CHAMPIONSHIP WEEK NOTEBOOK
-250 TEAMS REMAIN!!!
Check out Chad’s viewiing guide for all of today’s action linked below.
-The Ohio Valley semifinals were exciting, but neither game went all the way down to the wire. After falling behind early, Belmont got control of Tennessee State by the second half and pretty much retained it. Murray State struggled in the first half, but finally surged ahead of Eastern Kentucky late in the second half. I believe Belmont is in even if they lose today, which a good thing because Murray can be tough to beat when they play to their potential. Murray has not shot without a win. They’ll probably miss the NIT as well, so it truly is an all or nothing situation for Murray.
-LMU’s miracle run continues. They’ve won three straight conference tournament games after winning just one conference game all season. The last two were decided in the final possession. They face Gonzaga tonight, so chances are their luck will run out. BYU fell to San Diego in the other game. Anyone who thought BYU was a tournament team before last night is crazy. Anyone who still thinks that needs to be institutionalized. San Diego will face Saint Mary’s in the other semifinal game. If SMC loses, I think they’re done as far as an at-large goes.
-The top two seeds in the Atlantic Sun advanced without too much trouble. FGCU will face Mercer at Mercer. Since Mercer is the first place team, it’s fitting that they got to host the conference tournament. It was predetermined, but you can’t say they didn’t deserve to host. Both teams have some notable wins, so I don’t think either of them will land in the First Four.
-Creighton and Wichita struggled for part of the game, but advanced to the semis of the Missouri Valley. Illinois State, who is the sixth place team but the team I picked to win it, jumped out to a huge lead against Northern Iowa. UNI came all the way back and actually got the lead, but Illinois State finally got control in the final minutes. They’ll face Wichita State in what will be a do-or-die situation with them. Indiana State, who won in a thriller against Evansville, will face Creighton. Creighton and Wichita are safe. Illinois State and Indiana State must win to stay alive.
-The better seeded team won both quarterfinal games in the Horizon, but both had to sweat it out. Wright State had a commanding lead over Youngstown, but the Penguins cut it to as close as four late in the game. Green Bay needed a last second three-pointer to beat UIC. Wright State squares off against Detroit, who they split the season series with each team winning on the road. Valpo had no trouble in their two games against Green Bay this season, and I don’t think they will tonight either. The championship game will be played on the highest remaining seed’s home floor, so Green Bay is the only team that has no chance of hosting it.
-The first pair of Summit League quarterfinal games tip off today. South Dakota State and Western Illinois are the top two seeds, and both appear to be undermatched, which will hopefully give them an easy route to the semifinals. This conference is a three horse race between those two and North Dakota State. If all advance to the semis, it should be a very exciting tournament from that point on. South Dakota State is probably the team that’s best built to pull off an upset in the NCAA Tournament, but North Dakota State is good as well. They’re also very young, so watch out for them next year. The other two semis are tomorrow. I guess the idea is to give the top two teams a day to rest prior to the semis.
-The America East quarters get underway today in Albany. Stony Brook was the regular season champion, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see anyone in the top four win it. Albany is the host team and could face Stony Brook tomorrow if both win.
-The Big South resumes after a day off with the semifinals. Gardner Webb will face Liberty, who is the upset special of the field so far, and Charleston Southern will face VMI. It’s a unique semifinal. We’ve got a Cinderella in Liberty, a resurged Charleston Southern team who won the division after struggling for several years, a VMI team who loves to run up and down the floor and put points on the board, and Gardner Webb, who is a solid team that gave some heavyweights fits OOC.
-The Colonial quarterfinals are today. Between teams who are ineligible for postseason play and others who are leaving the conference next season, what has normally been a twelve team tournament will only feature seven this year. The story in the conference, hands down, was Towson State. They won just one game a year ago and set an all-time NCAA record for most losses in a season. This year, they posted an 18-13 record and finished in a tie for second in the conference. They are easily the most improved team in the country. Unfortunately, they are not able to participate in the conference tourney due to APR infractions, which is a shame.
Northeastern was the regular season champion and byes into the semis. George Mason will face Drexel, who had a very good season last year where they almost made the NCAAs. They returned all their starters this year, but for some reason fell flat. Whereas Towson was the most improved team, I believe Drexel could easily be the most disappointing team. George Mason, who just two years ago was a top 25 team, has also taken a plunge. I don’t think the coaching is quite as good as it was when Larranaga was there. That’s the nicest way I know how to put that. Delaware (who was also kind of disappointing despite finishing as the #2 seed) will face Hofstra and James Madison will face William & Mary in the other games.
-The Patriot League is down to the semis. Lehigh and Lafayette will play each other at Lafayette. This is a rivalry game, so it should be a fun one. Bucknell will host Army in the other game. Bucknell and Lehigh are potentially dangerous teams, but neither can get in without the automatic bid.
-There is no Ivy League tournament, but if Harvard wins and Princeton loses, Harvard wins the automatic bid. If they both win, and Princeton wins against Penn this upcoming Tuesday, the two teams will be tied and will have a one game playoff at the Palestra in Philadelphia next Saturday.
-The two Metro Atlantic opening round games were exciting, but poorly played. The quarters get underway today. The top five teams are separated by just two games, so it really is sort of a free for all. Iona appears to be the best overall team, but they’re also the fifth place team. However, with a player like Momo Jones, they could end up winning this thing despite being fifth.
-The SoCon and Sun Belt quarters are also today. Davidson is the hands down favorite to win the SoCon and Middle Tennessee is the hands down favorite to win the SBC. Middle will get looked at for an at-large even if they don’t win the tournament, but any team they lose to will be considered a bad loss, so they’ll really be sweating.
-DUKE AT NORTH CAROLINA (ACC). This is college basketball’s premier rivalry. This edition features a Duke team that will likely be a #1 or a #2 seed, but who doesn’t have a true road win against a tournament caliber team and could really use one to boost their profile. UNC has been somewhat disappointing this year, but they have looked good lately, especially at home. So, as it normally seems to be, it’s big both on paper and off paper.
-SYRACUSE AT GEORGETOWN (Big East). This is the last time these two will meet as members of the Big East. Georgetown is in the discussion for a #1 seed. They won at Syracuse earlier this year and this would be another big win both on and off paper for them. Syracuse has a very solid profile as well. This is as much about the rivalry as it is about putting a big win on the resume.
-SAN DIEGO STATE AT BOISE STATE (Mountain West). Boise suffered a heartbreaking loss earlier in the week at UNLV. I think they’re one win away from making the NCAA Tournament. It can either come today or in the quarters of the MWC conference tourney, where they will face this same San Diego State team. Even if they lose both they have a decent shot, but one more win will lock it up.
-UAB AT MEMPHIS (Conference USA). Because the league is so weak, there really isn’t anything Memphis can do to improve their profile. I think they’re safely in unless they bomb this game and the quarterfinal game, but they aren’t likely to improve their resume much.
-FLORIDA AT KENTUCKY (SEC). I don’t think Kentucky has any chance in the world without a win today, and even if they do win it isn’t a sure thing. Florida hasn’t been the best road team, so an upset is not out of the question.
-MINNESOTA AT PURDUE (Big Ten). Purdue hasn’t had the best season, but they have looked good lately. Minnesota’s profile is good, but they haven’t been the best road team, so a win today would help their profile some.
-OLE MISS AT LSU (SEC). I think Ole Miss is too far outside the bubble. For them to have any chance at all they need to win today and have a good showing with some quality wins in the conference tournament.
-LA SALLE AT SAINT LOUIS (Atlantic Ten). I think both teams are safely in. Saint Louis is trying to win a share of the title, and La Salle is looking for a really good road win to move them further inside the bubble.
-KANSAS STATE AT OKLAHOMA STATE (Big Twelve). These two are likely protected seeds. What’s interesting is that Kansas City is a site for the rounds of 64 and 32 and both teams would benefit from being placed there, so it is an important game in that regard.
-IOWA STATE AT WEST VIRGINIA (Big Twelve). Iowa State is a bubble team that could use more road wins.
-PITTSBURGH AT DEPAUL (Big East). Nothing much to be gained here from Pitt. They just need to avoid a bad loss.
-MARQUETTE AT SAINT JOHN’S (Big East). Saint John’s is on the bubble and can play their way in, but they’ll need a big win today and some wins in the conference tournament to make that happen. Marquette is looking to get a protected seed and could use some notable road wins to cement it.
-NC STATE AT FLORIDA STATE (ACC). NC State is safely in, but they haven’t been the best road team and could improve their resume some with a win today.
-UCLA AT WASHINGTON (Pac Twelve). UCLA is safely in and can clinch a share of the Pac Twelve title with a win today.
-TEXAS A&M AT ARKANSAS (SEC). Both these teams are outside the bubble and I really don’t see either getting in, but stranger things have happened, I guess.
-NEBRASKA AT IOWA (Big Ten). Iowa is outside the bubble and a loss today would pretty much kill them.
-OREGON AT UTAH (Pac Twelve). I think Oregon is safely in, but they’re moving down the seed list and can’t afford a bad loss like this one.
-CLEMSON AT MIAMI, FL (ACC). Miami can finally clinch an outright first place finish and keep themselves in the hunt for a #1 seed with a win today.
-MISSOURI AT TENNESSEE (SEC). Missouri is in but could use a good road win. Tennessee is outside the bubble and needs to win today, as well as win some games in the conference tournament, and even that may not be enough.
-SOUTH FLORIDA AT CINCINNATI (Big East). Cincinnati is in a tailspin and needs this win. This will be a very bad loss if they don’t pick it up, and at that point they’d be in real trouble of missing the tournament entirely.
-ARIZONA STATE AT ARIZONA (Pac Twelve). Arizona State is outside the bubble, but a win in a game like this will do wonders for them. They can still play their way in, but they have a lot of work to do. Arizona won the first game easily, and that was on the road, so it wouldn’t surprise me if they didn’t have too much trouble today.
-OREGON STATE AT COLORADO (Pac Twelve). Colorado is safely in and just needs to avoid adding a bad loss to their profile.
-OKLAHOMA AT TCU (Big Twelve). Not much to be gained here for Oklahoma. They just need to avoid a damaging loss.
-FRESNO STATE AT UNLV (Mountain West). Vegas is in very good shape and is simply looking to avoid a bad loss that would hurt their seed.
-NEW MEXICO AT AIR FORCE (Mountain West). New Mexico has the profile of a #2 seed, but it wouldn’t surprise me if the committee seeded them a bit lower than that. AFA is not the easiest place to win, so they need to be on upset alert.
-KANSAS AT BAYLOR (Big Twelve). Kansas is in the hunt for a #1 seed. Baylor is outside the bubble and needs to win today to even get a serious look.
-XAVIER AT BUTLER (Atlantic Ten). Xavier has really struggled this year, but if they’re able to win today they could land just outside the bubble heading into the conference tournament. Butler hasn’t been playing well lately, and they lost to Xavier rather handily in an early season OOC game. Next year these two teams will continue to be conference rivals. Just not in the Atlantic Ten. So, it is a noteworthy game in that regard as well.
-LOUISIANA TECH AT DENVER (WAC). Both of these teams appear to be outside the bubble with little chance of getting in it without the automatic bid, but the selection of Iona makes me scratch my head a little, especially with Denver. They played a lot of road games, they’ve held serve in conference, and for the most part they’ve avoided bad losses. One of these teams could land in the First Four. It’s less likely to happen than it is to not happen, but still….