Tuesday, March 11, 2008


Many of the big conferences join the madness today, starting with the Big East at 11:00am on ESPN. The best news of all, not only is there day action all this week, but there's late night action as well, with the Pac 10 having a game on Fox Sports starting at 10:30 Wed-Fri of this week.

Last night bubble teams got some relief, as Butler, a lock, won the Horizon tournament and Western Kentucky, a bubble team, won the Sun Belt. Another solid team in Oral Roberts (o, r u?) won the Summit as the #1 seed. The Big Sky championship is set up well, with #1 Portland State vs. #2 Northern Arizona. RIP Weber State.

Several tournaments start off today, but I'm not going to do a full profile on them all, just the smaller ones:

Basically the most worthless of all the small conferences, the SWAC ranked 31 out of 31 in conference RPI, and whoever comes out of here will be a 30 point underdog in the first round (if they get past the play-in game), but still, all basketball is interesting to some degree. The top team in the SWAC this year is Alabama State, who finished out the conference at 15-3 to win by three games. The Hornets have a balanced attack with no player in the top 5 in either scoring or rebounding in the conference, but the awesomest thing about this team is that their starting center is named CHIEF KICKINGSTALLIONSIMS That's bolded so you recognize how awesome that name is. And totally true.
FAVORITE: Alabama State
SLEEPER: Jackson State. The Tigers were one of three SWAC teams to beat Alabama State, and are a fascinating team. They are one of the fastest teams in the country (ranked 19th in tempo) but also one of the least efficient offensively (315th). By sheer volume of shots taken, they score a lot of points.
W's PICK: Chief Kickingstallionsims!!!!!!!!!!!!!

It wasn't all that long ago the Big West had teams like Utah State, Pacific, and CS-Fullerton who were legitimate threats to take down a team or two in the Big Dance, but Utah State left for the WAC and Pacific and Fullerton aren't quite the same anymore. The top Big West team this year is UC-Santa Barbara, and other than the nickname "the Gauchos" they don't have much of a claim to fame. A win over UNLV stands as the one bright spot out of conference. In conference play they finished in a three way tie with Fullerton and CS-Northridge, but grabbed the 1 seed due to sweeping Northridge and splitting with Fullerton. The Gauchos do most of their damage from the outside, shooting 41.3% from beyond the arc as a team, good for fourth in the country.
FAVORITE: UC-Santa Barbara
SLEEPER: Long Beach State. Led by basketball wizard Dan Monson, the 49ers finished 6-24 overall, but I have no doubt that led by this maestro of the hardwood, LBSU can find a way to win and get to the big dance.
W's PICK: CS-Fullerton. The Titans play a fast (13th in pace) and efficient style (78th), leading the Big West with 83 points scored per game.

The MAC always seems to be just good enough to get a bubble team, but not good enough to actually get an at-large (see: Akron last year). This year should be different, as Kent State has done enough to merit an at-large, assuming they don't flame out too early here in the MAC tournament. It won't be an easy road for the Golden Flashes, as even though they are an excellent squad with an RPI of 26, they'll have to outlast fellow top 100 teams Ohio (74), Akron (84), and Miami-Ohio (81). Kent is very balanced inside and out, as they get double digit scoring from guards Al Fisher and Chris Singletary and from big men Haminn Quaintance and Mike Scott (not the pitcher). Quaintance also leads the MAC in field goal percentage, while Singletary is fourth.
FAVORITE: Kent State
SLEEPER: Ohio. The Bobcats are the fourth seed, but have the second best RPI in the conference (due to wins over Maryland and St. Johns), and the best player in the conference in Leon Williams (4th in scoring, 1st in rebounding).
W's PICK: Kent State. Bubble teams breath a little easier as the best team and at-large candidate picks up the auto-bid.

And now for the bigger conferences, in a slightly less obnoxious form:

FAVORITE: Xavier. The only team with an at large locked up
LOCKS: Xavier. I already said that.
SLEEPER: Dayton. Is a team a sleeper if they were hot, then flamed out, then got hot again?
BUBBLE TEAMS: Dayton, UMass, Temple, St. Joe's
PLAYER TO WATCH: Chris Wright, Dayton. Stud freshman who got hurt. Dayton was 12-1 with him, 8-8 without him. Rumors are he might be back for the tournament, which would be huge if he can play back to his high level
W's PICK: Dayton
WHO'S GETTING IN: Xavier, Dayton, UMass

FAVORITE: BYU. Ended up winning the conference title by 2 games.
LOCKS: BYU. An RPI of 21 and a win over Louisville will do that.
SLEEPER: Air Force. Yes, they still play that annoying slow style that is always dangerous (338th in tempo)
BUBBLE TEAMS: UNLV, New Mexico. Although UNLV is ALOT closer to a bid than the Lobos.
PLAYER TO WATCH: JR Giddens, New Mexico. A Kansas recruit before he killed somebody or cheated in high school on a test or something and got shipped out, has started to live up to his potential (15.6 ppg, 8.4 rpg) but very inconsistent. Has the ability to take over, with two thirty point games in the past month, highlighted by a 36 point, 11 rebound, 6 steals monster against Wyoming.
W's PICK: UNLV. They have home court advantage throughout the tournament (see: San Diego)

FAVORITE: Georgetown. Could be Louisville, but the Hoyas beat them in the regular season finale to take the conference title.
LOCKS: Georgetown, Louisville, UCONN, Notre Dame, Marquette, Pitt. And all them are serious final four contenders.
SLEEPER: Syracuse. With that much depth it's hard to pick anybody, but Boeheim has done it before. Too bad there's no Gerry Mac this year.
BUBBLE TEAMS: West Virginia, Syracuse, Villanova. WVU is probably in, Cuse and Nova play each other in the first game of the tournament.
PLAYER TO WATCH: Levance Fields, Pitt and Donte Green, Syracuse. Fields was the leader of a Panther's team considered a national title contender before he got hurt. After struggling a bit in his absence, they haven't received the boost they hoped from his return. He's shooting just 30% since coming back and the Panthers have gone 3-4. Green is the leading scorer for the Orange and best player, but at 6-11 he tends to fall in love with the three pointer too much at times. Over half his FG attempts this year are from beyond the arc, and the team plays much better when he works inside/outside, as opposed to just Rickerting it the whole time.
W's PICK: Notre Dame. I didn't realize how good the Irish were. They snuck up on me.
WHO'S GETTING IN: Notre Dame, Georgetown, Louisville, Pitt, UCONN, West Virginia, Marquette. Sorry Syracuse. Come to the Barn - how awesome would that be?

PAC 10:
FAVORITE: UCLA. Did you know the Bruins are 4th in both offensive and defensive efficiency? That's just sick.
LOCKS: UCLA, Stanford, Washington State, USC
SLEEPER: Arizona. Even at 8-10 in conference, an RPI of 29, strength of schedule of 1, and a 10-5 record against top 100 teams means you are something to be reckoned with. Although 0-6 against the RPI top 25 is not good, no team needs a run in this tournament more than the Wildcats (or Mildcats, tee-hee).
BUBBLE TEAMS: Arizona, Arizona State, Oregon. All three are about as "bubble" as you can get. Will be very interesting to see what happens here.
PLAYER TO WATCH: Jerryd Bayless, Arizona. No, not OJ Mayo. Dude's overrated. Bayless is as good as the come, and is the best freshman in my mind in the Pac 10 not named Kevin Love. Bayless missed four games with injuries, and the Wildcats went 1-3, including 1-2 in conference to fellow bubblers Oregon and Arizona State.
W's PICK: USC. UCLA always seems to coast in these things, and USC is built for tournament play.
WHO'S GETTING IN: UCLA, Washington State, Arizona, USC, and Stanford.

FAVORITE: Memphis. Obviously. But did you know they're dead last in the country in free throw shooting at 58.7%? Dead. Last. Four regulars under 60%, and nobody over 70.6%. That could hurt.
LOCKS: Memphis. Obviously. Joey Dorsey is 36-99 this year. That's 36.4%. I can't think of many things I fail at 63% of the time, other than being interesting.
SLEEPER: UTEP. I'm not actually sure there really is a sleeper here, but the Miners are the closest thing. They damn near beat Memphis last time they met, but the Tigers pulled away to win by six. And UTEP plays a seriously uptempo style, ranking 16th in tempo. I don't know, I got nothin' here.
BUBBLE TEAMS: UAB, Houston. UAB looks better than Houston, as the Cougars are hanging on by mere fumes, but the Blazers aren't in great shape either. A season-ending 38 point loss to Memphis really hurt, and C-USA may be a one bidder.
PLAYER TO WATCH: Robert Vaden, UAB. Former Hoosier who is thriving under Mike Davis on the Blazers. Ended up third in scoring in CUSA at 21.7 per game, and can light it up in a heartbeat, leading the nation in three pointers made. He averages 11 three point attempts per game, so he can shoot you right out of a game, but if he's hot he's almost unstoppable (see: 7-11 against Kentucky, UAB's biggest win of the year and big reason they're on the bubble).
W's PICK: Memphis. They handle these clowns on a regular basis, should continue.
WHO'S GETTING IN: Memphis, UAB. Somehow, I see UAB sneaking in. They've had some success in recent years, and even though it's not supposed to matter, I can see it having an effect.

So there you have it, lots going on. And Thursday we see the Big Ten, SEC, ACC, Big 12, and Southland (wait.......the what?) all kick it off.

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