OUR COLLEGE BASKETBALL BEGINNING-OF-MARCH GRAB BAG IS FILLED WITH LOTS OF NEAT STUFF - THERE'S MID-WEEK PREVIEWS BELOW PLUS MORE MINI-TOURNAMENT NEWS &NOTES
By Jim Hurley:
We know what everybody's asking out there when it comes to NCAA Tournament berths ...
How many teams are getting in from "our" conference/league?
No doubt the bloated Big East Conference has gobbled up most of that sort of chatter as many "bracketologists" still believe that there will be 11 Big East teams named to the 68-team NCAA Tournament field come Selection Sunday (March 13th) but - again - we have our doubts (we say it's more like nine teams from this conference that will be "dancing") but what about some of the other power conferences?
Who might well get snubbed come Selection Sunday?
Here's some thoughts as we pry into the always-thrilling month of March:
ACC - Pin us down right this very minute and it appears that only four teams are lead-pipe cinches including Duke, North Carolina, Florida State and Virginia Tech and odds are only five teams in all from this 12-team conference will make the cut with Clemson, Maryland and Boston College likely all battling for a single bid. Suffice to say in any of these projections, a run to the championship game by one of the "bubble teams" would figure to be enough to lift'em into the NCAA Tourney.
Big East - Okay, so while the overall records (see standings) make it appear that 11 teams could be sent to the "Big Dance" our gut feeling right now is Marquette, Cincinnati and/or West Virginia could all be in trouble unless they do something in next week's mini-tournament in New York City. What big wins does Marquette own this year and, save from beating a banged-up Georgetown club, what makes Cincinnati feel it's "in" right now?
Big 10 - Only three teams are assured of NCAA Tournament berths and, when the dust settles prior to 6 p.m. ET on March 13th, it could well be the case that Ohio State's the #1 overall seed in the tourney while Purdue and Wisconsin could be holding down #2 and/or #3 seeds. But, folks, where else can the committee go for a fourth or possibly fifth team here? It's possible that a Michigan team right now 8-9 in Big 10 play could make some noise behind tourney-tough coach John Beilein but right now the best we see this Big 10 doing is four tourney teams ... no more.
Big 12 - Hey, this is pretty cut-and-dried stuff here as the quintet including Kansas, Texas, Texas A&M, Missouri and Kansas State all will have their dancing shoes packed but the only way the likes of Colorado, Baylor and/or Nebraska gets into the tourney mix is by winning at least two games in next week's Big 12 Tournament in the Show Me State. P.S., we would rate the Big East, ACC and Big 10 all above the Big 12 in terms of conference power ratings and so the Big 12 folks simply don't get a "benefit of the doubt" call with one of its "bubble teams" over these other leagues.
Pac-10 - Okay, so have a theory here regarding this league: Finish above the .500 mark in conference games and you're in but otherwise you're in some trouble. So, the likes of USC (9-7 in Pac-10 play), California (9-8) and Washington State (8-8) have some unfinished business if they wish to join the sure-shot likes of Arizona, UCLA and Washington. The best we see coming out of the Pac-10 is five teams once everyone's finished knocking heads at the end of the season.
SEC - Let's admit it: The Southeastern Conference is a really tough call considering #14 Florida currently is the highest-rated SEC team in this week's Associated Press poll while #20 Kentucky and #21 Vanderbilt are the only other SEC crews in the top 25 mix and so you might be searching for someone beyond cinch Alabama (11-3 in the SEC). Still, gotta believe that the NCAA Tournament folks will go at least five-deep here in this conference and so Georgia, Tennessee, Mississippi State and Arkansas could well be fighting it out for one remaining NCAA Tournament berth.
So - for now - this is how we see things stacking up in terms of the power conferences and we say there will be 34 teams from these six conferences that probably will land NCAA Tournament berths. In other words, half the tourney field will be power conference teams and the other half will not.
Hey, sounds good to us as we always would rather have the "little guy" have his shot to win it all ... or didn't the Butler story last year wow you like it wowed everyone else in the land?
Note: As far as these so-called super-power conferences of College Basketball, here are their respective mini-tourney schedules just so you know what's straight ahead (and when):
- Big East Tournament - March 8-12, Madison Square Garden, New York City
- Big 12 Tournament - March 9-12, Sprint Center, Kansas City
- Pac-10 Tournament - March 9-12, Staples Center, Los Angeles
- Big 10 Tournament - March 10-13, Conseco Fieldhouse, Indianapolis
- ACC Tournament - March 10-13, Greensboro Coliseum, Greensboro
- SEC Tournament - March 10-13, Georgia Dome, Atlanta
Now hear this: Jim Hurley and his Network of Handicappers and Bloggers get you all the College Basketball and also the NBA Winners when you check in on Game Days anytime after 10 a.m. ET on the weekend and after 1 p.m. ET Monday-through-Friday right here online or else get us at our exclusive toll-free telephone # of 1-800-323-4453 - and do make sure to be with us all through this exciting and very profitable hoops ride right into June! Folks, keep in mind that all the College Basketball Conference Tournaments have begun and there will be lots of matinee weekday action coming later this week and all through next week and so make sure to check your daily hoop schedules and then check with us for all the day-time and night-time hoops winners. Got it?
COLLEGE HOOPS: THE WEDNESDAY/THURSDAY KEY PREVIEWS
On Wednesday, it's ...
#13 NORTH CAROLINA (22-6, 12-2 ACC) at FLORIDA STATE (20-8, 10-4 ACC) - 7 p.m. ET, ESPN
Perhaps you've noticed ... the UNC Tar Heels keep climbing up the charts thanks to a five-game winning streak (and 10 victories in their last 11 games). Now, Carolina "Blue" looks to make it a regular-season sweeperoo over Florida State - the Heels squashed the Seminoles 89-69 back on Feb. 6th as freshman PG Kendall Marshall dished out 16 assists (the most by any North Carolina player in an Atlantic Coast Conference game) and fellow frosh Harrison Barnes chipped in with 17 points and 10 rebounds but will the sailing be so smooth here in Tallahassee?
he oft-overlooked'Noles missed half of their 18 free-throw attempts in that earlier game in Chapel Hill and now star F Chris Singleton (broken right foot) won't play here and isn't expected back before next week's ACC Tournament. Singleton is FSU's leading scorer (13.8 ppg) and top rebounder (7.1 rpg) and so others must pick up the slack for Leonard Hamilton's troops - paging G Derwin Kitchen!
NEW MEXICO (18-11, 6-8 MWC) at #3 BYU (27-2, 13-1 MWC) - 10 p.m. ET, MTN
Do you have Jimmer Fever? BYU guard Jimmer Fredette - who has now scored 20-or-more points in 25 different games this year for the high-and-mighty BYU Cougars - just about wrapped up the National Player of the Year award with last weekend's snazzy 25-point outing en route to the 80-67 upset win at 4 ½-point favorite San Diego State but now the $64,000 question is what will he and the Coogs do here in attempting to avenge their only Mountain West Conference loss of the year?
You'll recall that BYU blew a 13-point second-half lead in that 86-77 loss at New Mexico back on Jan. 29th - Fredettte did his part by pouring in 32 points but backcourt mate Jackson Emery registered just 6 points in 26 minutes of action and Los Lobos shot a sizzling 31-of-61 (that's 50.8 percent) to snag that key win.
Here, Steve Alford's club must play with the energy it displayed in the final four minutes of last Saturday's 80-70 win at 8-point dog TCU - note that New Mexico had lost four in a row prior to that win in Fort Worth so it's not as if the Lobos have been clicking on all cylinders but do check out Dairese Gray who zapped the Horned Frogs with 32 points last Saturday night.
On Thursday, it's ...
UCLA (21-8, 12-4 Pac-10) at WASHINGTON (19-9, 10-6 Pac-10) - 10:30 p.m. ET
So, maybe you thought the UCLA Bruins were "yesterday's news" ... not so fast, my friends! Believe it or not, the Uclans are knotted up with Arizona for first place in the Pac-10 these days with rumblings that they could find themselves with a top 4 seed in one of the NCAA Tournament regions later this month.
UCLA enters this clash in Seattle having won 12 of its last 14 games and the dynamic duo of forwards Reeves Nelson (14 ppg and 9 rpg) and Tyler Honeycutt (12.8 ppg, 7.4 rpg and 55 blocked shots) now look to weave their magic in this revenge game - the UW Huskies copped a 74-63 win at Pauley Pavilion back on New Year's Eve as the Dawgs bridged the first and second halves with a splendid 27-10 run as Washington's Matthew Bryan-Amaning scored a game-high 21 points.
THE COLLEGE B-BALL CONFERENCE MINI-TOURNIES: WHOM TO WATCH FROM "THE VALLEY" AND THE COLONIAL
MISSOURI VALLEY CONFERENCE (March 3-thru-March 6)
Both Missouri State (23-7) and Wichita State (23-7) are cinches to make it into the NCAA Tournament field of 68 teams but keep a close eye on the M-State Bears who sport four senior starters - and aren't they always so critically important in the month of March!
Cuonzo Martin's club is the numero uno seed in this week's mini-tourney and that marks the first time the Bears won the regular-season crown since joining the league back in 1990-91. Don't be shocked if this club somehow dances its way into the Sweet 16 - if Missouri State's sticky half-court defense forces opponents to take jump shot-after-jump shot (right, Wichita State)?) than you can expect Mizzou State to be a handful here this week and beyond.
COLONIAL ATHLETIC CONFERENCE (March 4-thru-7)
This league is hoping for multiple bids but likely only George Mason (25-5 overall) and one other team will make the NCAA Tournament cut and here's a heads-up to watch for the Old Dominion Monarchs (24-6). No doubt that ODU's imprint - dee-fense, dee-fense - is the key here as the Monarchs hold CAA foes to just 58 points a game (the best in the league) and F Frank Hassell (14.2 ppg) - who averaged 9.8 rebs a game including four offensive boards per contest - is someone the nation may just discover within the next two or three weeks.
NOTE: Stay with us all month-of-March long for all the College Hoops Reports including more Mid-Major Mini-Tournament/NCAA Tournament News & Notes.
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