Thoughts from Tuesday night:
Lost Horizon: Cleveland State's victory over Butler in the Horizon League final will have big implications for teams on the bubble. This result does not help Creighton, Saint Mary's and other teams because Butler will now get one of the at large bids. Butler and Cleveland State played three close games this season. It was an upset but Horizon League followers were not totally surprised.
No homecourt advantage: Weber State has a great setup in the Big Sky Tournament, hosting the semifinals and finals after losing only one league game during the regular season. Should have been easy but Weber never matched the intensity of Montana State and was upset. Portland State is now in position to got the NCAAs for the second consecutive season.
Conference tournament previews:
Big 12 (Championship, Saturday, 6 p.m.): All games will be played at the Ford Center in Oklahoma City, which does give a fan advantage to the Oklahoma schools. This league is as well-balanced as any. Consider this: Texas, Texas A&M, and Oklahoma State all have to play an extra game. All three are capable of winning four games in four days. Oklahoma State, coached by former UMass coach Travis Ford, is the real long shot. A&M has been playing great lately after a mid-season slump. Texas has gone the other way but still has loads of talent. Now, let's get to the favorites, Kansas, Oklahoma, Missouri, and Kansas State. Kansas is a very young team but doesn't play like one. Oklahoma has the national player of the year in Blake Griffin and a nice complimentary cast. Missouri is a pure team which thrives in an uptempo style. Kansas State has overachieved all year and has a rising star in guard Dennis Clemente. It's wide open. Predicted winner: Oklahoma.
Atlantic 10 (Championship, Saturday, 6 p.m.): All games in Atlantic City. Xavier has been the best team all season but the Musketeers, despite a big talent advantage, have lost some strange games (they lost to Richmond last week). X should still win this thing but the Muskies are not unbeatable. Dayton would like nothing better than to meet X in the final and win. The Flyers are capable of that as long as they score enough points. Temple, which should get X in one semifinal, has been inconsistent but the Owls are also capable of putting together three games to win this. Rhode Island is in the same situation. The long shot would be Duquesne which could use it's fast-breaking, pressing style to advantage. Predicted winner: Dayton.
Big West (Championship, Saturday, midnight): All games played in Anaheim, so no homecourt advantage but it's a slight fan advantage for the Southern California teams. This tournament will only be a rumor to all of on the East Coast because of all the late starting times. I'm mad at the Big West anyway. The few games that have been televised on the West Coast are blacked out on DirecTV for some reason and the games are not part of the full-court package. It's some complicated infighting between ESPN and Fox Sports Net, not sure how the Big West benefits. Because of that I can't tell you much about the Big West, I'm sorry to say. Cal State Northridge and Long Beach State are the favorites. Traditionally, coach Bobby Braswell does a great job at Northridge. Long Beach is coached by Dan Monson, the former Minnesota and Gonzaga coach. Both teams get byes into the semifinals. Pacific is another team that's always well coach by Bob Thomason. Predicted winner: Long Beach State.
Conference USA (Championship, Saturday, 11:35 a.m.): This is the Memphis invitational. Not only are the Tigers head and shoulders above everyone, they host the tournament. I don't think an upset is possible but UTEP, which has a great guard in Stefon Jackson, will be one possibility. Predicted winner: Memphis.
Mountain West (Championship, Saturday, 7 p.m.): So much is at stake here with five teams still having NCAA aspirations, BYU, Utah, New Mexico, San Diego State, and UNLV. At this point, I feel this league deserves four bids. That probably won't happen. Vegas is the host and it's a big advantage. BYU and Utah are probably in the tournament even if they don't win here but the two rivals would love to meet in the final. San Diego State has been inconsistent but is perfectly capable of putting together three games to win. I don't think New Mexico can win three in a row away from home. Which brings up back to Vegas, the home team. Predicted winner: UNLV.
Pacific 10 (Championship, Saturday, 6 p.m.): All games will be played at the Staples Center, which gives a big advantage to UCLA and Southern Cal. Like the Mountain West, there's lots at stake here. Two quarterfinal games (Arizona-Arizona State and Cal-USC) are crucial and have big NCAA implications. Washington was the regular-season champion but will probably get a dangerous quarterfinal matchup vs. Stanford. Predicted winner: UCLA.
SWAC (Championship, Saturday, 9 p.m.): Alabama State has been dominate all season but the Hornets lost at Jackson State last week. Jackson State is playing well right now. Arkansas Pine Bluff is the long shot. Predicted winner: Jackson State.
- Michael Vega
- Mark Blaudschun
- Nancy Marrapese-Burrell