia Tech, Maryland, Florida State

Big 10  @ Indianapolis, IN

Thursday, March 13

Opening Round

#8 Iowa 13-18  vs. #9 Michigan 9-21

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

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

Friday, March 14

Quarterfinals

#1 Wisconsin 26-4  vs. 8/9 winner

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

#2 Purdue 24-7  vs. 7/10 winner

#3 Indiana 25-6  vs. 6/11 winner

Saturday, March 15

Semifinals

1/8/9  vs. 4/5

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

Sunday, March 16

Championship Game

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

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

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

Bubble:                      Ohio State

Big 12  @ Kansas City

Thursday, March 13

Opening Round

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

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

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

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

Friday, March 14

Quarterfinals

#1 Texas 26-5  vs. 8/9 winner

#4 Oklahoma 21-10  vs. 5/12 winner

#2 Kansas 28-3  vs. 7/10 winner

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

Saturday, March 15

Semifinals

1/8/9  vs. 4/5/12

2/7/10  vs. 3/6/11

Sunday, March 16

Championship Game

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bubble:                      Kansas State, Texas A&M

Southeastern  @ Atlanta

Thursday, March 13

Opening Round

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

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

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

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

Friday, March 14

Quarterfinals

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

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

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

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

Saturday, March 15

A winner vs. B winner

C winner vs. D winner

Sunday, March 16

Championship Game

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bubble:                      Florida, Ole Miss

Southland  @ Katy, TX (near Houston)

Thursday, March 13

Quarterfinals

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

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

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

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

Friday, March 14

Semifinals

SFA/UTSA winner vs. SELA/NWST winner

Lamar/UTA winner vs. SHSY/MSU winner

Sunday, March 16

Championship Game

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

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

At-large Teams:       0 or 1

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

March 12, 2008

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

 

A PiRate Look at the NCAA Basketball Conference Tournaments

March 12, 2008, 6th Update

Conference Tournament Results through Tuesday, March 11, 2008

America East

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

Opening Round

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

Saturday, March 8

Quarterfinals

#1 Md. Balt. Co. 76  Stony Brook 60

#4 Vermont 65  #5 Binghamton 57

#2 Hartford 68  #7 New Hampshire 65

#6 Boston U. 68  #3 Albany 64  ot

Sunday, March 9

Semifinals

Md. Balt. Co. 73  Vermont 64

Hartford 59  Boston U. 52

Saturday, March 15

Championship Game

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

At-Large Teams:      0

Bubble:                      None

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

Atlantic Sun

Quarterfinals

#4 East Tennessee 81 #5 Lipscomb 74

#6 Gardner-Webb 82  #3 Stetson 63

#2 Jacksonville 65  #7 Mercer 57

#1 Belmont 75  #8 Campbell 66

Semifinals

Jacksonville 89 Gardner-Webb 80

Belmont 69 East Tennessee 65

Saturday, March 8

Championship

Belmont 79  Jacksonville 61

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

At-Large Teams:      0

Bubble:                      None

Big Sky                    

Saturday, March 8

Quarterfinals

#4 Idaho State 67  #5 Montana 65

#3 Weber State 65  #6 Montana State 49

Tuesday, March 11 @ Portland, OR

Semifinals

#1 Portland State 72  Idaho State 61

#2 Northern Arizona 75  Weber State 70

Wednesday, March 12 @ Portland, OR

Championship Game

Northern Arizona 21-10  at Portland State 22-9

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

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

At-Large Teams:      0

Bubble:                      None

Big South

Opening Round

#1 UNC-Asheville 87  #8 Charleston Southern 63

#4 Liberty 103  #5 VMI 88

#2 Winthrop 76  #7 Radford 45

#3 High Point 59  #6 Coastal Carolina 56

Semifinals

UNC-Asheville 75  Liberty 57

Winthrop 61  High Point 53

Saturday, March 8 @ Asheville, NC

Championship Game

Winthrop 66  UNC-Asheville 48

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

At-Large Teams:      0

Bubble:                      None

Colonial Athletic Association

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

#9 Towson State 81  #8 Towson State 66

#5 William & Mary 58 #12 Georgia State 57

#6 Delaware 60  #11 Drexel 51

#7 Northeastern 73 #10 James Madison 59

Saturday, March 8

Quarterfinals

#1 Virginia Commonwealth 57  Towson State 46

William & Mary 63  #4 Old Dominion 60

#3 UNC-Wilmington 82  Delaware 59

#2 George Mason 63  Northeastern 52

Sunday, March 9

Semifinals

William & Mary 56  Virginia Commonwealth 54

George Mason 53  UNC-Wilmington 41

Monday, March 10

Championship Game

George Mason 68  William & Mary 59

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

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

At-Large Teams:      0 or 1

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

Horizon League              

All Games Played At Indianapolis (Butler host team)

Opening Round

#3 Wright State 60  #10 Detroit 37

#6 Valparaiso 75  #7 UW-Green Bay 67

#4 Illinois-Chicago 70  #9 Youngstown State 59

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

Quarterfinals

Valparaiso 72  Wright State 67

Illinois-Chicago 60 Loyola (Chi.) 49

Saturday, March 8

Semifinals

#2 Cleveland State 78  Valparaiso 73

#1 Butler 66  Illinois-Chicago 50

Tuesday, March 11

Championship

Butler 70  Cleveland State 55

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

At-Large Teams:      0

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

Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference

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

Opening Round

#8 Manhattan 73  #9 St. Peter’s 59

#10 Canisius 64  #7 Iona 59

Saturday, March 8

Quarterfinals

#1 Siena 66  Manhattan 58

#4 Loyola (Md.) 64  #5 Fairfield 59

#2 Rider 75  Canisius 71

#6 Marist 66  #3 Niagara 62

Sunday, March 9

Semifinals

Siena 65  Loyola (Md.) 63

Rider 76  Marist 71

Monday, March 10

Championship Game

Siena 74  Rider 53

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

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

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

At-Large Teams:      0

Bubble:                      None

Missouri Valley @ St. Louis (Arch Madness)

Opening Round

#8 Indiana State 71  #9 Wichita State 67

#7 Missouri State 69 #10 Evansville 46

Quarterfinals

#1 Drake 68  Indiana State 46

#4 Creighton 74  #5 Bradley 70

#2 Illinois State 63  Missouri State 58

#6 Northern Iowa 54  #3 Southern Illinois 49

Saturday, March 8

Semifinals

Drake 75 Creighton 67

Illinois State 56 Northern Iowa 42

Sunday, March 9

Championship

Drake 79  Illinois State 49

At-Large Teams:      0 or 1

Bubble:                      Illinois State 23-9  RPI avg. 35.5

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

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

Northeast

Quarterfinal

#1 Robert Morris 64  #8 Monmouth 50

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

#2 Wagner 71  #7 Long Island 62

#3 Sacred Heart 84  #6 Central Connecticut State 71

Sunday, March 9

Semifinals

Mt. St. Mary’s 83  Robert Morris 65

Sacred Heart 55  Wagner 49

Wednesday, March 12

Championship

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

At-Large Teams:      0

Bubble:                      None

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

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

Ohio Valley Conference

Quarterfinals @ Higher Seed

#1 Austin Peay 76  #8 Eastern Kentucky 51

#4 UT-Martin 101  #5 Samford 94  3ot

#2 Murray State 77  #7 Tennessee Tech 74

#6 Tennessee State 68  #3 Morehead State 61

Semifinals @ Nashville

Austin Peay 78  UT-Martin 77

Tennessee State 83 Murray State 75

Saturday, March 8

Championship

Austin Peay 82 Tennessee State 64

At-Large Teams:      0

Bubble:                      None

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

Patriot League

Quarterfinals

#1 American 62  #8 Holy Cross 60

#5 Army 64  #4 Lehigh 61 ot

#7 Bucknell 87  #2 Navy 86 3ot

#3 Colgate 76  #6 Lafayette 74

Sunday, March 9

Semifinals

American  72 Army 60

Colgate 54  Bucknell 40

Friday, March 14

Championship

Colgate 18-13 at American 20-11

At-Large Teams:      0

Bubble:                      None

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

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

Southern Conference

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

Opening Round

#8 Wofford 58  #9 Western Carolina 49

#7 Elon 52  #10 Furman 37

#6 Charleston 66  #11 Citadel 48

Saturday, March 8

Quarterfinals

#1 Davidson 82 Wofford 49

#5 UNC-Greensboro 63  #4 Appalachian State 46

Elon 60  #2 Chattanooga 57

Coll. of Charleston 87  #3 Georgia Southern 73

Sunday, March 9

Semifinals

Davidson 82 UNCG 52

Elon 75  Charleston 61

Monday, March 10

Championship Game

Davidson 65  Elon 49

At-Large Teams:      0

Bubble:                      None

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

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

Summit League @ Tulsa (Oral Roberts host team)                  

Saturday, March 8

Quarterfinals

#1 Oral Roberts 84 #8 Centenary 56

#2 IUPUI 69  #7 Missouri-Kansas City 65

Sunday, March 9

Quarterfinals

#5 IPFW 66  #4 Southern Utah 62

#3 Oakland 80 #6 Western Illinois 66

Monday, March 10

Semifinals

Oral Roberts 58 IPFW 42

IUPUI 80 Oakland 65

Tuesday, March 11

Championship

Oral Roberts 71  IUPUI 64

At-Large Teams:      0

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

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

Sunbelt Conference                   

1st Round

#8 New Orleans 65  #9 Denver 60

#4 Middle Tennessee 74  #13 Louisiana Monroe 69

#12 Troy 70  #5 Louisiana Lafayette 60

#6 North Texas 85  #11 Arkansas State 63

#7 Florida Atlantic 91  #10 Florida International 64

Sunday, March 9 @ Mobile, AL

Quarterfinals

South Alabama 81  New Orleans 77

Middle Tennessee 65  Troy 59

Western Kentucky 84  North Texas 70

Arkansas Little Rock 66  Florida Atlantic 60

Monday, March 10 @ Mobile, AL

Semifinals

Middle Tennessee 82  South Alabama 73

Western Kentucky 70 Arkansas-Little Rock 55

Tuesday, March 11 @ Mobile, AL

Championship

Western Kentucky 67  Middle Tennessee 57

At-Large Teams:      0 or 1

Bubble:                      South Alabama (Avg. RPI 39.3)

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

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

 West Coast Conference

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

Opening Round

#5 San Francisco 79  # 8 Loyola Marymount 60

#6 Pepperdine 50  #7 Portland 48  ot

Saturday, March 8

Quarterfinals

#4 Santa Clara 51  San Francisco 50

#3 San Diego 75  Pepperdine 55

Sunday, March 9

#1 Gonzaga 52  Santa Clara 48

San Diego 75  #2 St. Mary’s 69  2ot

Monday, March 10

Championship Game

San Diego 69 Gonzaga 62

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

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

                                    Gonzaga 25-7  Avg. RPI 30.3

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

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

Already Clinched Automatic Berth in NCAA Tournament (12)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 8. Davidson (26-6)-Southern Champion

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

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

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

12. Butler (29-3)-Horizon Champion

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

Only 53 teams left to go!

Conference Tournaments Beginning Tuesday, March 11

MEAC @ Raleigh, NC

Tuesday, March 11

Opening Round

#7 Coppin State 55  #10 Howard 54

#8 South Carolina State 78  #9 Bethune Cookman 69

Wednesday, March 12

Opening Round

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

Quarterfinal Round

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

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

Thursday, March 13

Quarterfinal Round

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

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

Friday, March 14

Semifinal Round

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

Hampton-Coppin vs. Norfolk-FAMU-UMES

Saturday, March 15

Championship Game

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

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

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

At-large Teams:       0

Bubble:                      None

WAC @ Las Cruces, NM

Tuesday, March 11

Opening Round

#8 San Jose State 64  Louisiana Tech 62

Thursday, March 13

Quarterfinal Round

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

#4 Boise State 22-8  vs. Hawaii 11-18

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

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

Friday, March 14

Semifinal Round

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

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

Saturday, March 15

Championship Game

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

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

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

At-large Teams:       0

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

Conference Tournaments Beginning Wednesday, March 14

Atlantic 10  @ Atlantic City, NJ

Wednesday, March 12

Opening Round

#8 Dayton 20-9  vs. #9 St. Louis 16-14

#5 St. Joseph’s 18-11  vs. #12 Fordham 12-16

#7 LaSalle 14-16  vs. #10 Duquesne 17-12

#6 Charlotte 18-12 vs. #11 Rhode Island 21-10

Thursday, March 13

Quarterfinals

#1 Xavier 26-5  vs. 8/9 winner

#4 Richmond 16-13  vs. 5/12 winner

#2 Temple 18-12  vs. 7/10 winner

#3 Massachusetts 21-9 vs. 6/11 winner

Friday, March 14

Semifinals

1/8/9 winner  vs. 4/5/12 winner

2/7/10 winner  vs. 3/6/11 winner

Saturday, March 15

Championship Game

At-large Teams:       1 or 2 (Xavier for sure, U Mass maybe)

Bubble:                      U Mass

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

Rhode Island and Dayton both looked tourney-worthy a couple of months ago, but they are seeded too low to be considered serious at-large candidates.  Dayton would have to beat St. Louis and Xavier to get to the semifinals, and I don’t see that happening.  URI would need victories over Charlotte and U Mass to get to the semis, and while I don’t see that happening either, they have a much better chance of getting there than the Flyers do in their part of the bracket.

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

Big East  @ Madison Square Garden in NYC

Wednesday, March 12

Opening Round

#8 Villanova 19-11  vs. #9 Syracuse 19-12

#5 West Virginia 22-9  vs. #12 Providence 15-15

#7 Pittsburgh 22-9  vs. #10 Cincinnati 13-17

#6 Marquette 22-8  vs. #11 Seton Hall 17-14

Thursday, March 13

Quarterfinals

#1 Georgetown 25-4  vs. 8/9 winner

#4 Connecticut 24-7  vs. 5/12 winner

#2 Louisville 24-7  vs. 7/10 winner

#3 Notre Dame 24-6  vs. 6/11 winner

Friday, March 14

Semifinals

1/8/9  vs. 4/5/12

2/7/10  vs. 3/6/11

Saturday, March 15

Championship Game

The Big East Tournament is always exciting, especially since the league expanded to 16 teams.  By limiting the tourney to 12 teams, it usually means that eight or more teams have a realistic shot at winning the tournament. 

This year, the most important game may be the opening round match between Villanova and Syracuse.  The winner moves up on the bubble, while the loser can plan on playing another home game in the venerable NIT.

Another interesting opening round game will be the Marquette-Seton Hall contest.  Seton Hall has not at-large hopes, but they have an ideal bracket to be the surprise team.  Their path to the finals would necessitate them beating Marquette, Notre Dame, and Louisville or Pittsburgh.  They would avoid Connecticut and Georgetown, the two tough physical teams they probably cannot beat.

If I had to predict a champion in this Tournament (and it would be a crapshoot pick), I would go with U Conn.  The Huskies know they are in the NCAA Tournament regardless of the outcome at Madison Square Garden, but I think Jim Calhoun has his squad playing at their peak.  I expect U Conn to make it to the Elite 8.  A Georgetown-U Conn semifinal match will be one for the ages. 

The other team to watch out for in this tournament is West Virginia.  One win guarantees the Mountaineers an at-large bid, and Providence should be the necessary fodder.  WVU and U Conn will make one of the most interesting quarterfinal games of any tournament.

 Yes, the games at MSG should be as exciting and worthy of purchasing a ducat as any Red Sox-Yankees series up in the Bronx.  Give me court-side seats, a couple of Manhattan Kosher hot dogs, and a potato knish (no egg crème needed), and I will be more than happy to attend this tournament and watch every minute of every game.  Since Billy Crystal will be busy playing for the Yankees, I’ll take his seats.

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

Bubble:                      Villanova, Syracuse

Big West Tournament  @ Anaheim, CA

Wednesday, March 12

Opening Round

#5 UC-Irvine 15-15  vs. #8 Long Beach State 6-24

#6 Cal Poly 12-17  vs. #7 UC-Riverside 8-20

Thursday, March 13

Quarterfinals

#3 Cal State Fullerton 21-8  vs. Lower Seed that wins on Wednesday

#4 Pacific 21-9  vs. Higher Seed that wins on Wednesday

Friday, March 14

Semifinals

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

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

Saturday, March 15

Championship Game

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

At-large Teams:       0

Bubble:                      None

Conference USA  @ Memphis

Wednesday, March 12

Opening Round

#5 Southern Miss. 17-13  vs. #12 Rice

#8 Marshall 16-13  vs. #9 Tulane 16-14

#7 Tulsa 17-12  vs. #10 East Carolina 11-18

#6 UTEP 17-12  vs. SMU 10-19

Thursday, March 13

Quarterfinals

#1 Memphis 30-1  vs. 8/9 winner

#4 Central Florida 16-14  vs. 5/12 winner

#2 Ala.-Birmingham 22-9  vs. 7/10 winner

#3 Houston 22-8  vs. 6/11 winner

Friday, March 14

Semifinals

1/8/9  vs. 4/5/12

2/7/10  vs. 3/6/11

Saturday, March 15

Championship Game

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

UAB and Houston are the co-favorites for making it to the title game.  The Blazers have the easier quarterfinal game, because UTEP could give the Cougars a good run for their money.  The team that loses to Memphis in the finals should be on the upper half of the bubble, while the semifinal loser should see their bubble burst.

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

Bubble:                      Tourney Runner-up if it is Houston or UAB

Mid-American Conference @ Cleveland

Wednesday, March 12

Opening Round

#8 Toledo 10-18  vs. #9 Bowling Green 13-16

#5 Miami (O) 15-14  vs. #12 Buffalo 10-19

#7 Eastern Michigan 13-16  vs. #10 Ball State 6-23

#6 Central Michigan 13-16  vs. #11 Northern Illinois 6-21

Thursday, March 13

Quarterfinals

#1 Kent State 25-6  vs. 8/9 winner

#4 Ohio U 19-11  vs. 5/12 winner

#2 Western Michigan 19-11  vs. 7/10 winner

#3 Akron 21-9  vs. 6/11 winner

Friday, March 14

Semifinals

1/8/9  vs. 4/5/12

2/7/10  vs. 3/6/11

Saturday, March 15

Championship Game

It’s hard to imagine any team playing on Wednesday still playing on Friday.  There was a Grand Canyon-sized difference between the top four teams and the rest of the league.  If the top four teams advance to the semifinals, it should make for exciting basketball on Friday and Saturday.

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

At-large Teams:       1 (Kent State)

Bubble:                      None

Mountain West  @ Las Vegas

Wednesday, March 12

Opening Round

#8 Wyoming 12-17  vs. Colorado State 6-24

Thursday, March 13

Quarterfinals

#1 BYU 25-6  vs. 8/9 winner

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

#2 UNLV 23-7  vs. #7 TCU 14-15

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

Friday, March 14

Semifinals

1/8/9  vs. 4/5

2/7  vs. 3/6

Saturday, March 15

Championship Game

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

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

At-large Teams:       2 (BYU, UNLV)

Bubble:                      New Mexico

Pac-10  @ The Staples Center in Los Angeles

Wednesday, March 12

Opening Round

#8 Washington 16-15  vs. #9 California 15-14

#7 Arizona 18-13  vs. #10 Oregon State 6-24

Thursday, March 13

Quarterfinals

#1 UCLA 28-3  vs. 8/9 winner

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

#2 Stanford 24-6  vs. 7/10 winner

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

Friday, March 14

Semifinals

1/8/9  vs. 4/5

2/7/10  vs. 3/6

Saturday, March 15

Championship Game

There are several conference tournaments that should be quite exciting, but I expect the Pac-10 Tournament to be an all-out war with nine teams having a chance to cut down the nets.  There are several intangible factors coming into play here.

Top-seed UCLA won not just one but two controversial games at Pauley Pavilion to close out the regular season.  The win over Cal was as bad as a Lyndon Johnson election.  The Golden Bears must get by Washington to have a rematch with the Bruins, and if that game comes about, I expect it to be one where there could be a fight if the game gets rough.  It’s not a foregone conclusion that Cal will make it to the second round, as Washington is fighting for its post-season life.  While the Huskies never got their formerly strong offense untracked, they showed signs of life in the second half of the Pac-10 schedule.  Cal and UW split their games this season with the visiting team winning both time.  It should be a great game.

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

With the announcement that Lute Olson plans on returning to Arizona next season dominating the headlines in Tucson, I expect the Wildcats to be distracted just enough to struggle with lifeless Oregon State in the first round and go home after losing to Stanford in the quarterfinals.  I expect the Cardinal to be in the semifinals against a surprising Oregon Ducks squad.  I expect Oregon, playing for Coach Ernie Kent’s job, to upset Washington State in the quarterfinals after losing to the Cougars twice in the regular season.  The Ducks are on the bottom of the bubble heading to LA, and they need to win at least twice to have a realistic shot.  This Duck team underachieved this year, and they have the talent to make it to Saturday.

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

Bubble:                      Arizona, Arizona State, Oregon

S W A C  @ Birmingham

Wednesday, March 12

Quarterfinals

#1 Alabama State 19-9  vs. #8 Texas Southern 7-24

#2 Mississippi Valley 14-15  vs. #7 Grambling 7-18

Thursday, March 13

Quarterfinals

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

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

Friday, March 14

Semifinals

Ala. St. or Tx Sou.  vs. Jackson St. or Southern

Miss Vall. or Grambling vs. Ala. A&M or Ark.-OB

Saturday, March 15

Championship Game

Alabama State handily won the regular season SWAC title and became the only team to finish the year with a winning record.  If they don’t win the conference tournament, this league will field possibly the weakest ever NCAA Play-in Round participant.

It’s no given that the Hornets will win the tourney.  They lost at home to Alcorn State, a team that finished 7-24 and lost to Tougaloo (an NAIA team that finished fourth in its conference).  #2-seed Mississippi Valley won their final six games, but they too lost to Alcorn State. 

So, if this tournament is really up for grabs, like I believe it is, which dark horse team might emerge as the upset champion and advance to Dayton, Ohio, March 18th?  I think Jackson State has a good chance at beating Southern in the first round and upsetting Alabama State in the semis.  It also wouldn’t surprise me to see Arkansas Pine Bluff make it to the finals as well.

One caveat:  The top two seeds get an a day off if they win their opening round games, and that could be just enough to get them to the title game.  The SWAC would love nothing more than to see Alabama State win three games and enter the Dance at 22-9.  Imagine Texas Southern winning the tournament and making it at 10-24.  It isn’t that far of a stretch, as the Tigers have a history of playing much better in March.  At least they took Alcorn State to overtime before losing.

At-large Teams:       0         

Bubble:                      None

Conference Tournaments Beginning Thursday, March 13

Atlantic Coast  @ Charlotte, NC

Thursday, March 13

Opening Round

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

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

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

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

Friday, March 14

Quarterfinals

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

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

#2 Duke 26-4  vs. 7/10 winner

#3 Clemson 22-8  vs. 6/11 winner

Saturday, March 15

Semifinals

1/8/9  vs. 4/5/12

2/7/10  vs. 3/6/11

Sunday, March 16

Championship Game

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

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

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

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

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

Bubble:                      Virginia Tech, Maryland, Florida State

Big 10  @ Indianapolis, IN

Thursday, March 13

Opening Round

#8 Iowa 13-18  vs. #9 Michigan 9-21

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

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

Friday, March 14

Quarterfinals

#1 Wisconsin 26-4  vs. 8/9 winner

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

#2 Purdue 24-7  vs. 7/10 winner

#3 Indiana 25-6  vs. 6/11 winner

Saturday, March 15

Semifinals

1/8/9  vs. 4/5

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

Sunday, March 16

Championship Game

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

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

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

Bubble:                      Ohio State

Big 12  @ Kansas City

Thursday, March 13

Opening Round

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

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

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

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

Friday, March 14

Quarterfinals

#1 Texas 26-5  vs. 8/9 winner

#4 Oklahoma 21-10  vs. 5/12 winner

#2 Kansas 28-3  vs. 7/10 winner

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

Saturday, March 15

Semifinals

1/8/9  vs. 4/5/12

2/7/10  vs. 3/6/11

Sunday, March 16

Championship Game

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bubble:                      Kansas State, Texas A&M

Southeastern  @ Atlanta

Thursday, March 13

Opening Round

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

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

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

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

Friday, March 14

Quarterfinals

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

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

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

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

Saturday, March 15

A winner vs. B winner

C winner vs. D winner

Sunday, March 16

Championship Game

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bubble:                      Florida, Ole Miss

Southland  @ Katy, TX (near Houston)

Thursday, March 13

Quarterfinals

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

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

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

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

Friday, March 14

Semifinals

SFA/UTSA winner vs. SELA/NWST winner

Lamar/UTA winner vs. SHSY/MSU winner

Sunday, March 16

Championship Game

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

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

At-large Teams:       0 or 1

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

March 10, 2008

A PiRate Look At The NCAA Basketball Conference Tournaments–March 10, 2008

 

A PiRate Look at the NCAA Basketball Conference Tournaments

March 10, 2008, 5th Update

Conference Tournament Results through Sunday, March 09, 2008

America East

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

Opening Round

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

Saturday, March 8

Quarterfinals

#1 Md. Balt. Co. 76  Stony Brook 60

#4 Vermont 65  #5 Binghamton 57

#2 Hartford 68  #7 New Hampshire 65

#6 Boston U. 68  #3 Albany 64  ot

Sunday, March 9

Semifinals

Md. Balt. Co. 73  Vermont 64

Hartford 59  Boston U. 52

Saturday, March 15

Championship Game

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

At-Large Teams:      0

Bubble:                      None

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

Atlantic Sun

Quarterfinals

#4 East Tennessee 81 #5 Lipscomb 74

#6 Gardner-Webb 82  #3 Stetson 63

#2 Jacksonville 65  #7 Mercer 57

#1 Belmont 75  #8 Campbell 66

Semifinals

Jacksonville 89 Gardner-Webb 80

Belmont 69 East Tennessee 65

Saturday, March 8

Championship

Belmont 79  Jacksonville 61

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

At-Large Teams:      0

Bubble:                      None

Big Sky

Saturday, March 8

Quarterfinals

#4 Idaho State 67  #5 Montana 65

#3 Weber State 65  #6 Montana State 49

Tuesday, March 11 @ Portland, OR

Semifinals

#1 Portland State (21-9)  vs. Idaho State 12-18

#2 Northern Arizona (20-10) vs. Weber State 16-13

Wednesday, March 12 @ Portland, OR

Championship Game

If Portland State has the same intensity they had in February, they are going to waltz through this tournament.  The Vikings won their last 12 conference games, including slaughters at Montana State 96-68 and at Montana 108-56 as the regular season ended.

PSU won all their conference home games this year, but in half of them, they had to pull out squeakers.  Idaho State wasn’t one of those squeakers, and the Vikings should win their semifinal game with ease, allowing Coach Ken Bone to empty the bench rather early in the second half.

The one team that has the best shot at the Vikings is #3-seed and defending tournament champion Weber State.  The Wildcats lost by three at PSU, and the game stayed tight the entire 40 minutes.  Weber State can win by taking advantage of its quickness.

As for #2-seed Northern Arizona, the Lumberjacks match up well with Weber State but not with Portland State.  NAU dominated on the boards and forced a lot of turnovers on WSU in their two games with the Wildcats.  Against PSU, the Lumberjacks’ defense forced turnovers, but gave up too many easy shots and couldn’t hold their own on the boards.

At-Large Teams:      0

Bubble:                      None

Big South

Opening Round

#1 UNC-Asheville 87  #8 Charleston Southern 63

#4 Liberty 103  #5 VMI 88

#2 Winthrop 76  #7 Radford 45

#3 High Point 59  #6 Coastal Carolina 56

Semifinals

UNC-Asheville 75  Liberty 57

Winthrop 61  High Point 53

Saturday, March 8 @ Asheville, NC

Championship Game

Winthrop 66  UNC-Asheville 48

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

At-Large Teams:      0

Bubble:                      None

Colonial Athletic Association

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

#9 Towson State 81  #8 Towson State 66

#5 William & Mary 58 #12 Georgia State 57

#6 Delaware 60  #11 Drexel 51

#7 Northeastern 73 #10 James Madison 59

Saturday, March 8

Quarterfinals

#1 Virginia Commonwealth 57  Towson State 46

William & Mary 63  #4 Old Dominion 60

#3 UNC-Wilmington 82  Delaware 59

#2 George Mason 63  Northeastern 52

Sunday, March 9

Semifinals

William & Mary 56  Virginia Commonwealth 54

George Mason 53  UNC-Wilmington 41

Monday, March 10

Championship Game

William & Mary 17-15  vs. George Mason 22-10

William & Mary is trying to crash the party.  The Tribe barely edged last place Georgia State in the opening round.  Then, they knocked off the league’s hottest team in Old Dominion in the quarterfinals.  To top that off, they dismissed league champion VCU (and on the Rams’ home floor to boot) to advance to the finals.  Can they win four games in four days, including knocking off three of the top four teams in the league?  I think they will fall a bit short tonight.  George Mason still has a couple players left over from their Final Four team in 2006.  The game won’t be pretty, and 55 points could easily be enough to win.

As for VCU, the Rams just may have been reduced to an NIT team.  They are on the bubble, but if one or two more upsets in other conferences force surprise teams into the field, the Rams are going to be jilted.

At-Large Teams:      0 or 1

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

Horizon League

All Games Played At Indianapolis (Butler host team)

Opening Round

#3 Wright State 60  #10 Detroit 37

#6 Valparaiso 75  #7 UW-Green Bay 67

#4 Illinois-Chicago 70  #9 Youngstown State 59

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

Quarterfinals

Valparaiso 72  Wright State 67

Illinois-Chicago 60 Loyola (Chi.) 49

Saturday, March 8

Semifinals

#2 Cleveland State 78  Valparaiso 73

#1 Butler 66  Illinois-Chicago 50

Tuesday, March 11

Championship

Cleveland State 21-11 at Butler 28-3

Butler is already in the Dance win or lose the Championship Game of the Horizon League.  Cleveland State is on the bubble for an NIT trip if they lose this game, so the Vikings have more to play for in this game.  CSU lost a close game at Butler in February, and I expect them to bring their A-game for the title match.  Butler still has home court advantage, and the Bulldogs are a seasoned squad.  CSU’s chances of an upset hinge on the shooting of forward J’Nathan Bullock.  If he’s hot, then the Vikes have a chance at the upset.  If he shoots 35% like he has in the two regular season games with Butler, then Butler wins and becomes a #3 or 4 seed.

At-Large Teams:      1 (Butler)

Bubble:                      None

Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference

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

Opening Round

#8 Manhattan 73  #9 St. Peter’s 59

#10 Canisius 64  #7 Iona 59

Saturday, March 8

Quarterfinals

#1 Siena 66  Manhattan 58

#4 Loyola (Md.) 64  #5 Fairfield 59

#2 Rider 75  Canisius 71

#6 Marist 66  #3 Niagara 62

Sunday, March 9

Semifinals

Siena 65  Loyola (Md.) 63

Rider 76  Marist 71

Monday, March 10

Championship Game

Rider 23-9 at Siena 21-10

Just because this game is being played at top seed Siena, don’t automatically think the Saints are the favorites in this game.  Rider won at Siena by 14 points in the regular season, and the Broncos are riding a five-game winning streak.  Rider will rely on the league’s best player in years, Jason Thompson, who averages 20.5 points and 12 rebounds per game.  In the two games against Siena, Thompson score 49 points and pulled down 45 rebounds!  However, he played the full 40 minutes against Marist last night, and he could show signs of fatigue.

At-Large Teams:      0

Bubble:                      None

Missouri Valley @ St. Louis (Arch Madness)

Opening Round

#8 Indiana State 71  #9 Wichita State 67

#7 Missouri State 69 #10 Evansville 46

Quarterfinals

#1 Drake 68  Indiana State 46

#4 Creighton 74  #5 Bradley 70

#2 Illinois State 63  Missouri State 58

#6 Northern Iowa 54  #3 Southern Illinois 49

Saturday, March 8

Semifinals

Drake 75 Creighton 67

Illinois State 56 Northern Iowa 42

Sunday, March 9

Championship

Drake 79  Illinois State 49

At-Large Teams:      0 or 1

Bubble:                      Illinois State 23-9  RPI avg. 35.5

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

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

Northeast

Quarterfinal

#1 Robert Morris 64  #8 Monmouth 50

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

#2 Wagner 71  #7 Long Island 62

#3 Sacred Heart 84  #6 Central Connecticut State 71

Sunday, March 9

Semifinals

Mt. St. Mary’s 83  Robert Morris 65

Sacred Heart 55  Wagner 49

Wednesday, March 12

Championship

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

At-Large Teams:      0

Bubble:                      None

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

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

Ohio Valley Conference

Quarterfinals @ Higher Seed

#1 Austin Peay 76  #8 Eastern Kentucky 51

#4 UT-Martin 101  #5 Samford 94  3ot

#2 Murray State 77  #7 Tennessee Tech 74

#6 Tennessee State 68  #3 Morehead State 61

Semifinals @ Nashville

Austin Peay 78  UT-Martin 77

Tennessee State 83 Murray State 75

Saturday, March 8

Championship

Austin Peay 82 Tennessee State 64

At-Large Teams:      0

Bubble:                      None

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

Patriot League

Quarterfinals

#1 American 62  #8 Holy Cross 60

#5 Army 64  #4 Lehigh 61 ot

#7 Bucknell 87  #2 Navy 86 3ot

#3 Colgate 76  #6 Lafayette 74

Sunday, March 9

Semifinals

American  72 Army 60

Colgate 54  Bucknell 40

Friday, March 14

Championship

Colgate 18-13 at American 20-11

At-Large Teams:      0

Bubble:                      None

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

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

Southern Conference

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

Opening Round

#8 Wofford 58  #9 Western Carolina 49

#7 Elon 52  #10 Furman 37

#6 Charleston 66  #11 Citadel 48

Saturday, March 8

Quarterfinals

#1 Davidson 82 Wofford 49

#5 UNC-Greensboro 63  #4 Appalachian State 46

Elon 60  #2 Chattanooga 57

Coll. of Charleston 87  #3 Georgia Southern 73

Sunday, March 9

Semifinals

Davidson 82 UNCG 52

Elon 75  Charleston 61

Monday, March 10

Championship Game

Davidson 25-6  vs. Elon 14-18

At-Large Teams:      0 or 1

Bubble:                      Davidson

It’s one thing to hold a 22-loss Furman team to 37 points.  It’s one bigger thing to upset #2-seed Chattanooga.  It’s an even bigger thing to upset tournament host Charleston by 14 points.  However, it’s an impossible team to beat Davidson if you are another member of the Southern Conference.  The Wildcats are one win away from advancing to the Big Dance seeded in the upper half of a 16-team regional.  Another blowout win could influence the Selection Committee into seeding the Wildcats as high as sixth and no lower than eighth.  If they can sneak in as a sixth seed, they have a chance to go far into the tournament.  This is a team that had North Carolina on the ropes back in November, took Duke down to the wire, and gave UCLA a tough game at Anaheim, leading by as much as 18 points.  On a neutral floor in mid-March and with non-biased officiating, this team has the potential to do what George Mason did two years ago.

Summit League @ Tulsa (Oral Roberts host team)

Saturday, March 8

Quarterfinals

#1 Oral Roberts 84 #8 Centenary 56

#2 IUPUI 69  #7 Missouri-Kansas City 65

Sunday, March 9

Quarterfinals

#5 IPFW 66  #4 Southern Utah 62

#3 Oakland 80 #6 Western Illinois 66

Monday, March 10

Semifinals

Oral Roberts 22-8 vs. IPFW 13-17

IUPUI 25-6 vs. Oakland 17-13

Tuesday, March 11

Championship

At-Large Teams:      0 or 1

Bubble:                      Oral Roberts

Oral Roberts has a much easier path to the finals than IUPUI.  IPFW shouldn’t be much of a challenge for ORU.  The Golden Eagles dominated every aspect of the game when they slaughtered the Mastodons 88-56 a few weeks back.  I don’t expect the underdog to make up a 32-point gap.  They might lose by less than 20 points, but that’s about all you can expect.

IUPUI and Oakland will be the more exciting game.  Both teams won by double digits on their home floor when they played in the regular season, and on a neutral floor, it’s close to a 50-50 tossup.  The winner is probably going to be too fatigued to give ORU their best effort tomorrow night.

Sunbelt Conference

1st Round

#8 New Orleans 65  #9 Denver 60

#4 Middle Tennessee 74  #13 Louisiana Monroe 69

#12 Troy 70  #5 Louisiana Lafayette 60

#6 North Texas 85  #11 Arkansas State 63

#7 Florida Atlantic 91  #10 Florida International 64

Sunday, March 9 @ Mobile, AL

Quarterfinals

South Alabama 81  New Orleans 77

Middle Tennessee 65  Troy 59

Western Kentucky 84  North Texas 70

Arkansas Little Rock 66  Florida Atlantic 60

Monday, March 10 @ Mobile, AL

Semifinals

South Alabama 26-5  vs. Middle Tennessee 16-14

Western Kentucky 25-6 vs. UALR 20-10

Tuesday, March 11 @ Mobile, AL

Championship

At-Large Teams:      1 (South Alabama)

Bubble:                      Western Kentucky

Western Kentucky looked like a team that belonged in the Big Dance Sunday night, as the Hilltoppers handled North Texas by 14 points.  South Alabama had their hands filled with UNO, but with the win, the Jaguars probably secured an at-large invitation if they need to rely on one.  I expect the Jags to take care of Middle Tennessee tonight since they have some revenge on their minds.  Western may have the tougher time of it tonight, but I expect them to come through.  If tomorrow night’s championship is a USA-WKU tilt, it will be one you have to watch.  Can USA beat WKU three times in one season?  We’ll have to wait a few hours to see if that develops.

 West Coast Conference

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

Opening Round

#5 San Francisco 79  # 8 Loyola Marymount 60

#6 Pepperdine 50  #7 Portland 48  ot

Saturday, March 8

Quarterfinals

#4 Santa Clara 51  San Francisco 50

#3 San Diego 75  Pepperdine 55

Sunday, March 9

#1 Gonzaga 52  Santa Clara 48

San Diego 75  #2 St. Mary’s 69  2ot

Monday, March 10

Championship Game

San Diego 20-13  vs. Gonzaga 25-6

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

Bubble:                      St. Mary’s 25-6  Avg. RPI 40.8

Here’s where some bubble teams are a bit nervous.  The host team San Diego Toreros have knocked off St. Mary’s and advanced to the WCC Championship Game.  They face perennial champion Gonzaga, but this is no gimme game for Coach Mark Few’s Bulldogs.  USD is coached by Few’s former assistant Bill Grier, who will have his team prepared for battle against the Goliath of the league.

The key to tonight’s game may be which Gyno Pomare shows up for USD.  He was a non-factor in the two games against Gonzaga in the regular season, and the Toreros need him to score 12-15 points and pull down 7-10 boards tonight as a minimum.

Already Clinched Automatic Berth in NCAA Tournament (5)

1. Cornell-Ivy League Champion

2. Winthrop-Big South Champion

3. Austin Peay-Ohio Valley Champion

4. Belmont-Atlantic Sun Champion

5. Drake-Missouri Valley Champion

Only 60 teams left to go!

Conference Tournaments Beginning Tuesday, March 11

MEAC @ Raleigh, NC

Tuesday, March 11

Opening Round

#7 Coppin State 12-20  vs. #10 Howard 6-25

#8 South Carolina State 12-19  vs. #9 Bethune Cookman 11-20

Wednesday, March 12

Opening Round

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

Quarterfinal Round

#2 Hampton 18-11 vs. winner of Coppin State-Howard

#1 Morgan State 20-9 vs. winner of South Carolina State-Bethune Cookman

Thursday, March 13

Quarterfinal Round

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

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

Friday, March 14

Semifinal Round

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

Hampton-Coppin-Howard vs. Norfolk-FAMU-UMES

Saturday, March 15

Championship Game

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

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

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

WAC @ Las Cruces, NM

Tuesday, March 11

Opening Round

#8 San Jose State 12-18  vs. Louisiana Tech 6-23

Thursday, March 13

Quarterfinal Round

#1 Utah State 23-9  vs. San Jose State-La. Tech winner

#4 Boise State 22-8  vs. Hawaii 11-18

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

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

Friday, March 14

Semifinal Round

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

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

Saturday, March 15

Championship Game

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

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

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

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