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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Thursday, March 8, 2018 at 9:54 AM

THE COLLEGE HOOPS UPDATE: MORE MINI TOURNEY TALK AS THE THURSDAY CARD FEATURES A WHOPPING 48 BIG ON-THE-BOARD GAMES

It's really/truly time to hoop it up: The College Basketball world is in full tilt mode with nearly half-a-hundred mini-tourney games on this Thursday docket and - in case you don't have your handy-dandy schedule in front of you - note that there are 12 different conferences/leagues in action here on March 8th and they include power conferences such as the ACC, Big East, Big 12, SEC and Pac-12. We'll chit-chat about a few of these mini-tourney games in a moment plus we offer up our quick-hitter looks at both the American Athletic Conference and the Big West Conference

Here's some key games to check out on the Thursday docket:

ACC TOURNAMENT - Quarterfinals at Barclays Center, Brooklyn (NY)
LOUISVILLE (20-12) vs. VIRGINIA (28-2) - 12 p.m. ET, ESPN
The ACC's top-seeded Virginia Cavaliers - according to all the hoop insiders - have an NCAA Tournament top seed locked up no matter what happens this week/weekend in Brooklyn but expect the Wahoos' suffocating defense to go all-out here (the oddsmakers have Virginia posted as a 7.5-point favorite at last glance) against a Louisville crew that steamrolled its way yesterday to an 82-74 win against 2-point fav Florida State. The Cardinals - led by Quentin Snyder's 19 points - dashed off to a 26-point lead but let things fritter away and nobody needs to remind the 'Ville about frittering away leads (see four-point lead with 0.9 seconds last week before losing to Virginia). If Virginia's nationally-best defense (allowing just 52.8 ppg) can keep the Cardinals off the glass, then Tony Bennett's club should power up a double-digit win here even if soph G Kyle Guy and folks score 60-or-so points.

BIG EAST TOURNAMENT - Quarterfinals at Madison Square Garden, New York City (NY)
BUTLER (19-12) vs. SETON HALL (21-10) - approximately 9:30 p.m. ET, Fox Sports 1
Great end-of-the-day matchup at "The Garden" where one-point fav Butler will trust scoring leader Kelan Martin (21.2 ppg) and friends to get some double-revenge against a physical Seton Hall squad that's already beaten the Bulldogs 90-87 back on Jan. 6th and then again 77-70 last Saturday (when Martin poured in a game-high 35 points). The Hall overcame an 11-point deficit to snag that first win against Butler and then on March 3rd it was an Angel Delgado double-double (21 points, 10 rebs) and Khadeen Carrington's 25 points. Hey, both of these teams are "in" when it comes to the NCAA Tournament but if either wishes to avoid an 8-vs.-9 games next week then winning here is key.

SEC TOURNAMENT - Second Round at Scottrade Arena, St. Louis (MO)
ALABAMA (17-14) vs. TEXAS A&M (20-11) - 1 p.m. ET, SEC Network
There's rumblings that the A&M Aggies better win this game if they wish to be NCAA Tournament-bound - hey, it helps matters that Texas A&M sports a solid RPI # (24) and it heads into play here on a three-game win streak immediately on the heels of a three-game losing streak. Yet A&M is just a 1.5-point betting fav here and is 13-15 ATS (against the spread) on the year but the Aggies will get "mission accomplished" if 6-foot-10 C Tyler Davis (14.7 ppg and 8.7 rebounds per game) has one of his stat-stuffing games against a 'Bama bunch that ranks a lowly 220th nationally in scoring offense.


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AMERICAN ATHLETIC CONFERENCE TOURNAMENT ... Thursday-thru-Sunday
at Amway Center - Orlando, FL
There's been a real groundswell of support for the AAC with as many as four teams likely headed to this year's NCAA Tournament - that's Cincinnati, Houston, new member Wichita State and Tulsa - and don't be shocked if a mini-tourney run to the championship game might get in either Temple or Memphis. In any event, Cincinnati (27-4, 16-2) is holding out hope for a #1 seed but it's more than likely a title here gets the Bearcats a #2 NCAA Tourney seed while both Houston (24-6, 14-4) and Wichita State (24-6, 14-4) can wind up somewhere on the #4 seed line if they can snag this AAC Tournament near Disney. Remember that Cincy ranks second nationally in scoring defense (allows 57.3 points per game) and the 'Cats have held six of its last dozen foes to 52 points or less.

THE FAVORITE: Cincinnati
DARK HORSE: Temple
PLAYER TO WATCH: Gary Clark, F, Cincinnati
... Just named the AAC Defensive Player of the Year and Player of the Year in the American and keep in mind he's led the Bearcats in points or rebounds in 24 different games this year.

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BIG WEST CONFERENCE TOURNAMENT ... Thursday-thru-Saturday
at Honda Center - Anaheim, CA
The UC-Davis Aggies (21-9, 12-4) won the regular-season crown but they needed a double-overtime win against gritty Cal-Irvine last weekend to secure this mini tourney's top seed and now the $64,000 question is whether high-scorer 6-foot-6 F Chima Moneke (18.4 ppg) can get the ticket punched for the NCAAs or will an otherwise lackluster offense keep 'em down. UC-Santa Barbara (22-8, 11-5) finished in second place in the Big West as three-point shooter Max Heidegger stars.

THE FAVORITE: UC-Davis
DARK HORSE: CS-Fullerton
PLAYER TO WATCH: T.J. Shorts, PG, UC-Davis
... Ole' #0 is the energizer for the Aggies as the 5-foot-9 Shorts scores 15.2 ppg with 4.3 assists per outing.
  

NOTE: We're gearing up for the NCAA Tournament comin' soon - but there's more mini-tourney talk in the next Jim Sez and "Big Dance" News & Notes soon too!

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