Submitted by Jim Hurley on Saturday, February 28, 2015 at 12:00 AM
THE COLLEGE HOOPS WEEKEND REPORT:
IT’S TWO WEEKS TILL SELECTION SUNDAY
AND THERE’S LOTS ON OUR MINDS TODAY!
So, here’s what we had to say in this very edition of Jim Sez one year ago to the day – and so let’s say it again:
“And you thought we’d never get here, right?
Well, the calendar page turns to say March here on Sunday but the ‘madness’ has already begun with major free-for-alls for a batch of available at-large NCAA Tournament bids and here’s how we see the big picture in terms of NCAA Tournament berths per major conference – feel free to disagree with us and remember there’s still a couple of weeks of basketball action before we get to Selection Sunday on March 15th but this is how we’re seeing it right now here at Jim Sez” …
Note that in the likely “one-bid” leagues we’ll pick who we think will win the upcoming conference tournaments:
THE CONFERENCES –
AMERICA EAST (1) – Albany
AMERICAN ATHLETIC (4) – SMU, Tulsa, Temple and Cincinnati.
ATLANTIC COAST (6) – Virginia, Duke, Notre Dame, Louisville, North Carolina and Pittsburgh.
ATLANTIC 10 (4) – Dayton, Davidson, VCU and Rhode Island.
ATLANTIC SUN (1) – Florida Gulf Coast
BIG EAST (5) – Villanova, Butler, Georgetown, Providence and St. John’s.
BIG 10 (5) – Wisconsin, Maryland, Purdue, Michigan State and Ohio State.
BIG 12 (5) – Kansas, West Virginia, Iowa State, Oklahoma and Baylor.
BIG SOUTH (1) – High Point
BIG SKY (1) – Eastern Washington
BIG WEST (1) – UC-Davis
COLONIAL ATHLETIC (1) – William & Mary
CONFERENCE USA (2) – Louisiana Tech and UTEP.
HORIZON LEAGUE (1) – Valparaiso
IVY LEAGUE (1) – Harvard
MAAC (1) – Iona
MEAC (1) – N.C. Central
MID-AMERICAN (1) – Central Michigan
MISSOURI VALLEY (2) – Northern Iowa and Wichita State
MOUNTAIN WEST (3) – San Diego State, Boise State and Colorado State.
NORTHEAST (1) – St. Francis-NY
OHIO VALLEY (1) – Murray State
PAC 12 (5) – Arizona, Utah, Oregon, Stanford and UCLA.
PATRIOT (1) – Colgate
SOUTHERN (1) – Wofford
SOUTHEASTERN (5) – Kentucky, Arkansas, Texas A&M, Ole Miss and LSU.
SOUTHLAND (1) – Stephen F. Austin
SUMMITT LEAGUE (1) – South Dakota State
SUN BELT (1) – UL-Monroe
SWAC (1) – Texas Southern
WAC (1) – New Mexico State
WEST COAST (2) – Gonzaga and Saint Mary’s.
Okay, so if you’re looking for “snubs” out there than the likes of Iowa, Indiana, BYU, Miami, Xavier and Old Dominion might be on your respective lists right about now but, hey, there’s not enough room at “the inn” for everyone and so two weeks out from this year’s Selection Show we have the above-listed teams in the “Big Dance”.
In case you’re wondering, the power conferences – that’s the American Athletic, ACC, Big East, Big 10, Big 12, Pac-12 and SEC – sports a total of 36 spots in this 68-team field or some 53 percent of the entries … folks, that’s not as many as we thought just two or three weeks back with mid-major conferences such as Conference USA, the Missouri Valley Conference and the Mountain West each grabbing up more than a single bid the way we see it. P.S., don’t be shocked if we wind up closer to 40 bids for the power leagues as opposed to our here-and-now list of 36 teams should some of the “snubs” listed above make serious runs for it in their upcoming mini-tourneys.
Yes, we know lots of web sites and TV stations and newspapers have been banging out their brackets – it’s a fun read but means nothing till we get a bit closer to Selection Sunday, of course – but we will give hoop junkies something to digest when we predict that the “First Four” games to be played in Dayton on the evenings of Tuesday, March 17th and Wednesday, March 18th should include the 11th-seed likes of Rhode Island, UTEP, UCLA and Saint Mary’s. We could have lots of fun watching these “play-in” games with UCLA vs. UTEP or pehaps Rhode Island vs. UCLA real nail-biters.
And now hear this …
Jim Hurley and his Network of Handicappers and Bloggers keep rockin’-n-rollin’ through March with this College Basketball and NBA season as there are gonna be loads of winners right here online at www.jimhurley.com or at our exclusive toll-free telephone # of 1-800-323-4453 – so go ahead and join the fun and profits today with all the hardwood action this month and remember the conference tournaments or so-called mini-tournies heat up this week with lots of day-time action all throughout the month of March – we’ll keep you posted for all the important conference tourney news and notes!
Here’s what is on tap come Sunday when there are three Top 25 games on the docket …
MICHIGAN STATE (19-9, 10-5 Big 10) at #5 WISCONSIN (25-3, 13-2 Big 10) – 4 p.m. ET, CBS
Gotta go all the way back to Jan. 15th to find out how the Wisky Badgers fared while coming off a loss – they bested Nebraska 70-55 just four days after losing at league laughingstock Rutgers – but here’s Bo Ryan’s team coming off not only last Tuesday’s 59-53 defeat at 6-point pup Maryland but a scary-as-heck plane ride that forced the team down in Pittsburgh … yikes.
Here, the Badgers likely will force the ball more into the hands of senior stud Frank Kaminsky (17.7 ppg) who also happens to be one of five Badgers with 20-or-more made triples this 2014-15 season. Kaminsky did score a team-best 18 points on 7-of-14 FG tries versus the Terps but would’ve liked to see Wisconsin get him involved on a more consistent basis as Ryan’s crew fell in love with the three-ball (see just 6-of-22 three-point makes).
On the flip side, all the world is acting as if this Michigan State squad has been some sort of underachiever – yes, most pundits thought Sparty was somewhere between a #15-to-#25 team prior to the start of the current campaign – but Tom Izzo’s club does have double-digit conference wins and had copped six-of-seven wins till getting upset 96-90 in overtime this past Thursday night by 8-point road dog Minnesota.
One problem is that game for the Spartans:
They missed 10-of-29 free throws with reserve G Travis Trice actually going 6-of-18 from the floor and a dismal 6-of-13 from the charity stripe … so don’t be so quick to hype up the fact he finished with 21 points in that rare home loss!
Note this is the first-and-only regular-season meeting for these teams
#21 SMU (23-5, 14-2 AAC) at CONNECTICUT (16-11, 9-6 AAC) – 2 p.m. ET, CBS
Hard to believe that the defending champs are going to be resigned to a likely spot in this year’s NIT field but, hey, Kevin Ollie’s club never jived even with star G Ryan Boatwright (team-leading 17.5 ppg) running the show while SMU’s really cookin’ down the stretch with five wins in a row coming into this matinee and 12 wins in the Ponies’ last 13 games overall.
SMU dunked 6 ½-point underdog UConn 73-55 back on Feb. 14th when Larry Brown’s bunch held the Huskies to just 17-of-50 shooting from the floor (that’s 34 percent) while 6-foot-11 C Yanick Moreira proved to be a stat-sheet stuffer with 13 points and 10 boards but here let’s pay special attention to the Boatwright battle against SMU’s Nic Moore (averaging 14.6 ppg). It could be that the star guard that takes over the game at crunch time will wind up in the winner’s circle.
MARQUETTE (11-16, 3-12 Big East) at #25 PROVIDENCE (19-9, 9-6 Big East) – 3:30 p.m. ET, Fox Sports 1
Mark down the Providence Friars as a “team to watch” in the upcoming NCAA Tournament ‘cause underrated head coach Ed Cooley has his team playing fierce defense (ranked 4th in the lead while allowing 65.8 ppg) and lefty F LaDontae Henton (20.3 ppg) can fill ‘er up as he scored 22-or-more points four games in a row till super-power Villanova held Henton to just 12 points in the 89-61 Wildcats’ win/cover back on Tuesday night past.
On the flip side, it’s been a true learning experience for first-year Marquette head coach Steve Wojciechowski as his club ranks dead-last in the Big East in scoring (66 ppg) and has lost seven-of-eight road games in league play – guard Matt Carlino (concussion/missed four games) did return to the lineup in Wednesday’s 73-52 loss at 8 ½-point favorite Butler but scored just 10 points in 25 minutes off the pine.
Finally, the conference tournaments – a/k/a the mini-tourneys – heat up next week and here’s some of what to look forward to before all the big boys get into action:
Tuesday, March 3 …
Horizon League Tournament begins with home sites for higher-seeded teams
Wednesday, March 4 …
Ohio Valley Conference Tournament begins – all games played at Municipal Auditorium in Nashville (TN)
Thursday, March 5 …
Missouri Valley Conference Tournament begins – all games played at ScottTrade Center in Saint Louis (MO)
Metro-Atlantic Athletic Conference begins – all games played at Times Union Center in Albany (NY)
Friday, March 6 …
Colonial Conference Tournament begins – all games played at Royal Farms Arena in Baltimore (MD)
West Coast Conference Tournament begins – all games played at Orleans Arena in Las Vegas (NV)
Southern Conference Tournament begins – all games played at US Cellular Center in Ashville (NC)
NOTE: Catch our College Basketball Weekend Wrap-up Report in the next edition of Jim Sez plus stay tuned for all our news/notes/previews regarding the various conference tournaments that officially swing into action on Tuesday with the Horizon League Tournament getting underway.