Submitted by Jim Hurley on Wednesday, March 12, 2014 at 5:34 PM
Think this is gonna be a hoops-wild Thursday?
In all there are 51 College Basketball Conference Tournament games on the docket – note that 23 of ‘em will be matinee affairs so you may want to duck out of work for an extended lunch break! – and each/every one of the so-called power conferences will be in full-speed ahead mode.
Ahh, thanks you Dr. Naismith!
The fact of the matter is there’s fun matchups littered throughout the day and night on this March 13th card and we’ll offer you quick-hitter previews on a bunch of ‘em shortly but first this key reminder:
Jim Hurley and his Network of Handicappers and Bloggers will keep steamrolling their way through March with loads of College Basketball winners and take special note that The Network March Madness Package includes all of the Conference Tournament Games along with all the upcoming NCAA Tournament Games (remember we banged out a spiffy 20-10 record a year ago in the big tourney) plus all the other post-season tournaments such as the NIT, CBI and CIT Tournies too. And you get it all for only $150! You heard us right … just $150.
Get it either right here online or at our exclusive toll-free telephone # of 1-800-323-4453 – plus don’t forget we’re banging out lots of NBA Winners too these days and so go ahead and join the fun and profits today with all the hardwood action this month.
Now, here’s some of what we’ll be watching on Thursday in Conference Tournament action …
AMERICAN ATHLETIC CONFERENCE – at Memphis
#21 CONNECTICUT (24-7, 12-6) at #19 MEMPHIS (23-8, 12-6) – approximately 9:30 p.m. ET, ESPNU
Don’t blame the UConn Huskies for having that déjà vu feeling: After all, when Connecticut was a power inside the Big East, more than once they had to play a mini-tourney game against “host” St. John’s at Madison Square Garden and now here’s the Huskies in the AAC and –what do you know! – UConn’s playing on the home floor of the Memphis Tigers.
Maybe that will serve as motivation for a UConn club that was prohibited from participating in the NCAA Tournament last year because of classroom woes but now Kevin Ollie’s team has a real shot to upgrade its NCAA seed with a couple of wins this week.
The mini-tourney journey begins here for Connecticut and classic guards Shabazz Napier (17.8 ppg) and Ryan Boatright (12 ppg) probably will take 50 percent (or more) of the team’s field-goal attempts but even if this duo gives UConn 30-plus points between ‘em, the Huskies will need some timely threes from Niels Giffey to get “mission accomplished” here.
Note that Memphis lost both of its games against Connecticut this season – the Huskies won 83-73 on this Fedex Forum floor back on Jan. 16th and the Nutmeg State crew copped an 86-81 overtime win at home on Feb. 15th behind Napier’s 34 points and another 21 points from OT hero Boatright.
ACC – at Greensboro
FLORIDA STATE (18-12, 9-9) vs. MARYLAND (17-14, 9-9) – 12 p.m. ET, ESPNU
Is there room in the NCAA Tournament’s 68-team field for either of these teams … or perhaps even both of ‘em? Okay, so Maryland – as we suggested in an earlier-week edition of Jim Sez – likely needs to get to the 20-win mark to have a shot at the “Big Dance” and so Terrapins’ top scorer Dez Wells (14.8 ppg) better be in a light-it-up mood here and that also means making plenty of trips to the free-throw line where he’s a spiffy 81 percent shooter.
Okay, so Florida State’s defense never – ever – makes it easy on an opponent and take note Leonard Hamilton’s crew surrenders just 66 points a game but keep in mind the Seminoles did allow 83 points in a 12-point loss at Maryland back on Feb. 8th when Seth Allen poured in 32 points for the Terps.
Gut feel is FSU must win here to make a real pro-NCAA Tourney argument – but do the ‘Noles have enough firepower to get mission accomplished/ In case you’re wondering, Florida State’s “best win” this year was a Feb. 23rd triumph at Pittsburgh; Maryland’s most impressive “W” was last Sunday’s 75-69 overtime thriller against ACC regular-season champ Virginia.
BIG EAST – at New York City
PROVIDENCE (20-11, 10-8) at ST. JOHN’S (20-11, 10-8) – approximately 2:25 p.m. ET, Fox 1
Strange but true these original Big East Conference teams sport identical won/loss marks both overall and in league play – so no wonder many in-the-know hoop pundits are claiming this is an “elimination game” when it comes to the NCAA Tournament.
Heck, the PC Friars and St. John’s Red Storm even won on the other guys’ home floor this year with the Johnnies “getting even” with an 86-76 win at 3 ½-point favorite Providence back on Feb. 4th -- still, we believe Steve Lavin’s SJU guys probably need two wins in this mini-tourney to feel really good about an NCAA Tournament berth while Providence has to get this game and at least stay close in a semifinal tilt … got it?
No doubt that St. John’s has some super athletes on its side but unless the Red Storm can silence G Bryce Cotton (21.7 ppg) here, than Providence will be the ones movin’ on and did you need to be reminded that Cotton has canned 70 trifectas this season and he scored 21 and 32 points in his games against the Queens kids.
One final Big East-related note here: If third-ranked Villanova cuts down the nets at the end of this mini-tourney, then the Wildcats will likely nab a #1 seed in the NCAAs so there’s lots on the line in this tournament even if it ain’t like the good old days with Syracuse, UConn, Pittsburgh and Louisville (among others).
BIG 10 – at Indianapolis
PENN STATE (15-16, 6-12) vs. MINNESOTA (19-12, 8-10) – 6:30 p.m. ET, espn2
Maybe the good folks in Big 10-land might disagree with this assessment, but here goes: It’s quite possible that if Iowa and these Minny Golden Gophers lose their respective opening-round mini-tourney games, the conference will only get five teams into next week’s NCAA Tournament field.
So, the heat is on for Richard Pitino’s crew here and it’s not as if Minnesota heads into conference tournament play with a “hot hand” as the Gophers have dropped seven of their last 11 overall games and that includes last Sunday’s 81-63 home win against 7-point pup Penn State.
In fact, Minnesota swept the season series from the Nittany Lions and in last weekend’s tilt it was a true spread-the-wealth deal as DeAndre Mathieu registered 16 points with 6 assists, Austin Hollins had 14 points with 3 steals and Mo Walker poured in 16 points – but will this trio feel the pressure to produce here?
Hey, the NCAA Tournament folks would never admit it but don’t you think they’d love to have a potential Pitino vs. Pitino matchup somewhere on the dance card?
BIG 12 – at Kansas City
KANSAS STATE (20-11, 10-8) vs. #16 IOWA STATE (23-7, 11-7) – 12:30 p.m. ET, espn2
We’ll stick to our guns and repeat what we’ve been saying here for weeks: The Big 12 is the best top-to-bottom league in the land and there’s a good chance that 70 percent of the conference’s teams (that 7 out of 10, folks) will make it to the promised land that’s also known as the NCAA Tournament.
No sweat here for either nationally-ranked Iowa State or underdog Kansas State – right now we’d have to say the I-State Cyclones are a #4 seed with a chance to climb up one seed line should they get to the Big 12 Championship Game while K-State’s a good bet to play in one of those #8 vs. #9 games next Thursday or Friday.
Still, there’s a real rivalry here and note the teams both “held serve” on their own home courts this season with Iowa State nabbing an 81-75 non-cover win in Ames as 9 ½-point favorites back on Jan. 25th while Kansas State won Round II by a 80-73 score as two-point home favs in Manhattan, so now we’ll see if KSU can get the cash for a third straight time and maybe even dig a couple of rounds deep into this mini-tourney.
Iowa State’s the top scoring team in the Big 12 while averaging a heady 82.5 ppg but leading scorer Melvin Ejim (18.2 ppg) has been wildly inconsistent lately as his last five games have seen him score 12, 6, 30, 7 and 14 points … doesn’t sound like first-team Big 12 numbers to you, right?
SEC – at Atlanta
ALABAMA (13-18, 7-11) vs. LSU (18-12, 9-9) – 7 p.m. ET
Don’t know if you are aware of such things, but esteemed USA Today ratings master Jeff Sagarin has the not-so-mighty Southeastern Conference ranked as the sixth-best league in the land behind – in order – the Big 12, the Big 10, the Big East, the Pac-12 and the ACC and just percentage points ahead of the newfangled American Athletic Conference … and so now you know why we’ve printed our feelings that the SEC could only get four NCAA Tourney bids when the dust finally settles on Selection Sunday.
The LSU Tigers have “work to do” this week inside the Georgia Dome if they’re gonna get an invitation (we say the Bayou Bengals must win at least two games and then not get blown out in the semifinal round) and you have to wonder if that will wear on ‘em here.
Note LSU alternated losses and wins in its last seven regular-season games – the Tigers come into this mini-tourney off a humbling 69-61 setback against 7-point road dog Georgia and that’s a game where LSU shot just 20-of-55 from the floor (that’s 36.4 percent) and was out-rebounded 37-to-29. Yuck!
It’s now-or-never time for LSU’s Johnny O’Bryant III who scored only five points in that latest loss to Georgia.
P.S., Alabama snagged an 82-80 win/push as 2-point home favorites in the lone regular-season matchup between these sides.
NOTE: Stay with us for all the College Basketball Conference Tournament reports all week/weekend long right here at Jim Sez.