Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Welcome To The Madness, Part 2

by The Rabbi, OTSL Video Editor

Yesterday, I gave you a primer on the conference tournaments that started on Wednesday.  Since then, white smoke has come out of Vatican City signaling Part 2 needs to be up...(wait, that signals something else, okay).

Onward to the final three conference tournaments (of importance) that start Thursday.

Atlantic 10 Tournament (Thursday-Sunday, BROOKLYN, New York)

Who's In:  
VCU (good transition to the A-10 this year, and despite a little bump in the road in the middle of the year, could get a Top 4 seed with a tourney win); Saint Louis (one of the hottest teams in the tourney, will definitely get a Top 4 seed with a tourney win here; amazing job getting this team together after Rick Majerus passed away in November); Butler (actually has to play in the opening round Thursday, but has enough of a great non-conference resume that they will be as high as a #5 as low as a #8 seed).

On the Bubble:  
Temple. They've been a very good team late in the season.  Had a major win the past weekend against VCU to get themselves on the cusp of a berth.  The Owls, who have won seven in a row needed that VCU win because the only win of any substance they had was against St. January.   Temple should just need one victory in the A-10 tournament to put themselves in the field of 68.  But they may need two wins to avoid the First Four.

LaSalle.  Like Temple, they got a bye to the Quarterfinals on Friday; however their 4th place finish in the A-10 may not truly be enough.  They have 21 wins, but only five against teams ranked in the RPI Top 100.  Ouch.  The Atlantic 10 is very top heavy, but LaSalle is somewhere surprisingly in the middle.  They need to win at least one more game (just like the back to back wins they had against Butler and VCU back in late January) to ensure they get to go dancing.

Games to watch:  
Temple vs. George Washington/UMass (Friday).  There were so many mid 90's memories that dealt with these three teams, the big time A-10 powers.  It seemed like every single time there was an A-10 final, one of these three teams was involved.  For Temple, it's a little more important than that this time out, as the Owls NEED a victory to get themselves into the Big Dance without having to sweat it out on Selection Sunday.  The Owls only won by one earlier last month at UMass.  Luckily for Temple, UMass has faded a little bit.

LaSalle vs. Butler/Dayton (Friday). We've mentioned LaSalle's issues: they have a boring resume, but a good enough league record in a top flight conference can get you in the tourney.  However, as we mentioned yesterday, how you finish is a very important thing and thus a loss against what will most likely be Butler could cost LaSalle a trip to the NCAA's.  

Who wins?  
Saint Louis.  12 out of 13 wins to close out their season, with that one loss in overtime.  They've been playing in a different level than the rest of the A-10, and it will show here.

ACC Tournament (Thursday-Sunday, Greensboro, NC)

Who's In:  
Duke (not the #1 seed in this tournament; undefeated with Ryan Kelly in the lineup, will be #1 seed overall if they win here); Miami (only team that can beat Duke in conference, but struggled down the stretch, still have an outside chance at a #1 seed); North Carolina (very unspectacular this year, but still can avoid being an #8/#9 seed if they go deep here); NC State (even more unspectacular, but has enough good victories to quietly avoid the bubble).

On the Bubble:
Virginia.  Talk about your ULTIMATE bubble team this week.  They've lost SEVEN times (yes SEVEN) to teams ranked outside of the RPI Top 100.  However, they beat Duke, Wisconsin, as well as fellow bubble team Tennessee.  They finished in a good enough spot in their conference to make sure they got a bye into the Quarterfinals, but they also lost four out of their last seven at the wrong time.  Just one more win in that stretch may have officially put them in.  

Maryland.  As we've said before, this is a LONNNNNG shot.  We're only keeping them here to make what is a very quiet bubble in 2013 a teeny bit more interesting.  Granted, the ACC hasn't been the murder's row conference it has been in years past (and should be again next year when Syracuse, Pitt, and Notre Dame join the fold), but the Terrapins going 8-10 in conference in a down year will not bode well for them with the Committee.  Trust me.

Matchups to Watch:  
Virginia vs. NC State (maybe) (Friday).  We'll get this matchup as long as the Wolfpack get past the Virginia Tech Hokies.  I have to believe that if the Cavaliers win, they have a decent case for their NCAA tournament berth and it really should be at the Wolfpack's expense.  A win by the Cavs will be their second this year over the Pack, and this one would be at a neutral site.  If Virginia can get over what seems to be consistently erratic play starting Friday, I think they have a really good shot to get to the ACC Semis.

ACC Final (Sunday).  If form holds, this would be Duke vs.Miami, and oh would that be glorious!  I think we should throw out their first matchup in Coral Gables in mid-January where Duke didn't have Ryan Kelly and look at the classic these two teams had at the beginning of March when Duke won 79-76 at Durham.  Miami has cooled off a tiny bit since their hot start (they were the last undefeated team in conference), but they still held on to win the ACC Regular Season Title, and they can still play with anyone in the country.

Who wins?  
Duke.  Sorry.  As much as I hate them, right now, with a full lineup, they are the best team in the country.  They showed that early in the season and they are showing it again late in the season.

Big 10 Tournament (Thursday-Sunday, Chicago)

Who's In:  
Indiana (winning the Big 10 Regular Season plus the Conference Tourney should get them a guaranteed #1 seed; they may get it regardless); Michigan (struggled a little bit of late, but should still get a #3 or #4 seed); Michigan State (still an outside shot at a #2 seed if they win the tourney here); Ohio State (won against Michigan State and at Indiana to end the season; will definitely get a #2 seed if they win here); Wisconsin (fighting between the #4, #5, #6 seed lines for the last few weeks).

On The Bubble:
Minnesota.  Started the season amazingly hot, then tailed off, then got their biggest win of the year against Indiana (ranked #1 at the time).  Of course, then they tailed off again in their last two games, losing to Purdue and Nebraska back-to-back, playing more like the 9th best team in the Big 10 than the team that ripped off 11 consecutive victories in the first half of the year.  

Illinois.  They will likely make The Dance, but their inconsistency is about as bad as that of the Golden Gophers.  Like Minnesota, they have a big victory at home against a then ranked #1 Indiana team.  That started a run where they won of five out of six, putting this team on the cusp of a NCAA berth and then they lost two out of their last three, including to the team below them in this rundown.  I have to believe they need at least one victory in the Big 10 tourney to lock up their NCAA spot.

Iowa.  They've gotten into the discussion late, due to finishing ahead of Minnesota and Illinois in the Big 10 closing the season with a 6-2 stretch.  However, when you go 1-5 against the Top 5 teams in the conference AND you have a non-conference schedule that would only make a Division II Team proud, there is a huge problem with your NCAA Tournament resume.  If Iowa gets three wins in the conference tourney, we can put them in the discussion.  Anything less and they watching from the couch when The Dance starts next week.

Games to Watch:  
Minnesota vs. Illinois (Thursday).  Yup, the two teams I just mentioned on the bubble somehow find themselves playing one another in Round One of the Big 10 tourney.  The loser of this game may sweat a little bit on Selection Sunday.  They would also put themselves in the very vocal discussion of the teams who just might have to start their NCAA play on Tuesday/Wendesday.  The winner has a chance at one more HUGE win Friday vs. Indiana.

First Semifinal (Saturday).  This could very well be Indiana vs. Michigan Part Three.  The Hoosiers won both matchups this year, by a total of NINE points.  If the amazing matchup they had in Ann Arbor this past Sunday is any indication, this could be a terrific game if both teams show their entire arsenals.  Now this match-up could also wind up being Indiana vs.Wisconsin, which could be interesting, considering the Badgers won the first meeting this year, in Bloomington.  A revenge game for the Hoosiers could add some spice to this potential Semi.

Who wins?  
Surprisingly enough, I won't go chalk here because I think this goes to the Michigan State Spartans.  I feel like they have enough experience to go through a grueling tournament like this.  Plus, they have that #2 seed to play for, so there's a good amount of motivation there.

That's it.  It's been fun these last few days (although my fingers would not say the same after all this typing).  Go forth and enjoy The Madness my friends.  I'll be on the couch for the next four days watching all the ball I need to watch.

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