Submitted by Jim Hurley on Monday, March 9, 2015 at 12:00 AM
EXTRA, EXTRA –
IT’S OFFICIALLY “MARCH MADNESS”
AS CONFERENCE TOURNIES HEAT UP!!!
So, do you have any doubts at all that this week’s College Basketball Conference Tournaments – a/k/a the mini-tournies – are gonna be as wild as ever considering in just the past few days alone the likes of #8 Wichita State and #25 Murray State both lost as 8 ½ - and 6-point favorites, respectively, while Patriot League regular-season leaders Bucknell and Colgate both fell too (and even before getting to the league’s championship game!).
Even bubble boy Saint Mary’s couldn’t win a single game in the West Coast Conference Tourney this past weekend as our Jim Hurley big-time winner on Portland (+ 6 ½ ) swamped the Gaels 69-52 in WCC quarterfinal round action.
Now, let’s move ahead …
The NCAA Tournament Committee folks are likely gonna give Murray State the “back of their hand” come the Selection Show this Sunday evening and we think that’s a big mistake (we’ll argue more on that one later in the week right here at Jim Sez) and no question mighty Wichita State cost itself a seed line or two with that aforementioned Missouri Valley Conference Tournament semifinal round loss to Illinois State last Saturday but let’s call it the way we see it and that’s the mini-tournies are a great appetizer for the NCAA Tournament and, quite frankly, we’ve only just begun!
In today’s column space, we’ll supply quickie mini-tourney previews for any/all leagues that get things tipped off on or before Wednesday afternoon and so that means straight ahead there’s plenty to say about the Mid-American Conference, the Atlantic Coast Conference, Conference USA, the Pac-12 Conference, the Mountain West Conference and the Big 10 Conference.
And now hear this …
Jim Hurley and his Network of Handicappers and Bloggers will keep steamrolling their way through the month of March with loads of College Basketball winners and take special note that The Network March Madness Package includes all of this week’s and next week’s NCAA Tournament Games plus the very best from the NIT, CBI and CIT Tournies too … so sign up now!
Check us out at www.jimhurley.com 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.
Okay, let’s get back to the upcoming Conference Tournaments:
Starting tonight/Monday, it’s …
MID-AMERICAN CONFERENCE – This 12-team mini-tourney tips off with home court games this evening while Buffalo, Kent State, Central Michigan and Toledo all earn early-round byes but it’s not going overboard to believe one of the opening-round winners could produce a mini-tourney title-winner here as both Bowling Green (RPI rank of 97) and Western Michigan (RPI rank of 107) are both “live” here.
Note that Buffalo (21-9, 12-6 and an RPI rank of 33) rolls into this tourney on a six-game winning streak and head coach Bobby Hurley knows a little something about winning in the month of March from back in his playing days at Duke and here he counts on Justin Moss (18.4 ppg) to take command.
The Favorite: Buffalo
The Dark Horse: Western Michigan
Beginning on Tuesday, it’s …
ATLANTIC COAST CONFERENCE – This 15-team league only has 14 mini-tourney participants thanks to ineligible Syracuse (and we’re betting the ACC now wishes it never invited the Orange into their “family” in the first place!) and so when you sort through a pair of out-bracket games on Tuesday and some Wednesday junk the ACC quarterfinals on Thursday should be a blast with any of five or six different teams quite capable of making a run for the money. Regular-season champ Virginia (28-2, 16-2) could still be without star Justin Anderson (now he’s coming off a bout with appendicitis) while Duke (28-3, 15-3) has a short bench and Louisville (24-7, 12-6) remains offensively challenged.
The bigger picture shows us the following:
Miami (20-11) and N.C. State (19-12) must win at least one game each to feel good about its NCAA Tournament hopes, Pittsburgh (19-13) has gotta win at least two games and there’s no denying the fact that No. 1-thru-3 seed lines are on the line with Virginia and Duke needing to win this fandango to be assured a #1 while Notre Dame (26-5, 14-4) could be as high as a #2 seed in the “Big Dance” with a mini-tourney title here.
Note there are five ACC Tourney teams with RPI rankings of 25 or better but – make no mistake – Virginia, Duke, Notre Dame, Louisville and North Carolina all have flaws and we’re wondering if it’s “worth it” for these teams to go all gung-ho for this title in Greensboro.
The Favorite: Duke
The Dark Horse: Miami
Beginning on Wednesday, it’s …
CONFERENCE USA – There were five teams from C-USA that won either 12 or 13 league games this year including new member Old Dominion that sports the best RPI of any team here (36). The Monarchs and UTEP Miners each finished 13-5 in league play in this 2014-15 campaign behind athletic Louisiana Tech (24-7, 15-3) in the standings and the Techsters star Raheem Appleby (15.7 ppg) and Alex Hamilton (15.2 ppg) but whether or not the Bulldogs earn an automatic bid to the NCAAs probably depends on whether “third scorer” Erik McCree (11.8 ppg) can drain some timely triples.
Gotta say that if we can get four of the top five teams – that’s Louisiana Tech, UTEP, Old Dominion, Western Kentucky and UAB into the semifinal round than this will be a humdinger semi and final and do keep in mind the mini-tourney’s being played in Birmingham … major advantage to the UAB gang that was just 16-15 overall this season.
The Favorite: Louisiana Tech
The Dark Horse: North Texas
PAC-12 TOURNAMENT – Safe to say this league is really sweating it out in terms of just how many teams will be making it to the NCAA Tournament as Arizona (28-3, 16-2), Utah (23-7, 13-5) and Oregon (23-8, 13-5) are mortal locks and likely to land #1/or #2, #3 and #5 NCAA Tourney seeds, respectively, but everything else is a real crap shoot with both UCLA (19-12, 11-7) and Stanford (18-12, 9-9) both sitting on the wrong side of the bubble right now.
So, let’s just surmise that both the Bruins (who do get a first-round bye) and the Cardinal need to win at least once in this mini-tourney in Las Vegas (and we happen to think Stanford needs to win twice) and so this tourney has major juice with the other top co-story is whether a mini-tourney crown for Arizona will be enough to land ‘em a #1 seed in next week’s NCAA Tournament.
Is there a monkey wrench that can be thrown into the mix here?
You betcha – both Arizona State and Oregon State are capable of making a mess of things for the favorites here if they can just get to play at their speed but quote us that we’ll be surprised if somebody from the Arizona/Utah/Oregon troika don’t win this whole ball of wax.
The Favorite: Arizona
The Dark Horse: Arizona State
MOUNTAIN WEST CONFERENCE – The question making the rounds in these parts is do two, three or even four teams from the MWC make it to this year’s “Big Dance”?
Odds are co-regular-season champs Boise State (24-7, 14-4) and San Diego State (24-7, 14-4) will find themselves on the #9 or #10 seed line with little chance of an upgrade even if either the Broncos or Aztecs win this thing in Las Vegas but the real mystery deals with Colorado State (26-5, 13-5 with an RPI rank of 26 – the best in the league) and Wyoming (22-9, 11-7) – we say Colo State just needs to win one game to feel secure while the Wyoming Cowboys (with an RPI of 98) probably needs to get to the mini-tourney title game to have a real shot. Yes, we know Wyoming’s Larry Nance, Jr. missed a batch of games with “mono” but the NCAA committee guys/gals won’t cut ‘em much slack for that fact.
Remember that Boise State swept the regular-season series against San Diego State – by a combined 25 points, no less!
The Favorite: Boise State
The Dark Horse: Utah State
THE BIG 10 – Lots of great storylines here inside the United Center in Chicago this week beginning with the chase by Wisconsin (28-3, 16-2) for a numero uno seed in next week’s NCAA Tournament that will be accomplished with a mini-tourney crown or some upsets suffered elsewhere by the likes of Duke or Virginia, Arizona and Villanova.
Secondly, Maryland (26-5, 14-4) could leapfrog some folks and gain a #2 NCAA Tournament seed with a tourney win here plus other results and don’t forget that Iowa, Michigan State, Purdue and Ohio State all could upgrade their NCAA Tourney seeds with a long run this week in Chitown – and then there’s the matter of Indiana (19-12) and Illinois (also 19-12) who both likely need two tourney wins here to even rate a shot for the 68-team Big Dance field.
One X-factor here:
If Wisconsin gets another crack at Maryland, it’ll be major revenge for the Badgers who lost 59-53 in College Park – and remember the post-game bit when Wisconsin head coach Bo Ryan cut off Maryland head coach Mark Turgeon in a press conference that was a tad awkward. Hmmm.
The Favorite: Wisconsin
The Dark Horse: Ohio State
NOTE: Get more key College Basketball News & Notes in the next edition of Jim Sez and keep it right here all March long for important Conference Tournament and NCAA Tournament Previews.