Conference Tournament Rundown and Highlighted Match-ups (March 8th)
|by: Drew Barnette - Staff Writer
|March 8, 2008
-NORTH CAROLINA AT DUKE (ACC). As always, the hype for this game has been borderline extreme, but that’s because the stakes are extremely high. The ACC Tournament is next week, so obviously there is still more basketball to be played, but when it comes down to who will end up getting the #1 seed in the Charlotte Region this game will be considered very heavily by the selection committee for obvious reasons. Duke won the first meeting, but North Carolina wasn’t at full strength. If they can hand Duke their first home loss now that Ty Lawson is back, they’ll finish first in the league, have a high quality win on their profile, and be in the front of the line for the Charlotte bid…at least for now. We still have the conference tournament, and it’s impossible to say how that’s going to play out. Still, this is a hugely important game in regards to the seeding and geographic placement of these teams, not to mention the bragging rights.
-LOUISVILLE AT GEORGETOWN (Big East). The winner of this game wins the Big East regular season outright, not to mention gets a huge quality win on their NCAA Tournament resume that will likely end them up as a #2 seed. I don’t see the winner of this game (or the loser for that matter) doing any worse than a #3 even if they lose their first conference tournament game. Louisville won the first meeting between the two in a tough defensive battle. Today’s game may not be all that much different considering how good each team is on the defensive end. Both teams also have great frontcourts, so it should be fun watching the big men go at it. This is an excellent tune-up for both these teams going into the Big East Tournament.
BIG SOUTH CHAMPIONSHIP
-#2. WINTHROP AT #1. UNC ASHEVILLE (***Automatic Bid***). Winthrop has won this tournament seven of the past nine years, but their streak is in serious jeopardy. They did win rather handily in the semifinals, but UNC Asheville looked pretty good as well, and they defeated Winthrop twice during the regular season. The arena only seats 1,100 people and it should be a unique and exciting atmosphere with a bid to the NCAA Tournament on the line.
ATLANTIC SUN CHAMPIONSHIP
-#2. JACKSONVILLE VS #1. BELMONT (***Automatic Bid***). It’s not too surprising that the top two seeds have advanced to the championship game. Jacksonville didn’t have too much trouble along the way, but Belmont trailed East Tennessee State for most of the game in the semifinals and barely scraped out a win. An ETSU technical foul late in the game ended up making a difference. Belmont should have the advantage playing in their home city, but given how well Jacksonville has played this may not be all that easy for them to win. Jacksonville is definitely looking at a #16 seed and possibly the play-in game if they win, whereas Belmont should get a #15 or #14.
OHIO VALLEY CHAMPIONSHIP
-#6. TENNESSEE STATE VS #1. AUSTIN PEAY (***Automatic Bid***). Tennessee State has reeled off two straight upsets to get to the championship game. On top of that, they did manage to beat Austin Peay during the regular season. The two teams split the regular season series, but both games were close, so Tennessee State does have a pretty good chance of winning. They also have a losing record and if they do win they can almost assuredly begin making their travel plans to Dayton for the play-in game. Austin Peay should end up with either a #16 or a #15 depending on how the other tournaments play out.
MISSOURI VALLEY SEMIFINALS
-#4. CREIGHTON VS #1. DRAKE. Drake won both regular season games against Creighton, but Creighton has shown they can play with the Bulldogs. Drake’s ticket is already punched and they should be seeded no worse than a #7 regardless of what happens the rest of the way. Of course if they win the conference tourney it should raise their seed. Creighton has had a good year, especially considering how young they are, but they’ll need to win the conference tourney to get in. That being said, they are good enough to make a run at it. It would be a huge accomplishment for Creighton if they’re able to win this game and advance to the conference championship.
-#6. NORTHERN IOWA VS #2. ILLINOIS STATE. Illinois State got a big scare from Missouri State in the quarterfinals, but was able to win and advance. It’s a good thing too, because a loss would have probably knocked them out of the NCAA picture. Southern Illinois was upset by Northern Iowa, which probably put an end to their NCAA Tournament hopes. If Illinois State can win this one, then they should end up inside the bubble, but will still be sweating a little bit if they don’t manage to win the conference championship game. If they lose this game, then they’ll REALLY be sweating it out.
HORIZON LEAGUE SEMIFINALS
-UIC AT BUTLER. Butler is in the NCAA Tournament regardless, and will host the championship game of the conference tournament if they manage to get past UIC today. They had just two conference losses this year, and both were close games on the road. One of those, however, was to Cleveland State whom they may face in the next game. They also had a close call recently against UIC so it won’t be a cakewalk for the Bulldogs.
-VALPARAISO VS CLEVELAND STATE. Cleveland State won both regular season games and comes into this game having won six of their last seven games. Valpo, however, is on a roll as well having won six straight. This game should be exciting and the winner should be able to give Butler a hell of a game if that’s who they end up facing in the championship.
COLONIAL ATHLETIC QUARTERFINALS
-#9. TOWSON VS #1. VCU (Bubble Watch). VCU has a very slim shot at an automatic bid, but that will likely disappear of they lose before the championship game, and even if they do get that far but fail to win their chances are still pretty small. That being said, they are a good team and will be a tough first round opponent if they’re able to win the automatic bid.
-#5. WILLIAM & MARY VS #4. OLD DOMINION. A semifinal match-up between rivals Old Dominion and VCU would be interesting, especially since ODU won at VCU in an exciting game earlier this season.
-#7. DELAWARE VS #2. UNC WILMINGTON. UNCW has had a nice turnaround from last season, but still needs the automatic bid to make the NCAA Tournament.
-#6. NORTHEASTERN VS #3. GEORGE MASON. George Mason looks like they have a talented team, and they’ve managed to win some big games this year. If they play up to their potential they’re good enough to win this tournament, and could even end up being a tough out in the first round. They haven’t always brought their A game this season, though.
SOUTHERN CONFERENCE QUARTERFINALS
-#8. Wofford vs #1. Davidson
-#5. Appalachian State vs #4. UNC Greensboro
-#7. Elon vs #2. Tennessee Chattanooga
-#6. College of Charleston vs #3. Georgia Southern
Davidson dominated the regular season all throughout conference play and will most likely end up dominating the tournament. They’re looking at about a #11 seed if they can get it done, and could possibly end up with an at-large if they do end up losing a game so long as it isn’t as early as the quarterfinals.
WEST COAST QUARTERFINALS
-#5. San Francisco vs #4. Santa Clara (winner gets Gonzaga)
-#6. Pepperdine @ #3. San Diego (winner gets Saint Mary’s)
San Diego had a good season, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they won today and managed to take down Saint Mary’s in the semifinals. The tournament is on their home court, and everyone they face will have a hard time beating them. Saint Mary’s and Gonzaga are virtual locks for the NCAA Tournament regardless of what happens. If San Diego can get hot and run the table this league could end up with three teams.
SUMMIT LEAGUE QUARTERFINALS
-#8. Centenary vs #1. Oral Roberts
-#5. IPFW vs #4. Southern Utah
-#7. UMKC vs #2. IUPUI
-#6. Western Illinois vs #3. Oakland
Oral Roberts can get a #13 seed if they win the tournament, and IUPUI could get about a #13 or #14 as well, but both need the automatic bid to get in. They are the two best teams in the league and look to be the favorites to advance to the championship game. IUPUI did stub their toes a few times, most recently with a rather decisive loss to Oakland, so that could end up being a tough semifinal game for the Jaguars.
AMERICA EAST QUARTERFINALS
-#8. Stony Brook vs #1. UMBC
-#5. Binghamton vs #4. Vermont
-#6. Boston University vs #3. Albany
-#7. New Hampshire vs #2. Hartford
Binghamton is hosting the quarters and semis. UMBC has dominated the league, but that could potentially be a tough match-up for them in the semifinals. The teams will be reseeded in the semifinals, which should give UMBC the advantage. The highest seeded team that advances to the championship game will host it.
METRO ATLANTIC QUARTERFINALS
-#8. Manhattan @ #1. Siena
-#5. Fairfield vs #4. Loyola MD
-#10. Canisius vs #2. Rider
-#6. Marist vs #3. Niagara
Siena, Rider, Niagara an Loyola are all pretty evenly matched teams, and if they all win today then what happens from the semifinals on is virtually anybody’s guess. Siena does have an advantage because the tournament is in their own building, but both Rider and Loyola have won at Siena this year.
BIG SKY QUARTERFINALS
-#6. Montana State @ #3. Weber State
-#5. Montana @ #4. Idaho State
The highest (best) remaining seed will get Northern Arizona and the poorer seed will get Portland State, who pretty much dominated the league and will host the tournament. Portland State could get a #15 seed, but everyone else is looking at a #16.
-VANDERBILT AT ALABAMA (SEC). Vandy is in the NCAA Tournament and is now just playing for seeding. They still have a chance at tying for second in the SEC East standings and earning a bye into the quarterfinals, but Vandy would have to win and Kentucky would have to lose to Florida.
-CINICINNATI AT CONNECTICUT (Big East). UConn is coming off a surprising loss on the road to Providence, but they’re still a really tough team that’s looking at a decent seed in the NCAA Tournament. They can improve on that with a strong showing in the conference tourney. Cincinnati will be headed to the Big East Tourney as well, but they’ve really been in a slump lately and aren’t likely to make a postseason tournament of any kind, much less the NCAAs without some sort of strong run in the Big East Tourney. UConn just needs to take care of business at home so they can sustain the strength of their current profile.
-KANSAS STATE AT IOWA STATE (Big Twelve). Kansas State snapped a four game losing streak earlier this week against Colorado, but the Buffaloes gave them more of a fight than one would expect. Kansas State isn’t exactly hitting March with a full head of steam. They really need to win this game in order to keep their resume from suffering any further damage and try and build up some momentum heading into the Big Twelve Tourney.
-LSU AT MISSISSIPPI STATE (SEC). Mississippi State dropped an overtime thriller in their last game against Vanderbilt, but still appears to have a solid team that will play in the NCAA Tournament. LSU has been playing a little better since they underwent a coaching change, but it would still look bad for Mississippi State if they weren’t able to take care of business at home in this one, and that would hurt their seeding.
-WISCONSIN AT NORTHWESTERN (Big Ten). Wisconsin has clinched at least a share of the Big Ten regular season title and can win it outright with a win today, and the #1 seed in the Big Ten Tournament that comes with it. I believe they’re looking at about a #3 seed in the NCAAs so long as they don’t drop any games like this one to non-tournament caliber teams.
-MISSOURI AT OKLAHOMA (Big Twelve). Oklahoma has been somewhat inconsistent this season, but they did pick up a nice win against Oklahoma State earlier this week. That may not sound that impressive, but Okie State had been playing well coming into that game, and the Sooners weren’t at full strength. They appear to be solidly in the tournament and are playing to sustain the level of their current profile. They’re also in a three way tie for fourth place, so depending on how things play out Oklahoma could still end up with a bye in the conference tournament.
-VILLANOVA AT PROVIDENCE (Big East). Nova should be able to solidify a bid with a win in this game. They’re probably okay even if they lose so long as they can win a game in the conference tournament. It won’t be easy, though. Providence just knocked off UConn and is playing with quite a bit of confidence.
-NOTRE DAME AT SOUTH FLORIDA (Big East). Notre Dame has had an incredible season and has locked up an NCAA bid. They’re just playing for seeding now, but if they can close out with a win and pick up another in the conference tourney it should be good for at least a #4 seed and possibly better. They do have quite a bit of momentum, though, and can improve an already impressive resume even more with a strong showing next week. They just don’t want to overlook a South Florida team that’s playing their final game of the season and looking to end on a high note.
-WEST VIRGINIA AT SAINT JOHN’S (Big East). West Virginia looked great in their last game against Syracuse and has played well down the stretch. A lot of their losses from earlier in the year were close games, so they’re potentially a dangerous team and could end up making some noise in the Big East and NCAA Tournaments. Saint John’s is simply hoping to get into the Big East Tournament, but they’ll need to win this game and hope Providence and De Paul both lose.
-BYU AT TCU (Mountain West). BYU has already wrapped up first place in the Mountain West and is likely headed to the NCAA Tournament regardless of what happens the rest of the way. They’re still playing for seeding, though, and this would definitely go down as a bad loss on their resume if they slip up in this one.
-KANSAS AT TEXAS A&M (Big Twelve). Kansas still has a shot at a #1 seed, but they probably need to win this game and win the conference tournament in order to get it. Seeing as how many believe (including myself) that they’re good enough to go to the Final Four it’s certainly possible that they’ll end up doing just that. TAMU has really been struggling lately, but they picked up a big win at Baylor earlier in the week, which may be the start of a turnaround. If they pull off the upset in this game they’ll be back on track. It will also help them out in terms of seeding for the NCAA Tournament.
-CALIFORNIA AT UCLA (Pac Ten). UCLA has already wrapped up first place in the Pac Ten and will most likely get a #1 seed if they win this game and win the Pac Ten Tournament. That’s important because it would land them in the Phoenix Region, which is a geographic advantage. Cal has lost six of seven and will most likely need to win the Pac Ten Tournament to make the NCAAs.
-UTAH AT UNLV (Mountain West). This is a winnable home game for UNLV, and they need to take care of business. They aren’t in any danger now, but they might be if they lose this game and then get bounced in their first conference tourney game. They’re coming off a loss to New Mexico, and need to rebound and finish strong. The fact that they’re hosting the conference tournament should help them get the wins that they need, but if they do happen to slip up against a non-tourney team on their home floor it will actually end up looking worse to the committee.
-STANFORD AT USC (Pac Ten). Stanford lost a heartbreaker to UCLA in overtime the other night after leading for most of the game. It cost them a shot at the Pac Ten regular season title, but it’s very possible they’ll get another shot at the Bruins a week from today. This is another big game for the Cardinal because they’re playing for seeding and can get a #3 or possibly a #2 if they finish strong. This would be yet another quality road win on their profile.
-WASHINGTON AT WASHINGTON STATE (Pac Ten). Wazzu is on their way to the NCAA Tournament. They can sustain their credentials with a win in this game, and really build them up with a strong showing next week. They’d also hold on to the bragging rights that they’ve had since 2006. It’s been awhile since the Huskies have beaten the Cougars in the basketball version of the Apple Cup.
-RICHMOND AT XAVIER (Atlantic Ten). Xavier is coming off a loss to Saint Joseph’s, but this is a much more winnable game and they should be able to rebound. Richmond has had a good year and they’re program definitely seems to be moving in the right direction. They also like to slow it down and could end up frustrating Xavier by preventing them from using their athleticism. An upset isn’t likely, but XU does not want to overlook them. They’re obviously safely in the tournament, but their seeding could take a hit if they lose this game.
-AUBURN AT ARKANSAS (SEC). The Razorbacks are just 2-5 in their last seven games and desperately need a win. Fortunately, Auburn has really struggled and this is a winnable game for them at home. If they don’t take care of business today and then lose their first game in the SEC Tournament they’re going to be in serious trouble.
-NEW MEXICO AT COLORADO STATE (Mountain West). New Mexico picked up their most notable win of the season against UNLV in their last game, and has a decent shot at making the NCAA Tournament. Winning today is an absolute must, though, and they’ll need to avoid an early exit from the conference tournament. They also may need to possibly beat UNLV again, or at least put up a tough showing in the conference tourney. It’s looking as though they’ll face UNLV in the semifinals (assuming both get that far) and since the tourney is in Vegas it won’t be easy to take down the Rebels.
-SAINT JOSEPH’S AT DAYTON (Atlantic Ten). Both of these teams are on the bubble, so this is a hugely important game. Saint Joseph’s did themselves a huge favor when they beat Xavier earlier in the week because they added a much needed quality win to their resume. They aren’t safe yet, though. They probably need to win this game and then at least one in the Atlantic Ten Tournament to have a strong enough case for the NCAA Tournament. Dayton can still get in as well, but they probably need to win out until the championship game. They’ve really struggled away from home and barely beat a very poor Saint Bonaventure team in their last game, so winning this one is an absolute must if they want to get any consideration at all.
-MIAMI, FL AT FLORIDA STATE (ACC). Florida State is on the outside looking in, but a win in this game and a strong showing in the ACC Tournament could get them the wins that they need to get into the field. Their margin for error is razor thin, though. They did lose at North Carolina in their last game, and that was a chance for them to make a huge statement, but they’ve still won three of their last four. A win today and a couple of wins in the conference tournament would give them a strong case…at least when you compare them to the other bubble teams. Miami appears to be safely in regardless of what happens. They’re 6-1 in their last seven games and have really looked strong lately.
-MASSACHUSETTS AT GEORGE WASHINGTON (Atlantic Ten). UMass has won five straight games, but four of those were against low caliber opponents. They faced most of the tougher teams in the league early on. Still, they should be getting a bid if they can win this game and avoid an early exit in the Atlantic Ten Tournament. Anything short of that and they’re in trouble, though. They haven’t really beaten a solid tournament team all season, so they’re squarely on the bubble and it wouldn’t take much to knock them off.
-MISSISSIPPI AT GEORGIA (SEC). Ole Miss has just one true road win this season, so this is a big game because it’s their last chance to pick up another one. Georgia isn’t an NCAA team, but at least Ole Miss will have beaten SOMEONE on the road. They do have some notable wins at neutral sites and will have the chance to get some more in the SEC Tourney next week, but this is a game they really need to win. A loss and they’ll likely need to win the SEC Tourney to get a bid.
-TEMPLE AT LA SALLE (Atlantic Ten). Temple is 8-3 in their last 11 games, and have beaten Massachusetts and Saint Joseph’s, both of which are bubble teams, in that stretch. They also have a big win against Xavier from earlier in the year, so they’re knocking on the door of the NCAA Tournament. A loss today and that’s probably all over without the automatic bid, though. They must win today and they probably need a win or two in the Atlantic Ten Tourney next week. Still, they’re playing well and they have momentum, which is something the committee tends to favor.
-UAB AT MEMPHIS (Conference USA). There isn’t too much on UAB’s resume to get all that excited about, but their profile is probably good enough to where if they win this game and avoided any losses to poor RPI teams in the conference tournament they may be headed to the dance. That is a very tall order, though. Memphis is playing for a #1 seed, and they’re at home. UAB nearly pulled the upset earlier in the year, but came up just one point short. They don’t need to put just up a good showing today, though, if they want in. They need to win.
-ARIZONA AT OREGON (Pac Ten). Oregon’s NCAA hopes are still flickering and a win today should make their hopes a little more realistic. They’ll still have some work to do in the Pac Ten Tournament regardless of what happens, but a win today would certainly help. Arizona has been struggling lately as well. They recently picked up a win against Oregon State, but that isn’t the kind of win that’s going to help them. They could really use this one as well in order to resuscitate their credentials. If they lose this game and don’t advance in the Pac Ten Tourney Arizona may be sweating a little bit.
-ARIZONA STATE AT OREGON STATE (Pac Ten). Arizona State has been struggling down the stretch, but their NCAA Tourney hopes are still alive. They should be able to win this game against an Oregon State team that hasn’t won a conference game all year. If ASU can win this and get a win in the Pac Ten Tournament that may be enough, but they probably need three more wins in order to completely seal the deal.
-CHARLOTTE AT RHODE ISLAND (Atlantic Ten). Rhode Island still has some hope of an at-large, but not much. If they win this game and advance to the Atlantic Ten championship game that may be enough, but even that wouldn’t guarantee them a spot in the NCAAs.
-MARQUETTE AT SYRACUSE (Big East). Marquette is going the NCAA Tournament, but is still looking to build up their credentials for seeding purposes. Syracuse is still on the outside looking in, but with this game today and with the Big East Tournament next week they’ll have a chance to make a case for themselves. They’re a good team that’s probably better than their resume indicates because of all the close games they’ve lost, but they need to prove that in their final regular season game today and in the conference tourney next week.
-BAYLOR AT TEXAS TECH (Big Twelve). Texas Tech may still be on the bubble, but it’s the outside edge of the bubble. Their blowout loss to Kansas earlier this week didn’t do much in the way of impressing anybody. Baylor looks to be in, but a win today would probably seal the deal. If they lose this game and then don’t win in the conference tournament they could be sweating. They haven’t really played as well down the stretch, and ending the season with three straight losses certainly wouldn’t look good.
UNDER THE RADAR
-SAINT BONAVENTURE AT FORDHAM (Atlantic Ten). If Fordham wins then they clinch the last spot in the Atlantic Ten Tournament. They’re tied with George Washington, but hold the tiebreaker.
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Height: 6' 0"
Weight: 197 lbs.
28 Years Old
High School: Oak Hill Academy
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