Submitted by Jim Hurley on Wednesday, March 13, 2013 at 9:35 AM
Here's the one-and-only thing that College Basketball folks should be able to etch in cement ... and that's the Gonzaga Bulldogs should be the #1 seed in next week's NCAA Tournament.
Aside from that, it's an anything-goes type of week in the college hoops world and here's what we mean: The Georgetown Hoyas or the Louisville Cardinals could wind up winning this nostalgic Big East Tournament in Madison Square Garden and thus land a #1 seed in the NCAAs or either of 'em could be as far back as a #3 seed line club should get beaten in the mini-tourney quarterfinals tomorrow;
It's safe to say there are as many as eight SEC teams that could wind up cracking the "Big Dance" when all the dust finally settles - or there could be as a few as five teams here namely "locks" Florida, Ole Miss, Kentucky, Alabama and Missouri. We will see whose bubbles get burst and who gets a nice little reward;
And take a ride out west and this year's Pac-12 - once again - might have a middle-of-the-pack team make a run right through this league's conference tournament and so all eyes on Colorado (again!) or maybe Arizona State or Stanford - you have been warned!
You get the gist of what we're trying to point out here in today's edition of Jim Sez and that is the fates/fortunes of a slew of teams rests with how they fare in this week's mini-tournies - in the smaller conferences we've already seen the likes of James Madison (CAA), Iona (MAAC) and Western Kentucky (Sun Belt) come from back in the pack to snag automatic wins to the NCAA Tourney and so who's to say there can't or won't be fifth- and sixth-place teams in the "power conferences" that steamroll their way to mini-tourney titles?
Gotta believe it's gonna happen somewhere this week whether it's in New York City, Nashville, Las Vegas or Kansas City ... you do expect a bit more "madness", don't you?
Jim Hurley and his Network of Handicappers and Bloggers are hot-hot-hot these days and they will get you all the College Basketball Conference Tournament and NBA Winners every day when you check in with us either right here online or else at our exclusive toll-free telephone # of 1-800-323-4453. Note that the special check-in times are after 11 a.m. ET for all the weekday afternoon games and then after 1 p.m. ET for all the Monday-through-Friday night action. Also, the winning selections are available after 10 a.m. ET on Saturday and Sunday.
Now, here's the mini-tournies that will tip off on Thursday ...
ACC TOURNAMENT - at Greensboro Coliseum; Greensboro, NC
Let's get something straight right here and right now: For all the folks out there claiming that the Duke Blue Devils "deserve" a #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, can they please win this mini-tourney along Tobacco Road before we grant 'em such a grand prize?
After all, Duke (27-4, 14-4) didn't even win the regular-season ACC crown and so how do the Devils than "deserve" a #1 NCAA seed after finishing behind mighty Miami (24-6, 15-3)?
Short-and-sweet, if Duke wins this week's ACC Tournament than Mike Kryzewski's squad belongs on that famed #1 seed line - if someone else wins this ACC Tourney than the Dookies fall onto the #2 seed line with no ands, ifs or buts about it!
As for the aforementioned U of M Hurricanes, they could wind up getting an NCAA Tournament #1 seed with a title here and some outside help and we just wonder if Jim Larranaga's crew is gonna continue to perform as if they have the proverbial weight of the world on its shoulders - although something tells us PG Shane Larkin and mates will be a tad more loosey-goosey here.
P.S., we simply don't buy the notion that Virginia (21-10, 11-7) is a "bubble team" anymore and it seems pretty clear to us that five teams enter this ACC Tourney with guaranteed NCAA Tournament berths including Duke, Miami, North Carolina, N.C. State and Virginia and we will say that if Maryland wins at least two games here (they open on Thursday night against Wake Forest) than the Terrapins could steal a berth too.
No question this league isn't real deep and so don't expect any of those bottom-feeder types to make any noise although Boston College could be a nice play at plus points here.
The Favorite: Duke
The Dark Horse: Virginia
BIG 10 CONFERENCE TOURNAMENT - at United Center; Chicago, IL
Do you realize that a Big 10 team has not "won it all" since that Mateen Cleaves-led Michigan State squad back in 2000?
We bring this up for two reasons: First, that is a long dry spell for one of the country's six power conferences but also consider that as many as four Big 10 teams are good enough to cut down the nets in Atlanta next month - we're talking Indiana, Michigan State, Ohio State and Michigan (of course) - and no doubt this week's mini-tourney in the "Second City" will be a mad scramble for the conference crown as that could well mean a #1 seed in the NCAAs.
Still, be aware that you might have a team here that "needs the rest" and could be one-and-done in this mini-tourney and off the top of our heads we're thinking Michigan might not exactly kick themselves should they be done quickly here ... just sayin'!
Ask us and we say Iowa, Illinois and Minnesota all are on the outside looking in at an NCAA Tournament at-large berth and so if any of the above get hot - that's two-or-more wins here in Chitown - than they could swipe one of the 68 tourney spots next week.
All three are led by rock-solid head coaches although something tells us Illinois first-year boss John Groce - who met with great success in tournies past while at Ohio University - could be a noise-maker this week in the Land of Lincoln.
The Favorite: Indiana
The Dark Horse: Illinois
ATLANTIC-10 CONFERENCE TOURNAMENT - at Barclays Center; Brooklyn, NY
Hey, don't ask us why the A-10 decided to hold this year's mini-tourney in New York City - there really isn't a single team here from the "neighborhood" but no doubt there will be better media coverage for this event that's languished in Atlantic City in recent years.
As far as on-the-court stuff, the 16-member Atlantic-10 Conference has enjoyed a boffo year with Saint Louis (24-6), VCU (24-7) and Butler (24-7) all quite capable of making major runs in the NCAA Tournament and don't discount Philly foes Temple and LaSalle here in this mini-tourney as they have star talent and top-flight coaches too.
If you go with history/tradition than either VCU or Butler will win this little fandango as Rams' boss Shaka Smart and Bulldogs' chief Brad Stevens both deserve a ranking somewhere in your national top 5 of bench coaches ... and that's really saying something!
Saint Louis - 13-3 in league play this year - comes into this tourney as the top seed and the A-10's best defensive team (58.4 ppg) takes its cue from interim head coach Jim Crews who has done an absolutely masterful job following the untimely death of popular head coach Rick Majerus - and don't think he isn't looking down with great pride for his Billikens who need F Dwayne Evans (16 points and 17 rebounds in last weekend's 78-54 win against LaSalle) to shine here this week. No sleep till Brooklyn!
The Favorite: Saint Louis
The Dark Horse: Xavier
BIG WEST CONFERENCE TOURNAMENT - Honda Center; Anaheim, CA
This is a no-doubt-about-it one-bid league and so everyone is playing from a desperate viewpoint here with top seed Long Beach State (14-4 in the Big West) and #2 seed Pacific (13-5 in league play) expected to square off in the Big West Championship Game - but neither of these teams should "count their chickens" just yet
True, Long Beach State swingman James Ennis (17 ppg and 6.9 rpg) just copped the Big West Player of the Year award (the third straight year a 49ers player won the trophy) but Pacific might be playing with a little extra zip after head coach Bob Thomason announced he'll retire after 25 wonderful years.
The Favorite: Long Beach State
The Dark Horse: UC-Irvine
Meanwhile, the opening round of the Big East Tournament swung into action on Tuesday night with "Jersey Boys" Seton Hall and Rutgers getting desperation wins - but be sure that the Basketball Hall of Fame won't be showing any videos of their sloppy wins.
The Hall (15-17) - a 46-42 overtime winner against 1 ½-point fav South Florida - erased an 8-point deficit in the final 3:09 of regulation play and cashed in on USF's ice-cold shooting night ... how about the Bulls shooting 16-of-66 from the floor? Next up is a matinee tilt this afternoon versus #5 seed Syracuse.
In the nightcap, Rutgers (15-15) roared past hapless DePaul 76-57 as Wally Judge nailed all nine of his field-goal tries en route to a 20-point showing for Mike Rice's Scarlet Knights who get a showdown with Notre Dame in the final game on the Wednesday Big East Tournament card. Judge also chipped in 10 rebounds but the believe-it-or-not stat here regarding DePaul was that the Blue Demons' bench shot a woeful 1-of-10 from the floor as Rutgers took off early in the second half and hid.
Note that Rutgers lost a 69-66 verdict at Notre Dame back on January 20th when the Irish shot a handsome 29-of-49 from the floor led by Jack Cooley's 19-point, 10-board performance.
NOTE: Lots more College B-Ball Conference Tournament action in the next edition of Jim Sez and get all our NCAA Tournament goodies beginning with our Sunday column!