MAC and Big East Tournament Previews

PREVIEWS FOR MONDAY'S MAC, TUESDAY'S BIG EAST TOURNAMENTS

The big week is finally here! It's going to be wall-to-tall tournament coverage for college basketball here in the NOTEBOOK from this point forward. We'll run stat ranking previews for all of this week's major and mid-major events in the coming days. We appreciate that so many of you are visiting daily to get the key information you need to make smart decisions day-in and day-out.

There's only one tournament starting Monday Night, as the Mid American Conference begins first round play at campus sites for teams seeded 5-12. The MAC is now using the staggered bracket formula that many of last week's leagues were using. The 3-4 seeds get a bye into the quarterfinals, and the 1-2 seeds get a bye into the semifinals. That creates a unique set-up where tonight's winners play EACH OTHER before the top four seeds even have to take the court. This really penalizes teams who can't finish in the top five. We agree with that. It's kind of nuts that the worst teams in a conference have a chance to sleaze their way into the Big Dance!

The Big East tournament tips off early in the day Tuesday. So, we decided to preview that event for you in this Monday report as well so you'll prepared for the afternoon slate. We'll try to do that as much as we can this week...going a day ahead for the early starts. The schedule is so jammed though that it won't be possible to pull off 100% of the time. Just be ready at breakfast to do your homework so you can beat those afternoon slates!

There's a lot to get to today because the 16-team Big East is so big it's like there are two tournaments in one with that group. We start with tonight's action in the MAC. Remember that tonight's winners will play each other in the standard bracket format Wednesday Night in second round action. Some printed schedules are listing Wednesday's games as "quarterfinals." That's not really the case in this staggered format.

If this is your first visit to the NOTEBOOK in a while because you were waiting for the regular season to end before really getting involved in the baskets...are preview capsules list the computer rankings from Jeff Sagarin (USA Today) and Ken Pomeroy, then offensive and defensive efficiency rankings (points per possession adjusted for competition) as compiled by Pomeroy.

MAC OPENING ROUND (bottom team is at home)
N. Illinois (12): 331 in Sagarin, 332 in Pomeroy, 332 on offense, 307 on defense
E. Michigan (5): 251 in Sagarin, 268 in Pomeroy, 321 on offense, 126 on defense

The second team listed (superior seed) is playing at HOME tonight rather than on a neutral court, so be sure you're accounting for that in your math. It's easy to lose site of that when your buried in tournaments. Every point matters! Northern Illinois is one of the worst teams in the country, and Eastern Michigan is probably the worst #5 seed in the country...at least for the teams we're looking at this week. The MAC had mis-weighted divisions again, which can really much up the matchups in terms of fairness. This is basically a 10-12 game in terms of reality...but Eastern lucked into a #5 seed.

Ball State (9): 200 in Sagarin, 214 in Pomeroy, 228 on offense, 202 on defense
W. Michigan (8): 186 in Sagarin, 190 in Pomeroy, 152 on offense, 244 on defense

The perk here is that the winner gets whoever survives that very ugly first game on a neutral court Wednesday. That may serve as a virtual bye leading into a matchup against the #4 seed in the quarterfinals. Both defenses rank in the 200's though, which makes it hard to take either team seriously for a truly deep run.

Miami-OH (10): 197 in Sagarin, 197 in Pomeroy, 169 on offense, 234 on defense
Toledo (7): 206 in Sagarin, 202 in Pomeroy, 159 on offense, 258 on defense

Bad defenses in a bad league, never a good sign. Miami actually has the better composite rankings even though they have the inferior seed.

C. Michigan (11): 261 in Sagarin, 277 in Pomeroy, 274 on offense, 264 on defense
B. Green (6): 123 in Sagarin, 118 in Pomeroy, 135 on offense, 109 on defense

Of all the Monday Night teams, Bowling Green has the best computer and stat composite. They are the "true" #5 seed even if they're listed at #6. That's unfortunate because they'll have to play a very good #3 seed Ohio should they survive this first couplet of games. They would draw lesser Buffalo after that in the semi's though. If we had to pick the best darkhorse option in the MAC, it would be Bowling Green. This event has been created to discourage darkhorses though.

BYES INTO THURSDAY'S QUARTERFINALS (in Cleveland, OH)
Kent State (4): 112 in Sagarin, 124 in Pomeroy, 122 on offense, 131 on defense
Ohio (3): 73 in Sagarin, 74 in Pomeroy, 140 on offense, 34 on defense

Ohio is clearly much better than Kent, particularly on defense which is so important. You'll see in a moment that they're also significantly better than #2 seed Buffalo. The computers basically have them neck and neck with #1 seed Akron! Basically, Akron and Ohio are the two best teams, but Ohio got hosed in the bracketing.

BYES INTO FRIDAY'S SEMIFINALS (in Cleveland, OH)
Akron (1): 71 in Sagarin, 79 in Pomeroy, 106 on offense, 67 on defense
Buffalo (2): 99 in Sagarin, 107 in Pomeroy, 99 on offense, 122 on defense

The ultimate winner of the MAC, if it's Akron or Ohio, will have a real chance to score a first round upset in the Big Dance in our view. There are a lot of possible Cinderella's this year. And, there's no way they're ALL going to make headlines. Just remember how often the popular choices from the ESPN pundits have floundered in recent years, while a few off-the-radar Cinderella's have scored shockers. Don't sleep on the MAC!

Moving now to the Big East. To simplify matters as much as can be done in a 16-team tournament that lasts all week, we're going to present the information to you by quadrants. This is just an expansion of what we've already shown you in the 12-team tournaments. There's just an extra round here. In each quadrant, the top two teams face each other Tuesday. The winner survives to play the next team on the list Wednesday...and THAT winner will face the bottom team on the list in Thursday's quarterfinals. If you print out today's report, you'll find this is a very handy research tool for the week. We just can't come back each day to update the matchups because there are so many other tournaments going on this week.

 

BIG EAST CONFERENCE TOURNAMENT (starts Tuesday in New York, NY)
DePaul (16): 159 in Sagarin, 153 in Pomeroy, 77 on offense, 241 on defense
Connecticut (9): 39 in Sagarin, 38 in Pomeroy, 43 on offense, 60 on defense
W. Virginia (8): 36 in Sagarin, 40 in Pomeroy, 35 on offense, 69 on defense
Syracuse (1): 6 in Sagarin, 6 in Pomeroy, 12 on offense, 14 on defense

The seed numbers should register in your head from past events in terms of how the bracket looks. This is the first quadrant, and all the games will be the afternoon openers at the garden. DePaul plays UCONN early Tuesday...with the winner facing West Virginia early Wednesday...and that winner facing Syracuse early Thursday. Piece of cake!

This is a very condensed conference from seeds three through 10. Connecticut or West Virginia could easily have the look of a #3 or #4 seed as the week progresses. Remember that Connecticut had that great run last year in this event that triggered a national championship journey. Syracuse has the best numbers in the conference. We're not going to suggest that means much here because opposing players are familiar with their zone...and because the Orange just haven't looked that scary in recent days. Honestly, we won't be surprised no matter who of the 1-8-9 teams survives the quadrant.

Pittsburgh (13): 80 in Sagarin, 82 in Pomeroy, 39 on offense, 161 on defense
St. John's (12): 147 in Sagarin, 151 in Pomeroy, 136 on offense, 172 on defense
Georgetown (5): 14 in Sagarin, 13 in Pomeroy, 44 on offense, 10 on defense
Cincinnati (4): 37 in Sagarin, 34 in Pomeroy, 53 on offense, 31 on defense

Georgetown is the true #4 seed in this group, and is probably more like a #3 seed in terms of talent for the whole event. You'll see that in a moment when we get to Notre Dame. St. John's will be playing on their home floor...but that hasn't done much for them over the 30 years of this tourney! Pittsburgh ended their season with a thud, but they do have the talent to make life interesting if they can get past the Red Storm. How could a Pitt team play such bad defense?! We think Georgetown is the class of this hunk. We're interested to see how Cincinnati performs under higher expectations than normal.

Providence (15): 115 in Sagarin, 113 in Pomeroy, 49 on offense, 206 on defense
Seton Hall (10): 52 in Sagarin, 62 in Pomeroy, 98 on offense, 44 on defense
Louisville (7): 23 in Sagarin, 30 in Pomeroy, 130 on offense, 6 on defense
Marquette (2): 13 in Sagarin, 17 in Pomeroy, 25 on offense, 20 on defense

Even #7 Louisville has a better stat profile than #3 Notre Dame (coming shortly), so the late rounds could get truly wild at the Garden. We've never been as high on Seton Hall as some others. Their stunning loss to DePaul now makes it essential that they do something impressive quickly. It will be fun watching the ESPN announcers try to dance around bubble issues knowing how overrated the Big East turned out to be last year. It's tough to make an impassioned plea for the question mark teams when the supposed studs from last year turned out not to be very good under the spotlight.

Villanova (14): 91 in Sagarin, 92 in Pomeroy, 56 on offense, 141 on defense
Rutgers (11): 111 in Sagarin, 108 in Pomeroy, 157 on offense, 66 on defense
S. Florida (6): 69 in Sagarin, 67 in Pomeroy, 176 on offense, 16 on defense
Notre Dame (3): 40 in Sagarin, 36 in Pomeroy, 48 on offense, 47 on defense

One of these teams is going to reach the Final Four of this event late in the week. It's either the overseeded Notre Dame...the overseeded South Florida...or a bad team that's made it clear they don't belong in the discussion. Too bad things clustered this way. But, too many teams who are better than Notre Dame and South Florida couldn't stay focused on a consistent basis.

We're close to calling this a "name out of a hat" tournament. Syracuse is vulnerable. Any of several teams could get hot. Any of the bye teams could play flat or lethargic when they finally take the floor. We're looking forward to handicapping each day based on what the boxscores are saying, and based on what we're hearing from our fantastic New York sources. Information can mean EVERYTHING in the Big East tournament. That's why it's great that JIM HURLEY is so CONNECTED to the INFORMATION!

Selections in all the tournaments will go up early enough every day for you to take advantage here at the website. You can sign up for the full postseason online, or by calling 1-800-323-4453.

Last week was a prelude to profits...THE WINNING IS JUST BEGINNING!

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