College Hoops Tuesday: Your Commentary

March 8th, 2011
It's a mixed bag today as three leagues determine their NCAA Tournament representatives and four others begin their sprint to the finish line. But the preview today will focus on the lone "regular season" game because there's an awful lot riding on it. Rivals Princeton and Pennsylvania meet at the Palestra, and the visiting Tigers need a win to force a playoff with Harvard for the Ivy League title (that game would be played at Yale).

Princeton won the first meeting, which came in the middle of their 8-0 run to start league play but that was a 62-59 overtime decision in which the Quakers shot 60.9% from the field in the second half. Rebounding played a role as Penn was even in the second half after being out-rebounded in the first half by seven. That will be the key for Jerome Allen's team, who has a negative rebounding margin on the season to date.

Forwards Ian Hummer and Kareem Maddox make it tough for Princeton's opponents to hit the boards hard, combining to average 13.7 rebounds per game in addition to their scoring averages of 13.9 and 13.7 points respectively. Both were quite scoring-wise in that meeting but the combined to grab 20 of the Tigers' 39 rebounds with seven being of the offensive variety. By comparison Penn's top three rebounders on that day (Fran Dougherty, Jack Eggleston and Zach Rosen) combined to grab 20 with three being offensive boards.

On the perimeter Doug Davis and Dan Mavraides are also averaging double figures on the season, and the Tigers score 53.4% of their points on two-point baskets. Both teams rely on the three but Penn does at a higher rate (30.2% of their points), and with Princeton allowing opponents to shoot 32.8% from deep this could be an issue for the Quakers.

These two schools had long been the standard by which the Ivy League has been measured before Cornell's run of three straight titles. But it's been a little while since this rivalry's had the impact on the championship race that many had come to expect. While Princeton would love to have a shot at getting back to the top of the Ancient Eight, Penn would love nothing more than to delay that ascension. There are some people up in Cambridge would love it as well.

The three titles to be decided are the Horizon, Summit and Sun Belt with a number of eyes trained in on what happens in Milwaukee between Butler and Milwaukee. The Panthers are the top seed hence their hosting of this game, and with Anthony Hill and Tone Boyle head coach Rob Jeter has a tandem that may be overlooked by many outsiders. Just as important is the fact that five players average at least eight points per game for the Panthers, and they'll need that balance against a Butler team that's one of the better defensive teams in the conference.

But will Butler get enough offensively from someone other than Matt Howard or Shelvin Mack? They did in the January 23rd meeting in this same building but it wasn't enough as Milwaukee won 86-80. If tonight's meeting is a grind the edge goes to the Bulldogs, who limits opponents to an offensive efficiency of 98.4 on the season. The Summit League also matches the top two seeds with Oakland controlling the league race from start to finish. But in Dominique Morrison Oral Roberts has a player who can light it up. And the wild Sun Belt Tournament has yielded a final matching the four and five seeds from the West Division with Johnny Jones' North Texas Mean Green rounding into form at just the right time.

In the Big East Tournament the team to watch is Marquette, who will need to once again slow down Providence's Marshon Brooks to advance. With their four wins over RPI Top 25 teams the Golden Eagles are in good shape for a bid but nothing's set in stone as of yet. Villanova needs to snap out of their funk with a win over USF and in-state rivals Rutgers and Seton Hall follow UConn taking on DePaul in the opener.

The Atlantic 10 will pare their field down to eight with the top four seeds already headed to Atlantic City, and the MAC will do the same with the destination being Cleveland. The Big Sky semis are on tap at Northern Colorado but either Montana or Weber State is capable of winning the final depends on who survives their matchup, and MEAC play begins with a first-round matchup between UMES and FAMU. Selection Sunday is just five days away; time for many of the nation's teams to start adding to their resumes.

7:00 PM Princeton at Pennsylvania (ESPN3)

Atlantic 10 First Round
5:00 PM La Salle at St. Bonaventure (CBS College)
7:00 PM Saint Joseph's at George Washington (CBS College)
7:00 PM Saint Louis at Rhode Island
9:00 PM Dayton at Massachusetts (CBS College)

Big East First Round (New York City)
12:00 PM DePaul vs. Connecticut (ESPN2)
2:00 PM Rutgers vs. Seton Hall (ESPN2)
7:00 PM USF vs. Villanova (ESPNU)
9:00 PM Providence vs. Marquette (ESPNU)

Big Sky Semifinals (Greeley, CO)
7:30 PM Weber State vs. Montana
10:00 PM Northern Arizona at Northern Colorado

Horizon Final
9:00 PM Butler at Milwaukee (ESPN)

MAC First Round
7:00 PM Northern Illinois at Bowling Green
7:00 PM Toledo at Ohio
7:00 PM Eastern Michigan at Akron
7:00 PM Central Michigan at Buffalo

MEAC First Round (Raleigh, NC)
6:30 PM Maryland-Eastern Shore vs. Florida A&M
9:15 PM Delaware State vs. South Carolina State

Summit Final (Sioux Falls, SD)
9:00 PM Oral Roberts vs. Oakland (ESPN2)

Sun Belt Final (Hot Springs, AR)
7:00 PM Arkansas-Little Rock vs. North Texas