Last night was a good night for the conference tournaments, with both Siena and VCU winning their respective bids. Both teams have a good chance to knock somebody off in the first round, which makes everything more exciting - unless they catch the Gophers of course. Joining them in the dance are Chattanooga, which derailed the Charleston train after their upset of Davidson and Gonzaga who knocked off St. Mary's - although I still think the Gaels are safe. It kind of sucks Davidson isn't going to make it, since they're a guaranteed first round loss and I bet a bunch of you morons would have had them in the sweet 16.
Here's what we got today (day action!!).
Mid American Conference: Maybe the best of the perennial one-bid conferences, the MAC can't seem to ever get a second team invited, even a few years ago when a very good Akron team went 26-7 including 13-3 in the conference but lost in the MAC final. This year will be no exception, except in this case there isn't anybody worthy of consideration.
FAVORITE: Bowling Green. It bodes well for the Gophers that Bowling Green is the #1 seed here, and would help them even more if the Eagles could find a way to win this thing. They weren't that much better than anybody else, and actually finished at 10-5 in a four way tie with Akron, Miami (OH), and Buffalo - and they're probably the worst of the four.
SLEEPER: Miami (OH). Miami, Akron, and Buffalo all play very good defense, like top 100 defensive efficiency level, and all are very even offensively. The biggest difference is that the RedHawks are battle tested as shown by the 14th toughest non-conference schedule in the country while Akron and Buffalo are in the 100s. Miami beat Temple, and gave UCLA, Dayton, and Xavier each a battle.
W's PICK: Miami. Even though the record doesn't show it, the Redbirds are a cut above the rest of the conference. One thing is for sure, there's no way Bowling Green wins this.
Western Athletic Conference: Utah State looked to be cruising to a WAC title and a berth in the NCAA tournament before hitting a big bump right at the end of the season and dropping three of their final six games. The regular season WAC championship is still there, but you can probably forget about an at-large berth and the Aggies will have to win the tournament in order to go dancing.
FAVORITE: Nevada. Utah State may have won the WAC, but due to the tournament being in Reno, Nevada has to be considered the favorite. And it's not like they're a horrible team, finishing second in the conference with a split over Utah State and a win over Oregon State on their resume.
SLEEPER: New Mexico State. The Aggies finished in a tie for third but ended up with the five seed due to tie breakers. NMSU boasts the leading scorer (Jahmar Young 18.1ppg) and rebounder (Wendell McKines 10.0rpg) in the WAC. They also lead the conference in scoring and shoot 39.8% from three as a team, 16th in the country. If they get hot they're going to be tough to beat, and they already beat Nevada in Reno.
W's PICK: Utah State. I have to believe in my boys. That blind faith, plus the 14-2 conference record and 10th best offensive efficiency in the country, are all I need to hear.
Big East: The first of the major conferences to get their tournament going, the Big East is in a very weird position because despite the 16 teams in the conference there might not be a single bubble team in the mix. Pitt, UCONN, Louisville, West Virginia, Syracuse, Marquette, and Villanova are all locks. Cincinnati, Georgetown, and Notre Dame were all on the bubble at one point but have knocked themselves off by losing, and Providence had a nice conference season but didn't do enough outside of it and would most likely have to win the tournament to get in. The Friars are the closest thing to a bubble team here, but even making the final might not be enough.
FAVORITE: Louisville. It would be easy enough to make a case for Pitt or UCONN as the favorite, but the Cardinals won the regular-season crown and grabbed the #1 seed, so I'm calling them the favorite. After some struggles early (see: losing somehow to Minnesota) Louisville seems to have figured it out and has won seven straight heading into the BE Tourney. Their killer 2-man punch of Earl Clark and Terrence Williams are playing as well as ever right now. Clark has a double-double in five of the past eight games, and Williams has averaged 16 points, 9 rebounds, and 7 assists in the team's last six games. If the Cardinals can get consistent guard play from Sosa and company they can't just win the BE Tournament, but the whole damn thing.
SLEEPER: Notre Dame. The Irish clearly have talent, as evidenced by their #9 ranking to start the season and their win at Texas early on. After a brutal seven game losing streak in the middle of the Big East schedule they finished up the season 5-3 to finish with an 8-10 conference record. They have a very potent offense (8th in the country in offensive efficiency) and have a ton of experience with their top seven scorers either seniors or juniors including Big East leading scorer and second leading rebounder Luke Harangody. We've seen it happen before with Gerry McNamara and Syracuse a few years ago, could Harangody and the Irish do it again?
W's PICK: Pitt. It pains me to admit it, because I really, truly hate these guys going all the way back to Brandin Knight and Carl Krauser, but I suspect this might be the year they are actually for real. Ugh.
WHO GETS IN: Pitt, Lousville, UCONN, Syracuse, Marquette, West Virginia, and Villanova.
Mid-Eastern Athletic: Well there's no way to really sugarcoat this. The MEAC is one of the worst conferences in the world, ranking 30th out 31 in conference strength this year. They have ranked 30th every year I can find data for (back to 2002) save for 2006, when they ranked 31st. So, yeah, whoever wins this tournament has a pretty good chance of playing in Dayton the Tuesday before the tournament truly begins.
FAVORITE: Morgan State. The Bears went 13-3 in the MEAC, and actually boast a pretty decent defensive squad, ranking 91st in the country in defensive efficiency. The Golden Bears also have a win over Maryland this season.
SLEEPER: Hampton. I mentioned that Morgan State is a good defensive team, but Hampton is even better ranking 67th in defensive efficiency and they swept Morgan State this year. Of course, they also rank 340th in offensive efficiency (out of 344).
W's PICK: Morgan State. Hampton may have their number, but everyone else has Hampton's number at just 6-10 in the conference.
TOMORROW: A whole ton of conferences get their tournaments going: Big Twelve, Big West, C-USA, Mountain West, Pac-10, SWAC, and the A-10. We also get the championship in the Northeastern Conference and the Big Sky.