Conference Tournament News, Notes and Highlighted Match-ups (March 15)

Conference Tournament News, Notes and Highlighted Match-ups (March 15)
Mar 15, 2008, 03:50 am

-I should have the bracket and bubble watch updated early this afternoon…after I’ve gotten some much needed sleep. There are obviously going to be changes.

Stephen F. Austin, Utah State, Alabama State and UC Santa Barbara were all top seeds who were eliminated from their conference tournaments. None will be getting at-large bids, so they’ll be coming off the bracket.

I’ll have that, and the analysis posted sometime soon, so be sure and check back for it.



-The tournament has been moved from the Georgia Dome to Alexander Memorial Collesium at Georgia Tech due to the damage the Georgia Dome underwent during yesterday's severe weather.

-Kentucky will face Georgia at Noon.

-Tennessee will face Arkansas at 6pm

-Mississippi State will face the winner of Kentucy vs Georgia later tonight, meaning that one of those teams will have to play two games in one day.

-Tomorrow's championship game will begin at 3:30pm rather than 1pm.

This is better than nothing, but there is no way they'll be able to cram everyone who had tickets to the Georgia Dome into Georgia Tech's arena. As far as the games themselves, Georgia needs the automatic bid to get in, but everyone else is just playing for seeding. Tennessee will likely get a #1 regardless, but Arkansas, Kentucky and Mississippi State can all move up with a strong showing.


-#2. STANFORD VS #1. UCLA (***Automatic Bid***). People in the media have been dogging the officiating in some recent Pac Ten games, and although I really can’t say I blame them it does seem to be taking away from what has been one of the most exciting conferences this season. Stanford knocked off Washington State for the third time this season in the semifinals, which should lock up a #3 seed for them. If they can win this game they could end up seeded even better than that. UCLA could end up with a #1 seed with a win in this game depending on how everything else plays out. The last time these two met it was an overtime thriller, and the game was one of those that was subject to controversal officiating. Hopefully today we can have the excitement without the controversy.


-#7. PITTSBURGH VS #1. GEORGETOWN (***Automatic Bid***). Both teams are safely in the NCAA Tournament. Pittsburgh has done quite a bit to improve their resume in this tournament so far by beating Louisville and Marquette to advance to the title game. Georgetown had no trouble against West Virginia in their semifinal game, so both teams appear to be playing as well now as they have at any point during regular season conference play. Pitt actually won the regular season match-up, and judging by how well they’ve played in the past two games I’d say they have a chance to win it despite the fact that they’re a #7 seed. Georgetown has been playing pretty well too, and could end up with a #2 seed in the NCAA Tournament even if they lose. Their profile is strong, and it has gotten stronger throughout the conference tourney.


-#5. SAINT JOSEPH’S VS #2. TEMPLE (Bubble Watch) (***Automatic Bid***). Both of these teams are on the bubble, but after today one will be automatically in. Saint Joseph’ knocked off Xavier for the second time this season in the semifinal, but Temple managed to beat Xavier earlier this season as well, so the two are evenly matched. In fact they’re about as evenly matched as two teams can be. They split the regular season series with each team winning each game by just one point. Temple is higher in the conference standings, but Saint Joseph’s played a tougher schedule within the conference. Both are big inner-city rivals and it should be great watching them go at it for an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.


-#2. UNLV VS #1. BYU (***Automatic Bid***). I believe both of these teams are in the NCAA Tournament, but both of them, and UNLV in particular, could help out their seeding with a win in this game. UNLV is hosting the tournament and the rebels won rather lopsidedly the last time they faced BYU at home, but the Cougars have looked very good in both of their previous tournament games and come into this one with a full head of steam. Knocking off UNLV on the road would help their profile as well, although they don’t need it quite as much.


-#7. TULSA VS #1. MEMPHIS (***Automatic Bid***). I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a championship game of any kind, be it a conference championship or anything else, where I was expecting such a blowout. Tulsa has won nine of their last eleven, so they do have some momentum coming into this game, but they didn’t put up much of a fight against Memphis the last time these two met, and they were at home for that game. Memphis should win this even if they just go through the motions, and lock up a #1 seed in the process.


-#3. AKRON VS #1. KENT STATE (***Automatic Bid***). Kent State will go to the NCAA Tournament regardless of what happens. They’re coming off an intense, exciting, hard fought semifinal win against Miami OH who took them down to the wire and missed a shot at the buzzer that would have forced overtime. It will be interesting to see if they can turn around and face a red hot Akron team who unlike Kent State is fighting for their NCAA Tournament lives. These two teams are rivals and they played to a thrilling finish just last week, so hopefully we’re in for another exciting game. The game is in Cleveland, and both of these schools aren’t all that far away, so given the rivalry these two have it should be a great crowd.


-#5. UC IRVINE VS #3. CAL STATE FULLERTON (***Automatic Bid***). So much for getting byes into the semifinals. Both UC Santa Barbara and Cal State Northridge ended up losing. CS Fullerton is really on a roll. Even though they’re the #3 seed they basically tied for first in the league standings, so they won’t get a terrible seed in the NCAA Tournament if the end up winning this game. UC Irvine is almost assuredly looking at a #16 seed if they manage to pull the upset, though.


-#2. HARTFORD AT #1. UMBC (***Automatic Bid***). I don’t believe either school has ever been to the NCAA Tournament, so it’s a monumental opportunity for both teams. UMBC dominated the conference this season and won the right to host the championship by finishing first in the league standings. However, this is a very evenly matched game. The two split the regular season series, and each team won by just one point, so we could be in for another thriller today. The best either team could do is probably a #15 seed and I don’t see either one of them putting up much of a fight in the first round, but it would still be a big step forward for either program to win this game.


-#4. VIRGINIA TECH VS #1. NORTH CAROLINA. Virginia Tech picked up their most impressive win of the year against Miami FL in the quarterfinals. I didn’t have them on my bubble watch last night, but I plan on adding them. If they win this game they’ll probably make the NCAA Tournament regardless of what happens in the championship game. It’s big for North Carolina as well because their bitter rival is in the other semifinal game, and both are competing for the #1 seed in the Charlotte Region.

-#3. CLEMSON VS #2. DUKE. After several years of frustration and collapses in conference play, Clemson is solidly in the NCAA Tournament and can advance to the ACC championship game if they can upset Duke. Duke won the regular season game, but Clemson stuck with them. The Tigers are a good basketball team and can really improve their seed with a win today. They’ve lost twice in overtime to North Carolina, which is something to consider, but they still don’t have a monster win against a top ten caliber team. A win today would give them one, though.


-#4. OKLAHOMA VS #1. TEXAS. Texas Got a scare from Oklahoma State in the quarterfinals, and have actually struggled in their last several games, but they’ve found a way to keep on winning and are still on pace to get a #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. If they win today I believe they’ll get it regardless of what happens in the championship. The reason for that is because they’ve beaten Kansas, UCLA and Tennessee this season, all of whom are in contention to get a #1 seed themselves. Oklahoma got here by beating Colorado, who finished last in the conference, but it was a struggle. They fell to Texas in both regular season meetings, so a win would really improve their credentials and make a statement to the committee, but they’ll have to play better than they did yesterday.

-#6. TEXAS A&M VS #2. KANSAS. TAMU got past Kansas State in the semifinals, which prevents a rubber match between the two in-state rivals. TAMU struggled down the stretch, but they’ve played well in this tournament and that will help out their seeding. Kansas won a somewhat sloppy game against Nebraska that was more of a fight than they probably expected, but the important thing was that they won and advanced. If they can win this game they should end up with a #2 seed. If they lose then it’s very possible they’ll end up with a #3 seed because they still don’t have a win against a ranked opponent.


-#4. MICHIGAN STATE VS #1. WISCONSIN. Wisconsin beat Michigan in a defensive, low scoring affair to get this far, but should get a much tougher game against Michigan State today. The Spartans picked up a big win against an Ohio State team that was desperate to beat them in order to help their NCAA Tournament profile. It was a notable win for the Spartans because they’ve been struggling away from home and can offset that with a strong showing in this tournament. A win today would really help their potential seed.

-#10. ILLINOIS VS #6. MINNESOTA. I didn’t expect to see either of these teams here and neither did anyone else. What was looking like a sure match-up between Indiana and Purdue has turned into a game that I wouldn’t have even been writing about had the two met about two weeks ago. Neither team can get in without the automatic bid, but one of these teams will get the chance to play for it. Both won thrillers in the quarterfinals. Illinois is the lower seed, but they beat Minnesota handily both times during the regular season, so they have to be liking their chances.


-#4. BOISE STATE AT #3. NEW MEXICO STATE (***Automatic Bid***). Boise won rather decisively against Utah State in the semifinals, which was sort of a surprise considering Utah State had beaten them pretty badly not that long ago. New Mexico State’s game with Nevada was a little more exciting, but they ended up pulling away in the final minutes. The fact that the tournament is at New Mexico State should give the Aggies an advantage. They actually blew Boise out the last time they faced them at home, but then again so did Utah State. The winner of this game could easily end up with a #15 seed, but seeing as how both teams finished the season with quite a bit of momentum they may end up seeded better than that. NMSU was in the NCAA Tournament last year, but Boise hasn’t been since 1994. It would be a huge step forward for them and their program, especially considering how much it was struggling just a few years ago.


-#7. TEXAS ARLINGTON VS #5. NORTHWESTERN STATE (***Automatic Bid***). Northwestern State upset Stephen F. Austin in the semifinals, which is really unfortunate because that looked like a team that may have been able to pull an upset in the first round. I’m going to add SF Austin to my Bubble Watch, but I really don’t like their chances. It’s possible that the winner of this game could wind up in the play-in game, but Texas Arlington will get a #16 seed without being in it. Northwestern State actually has a losing record, so they’ll most likely be headed to Dayton if they win. Neither team was playing all that well prior to the tournament and both look pretty bad even by #16 seed standards, but both have pulled upsets to get to the championship game and one of them will be going to the NCAA Tournament. Things like this can happen to conferences such as the Southland who don’t protect their regular season champion in any way during the conference tournament.


-#7. COPPIN STATE VS #1. MORGAN STATE (***Automatic Bid***). Coppin State pulled off yet another upset in the semifinals to advance to the championship game and a chance to make the NCAA Tournament. If they win they’ll be on their way to the play-in game, but at least they’ll be in the field. Morgan State recently played Coppin State at home and the game was close, so they probably aren’t going to be able to just walk all over them. If they win they’ll most likely get a #16 seed, but at least they won’t be in the play-in game.


-#7. MISSISSIPPI VALLEY STATE VS #4. JACKSON STATE (***Automatic Bid***). Mississippi Valley State and Jackson State’s upset wins in the conference quarterfinals have guaranteed that at least one team in the NCAA Tournament will have a losing record. The winner of this game is going to the play-in game, and rightfully so. There is no point in even watching the selection show. The winning team need not wait. They can go ahead and make their travel plans for Dayton. The only real question is what kind of seed they would get if they were forced to drop down to the Division II Tournament. I bet it wouldn’t be that good.

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