CONFERENCE TOURNAMENT PREVIEWS
ACC (championship, Sunday, 1 p.m.): Boston College should be loose and carefree. They're already in the NCAA tournament so they should let it all hang out. That said, it would look bad if the Eagles lost their first-round game to Virginia. They've got to take care of business Thursday night, then see if they can beat Duke a second time come Friday night. Doubtful, but interesting to consider. Maryland and Virginia Tech are the two teams facing possible NCAA elimination, so they need to win. Virginia Tech-Miami Thursday afternoon is a critical game. The upper echelon of the conference has no bubble worries, and it would be a great semifinal day if the favorites prevail, with possible matchups of North Carolina vs. Florida State or Clemson, and Duke vs. Wake Forest. North Carolina point guard Ty Lawson is nursing a bad toe. He's listed as doubtful but that was also the case before the Duke game last Saturday and he played well. Predicted winner: North Carolina.
Big Ten (championship, Sunday, 3:30 p.m.): Other than Michigan State, is every team on the bubble? It almost seems that way, but Joe Lunardi, the bracketology guru, has eight teams in the field. That proves this is a season of a lot of equal teams throughout the country -- you'd expect a league that gets eight bids to be stronger than the Big 10. Everyone other than the Spartans is flawed. Michigan State will have a tough quarterfinal against a desperate opponent, either Minnesota or Northwestern. That might be more difficult than a semifinal game against either Ohio State or Wisconsin. Penn State needs to take care of business today against Indiana and the Nits can really help themselves if they can beat Purdue in the second round. Purdue has had its problems this season, most notably the injury to star forward Robbie Hummel. Outside of Michigan State, this is totally wide open. Predicted winner: Michigan State.
SEC (championship, Sunday 1 p.m.): Yet another incredibly well-balanced league. LSU has been the best team for most of the year, but the Tigers faltered at the end. Here's a list of teams that could also win this: Ole Miss (if they get an otherworldly tournament from freshman point guard Terrico White); Kentucky (if the Wildcats suddenly wake up and play up to their potential); Mississippi State (if the 3-pointers start dropping and Jarvis Varnado blocks every shot); Vanderbilt (If A.J. Ogilvy plays like the best player in the league); Florida (see Kentucky); South Carolina (if they don't turn the ball over and stay even on the boards); Tennessee (if the full-court press finally pays off); and Auburn (if they don't get killed on the boards). Predicted winner: Vanderbilt.
Southland (championship, Saturday, 1 p.m.): All games are at a neutral site in Katy, Texas, at the former Roger Clemens Dome (just kidding). This league plays in two six-team divisions and there was no clear-cut dominate team. Stephen F. Austin won the east, Sam Houston won the west. Texas A&M-Corpus Christi and Nichols State also had good seasons. Stephen F. Austin has been a good team for a lot of years but has never been able to crack the NCAAs. The Lumberjacks were undefeated at home and concentrate on defense, holding teams to 37 percent shooting, third in the nation. The Lumberjacks beat Sam Houston by two in the only meeting. Predicted winner: Stephen F. Austin.
- Michael Vega
- Mark Blaudschun
- Nancy Marrapese-Burrell