Submitted by Jim Hurley on Wednesday, March 7, 2012 at 11:15 AM
In case you needed a little help adding up all these on-the-board College Basketball games on this Wednesday/Thursday than note there are 17 tilts on the Wednesday card including the Big Sky Championship Game between Weber State at Montana while Thursday's rock-em, sock-'em sked gives us 42 games with all six of the "power conferences" in action along with guys from Conference USA, the Mountain West, the WAC, the Big West and the Mid-American Conference.
In other words, grab some zzz's for a few minutes today before you're turned in to wall-to-wall hoops action and let's see which "bubble teams" make it out alive and which ones get "popped" plus find out how super-powers Kentucky, Syracuse, Kansas and North Carolina fare here because all of the above are being mentioned prominently as being #1 seeds in next week's NCAA Tournament.
In our most recent edition of Jim Sez we touched on the conference tournaments (or mini-tournies) involving the Big East, the Pac-12 and the Big 12 and so let's turn our focus to the other three "power conrferences" here but first let's get you this key reminder:
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BIG 10 TOURNAMENT- at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Indianapolis, IN
No doubt we have to agree with prominent college basketball writer Dick Weiss who wrote the other day that the Big 10 might not have any #1 seeds in the upcoming NCAA Tournament but should have five of its teams land berths on the #2, #3 and #4 seed line combined as tri-champions Ohio State, Michigan State and Michigan all will be among the top 16 overall seeds in the "Big Dance" while both Indiana and Wisconsin figure to grab #4 seeds but either the Hoosiers or the plucky Badgers could climb up a notch or two should they happen to win all the marbles here in "Nap City" in a tourney that runs Thursday-through-Sunday.
How likely is that?
Well, the Badgers (23-8) lead the league in scoring defense while yielding less than 52 points a game and holding foes in that general range here could lead 'em to great heights (see Sunday's championship game, perhaps) while the IU Hoosiers (24-7) sport the league's top scoring offense at 77.5 ppg and so getting their games in this mini-tourney to be "up-and-down" affairs could propel Tom Crean's club to a shot this Sunday ...so stay tuned.
No doubt the Northwestern Wildcats (18-12, 8-10) are on the bubble and must beat Minnesota in Thursday's first-round game to have a shot while Purdue (20-11, 10-8) is on the inside looking out but a "bad loss" in Round One against Nebraska could cost the Boilermakers. Note that Purdue's a 9 ½-point favorite at press time here.
Expect both Michigan State (24-7) and Ohio State (25-6) to play hard here but not go crazy 'cause both teams are practically assured a #2 seed in the NCAAs while Michigan (23-8) and top-notch tourney coach John Beilein has some big fish to fry here as the maize-and-blue could conceivably get an NCAA #2 seed by winning this mini-tourney and G Trey Burke (14.6 ppg and 4.6 assists per game) is looking to make this a coming-out party of sorts.
Who's a potential dark horse to win this Big 10 Tourney?
How about the aforementioned Purdue squad that finished the regular season in sixth place but senior Robbie Hummel (16.8 ppg) could be a major calming influence late in close games. Just sayin'!
ACC TOURNAMENT- at Philips Arena, Atlanta, GA
Maybe more than at any recent time this top-heavy league would shock us- absolutely shock us- if either Duke (26-5) or North Carolina (27-4) fell short of making it to Sunday's championship game and odds are we will see Round III in Hot-lanta providing someone doesn't get red-hot from the floor and beat one of these powers.
Yes, we've all been hearing that the Blue Devils ain't what they used to be and last Saturday's lopsided 88-70 home loss to the UNC Tar Heels proved that nobody's gonna be mentioning this Duke team with the 1991-92 dual champs but still guards Austin Rivers and/or Seth Curry can heat things up in a heartbeat for a squad that's averaging nearly 79 points a game.
As far as Carolina, that NBA-bound front line starring Harrison Barnes (17.4 ppg), Tyler Zeller (16.3 ppg) and John Henson (14.2 ppg) should put fright into enemy squads from here through late March/early April but it's PG Kendall Marshall (10 assists versus Duke last weekend) that could be the real superstar here this week and his assists-to-turnovers rate will tell the tale as to whether the Heels cut down the nets this Sunday afternoon.
What are the other real stories here?
Well, Florida State- the only other ACC team besides Duke/North Carolina with double-digit league wins (see 12-4)- plays air-tight defense and is capable of beating either giant while most in-the-know folks believe both N.C. State (20-11) and Miami (18-11) each needs to win at least one game in this mini-tourney and both are listed as heavy-duty wagering favorites in first-round games versus Boston College and Georgia Tech, respectively (see 12 ½ and 6 ½ points).
Is there a sleeper team here? Maybe Virginia Tech- just 15-16 and not sitting on any bubble this time, Seth Greenberg!- can stir the juices but first the Hokies have to beat Clemson.
SEC TOURNAMENT- at New Orleans Arena, New Orleans, LA
First-round SEC Tourney byes have gone out to #1 Kentucky (30-1, 16-0) along with Florida, Vanderbilt and Tennessee and so this quartet (all of whom won double-digit games inside the SEC this 2011-12 season) won't swing into action till Friday as this mini-tourney runs Thursday-thru-Sunday and count us among the folks who believe that this league could produce anywhere from four to six teams in next week's NCAA Tournament:
Yes, Kentucky's locked into a #1 seed- and maybe even the number one see while both Florida and Vandy figure to fall somewhere on either the #3 or #4 seed line but Tennessee's no lock just yet to get into the "Dance" at 18-13 and 10-6 in SEC play and both Alabama (20-10, 9-7) and enigmatic Miss State (21-10, 8-8) probably need two wins apiece here to really/truly feel good about their NCAA Tourney future. The crazy thing about this mini-tourney is that LSU and Ole Miss are athletic enough to cause some problems and Vandy could be a second-round flop if the Commodores are not banging home triples- while Florida's three-point defense hasn't been great lately and Billy Donovan's gang could get KO'ed in Round II if not extremely careful.
Keep a close eye on how Kentucky head coach John Calipari handles this weekend- no doubt the 'Cats want to win here but "Coach Cal" isn't likely to allow Freshman of the Year (and possible National Player of the Year) F Anthony Davis to take a physical beating here with three games in three days a distinct possibility. Davis is averaging 14.4 ppg and 9.8 boards a game but everyone knows his value doesn't lie solely in the stats but the big number here is "minutes played" because what good does it do the Wildcats to have this guy averaging 37 or 38 minutes a game this weekend?
The mini-tournies roll on and here's hoping there's closer games than what we got at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday as UConn, Pittsburgh, Seton Hall and Villanova won by a collective 81 points (or more than 20 points a game) and we'll hand our a Star of the Day award here to Villanova G Maalik Wayns who proved to be a major stat-sheet stuffer with 28 points, 6 rebounds and 4 assists as 'Nova outscored Rutgers 40-15 after intermission ...really!
NOTE: Stay on top of all the College Basketball action all week long right here at Jim Sez.