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Previewing Thursday's Conference Tournament Games

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Going to be doing this daily since we’re now in March and it’s just a cleaner look. We’ll take a look at conference tournament games going on each day and put conference championship games in their own blog. This will have updated brackets, what’s going on, etc.  I’ll be talking about the games all day @barstoolreags, so join me there and let’s get right into it.

AAC Tournament – Orlando
First Round
AAC

The American gets going today and quite frankly this tournament is going to be rather boring until the semifinals. Shake Milton is ruled out for SMU, which means they are all but out of it. Memphis is reportedly firing Tubby Smith to hire Penny Hardaway (I blogged about that Tuesday night if you want to read my thoughts on it). Temple is maybe the one team that can surprise someone just because they already beat Wichita State once this year and played them close in the other game. That said, a Wichita State/Houston semifinal would be entertaining as Rob Gray continues to be an under the radar star in college basketball. But, what we all want to see is Cincinnati vs Wichita State pt. 3. Both games were highly entertaining but played at 2 different levels. The game in Cincinnati was played at a faster pace while the game in Wichita was efficient, but extremely slow.

Atlantic 10 – Washington D.C.
Second Round
A-10

The A-10 goes into full swing today as we were so close to Fordham basketball being back. Sorry Clancy, brothers. What we did have was UMass getting a win over LaSalle to move on to George Mason and an intriguing 8/9 game to start the day off. VCU and Dayton split the regular season while the game at Dayton was one of the more impressive offensive performances we’ve seen this year. The Flyers scored 66 points in the first half while shooting 17-for-32 from the 3-point line for the game. As I mentioned with the A-10, it feels like a three team race with URI, Davidson and St. Bonavenutre. Yeah, St. Joe’s beat URI by 30 recently, but I feel like if that rematch happens, URI is going to come out incredibly pissed off.

ACC – Brooklyn
Quarterfinals
ACC

The ACC is now officially in full swing with the top-4 seeds joining the action today. We had some great games yesterday with Notre Dame erasing a double-digit lead, Boston College holding off NC State and Louisville coming out and blitzing Florida State. UNC also did what it needed to, which was win and not get too stressed having to come from a Thursday game to win the title. A lot of interesting games today. Virginia/Louisville just played that memorable game in which Virginia came back from 4 with less than a second to go to win in regulation. BC is absolutely rolling right now and has one of the best backcourts in the conference in Ky Bowman and Jerome Robinson. UNC/Miami just played a classic with Ja’Quan Newton hitting a 40-footer at the buzzer to win. Notre Dame/Duke is always a good matchup due to Brey having ties to Duke. There’s plenty at stake here too. Duke is playing for a potential No. 1 seed. Notre Dame is on the bubble and a win over Duke should make them pretty comfortable. BC is playing to host a NIT bid – which is important for a young team that’s rebuilding. Louisville is likely in the tournament but another win keeps them out of Dayton. UNC is playing for a potential 2 seed. Giddy up.

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Big 12 – Kansas City
Quarterfinals
Big 12

Big 12 gets into full swing today too after Oklahoma State and Texas won the first round games. Taking a minute to talk about Oklahoma because people will lose their mind when their name is called Sunday. Remember, they still have wins over Wichita State, Kansas, USC, Texas Tech and a sweep of TCU. Those games still matter, no matter when they were played. They count as much in December as they do in March. It doesn’t matter if they are falling down the stretch, you just look at a resume. Oklahoma will be in the NCAA Tournament. Oklahoma State should also be in the NCAA Tournament. This team is putting together quite a resume with a sweep of Kansas, two wins over Oklahoma and a win at WVU. The only thing hurting them is the nonconference, which features just a win over Florida State. Kansas will be without Udoka Azubuike for the Big 12 Tournament, meaning it’s Mitch Lightfoot’s time at Kansas with really no depth at the post. Expect this tournament to get weird. It wouldn’t shock me at all if there are four upsets today based on seeds.

Big East – Madison Square Garden
Quarterfinals
Big East

Marquette is breathing a sigh of relief after Max Strus missed a wide open three that would have gave DePaul a 2-point lead with less than 2 seconds to go last night. That sets up a bunch of intriguing quarterfinals games. St. John’s played Xavier tough, especially in New York this year. Xavier can struggle with shifty guards and that’s exactly what Shamorie Ponds is. If he can get past Goodin or Marshall, he can have a big night. Providence needs a win over Creighton to get firmly in the NCAA Tournament and off the bubble. Marquette likely needs a win over Villanova to feel okay about its NCAA Tournament chances. Then Seton Hall/Butler has the chance to be the game of the night. Seton Hall swept the regular season, but it was by a combined 10 points and the two teams just played on Saturday. Today is so awesome.

Big Sky – Reno, Nevada
Quarterfinals
Big Sky

Montana is the heavy favorite here especially with Idaho losing Perrion Callandret to injury again this year. Montana State could have given Montana some troubles just because of how quick Tyler Hall can start to go off, but they blew a double digit lead yesterday to North Dakota. Keep an eye on Weber State at the 4 spot. They do an excellent job of defending the three point line while also being an excellent shooting team. That tends to be a pretty good recipe, especially in tournament situations. For Montana remember the names Ahmaad Rorie and Jamar Akoh.

Big West – Anaheim, California
Quarterfinals
Big West

All the UC – schools in action today. UC-Davis beat UC-Santa Barbara for the league title on the last game of the regular season. Really though, it’s a toss-up between the top three seeds for who is the true favorite here. UC-Davis has TJ Shorts and Chima Moneke who are names to know. However, keep an eye on Long Beach State down there at the 5 seed. Gabe Levin is a really good player for them and they actually beat Oregon State on a neutral court this year.

Conference-USA – Frisco, Texas
Quarterfinals
CUSA

his is another mid-major tournament that I’m incredibly excited to watch. Middle Tennessee State should be a tournament team, no matter what happens here. WKU has the talent to compete with MTSU. Old Dominion is another really good mid-major flying under the radar. Marshall has a bunch of dudes that can score with anyone. This is also taking place at the Cowboys practice facility and it looks like an absolute cluster. It’s going to be magnificent I highly suggest watching Middle Tennessee play as they have a core in Nick King, Giddy Potts, Brandon Walters and Antwain Johnson that are good enough to win an NCAA Tournament game for the third year in a row. If the seeds hold serve, keep an eye on Marshall vs Middle Tennessee State. Marshall swept MTSU in the regular season, including the last game of the season.

MAC Tournament – Cleveland, Ohio
Quarterfinals
MAC

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Akron beating WMU was one of the weirdest games of the week so far. Western jumped out to a 20-0 lead and somehow lost this game. That’s incredibly tough to do. That’s even tougher to do when you’re playing at home as a decent favorite. This tournament is expected to be pretty open though as Buffalo went 15-3 in conference and then there was a logjam of teams between 7 and 11 losses. Buffalo has some legit stars in Wes Clark and CJ Massinburg, but the 3 conference losses actually came to three teams playing today. It wouldn’t shock me to see Toledo or Eastern Michigan make a run here as Toledo has Tre’Shaun Fletcher, arguably the best player in the conference. Again, this is going to be a wide open tournament. I think Buffalo gets to the title game, but the bottom is going to be crazy. Don’t be surprised to see Miami or Akron win tonight.

MEAC – Norfolk, Virginia
Quarterfinals
MEAC

Morgan State pulled off the upset last night behind Tiwian Kendley’s 31 points and 5 rebounds. Morgan State was actually the preseason favorite to win the MEAC but fell to the 7 seed. Today we have the 4/5 game, where Norfolk State is essentially playing a home game and then the 3/6 game where Savannah State is one of the more entertaining teams in the country. If you don’t like defense and like to see a bunch of quick shots, boy is Savannah State the team for you. Either way, I still like Norfolk State to win here and then get a rivalry game essentially at home against Hampton. Don’t be surprised to see Morgan State get to the finals. Kendley is that good of a player.

Mountain West – Las Vegas
Quarterfinals
MWC

If UNLV wasn’t checked out right now, there would be more intrigue in that UNLV/Nevada game. That said, Wyoming as a 6 seed can be dangerous, especially if Hayden Dalton gets going. The Cowboys already have wins over the top-4 teams this season. However, Nevada is absolutely the team to watch here. I’ve been talking about them all year and rightfully so. This team is damn good and has high-major talent when you look at the Martin twins, Hallice Cooke and Kendall Stephens. A team to watch though is Boise State. After a couple of losses late in the year, it moved from the bubble to now likely having to win the MWC Tournament to get a berth. They have an NBA player in Chandler Hutchison, but I don’t know if that’s enough to beat Nevada even without Lindsey Drew. San Diego State is a team that can cause havoc as well. The Aztecs haven’t been at full strength much at all this year, but they seem to be now. They are coming off a win over Nevada in which Trey Kell, Malik Pope and Kameron Rooks all played.

Pac-12 – Las Vegas
Quarterfinals
Pac-12

Arizona State saw Oklahoma’s collapse and raised them one. Seriously, what Arizona State did in conference play was downright impressive for all the wrong reasons. Colorado has a banged up coach Tad Boyle, who suffered a torn calf at the end of the game yesterday as they play Arizona today. That game can be interesting just because Boyle is such a damn good coach and McKinley Wright/George King combo can give Arizona some troubles. Today is a lot of must-win games though. USC must beat Oregon State. UCLA must beat Stanford. Utah must beat Oregon. IF they all lose you could be looking at 2 teams going to the NCAA Tournament from the Pac-12.

SEC – St. Louis
Second Round

SEC

The return of Michael Porter Jr., today (I’ll have a blog on him later) is the real story. Yeah, sure, Texas A&M/Alabama means a whole hell of a lot for the NCAA Tournament, but we’re officially on MPJ watch people. Porter of course is a top-5 player who played just 2 minutes this year before back surgery kept him out for the entire season. He’ll go up against a good defensive team in Georgia led by one of the best bigs in the SEC in Yante Maten. But, all eyes should be on A&M/Bama. We’re an Alabama loss away from having an NCAA Tournament without Collin Sexton. These two teams just played and it got a little physical down the stretch. A&M is limited with its guards, so look for Bama to try and attack early. The problem here is, Alabama wants to score at the rim and A&M has rim protection with Williams and Davis.

Southland – Katy, Texas
Quarterfinals
Southland

A somewhat weird set up for the Southland as the top two seeds get byes to the semifinals despite it being just an 8-team tournament. I think this makes a little bit of sense as you want to reward teams for strong regular seasons. During this time of the year we hear quite a bit about what can these low to mid majors do in order to make sure it sends their best teams? This is a pretty solid idea to help get there. Sure, there still may be an upset, but you’re letting the 1/2 seeds just win two games to make the NCAA Tournament. That’s how you get Stephen F. Austin to the tournament and win a game. That’s why I think you see Nicholls State win this thing. It’s going to be tough to go 3 in a row if you’re a 3/4 seed vs a 1/2 seed. Big thing here is Stephen F. Austin avoiding Lamar, a team that swept them this year. SFA could be a team playing today to win this thing.

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WAC – Las Vegas
Quarterfinals
WAC

The WAC gets kicked off today further proving that being in Vegas this week is the best thing in the world. Seriously, you have a few conference tournaments to go to in person. You have the book to win some money. Plus, it’s Vegas. New Mexico State is the heavy favorite here and a team that is a top-60 KenPom team. However, I gotta rep my Grand Canyon Antelopes here. This is the first year they are eligible for the postseason and continue to finish in the top-3 in the conference. They are defending extremely well, they just need Joshua Braun to get his shot back. Braun’s ORtg has dropped below 114 for the first time in his career. If he can get going in this tournament, they are going to win this thing and make New Mexico State a bubble team.