For the next couple of days, I’ll be giving previews/prediction of mid-major conference tournaments. Today we’re going to begin with the big South, Ohio Valley, Horizon League, and the Atlantic Sun.
Big South: This is a conference that I’ve been watching all season long. There’s VMI whom opened the season with a win at Kentucky and then led the country in scoring. Watching how perennial Big South powerhouse Winthrop handled a rebuilding year. Then there’s Seth Curry at Liberty who can score just like his big brother. With that in mind, how did Radford win the regular season crown? The Highlanders were consistent throughout league play and were far and away the best team in the league. I expect the Highlanders to cruise to the finals next Saturday where they’ll play Liberty. Unfortunately for Radford, I’m not betting against a Curry in a tournament setting. Seth can put the Flames on his back just as Stephen can. Liberty is going back to the Big Dance.
Ohio Valley: Austin Peay, Eastern Kentucky, and Murray St are knocking on the door. That should come as no surprise as these three schools have collected all of the OVC’s automatic bids since 2001. These teams all have a win over the OVC’s regular season champion, Tennessee-Martin. The Skyhawks’ Lester Hudson is among the nation’s leaders in scoring and is a leading candidate for OVC Player of the Year. Can he lead them to a trip to the NCAA Tournament. I believe he will and he’ll do it in spectacular fashion.
Horizon League: They’re praying in College Station, TX. They’re praying in Ann Arbor, MI. They’re praying in Providence, RI. They’re praying that Butler cuts the nets down in Indianapolis next Tuesday. The Bulldogs nowhere near untouchable. They’ve lost three games in conference and have been pushed to the limit twice by Cleveland State. I expect to see Butler in the finals along with Wisconsin-Green Bay, a team that caused one of the three conference losses Butler has suffered. The Phoenix will have the Bulldogs un-divided attention and Butler will repeat as conference tournament champs.
Atlantic Sun: Jacksonville wins the Atlantic Sun regular season crown and it’s reward in the semi-finals of the A-Sun tournament could be Lipscomb, the tournament’s host. Such is life for the Dolphins, but I guarantee you they’ll take the situation they’re in right now. I think it’s going to be very difficult for Jacksonville to navigate through a tournament, played in Nashville, when the 2-4 seeds are all from the state of Tennessee. The #3 seed, Belmont has been here and has done this. The Bruins will do it again. They’ll be a dangerous #16 seed in the tournament too.
This week’s Bracket Projections:
Last Four In: Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, Miami(FL)
Last Four Out: Florida, St. Mary’s, Virginia Tech, Providence
1.Connecticut16.Cal St Northridge Philadelphia, PA
5.Clemson12.Utah St Portland, OR
6.Marquette11.Michigan Philadelphia, PA
7.BYU10.Arizona Kansas City, MO
1.Oklahoma16.Cornell Kansas City, MO
8.Boston College9.South Carolina
5.Illinois12.Davidson Miami, FL
6.Gonzaga11.Penn St Portland, OR
7.West Virginia10.Dayton Greensboro, NC
1.Pittsburgh16.Tenn-Martin/Alabama St Dayton, OH
5.Utah12.Maryland Boise, ID
6.California11.Miami(FL) Miami, FL
3.LSU14.Stephen F. Austin
7.Butler10.Oklahoma St Minneapolis, MN
2.Michigan St15.Morgan St
1.North Carolina16.Jacksonville Greensboro, NC
5.UCLA12.Kentucky Boise, ID
6.Florida St11.UNLV Minneapolis, MN
3.Kansas14.North Dakota St
7.Arizona St10.Ohio St Dayton, OH