PAC-10, ACC, SEC, and Big-10 Tournament Previews
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OUR JIM SEZ MID-WEEK HOOPS REPORT ROLLS ON WITH COLLEGE BASKETBALL'S MINI-TOURNEY OVERVIEWS AS THE PAC-10, ACC, SEC AND BIG 10 GET ALL REVVED UP PLUS OUR BIG EAST DAY #1 RE-CAP TOO AND THREE NON-POWER LEAGUE TEAMS THAT MUST WIN A GAME (OR MORE) THIS WEEK - OR ELSE!
By Jim Hurley:
Dr. Naismith would be proud:
There's folks bouncing basketballs from coast-to-coast these days as College Basketball's Conference Tournaments are in full swing and in today's mid-week edition of Jim Sez we'll provide overviews on four"power conferences" whose mini-tournies are set to get underway and we'll check in on what happed on Day One of the Big East Tournament that's gonna take five days and some 15 games to decide who's the king of that 16-team league.
But first things first:
The so-called"Super Six" - that's the ACC, Big East, Big 10, Big 12, Pac-10 and SEC - all have the most heralded mini-tournaments in the land but there's real-time pressure on a batch of non-power conference teams that are getting set to play in their respective conference tournaments.
Maybe you can think of a team here or there that we missed but the fact of the matter is the following clubs all - in our humble opinion - face win-or-else tilts this week. So here goes:
UNLV (23-7, 11-5 MWC) - It says here that the Runnin' Rebels must win two games in their Mountain West Conference tournament to feel good about their at-large status for next week's NCAA Tournament. Lon Kruger's club will be playing on its home floor at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas this week and so that's a built-in advantage and providing UNLV can best Utah on Thursday night (11:30 p.m. ET) then it all likely will come down to whether or not the Rebels can beat BYU in a semifinal tilt. Will the bubble burst for UNLV in its own backyard? Stay tuned and don't be shocked if there is some major drama in the desert.
SAINT LOUIS (20-10, 11-5 Atlantic-10) - Don't necessarily listen to those media blowhards who claim the Saint Louis Billikens are on the outside looking in terms of this year's NCAAs. Rick Majerus' squad finished regular-season play in fourth place in this highly-competitive conference and it's well worth noting that STL won eight of its final 10 regular-season tilts (and doesn't the high-and-mighty NCAA Tournament Committee always say that it values teams that end the season on an up note?) and note the Billikens have won their last four consecutive road games. If Saint Louis wins its A-10 quarterfinal game on Friday afternoon (2:25 p.m. ET) against Rhode Island, then we say you're in!
MEMPHIS (23-8, 13-3 C-USA) - The Tigers are usually lobbying for a #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament right about now but things changed when John Calipari exited stage left for the Kentucky job and now it's a new day for Memphis hoops. Heck, Memphis didn't even win its Conference USA regular-season crown this year as former Calipari assistant Tony Barbee and the UTEP Miners nabbed that trophy. Now, there's rumblings that Memphis must win at least one game in this C-USA Tournament being played in Tulsa - the Tigers drew an opening-round bye and are set to play the East Carolina vs. Houston winner on Thursday afternoon (1 p.m. ET). Get that one and Josh Pastner's club should be A-OK for an at-large berth. Lose it and Memphis will be playing the"waiting game" on Selection Sunday.
And now hear this:
Jim Hurley and his Network of Handicappers and Bloggers get you all the College Basketball Conference Tournament Winners and all the NBA Winners too when you check in on Game Days anytime after 11 a.m. ET for these weekday afternoon College Hoop Games and then anytime after 1 p.m. ET Monday-through-Friday for all the night-time action. This Saturday and Sunday you can check in after 10 a.m. ET. Go ahead and get it all right here online or else at our exclusive toll-free telephone # of 1-800-323-4453 - and make sure to be with us all through"March Madness".
MORE MINI-TOURNEY REPORTS
We will dig into the Pac-10, ACC, SEC and Big 10 Tournament overviews in just a moment but first let's clue you in on what happed on the first day of the Big East Tournament:
BIG EAST DAY #1
Here's a sampling of what happened in the Big East Tournament's Day #1 on Tuesday:
All the suspense at Madison Square Garden emanated from the night session as one New Jersey-based school barely hung on for a"W" and the other fell short. No doubt that Seton Hall (19-11) had a major late-game meltdown that was one for the ages as the Pirates nearly blew a 29-point second-half lead before holding off 6-point underdog Providence 109-106. Providence's freshman reserve Duke Mondy misfired on a three-point attempt to tie the game in the closing seconds or else Seton Hall coach Bobby Gonzalez would have been fed to the media wolves - even he admitted that he began to sub"too early" ...
In the nightcap, Rutgers (15-16) never would allow Cincinnati to put'em away late but the Scarlet Knights wound up fouling frosh Lance Stephenson - a cheap call if we've ever seen one with just 1.8 seconds left in the game - and the New York native canned one-of-two free throws to lift the Bearcats to a 69-68 non-cover win as 8 ½-point favorites. Cincinnati hammered Rutgers on the glass 44-to-28 and kept the Knights from beating'em deep late in the game ...
In the afternoon session, South Florida hung a ho-hum 58-49 win/cover on 7 ½-point dog DePaul as USF's do-everything man Dominique Jones poured in 20 points and grabbed 9 rebounds despite the fact he was MIA for about the first 10 minutes of the second half.
Meanwhile, St. John's pounded hapless UConn 73-51 and - dare we say - the Huskies' body language right from the start showed that they had no interest in playing this tilt. The Johnnies played hard, shot 50 percent from the floor (29-of-58) and watched Connecticut clang FT-after-FT as Jim Calhoun's crew shot 6-of-18 from the charity stripe. Ugh!
Now, here's more Conference Tournament Overviews as we look at the remainder of this mini-tourney week ...
Staples Center - Los Angeles, CA
Could there be a more wacky big-name conference in the country than this year's Pac-10?
Only three teams played better-than-600 ball in league play - that's California (13-5), Arizona State (12-6) and Washington (11-7) - as six teams in the conference lost 10-or-more games. No wonder the public at large would like to see only one or two Pac-10 teams make it into next week's NCAA Tournament although count us among the folks who believe this conference will get three teams in come Selection Sunday.
Maybe California guard Jerome Randle (18.7 ppg) can get hot and stay hot for Mike Montgomery's crew this week or maybe Washington's do-it-all star Quincy Pondexter (20.2 ppg and 7.8 rpg) can galvanize Lorenzo Romar's crew but don't be shocked if one of the teams with a sub-.500 Pac-10 regular-season record makes a run for it - like UCLA or Oregon State (both of whom went 8-10 in league play in the 2009-10 season).
It all gets kick-started with the #9-versus-#10 games on Wednesday night (that's Oregon vs. Washington State) with the winner there getting California but how about the other quarterfinal matchups: UCLA-Arizona, Oregon State-Washington and Stanford-Arizona State?
Heck, you could throw a blanket over these teams to find the best of the bunch over a three-day period.
Greensboro Coliseum - Greensboro, NC
The big question that everyone's asking is whether or not Duke (26-5, 13-3) gets a #1 NCAA Tournament seed if the Blue Devils cop this week's Atlantic Coast Conference Tourney - and the answer better be a resounding"yes"!
Duke snagged the numero uno seed in this mini-tourney thanks to tie-breaker jazz over Maryland (23-7, 13-3) and Mike Krzyzewski's crew is flying high following last weekend's ultra-demolition of archrival North Carolina - heck, if"Coach K" didn't call off the dogs in the second half than the Dookies would have won that game by lots more than 28 points!
Here, the Blue Devils won't swing into action until noon ET on Friday - they will play the winner of Thursday's Virginia-Boston College tilt - and so it's a good time to let you know the Cavaliers are without top stud Sylven Landesberg who's been booted from the squad because of academic issues. Maybe BC can hang around with Duke for awhile but it's quite possible Jon Scheyer (18.9 ppg), Nolan Smith (17.6 ppg) and Kyle Singler (17.2 ppg) won't have to break a sweat until Saturday's semis.
The rest of this ACC field has diverse interests while trying to KO Duke:
Aforementioned Maryland could get as high as a #2 seed with a mini-tourney title here while Virginia Tech and Florida State - both of whom registered tidy 10-6 marks in league play in 2009-10 - could seriously upgrade their respective NCAA Tourney seeds with a surprise title here.
Now that Wake Forest finally snapped its late-year four-game losing skid, the Demon Deacons might be playing a bit more loosey-goosey here while Clemson (21-9, 9-7) still may need to pound out a Round One win against N.C. State to convince NCAA Tournament Committee folks that they are indeed worthy of an at-large spot.
Odd to see North Carolina (16-15, 5-11) with a #10 seed attached to its name - maybe if the Tar Heels can beat Georgia Tech on Thursday night (7 p.m. ET) it would wash away some of the rotten taste of this season.
Sommet Center - Nashville, TN
Kentucky, Ole Miss, Mississippi State and Vanderbilt earned the mini-tourney's first-round bye while nabbing the top four seeds but don't be necessarily be surprised if only the UK Wildcats (29-2, 14-2) are the only high seed standing Sunday's championship game. No doubt that John Calipari's crew enters this tourney as prohibitive favorites but - let's say it right here and right now - one of these days the zone defenses regularly being thrown at G John Wall and Company is gonna cause the'Cats a major scare.
In this SEC Tournament, it's a pair of guard-oriented teams that have to survive opening-round games that could get a run going and they include Tennessee (23-7, 11-5) and Arkansas (7-9, 14-17) - both of whom can get hot and stay hot thanks to the Vols' Scotty Hopson (13.1 ppg) and the Hogs' little lefty Courtney Fortson (18.1 ppg). If Tennessee beats LSU in Round I, Bruce Pearl's guys get Ole Miss; if Arkansas knocks off short-handed Georgia in opening-round play, the Razorbacks would move on to play Vandy. Hmmm.
BIG 10 TOURNAMENT
Conseco Fieldhouse - Indianapolis, IN
Let's be honest here:
There are probably only three teams with a real-live shot at capturing this mini-tourney in the Midwest - Ohio State, Michigan State and Wisconsin (in that order) as simply believe Purdue will miss star F Robbie Hummel somewhere over a three-day period while the NCAA-hopeful likes of Illinois and Minnesota simply don't have enough firepower and sure don't look capable of stringing together three or four wins in a row against quality competition.
No question that Ohio State (24-7, 14-4) has the best player in this tourney in Evan Turner (19.5 ppg and 9.4 rpg) but a real key here is that if three-point specialist Jon Diebler (12.6 ppg) gets into a rhythm from beyond the arc, it'll be a case of"lights out" for any of the Buckeyes' foes here. Maybe the best way for Michigan State and/or Wisconsin to beat the Bucks in this mini-tourney is to defuse Diebler and quiet underrated star William Buford (14.3 ppg) and let Turner have his numbers - we'll see.
The M-State Spartans (24-7, 14-4) claim point guard Kalin Lucas (team-best 14.8 ppg) is fine after a late-season ankle injury but can Tom Izzo's team win this tourney with Lucas having to play 37 or 38 minutes a game for three consecutive days?
Wisconsin (23-7, 13-5) always favors that rough-and-tumble approach and nowadays the Badgers are deeper than ever with senior guards Jason Bohannon and Trevon Hughes more than capable of taking over a game at crunch time.
NOTE: Get more College Basketball Tournament News & Notes in the next edition of Jim Sez.
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