A continuing look at the conference tournaments:
(First round starts Wednesday, final is Saturday, all games in Kansas City)
Favorite: Kansas. The Jayhawks have been the best team in the country all season with a great combination of inside (center Cole Aldrich) and outside (Sherron Collins) play. They are deep and play great defense.
Contenders: Kansas State, Baylor, Missouri, Texas A&M, and Texas. Kansas State combines great guard play with rugged post play and tough defense. They'd be favored in any other tournament except the Big East and ACC. Baylor is a personal favorite that, like Kansas, has players who play well both inside and out. Missouri could ignite with his full-court, manic game; Texas A&M could win if they can score enough points to complement its defense; and Texas is capable of winning it all if it regains the form that saw it win its first 17 games.
Possible upsetter: Oklahoma State. The Cowboys upset Kansas and will rely on star James Anderson to carry them to a series of upsets.
(First round starts Wednesday, final is Saturday, all games in Tulsa, Okla.)
Favorite: UTEP was not the league's preseason favorite but by the end of the season they were clearly the best team. The Miners are coached by former UMass star Tony Barbee, who has multiple weapons at his disposal, most notably guard Randy Culpepper and center Derrick Caracter.
Contenders: UAB and Memphis. UAB, which beat Butler, combines good defense and patient offense; Memphis, which had a 64-game conference winning streak ended this season, can still win this behind the play of guard Elliott Williams, a transfer from Duke.
Possible upsetter: Tulsa, the Hurricanes are well-coached and need a big tournament from 7-footer Jerome Jordan.
(First round starts Wednesday, final is Saturday, all games in Los Angeles)
Favorite: Cal, but it can't be trusted. The Bears are the most talented team in the league with great guards. But despite winning the regular-season title, they have underachieved this season.
Contenders: Arizona State and Washington. Arizona State has had some great moments this season but needs hot outside shooting from guard Ty Abbott and solid inside play from enigmatic Eric Boateng. Washington has a lot in common with Cal, but is capable of snapping out of it and winning three games in a row.
Possible upsetters: UCLA and Southern Cal. The LA schools will be home, although not on its own courts.
(First round starts Wednesday, final is Saturday, all games in Las Vegas)
Favorite: New Mexico. Coach Steve Alford has put together an awesomely surprising season that resulted in a national ranking. The Lobos average 77 points per game and also play sticky man-to-man defense.
Contenders: BYU and UNLV. BYU, a personal favorite, would be a great final opponent for New Mexico, which swept the Cougars this season. New Mexico was the only team to give BYU problems. UNLV has the homecourt and the Rebels have been a very good home team.
Possible upsetter: San Diego State, the Aztecs are well-balanced team that plays good man-to-man defense under Steve Fisher, known for coaching the Fab Five at Michigan.
(First round starts Wednesday, final is Saturday, all games in Anaheim, Calif.)
Favorite: UC Santa Barbara. The Gauchos live on the edge, they only outscored opponents by two points per game and they've been outrebounded for the season but they've been gritty enough to win the league, mostly because they were undefeated at home.
Contenders: Pacific and Fullerton State. Pacific is the league's traditional power and the Tigers are always well-coached by Bob Tomlinson,but they lost twice to UCSB. Fullerton State finished third in the regular season and has two nice early-season victories over UCLA and New Mexico State.
Possible upsetter: Long Beach State, the 49ers were steeled by a tough early schedule and hold a victory over Santa Barbara.
Southwestern Athletic Conference
(First round starts Wednesday, final is Saturday, all games in Shreveport, La.)
Favorite: Jackson State. The Tigers have been dominant this season in the SWAC led by sharp-shooting guard Garrison Johnson and slinky forward Tyrone Hanson.
Contenders: Arkansas-Pine Bluff and Alabama State. Pine Bluff looks to turn every game into a defensive grinder plus they have good size and played Jackson State tough recently. Bama State, the defending champ, has improved near the end of the season.
Possible upsetter: Texas Southern holds a decision over Jackson State.
(First round starts Wednesday, final is Saturday, all games in Katy, Texas)
Favorite: Sam Houston State, the Bearkats had a wild start to the season, playing Kentucky tough and beating Auburn, but then had some bad losses to Cleveland State, Wright State, and Western Michigan. Once league play started, the Bearkats were dominant, mostly because they're a good shooting unit, hitting 46 percent.
Contenders: Stephen F. Austin and Texas A&M Corpus Christi. Austin succeeds with a half-court offensive game and rugged defense that's going to disrupt opponents. TA&MCC played a tough early schedule then faded near the end of the season but if they snap out of it, they can win it.
Possible upsetter: Texas-San Antonio. The Roadrunners won a wild game against Sam Houston, 91-90 in overtime.
(First round starts Wednesday, final is Sunday, all games in Greensboro, N.C.)
Favorite: Duke, the Blue Devils have a threesome of Jon Scheyer, Kyle Singler, and Nolan Smith which is hard for any team to match plus they play good old-fashioned Coach K defense.
Contenders: Maryland, Virginia Tech, and Florida State. Maryland relies on point guard Greivis Vasquez. If he plays very well, they could win. If he plays poorly, they could be out in the quarterfinals. Virginia Tech has slipped a bit but overall the Turkeys have had a outstanding season. Florida State plays great defense, which can translate to postseason victories.
Possible upsetter: North Carolina. The Tar Heels are finally shaping up. It could happen.
- Michael Vega
- Mark Blaudschun
- Nancy Marrapese-Burrell