Submitted by Jim Hurley on Monday, March 5, 2012 at 9:25 AM
Hope you're wearing your seat belts 'cause this is gonna be some ride through all these College Basketball Conference Tournaments:
This past week/weekend you all got a little sampling of "March Madness" with Murray State's hang-on-for-dear-life win in the Ohio Valley Conference Championship Game against Tennessee State and how about the likes of Wichita State and Iona both losing in their respective mini-tournies even before they ever reached the title tilt? Wow!
In today's start-of-the-week edition of Jim Sez, we'll dash around to three of the power conferences and see what's in store for their mini-tournies as the Big East swings into action on Tuesday afternoon while both the Pac-12 and Big 12 get geared up with first-round tournament games on Wednesday and every day this week we'll check in on one league or another to find out key news/notes and so make sure you're here for the ride ...and so fasten that seat belt already!
Jim Hurley and his Network of Handicappers and Bloggers are hot-hot-hot these days and they will get you all the College Basketball Conference Tournament and NBA Winners every day when you check in with us either right here or else at our exclusive toll-free telephone # of 1-800-323-4453. Note that the special check-in times are after 11 a.m. ET for all the weekday afternoon games and then after 1 p.m. ET for all the Monday-through-Friday night action. Also, the winning selections are available after 10 a.m. ET on Saturday and Sunday. Sign up now for the remainder of the hoops season - get a great discount price today - and let America's #1 Handicapper point you straight to the winner's circle!
BIG EAST TOURNAMENT - at Madison Square Garden, New York, NY
The 16-team team league goes Tuesday-thru-Saturday this week with a grand total of 15 games on the docket but is there anyone out there than can duplicate what the Connecticut Huskies did a year ago when Jim Calhoun's club won five games in five days thanks to the daring-do of guard Kemba Walker?
Ahh, not likely!
There are some folks getting cute and saying this year's UConn Huskies can run the table beginning with Tuesday's high noon ET tilt against lowly DePaul but when has this 2011-12 team shown you any semblance of coming together during this bumpy season and to win five in a row here likely means stringing together back-to-back-to-back-to-back-to-back wins against DePaul, West Virginia, Syracuse, Cincinnati and Marquette. Whoa!
Obviously, 30-and-1 Syracuse is the popular pick to win this year's Big East Tournament crown although count us among the folks that believe PG Scoop Jardine and fellow senior Kris Joseph can't afford to go into any prolonged scoring droughts this week in midtown Manhattan. Meanwhile, if the Orange wants to secure a #1 NCAA Tournament seed than it would be wise to at least get to the semifinals of this week's tourney or the committee folks could cast a leery eye at 'em.
Note that Marquette, Notre Dame and Cincinnati all join the 'Cuse in getting a double-bye into Thursday's quarterfinals but none of these guys should feel safe with the ND Fighting Irish a shell of themselves when three-ball shots are not dropping and the Cincy Bearcats need big man Yancy Gates to steer clear of foul woes and get double-digit points/boards every time he takes to the floor.
If you're looking for a possible "surprise" team here than consider South Florida - true, offensively-challenged to be sure - but head coach Stan Heath's Bulls can lock you down on "D" and the sense of urgency to win at least two games here to get an at-large NCAA Tourney berth could drive the Tampa team to great emotional heights.
PAC-12 - at Staples Center. Los Angeles, CA
Mark your calendar as this fandango starts Wednesday with a quartet of first-round games and doesn't end till Saturday night and it's truly a free-for all even though Washington won the #1 seed thanks to California's 75-70 loss at archrival Stanford on Sunday afternoon. True, the UW Huskies (14-4 in league play this year) average nearly 75 points per game and G Tony Wroton (16.3 ppg) is a do-it-all type but would anyone really be surprised if Lorenzo Romar's gang was picked off prior to the championship round?
No doubt there's plenty of talk about born-again UCLA which won eight of its final dozen regular-season games and appears to be getting unified about that Sports Illustrated article that painted the program - and veteran head coach Ben Howland - in a not-so-great light but remember the Bruins don't have any first-round byes (like Washington, Cal, Oregon and Arizona) and there's not as much depth to this Uclans team as Howland would like.
Keep a close eye out on Colorado (11-7 in league play) in its first-ever Pac-12 Tournament as the Buffaloes did lose their final two tilts - road games at Oregon and at Oregon State - but play tough defense and have balanced scoring and could catch one (or two) of the league's bigger fish napping here while Arizona is an interesting case study as Sean Miller's squad comes into this mini-tourney in a cranky mood after getting stunned 87-80 at 8 ½-point home dog Arizona State on Sunday (note the Sun Devils drained 22-of-24 free throws in that tilt including the last 15 in a row to end the game) and note Miller has tried a little psychology on his guys by stating his 21-10 team "doesn't deserve an NCAA Tournament bid".
BIG 12 - at Sprint Center, Kansas City, MO
It's Wednesday-thru-Saturday action here in middle America where the really big questions are twofold: Does Kansas get a #1 NCAA Tournament seed if its wins out here in KayCee and just how many wins does Texas (19-12, 9-9 in Big 12 play) need to lock down an at-large bid to the "Big Dance"? You might have heard ESPN analyst Bob Knight say he thought that Texas needed two wins here to get into the party but we're not even quite sure that'll be enough while let's ask where Missouri (27-4, 14-4) will wind up on the NCAA Tournament seed line should Frank Haith's club run the table here?
The one thing we know is that aforementioned Kansas (26-5, 16-2) just comes off winning the league by two full games and this is a squad that's won eight in a row and is peaking. If PG Tyshawn Taylor makes all the right decisions on the fast break this week than nobody's beating Bill Self's team ...nobody!
Meanwhile, watch out for Baylor (25-6, 12-6) because right now nobody is talking about Scott Drew's Bears and that's when this Waco bunch is dangerous as big man Quincy Acy (12.1 ppg and 7.2 rpg) is quite capable of owning the paint against all Big 12 comers and this club is always worth watching whenever placed in the underdog role.
Obviously, there are plenty of other mid-major conferences playing week and keep an eye on the Conference USA battles as Southern Miss and UCF each likely has to win at least one game to get at-large NCAA Tournament notice and remember this mini tourney is in Memphis where the home town Tigers lost only once to a C-USA opponent this year (see UTEP).
The Atlantic-10 Conference swings into action on Tuesday night with four first-round games - including a Duquesne at UMass tilt -- and remember the home favored Minutemen actually have lost four of their last including six games including that ugly 43-point outing in a 33-point loss at Dayton in late February.
NOTE: Lots more College B-Ball Conference Tournament action in the next edition of Jim Sez.