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Tag:Atlantic Sun Conference
Posted on: March 6, 2010 11:33 pm
 

The Day Ahead: Sunday of Championship Week

MATT JONES

11:45 PM

It was a day filled with college basketball, both large and small, a perfect example of what makes the sport great and how wonderful sports can be when you are playing for the name on the front...ah forget it, I cant do that with a straight face.  It was a highly entertaining day of hoops around the college game, although most of the big action occurred with the major powers.  Syracuse was beaten by Louisville for the second time this year, closing down Freedom Hall with chants of a player who going into the contest was averaging three points a game ("You got Kuriced!").  Kansas State kissed their hopes for a #1 seed goodbye with an embarassing loss at home to Iowa State that will force the bars in Manhattan to close extra late (11:00 pm) in order for people to drown their sorrows.  And Vanderbilt lost out on a chance at the SEC crown by losing at home to South Carolina and their coach with a 5th grader's haircut, Darrin Horn.  If you were a fan of the big boys, today was a good day.

But we are here to focus on Conference Tournaments, and in that realm...well I was a bit disappointed.  I had visions of tight matchups, crazy finishes and potential early-round upsets.  Instead, I got something quite different, and I am not just talking about Laphonso Ellis's announcer hair.  The usual suspects punched their tickets to the Big Dance and entertaining games were few and far between.  Lets look at what might qualify as the day's highlights:

1.  Three Tickets to the Big Dance Were Punched

---  We started with the biggest event in Conway, South Carolina since Ronnie Milsap came to town in 1982, as Winthrop defeated Coastal Carolina 64-53 to win the Big South Tournament,  I will admit that I watched the entire game but couldnt tell you one thing that happened during it, as it was played in the most boring manner possible in front of the smallest crowd that I have ever seen watch a game that was for an NCAA berth.  However that was exactly the scenario that Winthrop hoped to accomplish, attempting to slow the game down and believing that if it could hold Coastal Carolina under 60, it would win.  Well the Eagles did, and the Chantacleers ended the dream of an NCAA Tournament team based upon Geoffrey Chaucer.  For Winthrop, it is their 5th NCAA Tournament appearance in 6 years, and continues the trend of dominance over the league, even in years in which they didnt win the regular season title.  Winthrop moves on and someone who only knows basketball in March will see their likely 2-15 game and say "they could pull off a shocker."  I watched them today...they cant.  (John Wilkinson on the win and the fire on Winthrop's Campus)

---  The wackiest early Championship Week tournament concluded in the Atlantic Sun Conference with #5 seed East Tennessee State taking down Mercer 72-66 on Mercer's home court to make its second straight NCAA Tournament.  Again, it was another game that I watched from start to finish and struggled to find memorable moments.  ETSU is however coached by Gene Bartow's kid Murray, who isnt really a kid I guess since he has bigger bags under his eyes than Jeff Van Gundy, but who continues his dad's coaching legacy with another tournament bid.  ETSU is the early favorite to be the lowest ranked team in the field and could be headed for the play-in game in Dayton. However they are headed for the Big Dance, which is more than I can say for North Carolina, which just cut it to a 33 point second-half deficit against Duke.  If UNC were a horse, they would put a curtain around it and start setting up the flower memorials for children who need to weep.  (Thomas Beisner on why the NCAA Hates what the Atlantic Sun stands for)

---  The game of the night was supposed to be in the Ohio Valley Conference, as two heated rivals were going to produce a game that would justify me staying in on a Saturday night to watch OVC basketball.  Instead, we got a Murray State 62-51 snoozer of a victory over Morehead State that even left the players' families on both teams asking why they had been subjected to it.  The refereeing was atrocious, stopping the game of any real flow, and when Morehead's MVP, Kenneth Faried went down with an injury, well the game was more gone than Roy Williams' pride.  Murray's Isaiah Cannan led the way with not only his biblical name, but 16 points as well, setting Murray up as one of the truly dangerous teams in March.  If Murray ends up with a 13 or 14 seed, the team that draws them needs to be on major upset alert.  This Murray State team, like so many in year's past from the program, is built to make March noise and absent drawing Michigan State, I am picking them in the their first NCAA game.  (Here is CM Tomlin's take on the game)

2.  Butler and Siena Hang On

There are three teams playing in conference tournaments right now that could still be in line for NCAA berths even if they lose.  Northern Iowa and Butler are locks for the Big Dance and Siena still has dreams of making it, even if they lose the MAAC tournament.  Thus for major conference bubble teams, these three squads are their new darlings, because any loss by them means ones less team for the big boys.  Today Butler and Siena tried to make life interesting by falling down early in their tournament games.  Butler was in the most surprising trouble, actually trailing at halftime at home to UM-Milwaukee in the Horizon Conference Semifinals before coming back and winning 68-59.  In the MAAC, Siena had an even more difficult time, falling down ten late in the first half to Manhattan, before pouring it on late for a 78-61 win.  Butler now faces Wright State in the finals next week and Siena moves on to play Rider in the Semifinals.

3.  Form Held Everywhere

All across the land I awaited one upset that would leave me shaking in my boots and have my foundations crumbled.  All I got however was news that Keith Olbermann and Bill Simmons were fighting, likely for the title of "which formerly really fun sports guy has seen his sense of self-importance skyrocket the most in the last two years?"  Even though opening rounds and quarterfinals took place all across the land, no #1 or #2 were knocked off and the closest thing to an upset occurred with #2 seed Northeastern held off Hofstra in the MAAC Tournament.  March is still hopefully going to be mad, but it just wasnt today.

SUNDAY----WHAT TO WATCH FOR

This Sunday is the proverbial "day of rest" before Championship Week hits a fevered pitch beginning on Monday.  But that doesnt mean that there arent storylines to follow and games to watch:

1.  Missouri Valley Conference Finals

The fifth ticket to the NCAA Tournament will be punched when Northern Iowa plays Wichita State for the MVC Tournament title on Sunday afternoon on CBS.  Stereotypically, "Arch Madness" provides us with the biggest games and at least one shocking upset every year, but this edition has been relatively tame.  Northern Iowa is playing not only for the championship, but seeding, as a win could put them in the 6-7 range when the brackets are finally announced.  Whereas Wichita State is playing for something much greater.  The Shockers have not been to the conference tournament final since 1987, a shocking tidbit considering the history of the program.  Their only chance to play in the NCAA is Sunday, and thus they will give the Panthers their best shot.  I have picked against Wichita State in every game and it has proved unsuccessful, so why not again.  Northern Iowa wins and the major conferences get another mediocre team in the Tournament.

2.  Six Sets of Semifinals Are on Tap

Its Semifinal day across the Tournament landscape, as conferences get ready to set their final matchups for early next week.  Most are relatively boring and can be skipped for your preparation for The Oscars, but two are worth watching:

Southern

#2 Western Carolina vs #1 Wofford

#2 College of Charleston vs #1 Appalachian State

Colonial

#1 Old Dominion vs #4 VCU

#2 Northeastern vs #3 William and Mary

Both of these conferences have been setting up for monster battles for the title all year long, but each team needs one more victory to get to the much-anticipated game.  In the Southern Conference, the possibility of Wofford vs Bobby Cremins and his white hair at College of Charleston has been the goal all year, and the two teams from the same division face stiff challenges in order to make it happen.  As for the Colonial (which Mike Rutherford broke down extensively here), Northeastern and Old Dominon both at one time had visions of potential at-large bids to the Tournament, but now both need to win the title to go dancing.  If they can take care of business on Sunday, their title matchup might be the best of all the smaller conference games during Championship Week.

3.  The MAC Tournament Starts

Well ok that isnt all that exciting, especially since it is only the opening round, but I needed three things and couldnt think of anything else.  But The Oscars are coming, so that counts for something right?  I have "Hurt Locker" as my best picture ("Up in the Air" is second, "Inglorious Basterds" is third), Jeff Bridges as Best Actor (He is great in "Crazy Heart") and I guess Sandra Bullock in "The Blind Side", although she was never as good as her performance in Speed 2.  And if movies arent your thing, talk to your family...you wont get to much over this next month.

Posted on: March 6, 2010 1:07 am
 

The Day Ahead: Saturday of Championship Week

MATT JONES

1:00 AM

Chances are you spent Friday of Championship Week doing something that did not involve watching Round 1 of the MAAC Tournament.  Shame on you.  I have taught you better than that.  This is Championship Week and every game is crucial and should be followed with eager anticipation.  However you are busy we know, and you had to take the lady to see "Alice in Wonderland", so that is what we are here for...to give you a primer on what you missed and what is ahead for Saturday:

1.  Form Held in the MVC and OVC:

We were ready for wackiness to take place in St. Louis and Nashville, as the Ohio Valley Conference and the Missouri Valley headed for big games in their Semi and Quarterfinals respectively.  However, we were left with mundaneness that caused both arenas to grow more silent than a meeting of the Lane Kiffin Fan Club.  In Missouri, the top four seeds all won, with the two main contenders, Northern Iowa and Wichita State holding serve against Drake and Missouri State.  It sets up a strong semifinal, as those teams join Bradley and Illinois State in what should be a meaty doubleheader.  In Nashville, the battle that everyone has been waiting for was created as Morehead State exploded over Tennessee Tech and Murray State hung on to beat Eastern Illinois.  Murray vs Morehead could end up being the most competitive matchup of Championship Week.

2.  Detroit Woke Up the Horizon League

Lets face it, the Horizon League Tournament is going to set new levels in predictableness.  Butler is 18-0 on the season, is the dominant team in the league AND gets to host the tournament at home.  And oh yeah, if that isnt enough, the setup of the tournament allows them to have a straight bye into the Semifinals (I hate this trend in conference tournaments).  Thus the finals in this league will be of no interest.  But in the early rounds, the team that formerly employed Dick Vitale has made a small splash.  After beating Valparaiso in Round 1, Detroit upset #3 seeded Green Bay tonight, 62-53.  Detroit is once again the hot team in the league, having won six straight games and now will play Wright State, a team that beat it in both of its regular season meetings.

3.  Wackiness in the Atlantic Sun

I am starting to think that the Atlantic Sun Conference is playing their tournament on Super Nintendo.  In nearly every game, the lower seeded team has dominated the play and after the events on Friday, the Tournament will see a Championship game that will feature the #5 and 6 seeded teams in the Conference.    On Friday, East Tennessee State defeated Kennesaw State, 69-64 and host Mercer beat Jacksonville 66-63, setting a showdown between two mediocre teams for the right to play in the play-in game of the NCAA Tournament.  In both games, the action stayed close throughout and a friend who was in attendance told me that the games were like a "party that I was not invited to but that I crashed."  I dont know what that means, but I would assume it suggests that we all should have been in Macon, Georgia on Friday night.

There were also the beginnings to the Southern, West Coast, MAAC and Colonial Tournaments, but none of the games were very exciting and except for Elon beating Davidson (and no Stephon Curry doesnt play there anymore), there were no real upsets.

All of which leads me to WHAT IS ON TAP FOR SATURDAY.  There are three championship games with NCAA Berths on the line, and they should be your focus on Saturday. 

1.  BIG SOUTH FINAL:  #1 Coastal Carolina vs #3 Winthrop   4 pm

The second NCAA Tournament ticket will be punched in Conway, South Carolina, where the Chanticleers of Coastal Carolina seek to make it to the Big Dance by beating a team that has been there a number of times in recent years, Winthrop.  Coastal Carolina is coached by Cliff Ellis, the former Auburn and Clemson coach, who is seeking to become just the fifth coach in NCAA Tournament history to take four different teams to the NCAA Tournament.  The Chanticleers (which is an odd name for a mascot and someone has some explaining to do to me as to why we accept it), were 28-5 on the season and anything short of a win in this game will be very disappointing.

2.  ATLANTIC SUN FINAL:  #5 East Tennessee State vs #6 Mercer  6 pm

We all have apparently missed quite the show in Macon.  I havent been there because I would never go to Macon without a subpoena and none of us have seen it on television because apparently some tv network thinks they are too good to show Atlantic Sun games.  But the tournament has been wacky and we are left with two teams with middling records and rather disappointing seasons, playing for a chance to go dancing.  Mercer is the host school and will have the crowd on its side, ETSU had the better season record, but Mercer swept the season series and will have the best individual player in the game in Guard James Florence.  Plus, I have been to ETSU and its in Johnson City, Tennessee and the girls there are fairly cute.  So chances are that ETSU will want to get out of Macon as soon as possible and return home, making Mercer the favorite.

3.  OHIO VALLEY CONFERENCE FINAL:  #1 Murray State vs #2 Morehead State  8 pm

There will be those that will be watching Duke-North Carolina on Saturday night.  Dont follow their lead.  North Carolina is terrible this year and Duke has way too many guys that look like they were in the Mickey Mouse Club as children.  The real game of the night will be in Nashville where two OVC powers, Murray and Morehead will square off for the third time this season.  Both of these teams are talented, get up and down the court and their in-state rivalry has defined the OVC this year.  Murray is balanced and brings a lot of players who can score in a myriad of ways.  Morehead has a future NBA prospect (Kenneth Faried) on its roster and won when these two teams played just ten days ago.  This will be one of the best games of Championship Week, and if you miss it, you only have yourself to blame.

So there you go...a big day is ahead and I hope you are ready.  Other conferences such as the Summit, Big Sky, Sun Belt and America East kick off on Saturday as well, and good games will be taking place in St Louis and Indianapolis for the MVC and Horizon Semifinals.  But your attention should be focused on the Championship games, and six hours of great Championship Week goodness.  And if you watch the Duke-Carolina game, you should be forced to a punishment of actually eating dinner with Mike Patrick...I hear his gas is as bad as his stories are boring.

Posted on: March 4, 2010 7:25 pm
Edited on: March 4, 2010 7:53 pm
 

Championship Week(s) Primer

MIKE RUTHERFORD

Opening round action has already tipped in the Big South, Horizon League, Ohio Valley, Patriot League and Atlantic Sun, which means the madness is officially upon us. 

Thirteen days of nothing but dream-fulfilling, career-ending, win-or-turn-in-your-jersey action. All the elements that draw casual fans so completely into the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament are inherent in each and every one of the 30 conference tournaments that will take place over the course of the next two weeks.

Quite simply, it's high drama that you can't find anywhere else in sport.

We've taken our shots at ESPN since the start of the season, but the fact remains that each and every one of us are enormously indebted to the worldwide leader for what it does during college basketball's postseason. Between Thursday and Selection Sunday, ESPN will air 152 conference tournament games on its family of networks. If it was possible for me to get sick of the sport, I would.

Mid and low-major D-I basketball is an acquired taste, and it's one that's especially difficult to attain when the team you love and follow plays in a conference like the Big East. So while I'm fully aware that the majority of you likely aren't interested in any of what you're about to read, allow me to say this: I don't care. This is my favorite time of the year, I'm currently smiling as I type, and this post is going to happen whether you like it or not.

For the rest of you, it's time to get briefed for Championship Week...sans, of course, the six major and four mini-major (A-10, WAC, MWC, C-USA) conferences.

YOUR COMPLETE CONFERENCE TOURNAMENT DATES AND LOCATIONS

It's the most logical, if not exciting, jumping off point, and we all know this blog has always been rooted in practicality.

Let's go ahead and include the big boys in this one just because we can.

Conference Tournament site Dates
ACC Greensboro, N.C. March 11-14
America East Hartford, Conn. March 6-7, 13
Atlantic Sun Macon, Ga. March 3-6
Atlantic 10 Atlantic City, N.J. March 9, 12-14
Big East New York March 9-13
Big Sky TBD (regular-season champion) March 6, 9-10
Big South Campus sites (higher seeds) March 2, 4, 6
Big Ten Indianapolis March 11-14
Big 12 Kansas City, Mo. March 10-13
Big West Anaheim, Calif. March 10-13
Colonial Richmond, Va. March 5-8
Conference USA Tulsa, Okla. March 10-13
Horizon Campus sites (higher seeds) March 2, 5-6, 9
Ivy League No Tournament  
MAAC Albany, N.Y. March 5-8
MAC Cleveland March 7, 11-13
MEAC Winston-Salem, N.C. March 8-13
Missouri Valley St. Louis March 4-7
Mountain West Las Vegas March 10-13
Northeast Campus sites (higher seeds) March 4, 7, 10
Ohio Valley Nashville, Tenn. March 2, 5-6
Pac-10 Los Angeles March 10-13
Patriot Campus sites (higher seeds) March 3, 7, 12
SEC Nashville, Tenn. March 11-14
Southern Charlotte, N.C. March 5-8
Southland Katy, Texas March 10-13
Summit Sioux Falls, S.D. March 6-9
Sun Belt Hot Springs, Ark. March 6-9
SWAC Shreveport/Bossier City, La. March 10-13
WAC Reno, Nev. March 11-13
West Coast Las Vegas March 5-8
 
Five is a good number. Agree? Agree.

 

FIVE SQUADS FOR THE BUBBLE BOYS TO PULL FOR

If you're a major conference fan still with us (me), we'll (I'll) humor you.

Rapidly aging fans of teams that haven't done enough yet to warrant "lock" status should adopt these squads as their own for the next couple of weeks.

1. Gonzaga (West Coast)

A perennial occupant of any such list, the 'Zags are merely playing for seed at this point.

2. Butler (Horizon)

Ditto.

3. Northern Iowa (Missouri Valley)

A team from the MVC was noticeably absent on this list a year ago. No more, as the Panthers have controlled the Valley from start to finish and have put themselves in position to snag a single-digit seed in the big show. 

4. St. Mary's (West Coast)

No team has been helped more by the struggles of bubble teams from power conferences in recent weeks than the Gaels. They've lost three conference games in a down season for the WCC, but their RPI is strong enough (44) that winning a game in the league tourney and falling to Gonzaga in the finals might be enough to get them an at-large bid. 

5. Siena (Metro Atlantic Athletic)

The Saints' 0-4 record against RPI top 50 teams means they'll likely have to win the MAAC tourney to get in, but the Notre Dames and San Diego States of the world should probably go ahead and don their gold and green this week just to be safe. 

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FIVE MORE BIG TIME FAVORITES

These runaway  regular season champs are all expected to go dancing, but will be relegated to the NIT with an upset.

1. Murray State (Ohio Valley)

The Racers weren't the preseason favorite in the OVC (defending champ Morehead was), but they, ahem, raced out to a 15-0 start in conference play and finished the regular season at 17-1 and 28-4 overall. 

2. Morgan State (MEAC)

Todd Bozeman's Bears are the three-time defending regular season MEAC champs and the defending league tourney champs. Their 14-1 conference record is best by four games. 

3. Oakland (Summit)

The Rawle Marshall-led Golden Grizzlies went to the NCAA Tournament in 2005, but Oakland captured its first Summit League regular season title this season by virtue of its 17-1 league record. 

4. Sam Houston State (Southland)

The Bearkats (it's right) have won 14 of their last 15 and have dominated opponents on their way to a 14-1 league record. SHS has won its last three games by a combined 71 points.

5. Jackson State (SWAC)

They've won 11 straight and sit at 15-1 in the conference but will still almost certainly be sent to Dayton for the play-in game if they can make it through the SWAC tourney unscathed. 

 

15 PLAYERS WHO WILL BE HEARD FROM

1. Gordon Hayward (Butler/Horizon League)

By averaging over 15 points and rebounds a game, Hayward became the fourth Bulldog in five years to bring home Horizon League POY honors. He sat out the regular season finale with a back injury, but should be good to go when Butler takes the floor in the Horizon semifinals on Saturday.

2. Omar Samhan (Saint Mary's/West Coast)

The senior center broke the Saint Mary's single-season scoring record when he dropped 33 on Loyola Marymount Saturday. He went off for 31 and 12 against Gonzaga in the first of two losses to the 'Zags earlier this year.

3. Artsiom Parakhouski (Radford/Big South)

The 6-foot-11 repeat Big South Player of the Year averaged 21.6 points and 13.2 rebounds and led the nation with 24 double-doubles. 

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4. Ryan Wittman (Cornell/Ivy)

You won't get to see him until the big dance since the Ivy League doesn't have a little dance, but the son of ex-NBA head coach Randy Wittman is one of the best shooters in college basketball. 

5. Reggie Holmes (Morgan State/MEAC)

Holmes, a senior, didn't become a full-time starter until this season, but has scored enough (22.0 ppg) to be just 42 points shy of 2,000 for his career. He's gone over 30 points five times this season, including a 34-point outburst in a November win at Arkansas.

6. Kenneth Faried (Morehead State/Ohio Valley)

Faried led the nation in rebounding again this season despite standing just 6-7. The reason for that being possible is simple: he plays harder than anyone else on the floor.  His 22 double-doubles were second only nationally to Parakhouski. 

7. Adnon Hodzic (Lipscomb/Atlantic Sun)

The A-Sun Player of the year averaged over 22 points per game for the top-seeded Bisons. His family fled war-torn bosnia when he was just a toddler.

Adnanhodzic_medium

8. Ronald Moore (Siena/Metro Atlantic Athletic)

Moore leads the nation in assists per game (7.7), has an assist-to-turnover ratio of more than 3-to-1 and has the Saints poised for another NCAA Tournament run. He almost single-handedly led Siena to a first round victory over Ohio State a year ago, and then handled Louisville's pressure as well as any point guard had all season as the Saints nearly upset the top overall seed in the tournament. 

9. Marquez Haynes (UT-Arlington/Southland)

Haynes, a Boston College transfer, is the nation's third-leading scorer and one of the few true NBA prospects on this list. 

10. Noah Dahlman (Wofford/Southern)

Despite leading the league in scoring, Appalachian State's Donald Sims lost out to Dahlman in a hotly contested race for SoCon Player of the year. The junior forward led the division champion Terriers and ranked fourth in the league in scoring at 17.4 points per game. He has scored in double figures 44 straight times.

11. Tyren Johnson (Louisiana-Lafayette/Sun Belt)

Johnson led the Sun Belt in scoring, was second in rebounding, steals and minutes played, was fourth in blocked shots and in the top 15 in field goal percentage (.503), assists and assists-to-turnover ratio. No other player in the league led his team in scoring, rebounding, assists, steals and blocked shots.

12. Chris Harris (Navy/Patriot)

The All-Patriot League selection led the league in scoring (21.1), three-pointers made (84) and steals (2.0).

13. Justin Rutty (Quinnipiac/Northeast)

Rutty, Quinnipiac's first NEC Player of the Year, is the prototypical dominant mid-major post player: strong, too short to play low in a BCS conference and extremely aggressive. He notched a league best 14 double-doubles in his junior season. 

14. Larry Sanders (VCU/Colonial Athletic)

The departure of Eric Maynor has allowed Sanders to establish himself as his team's and the league's top post presence, averaging 14.8 ppg and 8.9 rpg. He's expected to be selected in the first round of the NBA Draft if he chooses to skip his senior year of college. 

15. Osiris Eldridge (Illinois State/Missouri Valley)

He was the Arch Madness MVP a year ago despite playing for the runner-up, and has admittedly spent the past 12 months preparing for this week and a shot at redemption. 

Osiris_20eldridge_202_medium

 

FIVE MORE BECAUSE I CAN

Marqus Blakely (Vermont/America East)
Donald Sims (Appalachian State/Southern)
Matt Bouldin (Gonzaga/West Coast)
Johnathon Jones (Oakland/Summit)
Michael Deloach (Norfolk State/MEAC)

 

FIVE TITLE GAMES YOU WANT TO HAPPEN

1. Gonzaga vs. Saint Mary's (West Coast)

These two simply don't care for one another. The 'Zags swept the regular season series with relative ease, but the stakes will be higher with the Gaels - perhaps - playing for their NCAA Tournament lives. 

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2. Murray State vs. Morehead State (Ohio Valley)

The defending champs and preseason favorites squaring off against the team that surprisingly dominated the league from start to finish. The last meeting between these two ended with Morehead handing Murray its first OVC loss and snapping the nation's longest winning streak in the process. 

3. Akron vs. Kent State (Mid-American)

Two words: identical records (22-8, 12-3).

4. Robert Morris vs. Quinnipiac (Northeast)

Robert Morris spanked the Bobcats by 27 in the NEC semifinals a season ago, but Quinnipiac exacted a bit of revenge in 2010 by knocking off the Colonials on Feb. 20 to earn the head-to-head tiebreaker and bring home the first regular season title in program history. 

5. Stony Brook vs. Vermont (America East)

The Catamounts are back among the league's elite and head into the postseason winners of eight of their last nine. Their only loss over that span was an 82-78 decision at Stony Brook which proved to be the difference in a regular season title race that was ultimately decided by one game. 

 

FIVE CRAZY COMPETITIVE CONFERENCE TOURNAMENTS

Parity reigns supreme and should make for some tremendous games in each of these leagues.

1. Atlantic Sun

Four teams tied for the regular season title, with Lipscomb ultimately earning the top seed by virtue of their 4-2 record against the other three teams. Perennial powerhouse Belmont wasn't one of the teams who finished 14-6, but the Bears enter the postseason as the hottest team in the league, having won eight of nine. 

2. Southern

While Stephen Curry's decision to leave for the NBA a year early will likely have a negative affect on the SoCon title game's TV rating, the tournament itself should be more fun to follow. Or at least the games will be more competitive. Come back, Steph. Wofford (15-3), Charleston (14-4) and Appy State (13-5) are the most likely contenders to end the Davidson Invitational era.  

3. Colonial Athletic Association

There was talk in late January of this league possibly producing multiple at-large bids, but inexcusable stumbles from the league's top dogs quickly brought it back down to win or go home status. Still, any one of the top five teams from this conference (Northeastern, Old Dominion, William & Mary, VCU, George Mason) are more than capable of springing a first round upset in the dance. 

4. Patriot League

With the exception of American and Navy tying for fourth-place at 7-7, each spot in the final league standings is separated by a single game. Year in, year out, the Patriot produces the most competitive quarterfinal contests during the opening week of the postseason. 

5. Sun Belt

Middle Tennessee, Troy and North Texas all finished with league-best records of 13-5. Still, Western Kentucky may (again) be the favorite here, riding a seven-game league winning streak into the Belt tourney. 

 

FIVE CRAPPIER CONFERENCE TOURNAMENTS

There's been a growing trend in recent years of leagues starting their regular season champions, or top two seeds, in the semifinals of the postseason tournament. It makes sense in that it adequately rewards regular season performance and gives the league its best shot to be well-represented in the NCAA Tournament, but it's like, not as fun.

Here are five conference tournaments that hope the prince cheats on Cinderella in ten years.

1. Big Sky

Not only does the Big Sky automatically place its top two seeds in the semifinals, but it only includes six teams in the whole tournament. A conference tournament that has as many total games as a first round baseball playoff series is un-American. I said it.

2. Horizon League

The Horizon has been utilizing this practice for a few seasons, but two years ago they stepped it up a notch. Now the top two seeds get an automatic bye into the semis, while the other eight teams have to win four games in four days. Wright State earned the second seed over Green Bay by a mere game and now sits in the semifinals, while the poor Phoenix have to win a pair of games just to get there. Of course a year ago Cleveland State did make it to the NCAAs by winning four games from the No. 3 spot.

3. West Coast

Gonzaga and St. Mary's will both begin league play in the semifinals, making this the easiest championship game to predict in the history of college basketball.

4. Big West

The Big West gives its top two seeds a bye into the semis, but it's also one of the few leagues that employs the NHL style of having the highest remaining seed play the lowest remaining seed in each round. Smart? Sure. Annoying as hell for fans of postseason college basketball? You bet.

What have we learned so far? Conference tournaments west of the Mississippi are infinitely lamer than conference tournaments east of the Mississippi. The Big East has four games for three straight days. THREE STRAIGHT DAYS OF FOUR GAMES.

Grow up, left coast. 

5. Ivy League

Say what you will about the other four, but at least they have tournaments. Also, studying: not cool.

 

FIVE TEAMS EVEN THOSE WHO STOPPED READING AN HOUR AGO SHOULD WATCH

1. VMI (Big South)

The highest scoring team in college basketball. That is all.

2. Sam Houston State (Southland)

Lots of pressing, lots of points, fairly high quality of basketball.

3. North Dakota State (Summit)

They stole America's hearts a year ago and I seriously doubt they've gotten any less scrappy or any less white.

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4. Morehead State (Ohio Valley)

Kenneth Faried should be taped and shown to any and all youth basketball players.

5. Portland State (Big Sky)

Capable of beating or losing to anyone in their conference because of their style of play. If you must watch the Big Sky Tournament, then be happy that the Vikings snuck in. 

 

TEN POTENTIAL NON-TOP SEEDS WHO COULD GO DANCING

1. Mount St. Mary's (Northeast)

Losers of nine straight earlier in the year, the Mountaineers are now riding a ten-game winning streak into the postseason. They've already defeated both Quinnipiac and Robert Morris, who tied for the regular season title.

2. Eastern Illinois (Ohio Valley)

The Panthers have won eight straight, including a victory over league runner-up Morehead State on Feb. 11.

3. Western Kentucky (Sun Belt)

Sharing the wealth has never been Western's thing. Just when you think it's definitely going to be someone else's year the 'Tops run off seven straight and thump the league's regular season champ (Troy) by 18. 

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4. Belmont (Atlantic Sun)

See above. The Bears have dominated this tournament for the past decade and, despite finishing fifth in the final A-Sun standings, have won eight of their last nine. 

5. Hofstra (Colonial)

A tough task lies in front of the seventh-seeded Pride, but they're playing as well as any team in the CAA. They closed the regular season by winning six straight and nine of their last ten, a run that included a Bracket Buster win over Rider and an 11-point triumph at Northeastern. 

6. Milwaukee (Horizon)

Winners of six straight, the fourth-seed may have a better shot at knocking off Butler than anyone else. 

7. Northern Colorado (Big Sky)

Not just for stab-happy kickers anymore. The Bears have won seven of eight, falling only to regular season champ Weber State on Feb. 13, a game which was their second on the road in as many days.

8. Vermont (America East)

Not exactly a sleeper pick. The Catamounts have won eight of nine and figure to get another shot at top-seed Stony Brook this weekend. 

9. Norfolk State (MEAC)

I'll go ahead and say it: if anyone's going to upset Morgan State, it'll be the Spartans. They've won five of six and fell to the Bears by a single point on the road last week. 

10. Portland (West Coast)

The odds of anyone outside of Gonzaga and Saint Mary's snagging WCC glory are slim, but the Pilots have won six of seven and knocked off the Gaels in ovetime on Feb. 13.

 

FIVE MORE BECAUSE I STILL CAN

Buffalo (Mid-American)
Illinois State (Missouri Valley)
Radford (Big South)
Oral Roberts (Summit)
Appalachian State (Southern)


And that's it. If you didn't read every word, you're tacky and I hate you.

 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com