Previewing conference tournaments that begin Wednesday
All games in Kansas City
Favorite: Kansas. The Jayhawks ended the regular season tied with Kansas State, but beat the Wildcats twice in the regular season. Man-for-man, the Jayhawks are still the best team.
Contenders: Kansas State, Oklahoma State, Oklahoma, Iowa State. If the Jayhawks slip up, any of these teams can win but none really stack up against Kansas. Marcus Smart, a Sully’s Court favorite, could lead Okie State to the title with his stellar all-around play.
Long shot: Baylor. The Bears will have to get an MVP performance from point guard Pierre Jackson.
Prediction: Oklahoma State.
All games in Tulsa
Favorite: Memphis. The Tigers totally outclassed the league with a 16-0 record. They're thinking about proving themselves in the NCAAs. This is a formality.
Contenders: Southern Mississippi, UTEP. Both would have to play the best game of the season and hope Memphis doesn't play well.
Long shot: Tulsa. Perhaps a hometown upset?
All games in Las Vegas
Favorite: UCLA. The quixotic Bruins can be hard to figure, but they are undeniably the most talented team and they won the regular-season title. They’re perfectly capable of losing in the quarterfinals, too. Overall, we should give credit to much-maligned point guard Larry Drew, who’s had a good season.
Contenders: Arizona, Oregon, Cal. All of these teams have been inconsistent, but if they can find their sweet spot they’ll be in business. Arizona has some really high moments this season and has the smartest player in the tournament in glue guy Soloman Hill.
Long shot: Colorado. The Buffs started the season well, then couldn’t maintain it, but they can put together three good games.
All games in Nashville
Favorite: Florida. The Gators have great guards, especially now that Mike Rosario has bought into team play, and plenty of good frontcourt players, especially Eric Murphy, who’s an inside-outside force.
Contenders: Kentucky, Alabama, Mississippi, Missouri. Missouri has to play on Thursday but neatly avoids Florida until the final, and that sounds like a heck of final to me. For this season anyway, Kentucky is too young, Bama’s not up to the challenge of winning three in a row and Ole Miss only plays well at home.
Long shot: Tennessee. The Vols have improved rapidly but did lose at Georgia recently.
All games in Katy, Texas
Favorite: Stephen F. Austin. The Lumberjacks are one of the top defensive teams in the country and looked fabulous when I saw them crush Long Beach State in California.
Contenders: Northwestern State, Oral Roberts. Northwestern State is one of the highest-scoring teams in the nation and would serve as a great ying-yang opponent for Austin. Oral Roberts had a sneaky good season in its first year in the league.
Long shot: Southeastern Louisiana. The Lions hold a victory over Stephen F. Austin.
Prediction: Stephen F. Austin.
All games in Garland, Texas
Favorite: Texas Southern. The Tigers finished with 12 straight victories and are a prohibitive favorite, especially since Southern isn’t participating because of APR infractions.
Contenders: Arkansas Pine Bluff, Jackson State.
Long shot: Prairie View.
Prediction: Texas Southern.
- Michael Vega
- Mark Blaudschun
- Nancy Marrapese-Burrell