Does Joel know everything? or nothing? Find out what our preseason preview expert thinks in his weekly column: Joel Knows..
Joel knows Marist will be dangerous in whatever tournament they end up in. The Red Foxes won the MAAC title and a guaranteed trip to the NIT after knocking off Siena in overtime for the second time this season. As long as the nation’s leading assist man Jared Jordan is on the floor, Marist can hang around with anybody. Will Whittington knocking down like 12 three’s a game doesn’t hurt either.
Joel knows we are so close to conference tournaments. They actually begin on Tuesday with the Big South, Horizon and Ohio Valley kicking things off. Yet, and quite aptly, national television coverage does not begin until Thursday, March 1st. And then the calling in sick to work begins.
Joel knows whatever hopes Providence had of an NCAA Tournament berth have been dashed. The Friars lost 71-67 at the hands of Syracuse and, barring a Big East Tournament run of Syracuse proportions, Providence is done. With winnable road games left at South Florida and St. John’s, the Friars could end up 9-7 in conference and be in a good position to win some games in New York. Or at least have a winning record in the Big East, which looks good to the NIT selection committee.
Joel knows Butler’s NCAA seed keeps getting lower and lower, while BracketBusters opponent Southern Illinois is having the opposite happen.
Joel knows Air Force better turn it around in a hurry. The Falcons have dropped two in a row, including a mind-boggling loss to MWC bottom feeder TCU. With BYU coming to town on Tuesday, the Falcons have one more chance before the postseason gets underway.
Joel knows the Pac-10 conference tournament is going to be really fun after Arizona State and Oregon State get knocked out in the opening round. Even the Sun Devils and Beavers have put together some decent games and are capable of competing with anybody on a neutral floor. The question than becomes…are Arizona State and Oregon State decent teams in a great league, or has just about everybody else peaked too soon?
Joel knows it is not smart to have surprise NCAA Tournament teams before knowing the match-ups, but USC is on my short list, for now, of #7 to #10 seeds that can upset the proper #1 or #2 seed and reach the Sweet Sixteen. But first, the Trojans take the tough trip to the state of Washington for their final two games of the regular season.
Joel knows it is not good to win your conference too early. When a team has already clinched their conference championship and has no shot at an at-large bid, it becomes difficult to get motivated to win. South Alabama cruised there way to the Sun Belt championship, but lost there final three games to quite inferior opponents. The Jaguars better turn it around quickly since the winner of Middle Tennessee State and Troy awaits on Sunday. USA was upset by Troy at home on Saturday and they could run into trouble with the Trojans in the Cajun Dome next weekend if the fire isn’t relit during their week off. A similar fate awaited Austin Peay on Saturday, losing to Morehead State 77-82 at home.
Joel knows the Big Ten tournament teams are nicely sorting themselves out. Ohio State, Wisconsin, Indiana and Michigan State are in. Illinois is practically in. Purdue should end up 9-7 with home games against Minnesota and Northwestern this week and could be the sixth team, but a quality victory in Chicago would be helpful. Michigan has their fate in their own hands with home games against Michigan State and Ohio State, but I don’t see that one happening. Iowa is on the outside looking in, but the Hawkeyes are always the most dangerous team in the Big Ten Tournament for some reason. So maybe it isn’t that cut and dry, but the top five should be in and one of either Purdue, Michigan or Iowa could battle their way to the dance.
Joel knows there is nothing quite like senior night in all of sports. It is not just for the superstars playing in their last home game, but it is for players like USC’s Chris Penrose who spend four years practicing hard and rarely seeing the court. After air-balling his first attempt in mop-up time against California, Penrose drained a last second three ball to the eruption of the Trojan faithful. After the game, the players thanked the crowd and the crowd thanked the players in what has been an extremely emotional season for both parties. That is what college basketball is all about.