Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Welcome to March

Yep, it's the best time of the  year folks - March.  And although everybody knows about and loves the big tournament, I am almost as entertained by all the conference tournaments going on as well, and they start this week - today, actually.  As I do every year, I'm going to run them down for you with some mini-previews - mini-previews I'm pretty sure nobody reads, but I don't really care that much about you anyway.  I like doing it, and I'm kind of in charge around here, so let's get to it.  And if you're looking for a Michigan preview, it's in this post I put up yesterday

These tournaments kick-off today:

OHIO VALLEY: It seems like Murray State has dominated this conference over the past couple of decades dating all the way back to Popeye Jones and his Shrek-like ears and this year is no exception.  It's also one of the slowest paced and most deliberate conferences around, with all but the 1-15 Tennessee-Martin squad ranking in the bottom 50% of the nation in terms of tempo.  Also known as Yawn City.
FAVORITE:  Murray State.  They ripped through the league this year at 17-1 and were 24-3 overall and actually have people talking about them in consideration for an at-large bid even though their best non-conference win was over East Tennessee State.  Once again, most people are morons.
SLEEPER:  Morehead State.  They won this thing last year (and won the play-in game in the tourney), they were the only team to beat Murray in conference play this year, and they have future NBA second-round pick Kenneth Faried.
W's PICK:  Morehead State.  More experience, and I think Murry State is a bit overrated this year.

BIG SOUTH:  One of the worst conferences in the Country, nobody can score the basketball in the Big South.  The best squad in terms of offensive efficiency, Coastal Carolina, was no better 
FAVORITE: Coastal Carolina. 
SLEEPER:  Radford.  It's not easy to find a sleeper in a conference this bad, and as tempting as VMI is to pick due to their crazy style of play (#1 tempo, #347 defense) they are just not good enough this year, so I'm going with Radford.  They have the best non-conference win out of anybody in the Big South (over George Mason), they already beat Coastal Carolina once, the have the likely conference POY in Artsiom Parakhouski, and they are in second place.  Good enough for me.
W's PICK:  Radford.  I'm not picking a team called the Chanticleers that wears teal, so Radford gets the pick by default.

HORIZON:  Same situation in the Horizon that we've had the last several years - Butler is the class of the league and the only one who will get an at-large bid if they need one.  If the Bulldogs go the distance and win the Horizon crown it opens up a bid for one lucky bubble team.  If they get knocked off, somebody like is going to be looking at an NIT berth. 
SLEEPER:   Detroit.  They aren't the second-place team, or even third, fourth, or so on.  They are actually in 7th and were just 9-9 in the Horizon, but they are dangerous.  They are an experienced, talented team (with transfers from Indiana Eli Holman and Xavier Keeling) and they gave Butler all they could handle, losing by just two (in overtime) and five in their two meetings.  
W's PICK: Butler.  They are so far above and beyond everyone else in this conference they can walk their way to the championship.


Only one game affecting the bubble last night (although if Texas hadn't pulled it out against Oklahoma we my have found the Longhorns suddenly questioning their credentials) and that was Utah State against Fresno, and the Aggies destroyed them by about 40.  Utah State doesn't have a great profile, but they've won 14 in a row and have a nice win over BYU.  With only one regular season game left (against New Mexico State) at this point Gopher fans have two things to root for, either an Aggie loss in the final game or early in the WAC tournament which would knock them out of at-large consideration or that they win the tournament.  If USU gets all the way to the championship and then loses, I have a feeling they are in - which obviously knocks another bubble team out.

Tonight's Bubble Games (along with the Gophers/Michigan, which is again previewed right here):

Illinois @ Ohio State - Despite the 10-6 conference record the Illini are still shaky.  With just this game and then a home tilt against Wisconsin left they probably need to get one more win.

Villanova @ Cincinnati - The Bearcats are the opposite of Illinois with a nice non-conference profile but have struggled in the Big East.  This chance, at home, to grab a big-time win can't be squandered.

Vanderbilt @ Florida - The Gators are in pretty good shape, but a loss to Georgia last week put them back in question mark status.  Beating Vandy will probably lock up the bid.

UTEP @ Marshall - Thanks to a strong run through C-USA, the Miners are in good shape.  They can't afford more than maybe one more loss and Marshall is a tough team, so this is a big one.

South Florida @ DePaul - USF isn't even in ESPN's Bubble Watch right now, but if they win this and then knock off UCONN at home on Saturday that gets them to 9-9 in the Big East with wins over UCONN, Georgetown (road), and Pitt with only one really bad loss (Central Michigan).  If that happens, they become an at-large threat depending on their Big East tournament performance.

Georgia Tech @ Clemson - Both teams are in good shape, so instead of an elimination game this more like a "win and you've guaranteed yourself a bid" game.

Louisville @ Marquette - Pretty much the same as above

But really, all that matters right now is this damn Gopher game tonight.  I'm peeing in my pants scared right now.  Please don't hurt me again Manny. 

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