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PREVIEW: CONFERENCE TOURNAMENTS
March 9, 2009

SCS.comSo I covered the Missouri Valley Conference tournament in St. Louis this weekend at Scottrade Center.

I ate a bunch of food, sat on press row, heard Dana Altman admonish his team’s performance in the hallway during half time, saw a Creighton buzzer beater and watched an overtime title game. For the most part, I represented SouthernCollegeSports.com moderately well. But now, it’s time to cover the conference tournament action this weekend from my computer, not from a courtside seat.

CONFERENCE TOURNAMENT PREVIEWS
All conference tournaments that will play critical games Monday through Thursday. Tournaments that begin on Thursday (ACC, Big Ten) and those that do not feature any important games until this weekend will be covered in Friday’s Weekend Preview.

Big East
First Three Rounds March 10-12

I envy anyone who will be at Madison Square Garden this week. Tuesday’s first round, which features the bottom of the league, isn’t anything to clear your schedule over. The fun starts Wednesday. A bubble game could potentially take place between Providence and Cincinnati at noon and Georgetown and Notre Dame will embark on its quest to win five games in five days to win the Big East tournament. Of course, the following day, the Big East’s top four seeds will hit the court after two extra days of rest. The long layoff could allow for some upsets.

Big 12
First two rounds, March 11-12

Oklahoma State and Texas A&M need a just a little more work to solidify their spots in the NCAA tournament. They get started on Wednesday, with Iowa State and Texas Tech respectively. A loss for either team would equal NIT. If they get by their first round opponents, Texas A&M will face Missouri and Oklahoma will await Oklahoma State for a Bedlam Series game in Oklahoma City.

Colonial
March 9th (Title game)

The top two seeds, VCU and George Mason, will meet tonight for a trip to the Big Dance. Two years ago, with the Patriots coming off a Final Four run, Eric Maynor helped the Rams defeat GMU in the CAA title game—and if you’ll remember, VCU knocked off Duke in that same year as an 11 seed.

Conference USA
First Two Rounds March 11-12

Maybe Memphis will finally lose a Conference USA game. Doubtful, but I’m just thinking of reasons why you should pay attention to the early rounds of this tourney.

Horizon
March 10th (Title game)

Butler and Cleveland State just played at Hinkle Fieldhouse last week, and they’ll do it again tomorrow for the Horizon Championship. Bubble teams across America will be rooting desperately for Cleveland State.

MAAC
March 10th (Title game)

Personally I don’t believe a team without an RPI top 50 win like Siena deserves an at-large bid, but my opinion doesn’t matter, especially if the Saints take care of business against Niagara tomorrow.

Mountain West
First two rounds, March 11-12

Utah shouldn’t worry about its NCAA tournament status, but UNLV and San Diego State needs all the wins they can get. As the best non-BCS conference in college basketball, the MWC tournament should be a dandy.

Northeast
March 11th (Title game)

Another 1 vs. 2 in the Northeast Conference, with top seed Robert Morris taking on Mount St. Mary’s. Robert Morris won the league by three games and basically dominated the NEC—two of its three conference losses came by three points.

Pac 10
First two rounds, March 11-12

Arizona might make the field of 65 even if it doesn’t beat Arizona State, but the Wildcats would be a lock with a win on Thursday. USC arrives in Los Angeles in desperation mode, as does Washington State.

Summit
Last two rounds, March 9-10

With Oral Roberts out, North Dakota State has a real shot to make its first NCAA tournament in its second season as a true Division I team. If it wins, NDSU will make the field in the 13-15th range, and the Bison will not be a team anyone wants to play, as they have experience and a star in Ben Woodside.

Sun Belt
Last two rounds, March 9-10

Let’s see if Western Kentucky can make the NCAA tournament again after reaching the Sweet 16 last year. This was supposed to be a down year for new coach Ken McDonald, but A.J. Slaughter has helped this team exceed expectations.

West Coast
March 9th (Title game)

Surprise, surprise, it’s St. Mary’s/Gonzaga again. And this time, Patty Mills will play, so no more excuses for the Gaels. This should be an outstanding game.

Last week’s prediction record: 8-7
Final prediction record: 250-163 (60.1 percent)

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