WEST COAST: This one is academic. There is one team in this league that will potentially be a No. 1 seed and then there is one team who may get an at-large bid. Gonzaga went 16-0 in league play this year with some really impressive victories. In Las Vegas this weekend, I can’t see anyone beating the Bulldogs on a neutral floor. Saint Mary’s is playing for its NCAA tournament life, but I don’t think it will be enough to overcome the talent Gonzaga has.
NORTHEAST: Robert Morris finished two games ahead of the crowded bunch of teams which includes Wagner, Bryant and Long Island University. In fact, the top seven finishers in the NEC finished .500 or above so I expect this to be one of the craziest conference tournaments in all of college basketball. In a situation like this I give the edge to a team that’s been there before and that team is LIU. The Blackbirds know how to navigate this tournament and I expect them to go dancing again.
PATRIOT LEAGUE: This year was supposed to be nothing short of a coronation for Lehigh. However, C.J. McCollum injured his foot and Lehigh wasn’t able to sustain early season success. One school that has been able to is Bucknell. The Bison have lost only two games in conference play and five overall and since this tournament is played on the home court of the higher seeded team, I’d say its the heavy favorite to win this tournament.
MISSOURI VALLEY: The eyes of the nation were on Creighton and Wichita St in the Missouri Valley this season. While many expected the two to dominate; history tells us that this conference has been known to eat its own and that’s why Indiana St’s at-large hopes have gone up in smoke. This is always one of the more competitive tournaments and this year should be no different. I expect one of the hottest teams in the league to shock the world. Evansville will cut down the nets in St. Louis.
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
1.Kentucky16.Vermont/Savannah St Louisville
5.Wichita St12.Kansas St Nashville
4.Temple13.Middle Tennessee St
6.San Diego St11.Seton Hall Portland
7.St. Mary’s10.Iowa St Greensboro
1.Ohio St16.Long Island Pittsburgh
4.Notre Dame13.Long Beach St
1.Missouri16.UNC-Asheville/Mississippi Valley St Omaha
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.
I put these together for thehoopsreport.com so they’re a little long-winded
The Favorite: The Binghamton Bearcats are in a position they’ve never been in before. They enter the America East tournament as the hunted. America East Player of the Year D.J. Rivera leads a club that has won 10 out of its last 11 games. The Bearcats have gone on the road and won on the home courts of Big East and Conference USA schools. They’ve prepared for this time of year and look to be ready for any and all comers in Albany this weekend.
The Challenger: The Catamounts of Vermont would be the kings in the America East if it weren’t for Binghamton. They’d be the No. 1 seed this weekend had the Bearcats not swept them. Despite that, this is a team with 23 wins and has been playing at a high level the entire year. They’ve won 14 of 15 and are on a serious roll entering the postseason. Although they face the unenviable task of having to face Albany on its home court in the quarterfinals, junior Marquis Blakely and the rest of the Catamounts will be a tough out.
The Darkhorse: The UMBC Retrievers enter the postseason losing three of their last four. However, this team is confident and experienced. Seniors Darryl Proctor and Jay Greene played integral roles in UMBC’s run to last year’s NCAA tournament and are fully capable of putting three solid games together. The Retrievers are responsible for one of Binghampton’s conference losses. This is one scary No. 6 seed.
When it’s all said and done, the cream will rise to the top in the America East. Vermont and Binghamton have been the teams to beat all season and nothing will change this weekend. The championship game will be in Binghamton, but Vermont will avenge the two earlier losses and return to the tournament for the first time since 2005.
COLONIAL ATHLETIC ASSOCIATION
The Favorite: Two years ago, Eric Maynor put his name on the map with a game-winning shot against Duke. He’s still at Virginia Commonwealth and he’s one of the best guards in the country. The Rams always seem to be at the top of the CAA and this year was no different. They’ve had mixed results coming down the stretch with a 5-3 record in their last eight. However, the Rams have Eric Maynor and he makes them the most dangerous team in the CAA.
The Challenger: Jim Larranaga has his Patriots in this position again. George Mason has been lurking the entire season and are in their relished position of the being the hunter. The names have changed from their Final Four run three years ago, but this is still an experienced basketball team. Seniors Dre Smith and John Vaughn are still at Mason and they have seen everything. They’ll expect to be in the Big Dance and that’s not something many mid-majors share with them.
The Darkhorse: Old Dominion quietly went about its business all year. Head coach Blaine Taylor’s Monarchs traditionally have talent, but seem to be overlooked in the CAA. After winning their last five, no one in the CAA is going to take them lightly. They’re as hot as any team in the conference and are the last team anyone wants to face in Richmond this weekend.
The CAA Tournament is always a very competitive tournament and this year will be no different. There are six teams capable of cutting the nets down in Richmond and that makes for great basketball. Old Dominion will meet George Mason in a classic Monday night and the Patriots will take their rightful place back in the field of 65.
The Favorite: The Siena Saints began the season with at-large aspirations after their impressive showing in last year’s tournament. They played a difficult non-conference schedule and got off to a slow start. Once conference play started, the Saints showed their mettle and rolled to a 16-2 conference record to save their at-large hopes. The experienced club led by senior Kenny Hasbrouck and junior Edwin Ubiles; Siena will be a tough out this weekend and, possibly, in two weeks as well.
The Challenger: Niagara has been consistent all year long. The Purple Eagles hit the road in their non-conference schedule and are as prepared for this time of year as any team in the MAAC. First-team All-MAAC and the conference’s defensive player of the year, junior Tyrone Lewis controls this club which closed the season with victories over Siena and Missouri Valley contender, Illinois St. They are fully capable of keeping up with the Saints.
The Darkhorse: The only MAAC team to defeat both Siena and Niagara was the Rider Broncs. They closed the season winning 7 of their last 9 and believe they can win the automatic bid. Junior Ryan Thompson is one of the most explosive players in the MAAC and will be able to get any shot he wants this weekend. The Broncs believe they should be mentioned with the Saints and Purple Eagles and are ready to prove why.
The bracket sets up well for Siena, who should cruise into the finals. The other half of the bracket will be much more difficult with Niagara and Rider vying for the opportunity to face Siena. In the end, Niagara will navigate its way to the finals to set up one of the best championship games of any conference tournament. The homecourt advantage will not help the Saints this year though and Niagara will go dancing.
The Favorite: Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past three seasons, you know Stephen Curry is and you know who the Davidson Wildcats are. This edition of the Wildcats isn’t as potent as last year’s, but they are still dangerous. They’ve beaten West Virginia and NC State on neutral courts and have breezed through the SoCon regular season once again. While they actually lost a league game this year, something they hadn’t done in two seasons, the Wildcats are still the team to beat as long as Curry puts on a Davidson jersey.
The Challenger: There’s only one team who can claim to beat Davidson at full strength during conference play and that’s the College of Charleston. Head Coach Bobby Cremins has turned around the program which was a perennial NCAA tournament team in the late 90’s. All-Conference guard Andrew Goudelock and the Cougars have wins over TCU and South Carolina so they’re a tested group. They’ve proven they can beat the Wildcats now it’s time to see if they can do it again.
The Darkhorse: When the Citadel Bulldogs upset Davidson on February 18, the Wildcats were without Stephen Curry. That doesn’t matter to the Bulldogs though. They’re the playing their best basketball right now as winners of 12 of their last 13 and finished in a tie for second in the South Division. In a season where they’ve won 18 games against Division-I opponents and 15 conference games for the first time, is an initial trip to the NCAA tournament in the offering for the Bulldogs as well?
The worst thing the College of Charleston and Citadel could’ve done was make Davidson see its own blood. Now the Wildcats have their antennas up and will be ready in Chattanooga this weekend. While it won’t be easy, Davidson will make four consecutive trips to the Big Dance.
The Favorite: Anyone who finishes with an undefeated conference record is going to be the favorite and this situation is no different. Gonzaga is back in its usual spot with an NCAA tournament bid all but sewn up. This could be the most talented team in Bulldogs’ history with seniors Jeremy Pargo, Josh Heytvelt, and Micah Downs leading the way. Head Coach Mark Few always plays a tough non-conference schedule to prepare his team for this time of year. They fell victim to the upset in last year’s WCC tourney. They’ll be out to make sure that doesn’t happen again.
The Challenger: The Saint Mary’s Gaels captured an at-large bid last season and may be in position to do the same this year. Sophomore Patrick Mills, possibly the best guard in the country, is back from injury and ready to pick up where he left off. When healthy, this Gaels team can play with anyone in the country. They’ve won five in-a-row including a huge win over Utah State in “Bracket Busters.” This is a confident team going in to Las Vegas this weekend.
The Darkhorse: There was a buzz in the preseason that the San Diego Toreros may be able to capture an at-large bid after their upset of UConn in last year’s NCAA Tournament. The Toreros have struggled this season, but this is still a team that can jump up and bite you. Brandon Johnson is gone for the season, but any team with Gyno Pomare and Rob Jones is capable of doing damage.
When all is said and done, this is a two-horse race. Gonzaga and Saint Mary’s are on a collision course and it’s going to be a special basketball game. The Gaels played one and half games against the Bulldogs without Patrick Mills and now that he’s back, they’re chomping at the bit. Saint Mary’s will take its NCAA Tournament fate out of the committee’s hands and win the WCC tournament.
We’re going to do something different this week. Since Selection Sunday is creeping up on us, I’m going to talk about different scenarios that may play out for some bubble teams.
Saint Mary’s: Patrick Mills comes back. A month ago, I thought the season was over for the Gaels when Mills was injured and it appeared I was correct in my assumption when they lost four of five. However, the Gaels have rebounded to win three straight and when the committee gets in the room, they’re going to consider the Gaels record with Mills. They have two games left in the regular season and the conference tournament. Let’s say the Gaels win all their games up to the West Coast Conference Championship where they would lose to Gonzaga. They would have lost only 2 games without Mills vs. 24 wins. Are wins over Providence, San Diego St, and Utah St worth an At-large bid?
Creighton: The Blue Jays are 10-2 in their last 12 and have snatched the lead from Northern Iowa in the Missouri Valley. They have two games left in the regular season and would win two games to get the the MVC championship game. If the Blue Jays were able to win every game left except the championship game, they’d be 27-7, probably 11-5 against the top-100, 11-1 in their last 12, and the regular season winner of the 9th rated conference in the country. That resume has been good enough to get you in in the past. Will it be this season?
New Mexico: The Lobos are currently in a 3-way tie for second in the Mountain West Conference. They’ve beaten UNLV, BYU, and San Diego St in conference with a win over Ole Miss out-of-conference. For the sake of argument, let’s say they win 3 out of their last 4 and finish in 3rd place. They win their first-round game and then lose their semi-final game. Will that be enough to get the Lobos to the tournament?
Notre Dame: The Fighting Irish have won 3 out of it’s last 4 after losing the previous 7. They have four games left in the regular season including two against UCONN and Villanova. Let’s say the Irish go 3 of 4 and win it’s first 2 games in the Big East tournament. That’ll be four wins over teams in the NCAA tournament and three of those wins would’ve come in it’s last 10. Will 9-9 in the Big East get Notre Dame in?
This week’s Bracket Projections:
Last Four In: Texas A&M, Michigan, Tennessee, Maryland
Last Four Out: Temple, USC, St. Mary’s, USC
This bracket is good for games played thru Sunday, February22, 2009.
Quick, which team is the best team in the state of Washington? I bet you answered Gonzaga. You may be correct, but they have a serious challenger in the form of the Washington Huskies. Lorenzo Romar has his team tied for first in the Pac-10 with wins over USC, UCLA and Arizona St already.
Led by Isaiah Thomas, Jon Brockman, and Justin Dentmon, Washington is poised to make a run at the Pac-10 regular season and tournament titles and an opportunity to play close to home in the NCAA tournament. They have four very winnable games upcoming before they go on the road to play the Los Angeles schools.
I know they’re games air late on the East coast, but if I were you, I’d make sure I’d catch a UW game soon.
Stock Up: Kansas. It’s amazing. They’re the defending national champions, but no one is talking about the Jayhawks. They’re rolling right now after a very tough start which included a loss to UMass. Cole Aldrich is one of the most improved players in America and Sherron Collins is playing out of this world basketball right now. This team is well on its way to moving out of the shadow of last year’s squad.
Stock Down: Pat Knight. He took a page out of his father’s book and went crazy on Saturday. That type of behavior may be ok for his father because his father won games. Pat is 10-10 right now at Texas Tech. You can’t use that type of decorum on the court and not win. You can get fired easily doing that and I don’t care who your father is.
Stock Up: Penn St. Now THIS is how you get over the Rose Bowl. This is clearly the best Penn St team since they went to the tournament eight years ago. That team made it all the way to the Sweet 16. I don’t know if this team has that kind of success in it, but it could be on it’s way to a tournament berth.
Stock Down: St. Mary’s. Unfortunately Patrick Mills broke his hand last week. He’s going to be out for a month and that’s going to destroy the Gaels at-large chances. This is just not a tournament team without him on the floor. It’s a shame too, because he’s clearly one of the best guards in the country.
This week’s Bracket Projections:
Last Four In: Michigan, Providence, Georgetown, Texas A&M
Last Four Out: BYU, Baylor, Cincinnati, San Diego St
Sorry Wake Forest fans, as the last #1, you got stuck with the Fri-Sun games because of the play-in game.
This bracket is good for games played through Sunday, February 1, 2009.
There are many teams in the Big East with instant name cache; UConn Georgetown, Syracuse, and Louisville to name a few. West Virginia would be pretty far down that list. However, the Mountaineers have staked their claim as a contender in the best conference in the country.
The Mountaineers are at full strength and are a force to be reckoned with. Alex Ruoff, Da’Sean Butler, and Devin Ebanks are all capable of an offensive explosion. Add in Darryl Bryant and the tough Joe Mazzulla and you have all the ingredients for a solid basketball team.
Ask Ohio St how potent West Virginia is. What the Mountaineers did to the Buckeyes was criminal. They took it to Ohio St from the tip and showed the rest of the country, just how deep the Big East is.
Stock Up: St. Mary’s. After a questionable loss to UTEP in the 76 Classic, the Gaels have reeled off nine wins in a row including five on the road. Patrick Mills is easily one of the best guards in the country and is a matchup problem for anyone. Be clear folks, the West Coast Conference is not just about Gonzaga.
Stock Down: Gonzaga. Portland St. Tell me you did not lose to Portland St at home. Tell me the “Mid-Major that Could” didn’t overlook another Mid-Major. The Bulldogs have road contests at Utah and at Tennessee. Mark Few better tighten his ballclub up in a hurry.
Stock Up: Chris Wright. There was no doubt that Georgetown was going to be a tournament team, but on which weekend it met it’s demise would hinge on it’s point-guard play. Well, early in the season, I think we have our answer. Wright, fully recovered from the foot injury which sidelined him much of last season, has been everything John Thompson III could ask for and more. He’s proving to be one of the best guards in the country.
Stock Down: Mississippi Head Coach Andy Kennedy. I don’t know WHAT happened that night in Cincinnati. What I do know is the coach of a college basketball team should not be out, at a bar, on a roadtrip at 1:00am. I doubt the allegations of assault and racial slurs are true, but what good can come of that.
Stock Up: Minnesota. If there is another coach to be happier for, I can’t find him. Tubby Smith has the program in the Twin Cities turned around halfway through his second season and it’s great to see. The Golden Gopher program had falllen on some hard times with the Clem Haskins’ scandal and Dan Monson’s tenure, but there is light at the end of the tunnel. That light appears to be a NCAA tournament berth.
Stock Down: Mid-American Conference. Generally, the MAC is one of the better Mid-Major conferences in the country. In fact, the MAC used the ring out like the Missouri Valley does now. However, this appears to be a bad year for the conference. With only three teams over .500 and every team in the West Division with a losing record, any hopes of an at-large bid seem to be all but shot.
This week’s Bracket Projections:
1.North Carolina16.Cornell Greensboro, NC
5.Baylor12.Utah St Portland, OR
6.Florida St11.Butler Minneapolis, MN
7.Missouri10.Florida Philadelphia, PA
2.Georgetown15.East Tennessee St WEST
1.Duke16.North Dakota St Greensboro, NC
5.Minnesota12.Creighton Boise, ID
6.Ohio St11.Boston College Miami, FL
7.St. Mary’s10.Davidson Dayton, OH
2.Notre Dame15.Pacific MIDWEST
1.Oklahoma16.Quinnipiac Kansas City, MO
5.Michigan12.Illinois St Minneapolis, MN
6.Villanova11.Texas A&M Miami, FL
7.Stanford10.Wisconsin Philadelphia, PA
1.Pittsburgh16.Morgan St/Ark-Pine Bluff Dayton, OH
5.Clemson12.Northwestern Portland, OR
6.Arizona St11.Maryland Boise, ID
7.Kansas10.UNLV Kansas City, MO