It's Conference Touirnament Week - Here's The Previews
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IT'S COLLEGE BASKETBALL FUN-FILLED MINI-TOURNEY WEEK
WE CHECK OUT THE BIG EAST, MOUNTAIN WEST & WAC TOURNAMENTS THAT ALL TIP OFF TUESDAY PLUS THERE'S THE PAC-12, CONFERENCE USA, BIG 12 & SEC TOURNIES THAT SWING INTO ACTION ON WEDNESDAY
By Jim Hurley:
Are in you in the mood for College Basketball's wildest week of the whole year?
No doubt every hoops fan in America craves for the NCAA Tournament but why jump ahead a week when you have this great wall-to-wall, morning-to-late-in-the-night round-ball action that's sure to get the juices flowing - or weren't you watching Valpo's buzzer-beating win against Wisconsin-Green Bay this past Saturday in "mini-tourney" action in the Horizon League or Saint Mary's scintillating overtime win against San Diego in the West Coast Conference Tourney right after the clocks on the East Coast went to 3 a.m. (with a little assist to daylight savings time, of course!) on Sunday morning?
The conference tournaments - or what we've learned to call the mini-tournies - could be a major death knell to some "bubble" folks or it could be a "second opportunity" for other teams out there - be sure that this week's games will not run short on drama whether it's the last "real" Big East Tournament Championship in New York City or the SEC Tournament that could KO three or four bubble teams when the dust finally settles in Nashville.
Okay, snap up your seatbelt and let's get ready to zoom through Seven (7) Conference Tournaments that start either Tuesday or Wednesday - and keep in mind we'll have more mini-tourney coverage in the next Jim Sez with the ACC, Big 10, Atlantic-10 and Big West Conferences some of the next batch of leagues that will rock-n-roll in their tournaments beginning Thursday.
You've been forewarned!
Now let's get to the mini-tournies that begin on Tuesday ...
BIG EAST TOURNAMENT - at Madison Square Garden, New York, NY
It's everyone into the pool - except for ineligible UConn - in this misty-eyed tourney that will be saying goodbye to the likes of Syracuse, Pittsburgh, Rutgers and some other long-time league members - and you do have to wonder how the emotions will range here especially if the soon-to-be-gone teams start to face elimination/crunch-time moments.
Will the 'Cuse or the Panthers - for example -- be able to handle the late-and-close situations? Hmmm.
No question that #1 seed Georgetown earned this honor (although Louisville and Marquette do technically share in the top spot) and Player of the Year candidate Otto Porter can be a one-man wrecking crew but odds are John Thompson III's team doesn't have the high-quality depth to win three games in as many days and we all know the league's history as these "double-bye" teams often stumble and so be careful getting too amped over the likes of G-town, Louisville, Marquette and Pitt.
In recent years we've seen one-man shows carry the mail whether it be Syracuse's Gerry McNamara or Connecticut's Kemba Walker - might Cincy's Cashmere Wright or perhaps Notre Dame's Jerian Grant steal the show this time? Stay tuned.
The Favorite: Louisville
The Dark Horse: Providence
MOUNTAIN WEST CONFERENCE TOURNAMENT - at Thomas & Mack Center, Las Vegas, NV
There are always major surprises in this underrated league that features three teams with NCAA Tournament bids already sewn up in top seed New Mexico (26-5), Colorado State and UNLV but can a race to the title game help Boise State (21-9) get off the bubble and what's gonna be the UNM Lobos' fate should they happen not to get to the championship game ... maybe Steve Alford's crew than winds up with a crummy #7 or #8 seed after being Top 15 material for much of this current campaign.
The target is firmly on New Mexico's back here but - as is always the case - the "host" UNLV Runnin' Rebels could rely on some home cooking to get 'em a mini-tourney title and thus we won't consider New Mex that much of a betting favorite over UNLV here ... okay?
The Favorite: New Mexico
The Dark Horse: Boise State
WESTERN ATHLETIC CONFERENCE - at Orleans Arena, Las Vegas, NV
Granted, this isn't one of the country's real marquee leagues but both Louisiana Tech (26-5) and Denver (21-8) finished an identical 16-2 in conference regular-season play and both will have gripes if they don't land an NCAA Tournament at-large berth - but when the hoops gets started here with a pair of first-round games it's New Mexico State and Utah State that should deserve your attention because both sport veteran, tourney-tested head coaches and neither should crack at gut-check time late.
The Favorite: Louisiana Tech
The Dark Horse: (tied) New Mexico State and Utah State
Jim Hurley and his Network of Handicappers and Bloggers are hot-hot-hot these days and they will get you all the College Basketball Conference Tournament and NBA Winners every day when you check in with us either right here online or else at our exclusive toll-free telephone # of 1-800-323-4453. Note that the special check-in times are after 11 a.m. ET for all the weekday afternoon games and then after 1 p.m. ET for all the Monday-through-Friday night action. Also, the winning selections are available after 10 a.m. ET on Saturday and Sunday.
Now, here's the College Basketball Conference Tournaments that tip off Wednesday ...
PAC-12 TOURNAMENT - at MGM Grand Arena, Las Vegas, NV
The top four seeds are UCLA, Arizona, Oregon and California and they each get a first-round bye but remember last year when Colorado played four games in as many days en route to the mini-tourney title ... one of the best conference championship runs in recent memory, if you ask us!
So, don't be shocked if there's an encore performance by the well-coached Buffaloes - Tad Boyle is quickly moving into our top five sideline generals! - or even if one of the other first-round teams gets hot and we're mainly talking Washington Huskies here. The Dawgs sure can lock it down on "D" these days.
If star power is gonna dictate who wins this thing than either UCLA's Shabazz Muhammad or California's Allen Crabbe (18.6 ppg) could be the man-of-the-moment although if you're looking for the league's deepest team than may we suggest the Oregon Ducks who are counting on frosh PF Dominic Artis to stay healthy and stay hot.
The Favorite: Arizona
The Dark Horse: Colorado
CONFERENCE USA TOURNAMENT - at BOK Center, Tulsa, OK
Memphis (27-4, 16-0) owned this league once again and is the odds-on choice to snag this mini-tourney title and get a solid seed in the NCAA's (we say a #4 is possible) but Josh Pastner's squad can play a little wild and reckless at times and the whole key is PG Joe Jackson who needs a 14-point, 8-assist type average line in these games to get the Tigers to roar.
Still, the fact this tourney's in Tulsa makes the host Golden Hurricane a "live" team and don't sleep on UTEP as Miners' boss-man Tim Floyd has a way of stealing close games with his club's shutdown defense.
Just can't see any of the six teams playing in the first-round games that begin Wednesday afternoon/evening getting their "mojo" working - and that includes Larry Brown's SMU Ponies.
The Favorite: Memphis
The Dark Horse: UTEP
BIG 12 CONFERENCE TOURNAMENT - at Sprint Center, Kansas City, MO
One thing for sure here is the two teams that make it through to the conference championship game will have earned their stripes as - save for top seed Kansas (26-5, 14-4) -- you can literally throw a blanket over a handful of high-quality teams that could get hot right through the end of March.
Hey, don't sweat the Jayhawks' lopsided loss at Baylor last weekend because Kansas was playing some lights-out hoops heading into that clash and providing frosh star Ben McLemore gets some decent offensive assistance this week than Bill Self's crew should snag the title crown.
But not so fast, my friends, as co-regular season champ Kansas State and Oklahoma State have plenty of go-to guys and both Iowa State and Oklahoma can win this mini-tourney if the three-balls are going in early.
Want a real X-factor for this tournament?
Let's see is aforementioned Baylor can get its act together after a spotty season - G Pierre Jackson has a shot to win over fans and he could well make the Bears a part of the NCAA Tourney conversation come Sunday afternoon.
The Favorite: Kansas
The Dark Horse: Baylor
SEC TOURNAMENT - at Bridgestone Arena, Nashville, TN
If you've been following all of Joe Lunardi's "Last 4 In" and "First 4 Out" charts on ESPN the past few days than you know he's put a slew of Southeastern Conference teams on the proverbial bubble with the likes of Tennessee, Alabama, Ole Miss, Kentucky and Arkansas all landing on one side or another and so conventional wisdom says a couple of these teams - namely the Vols (19-11) and the Hogs (19-12) -- probably need to win at least one game and maybe two to cement an at-large NCAA Tourney bid while this mini-tourney holds special significance to #1 seed Florida which can probably snag a #2 seed in the NCAA's with a mini-tourney crown here ... got all that?
Don't look for any of the SEC's single-digit win teams - you can go look 'em up - to go very far but won't it be something if we get a Florida vs. Kentucky showdown somewhere here?
One thing we should say is the likes of Missouri - a bad road team with rocky point guard play late in games - and Ole Miss (maybe too dependent on fiery G Marshall Henderson) shall not be trusted with our hard-earned moolah this week/weekend.
The Favorite: Florida
The Dark Horse: Tennessee
NOTE: Lots more College B-Ball Conference Tournament action in the next edition of Jim Sez.
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