CONFERENCE TOURNAMENT PREDICTIONS: PART TWO
-My Part One picks is not off to the best of starts. Im currently 4-6 in predicting the tournament winners. The Patriot League and Northeast Conference Tournaments are still going on, but the teams that I picked to win those have already been eliminated. Gonzaga losing last night didnt help me either, but I can improve to 7-6 tonight if Butler, Western Kentucky and IUPUI all win.
As I say every year, I am not a betting man, and I take no responsibility for whatever money anyone loses based on my advice.
If you want to see Part One of my predictions, you can get them HERE
-ACC (pick North Carolina). With Ty Lawson
back I believe theyre one of the best teams in the country. Theyre coming off a big win on the road against Duke, so theyre playing with a ton of momentum. Although their spot in the NCAA Tournament is secure, theyre also playing for the #1 seed in the Charlotte Region, so I dont expect them to come into this as if nothing is at stake. Coincidentally, the ACC Tournament is also in Charlotte. There are a lot of good teams in this league, but UNC wont even be facing a team thats solidly in the NCAA Tournament until the championship game based on how the bracket is set up.
-ATLANTIC TEN (pick Xavier). Drew Lavender
s ankle has been bothering him, and ever since then theyve been cutting it close, but they still appear to be the best team in the league. This tournament is interesting, though, because Dayton, Temple, Massachusetts and Saint Josephs are all within reach of an at-large bid, and both Temple and Saint Josephs have shown they can beat Xavier. However, theyve also all shown they can be beaten by pretty much anyone else. A lot of teams in this conference are inconsistent, but Id have to say Xavier is the least inconsistent out of all of them.
-BIG TWELVE (pick Kansas). On paper, Kansas isnt as strong as some other teams right now, but off paper, theyre great and I believe theyll prove it during this tournament. They have no top 25 wins right now, so they do come into this with something to prove. The Jayhawks did lose to Texas during the season, but that was in Austin and the game was close. I also believe Texass lack of depth will catch up to them because theyll have to play three games in three days to win this thing. I have Kansas as a #3 seed right now, but if they win this tournament theyll probably be no worse than a #2 and possibly a #1.
-BIG EAST (pick Louisville). This conference could get as many as nine teams in the NCAA Tournament, so Id say this tournament is as wide open as any. Im picking Louisville, but Im doing so realizing that theyll be facing either Pittsburgh or Cincinnati in the quarterfinals. They struggled to beat Pitt and they lost to Cincinnati, so that first game isnt even a given, much less winning the whole thing. Theyre also coming off a road loss to Georgetown, but it was, after-all, a road loss. They beat the Hoyas earlier this season at home, and were a three point shot away from forcing overtime this past weekend.
-BIG TEN (pick Purdue). The tournament is in Indianapolis. That isnt a huge advantage for the Boilermakers, but it is at least somewhat of an advantage. Theyve also proven that they can beat anyone in the conference. Indiana has been struggling lately and I wouldnt be surprised to see them go out early. Michigan State has struggled away from home, and although Wisconsin is solid, Purdue has beaten them twice already.
-BIG WEST (pick UC Santa Barbara). UCSB, Cal State Northridge and Cal State Fullerton are all evenly matched. UCSB and CS Northridge already have byes into the semifinals, and CS Fullterton is among the favorites to play their way in. Its basically just a matter of taking your pick among those three. Im going with UCSB because I believe they have the easiest route to the championship game. They bye into the semis, and they wont be facing either CS Fullerton or CS Northridge until the finals.
-CONFERENCE USA (pick- Memphis). Memphis ran the table during the regular season and only came close to losing a couple of times. Theyre hosting the tournament and know theyll probably end up with a #1 seed if they win it. Houston is really the only team that I can think of that competed strongly with them at home, and even that game didnt come down to the wire.
-MID AMERICAN (pick Akron). Kent State will be the favorite to win the tournament, and I wouldnt be a bit surprised if they ended up doing just that, but Akron has come close to beating the Golden Flashes twice this season. Akron could be facing Western Michigan in the semifinals, who beat them handily earlier this year, so this pick is by no means a sure thing. There isnt really anything to indicate that Akron will get hot and win this, but I just have a hunch about them.
-MEAC (pick Morgan State). Morgan State finished first in the conference standings and are 13-1 in their last 14 games with the one loss coming in overtime to Florida A&M. Theyre definitely the hottest team in the league right now and hopefully for them that will carry on through the tournament.
-MOUNTAIN WEST (pick UNLV). BYU is probably the best team in the conference, but with the tournament being in Las Vegas I can see UNLV winning the whole thing. They could potentially face a New Mexico team in the semifinals who has been playing very well and that will desperate for a quality win, so it wont be easy even though theyre at home, but considering they blew out BYU at home earlier this season and their only home losses are to Louisville and Arizona, I like their chances.
-PAC TEN (pick UCLA). There are plenty of teams in this conference that can beat UCLA, and they dont go deep into their bench, which could be an issue late in the tournament, but I still think theyve been the most consistent team in the conference. They probably also have an advantage with the tournament being right in their backyard, although they did wind up losing in the first round to Cal last year. They also narrowly defeated Cal over the weekend who they could end up facing again in the quarterfinals. I dont expect them to be caught with their pants down this time, though.
-SEC (pick Tennessee). The Vols have pretty much dominated the league. Although they have had some close calls, theyre very athletic and have a winnable game in the quarterfinals. They could face Vanderbilt in the semis, who did beat the Vols this year, but that was on their home floor and Vanderbilt isnt nearly as good of a team away from home. The Vols are also athletic and can wear down pretty much anyone, especially after their opponents have had to play three or four days in a row.
-SOUTHLAND (pick Stephen F Austin). If SF Austin doesnt win this tournament it will really be a shame because theyre clearly the most deserving team, but they arent quite deserving enough to warrant an at-large bid. Still, theyve won 25 games (four were against div2, though) and have a notable win at Oklahoma, and have pretty much dominated the league.
-SWAC (pick Alabama State). They won the regular season by a comfortable margin and come into this tournament with quite a bit of momentum. Chances are theyll be headed to the play-in game, but at least theyll be in the NCAA Tournament. Theyre clearly the most deserving team out of the conference.
-WAC (pick New Mexico State). There was a four way tie for first place in this conference among New Mexico State, Utah State, Boise State and Nevada, but the tournament is at New Mexico State, and theyve just been dominating their opponents down the stretch. The Aggies got off to a disappointing start, and arguably have the weakest credentials out of the four teams at the top, but they are at home and they are red hot. To give you an idea, they beat Utah State, who is the #1 seed, at home by 30 earlier this season.