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Posted on: March 6, 2010 2:57 am
Edited on: March 6, 2010 7:04 pm
 

The Nightowl Special: MAAC & OVC Results

C.M. TOMLIN


Hey. Wake up. Yeah, I know it's late. But I also know that you aren't going to sleep soundly without knowing how your favorite conferences, the OVC and MAAC, wound up tonight. Look, just sit up in bed, alright? Are you listening? Don't go back to sleep. Hey. Seriously. Wake up. No, I won't leave you alone. You need to hear this.


In the OVC:

-Morehead looks like a man, son. I know it's all about Kenneth Faried in Morehead, but tonight the big kudos go to senior forward Maze Stallworth, who netted 24 points to put Tennessee Tech to bed. Stallworth was 4 of 5 from three-land (don't look it up, that's not an actual place) as the Eagles dropped the Golden Eagles (see? Just being golden don't make you special) 76-47. Morehead is gunning for bear right now. Are you listening, Murray State?

-The favorite, Murray State, struggles against Eastern Illinois. Tony Easley and Isaac Miles sucked it up in the few remaining minutes of the OVC semifinals to propel the Racers to a 55-51 win. If you ask me, that's small potatoes compared to the hurtin' Morehead put on Tennessee Tech, which could mean Murray's limping into a final matchup with a Morehead team that's loaded for bear. Add into that equation that the Eagles seem to have the Racers' number and we could be looking at a barnburner for tomorrow night's 8:00 matchup. 

In the MAAC: 

-Manhattan is fancy, yo. The Jaspers (Jaspers?) easily handled Loyola-Maryland with a 94-79 victory, with presumed hybrid salsa/country music superstar Rico Pickett garnering a career-high 33 points against the Greyhounds, sending them back to watch the rest of the tourney from an Applebees in Baltimore. The win guarantees Pickett and company a shot against juggernaut Siena tomorrow. I know the Saints are rolling, but thirty-three points? Siena better hope Pickett doesn't have the same day twice; that could be tough to handle.

-Canisius fever -- Catch it! I've always said "Never count Canisius out in the first round." Okay, that's not true, I've never said that. But still, the Golden Griffins handled the Marist Red Foxes like you might imagine a, er, golden griffin might handle a red fox? Seven seed Canisius' Elton Frazier made it look easy against Marist with 17 points, propelling the team to a 72-54 win. Tomorrow Canisius has their hands full with the Fairfield Stags, who may be the only team capable of knocking back the rollin' Siena Saints. 

There. You can go back to sleep now. I knew that you wouldn't be able to really truly rest until you heard about how these games turned out. What? Oh yeah? No, screw you. I'm just trying to help. Fine, then. See if I let you know about the next rounds (I will). You can't stop my MAAC and OVC love. It knows no bounds. 
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 6, 2010 12:26 am
 

Missouri Valley Holds Predictable Form on Day Two

MATT JONES

12:00 AM

Did you ever watch old episodes of "Leave it to Beaver" when you were a kid?  If you did, you noticed that each episode had a general set playbook.  Beaver or Wally would get into some shenanigan and it would look as if something bad would happen.  Usually the issue might involve mischief at the hands of Eddie Haskell or Lumpy, but in the end, Ward and June Cleaver would help find a way to make everything right and we would all learn a lesson in the end.  The episodes took 25 minutes or so, but they easily could have been condensed into 45 seconds of action/cuteness by Jerry Mathers, thus preventing you from wasting your half hour.  Nothing was new in any episode, yet I always watched, perfectly comfortable in the predictable results and unbelievable lack of humor.

I thought of these old "Beaver" episodes today as I watched a rather ho-hum set of Quarterfinals in the Missouri Valley Conference.  On this very blog, I had hyped the day of "Arch Madness" as one of the better basketball viewing days of the year, full of great basketball, fan revelry and general March mayhem.  Instead the biggest highlight was the lack of points scored by Drake, the drunkedness of the Creighton fans and playing "which of these guys would Larry Bird have punched in the face?" with the Indiana State roster.  The games were rather predictable, and the favorites all held serve, setting up for what would seem to be a "must-watch" day in the Semifinals (although I am not falling for the MVC's sultry tricks again, so I wont make you stay home and watch).

Each game had one highlight:

Drake Couldnt Score:  Yes we dealt with this earlier, but it bears repeating.  Drake went 21 game minutes of action without scoring a field goal, and producing only three points in total in the 55-40 loss.  That is over a half of game action without one basket going through the hoop.  I have spent the day trying to wrap my head around this (and the fact that Keno Davis is apparently no longer the Drake coach...I didn't get that memo) and all I can decide is this.  If you are going to be out of town for a weekend and you need someone to come and hang out with your wife, invite Drake, because they have shown they can't score.  HEY-O!!!!!

Friday is Sam Maniscalco Day:  I expected the game between Creighton and Bradley to be a battle and to come down to the end, as two evenly matched teams squared off and threw body blows for forty minutes.  Instead, I got a free throw shooting marathon, in which Bradley outlasted Creighton 81-62, while shooting 27-28 from the free throw line.  The king of the charity stripe was Maniscalco, who scored a career-high 31 points on 18 of 19 free throw shooting in the victory.  Maniscalco (whose name emasculates all who speak it) had a previous high of 21 points on the season and in a game against Creighton last week, he scored only 3 points in 40 minutes of action.  But that game wasn't on Friday, proving that nothing pumps Sam up like the thought of finishing a game and getting home to see what Urkel, Balki and Uncle Joey are going to be up to on ABC.

Wichita State is Due:  I upset the Shocker masses (a sentence I rarely get to say) by picking against the boys from Wichita in their battle against Missouri State and for most of the game, I looked like I could be a wise sage.  The game was tight throughout and until a key Garrett Stutz three late, the #2 seeded Shocker team looked to be in trouble in its "closer than the score indicates" 73-63 victory.  However once again big shots and (repeat after me) clutch free throw shooting helped the Shockers move on and ruin the dreams of Missouri State fans everywhere.  Wichita State is now looking to make the conference tournament finals for the first time since 1987.  Can you believe that?  In 1987, Ronald Reagan was still President, and the Shockers havent even been to a title game since then?  If there was ever time to end a lingering 23 year jinx, Saturday is that day.

Illinois State is Hot:  I dont necessarily mean the state of Illinois, although it could be hot as well, but the ISU basketball team, which has now won 7 of its last 8.  Illinois State overcame the fact that it, like many in the crowd, was unaware that there were two "ISUs" in the conference and were thus able to focus and beat the kids from Terre Haute, 69-65 behind 17 points from Austin "One Tree" Hill.  The Redbirds now move on to play Wichita State and as I incorrectly predicted last night, Wichita State is due for a beating.  They havent made the finals since 1987 and if I have learned anything in life, it is that 23 years of consistency begats a 24th.  Take all your finances, mortgage your house, move the kids to military school and BET IT ALL ON INDIANA STATE.  Its happening this round, I know it....Wichita State is going down.

So there you go, a rather tame day of "Arch Madness."  However Saturday's semifinals pit the four best teams in the conference against each other and both matchups are repeats of good games from the regular season.  So if you get the MVC channel and can move the drunk Creighton fan out from in front of the television, catch the games tomorrow.  They will be stellar.

Posted on: March 5, 2010 4:30 pm
Edited on: March 5, 2010 5:43 pm
 

Drake Does the 21 Minute Walk of Shame

MATT JONES

4:30 PM

Northern Iowa beat Drake 55-40 in the Missouri Valley Conference Quarterfinals.  That much is not surprising and really not all that interesting.  The UNI Panthers were led by Alex Koch and Lucas O'Rear (they make great names in Cedar Falls), who helped bully past Drake with a 29-2 run that took an 11 point deficit and turned it into a 16 point lead.  UNI now moves on to play the winner of Creighton and Bradley, which is being played now in front of an arena full of drunk Creighton fans who are just glad to be out of Omaha and partying in St Louis.

However what is interesting about the Drake defeat is that Mark Phelps' club went 21 minutes without scoring a field goal.  Yes you read that correctly, from the 8 minute mark in the first half to the 7 minute mark in the second half, Drake could not manage to make A SINGLE SHOT.  Not one.  Yes Northern Iowa is statistically the #2 defensive team in America and yes, they were at their best playing a tired Drake team on Friday afternoon.  But still...21 minutes of clock time without a basket?  For real?  21 minutes is a really long time and for comparison sake, here are some things that have occurred during a similar 21 minute time period:

1.  Stephen A. Smith recieved, and then had cancelled, two ESPN talk shows.

2.  Duke players slapped the floor 143 times

3.  Kansas Assistant Coaches invited four porn stars to sit courtside for the Big 12 Tournament

4.  Gregg Doyel received 58 pieces of hate mail and was able to understand 6 of them.

5.  Tom Crean was mistaken for Dwight Schrute four times.

6.  Dick Vitale's voice caused my dad to mute four television sets.

7.  Northern Iowa's Senior guard Ali Farokhmanesh had his name mispronounced by five announcers...and that is even before Verne Lundquist shows up for Sunday's game.

8.  Dick Cheney had three heart attacks.

9.  Rick Reilly phoned in two columns in which he told the heartwarming tale of one kid wiith a (insert disability/tragedy/eating disorder/sleep apnea) who has overcome his demons to show the "true meaning of sport.".

10.  Eight elderly people actually read a hard copy of a newspaper!

So as you can see, a lot can happen in 21 minutes, but for Drake, none of those happenings were actually putting points on the board against Northern Iowa.  I actually watched the vast majority of this game and I feel a better man for it.  But I am also certain that next year when I see "Drake" listed on any potential parlays, I will be taking the under.

Posted on: March 5, 2010 3:09 pm
Edited on: March 5, 2010 3:10 pm
 

CAA Tournament Preview

MIKE RUTHERFORD

While the Mid-American and Missouri Valley are still the two conferences most synonymous with high calibre mid-major basketball, it's been teams from the Colonial Athletic Association that have produced the most memorable Cinderella moments in recent years. George Mason crashing the Final Four and VCU knocking out Duke on Eric Maynor's clutch jumper were two of the biggest NCAA Tournament stories from the past decade.

Even in defeat, the CAA has been represented well. A year ago VCU came within a bucket of eliminating UCLA, which was looking to improve on its mark of three consecutive Final Fours. In 2003, UNC-Wilmington was beaten by defending national champion Maryland on a Drew Nicholas buzzer-beater. 

There was talk in January of as many as three teams from the Colonial making it into the NCAA Tournament, but stumbles by the conference's top-dogs have brought it back down to one-bid status. Still, there are probably as many as seven squads that are capable of winning this tournament and winning another game or two in the big dance.

Regardless of which team emerges from the tournament unscathed, no one wants to see the CAA champion pop up below their name on Selection Sunday. 

SITE: Richmond Coliseum: Richmond, Va.

DATES: March 5-8

SET-UP: All 12 league members are invited, with the top four teams receiving byes into the quarterfinals. Teams 5-12 begin first round play this afternoon

THE FAVORITE

Old Dominion (23-8, 15-3) knocked off Georgetown in December, but the consensus is still that they have to leave Richmond with the league trophy in order to make the NCAA Tournament. ODU's three conference losses all came on the road, but two of those losses came to VCU and George Mason, one of whom the Monarchs will all-but-certainly meet in the semifinals. 

Though the league is extremely deep, it's Old Dominion that is probably most apt to win a game in the NCAA Tournament, and that's because of its size. The Monarchs frontline of Gerald Lee, Frank Hassell and Keyon Carter goes 6-10, 6-8 and 6-8.

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THE CONTENDERS

William & Mary (20-9, 12-6) is the No. 3 seed and earned a first round bye for the first time since the tournament expanded in 2002. A year after going 10-20, the Tribe won 20 games for just the third time since 1952, winning at Maryland and Wake Forest along the way. 

Northeastern (19-11, 14-4) is the two seed, but is still looked at as a bit of a long-shot. The Huskies have to travel nearly 600 miles to Richmond for the tournament, where, more times than not, they're forced to play de facto away games against teams with campuses less than an hour from the Coliseum. In three seasons, head coach Bill Cohen has yet to lead Northeastern past the quarterfinal round, but he certainly hasn't had a team this good. 

VCU (20-11, 11-7) is the No. 5 seed, but they may as well be hosting the tournament. The Rams are the highest scoring team in the league, have the confidence of being the defending champs and possess the single-greatest weapon in the league in big-man Larry Sanders. 

George Mason (17-13, 12-6) has dropped six of eight, but the Patriots have made it to the CAA title game in each of the past four seasons. 

THE DARKHORSE

Seventh-seeded Hofstra has won six straight and nine of their last ten. They won at Northeastern by 11 and can lay claim to Charles Jenkins, the league Player of the Year. 

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Charles Jenkins (Hofstra) - The most talented offensive player in the league, Jenkins leads the Pride in scoring (20.4 ppg) and totaled 110 points in the last four games of the regular season. 

Charles_jenkins--300x300_medium

Larry Sanders (VCU) - Named the league's Defensive Player of the Year for the second straight season, Sanders is a 6-11 game-changer who might end up being a first-round selection in this summer's NBA Draft. 

Gerald Lee (Old Dominion) - The best player on the league's best team. 

Denzel Bowles (James Madison) - Enters the tournament averaging just under 21 points and nine rebounds a contest. 

WHERE TO WATCH

Saturday's quarterfinals and Sunday's semifinals will be carried by CSS, Comcast, CSN New England and ESPN FullCourt. Basically, if you subscribe to the DirecTV college sports package, you'll be able to see these games.

The final will be carried by ESPN on Monday at 7 p.m. 

FULL SCHEDULE

Friday, March 5

Game 1: No. 9 UNC Wilmington vs. No. 8 Towson, 12 p.m. ET
Game 2: No. 12 Delaware vs. No. 5 VCU, 2:30 p.m. ET
Game 3: No. 10 Georgia State vs. No. 7 Hofstra, 6 p.m. ET
Game 4: No. 11 James Madison vs. No. 6 Drexel , 8:30 p.m. ET

Saturday, March 6

Game 5: Game 1 winner vs. No. 1 Old Dominion, 12 p.m. ET
Game 6: Game 2 winner vs. No. 4 George Mason, 2:30 p.m. ET
Game 7: Game 3 winner vs. No. 3 William & Mary, 6 p.m. ET
Game 8: Game 4 winner vs. No. 2 Northeastern, 8:30 p.m. ET

Sunday, March 7

Game 9: Game 5 winner vs. Game 6 winner, 3 p.m. ET
Game 10: Game 7 winner vs. Game 8 winner, 5:30 p.m. ET

Monday, March 8

Game 11: Semifinal winners, 7 p.m. ET

COIN FLIP TOURNAMENT RESULT (Heads is better seed, tails is worse seed)

Northeastern over Old Dominion

TEAM I BLINDLY DREW OUT OF A HAT AND WILL THEREFORE PULL FOR

James Madison 

BOLD PREDICTION

Old Dominion gets a scare from VCU in the semifinals but then rolls over Bill & Mary in the nationally-televised championship game, making all potential first-round opponents take notice. 

Posted on: March 5, 2010 2:42 pm
Edited on: March 5, 2010 3:03 pm
 

The man can coach, but can he croon?



JOHN WILKINSON

2:40 PM

Lefty Driesell. Eddie Sutton. Rick Pitino. Tubby Smith...Cliff Ellis?

Quite a Rushmore of coaches right there, and yes, Coastal Carolina's Cliff Ellis is just one win away from becoming the fifth coach in NCAA history to guide four different schools to the NCAA Tournament. 

Tomorrow, 4pm EST, Ellis and the Chanticleers play host to the Winthrop Eagles in the Big South Tournament Championship, as the former South Alabama, Clemson and Auburn maestro attempts to cement his legacy as Master of the Turnaround and assuredly, a spot in the coaching Hall of Fame. 

The bespectacled Ellis looks more Econ Prof. than basketball luminary, but there is really nothing "typical" about Ellis. In a profession in which it's widely believed one must sacrifice any semblance of a side hobby or life outside of the basketball offices in general, here is Cliff Ellis: avid musician, author, chef, ostrich farmer, gardener, philanthropist and probably even finds time to fold his own laundry. He's a dolphin in a shark-tank industry.

Before embarking on a career in X's and O's, Ellis was the lead vocalist for the Villagers, a headlining garage-band on the Southeast party circuit in the 1960's. How many other coaches have something like this on their resume? 

Tonight, at the Boardwalk Pavilion:


Bob Knight & the Stranglers, Roy Williams & the Aw Shucks Express, and Coach K & the Sweet 16's. 



About a week ago I was watching some SEC West shat-show and the announcer, Dave Neal, recalled a conversation he recently shared with a longtime referee. The ref remembered working an Auburn game during Ellis' tenure, and the typically docile coach exploding out of his seat to vociferously protest a call. Words were exchanged, a warning was issued, and play resumed. Not 5 minutes later Ellis called the official over and simply told him, "I'm sorry I said that." It was the first and only in-game apology he'd ever received. 

So if it's objectivity you like with your slice of the Big South, I'm sorry, I'll be rooting for Coastal Carolina to march forward to the dance for only the second time in school history, and Ellis to make a little history of his own. 

Take it away, Cliff: 

 


Posted on: March 5, 2010 12:13 pm
Edited on: March 5, 2010 3:01 pm
 

The Day Ahead: Friday of Championship Week

BY MATT JONES

While the preliminary games have been scattered throughout the week, in all actuality today is the day that Championship Week begins with authority.  Last night we saw some random scatterings of games and one great finish, but Friday is the day that we start moving towards bids actually being given and the first battles of big teams trying to punch their March tickets.  A primer on what you might have missed last night and what is coming today:

LAST NIGHT WHILE YOU WERE WATCHING THE OFFICE:

Missouri Valley First Round:

The most major of the mid-major conferences kicked off last night with Missouri State beating Evansville in a snoozer and Drake providing the first "March Madness" image of the 2010 postseason, with a buzzer beater victory over Southern Illinois.  The Salukis had a ten point lead with just eight minutes to go, but then scored only six points to close out the game. 

Big South Semifinals

The first championship game was set last night as the Semifinals of the Big South took place in front of family and friends.  Coastal Carolina took care of UNC Asheville 93-72 and confirmed itself as the heavy favorite to make the NCAA Tournament when the finals hit on Saturday.  In the first major upset of the Big South Tournament, Winthrop beat higher seeded Radford, 61-46 and will not face the fight Carolinas of the Coast on Saturday for the first official NCAA bid and the right to have their faces plastered on the halftime report of CBS games all weekend.

Atlantic Sun Quarterfinals

The first conference that has actually made March "mad" is the Atlantic Sun, where all the top teams are falling and a date in the Play-in game for the champion seems all but certain.  Top seed Lipscomb lost to Kennesaw State (that is a real school), East Tennessee State and Mercer beat higher seeds Campbell and Belmont and now Jacksonville has reached its greatest heights since Artis Gilmore, as it remains the top-seeded team left in the tournament.  The new favorite is probably ETSU, which rides a 5 game winning streak into wackiest tournament currently on the market.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR TODAY:

1.  The Most Competitive Day of Basketball You Didnt Know About

They call it "Arch Madness" and for true basketball aficionados, it may be one of the best three-day basketball feasts available.  In the Missouri Valley Conference , they play basketball with fundamentals, grittiness and a lot of Midwestern spunk.  And oh yeah, the teams arent bad either.  When you think of Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois and Missouri, you may think of corn and flat land, but MVC basketball should enter into your mind (at least before the vastly overrated "Field of Dreams").  Today may be the best day of that form of basketball that you will see...four games, showcasing the eight best teams.  The schedule:

#1 Northern Iowa vs  #8 Drake:          1:00 pm
#4 Creighton      vs.  #5 Bradley:        3:30 pm
#2 Wichita St      vs   #7 Missouri St    7:00 pm
#3 Illinois St       vs   #6 Indiana St    9:30 pm

If you get the channels where the games are on or live close to St. Louis, watch the games.  They will be good (and Missouri State will upset Wichita State...you heard it here first)

2.  OVC  Semifinals

All season it has seemed that the conference crown would come down to a Murray State vs Morehead State tournament clash.  We saw those two teams play each other on the College Basketball Road Trip and now they each need one more win for a rematch.  Murray State plays Eastern Illinois and Morehead has Tennessee Tech, with both games on ESPNU.  If you love college basketball and have no woman on a Friday night (those two things are not mutually exclusive), then settling down for some OVC battles in Nashville might be a good option.

3.  Atlantic Sun Semifinals

They arent on television and chances are if you say you are watching the "Atlantic Sun", people will think you are attempting to find yourself on a beach while growing a beard.  But there have been no games more entertaining than the ones taking place in Macon, Georgia.  Mercer plays Jacksonville and Kennesaw State battles East Tennessee State, with the winners likely being the biggest surprises to play for an NCAA berth.  And if you are reading this and already know what state Kennesaw State is actually in, then this blog and Championship Week are just for you.

Add to these, the beginning of the Southern, MAAC, Horizon and WCC Tournaments and tonight is as busy a Friday night as you will see in college basketball.  So send the kiddies off to see "Alice in Wonderland", sit back and let One Blogging Moment give you a Friday of basketball goodies.  Or go see the movie...I hear its good.

Matt Jones is the founder of the college sports blog KentuckySportsRadio .


Posted on: March 5, 2010 11:41 am
Edited on: March 5, 2010 1:20 pm
 

Southern Conference Tournament Preview

MIKE RUTHERFORD

Whether it was because they were dominating or being upset, Davidson has been the story of the Southern Conference Tournament for the past four years. A new era begins today, however, as Stephen Curry is gone, the Wildcats are a middle-of-the-pack squad, and the SoCon has four days of basketball on the horizon that should be as competitive as any you'll find this postseason. 

SITE: Bojangles' Coliseum/Time Warner Cable Arena: Charlotte, N.C.

DATES: March 5-8

SET-UP: The SoCon is comprised of two divisions, and the champion and runner-up of those divisions are awarded first round byes into the quarterfinals. The remaining eight teams are faced with the unenviable task of having to win four games in four days, beginning Friday. 

THE FAVORITE: Wofford (23-8, 15-3)

Regardless of what happens over the next four days, Wofford, which moved to Division-I in 1995 and joined the Southern Conference two years later, has already had the most successful season in program history. Despite the fact that all but one of the top seven scorers on the team are underclassmen, the Terriers have set school records for wins (both in conference and overall) and claimed their first SoCon regular season title. They come to Charlotte riding a program-best 10-game winning streak, and have lost just once (a 70-68 decision at Charleston) in 2010. 

Experience is the biggest factor standing between the Terriers and their first trip to the NCAA Tournament. Wofford has never been past the SoCon semifinals and this year's squad boasts just one senior key contributor. 

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THE CONTENDERS

Appalachian State (20-11, 13-5) claimed its 10th North Division title and will begin its march towards its first trip to the dance since 2000 on Saturday. They've lost just once in their past nine games, a one-point loss at Charleston (the team they'd likely face in the semifinals) on Feb. 17. The Mountaineers are one of the three teams to hand Wofford a conference loss, winning on the road by a point way back on Dec. 7. They're coached by Buzz Peterson, whose wife we hope is every bit as hot as she was when he was the head man at Tennessee. 

College of Charleston (20-10, 14-4) owns the second best record in the league and is the only SoCon team to have knocked off both Wofford and Appalachian State. Boasting a three-guard lineup and four players who average double figures in scouring, the Cougars are probably the most fun team in the league from a viewer's perspective. Former Georgia Tech head coach Bobby Cremins has guided CoC to the conference title game in two of his three years at the helm, but has yet to get the Cougars over the hump.

Western Carolina (21-10, 11-7) made national waves when they raced out to a 10-1 start and shocked nationally ranked Louisville on the Cardinals' home floor. They've come back to earth since league play began, and went just 4-5 in the month of February. The Catamounts still managed to hold on to the last of the league's four first round byes, and won't begin their tournament run until Saturday. 

THE DARKHORSE

Davidson (16-14, 11-7) would likely be even more of a threat if they hadn't been shocked in this tournament a year ago, but the Wildcats are still the league's premier program and carry that confidence-inducing knowledge with them into Charlotte. They open the postseason with an Elon team they beat to end the regular season and are fortunate enough to have the weakest of the four bye teams, Western Carolina, waiting for them in the quarterfinals. 

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Noah Dahlman (Wofford) The junior forward who earned the coaches' nod for league Player of the Year has scored in double figures 44 straight times and ranks fourth nationally in field goal percentage at 59.2%.

Donald Sims (Appalachian State) - Sims led the SoCon in scoring at 20.4 ppg and was the media's choice as the league's top performer. He's the best free-throw shooter in the country, having missed just eight freebies in 159 attempts (95%). 

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Andrew Goudelock (College of Charleston) - Part of the Cougars' run-and-gun backcourt, he ranks just behind Sims in scoring (19.2 ppg) and is the most dangerous three-point shooter in the tournament. 

Jake Cohen (Davidson) - The 6-10 conference Freshman of the Year leads the Wildcats in scoring (13.4 ppg).

Brendan McKilliop (Davidson) - The coach's son is the league-leader in assist-to-turnover ratio (2.7:1) and provides invaluable experience in this win-or-go home setting. 

WHERE TO WATCH

You can watch every game (for a price) through the league's website

For everyone else, the semifinals will be carried Saturday night (6, 8:30) on FCS Atlantic, Sport South and ESPN FullCourt. The title game will be carried Monday night at 9 p.m. by ESPN2. 

FULL SCHEDULE

Friday, March 5

Game 1 - (3S) Davidson vs. (6N) Elon, 2:00 p.m.
Game 2 - (4N) UNC Greensboro vs. (5S) Furman, 30 minutes following first game
Game 3 - (4S) The Citadel vs. (5N) Samford, 7:00 p.m.
Game 4 - (3N) Chattanooga vs. (6S) Georgia Southern, 30 minutes following. 

Saturday, March 6

(2N) Western Carolina vs. Game 1 winner, 2:00 p.m.
(1S) Wofford vs. Game 2 winner, 30 minutes following first game
(1N) Appalachian State vs. Game 3 winner, 7:00 p.m.
(2S) College of Charleston vs. Game 4 winner, 30 minutes following

Sunday, March 7

Men's Semifinal No. 1 - 6:00 p.m. (TV - SportSouth)
Men's Semifinal No. 2 - 8:30 p.m. (TV - SportSouth)

Monday, March 8

Men's Championship, 9 p.m. (ESPN2)

COIN-FLIP TOURNAMENT RESULT (Heads is top seed, tails is lesser seed)

Western Carolina over Appalachian State

TEAM I BLINDLY DREW OUT OF A HAT AND WILL THEREFORE SUPPORT

Furman

BOLD PREDICTIONS 

Davidson has a great shot at upsetting Western Carolina in the quarterfinals and I think that whichever team emerges from that tilt has a good shot to upset Wofford in the semis. Ultimately, I'm going with whoever comes out of the bottom half of the bracket to snag the league's bid to the dance. 

I'll say: Appalachian State over Western Carolina for the title. 

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