Tag: Mid-American

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

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Carolina BBQ (Welcome Creighton)

rwillett@newsobserver.com UNC's Tyler Zeller (44) applauds the reserve players after taking a place on the bench with teammate John Henson late in the Tar Heels' game against Clemson. Zeller scored 14 points and Henson had 13 in the Tar Heels' 74-52 victory.

On Saturday night the North Carolina Tarheels showed the world why they were ranked preseason No. 1.  North Carolina went to Duke and thoroughly defeated a team that will be a No. 2 seed at the least.  It was one of the more impressive performances I’ve seen this season and served notice to Syracuse and Kentucky that there’s one more legit contender for the national championship.

The Tarheels have possibly the best frontcourt in the nation with John Henson, Tyler Zeller and Harrison Barnes to go along with perhaps the best pure point guard in Kendall Marshall.  This is a scary team to face because they can beat you with so many guys.

Defense and point guard depth is a concern, but good luck to any team that plans on outscoring the Heels.  They have their mojo back and are serious threats to cut down the nets.

MID-AMERICAN: This will be a competitive tournament as usual.  The MAC is one of the best mid-major conferences in the country and the action in Cleveland should be entertaining.  Akron won the regular season championship, but that was only by one game over Buffalo, who swept the season series.  Neither Akron or Buffalo will have to play until the semifinals, but it won’t matter as Ohio will get the automatic bid.

MID-EASTERN ATHLETIC: I’ve never liked how the MEAC stretches its tournament out.  A league that’s constantly fighting to stay out of Dayton should be doing everything it can to make sure it’s best teams have the best chance of winning.  For that reason I don’t trust regular season champion Savannah St to win.  I’m going with the experience of Fang Mitchell’s Coppin St club to go dancing.

SOUTHLAND: Texas-Arlington cruised through league play and lost it’s only conference game in its last game.  It has been consistent all year and appear to be the favorite.  I’m not choosing the Mavericks though.  Ever since Pat Knight ripped his Lamar Cardinals they’ve been playing like a different team.  I expect that to carry over to an automatic bid.

SOUTHWESTERN ATHLETIC: Mississippi Valley State’s 17-1 conference record is an impressive feat.  The Delta Devils lone loss came on the last game of the regular season and I think it’ll serve as a wake-up call.  The fact that second-place finisher Southern is ineligble for postseason play on solidifies my belief that the Delta Devils will dance.

WESTERN ATHLETIC: I’ve seen the Nevada Wolfpack play multiple times and I’ve come away impressed every time.  They have a gaudy 25 wins and should have the support of plenty of Wolfpack fans in Las Vegas.  New Mexico St and Idaho will be threats, but won’t be good enough.

BIG WEST: The last thing the rest of the Big West needed to happen was to have Long Beach St lose it’s final regular season game.  The 49ers now have the extra motivation of avenging their only regular season conference loss.  I’m convinced that Long Beach St is among the best 35-50 best teams in the country and none of their Big West mates are even close.  Long Beach St will dance.

Today’s Bracket Projections:

Last Four In: Tennessee, Virginia Commonwealth, Northwestern, Colorado St

Last Four Out: South Florida, California, Oregon, NC State

SOUTH

1.Kentucky16.Stony Brook/Savannah St Louisville

8.Saint Louis9.Cincinnati

5.UNLV12.Northwestern/Virginia Commonwealth Portland

4.Gonzaga13.Long Beach St

6.Wichita St11.Southern Mississippi Albuquerque

3.Baylor14.Belmont(ASun)

7.Florida St10.West Virginia Columbus

2.Michigan15.Montana

WEST

1.North Carolina16.Bucknell Greensboro

8.Memphis9.Mississippi St

5.Creighton(MVC)12.BYU Albuquerque

4.Georgetown13.Oral Roberts

6.Notre Dame11.Xavier Columbus

3.Wisconsin14.Denver

7.New Mexico 10.Alabama Omaha

2.Missouri15.UT-Arlington

MIDWEST

1.Kansas16.UNC-Asheville(BSouth)/Mississippi Valley St               Omaha

8.Louisville9.Virginia

5.Temple12.Drexel Nashville

4.Indiana13.Colorado St/Tennessee

6.Florida11.Miami(FL) Louisville

3.Marquette14.Akron

7.Kansas St10.Harvard Pittsburgh

2.Ohio St15.Loyola(MD)

EAST

1.Syracuse16.Long Island Pittsburgh

8.St. Mary’s9.Purdue

5.Murray St(OVC)12.Texas Portland

4.San Diego St13.Nevada

6.Vanderbilt11.Washington Nashville

3.Michigan St14.Davidson

7.Iowa St10.Connecticut Greensboro

2.Duke15.Valparaiso

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