Despite what you might think, even I cannot feign interest in all of this weekend’s conference tournaments. Tournaments without real bubble implications just don’t hold my attention. Sorry Atlantic Sun, Ohio Valley, and Summit league. (Although I will point out that Wikipedia has a great graph showing how geographically dispersed the Summit League is.) Instead I’m going to claim that there are six tournaments worth keeping your eye on, and one that’s worth watching just for the fun of it.
Just for the fun of it: Big South Bracket
For a conference rated 27th in the RPI with no shot at an at-large berth, has there ever been a conference with more intriguing teams? You have last year’s speedsters VMI, who still have the second fastest pace in D1, the Winthrop team that defeated Notre Dame in last year’s tournament, and that whole Kenny George angle at UNC Asheville. What’s not to love?
Davidson, please don’t lose! Southern Conference Bracket
I’m now actively rooting for Davidson to lose just so we can hear the topic get more debate during Championship week.
-Davidson clearly deserves an at large bid, but the numbers just aren’t there. The 20-0 record is nice, but remember when Utah St. went 17-1 in the Big West a few years ago?
-OK, but Utah St. had a weak NCSOS. Davidson went out and played the best teams.
-But Davidson lost those games.
-But they lost those games by a slim margin. North Carolina only beat Davidson by 4, UNC beat Virginia Tech by 39.
-Hey I don’t like Virginia Tech either. And what about the losses to Western Michigan, Charlotte, and NC State?
-OK, those hurt, but NC State almost beat Duke. And Western Michigan is having a great year in the MAC. And Charlotte has beaten a lot of top 100 teams.
-Yeah, but Davidson still has zero wins vs the RPI top 100.
South Alabama, please don’t lose! Sun Belt Bracket
Kyle Whelliston of ESPN said it well. The Sun Belt hasn’t been a two bid conference since 1994. Call me a pessimist, but when I look at the numbers, I think South Alabama is barely an at-large right now, and the only way they get in as an at-large is if they lose to Western Kentucky in the Sun Belt final.
Eric Maynor of Duke-slaying VCU
Will Thomas and Folarin Campbell of former Final Four GMU
So why do I feel like someone else is going to spoil the party this year?
Again, how brutal is it for Wright St. to lose the tie-breaker to Cleveland St.? While Cleveland St. has a bye into the semis, Wright St. has to win two games to reach the semis, including one tonight. Of course, Cleveland St. beat Florida St. in December to improve the conference’s overall profile, so maybe they deserve it. With other recent tournament teams including Wisconsin-Milwuakee, Valparaiso, and of course Butler in the bracket, the conference should have no problem holding my attention.
Yes, the league puts Gonzaga and St. Mary’s into the semis, virtually ensuring a title game rematch between two solid NCAA teams. But what’s wrong with the RPI saving format? Did anyone really want to see Gonzaga play Loyola Marymount again?
Ah, finally a league with some legitimate bubble teams. Illinois St. has some quality wins, but that’s only because they swept Southern Illinois and Creighton. Southern Illinois has some quality wins, but not against BCS teams. Is this a one bid league or a three bid league? Who is going to win given that the top seed hasn’t won the tournament since 1998?
Drake and Illinois St. are in the poll position for at-large bids, but they are projected to face Creighton and Southern Illinois in the semifinals. The favorites will likely have to overcome a significant crowd disadvantage since Creighton and Southern Illinois always bring huge crowds to St. Louis. It might be hard to find the semis on your cable operator, but if your FSN channel carries the games, those games should be much better than the MVC final where the teams often looked tired after 3 straight days of basketball. On the other hand, if Creighton and Southern Illinois both pull upsets and meet in the championship with both sets of fans begging for the auto-bid, well that would be must-watch TV.