Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Last Ones

The final conferences kick off their tournaments tomorrow, with the Big 12, ACC, Big Ten, SEC, and Southland.

The last of the little guys to get going, for some reason the Southland gets to wait on it's championship game until Selection Sunday, which will likely be the coronation of #1 seed Stephen F. Austin - that's a college, not a player. USFA finished tied for first in the conference with Lamar, but make no mistake, USFA is a quality team. The Lumberjacks won at Oklahoma and at San Diego this week, and sport an RPI of 59. USFA is yet another team that plays the slow-down (337th in tempo), tight defense (10th in eFG% against) style. They beat Lamar in their only meeting, but don't count out the Cardinals. They play the opposite style of USFA, with a tempo ranking of 35th in the country.
FAVORITE: Stephen F. Austin
SLEEPER: Texas State. They led the Southland in both team scoring and rebounding.
W's PICK: Lamar. Stephen F. might not have the offense to get it done.

Big 12:
FAVORITE: Texas. They're actually ahead of Kansas in RPI, and have the #1 seed.
LOCKS: Texas, Kansas, Oklahoma. If either Texas or Kansas wins this tournament, they may get a #1 seed in the tournament
SLEEPER: Oklahoma State. The Cowboys are really up and down, but have looked better of late. They've won six of their last nine, with wins over Baylor, A&M, and Kansas in that stretch.
BUBBLE TEAMS: Kansas State, Baylor, Texas A&M. Baylor and K-State might already be in, but A&M definitely needs at least one win, maybe more.
PLAYER TO WATCH: Bill Walker, K-State. Michael Beasley gets more press, and rightfully so, but Walker is the real key to the Wildcats, giving them a second scorer. Plus, he's awesome.
W's PICK: Kansas. Too talented and too deep, the Jayhawks look to grab a 1 seed.

FAVORITE: North Carolina. #1 in the country
LOCKS: North Carolina, Duke, Clemson
SLEEPER: Florida State. A senior led, guard oriented team. Those are the types that can be dangerous in tournament basketball.
BUBBLE TEAMS: Miami, Maryland, Virginia Tech. Miami is probably in already, Maryland and Va Tech will need to make a run to have a prayer.
PLAYER TO WATCH: Ty Lawson, UNC. Lawson is just coming back from an injury, and has played three games but has yet to play more than 23 minutes in a game, after averaging closer to thirty pre-injury.
W's PICK: North Carolina

FAVORITE: Tennessee, also in line for a #1 overall in the big dance
LOCKS: Tennessee, Mississippi State, Vanderbilt. Did I mention that we have the Vols at 30-1 to win the NCAA championship?
SLEEPER: Kentucky. Even without Patrick Patterson, the Wildcats are on fire lately, having won 6 of 7 and 11 of 13 to go from laughingstock to squarely on the bubble.
BUBBLE TEAMS: Arkansas, Mississippi, Kentucky, Florida. Ole Miss at Kentucky might meet up in the quarters in an elimination game. Florida would need to get to the finals to even be a consideration. Arkansas looks to be in good shape.
PLAYER TO WATCH: Jarvis Varnardo, Mississippi State. Varnardo, the probable SEC defensive player of the year, leads one of the top defensive teams in MSU - 3rd in defensive eFG%, and tops in the nation in opponents 2 point FG shooting. Varnardo had a ridiculous year, leading the nation in blocked shots with 4.8 per game, and adding in 7.9 rebounds, 7.8 points, and 64% shooting - highlighted by a triple double against Kentucky with 10 points, 12 rebounds, and 10 blocks.
W's PICK: Mississippi State. Big fan of this team this year.

FAVORITE: Wisconsin. I hate Bo Ryan.
LOCKS: Wisconsin, Indiana, Michigan State, Purdue. Will any of these teams make the sweet sixteen?
SLEEPER: Minnesota. Believe me, it's tough to find a sleeper in this conference, as the tiers are pretty well defined. The Gophers have been a pretty tough road team, maybe with a few breaks they can make some noise, but probably not. Actually, definitely not.
BUBBLE TEAMS: Ohio State. In a unique position. Beat Michigan State on Friday and they're in, lose and they're out.
PLAYER TO WATCH: Eric Gordon, Indiana. He was the leading scorer in the Big Ten, but seemed to unravel at times and struggled shooting down the stretch, shooting 36% or worse in 5 of the Hoosiers' last 6 games. IU will only go as far as Gordon can take them.
W's PICK: Michigan State. Of all the Big Ten teams, I think they're the best tournament team. And also the team most likely to be upset in the first round.

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