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.

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More Conference Tournament Previews

PATRIOT LEAGUE: Bucknell and American are way ahead of the pack in this league. Bucknell ran through Patriot League competition with only one loss and American only three. Too bad for the Eagles, two of those losses came from the Bison. Nothing really to say here, but to expect part three with Bucknell winning again.

MISSOURI VALLEY: I’m used to seeing multiple bids come from this league, but the trend of it being one-bid the past few seasons has to be troubling for commissioner Doug Elgin. Despite this, there are still teams in this conference who can win a game in the NCAA tournament. The Missouri St. Bears finished in first with the Wichita St. Shockers one game behind. The two teams were the most consistent all year and appear to be on a collision course. In round three, expect the Shockers to come out on top.

NORTHEAST: Long Island’s uptempo style has led it to an impressive 16-2 league record. In fact, the Blackbirds have only loss once in the 2011 calendar year. Given the fact that this tournament is played entirely on home courts give them an extra advantage. The Blackbirds should expect a challenge from the tournament-tested Robert Morris Colonials, but this team is head and shoulders above the rest of the league and will make their way to the NCAA tournament.

COLONIAL ATHLETIC ASSOCIATION:
This one should be interesting. After back-to-back losses to Hofstra and Old Dominion, George Mason ran off 15 wins in-a-row to put a stamp on an at-large bid. Old Dominion, by virtue of stellar play in the non-conference did the same. The question right now goes to the hunger of both teams and I believe both may already know they’re dancing. One team however, isn’t going to be dancing without an automatic bid and I expect it to come out firing on all cylinders. Virginia Commonwealth, at home in Richmond, will “steal” a bid and punch its ticket to the NCAA tournament.

METRO ATLANTIC ATHLETIC: After its impressive showing in BracketBusters, the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) became one of the most intriguing leagues in the country. The conference tournament is usually entertaining and this year should be no different. Fairfield finished in first in the regular season, but show kinks in the armor in losses to Rider and Iona, the two teams that tied for second. Iona, by virtue of being hot at the right time seems to be surging towards a NCAA bid, which it’ll get.

SOUTHERN: College of Charleston was cruising through league play until the last week of the regular season where it lost its final two games. That brought into a tie for the South Division and league title with defending champion Wofford. Although Charleston has a win over Tennessee and an almost win at Maryland, I think its going to be tough for it to navigate through this tournament. Chattanooga and Wofford will meet for round 3 with Wofford making a repeat trip to the NCAA tournament.

WEST COAST: St. Mary’s and Gonzaga both have at-large hopes with Gonzaga’s chances being a tad bit better at the moment. Given that the tournament is set up to give top two teams an advantage expect to see the two class programs in the conference go at it one more time. It will be a heavyweight slugfest in Vegas with St. Mary’s getting an automatic bid ensuring two WCC teams go dancing.

AMERICA EAST: Vermont and Boston University have been the two best teams in league play, but neither is perfect. Maine had a run at the both of them and should be in the mix this weekend in Hartford. However, I still believe that Vermont and Boston will get through a tough tournament to meet for all the marbles once again. Boston will not be able to finish Vermont for a third time and the Vermont Catamounts will go dancing.