The Major Conference Tournament Previews

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More college tournament and NBA action on Tuesday!



By Jim Hurley:

Go ahead and exhale now - you may not get another opportunity to do so till next Monday!

After all, it is one of the great weeks in the sports calendar - College Basketball's Conference Tournaments are all around with coast-to-coast action from New York City to LA-LA land and all parts in between.

In today's Jim Sez, we'll jet around a batch of venues and clue you in on what to watch for in the Six (6) Power Conference Mini-Tourneys and we'll get to all that shortly but first this ultra-important reminder:

Jim Hurley and his Network of Handicappers and Bloggers get you all the College Basketball Conference Tournament play and all the NBA Winners too when you check in on Game Days anytime after 11 a.m. ET for these weekday afternoon games and then anytime after 1:30 p.m. ET Monday-through-Friday for all the night-time action. 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 this business called "March Madness".

Extra, extra: Jim Hurley's exclusive Cashline service cranked out a 3-1-1 record this past Saturday with winners on UCLA (- 2½) over Washington State, UW-Milwaukee (-1) over Valpo in the Horizon League Tournament and "under" 123½ points in the Florida International versus Denver tilt in the Sun Belt Conference Tournament plus we "pushed" with Missouri (+4) against Kansas -- the only loser was Georgetown getting bumped off by 4-point fav Cincinnati in our Stunner Game of the Year. There's lots more round-ball winners comin' your way all month-of-March long with America's #1 Handicapper ... Mr. Jim Hurley.


Editor's Note: Our goal here in today's Jim Sez is to get you overviews on power conference tournaments and take note that when the 68-team NCAA Tournament field is selected come Sunday night, we'll have plenty to offer you regarding all the teams that get into this year's "Big Dance". Now, here's some of what's ahead this week in terms of the mini-tournies as we concentrate on power conference leagues playing Tuesday-thru-Sunday:

Madison Square Garden -- New York, NY

The joint at 33rd Street and 7th Avenue will - indeed - be jumping all week long as the biggest/best conference in the land descends on the Big Apple and go ahead and raise your hand if you predicted at season's start that Pittsburgh, Notre Dame, Syracuse and Louisville were gonna be the four teams that earned the double byes (none of these teams swing into action till Thursday but that's not always been a good thing!).

No doubt that all of the above have overachieved this season but now will that translate into this wild week in NYC where folks such as Connecticut, Georgetown and - most recently - West Virginia have been among those teams that rallied to Big East Tournament Championships?

Odds are this mini-tourney will represent "new life" for slumping Villanova and desperate Marquette and both clubs could be on the outside looking in at NCAA Tournament berths should they lose their Tuesday night openers (Marquette needs two wins here to feel good; Villanova likely just must beat South Florida on Tuesday night).

Of course, there's plenty of buzz regarding city favorite St. John's who will be back wearing their dancing shoes for the first time since 2002 but don't expect Steve Lavin's club to wriggle its way through this tourney 'cause the Red Storm has to win four games in four days and that's putting too much pressure on the shoulders of G Dwight Hardy.

Odds are Pittsburgh - defensively sound and with the conference's best clutch scorer in G Ashton Gibbs - and Notre Dame with Big East Player of the Year G Ben Hansbrough on its side will "hold serve" and meet in Saturday night's championship game but don't be shocked if West Virginia and/or Louisville slide through to the finals while holding their foes to 35-or-so percent shooting from the floor.

The Favorite: Pittsburgh ... The Dark Horse: West Virginia

Sprint Center - Kansas City, MO

Once upon a time it appeared that there would be a pair of #1 NCAA Tournament seeds coming from this mighty league but that ain't gonna happen now that Texas (25-6, 13-3) skidded late in the regular season but all eyes will remain on Kansas (29-2, 14-2) who is the heavy-duty favorite to cop this mini-tourney crown and than possibly be the #1-ranked team in the land by week's end.

However, if the Jayhawks stub their toe this week - whether it be in quarterfinal, semifinal or final round play - it could squeeze 'em out of a #1 NCAA seed providing the likes of Pitt, Ohio State and Duke all win their respective conference tournies and so no time to rest on your laurels, coach Bill Self and Company!

You could make the case that Missouri - just 8-8 in league play - needs to beat overmatched Texas Tech in a Wednesday first-round game to insure that the Tigers will get back into the "Big Dance" but Texas, Texas A&M and Kansas State are all lead-pipe cinches although all of the above here could significantly upgrade their NCAA Tourney seeds with a surprise mini-tourney title.

It's also possible that one player here or there might take over matters here in KayCee - and we're thinking about Baylor G LaceDarrius Dunn and/or Colorado G Alec Burks - and so don't discount the possibility that these Big 12 teams could swipe a couple of games and make things sticky for the favorites.

The Favorite: Kansas ... The Dark Horse: Colorado

Greensboro Coliseum - Greensboro, NC

Now that the North Carolina Tar Heels (24-6, 14-2) have flexed their youthful muscles and snagged the #1 seed in this week's mini-tourney along the Tobacco Road, the hoop fans in these parts want to see if Roy Williams' squad can nab the daily double - hey, it won't be easy especially if there's a Part III against archrival Duke but any other matchup in the championship game will be a major letdown ... right?

The UNC Tar Heels enter this mini-tourney fray having won their last seven games in a row and they've been the masters of winning the close ones as evidenced by last week's 2-point win at Florida State to go along with recent 2-point victories over both Boston College and Clemson. Maybe this shows a tendency to play to the level of the competition but it says here that - sooner or later - playing with such fire will prove hazardous to Carolina's health and well-being.

On the other hand, now Duke (27-4, 13-3) heads into this tourney with a chip on its collective shoulder and with head coach Mike Krzyzewski informing his defending champion team that anything short of winning this crown will keep the Dookies away from the #1 seed line in next week's NCAA Tournament.

Looking for someone other than North Carolina or Duke to swipe this sucker in Greensboro?

Than maybe Florida State floats your boat as the Seminoles always bring a lunch-pail attitude into their games but can they beat Carolina and Duke (in either order) back-to-back here?

The Favorite: Duke ... The Dark Horse: Florida State

Georgia Dome - Atlanta, GA

It all depends on whom you listen to - the Southeastern Conference could wind up with as many as seven teams in this year's NCAA Tournament or they could have to settle for as few as four berths. No matter how you slice it the 2010-11 regular season wasn't anything o write home about for this league with #14 Florida (24-6, 13-3) the highest-ranked team of them all from this 12-team league.

Okay, the Gators have the "goods" to win this SEC Tournament with the tag teams of G Erving Walker and F Chandler Parsons (they combine for 26 ppg) a real dynamic duo but what we've witnessed in recent SEC Tournies is that someone comes out of the weeds and gets/stays hot (see Miss State two years ago, for example). Perhaps M-State is set to make a run here with all those perimeter shooters looking to ward off the awful shooting background inside the Georgia Dome but consider Kentucky and Alabama as the major challengers to this crown as John Calipari's club really had an awakening with that come-from-behind 64-58 win at Tennessee on Sunday while 'Bama (12-4 in SEC and a shoo-in to make it into the NCAAs despite talk to the contrary) sports the SEC's best scoring defense (58.8 ppg) and can suffocate any/all great three-point shooters.

Note that if Tennessee (18-13, 8-8) and Georgia (20-10, 9-7) are not careful here than either/both could blow a potential at-large bid to the NCAAs and the Vols play Arkansas in an opening-round game (lost to the Hogs 68-65 back on Jan. 8th) while the Georgia Dawgs will be heavy favorites to bounce Auburn come Thursday afternoon.

The Favorite: Florida ... The Dark Horse: Miss State

Conseco Fieldhouse - Indianapolis, IN

It's quite possible that when the dust settles on this Big 10 Tourney there will be three teams from this league - Ohio State, Purdue and Wisconsin (of course) - that figure to grabbing hold of the top 10 overall seeds in next week's NCAA Tournament but whether or not the O-State Buckeyes (29-2, 16-2) win this fandango or not it's quite likely Thad Matta's squad will nonetheless be awarded one of the precious #1 seeds.

It's the Purdue Boilermakers (25-6, 14-4) who could make a dash for the #1 seed line in the NCAA should JaJuan Johnson (20.5 ppg), E'Twaun Moore (18.3 ppg) and mates win this whole ball of wax and maybe last Saturday's stunning 67-65 loss at 10-point underdog Iowa will prove to have been a wake-up call when folks look back at this mini-tourney in Purdue's backyard.

It's safe to say that Michigan State (17-13) and Michigan (19-12) each have to win at least once in this mini-tourney just to be considered "live" by the NCAA Tournament Committee folks and note Tom Izzo's Spartans actually have to play in Thursday's "outbracket" games with a date against aforementioned weakling Iowa. Meanwhile, Illinois (19-12, 9-9) would be wise to win its quarterfinal game to stay on the committee's good side.

The Favorite: Ohio State ... The Dark Horse: Michigan

Staples Center - Los Angeles, CA

Now, this could be a real wild scramble for the Pac-10 mini-tourney crown as Arizona, UCLA and Washington (all twin-figure winners inside league play this year) have the best shots to cash their chips at the end but don't sleep on the next three teams in the standings namely USC, California and Washington State. Note the four remaining teams we failed to mention - that's Stanford, Oregon, Oregon State and Arizona State -- all figure to be history come late Thursday night but maybe one real key here will be how hard the co-favorites have to work to exterminate the lower-rung teams.

The other key to getting this Pac-10 tourney title?

Make sure you don't have to play two of the heavy-hitters here because scoring back-to-back wins against the likes of 'Zona, UCLA and the UW Huskies won't be easy.

If the team with the single-best player wins this tourney than that would be the U of A Wildcats with F Derrick Williams (18.8 ppg) but something tells us he'll be receiving double-coverage at every turn.

The Tri-Favorites: Arizona/UCLA/Washington ... The Dark Horse: USC

NOTE: More College Basketball action including Conference Tournament action in the next edition of Jim Sez.


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