Tag: Colonial Athletic Association

More Conference Tournament Previews

AMERICA EAST: Albany was by far the most dominant team in the league this season. The Great Danes didn’t lose their first conference game until Feb. 17. With all games being at campus sites its going to take a lot to keep Albany from repeating.

MISSOURI VALLEY: This certainly was a top heavy league this year as Wichita St and Northern Iowa ran away and hid from the rest of the conference. That’s why it is expected that those will be the two teams playing for the championship on Sunday. In the rubber match, expect Wichita St, the team with the superior experience and talent, to cut down the nets.

METRO ATLANTIC ATHLETIC: A loss on the last day of the regular season is the only thing that kept Iona from winning the league by three games. The Gaels’ misstep doesn’t scare me too much as they’ve been to the tournament recently and will be tough prep on short rest. The tournament will be competitive as always, but expect Iona to go dancing.

SOUTHERN: As good as Wofford has been over the course of the year, Chattanooga has been right there all along. The two squads were far and away the class of this conference and appear to be on a collision course for a Monday night showdown. The teams won on each other’s home floor so this creates a bit of intrigue. Wofford is the favorite here, but not by much.

COLONIAL: The regular season in the CAA finished in a four-way tie for first place. If there’s anyone out there who’ll tell you they have this league pegged than than call that person’s bluff. On a true neutral court in Baltimore anything can happen. Given the disappointment from last season and performing well against the other top teams in the league, I’m going with William & Mary.

WEST COAST: There may be many people wondering if there’s a major kink in the armor of Gonzaga after losing to BYU in it’s last regular season home game. I am not one of those people. BYU played fantastic and could very well be a tournament team itself, but Gonzaga is one of the best teams in the country and it’ll have motivation. The Zags will win in Vegas.

SUMMIT: South Dakota St and North Dakota St went back and forth this season vying for the Summit League’s No. 1 spot. At the end of the day, both teams finished with 12-4 records with South Dakota St winning the tiebreaker. Playing the tournament in the state of South Dakota gives the Jackrabbits a bit of a chance. Despite that, there’s a team on their side of bracket who’s beaten them and is even closer to the site where the tournament will be played. That’s the South Dakota Coyotes and they’re my upset pick to win the Summit League.

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More Conference Tournament Previews

MISSOURI VALLEY: Who are we fooling here?  There’s only one real choice and that’s Wichita St.  The  Shockers are the nation’s lone undefeated team and there’s nothing that says they’ll lose in St. Louis this week.  Out of 18 conference games, only three were decided by single-digits.  On a neutral floor, this is the Shockers’ tournament to lose.

WEST COAST: This should be one of the more intriguing tournaments early in championship week.  The WCC has gone back to a traditional bracket and away from a system that protected the top two seeds until the semifinals.  That evens the playing field with no one team having a real advantage in Vegas.  With four teams in the top-70 of the RPI, this will be a fun tournament to watch.  I expect BYU to be up to the challenge and go to the Big Dance.

COLONIAL ATHLETIC ASSOCIATION: This should be another barnburner of a tournament.  The CAA has held its tournament in Richmond since the beginning of time, but since many of it’s heavy-hitting Virginia teams have left the league, the conference decided to move the tournament to Baltimore.  At one point it looked like Delaware would run the table, but they’ve lost a couple down the stretch.  One of those losses was to Towson – a team that finished a game behind Delaware and should have plenty of fans in attendance.  I expect the Tigers to ride that advantage and Jerrelle Benimon to the NCAA tournament.

METRO ATLANTIC ATHLETIC: This is a league filled with teams that are fun to watch.  However there is one team that seems to stay in the upper echelon of the league year after year.  Iona won the regular season title outright this year and seems poised to return to the Big Dance.  It would be their third consecutive trip.  The Gaels will get strong challenges from Manhattan, Quinnipiac, and Canisius, but they’re up-and-down style of play should propel them this week.

SOUTHERN: On it’s way out of the conference, Davidson decided to let the SoCon know just what it’ll be missing next season.  The Wildcats ran away with the regular season title with a 15-1 record.  They are the class of league and it’ll be sad to see them in the Atlantic 10 next season.  For this season though, the Wildcats will remind everyone why they were the dominant team in the league.

The Long Wait (Welcome Creighton, Liberty)

Middle Tennessee St’s Shawn Jones

It’s going to be a long agonizing week for the Middle Tennessee St Blue Raiders after their upset loss at the hands of Florida International in the Sun Belt Conference semi-finals (more on this later).  They were dominant in the regular season winning all but one conference games, but March is cruel as the Blue Raiders know all too well.

Last year they bowed out of the conference tournament in the quarterfinals after being the No. 1 seed as they lost to Arkansas St.  They didn’t get in last season and their prospects are grim for this season.  While they played a top-20 non-conference schedule they only have two top-100 wins and no top-50.  The committee may reward them for challenging themselves out of conference, but it’s unlikely.

You feel bad for the Blue Raiders, but March is cruel and unusual punishment for a team of their kind.  The punishment this week will be waiting.

We have some conference tournament finals that I didn’t get a chance to preview so here’s some predictions for some of tonight’s finals.

COLONIAL ATHLETIC ASSOCIATION: Sundays two semi-finals had fantastic finishes so both teams may be spent emotionally.  Northeastern came from 24 down to beat George Mason while James Madison had some fortunate calls to preserve victory over Delaware.  It’s going to be hard for the Huskies to beat a Virginia school in Richmond though and I expect the Dukes to go dancing for the first time since 1994.

SUN BELT: Neither Florida International nor Western Kentucky is supposed to be here.  It’s the second year in a row the Hilltoppers shocked the world to reach the final while Richard Pitino has turned around Florida International in one year after Isaiah Thomas screwed that job up too.  The Golden Panthers are a nice story, but the Hilltoppers are used to this and will go dancing again.

SOUTHERN: I watched Davidson go to Charleston earlier this season and put a beat down on the Cougars earlier this season.  The margin may be closer, but the result will be the same.  The gold standard of SoCon basketball is going dancing again.

METRO ATLANTIC ATHLETIC: Here is another tournament where the teams playing weren’t expected to be here.  Iona is a solid program and has proven it can hang with good competition this season.  Manhattan, on the other hand, is the beneficiary of getting to play the No. 7 seed in the semifinals.  Iona has endured its share of heartbreak in this tournament the past few years, the Gaels will get the job done this time around.

We all so have some other tournaments getting started today.

MID-EASTERN ATHLETIC: It’s been an unusual year in the MEAC where two teams have been way ahead of the pack.  Last year’s NCAA tournament darling Norfolk St finished undefeated in league play and North Carolina Central finished with only one loss.  That loss didn’t come at the hands of the Spartans because the two didn’t play.  They will in the title game and the Spartans will repeat.

MID-AMERICAN: Akron was threatening to run away with this league and was possibly heading towards locking up an at-large bid.  Then came a surprising loss at Buffalo and the suspension of point guard Alex Abreu.  Those unfortunate series of events leave the Ohio Bobcats as the clear favorites to repeat as MAC champions and go to the big dance.

On to the Bracket:

Good for Games played thru 3/10

Last Four In: Virginia, Boise St, Tennessee, La Salle

Last Four Out: Kentucky, Mississippi, Iowa, Middle Tennessee St

MIDWEST

1.Indiana16.Florida International/Long Island  Dayton, OH

8.Wichita St9.San Diego St

5.Pittsburgh12.Bucknell Austin

4.Oklahoma St13.Louisiana Tech

6.VCU11.Minnesota Austin

3.Florida14.Valparaiso

7.Memphis10.Colorado St Philadelphia

2.Georgetown15.Florida Gulf Coast(ASun)

SOUTH

1.Louisville16.Southern/Liberty(BSouth)  Lexington, KY

8.NC State9.Temple

5.UCLA12.Tennesse/Boise St Salt Lake City

4.Kansas St13.Davidson

6.Creighton(MVC)11.Colorado Dayton, OH

3.Ohio St14.Stephen F. Austin

7.Butler10.Villanova Lexington, KY

2.Miami(FL)15.Iona

EAST

1.Duke16.Norfolk St Philadelphia

8.Iowa St9.Illinois

5.Saint Louis12.Cincinnati San Jose

4.Arizona13.Harvard(Ivy)

6.Syracuse11.Saint Mary’s Auburn Hills, MI

3.Michigan14.Vermont

7.UNLV10.California Kansas City

2.Kansas15.Long Beach St

WEST

1.Gonzaga16.Northeastern San Jose

8.Oregon9.Missouri

5.Wisconsin12.La Salle/Virginia Kansas City

4.Marquette13.Akron

6.Notre Dame11.Belmont(OVCSalt Lake City

3.New Mexico14.South Dakota St

7.North Carolina10.Oklahoma Auburn Hills, MI

2.Michigan St15.Montana

Conference Tournament Predictions Continued

METRO ATLANTIC ATHLETIC: Iona has been on my radar since I watch it go blow-for-blow with Purdue in November.  This team can flatout score.  This is one of the most dangerous mid-majors in the country as it has three pros on the roster.  That being said, the Gaels don’t really care to much to play defense and that’s why a team like Loyola is a real threat.  Despite that, I don’t think Iona will be denied this year.

COLONIAL ATHLETIC ASSOCIATION: Up until mid-February, people were talking about the down year in the CAA.  Then came Bracketbusters where the CAA once again flexed its mid-major muscle.  Drexel, Virginia Commonwealth, George Mason and Old Dominion all scored big wins leading many pundits to say this is a multi-bid league again.  I’m not so sure of that but I do know that Drexel and VCU will play a classic championship game.  That game will be won by Drexel.

SOUTHERN: Davidson served notice to the nation earlier this season when it beat Kansas.  It followed that impressive win up with a 16-2 league record.  The Wildcats have a solid RPI and is far and away the best team in this league, but I don’t have a good feeling about them winning the conference championship.  There’s one team though, which has been knocking on the door and that’s the College of Charleston.  The Cougars have won six of their last seven and they’ll carry that momentum into a SoCon championship.

SUN BELT: Middle Tennessee St put the nation on notice when it took UCLA apart in November.  With only five losses, the Blue Raiders have done that to most of their opponents this season.  This team is the class of the Sun Belt and, with the exception of Denver, has no peer.  The Blue Raiders are going dancing.

SUMMIT LEAGUE: You’re 17-1 in league play and one of the best mid-majors in the nation.  How are you rewarded – by playing the conference tournament on the homecourt of the second place team in the conference.  That’s what Oral Roberts’ dilemma is as it prepares for the conference tournament hosted by South Dakota St.  That South Dakota St team is responsible for Oral Roberts lone conference loss.  On March 6, it’ll be responsible for Oral Roberts’ second conference loss.

BIG SKY: Weber St and Montana went toe-to-toe all season long in a conference race that wasn’t decided until the last game of the regular season.  That game determined where the conference tournament would be played.  Unfortunately for Weber St, they’re going to have to go through the regular season champion Montana on its home court.  Not likely.  The Grizzlies are going to the NCAA tournament.

Dragon’s Lair

Image
Drexel hopes to celebrate in Richmond in early March

Will this be the year?  Will this be the year a team other than one from Virginia wins the Colonial Athletic Association.  If the Drexel Dragons have anything to say about it, it will.

It’s been six years since UNC-Wilmington won the regular season title in the CAA.  That’s six long years for the rest of the league as George Mason, Virginia Commonwealth and Old Dominion have dominated the league.  In that span, Mason and VCU have gone to Final Fours and Old Dominion has gone to the NIT semifinals in addition to winning a first-round tournament game.

This year may be different though.  Drexel is currently in a three-way tie for first with Mason and VCU, but it has beaten both teams and has lost only one time in is last 18 games.

The Dragons are hot and only have one game remaining against a team with more than three conference wins remaining.  They’re in prime position to win the CAA title.

Stock Up: Travon Woodall.  He’s made such a difference for the Panthers since returning from injury.  This team looked completely lost without him and now look like one of the best teams in the Big East.  If the tournament began today I don’t think Pitt would be in it, but I’m willing to bet money we’ll see Pitt in the Big Dance and that’s all due to Woodall.

Stock Down: Connecticut.  I’ve never seen this before out of a UCONN team.  The Huskies have had some down years, but what’s going on right now is downright embarrassing.  As I write this, Louisville is currently beating them as if the Cardinals are the Dream Team and the Huskies are Angola.  I’m pretty shocked.

Stock Up: Southern Miss Golden Eagles.  The school that Brett Favre built is having quite a season.  The Eagles are sitting at 20-3 and are atop the Conference-USA standings.  They’ve achieved a season split with Memphis have beaten title contenders Marshall and UCF.  They have a favorable schedule down the stretch and can solidify an at-large bid.

Stock Down: Duke’s Homecourt Advantage. First reports surface that student demand for tickets at Cameron Indoor Stadium isn’t as high as it’s been in the past.  Then the Blue Devils go out and lose to Florida St and Miami.  Not the Heat, the “U.”  Obviously this says more about Duke than it does about Cameron, but it’s definitely surprising to see.

This Week’s Bracket Projections:

Last Four In: California, Minnesota, Wyoming, UCF
Last Four Out: Colorado St, NC State, Arkansas, Northern Iowa

Good for games through of 2/5

SOUTH

1.Kentucky16.UNC-Asheville/Norfolk St Louisville

8.Southern Miss9.Iowa St

5.Temple12.Minnesota/Wyoming Columbus

4.Marquette13.Long Beach St

6.Gonzaga11.New Mexico Nashville

3.Florida St14.Akron

7.Michigan10.Connecticut Omaha

2.Kansas15.Belmont

WEST

1.Missouri16.Stony Brook/Mississippi Valley St Omaha

8.Virginia9.Illinois

5.Louisville12.Saint Louis Albuquerque

4.UNLV13.Middle Tennessee St

6.Wisconsin11.BYU Louisville

3.Georgetown14.Oral Roberts

7.Harvard10.Alabama Greensboro

2.North Carolina15.Bucknell

EAST

1.Syracuse16.Long Island Pittsburgh

8.Wichita St9.Washington

5.Mississippi St12.Purdue Portland

4.St. Mary’s13.Cleveland St

6.Vanderbilt11.Miami(FL) Columbus

3.Michigan St14.Davidson

7.West Virginia10.Memphis Albuquerque

2.Baylor15.Weber St

MIDWEST

1.Ohio St16.UT-Arlington Pittsburgh

8.Notre Dame9.Kansas St

5.San Diego St12.California/UCF Portland

4.Creighton13.Iona

6.Murray St11.Xavier Nashville

3.Florida14.Nevada

7.Indiana10.Cincinnati Greensboro

2.Duke15.Drexel

In Graphical Form

M…I…Z…Z…O…U

Missouri ‘s Marcus Denmon prepares to pass as Baylor ‘s Perry Jones III defends beneath the basket during the first half of a game that matched the No. 5 Tigers against the No. 3 Bears. Tony Gutierrez/The Associated Press

In a year where it appears that the Big XII has three great teams, the best of the three may be the team on its way out.  The Missouri Tigers are rolling along with only one loss this season and is doing by leaning on its their guard play.

Leading the way for the Tigers is All-American candidate Marcus Denmon who’s averaging over 17 points per game, but he’s getting plenty of help.  Running the point for them is one of the most athletic little guys in the country, Phil “Flip” Pressey with Kim English and Michael Dixon also giving the Tigers help in the backcourt and on the wing.

Missouri can beat you in the paint as well now. Ricardo Ratliffe went toe-to-toe with Baylor’s imposing frontcourt and emerged with 27 points and 8 rebounds in it’s 89-88 win over the Bears on Jan. 21.

The Tigers still have plenty of work to do this season, including another match-up against Baylor and two against Kansas.  However, they look like they’re hear for the long haul.

Stock Up: Big Ten Conference.  The Big Ten looks primed to get close to 75 percent of it’s teams in the NCAA tournament.  That it is an amazing feat.  There are no gimmes in the league this year showing how deep it is from top-to-bottom.  Ohio St looks to be the class of the league, but there’s about seven teams in this conference that can beat anybody on any given night.

Stock Down: Colonial Athletic Association.  It was all good just a year ago.  The CAA got three NCAA tournament bids and VCU fought its way to the Final Four.  That will not happen this year.  The winner of the CAA will be fortunate to be a 13/14 seed.  College basketball is cyclical and every league will have a down year, but the sudden fall for the Colonial has been surprising.

Stock Up: Doug McDermott.  He’s not getting publicity like Jimmer Fredette, but McDermott is putting up huge numbers for the Creighton Blue Jays.  McDermott is averaging 23 points and over eight rebounds a game.  He’s a definite All-American candidate and has Creighton fans thinking back to the days of Kyle Korver.  The scariest thing about McDermott is that he’s a sophomore too.

Stock Down: Syracuse University Athletic Department.  Your team is having a great year and great years should be celebrated…when they’re over.  Someone in Upstate New York thought it was wise to sell “No. 1” and “20-0” t-shirts.  Right now the Orange is neither.  Let’s act like we’ve been there before fellas.

This Week’s Bracket Projections:

Last Four In: BYU, Marshall, NC State, Mississippi
Last Four Out: New Mexico, Colorado St, St. Louis, Wyoming

Good for Games through 1/22

SOUTH

1.Kentucky16.Texas-Arlington/Boston U        Louisville

8.Connecticut9.Southern Mississippi

5.Indiana12.NC State/BYU                     Portland

4.San Diego St13.Middle Tennessee St

6.Wisconsin11.Oregon         Columbus

3.Georgetown14.Valparaiso

7.Murray St10.Xavier          Albuquerque

2.Baylor15.Belmont

WEST

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

8.Illinois9.Dayton

5.St. Mary’s12.Mississippi/Marshall          Nashville

4.Marquette13.Davidson

6.Cincinnati11.Alabama             Louisville

3.Creighton14.Long Beach St

7.Michigan10.UCF             Greensboro

2.North Carolina15.Norfolk St

EAST

1.Syracuse16.Weber St              Pittsburgh

8.Kansas St9.Temple

5.Gonzaga12.Northwestern                Portland

4.Vanderbilt13.Oral Roberts

6.West Virginia11.Arkansas            Columbus

3.Michigan St14.Nevada

7.Harvard10.California       Greensboro

2.Duke15.Long Island

MIDWEST

1.Ohio St16.Bucknell              Pittsburgh

8.Louisville9.Wichita St

5.Florida St12.Memphis                      Nashville

4.Mississippi St13.Iona

6.Florida11.Purdue           Albuquerque

3.UNLV14.Akron

7.Virginia10.Seton Hall          Omaha

2.Kansas15.George Mason

In Graphical Form

It’s March and Your Seed Will Not Save You (Welcome Indiana St)

VCU's Brandon Rozzell sinks a three-pointer in the first half against Vertrail Vaughns (11) and George Mason, which is 26-6 but not assured an NCAA bid. (John Mcdonnell/Washington Post)

Yesterday, all hell broke loose on the mid-major level. Number 1 seeds in the Colonial, Missouri Valley, Metro Atlantic Athletic, America East, and Sun Belt all lost.

In addition to that; College of Charleston had to come back from a double-digit second half deficit and Bucknell won with the aid of a no call to stave off disaster.

I say all of this to prove that’s its March and no one is safe. Not on the mid-major level. Not on the high-major level. Even Purdue lost to lowly Iowa on Saturday.

A lot of people, this time of the year, get extremely concerned with seeding, but that’s not nearly as important as playing well. Kansas was the No. 1 overall seed in the tournament last year and look how much that helped the Jayhawks in bowing out early in the Big Dance.

I know being a No. 1 seed is good and is helpful, but playing well helps even more. Last season, Butler and Michigan St both got to the Final Four as No. 5 seeds. The name of the game is not getting a high seed. It’s winning.

More Conference Tournament Previews:

MID-AMERICAN CONFERENCE: This was once again a sub par year in the MAC as failed to cracked the top-15 in Conference RPI. In fact, it sits at 20 with conferences such as the Northeast, Atlantic Sun and Ivy in front of it. Due to that fact, it’ll be another one-bid year for the conference, which magnifies the importance of the conference tournament. Kent St won the regular season title, but it was just by one game over Miami (Oh) and Western Michigan. Despite the one-game difference, I do expect the Golden Flashes to make it to the title game and reclaim the MAC championship.

SOUTHLAND: The Southland Conference has had some really good showings in the NCAA tournament in the past five years, but this doesn’t look like a year where that’s going to be the case. In fact, the winner of this tournament may be relegated to Dayton to play in one of the “First Four” games. McNeese St won the regular season title, but the difference between first and eighth place in this league is just three games. It’s going to be terribly difficult for the Cowboys to navigate this tournament successfully. Mike McConathy is the best tournament coach in this league and I expect him to lead his Northwestern St. ball club back to the NCAA tournament.

SOUTHWESTERN ATHLETIC: The SWAC has needed one team to be head and shoulders above the rest of the league and that’s exactly what happened this season. Texas Southern was on auto-pilot for most of the conference season finishing with a four-game cushion for the league title. The Tigers should enjoy the same kind of success in the conference tournament. I expect Texas Southern to dance.

BIG WEST: Long Beach St has had no peer in the Big West this season, running away with the conference title. In fact, outside of a minor blip at the end of January, the 49ers have been downright dominant in the 2011 calendar year. This team has won 15 of its last 17 with ten of those wins coming by double figures. There is no reason to believe that Long Beach St is going to forget how to win. The 49ers are the pick to win the Big West.

Today’s Bracket Projections:

Last Four In: Memphis, Colorado, Butler, Richmond
Last Four Out: Michigan, Virginia Commonwealth, Clemson, USC

Good for Games through 3/6

EAST
1.Ohio St16.McNeese St/Bethune-Cookman Cleveland
8.Villanova9.Gonzaga
5.Texas A&M12.Harvard Tampa
4.Kentucky13.Wisconsin-Milwaukee
6.Temple11.Georgia Washington, D.C.
3.Syracuse14.Kent St
7.Cincinnati10.Boston College Tulsa
2.Texas15.Bucknell
WEST
1.Duke16.Boston U Charlotte
8.Vanderbilt9.George Mason
5.St. John’s12.Butler/Colorado Washington, D.C.
4.Wisconsin13.Oakland
6.Georgetown11.Washington Denver
3.BYU14.Indiana St(MVC)
7.Tennessee10.UAB Chicago
2.Notre Dame15.Northern Colorado
SOUTHEAST
1.Pittsburgh16.UNC-Asheville(BSouth) Cleveland
8.Utah St9.Illinois
5.Kansas St12.Richmond/Memphis Tucson
4.San Diego St13.Belmont(ASun)
6.Connecticut11.Michigan St Tampa
3.Florida14.Charleston
7.UCLA10.Missouri Charlotte
2.North Carolina15.Long Island
SOUTHWEST
1.Kansas16.Texas Southern/Middle Tennessee St Tulsa
8.Old Dominion9.Marquette
5.West Virginia12.St. Mary’s Tucson
4.Xavier13.Iona
6.Arizona11.Florida St Denver
3.Louisville14.Morehead St(OVC)
7.UNLV10.Alabama Chicago
2.Purdue15.Long Beach St

In Graphical Form