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NCAA Conference Tournament Week

by Adam Glatczak

March 14th, 2003

Big East gets dramatic: Minnesota=NIT: MEAC cliffhangers: Big Ten as planned: A10, Big West, MAC, MWC, WAC Updates
Big East regains its drama; Big 12 provides plenty of its own

No conference finals yesterday, but that didn’t make the day any less fun. Other than the Conference USA tourney that has turned into a blast, the Big East got back to its usually outstanding tourney after a drab first round of games. The top seeds advanced, but none did so easily. Boston College escaped St. John’s in overtime, and if the Eagles were trying to impress those bubble-watchers, they didn’t. B.C. can probably count on its BCS affiliation to get the Eagles in, but this is a team that in a fair world would still have some work to do. Potential Cinderella runs by Providence and Georgetown were ended Thursday, while UConn showed why it is still a threat to make the Final Four in its impressive win over Seton Hall.

In the Big Ten, Ohio State beat Iowa by two in a pick ‘em game that played out as expected. Next up for the Buckeyes: Wisconsin. Oh, and state of Wisconsin fans should be nervous about this one. Marquette already lost in a quarterfinal game in Conference USA as a #1 seed. Last year, Wisconsin as a top seed was knocked out of the Big Ten tourney in the quarterfinals.

Goodnight Minnesota, enjoy that NIT run. The Golden Gophers were absolutely listless Thursday, and it didn’t help Northwestern played one of its best games of the year to beat the Gophers. The heat is starting to turn up in Minneapolis on Dan Monson...have to wonder if he ever wishes he’d stayed at Gonzaga. Give credit to Bill Carmody’s Wildcats, though. Northwestern flat-out earned this one by playing an excellent game.

Indiana ripped Penn State Thursday, to almost no one’s surprise. We heard a lot of people saying this win clinched an NCAA bid for the Hoosiers. Let’s put that in perspective for a second, because a win over Penn State shouldn’t prove a single thing, other than the Hoosiers aren’t so hideously bad to lose to the Nittany Lions two games in a row. Is beating Penn State really any more of an NCAA bid-clinching win than, say, UC Santa Barbara beating Pacific in the first round of the Big West Tournament? That’s how bad Penn State is-in fact, if Pacific and PSU play ten times, the Tigers probably win at least 7 of 10. Indiana wasn’t missing in danger of missing the NCAAs even if it DID lose to Penn State yesterday (if you wonder why just read the front of the Hoosiers’ jerseys over and over until it sinks in). But please, don’t even try to tell us beating Penn State is a “big win.”

The seeds are all messed up in the SEC tourney (how does a team from the East Division pull out of the tourney and then another EAST team get a bye?), so just keep redoing that bracket until you get it right. Ole Miss beat South Carolina Thursday and now gets another shot at Mississippi State. The Rebels were baffling in how they folded down the stretch in SEC play, but if they play like they can the Rebs have a real shot at an upset. LSU should be safe in the NCAAs after not only avoiding a bad loss against Arkansas but dominating. The Tigers are playing exceptionally well right now, and should be the poster model of a team playing its way into the NCAA Tournament. LSU should be in the field well ahead of teams like Indiana and Alabama that have bumbled their way down the stretch. The non-conference schedule was weaker, but the Tigers have a nice record and have beaten most of their fellow SEC bubble teams in recent weeks, so they’re playing consistently well against GOOD teams, not just fattening up on weaklings like a Boston College or Seton Hall. Oh, and speaking of the aforementioned Crimson Tide, Alabama suffered the epitome of a bad loss against Vanderbilt Thursday. Like Indiana, Bama is probably going to ride their pre-conference schedule into the NCAAs, but this is a 100% different team from the one that beat the likes of Oklahoma and Xavier. The Tide was awful down the stretch, and if you’re judging a team on how well it can play NOW and not what it did three months ago, this team has no right claiming an NCAA bid.

The Big 12 first round was exciting. If you haven’t seen the final shot from Kansas State-Colorado, you must not have cable, but the Buffaloes ought to make Pervis Pasco an honorary captain for the team when it plays tonight against Oklahoma, because only Pasco’s lapse in judgment got CU to the quarterfinals. CU was safe in the NCAAs, though, win or lose. Texas Tech isn’t, and shouldn’t be unless it wins the Big 12 tourney, but the Red Raiders stole one from Baylor last night on Kasib Powell’s late putback. About Baylor, one has to think it’s about time Dave Bliss starts making a little more headway with the Bears in the next year or two; this program still seems to be spinning its tires in the mud in the Big 12. The league is incredibly tough at the top, but Bliss’s track record suggests the Bears would’ve been a little better by now. In other games, Missouri moved to the quarters as Nebraska choked on an 18-point first half lead, and Iowa State was on fire in blitzing Texas A&M, 97-70. If you’re looking for another UAB-like story, watch the Cyclones in the Big 12 quarterfinals against Kansas.

Cliffhangers are still the rule in the MEAC

We pause from the “TV” tournaments to mention the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, which should have its tourney televised based solely on its entertainment value. Seven games have been played in the MEAC Tournament, and so far six of those seven have been decided by a combined 12 points. Thursday, #5 Florida A&M beat #4 Coppin State, 55-53, while #3 Hampton kept alive its hopes of defending the league title by edging #6 Norfolk State, 66-64. It’s a shame the nation isn’t getting to see some of these games. Usually the only time one sees these teams is when they’re getting butchered in a guarantee game by some top ten team in December. South Carolina State, Florida A&M, Hampton and Howard are the teams still alive.

The Big West quarterfinals were nothing spectacular, and yet they were nothing but spectacular. The top four seeds moved to the semifinals, but none won by more than nine points. #2 UC Irvine and #3 Utah State needed overtime to beat #7 Cal State-Northridge and #6 Cal State-Fullerton, respectively, while top seed UC Santa Barbara beat #8 Pacific by only nine. Expect more super games in the semis, as the three top seeds and #4 Cal Poly all have been playing well enough to win this tournament. Sentimental favorite might be UC Irvine; the Anteaters have been close the past several years, but still are looking for their first NCAA berth ever.

The WAC and Atlantic 10 tournaments went mostly according to Hoyle Thursday, with only #5 Hawaii posting an upset. The Rainbow Warriors edged #4 Rice, 62-61, in overtime, as a recurring theme showed up here-missed free throws. Like South Florida, Baylor and several other teams Thursday, the Owls had a chance in this game but came up short at the free throw line. Rice had the opportunity to tie at the end of overtime, but Omar Seli-Mance, an 82% free throw shooter, missed the first of two shots. Then, Mance tried to miss the second-and promptly banked it in. #1 Tulsa has to be sweating about its semifinal game against UH. Tulsa has lost the last two years in the WAC tourney to Hawaii, even though the Golden Hurricane has hosted both games. Meanwhile, all four top seeds advanced in the A-10. Watch Temple today; the Owls have a toughie against Xavier, but John Chaney’s squad is still capable of an upset.

In the Mountain West, only #3 Wyoming was upset, as #6 Colorado State got an impressive win over the Cowboys. This is still UNLV’s tourney to lose, and the Rebels should be favored over Utah tonight. The Utes are ailing without Britton Johnsen, only beating #8 Air Force 42-38 Thursday night (although we swear that’s only a halftime score, and the teams are going to finish the second half sometime today...aren’t they?).

Finally, a call to Ohio University. The #11 Bobcats are the only team disrupting the MAC Tournament, as yesterday Ohio U. defeated Miami (Ohio), 65-55, in overtime. Ohio is doing its best to make up for a disappointing season, and with a game against #2 Kent State Friday, the Bobcats have a good chance at the MAC final. The Golden Flashes struggled mightily the final three weeks of the regular season, though they looked good in the second half in beating #7 Marshall, 79-57, in the quarterfinals. The winner of OU-Kent St. gets a chance at either #1 Central Michigan or #4 Northern Illinois in the final.

Please Email Adam for any suggestions or comments


Please Email Adam for any suggestions or comments
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