Tag: Sun Belt Conference

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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Even More Conference Tournament Previews

Greg Kampe's Oakland squad could be a tough out in the NCAA Tournament

SUMMIT LEAGUE: The Oakland Grizzlies are in complete control over this league – cruising through conference with only one loss. Greg Kampe’s squad is one of the best mid-majors in the country. They beat Tennessee and had near-misses against Illinois and Michigan St. A championship game against IUPUI or Oral Roberts may be difficult, but the winner of that game may be too tired to give Oakland a good run. Oakland will make a return trip to the dance.

SUN BELT: Unfortunately, it was another down year for the Sun Belt as it waits for Western Kentucky to get back on its feet. Florida Atlantic, almost by default, won the regular season with a 13-3 record, but this conference tournament will be wide open. Florida Atlantic is on the same side of the bracket as Western Kentucky and Louisiana-Lafayette, two teams that it lost too this season. For that reason, I’m going to give a team from the other side of the bracket, Arkansas St, the edge to get to the dance.

BIG SKY: Northern Colorado and Montana battled all year to see who would win the regular season title in the Big Sky. Northern Colorado eventually won out, but the one game difference shows how close the two teams are to each other. That one game also proved to be of paramount importance as Bears won the right to host the conference tournament on their home court. That will prove to be the difference as Northern Colorado will go dancing.

MID-EASTERN ATHLETIC: Just about everybody expected Morgan St to run away with its fourth consecutive regular season title in the MEAC, but it didn’t work out that way. The Bears garnered the No. 4 seed in the tournament with Bethune-Cookman, Hampton and cross-town rival, Coppin St finishing ahead of them. I think Morgan St will find itself in the finals again, but Hampton will be there to avenge a loss earlier this season.

Today’s Bracket Projections:

Last Four In: Nebraska, Virginia Tech, Butler, Washington St
Last Four Out: Baylor, Memphis, Virginia Commonwealth, Michigan

Good for Games through 3/3

SOUTHWEST
1.Kansas16.McNeese St/Bethune-Cookman Tulsa
8.UCLA9.Michigan St
5.Connecticut12.Missouri St Tampa
4.Kentucky13.Princeton
6.Texas A&M11.Florida St Washington, D.C.
3.Syracuse14.Bucknell
7.George Mason10.Marquette Washington, D.C.
2.Wisconsin15.Murray St
WEST
1.Duke16.Long Island Charlotte
8.Cincinnati9.Utah St
5.Kansas St12.Richmond Tampa
4.Florida13.Belmont
6.West Virginia11.St. Mary’s Denver
3.BYU14.Wisconsin-Milwaukee
7.Tennessee10.Washington Cleveland
2.Pittsburgh15.Vermont
SOUTHEAST
1.Purdue16.Coastal Carolina Chicago
8.Missouri9.Gonzaga
5.St. John’s12.Butler/Virginia Tech Tucson
4.San Diego St13.Oakland
6.Vanderbilt11.Illinois Tulsa
3.Texas14.Fairfield
7.Temple10.Boston College Charlotte
2.Louisville15.Long Beach St
EAST
1.Ohio St16.Northern Colorado/Texas Southern Cleveland
8.Villanova9.Old Dominion
5.Georgetown12.Washington St/Nebraska Tucson
4.Xavier13.Charleston
6.Arizona11.UAB Denver
3.North Carolina14.Kent St
7.UNLV10.Georgia Chicago
2.Notre Dame15.Florida Atlantic

In Graphical Form

Rock Chalk

Marcus Morris leads the Jayhawks

I haven’t seen a more impressive team this season then Kansas. Coach Bill Self’s squad lost Sherron Collins and Cole Aldrich and hasn’t skipped a beat.

The Morris twins are proving to be a load in the paint. Marcus and Markieff are averaging 30 points and 15 rebounds between the two of them and in Mondays game against Baylor, they were unstoppable.

Kansas has also been getting good guard play. Tyshawn Taylor held down the fort for the beginning of the season, but now Josh Selby is in the fold giving them another dimension.

Selby is explosive and can create his own shot and shots for his teammates. The athletic freshman out of Baltimore is hell in Nikes and will burn the Big XII up this year.

Stock Up: San Diego St. The Aztecs have run roughshod over their competition this year. With wins over Gonzaga, Saint Mary’s, Wichita St., UNLV and New Mexico, the Aztecs have a very impressive resume. Kawhi Leonard, D.J. Gay and Malcolm Thomas are three of the best players in the nation and come March everyone will become acquainted with them.

Stock Down: Sun Belt. Sun Belt officials tried to come up with strategies to increase at-large bid opportunities for the conference. What’s transpired has been a failure on all levels. The conference has underachieved mightily with no team being more disappointing than Western Kentucky. The Hilltoppers went down to the San Juan Shootout hoping to get some quality wins and came back 1-2 with a loss to Davidson. The rest of the conference hasn’t been much better as it is ranked 26 out 31 conferences in RPI. Looks like it might be time to look over the plan for the conference again.

Stock Up: Xavier. It’s almost to the point where it’s like death and taxes with the Musketeers. We shouldn’t be surprised to see them atop the Atlantic-10 again. Year after year they contend for the title and it looks like this year will be no different. They bounced back nicely after their loss to Cincinnati by winning their first three conference games. With a trip to St. Bonaventure followed by two home games, the Musketeers can really distance themselves.

Stock Down: Auburn. How can a BCS conference team be so bad? I know people may be asking if I’ve seen Depaul play. Yes I have live and they’d mop the floor with Auburn. How the Tigers beat Florida St. is beyond me, but they’re already 0-3 in league play and it can get really ugly down the stretch. Thank God for football.

This Week’s Bracket Projections:

Last Four In: Marquette, Butler, Cincinnati, Miami (FL)
Last Four Out: Memphis, New Mexico, Dayton, UCLA

Good for games through 1/17

SOUTHWEST
1.Kansas16.Northern Colorado/Morgan St Tulsa
8.North Carolina9.Tennessee
5.Wisconsin12.Xavier Tampa
4.West Virginia13.James Madison
6.Louisville11.Utah St Chicago
3.Purdue14.Vermont
7.Washington10.Gonzaga Washington, DC
2.Connecticut15.Bucknell
WEST
1.Duke16.Austin Peay Charlotte
8.Vanderbilt9.Missouri St
5.Minnesota12.Cincinnati/Butler Chicago
4.Missouri13.Oakland
6.Colorado11.Old Dominion Denver
3.Villanova14.Coastal Carolina
7.St. John’s10.Boston College Tucson
2.San Diego St15.Chattanooga
SOUTHEAST
1.Pittsburgh16.Long Island Cleveland
8.St. Mary’s9.Oklahoma St
5.Florida12.Southern Mississippi Tampa
4.Michigan St13.Ball St
6.Illinois11.Miami(FL)/Marquette Denver
3.BYU14.Belmont
7.Arizona10.Wichita St Tulsa
2.Texas A&M15.Long Beach St
EAST
1.Ohio St16.McNeese St/Jackson St Cleveland
8.Temple9.Georgia
5.Notre Dame12.Harvard Tucson
4.Texas13.Valparaiso
6.Georgetown11.Florida St Charlotte
3.Kentucky14.Iona
7.UNLV10.UCF Washington, DC
2.Syracuse15.Florida Atlantic

In Graphical Form

Conference Tournament Previews (Addendum)

SUN BELT: Troy, North Texas and Middle Tennessee St all tied for the overall conference title with 13-5 records. Troy is the No. 1 seed by way of a 2-1 record against UNT AND MTSU. However, the Trojans has been done no favors by having Western Kentucky on its side of the bracket. There’s not team in this conference that strikes fear in the heart of its foes like the Hilltoppers. They have wins over Vanderbilt, Murray St and Mississippi St out-of-conference and are on a six-game winning streak. Their experience and confidence will carry the Hilltoppers to another Sun Belt title.

SUMMIT LEAGUE: I’ve never seen a team with one league loss in more trouble than Oakland. There’s no question that IUPUI and Oral Roberts are capable of winning this tournament. IUPUI has already proven it can beat Oakland and Oral Roberts has wins over Missouri and New Mexico. That being said, Oakland has been consistent all year. It has only lost once in the 2010 calendar year going 16-1. With IUPUI and Oral Roberts fighting it out on the other side of the bracket, Oakland will have smooth sailing to the NCAA tournament.

BIG SKY: Weber St finished just one game ahead of Northern Colorado in the league standings. The Wildcats are very fortunate that the tournament is played on the home court of the regular season champion because I don’t think they want to see the 23-win Bears on a neutral floor. However, the Bears will have to travel to Ogden shorthanded as junior guard Devon Beitzel is out with a broken foot. Weber St played a tough schedule to prepare itself for this moment and the fact that it’ll get home cooking will put it over the top.

MID-EASTERN ATHLETIC: It’s clear that Todd Bozeman has Morgan St in complete control of this conference. The Bears won their third consecutive regular season championship and are poised to win their second straight tournament title. The way the MEAC’s tournament is set up actually takes the advantage of the buy away so Morgan will have to deal with that. However, only one team was able to beat the Bears in conference this season and they bounced back with five consecutive league wins after the setback. They’re experienced, tournament tough and have Reggie Holmes. The Bears go dancing again.

Today’s Bracket Projection:

Last Four In: Mississippi, Virginia Tech, Connecticut, San Diego St
Last Four Out: Rhode Island, Memphis, UAB, Mississippi St

Click the link below
NCAA Projected Bracket

From now until Selection Sunday, the bracket will be updated daily (Twice on Selection Sunday)

Evan the Terrible

Ohio State's Evan Turner may be the best player in the country

Ohio St. has that guy. That guy who might be the only player in the country who can single-handedly carry his team to a national championship. Evan Turner has bounced back from his early-season back injury to become the favorite for Big Ten Player of the Year and one of the favorites for national player of the year.

Turner is averaging 19.7 points, 9.4 rebounds, and 5.7 assists per game. His athleticism makes him a nightmare to guard and his versatility allows him to beat you in so many ways.

The Buckeyes struggled without him, but have won 8 of 10 games since he’s returned. He gives them a presence that can take over a game at any given moment.

Ohio St now only trails Michigan St by a game for the Big Ten lead and with a trip to East Lansing coming up, still have a chance to win the regular season title. Something it probably didn’t think was possible this time a month ago.

Stock Up: New Mexico. If someone asked the casual fan who the best college basketball team out west was, they probably would name Gonzaga, California, or maybe even Washington. However, you might have to go to the Mountain West to find New Mexico. The Lobos lost 3 out of 5 from late Dec. to early Jan., but have been rolling outside of that. They’ve done it on the road and against good competition. This is a team on the rise.

Stock Down: Mississippi St. I’m not sure what to make of the Bulldogs. They started the season losing 2 of their first 5. Then they went on a run where they won nine in a row. They’re 4-5 in their last nine including losing 4 of their last 5. Their wins over Old Dominion and Ole Miss will not be enough to save them on Selection Sunday if they don’t turn it around. Beating Ole Miss and Auburn at home this week would go a long way to saving their season.

Stock up: Richmond. For some reason, the Spiders are getting no love and I don’t know why. They have outstanding out-of-conference wins over Missouri, Old Dominion, and Florida to go along with the rout they gave to Temple on Saturday. The Spider’s schedule toughens up down the stretch, but they may have enough fire power to get their first at-large bid since 2004.

Stock Down: Sun Belt Conference. This is normally one of the better mid-major conferences in the country, but it is struggling this year. Denver has the conferences highest RPI at 148, which is lower than three teams from the Atlantic Sun Conference, which has nowhere near the history of the Sun Belt. For a conference which has won NCAA tournament games the past two seasons, this is definitely a down year in the Sun Belt.

This week’s bracket projections:

Last Four In: Washington, Old Dominion, Wichita St, Maryland
Last Four Out: Clemson, Oklahoma St, South Florida, Louisville

MIDWEST
1.Kansas16.Lehigh/Jackson St Oklahoma City
8.Mississippi9.Xavier
5.Gonzaga12.Northeastern Spokane
4.New Mexico13.Kent St
6.Vanderbilt11.Dayton New Orleans
3.Michigan St14.Coastal Carolina
7.Georgia Tech10.Siena Buffalo
2.West Virginia15.Weber St
WEST
1.Villanova16.Arkansas St Providence
8.Richmond9.Illinois
5.Texas A&M12.Wichita St Spokane
4.Tennessee13.Pacific
6.BYU11.Maryland San Jose
3.Ohio St14.Murray St
7.Pittsburgh10.Florida Oklahoma City
2.Kansas St15.Robert Morris
EAST
1.Kentucky16.Jacksonville Milwaukee
8.Missouri9.UAB
5.Wake Forest12.Old Dominion New Orleans
4.Butler13.New Mexico St
6.Northern Iowa11.California Jacksonville
3.Georgetown14.College of Charleston
7.Rhode Island10.Florida St Milwaukee
2.Purdue15.Morgan St
SOUTH
1.Syracuse16.Stony Brook Buffalo
8.Cornell9.Charlotte
5.UNLV12.UTEP San Jose
4.Texas13.Washington
6.Baylor11.Virginia Commonwealth Jacksonville
3.Duke14.Oakland
7.Temple10.Marquette Providence
2.Wisconsin15.Sam Houston St

More Conference Tournament Predictions

Western Kentucky G Orlando Mendez-Valdez
Western Kentucky G Orlando Mendez-Valdez

Sun Belt: The Western Kentucky Hilltoppers enters the conference tournament winners of 12 of their last 14.  They’ve been solid all year, which included a win over Louisville.  Orlando Mendez-Valdez leads the Hilltoppers who are trying to repat as Sun Belt Conference champions for the first time since the 2002 and 2003 seasons.  In their way will be the Trojans of Troy and Arkansas-Little Rock (Yes, they’re Trojans too).  Troy can boast wins over both the WKU and UALR while the other Trojans has an 0-3 record against both squads.  I expect UALR to make a run at it, but look for WKU and Troy in the finals and the Hilltoppers will repeat.

American G Derrick Mercer
American G Derrick Mercer

Patriot League: The American Eagles enter this year’s Patriot League tournament looking to continue its two-year dominance over the conference. Seniors Derrick Mercer and Garrison Carr lead an experienced group who gave Tennessee all it can handle in last year’s tournament. Lying in wait to upset American is Holy Cross. The Crusaders are responsible for the lone blemish on the Eagles conference record and have been gone to the tournament 4 times already in this decade.  It’s going to be a raucous atmosphere in Bender Arena next Friday.  An atmosphere that will be too much for the Crusaders to handle and American will make a return trip to NCAA tournament.

Missouri Valley: There may not be another team in the country playing the kind of basketball the Creighton Blue Jays are playing right now.  They’ve won 10 in-a-row and have firmly implanted themselves in the at-large discussion.  For a time this season, Illinois St was in the at-large discussion itself.  However, the Redbirds struggled down the stretch against some pretty stiff competition and closed the season on a three-game losing streak.  I believe the team that’s going to win in St. Louis will be Northern Iowa.  They finished the season on an uptic and can claim victories over the Blue Jays and a season sweep of the Redbirds.  Expect the Panthers to cut the nets down.

And before we continue the predictions, let’s take a moment of silence for Cincinnati’s at-large hopes.  South Florida just killed them.

Northeast Conference: This may be a crazy tournament.  Mount St. Mary’s, Long Island, and Sacred Heart all finished with identical 12-6 conference records.  None of them are responsible for the regular-season champion’s, Robert Morris, three conference losses.  History tells me it is going to be difficult for Robert Morris  to be two good teams three times in the regular season.  Given this league’s history for conference tournament upsets, it only strengthens that theory.  In a situation like this, take the team playing the best basketball.  Sacred Heart will navigate through a very competitive conference tournament and will be #16 seed.