CONFERENCE TOURNAMENT NEWS, NOTES AND MATCH-UPS
-Championship Week if officially underway, and will continue until next Sunday. As far as I know Championship Week is the only week out of the year that has 13 days in it.
-No major surprises from last night with the top seeds in both the Ohio Valley and the Big South advancing to the semifinals, and three out of the four better seeded teams advancing to the quarterfinals of the Horizon League.
The most exciting action of the night was in the Ohio Valley. Tennessee Martin needed three overtimes to get past Samford, and Murray State barely knocked off Tennessee Tech 77-74. Weve also had our first official upset as Tennessee State knocked off Morehead State, who had finished second in the regular season OVC standings, 68-61.
ATLANTIC SUN QUARTERFINALS
-#8. Campbell vs #1. Belmont (winner gets the winner of East Tennessee State vs Lipscomb)
-#7. Mercer vs #2. Jacksonville (winner gets the winner of Gardner Webb vs Stetson)
The game isnt on Belmonts home floor, but it is in their neighborhood as both Lipscomb (who is hosting) and Belmont are in the greater Nashville area. The reward for finishing in the top two is that they have winnable games in the quarterfinals, and then they get a day to rest before the semis if theyre able to advance. Jacksonville has come a long way in regards to turning their program around, and it would be exciting to see them do well in this tournament, or even win it, but getting past Belmont wont be easy of the two meet in the final.
PATRIOT LEAGUE QUARTERFINALS
-#8. Holy Cross @ #1. American
-#5. Army @ #4. Lehigh
-#7. Bucknell @ #2. Navy
-#6. Lafayette @ #3. Colgate
Seeing Holy Cross and Bucknell as the two bottom teams looks like Bizarro World in the Patriot League, but nevertheless that is the case. Holy Cross did manage to win at American earlier this year, so they must have some confidence going into the quarterfinals. There is actually quite a bit of parity in the league this year, but the unfortunate thing about that is that they beat up on each other enough throughout the season that I cant see the winner of this league doing any better than a #16 seed.
SUN BELT OPENING ROUND
-#9. Denver vs #8 New Orleans (winner gets South Alabama)
-#13. Louisiana Monroe vs #4. Middle Tennessee
-#12. Troy vs #5. Louisiana Lafayette
-#11. Arkansas State vs #6. North Texas (winner gets Western Kentucky)
-#10. Florida International vs #7. Florida Atlantic (winner gets Arkansas Little Rock)
There are two pretty good teams in this conference who could be dangerous in the NCAA Tournament in South Alabama and Western Kentucky, but neither of those teams are playing today. Sometimes these opening rounds of the smaller conference tournaments have the feel that some of the teams simply need to be put out of their misery. Sometimes the tournament doesnt start to feel like a tournament until at least the quarterfinals. However, these are still technically do-or-die elimination games. The winners will advance to the quarterfinals and live to play another day, and the losers will almost assuredly see their seasons end. HIGHLIGHTED MATCH-UPS
-TEXAS A&M AT BAYLOR (Big Twelve). The first time these two met the game went into five overtimes, but unfortunately unless you were actually at the game or paid to watch the streaming on the internet (which I didnt) you didnt see it. Tonights game probably wont be as exciting, but its still a big match-up. Both teams appear to be headed to the NCAA Tournament, but both could use a win against an NCAA Tourney caliber team to help boost their credentials, so there is definitely something to be gained here.
-WYOMING AT BYU (Mountain West). BYU can clinch at least a share of the regular season title with a win in this game, which should assure them a spot in the NCAA Tournament. A loss would really look bad on their resume. It wouldnt keep them out of the tournament, but Wyoming is a pretty poor team and the committee wouldnt look to favorably on BYU if they happen to slip up in this one.
-TENNESSEE AT FLORIDA (SEC). If Florida wants any hope at all of making the NCAA Tournament, then they need to win a game like this. In fact, seeing as how theyve struggled on the road is much as they have they probably need to win their last two and at least one game in the SEC Tournament in order to feel safe. Tennessee is coming off a close win against Kentucky, but theyre still in the drivers seat for a #1 seed. The competition is stiff, though, because there are at least seven teams who have a shot at a #1, so they dont want to stub their toes too many times. It should be an electric atmosphere, but Tennessee is no stranger to hostile environments.
-MINNESOTA AT INDIANA (Big Ten). Indiana was blown out in their last game against Michigan State, and have been struggling as a team since Dan Dakich took over as head coach, but theyre still in pretty good shape and should be able to pull off a win at home in this one. Theyre just a game out of first place, so picking up a share of the Big Ten title is still a possibility, but whether they get it or not they should be in position to get a good seed in the NCAA Tournament.
-BOSTON COLLEGE AT MIAMI, FL (ACC). Boston College has had a disappointing season, but they did put up an impressive showing against North Carolina in their last game and actually led most of the way. They still ended up coming up short, though. Miami has won five out of their last six and is playing much better now than they were when conference play first began. They appear to be headed to the NCAA Tournament and should lock up a bid if they can take care of business tonight.
-SAINT JOHNS AT NOTRE DAME (Big East). Notre Dames final two regular season games are winnable, which will put them at 14-4 in Big East play if they can take care of business. Theyve pretty much have a good seed in the NCAA Tournament wrapped up, and can even improve on that if they put up a strong showing in the Big East Tourney next week. Saint Johns is in a three way tie for 12th place, so this is a huge game for them as far as making the Big East Tournament goes. Unfortunately, it doesnt look like a very winnable game.
-OKLAHOMA AT OKLAHOMA STATE (Big Twelve). BEDLAM!!!!!!!! The Sooners have a pretty solid case for the NCAAs (at least when you compare them to the other bubble teams) and appear to have already punched their ticket, but there is still definitely room to improve their credentials. Winning their final two regular season games would certainly help. Oklahoma State isnt quite on the bubble, but the way things have been going they could end up on it, and even inside of it. After struggling for most of the season, theyve been playing some good basketball all of a sudden. Theyve win five straight, and have beaten Baylor, Texas A&M and Kansas in that stretch. If they can manage a win in this game, their RPI will get another big boost, theyll have another quality win on their resume, and theyll be in a position to actually make the NCAA Tournament with a decent showing in the conference tourney. Best of all, theyll have the bragging rights in the Bedlam Series, which is no small thing.
-MEMPHIS AT SMU (Conference USA). This is one of the biggest mismatches youll ever see in any conference game anywhere. If this wasnt a conference game, people would be accusing Memphis of padding their schedule with a cupcake opponent. Memphis should roll.
-MISSISSIPPI STATE AT VANDERBILT (SEC). Both of these teams appear to be on their way to the NCAA Tournament, and Vanderbilt is pretty much a lock. The Commodores have struggled on the road, but theyre undefeated at home and have a chance to pick up another good win tonight. Mississippi State has more to gain from a win because they dont have too many quality wins on their profile. Knocking off Vandy on the road would really improve their credentials and be a huge factor when it comes to their seeding
-SOUTH FLORIDA AT VILLANOVA (Big East). Villanova is close to the bubble, but I believe that they are inside of it, and should be okay if they can win this game and then beat Providence over the weekend. Neither of Novas two remaining opponents are NCAA Tourney teams and considering that Nova is close to the bubble its important that they win both games.
-DUKE AT VIRGINIA (ACC). Virginia has had a disappointing season, but they can still be a tough team to beat at home. Duke needs to be careful because they dont want to get caught looking ahead to their big game against North Carolina this upcoming weekend.
-PENN STATE AT WISCONSIN (Big Ten). With Purdue losing to Ohio State the other night, Wisconsin is now in prime position to finish in first place in the Big Ten standings. They should be able to beat a Penn State team thats struggled all throughout conference play, and then take care of business against Northwestern this weekend. Theyre in great shape as far as seeding goes, but they could drop a little bit if they fail to win both remaining regular season games. BUBBLE WATCH
-UCF AT HOUSTON (Conference USA). Houstons chances at an at-large are slim, but at least there is a chance. They probably need to win out until the Conference USA championship game in order to be seriously considered, though.
-LA SALLE AT MASSACHUSETTS (Atlantic Ten). UMass has won four straight games and they need to keep it up if they want to make the NCAA Tournament because their margin for error is razor thin. La Salle is potentially a dangerous opponent. Theyre coming off a loss to Rhode Island, but prior to that theyd won five straight. The Explorers have no shot at an at-large bid, but if theyre able to win this they could be headed into the Atlantic Ten Tournament with quite a bit of momentum and could end up making some noise.
-SYRACUSE AT SETON HALL (Big East). Syracuse has lost some close games in dramatic fashion, but their most recent game against Pittsburgh might take the cake after blowing what appeared to be a commanding lead late in the second half. Theyre definitely outside the bubble, and most likely need to win their remaining two games and then avoid an early exit in the conference tournament to get any consideration at all.
-KENTUCKY AT SOUTH CAROLINA (SEC). Kentucky put up an impressive showing without star player Patrick Patterson
against Tennessee in their last game, which is important because they need to prove to the selection committee that they can play tournament quality basketball without him. This game and their final game against Florida are huge. If theyre able to win both then it should all but guarantee them a spot in the NCAA Tournament. If not, then they may need to win a game or two in the SEC Tournament in order to feel safe.
-DAYTON AT SAINT BONAVENTURE (Atlantic Ten). Dayton is still outside the bubble, but if they can win their next two games, then they will have finished the season with three straight wins. That would put them back on the bubble and possibly into the discussion if they can do some damage in the conference tournament. This is an extremely winnable game despite the fact that theyre on the road. A loss in this one would be such a poor quality loss that it may eliminate them from the discussion entirely.
-DUQUESNE AT TEMPLE (Atlantic Ten). Temple is suddenly the second place team in the Atlantic Ten standings, and appears to be in the bubble mix. Theyre credentials dont look all that good, but then again neither does anyone elses that are on the bubble. If they can win their last two regular season games and then advance to the championship game of the Atlantic Ten Tournament it may be enough for them to sneak into the NCAAs. Their RPI is just 67 right now, and the team is just 16-12. However, if their record improves to 20-13, which is what it would be at if they win out until the championship game, their RPI will undergo a major spike, as would everything else on their resume.
-TULSA AT UAB (Conference USA). I cant imagine UAB making the NCAA Tournament with what they have on their resume in most seasons, but the bubble is weak this year. Their RPI is in the 50s, they nearly knocked off Memphis (which does count for something), and if they can win out they should find themselves on the bubble and in the discussion. Of course, if they upset Memphis in the conference tournament that would most likely put them in the field.