On college basketball

Conference calls

By Mark Blaudschun
Globe Staff / March 2, 2012
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We are now into March, which means it’s the one-and-done phase of the season - whether it’s in conference tournament play, which has already begun, or the crucible of the NCAA Tournament, which will begin in two weeks.

In New England, story lines that played out during the season are almost in their final configuration. Some look good, some not so good:

America East (men): Getting the No. 1 seed was a meaningful goal, since it gets you the home court if you make it to the tournament final. That honor went to Stony Brook.

Coach Joe Jones’s Boston University team is the No. 3 seed and will play Hartford tomorrow night in West Hartford. That should be no problem, since BU swept the season series, including a 64-55 win last Saturday. The danger is in the second round against Vermont, which swept the Terriers this season. BU did split with Stony Brook.

Odds of BU making tournament final: 10-1.

Odds of BU winning tournament: 25-1.

America East (women): BU had the best team during the regular season. It also has the best player in junior Chantell Alford, who repeated as America East Player of the Year, and the hottest player in Rashidat Agboola, a sophomore from Methuen who was just named the conference’s Player of the Week. They will start the postseason party tonight in a quarterfinal game at West Hartford against Maine, which defeated Stony Brook, 49-43, in a play-in game last night.

Odds of BU making tournament final: 6-5.

Odds of BU winning tournament: 2-1.

Atlantic Coast Conference: Boston College is fighting to stay out of the No. 12 seed in the ACC tournament, which begins next week in Atlanta. At this point, coach Steve Donahue just wants to get his team to where it has a chance to win games at the end. Barring major upsets - and BC did beat Florida State - the Eagles will be done with their season by this time next week.

Odds of BC making tournament final: 100-1.

Odds of BC winning tournament: 1,000-1.

Atlantic-10: Rhode Island, despite a stunning upset of Saint Louis a week ago, is playing out the string. The Rams can’t even make the A-10 tournament, and coach Jim Baron’s job security is shaky.

Massachusetts is in better shape. The Minutemen are a decent team and will be playing beyond the A-10 tournament. Whether it’s in the NCAA Tournament is doubtful; that will take at least a run into the conference tournament title game in Atlantic City. Still, coach Derek Kellogg has done a nice job in a rebuilding process that could make UMass a genuine contender next season.

Odds of UMass making conference tournament final: 6-1.

Odds of UMass winning tournament: 10-1.

Big East: Connecticut coach Jim Calhoun had back surgery Monday, and a date for his return remains uncertain. How long the Huskies continue playing beyond next week is also uncertain.

A year ago, the Huskies began play in the Big East tournament on Tuesday, won five games in five days, and then won six more to give Calhoun his third national championship.

This year’s UConn team is not as good, and whether the Huskies get past Thursday is iffy. Same thing for the NCAA Tournament.

Providence, under first-year coach Ed Cooley, is trying to avoid the No. 16 seed. It will be playing Tuesday, but probably not much beyond that.

Odds of UConn making conference tournament final: 9-1.

Odds of UConn winning tournament: 16-1.

Odds of PC making conference tournament final: 50-1.

Odds of PC winning tournament: 100-1.

Colonial Athletic Association: Northeastern finished as the No. 7 seed and will begin its CAA tournament dream tonight against William & Mary. The good news is that the Huskies split with William & Mary. The bad news is that they were beaten by the Tribe by 25 points a few weeks ago. If they get past William & Mary, Virginia Commonwealth awaits.

Odds of NU making conference tournament final: 30-1.

Odds of NU winning tournament: 75-1.

Ivy League: Harvard controls its destiny - to a point. The Crimson stumbled with their home loss to Penn last Saturday but are still in first place at 10-2. If Harvard beats Columbia tonight and Cornell tomorrow night, it clinches no worse than a tie for the Ivy League title.

Penn (9-2) has three games left - against Brown tonight and Yale tomorrow night at the Palestra, and at Princeton Tuesday - and can clinch no worse than a share of first by winning all three.

If Penn and Harvard tie for the title, there will be a one-game playoff for the NCAA bid, probably at Yale, which is where Harvard was beaten at the buzzer in a playoff last year by Princeton.

The best scenario for Harvard is to win both games and have Penn lose at least once, which would make Harvard the Ivy League champion by itself and give the Crimson their first NCAA bid since 1946.

But if Harvard loses once and Penn sweeps, the Crimson would be in the at-large pool for NCAA bids, and with three Ivy League losses, the chances of getting one would be almost zero.

There is also the possibility of a three-way tie if Yale (9-3) wins out and Harvard loses once. In that scenario, one team would receive a bye and play the winner of a game between the other two.

One potentially good note from the loss to Penn is that it dropped the Crimson down a bit in potential NCAA seeding. If Harvard had won out, it probably would be in the No. 8-vs.-No. 9 line in the bracket, which means that the No. 1 seed would loom as a second-round opponent. Now the Crimson look like a No. 10 or even 11 seed, which would make their chances of reaching the Sweet 16 much stronger.

But first, Harvard must get invited to the dance.

Metro Atlantic: Fairfield is in the middle of the pack and should stay there.

Odds of Fairfield making conference tournament final: 9-1.

Odds of Fairfield winning tournament: 50-1.

Northeast Conference: Quinnipiac, Sacred Heart, and Central Connecticut are in the middle of the pack.

Odds of any of them making conference tournament final: 25-1.

Odds of any of them winning tournament: 50-1.

Mark Blaudschun can be reached at

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