-Saint Josephs did themselves a huge favor by picking up their best win of the season last night with a 71-66 win against Xavier. They didnt blow out the Musketeers, but they maintained a comfortable lead throughout. The win was something that they desperately needed, but theyre still not safely inside the bubble by any means. They need to take care of business this weekend against Dayton as well, and then probably win at least one game in the Atlantic Ten Tournament in order to feel safe. Still, this was a quality win for their resume and it will help them out a lot.
-Arizona State couldnt get it done against Oregon, and that was a win they desperately needed. They should be able to beat Oregon State over the weekend. If they cant then theyre REALLY in trouble, but that wont be enough to safely get them in. Theyll probably need at least one win in the Pac Ten Tournament as well. Right now theyre in a three-way tie for fifth place, so theyre looking at playing someone like Washington State or USC in the quarterfinals. That would be a game that theyd really need to win. OTHER NEWS AND NOTES
-Connecticut fell to Providence for the second time this season. UConn actually trailed for most of the game. That could end up effecting the Huskies seeding if they fall early on in the Big East Tournament. As for Providence, they needed the win just to help them get into the Big East Tournament. Its their second straight, but they have another tough one this weekend against Villanova.
-Stanford jumped out to an early lead at UCLA and held it for virtually the entire game. UCLA came back to force a tie, but Stanford hit a go-ahead shot in the final seconds of regulation. As time was about to run out, Stanford was called for a foul as UCLA was attempting a game-tying shot. The replay showed that the call was questionable (to put it nicely), but nevertheless UCLA received and made two freethrows to force overtime, and then pulled away in the overtime to win the game and clinch the regular season Pac Ten Title. Thats a big quality win against a top ten team, and it really helps their case for the #1 seed in the Phoenix Region.
A strong showing in the conference tournament should be enough for UCLA to get a #1, but what Memphis, Duke, North Carolina, Tennessee and Texas do between now and the end will have an impact as well. We probably wont have a solid idea of who the #1 seeds will be until the conference tournaments play themselves out.
-The only real change to my previous Bracket Projections is that I've replaced Texas Tech with Saint Joseph's. The updated version is posted below.CONFERENCE TOURNAMENTS
-Nothing too out of the ordinary happened last night. As expected, both Winthrop and UNC Asheville advanced to the championship game in the Big South. UNCA had some trouble with Liberty before pulling ahead in the final minutes for a 75-57 win. Kenny George
had a great game and was way above his season average. An interesting note about this tournament is that UNCA's arena seats just around 1,100 people and they actually cleared the fans out between games. If you were a fan of either Winthrop or High Point then you didn't get to stick around and watch the second semifinal game.
MISSOURI VALLEY QUARTERFINALS
-#8. INDIANA STATE VS #1. DRAKE. Drake is into the NCAA Tournament regardless of what happens today. Indiana State fell to Drake twice this year, but they have won five of their last seven so they do have some momentum coming into this match-up. I still expect Drake to advance onto the semifinals without too much trouble.
#5. BRADLEY VS #4. CREIGHTON. These two teams met less than a week ago, and the game was a double overtime thriller with Creighton coming out on top, but a lot more is at stake today because the loser will see their NCAA Tournament dreams disappear. Bradley recently upset Drake, and Creighton has played them pretty tough, so its not too crazy to think that the winner of this game could upset Drake in the semifinals and advance to the championship game.
#7. MISSOURI STATE VS #2. ILLINOIS STATE (Bubble Watch). Illinois State is right on the bubble, so its very important that they dont fall early in the conference tournament, especially to a beatable opponent like Missouri State. Illinois State has won four in a row coming into this one, and theyve looked exceptionally good in their last two games, so they do have quite a bit of momentum. Theyve also beaten Missouri State twice this year. Id still call this a must-win situation for the Redbirds, though.
#6. NORTHERN IOWA VS #3. SOUTHERN ILLINOIS (Bubble Watch). The Salukis are on the bubble, but I believe they are right outside of it, and if they dont win this game today they will remain outside of it and have very little chance of being selected as an at-large. A win would potentially set up a hugely important match-up with in-state rival Illinois State. Both teams are fighting for their NCAA Tournament lives and they must play well in the conference tourney in order to help their cause.
HORIZON LEAGUE QUARTERFINALS
-#8. Loyola, IL vs #4. Illinois Chicago (winner gets Butler)
-#6. Valparaiso vs #3. Wright State (winner gets Cleveland State)
Both games today are interesting. Loyola IL and Illinois Chicago is an inner-city rivalry. UIC won both games, but one went into overtime and the other was close, so it wont be a walk in the park even though theyre the better seed. Wright State has lost to Valpo twice this year as well, but they had a lead with less than a minute to go in the first meeting, and lost on a last second shot in overtime in the second meeting. In both cases, all the match-ups from the regular season were close so hopefully well see two exciting games today.
OHIO VALLEY SEMIFINALS
-#4. Tennessee Martin vs #1. Austin Peay
-#3. Tennessee State vs #2. Murray State
Austin Peay won both regular season games against UT Martin (although one was in overtime) and has won nine of their last ten, so it would be somewhat of a surprise if they werent able to advance to the championship game, but UT Martin has quite a bit of momentum as well. Murray State struggled down the stretch and barely got out of the quarterfinals. Tennessee State actually beat them the last time the two played, so thats a pretty evenly matched game. The winner of this league is probably looking at a #16 seed, although Austin Peay could end up with a better seed depending on what the favorites from the other conferences do in their tournaments.
ATLANTIC SUN SEMIFINALS
-#6. Gardner Webb vs #2. Jacksonville
-#4. East Tennessee State vs #1. Belmont
Belmont looks to be the favorite to win this tournament because none of the remaining teams have managed to beat them this year. Combine that with the fact that the tournament is in their home city and they do appear to have an advantage. Gardner Webb won convincingly over third seeded Stetson, which was sort of surprising. They were beaten decisively by Jacksonville earlier this season, though.
SOUTHERN CONFERENCE OPENING ROUND
-#9. Western Carolina vs #8. Wofford (winner gets Davidson)
-#10. Furman vs #7. Elon (winner gets Furman)
-#11. The Citadel vs #6. College of Charleston (winner gets Georgia Southern)
This tournament is in Charleston, so the game between The Citadel and College of Charleston should generate more local interest than most opening round games typically do. Woffords season was highlighted with a win at Purdue earlier this year, but there have been several low-lights since then. Davidson has dominated this league and that trend will probably continue against whoever they face in the quarterfinals.
COLONIAL ATHLETIC OPENING ROUND
-#9. Towson vs #8. Hofstra (winner gets VCU)
-#10. Drexel vs #7. Delaware (winner gets UNC Wilmington)
-#11. James Madison vs #6. Northeastern (winner gets George Mason)
-#12. Georgia State vs #5. William & Mary (winner gets Old Dominion)
William & Mary ended the year by losing six of their last seven games, and Northeastern didnt fare all that much better, so none of these teams appear to have all that much momentum and those that win today will struggle to get past the quarterfinals.
WEST COAST OPENING ROUND
-#8. LMU vs #5. San Francisco (winner gets Santa Clara)
-#7. Portland vs #6. Pepperdine (winner gets San Diego)
This tournament is interesting because two teams (Gonzaga, Saint Marys) get double byes into the semifinals, and two other teams bye into the quarterfinals. San Diego is 10-2 in their last twelve games with their only losses being close ones to Gonzaga and Saint Marys, so they are a dangerous team. Theyre also hosting the tournament, so either Portland or Pepperdine will have a hard time getting past them in the quarterfinals.
METRO ATLANTIC OPENING ROUND
-#9. Saint Peters vs #8. Manhattan (winner gets Siena)
-#10. Canisius vs #7. Iona (winner gets Rider)
There was a ton of parity at the top of the league, and it should be a very exciting tournament, specially once we get into the later rounds. None of the teams playing today faired all that well against the top of the league, so the winners could be in for a long day tomorrow.
AMERICA EAST OPENING ROUND
-#9. Maine vs #8. Stony Brook (winner gets UMBC)
Stony Brook won both regular season meeting. Maine is one of the worst teams in div1, but one of their few wins did come on the road against UMBC. Still, I dont think either team has much of a chance at pulling the upset in the next round. BRACKET PROJECTIONS