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March 13, 2009

SCS.comSix overtimes wasn’t enough for me last night. I want more basketball! Luckily, I’ll be glued to the TV from now until the Final Four in April (and really, I’ve been sedentary since November). Here’s what you need to see on the final weekend before the NCAA tournament:

All tournaments conclude this weekend


Both of the ACC games today resulted in near-upsets. Virginia Tech took North Carolina to the wire but eventually lost by three, while Florida State knocked off Cinderella-hopeful Georgia Tech 64-62. That sets up a 1 vs. 4 semi-final game tomorrow—but we still need to figure out the other side of the bracket. Maryland faces Wake Forest tonight in a must-win situation for Gary Williams, while Duke will look to avenge Boston College’s earlier win in Chestnut Hill.

America East

The finals are set in the America East Conference. Top seed Binghamton will take on reigning AEC champ UMBC, who represented the conference in last year’s NCAA tournament. The Bearcats haven’t lost since January and rolled UMBC by 20 points last month. All signs point to a Binghamton victory, but UMBC’s roster still contains most of the players from last year’s tournament appearance. Don’t count out the experience of the underdogs.

Atlantic Ten

A few months ago I would have said, “Xavier wins this tournament going away,” probably in that arrogant inflection too. The X-Men look a little more human these days, however. The Atlantic Ten seems to have caught up to the Musketeers, who finished just 4-4 on the road in conference play. Personally, I’m hoping for another rematch with Dayton after the two teams split the season series.

Big 12

Who’s left? Kansas is out. Oklahoma is out. Even the four seed, Kansas State, is out. So who’s left? Some pretty good teams, actually. Oklahoma State/Missouri will be a track meet tonight, just like it was this January at Gallagher-Iba Arena, where Mizzou won a narrow, high-scoring road game 97-95. Logic would say that Texas will handle ninth-seeded Baylor, but the Bears look a bit like that 2008 Georgia team that won the SEC tournament. Baylor began the season ranked in the top 25, but a losing streak in the middle of Big 12 play derailed its at-large hopes. Remember, these are the same players that made an NCAA tournament last year, so with nothing to lose, Baylor could win this whole tourney in Oklahoma City.

Big East

It’s just not possible for the Big East tournament to live up to last night (or this morning’s) epic, six-overtime game between Connecticut and Syracuse. It was one of the more remarkable events in college basketball history, and now the ‘Cuse has to play tonight against West Virginia. I’m not sure Jonny Flynn is even awake yet. The biggest winner in this Big East tournament has been the Mountaineers. With a win over Pittsburgh and a possible win over a dead-tired Syracuse team, Bob Huggins’ team has drastically improved its NCAA tournament seeding.

Big Ten

Congratulations! In every Big Ten tourney game so far, at least one team has managed to score 60 points! This is a breakthrough for the defensive-minded, offensively-challenged league. Ohio State was one of those teams, scoring 61 points in a win over Wisconsin today. The Buckeyes look good for the NCAAs now, and Michigan and Penn State will hope to say the same after facing Illinois and Purdue respectively. The Big East tournament has received a lot of publicity for its loaded field, but just take a look at the Big Ten tournament. Nine teams entered the bracket with NCAA tournament hopes and eight participants is a real possibility. I rag on the conference for its lack of scoring, but competition creates drama and the Big Ten has a whole lot of that this March.

Big West

Since these games are played so late at night, I considered not previewing this one. But the Big West deserves my attention. The top four seeds advanced to tonight’s semi-finals and the field is completely wide open. The league’s number one seed, Cal State Northridge, finished 15-3 and just 11-5 in the Big West. All but one team finished at least 7-9 in conference play. How’s that for Madness?


Memphis will win. I think.


I just said above that the Big West tournament was “wide open.” The same applies to the MAC, just multiplied by about 7,000. Ball State, who finished 7-9 in the MAC, is the lone participant from the West Division—and believe it or not, the Cardinals actually WON that division. So imagine just how stacked the East side is, with five teams finishing with either 10 or 11 conference wins. I have no idea who’s going to win this tournament and will not attempt to predict it. I just wish I were in Cleveland to watch this one play out.


Coppin State is still hanging around as a five seed, and if you’ll remember correctly, the Eagles rebounded from an atrocious start last year to win the MEAC tournament. Fang Mitchell has pulled some upsets in his day, so Coppin State could easily win the next two games to advance to the Big Dance. Morgan State is a likelier bet, though, after winning the regular season title by three games.

Mountain West

UNLV is probably eliminated from at-large consideration after losing again to San Diego State last night. Three potential NCAA tournament teams are still left in the MWC tournament, which shows you just how strong this league is. As long as Utah takes care of Wyoming tonight, tomorrow’s title game will be excellent television.


USC is the only team in left in this tournament will real work to do. The other three top 25 teams have punched their tickets, but the Trojans are trying to put together a late-season run. A win tonight against UCLA might put them in the conversation, but USC probably has to win this whole tournament to make the field.


American and Holy Cross are playing as I write this, so I’ll refrain from analyzing it. That would be cheating, especially if I made a prediction (but for the record, I predict American will lead 20-13 with 6:28 left in the first half. Just thinking out loud here).


Do I have to write about this? Kentucky’s done, Florida might be done and LSU will probably win the whole thing. Unless another tornado strikes, wake me up next year when the SEC tournament will actually be interesting and not filled with mediocrity.


All year long, I’ve been saying that the Southland standings seem to change every day due to the competitiveness at the top of the conference. Every week I previewed a Southland game with regular season implications. Now that the post-season has arrived, nothing has changed. Sam Houston State has fallen, but Nicholls State, Texas A&M CC and Stephen F. Austin—the most consistent teams all year long—will now battle it out for the top spot. And yes, I’m not mentioning UT-San Antonio (a semi-final participant) for a reason.


It’s easy to overlook a conference like the SWAC, but Alabama State should be recognized for its 16-2 regular season conference record. Any team that can run through a league like that should be commended. Now, the Hornets need to keep winning, because an NIT isn’t nearly as fun as a trip to March Madness.


Utah State cracked the top 25 earlier this year, but Nevada was the pre-season favorite to win the league and the Wolfpack are starting to show why. As the two-seed, they will scare the living daylights out of Utah State, who will not make the field as an at-large despite its earlier national recognition.

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