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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Thursday, March 1, 2012 at 9:47 PM

We’ve had a taste of postseason action in college hoops this week. But FRIDAY is the first day that’s really going to have a day-night tournament feel to it. This afternoon features opening round action in the Colonial and Southern Conferences, plus the quarterfinals of the Missouri Valley Conference (previewed yesterday here in the NOTEBOOK). Friday Night features quarterfinal action in the Horizon and West Coast Conferences (previewed earlier this week), semifinal action in the Ohio Valley Conference (ditto), and the first night play-in games in the Metro-Atlantic.

Call it at least a PRELUDE to MARCH MADNESS!

We’re going to preview the three events starting today…and we have to abbreviate the format just a bit to squeeze them all in. We’ll still touch on the key factors, and outline the brackets. That will be done in one fell swoop! We’ll run the data we’ve been focusing on this week:

*Computer Rankings from Jeff Sagarin of USA Today

*Computer Rankings from Ken Pomeroy

*Offensive and Defensive Efficiency from Ken Pomeroy (scoring adjusted for tempo and strength of schedule)

And, we’ll do that in bracket order, so that you have a handy way of evaluating each of the matchups. It may seem a bit tricky at first, but you’ll get the hang of it quickly. It’s probably just best to jump right in….

 

COLONIAL CONFERENCE (Games in Richmond, VA)

James Madison (9): 238 in Sagarin, 234 in Pomeroy, 179 on offense, 275 on defense

NC Wilmington (8): 244 in Sagarin, 250 in Pomeroy, 222 on offense, 265 on defense

Drexel (1): 60 in Sagarin, 46 in Pomeroy, 58 on offense, 55 on defense

Because there are byes in conference tournaments, we’re going to stagger the presentation so you can see the first and second round games at the same time. In this threesome, Madison and Wilmington will play each other in the first round, with the winner then facing Drexel in the second round. All three teams are here at once so it’s easy to research when you’re studying the first and second round games. Obviously Drexel is the class by a mile in this trio…and it would be a stunner if they didn’t advance to the semifinals. Pomeroy currently has Drexel good enough for serious consideration as an at-large team. The general consensus though is that only one team from the Colonial will reach the Dance…this tournament winner.

Towson (12): 338 in Sagarin, 339 in Pomeroy, 343 on offense, 288 on defense

Delaware (5): 161 in Sagarin, 155 in Pomeroy, 163 on offense, 155 on defense

Old Dominion (4): 108 in Sagarin, 83 in Pomeroy, 183 on offense, 22 on defense

Old Dominion has a lot bigger edge in the numbers than you’d expect in a 4-5 game. They’ll also have a rest advantage thanks to the bye. We really love defense in the tournaments as you regulars know. Old Dominion has the best efficiency defense in the conference. And, that will give them a puncher’s chance to upset Drexel should form hold and they meet in the semifinals.

William & Mary (10): 299 in Sagarin, 288 in Pomeroy, 238 on offense, 302 on defense

Northeastern (7): 196 in Sagarin, 189 in Pomeroy, 197 on offense, 199 on defense

Virg-Commonwealth (2): 50 in Sagarin, 47 in Pomeroy, 96 on offense, 26 on defense

VCU’s defense is terrific as well, basically neck and neck with Old Dominion. They’re clearly the dominant side in this trio, as it seems very likely that the best teams will advance through the week. The computers have VCU right on the cusp of consideration for an at-large too. We would hope that what the Colonial has done in the Dance would get them a second team in (VCU reached the Final Four last year!). That’s not the way it works though.

Hofstra (11): 207 in Sagarin, 196 in Pomeroy, 230 on offense, 166 on defense

Georgia State (6): 105 in Sagarin, 99 in Pomeroy, 195 on offense, 30 on defense

George Mason (3): 107 in Sagarin, 112 in Pomeroy, 153 on offense, 73 on defense

Best chance for an upset seedwise is here with Georgia State grading out better than George Mason in the computer composite, and with the better defense. We’ll have to look at that matchup if it comes to fruition on Saturday Night. Mason is well-respected by the market. Georgia State knows what it’s doing.

General outlook: The last two rounds should be terrific with so much at stake. The eventual winner is going to be a danger team in the Dance. We’ll probably shade our action toward the defensive end if we post any releases for our clients in this tourney.

 

SOUTHERN CONFERENCE (Games in Asheville, NC)

Coll-Charleston (S4): 148 in Sagarin, 152 in Pomeroy, 181 on offense, 124 on defense

Appalachian St. (N5): 258 in Sagarin, 255 in Pomeroy, 217 on offense, 282 on defense

NC Greensboro (N1): 285 in Sagarin, 279 in Pomeroy, 259 on offense, 277 on defense

Nobody in the North had a winning record for the full season, making Greensboro one of the worst division winners in the history of sport. But, this conference follows the standard split division format where winning your division gets you a bye and favorable seeding even if your division was a laughingstock. Note that the computers have the fifth best team in the North as better than the first! Charleston is the favorite to come out of this trio, even if they only finished fourth in their division. They likely would have won the North if they were in it.

W. Carolina (N3): 262 in Sagarin, 269 in Pomeroy, 252 on offense, 267 on defense

Citadel (S6): 319 in Sagarin, 313 in Pomeroy, 314 on offense, 287 on defense

Wofford (S2): 183 in Sagarin, 175 in Pomeroy, 172 on offense, 184 on defense

Not a great conference this year, needless to say. And, top seed Davidson got crushed in their Bracket Buster! Wofford is the best of this trio, and should advance to the semi’s. That’s going to put an ugly team in the finals from this half of the brackets. But, there’s no way around that because this is basically a conference of ugly teams.

Samford (N4): 279 in Sagarin, 270 in Pomeroy, 174 on offense, 319 on defense

Furman (S5): 239 in Sagarin, 242 in Pomeroy, 258 on offense, 216 on defense

Davidson (S1): 64 in Sagarin, 63 in Pomeroy, 35 on offense, 111 on defense

Davidson looks like a defensive juggernaut at 111 in this horrible league, even though their actually weak defensively in terms of teams you’ll be watching the rest of the month. Were Davidson to get upset this weekend, they’ll head to the NIT…and the winner of the conference will be a 16th seed in the Dance.

Ga. Southern (S3): 231 in Sagarin, 239 in Pomeroy, 264 on offense, 296 on defense

Chattanooga (N6): 266 in Sagarin, 256 in Pomeroy, 263 on offense, 242 on defense

Elon (N2): 261 in Sagarin, 261 in Pomeroy, 274 on offense, 241 on defense

Truly a coin flip trio. Honestly, we don’t follow this conference closely enough to provide many hints in the NOTEBOOK format. The good news is that the oddsmakers don’t either! We strongly encourage you to read the first day boxscores so you can be a step ahead of the market in the later rounds.

 

METRO-ATLANTIC CONFERENCE (Games in Springfield, MA)

St. Peter’s (9): 312 in Sagarin, 318 in Pomeroy, 332 on offense, 252 on defense

Marist (8): 263 in Sagarin, 247 in Pomeroy, 247 on offense, 232 on defense

Iona (1): 49 in Sagarin, 49 in Pomeroy, 15 on offense, 178 on defense

Iona is in the neighborhood of earning an at-large bid if they don’t win the tournament with those computer rankings. You usually don’t see that in the Metro-Atlantic…and Iona’s still a longshot. Still, something to keep an eye on if a lot of the major conference bubble teams stink up the joint next week. Should Iona get into the Dance, we’ll be very concerned about that poor defensive mark. That efficiency profile can yield one upset win if the shots are falling, but rarely enough to be a true Cinderella.

Rider (5): 222 in Sagarin, 204 in Pomeroy, 144 on offense, 272 on defense

Fairfield (4): 123 in Sagarin, 109 in Pomeroy, 190 on offense, 40 on defense

Fairfield is a team we have to take seriously in the first round, and in the semi’s if they advance to face Iona. A 40th ranking on defense is VERY good in this conference, and could be a difference-maker in crunch time. That’s a huge spread in defenses just above for a 4-5 game…and it’s rare that a four would grade out so well defensively over a one.

Canisius (10): 320 in Sagarin, 311 in Pomeroy, 283 on offense, 332 on defense

Niagara (7): 245 in Sagarin, 241 in Pomeroy, 182 on offense, 281 on defense

Loyola-MD (2): 140 in Sagarin, 137 in Pomeroy, 156 on offense, 130 on defense

Loyola will seriously outclass whoever they face in the quarterfinals based on the stats up above. You’ll see in a moment that they won’t outclass Manhattan in the semifinals, even though they would go into that projected matchup as a superior seed.

Siena (6): 232 in Sagarin, 232 in Pomeroy, 277 on offense, 175 on defense

Manhattan (3): 125 in Sagarin, 117 in Pomeroy, 166 on offense, 71 on defense

Manhattan looks to be the best team in the lower half of the brackets, and they would have a defensive edge over Siena were they to advance to the finals against the top seed. We have great sources in this conference, and we could very easily have an information play from Springfield over the next few days.

Whew…three conferences in one day! Hey, twice next week we’ll be doing FOUR in one day! IT’S MARCH MADNESS BABY!

Back with you Saturday to talk about the Sun Belt and outline the college basketball thrills ahead. We trust you’ve already called 1-800-323-4453 to sign up for the rest of basketball at our great price. If not, TAKE CARE OF BUSINESS NOW!

Remember that game day picks online go up earlier than normal when there are daytime tournament games. Stay on top of the schedule so you get full value from JIM HURLEY’S NETWORK!

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