Before we get to the bracket I’m going to preview tonight’s Summit League final as well as the conference tournament in the SWAC, Southland, Big Sky, WAC and Big West.
SUMMIT LEAGUE: This was a nice three-team race to watch between finalists South Dakota St and North Dakota St along with Western Illinois. The two teams split the regular season match-up and I expect a barnburner in the third. It’s on the Jackrabbits home court so you have to give SDSU the edge.
SOUTHWESTERN ATHLETIC: Three teams are missing from this conference tournament due to APR penalties leveled against them. Two of those teams, Texas Southern and Arkansas-Pine Bluff won the regular season championship and finished tied for second respectively. That leaves the Southern Jaguars as the heavy favorites to win the SWAC.
SOUTHLAND: This is a tournament that protects its top teams from playing until the semifinals. Stephen F. Austin and Northwestern St have been impressive all season. They split the two regular season games including a one-point win by the Lumberjacks 10 days ago. I think Northwestern St gained confidence from playing them so tough though and on a neutral floor I expect the Demons to go dancing.
BIG SKY: There’s no doubt that Montana and Weber St are on a collision course. These have been the best programs in the Big Sky for a number of years and they are head and shoulders above the rest of the league. They’ll meet one more time in the finals where Montana’s home court will give them the edge.
WESTERN ATHLETIC: Louisiana Tech was running away with the league title for much of the year, but their two toughest games were in the last week. Road games at New Mexico St and Denver resulted in double digit losses for the Bulldogs – tarnishing a possible at-large resume. It’s tough to think they’ve recovered from those defeats in time for the WAC tournament and I think Denver will make its first ever trip to the Big Dance.
BIG WEST: Long Beach St by far has the most talent of any team in the Big West, but the 49ers aren’t playing their best ball. They’re coming off a 20-point beatdown at the hands of Pacific. That game was the last scheduled home game Bob Thomason is going to coach and his Tigers gave an inspired performance. I expect them to have the same inspiration as they try to get him to one last NCAA tournament. Pacific is going dancing.
On to the Bracket
Last Four In: Virginia, Boise St, Saint Mary’s, Tennessee
Last Four Out: Kentucky, Mississippi, Iowa, Middle Tennessee St
1.Indiana16.Western Kentucky(SBelt)/Long Island Dayton, OH
8.Wichita St9.San Diego St
5.Pittsburgh12.Saint Mary’s/Virginia Austin
4.Oklahoma St13.Louisiana Tech
7.Memphis10.Colorado St Philadelphia
2.Georgetown15.Florida Gulf Coast(ASun)
1.Louisville16.James Madison(CAA)/Liberty(BSouth) Lexington, KY
5.UCLA12.Tennesse/Boise St Salt Lake City
6.Creighton(MVC)11.Colorado Dayton, OH
3.Ohio St14.Stephen F. Austin
7.Butler10.Villanova Lexington, KY
1.Duke16.Norfolk St Philadelphia
5.Saint Louis12.Cincinnati San Jose
6.Syracuse11.Bucknell Auburn Hills, MI
7.UNLV10.California Kansas City
2.Kansas15.Long Beach St
1.Gonzaga(WCC)16.Southern San Jose
5.Wisconsin12.La Salle Kansas City
6.Notre Dame11.Belmont(OVC) Salt Lake City
3.New Mexico14.South Dakota St
7.North Carolina10.Oklahoma Auburn Hills, MI