CHAMPIONSHIP WEEK NOTEBOOK
-271 TEAMS REMAIN!!!
For a list of all of today’s action, see Chad’s viewing guide linked below…
-Stetson and SC Upstate won easily in the second pair of Atlantic Sun quarterfinal games. Upstate looked very good and Mercer could be in for a battle tonight. Playing at home will give them a big advantage. FGCU is the favorite over Stetson, but that game won’t be a cakewalk either as the two split the regular season series.
-We had mostly chalk in the Big South quarters as the better seeded team won won three of the games, but there was one big upset in Liberty’s win over High Point. Winthrop also threw a scare into Charleston Southern, but they ended up pulling away at the end. VMI and Gardner Webb also won and advanced to the semis.
-Drake took down Bradley and Missouri State topped Southern Illinois in the opening round of Arch Madness. The Missouri Valley may not be the best conference, but they do have the best name of any tournament. There is a ton of parity in this league, so it should be great from the quarterfinals on. Illinois State is a team to watch. They stumbled down the stretch and they stumbled worse at the beginning of conference play, but they are capable of beating anyone in the league. Creighton and Wichita State are likely safely in the field even if they lose in the quarterfinals, and many times a team in that situation will come out flat. It will be interesting to see what they do today.
-The Semis of the Ohio Valley are set, and it’s the four best teams in the league. Tennessee State will face Belmont. The tournament is in Nashville, so both of these teams are playing in their own backyard. Belmont clearly appeared to have the best season and profile, and will get a serious look at an at-large if they don’t win the conference tournament, but they’re hardly a lock. They did split the regular season with Tennessee State with each winning at home. Tonight, they’re both in their home city in the very high stakes winner-take-all rubber match. I’m actually very excited for this one.
Eastern Kentucky vs Murray State is the other game. EKU beat the crap out of Murray at Murray earlier this season, and Murray also fizzled down the stretch. I think once Murray realized the conference tournament was their only way into the NCAAs they kind of quit on the season. It will be interesting to see what happens tonight. Any of these four teams could win the tournament.
-LMU has tripled their conference win total in the WCC Tournament with two exciting wins. Unfortunately for them, they’ve only advanced as far as the quarterfinals. The WCC lets everyone in, but if you finish at the bottom you have a lot of ground to cover. They’ll face Santa Clara tonight for the right to take on Gonzaga. BYU will face San Diego in the other game.
-The Horizon quarterfinals are tonight. Wright State will face Youngstown State for the right to take on Detroit. Green Bay will go up against UIC for the right to face Valparaiso. Valpo is the first place team, so the quarters and semis are on their court. There is also a lot of parity in this league. Both quarterfinal games today feature teams that split the season series. Valpo and Detroit appear to be the favorites, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see someone come out of the quarters and advance to the final.
-The Metro Atlantic opening round also gets underway. Maris and Siena are traditional rivals and they’ll face each other in the 8v9 game. Fairfield will face Saint Peter’s in the other game. The top five teams are seperated by just two games, so this one could turn into a free for all. The regualar season seemed to have that feel.
-The Sun Belt Opening Round is today. It seems as though that more often than not, the tournament winner is a team that doesn’t get a bye. Western Kentucky came out of nowhere to win a year ago. They’ll face Monroe today. Louisiana Lafayette vs North Texas and Florida Atlantic vs Troy are other two games. Middle Tennessee ran away with this conference and should be considered for an at-large even if they don’t win the tournament, but they appeared to dominate last year as well and went out in the quarters, so we shall see.
-The SoCon also tips this afternoon. Davidson ran away with this league and obviously isn’t playing today. I just don’t see anyone that can match up agaisnt Davidson. In order for an upset to occur, the Wildcats would have to have a very off night while another team had the game of their lives.
OTHER ACTION OF NOTE
–If anyone was seriously considering Kentucky to be a tournament team before last night, they really shouldn’t have been. That fact should be even more obvious now. Their lost to Georgia was crippling, but I think they were crippled to begin with.
-Virginia did themselves no favors with their loss to Florida State. I had them on the bubble, but somewhat safely inside. After last night, not so much. They appear to be playing their way out. What’s crazy is that they have a decent record against the top 100 with a smattering of very good wins, but an atrocious record against sub 100 teams.
WRITERS NOTE: In the initial summary, I had stated that High Point had beaten Liberty. Obviously, that was a mistake. It has been corrected.