Month: February 2012

More Conference Tournament Predictions

PATRIOT LEAGUE: Defending champion Bucknell was rolling along in the Patriot League until mid-February when two losses tarnished its perfect league record.  The fact that one of those loses came to second-place finisher Lehigh at home would make me extremely nervous if I were a Bison fan.  For that reason, and the fact that the Mountain Hawks have been just as good, I’m taking Lehigh to go dancing.

WEST COAST: Saint Mary’s won the league outright in a minor upset.  However the Gaels finished just one game ahead of Gonzaga and two ahead of BYU.  This will be a competitive tournament with the four teams having a legitimate shot at cutting down the nets in Las Vegas.  BYU in its first season in the WCC is used to playing in Vegas, is relatively close to Vegas and will take the matter out of the committee’s hands by winning the WCC championship.

MISSOURI VALLEY: Wichita St and Creighton has been the class of the Missouri Valley this season, but this is a tournament that has seen its fair share of upsets over the years.  That being said I find it very hard to pick against the Shockers the way they’re playing right now.  I expect them to beat a scrappy Missouri St team in the finals.

NORTHEAST: Wagner got everyone’s attention in December after it upset Pittsburgh.  The Seahawks followed that with an impressive conference record of 15-3.  The problem though is that two of those losses came at the hands of the regular season and defending tournament champion Long Island.  The Blackbirds wouldn’t have to play Wagner or Robert Morris until the finals and will play every game of the tournament at home.  I like them to repeat.

AMERICA EAST: This will be a good one.  I would not be surprised if regular season champion Stony Brook, Vermont or 2011 NCAA tournament team Boston University won this tournament.  I think Vermont is due for the win I thought they’d get last season.  The Catamounts are going dancing.

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Made of Gold

Jae Crowder
Jim Prisching/AP Marquette's Jae Crowder (32) celebrates a basket against Cincinnati during a game on Feb. 11 in Milwaukee. Marquette won 95-78.

Marquette was expected to be among the favorites in the Big East, but I’m not sure many people thought the Golden Eagles would be this good.  Their currently second in the conference with a 13-3 league record losing just one of their last 13 games.

Marquette doesn’t have a lot of size, but have two outstanding players in Jae Crowder and Darius Johnson-Odom.  These are two players that can carry the Golden Eagles in March.  Johnson-Odom, the Tobacco Road-native, is one of the best shooters in the Big East as he makes over 40 percent of his three-pointers.  Crowder is a matchup nightmare who’s physical enough to score in the paint, but can also step outside and show range on his jumper.

This team may not rebound the ball well and may be unconventional, but it’s going to play hard and defend to the best of its ability.  When you can do that with two all-Big East caliber players, you can make some noise.

No Stock Report this week as we preview some mid-major conference tournaments.

BIG SOUTH: This is pretty simple.  UNC-Asheville is the most experienced and clearly the best team in this conference.  The Bulldogs finished four games better than it’s next closest rival, Coastal Carolina.  Throw in the fact that all games would be played in Asheville and it will be extremely difficult to unseat the Bulldogs as Big South champions.

HORIZON LEAGUE: This figures to be one of the more competitive tournaments in all of college basketball.  Valparaiso won the conference outright with a 14-4 record, but showed some kinks in the armor down the stretch.  The Crusaders along with Cleveland St will be protected seeds getting byes until the semifinals, but I’m not sure that’s going to protect them.  I’m picking the Detroit Titans to find a way to dance.

OHIO VALLEY: In the games leading up to its loss to Tennessee St, Murray St did not look like an at-large candidate.  Since that loss, they’ve been playing like a team possessed.  The Racers have their mojo and motivation back and is out to prove a point.  They’ll be going dancing.

ATLANTIC SUN: At one point this season, the race for the regular season title was heated.  That was before Mercer lost three of its last four games to hand Belmont the league title.  There’s good news for Mercer though, it’s hosting the conference tournament and had Belmont on the ropes in the regular season finale.  It’s hard to beat a team three times in a season.  I don’t think Belmont can do it.  Mercer is going dancing for the first time in 27 years.

This Week’s Bracket Projections:

Last Four In: Dayton, Northwestern, Miami(FL), Texas
Last Four Out: St. Joseph’s, Colorado St, Arizona, UCF

Good for Games through 2/26

SOUTH

1.Kentucky16.Stony Brook/Savannah St Louisville

8.Memphis9.Washington

5.Indiana12.West Virginia Louisville

4.Gonzaga13.Texas/Dayton

6.Murray St11.Connecticut Albuquerque

3.Baylor14.Akron

7.Florida St10.Cincinnati Pittsburgh

2.Ohio St15.Belmont

WEST

1.Michigan St16.UNC-Asheville/Mississippi Valley St Columbus

8.Iowa St9.Saint Louis

5.Notre Dame12.Long Beach St Portland

4.Wichita St13.Drexel

6.Florida11.Miami(FL)/Northwestern Nashville

3.Georgetown14.Davidson

7.New Mexico10.California Omaha

2.Kansas15.Valparaiso

MIDWEST

1.Duke16.Bucknell Greensboro

8.Alabama9.Kansas St

5.Louisville12.Xavier Nashville

4.Wisconsin13.Iona

6.San Diego St11.Harvard Albuquerque

3.Marquette14.Nevada

7.St. Mary’s10.Virginia Omaha

2.Missouri15.UT-Arlington

EAST

1.Syracuse16.Long Island Pittsburgh

8.Purdue9.BYU

5.Temple12.Mississippi St Portland

4.UNLV13.Oral Roberts

6.Vanderbilt11.Seton Hall Columbus

3.Michigan14.Middle Tennessee St

7.Creighton10.Southern Mississippi Greensboro

2.North Carolina15.Weber St

In Graphical Form

Top 25 for the week of Feb. 27 through March 4

1. Kentucky

2. Syracuse

3. Duke

4. Michigan St

5. Kansas

6. North Carolina

7. Missouri

8. Ohio St

9. Marquette

10. Baylor

11. Georgetown

12. Michigan

13. Wichita St

14. Wisconsin

15. UNLV

16. Gonzaga

17. Florida

18. Indiana

19. Temple

20. Louisville

21. Notre Dame

22. San Diego St

23. Vanderbilt

24. Murray St

25. Creighton

Weekend Bracket 2/25-2/26

Quick Notes:

Colorado St, Seton Hall and Connecticut got huge wins this week.  The race for the last two No. 1 seeds will be a sight to behold.

Loyola Marymount is no longer an at-large candidate

Last Four In: Dayton, Northwestern, Texas, Colorado St

Last Four Out: NC State, Miami (Fl), Arizona, Marshall

SOUTH

1.Kentucky16.Stony Brook/Savannah St Louisville

8.Virginia9.Iowa St

5.Indiana12.Xavier Louisville

4.Georgetown13.Oral Roberts

6.Florida St11.Southern Mississippi Albuquerque

3.Baylor14.Davidson

7.Creighton10.West Virginia Pittsburgh

2.Ohio St15.Belmont

WEST

1.Michigan St16.UNC-Asheville/Mississippi Valley St Columbus

8.California9.Harvard

5.Gonzaga12.Colorado St/Dayton Portland

4.Notre Dame13.Drexel

6.Wisconsin11.Connecticut Nashville

3.Florida14.Middle Tennessee St

7.San Diego St10.Memphis Omaha

2.Missouri15.Long Island

MIDWEST

1.Duke16.Bucknell Greensboro

8.St. Mary’s9.Cincinnati

5.Vanderbilt12.Washington Nashville

4.Temple13.Texas/Northwestern

6.New Mexico11.Mississippi St Columbus

3.Marquette14.Akron

7.Murray St10.Seton Hall Omaha

2.Kansas15.Valparaiso

EAST

1.Syracuse16.UT-Arlington Pittsburgh

8.Saint Louis9.Purdue

5.UNLV12.Long Beach St  Portland

4.Wichita St13.Iona

6.Louisville11.BYU Albuquerque

3.Michigan14.Nevada

7.Kansas St10.Alabama Greensboro

2.North Carolina15.Weber St

In Graphical Form

Bubble Boys

Ethan Hyman -Raleigh & Observer Former Wolfpack basketball players Tom Gugliotta, center, and Chris Corchiani, center right, are removed from the stands with 6 minutes, 40 seconds left in N.C. State's 76-62 loss to Florida State on Saturday.

Today we’re going to examine the resumes of several teams on the bubble.  Central Florida, Colorado St, Connecticut, Loyola Marymount, Miami(FL), NC State, Northwestern, Seton Hall, St. Joseph’s, Texas, Washington, Xavier

Central Florida

RPI: 56

Record: 19-7 (8-4 Conference-USA)

Key Wins: Connecticut, Memphis

Key Losses: Louisiana-Lafayette, Tulsa

Outlook: UCF is just 2-4 against Memphis, Southern Miss, Tulsa and Marshall – the other top teams in Conference USA.  Still has a road game at Memphis but will probably need to get to at-least the Conference USA title game to feel good about their chances.

Colorado St

RPI: 29

Record: 16-9 (5-5 Mountain West)

Key Wins: Colorado, Denver, Wyoming, San Diego St

Key Losses: TCU, Boise St

Outlook: The Rams still have a road game at San Diego St sandwiched between home games against New Mexico and UNLV so the opportunity to make a jump is there.  It’ll be difficult, but if the Rams can go 3-1 in their last four and get to the semi-finals of the Mountain West tournament then that will probably be enough for a bid.

Connecticut

RPI: 24

Record: 16-10 (6-8 Big East)

Key Wins: Florida St, Harvard, West Virginia, Notre Dame, Seton Hall

Key Losses: Rutgers, Tennessee

Outlook: The Huskies will have one of the top two or three strength of schedules in the country.  Despite the issue that have plagued them, they have a favorable schedule down the stretch.  A split in their last four and a visit to the quarters will get them to the Big Dance.

Loyola Marymount

RPI: 86

Record: 18-10 (10-4 West Coast)

Key Wins: Saint Louis, BYU, Saint Mary’s

Key Losses: Columbia, North Texas, Morgan St

Outlook: The Lions’ wins over Saint Louis, BYU and Saint Mary’s are better than any wins many of the teams on this list will have.  Those losses to Columbia, North Texas and Morgan St give severe pause though.  May have to win the West Coast Conference tournament to get in, if they get to final they’ll be seriously considered.

Miami (FL)

RPI: 44

Record: 16-9 (7-5 ACC)

Key Wins: Massachusetts, Duke

Key Losses: None

Outlook: Miami has just one quality win, but a win in Cameron carries a lot of weight.  The Hurricanes have a pretty solid strength of schedule, but are just 1-6 against the top 50.  They go to Maryland followed by a home game against Florida St and a road game at NC State.  Their margin of error is extremely slim.

NC State

RPI: 59

Record: 18-9 (7-5 ACC)

Key Wins: Texas, Miami (FL)

Key Losses: Stanford, Georgia Tech

Outlook: NC State had the worst week ever last week.  The Wolfpack lost a game it had won at Duke and then lost at home to Florida St where two of it’s legends were kicked out of the arena.  Win those two games and they’re not even on this list.  NC State has North Carolina and Miami at home coming up.  The opportunity to solidify a tournament berth is still available.

Northwestern

RPI: 37

Record: 16-10 (6-8 Big Ten)

Key Wins: LSU, Seton Hall, Michigan St, Illinois, Minnesota

Key Losses: None

Outlook: The Wildcats have never gone to the NCAA tournament before, but that all can change this season.  They have Michigan and Ohio St at home along with trips to Penn St and Iowa.  4-0 definitely, 3-1 probably, 2-2 and they better get to the Big Ten tournament semifinals.

Seton Hall

RPI: 34

Record: 18-9 (7-8)

Key Wins: Virginia Commonwealth, Dayton, West Virginia, Connecticut, Pittsburgh

Key Losses: Villanova

Outlook: Solid Strength of schedule, but still has a lot of work to do.  The Pirates have Georgetown at home this week and that will go a long way.  Remaining games versus Rutgers and Depaul are more can’t lose than must wins.  If Seton Hall goes 2-1, one of those two needs to be against Georgetown.

St. Joseph’s

RPI: 46

Record: 18-10 (8-5 Atlantic-10)

Key Wins: Drexel, Creighton, Duquesne, Dayton, LaSalle, Massachusetts

Key Losses: American, Charlotte, Penn

Outlook: The Hawks are benefitting from a weak bubble.  They’re currently 0-3 against Temple, Saint Louis and Xavier, which makes their game against Temple on Saturday uber-important.  They lose that game and they’re probably looking at winning the Atlantic-10 tournament to get in.

Texas

RPI: 51

Record: 17-10 (7-7 Big 12)

Key Wins: Temple, Oklahoma St, Iowa St, Kansas St

Key Losses: Oregon St

Outlook: The Longhorns host Baylor tonight and close the season at Kansas.  They have four games remaining and I thing going 3-1 in those games will get them in.  Under no circumstances can they lose to Texas Tech or Oklahoma.

Washington

RPI: 57

Record: 19-8 (12-3 Pac-12)

Key Wins: Oregon, Arizona (2)

Key Losses: None

Outlook: Washington is going to  have to finish at least tied for the Pac-12 regular season title and make it to the championship game to get an at-large berth.  Whether the committee wants to admit it or not; winning the regular season title of a power six conference carries weight.

Xavier

RPI: 54

Record: 17-9 (8-4 Atlantic-10)

Key Wins: Vanderbilt, Purdue, Cincinnati, Duquesne, St. Josephs, Dayton

Key Losses: Hawaii

Outlook: While the Musketeers haven’t been playing as well as they had been before the brawl, they still have the same roster.  That means this team is still capable of winning big games.  One of the best resumes on this list and may have a larger margin for error than other team seen here.  Still, I’d go 3-1 down the stretch if I were Xavier.

This Week’s Bracket Projections:

Last Four In: St. Josephs, Connecticut, Miami (FL), Seton Hall
Last Four Out: UCF, NC State, Colorado St, Illinois

Good for games through of 2/19

SOUTH

1.Kentucky16.Vermont/Savannah St Louisville

8.Virginia9.St. Mary’s

5.Louisville12.Northwestern Albuquerque

4.Baylor13.Oral Roberts

6.UNLV11.Mississippi St Columbus

3.Georgetown14.Davidson

7.Creighton10.Memphis Pittsburgh

2.Ohio St15.Belmont

WEST

1.Duke16.UNC-Asheville/Mississippi Valley St Greensboro

8.Saint Louis9.Harvard

5.Wisconsin12.Texas Albuquerque

4.Notre Dame13.Drexel

6.Indiana11.Seton Hall/Miami(FL) Nashville

3.Florida14.Middle Tennessee St

7.California10.Southern Mississippi Omaha

2.Kansas15.Long Island

MIDWEST

1.Missouri16.Bucknell Omaha

8.West Virginia9.Purdue

5.Florida St12.Washington Nashville

4.Temple13.Iona

6.Gonzaga11.Alabama Portland

3.Marquette14.Nevada

7.San Diego St10.Iowa St Columbus

2.Michigan St15.Valparaiso

EAST

1.Syracuse16.UT-Arlington Pittsburgh

8.Kansas St9.BYU

5.New Mexico12.Long Beach St Portland

4.Wichita St13.Connecticut/St. Josephs

6.Vanderbilt11.Xavier  Louisville

3.Michigan14.Akron

7.Murray St10.Cincinnati Greensboro

2.North Carolina15.Weber St

In Graphical Form

Top 25 for the week of Feb 20-Feb 26

1. Kentucky

2. Syracuse

3. Missouri

4. Duke

5. Kansas

6. Michigan St

7. Ohio St

8. North Carolina

9. Georgetown

10. Michigan

11. Marquette

12. Florida

13. Temple

14. Notre Dame

15. Wichita St

16. Baylor

17. Louisville

18. New Mexico

19. Florida St

20. Vanderbilt

21. Wisconsin

22. Gonzaga

23. UNLV

24. Indiana

25. Creighton

Weekend Bracket 2/18-2/19

Quick Notes:

I can’t remember when BracketBuster games were more important.  Saint Mary’s vs. Murray St is probably the marquee matchup as both teams badly need to win.  I can say the same about Creighton, but Long Beach St may solidify an at-large berth with a win.  CAA can make a big move as a conference with a good weekend.

Watch Loyola Marymount as a potential at-large candidate

Last Four In: Northwestern, Miami(FL), Illinois, NC State

Last Four Out: Minnesota, Washington, UCF, St. Josephs

SOUTH

1.Kentucky16.Vermont/Savannah St Louisville

8.Purdue9.West Virginia

5.Wichita St12.Kansas St Nashville

4.Temple13.Middle Tennessee St

6.San Diego St11.Seton Hall Portland

3.Michigan14.Belmont

7.St. Mary’s10.Iowa St Greensboro

2.North Carolina15.Valparaiso

WEST

1.Ohio St16.Long Island Pittsburgh

8.Saint Louis9.Virginia

5.UNLV12.Alabama Albuquerque

4.Notre Dame13.Long Beach St

6.Vanderbilt11.Illinois/Miami(FL) Columbus

3.Georgetown14.Iona

7.Memphis10.Harvard Omaha

2.Kansas15.Bucknell

MIDWEST

1.Missouri16.UNC-Asheville/Mississippi Valley St Omaha

8.California9.Southern Miss

5.Louisville12.NC State/Northwestern Portland

4.Gonzaga13.Nevada

6.Florida St11.Texas Louisville

3.Marquette14.Akron

7.Creighton10.Cincinnati Columbus

2.Michigan St15.Weber St

EAST

1.Syracuse16.UT-Arlington Pittsburgh

8.Murray St9.BYU

5.Indiana12.Xavier Nashville

4.Florida13.Oral Roberts

6.Wisconsin11.Connecticut Albuquerque

3.Baylor14.Davidson

7.New Mexico10.Mississippi St Greensboro

2.Duke15.Drexel

In Graphical Form