Tournament play gets underway for big-time conferences
Conference tourney play gets down to big business with the major conferences beginning action today.
GIVE Boise State some credit for an impressive rebound, Larry Krystkowiak the award for traveler of the year, and how on earth did former NFL quarterback Jeff George and the Toronto Maple Leafs get into a report about college basketball conference tournaments?
Must be the Madness of March.
At Brooklyn, N.Y.
12-Fordham vs. 13-George Mason, 6:30
11-Duquesne vs. 14-Saint Louis, 9
8-Massachusetts vs. 9-La Salle, 12
5-VCU vs. Fordham/George Mason, 2:30
7-St. Bonaventure vs. 10-Saint Joseph's, 6:30
6-G. Washington vs. Duquesne/SLU, 9
1-Davidson vs. UMass/La Salle, 12
4-Richmond vs. VCU/Fordham/GMU, 2:30
2-Dayton vs. St. Bona./SJU, 6:30
3-Rhode Island vs. GW/Duq./SLU, 9
Times: 1:30 & 4
Semifinal winners, 1 (CBS)
NCAA Tourney prospects: Davidson played its way in by winning its last nine. Dayton also is likely in. VCU staggered down the stretch and better not lose tomorrow.
Fun facts: Davidson's Tyler Kalinoski comes from very athletic stock. His father was a d-back at Purdue in the 1980s when Jeff George was the quarterback. He has an uncle who played for the Baltimore Orioles, an aunt who won four soccer titles at North Carolina and a grandfather who played 2 years in the NHL (with the Maple Leafs and Canucks) and 5 more in the WHA in the 1970s . . . VCU went 5-6 after stud point guard Briante Weber ripped up his knee. VCU was 17-3 when he went down. Weber was only 12 steals shy of setting the D-I career record.
At New York
8-Seton Hall vs. 9-Marquette, 7
7-DePaul vs. 10-Creighton, 9:30
1-Villanova vs. Seton Hall/Marquette, 12
4-Providence vs. 5-St. John's, 2:30
2-Georgetown vs. DePaul/Creighton, 7
3-Butler vs. 6-Xavier, 9:30
Times: 7 & 9:30
Semifinal winners, 8 (FS1)
NCAA Tourney prospects: Villanova is on the cusp of its first No. 1 seed since 2006 (made it to the Elite Eight that year). Butler, Georgetown, Providence and St. John's are in, and Xavier should be OK. A win by X over Butler in tomorrow's quarters would clinch it.
Fun facts: Four of the 10 Big East teams made it to the NCAAs last year. Six are on their way this season . . . Villanova's only conference losses were to Georgetown and Seton Hall. The Wildcats won the rematches by 16 and 26 points, respectively . . . Seton Hall went 4-12 after beating Villanova. It got so bad, the Pirates mascot put patches over both eyes.
12-Nebraska vs. 13-Penn St., 4:30
11-Minnesota vs. 14-Rutgers, 6:55
8-Illinois vs. 9-Michigan, 12
5-Iowa vs. Nebraska/Penn St., 2:25
7-Indiana vs. 10-Northwestern, 6:30
6-Ohio St. vs. Minnesota/Rutgers, 8:55
1-Wisconsin vs. Illinois/Michigan, 12
4-Purdue vs. Iowa/Nebraska/PSU, 2:25
2-Maryland vs. Indiana/N'western, 6:30
3-Michigan St. vs. OSU/Minn./Rutgers, 8:55
Times: 1 & 3:25
Semifinal winners, 3:30 (CBS)
NCAA Tourney prospects: Wisconsin is in and trying to climb its way up to a No. 1 seed. Maryland, Iowa, Michigan State, Ohio State are firm. Indiana, Purdue and Illinois are on the ledge.
Fun facts: Either Michigan State or Ohio State has won the last five Big Ten tourneys. Wisky last won it in 2008 . . . A 2-5 slump put Iowa at 15-10 in mid-February. The Hawkeyes closed with six consecutive wins to take the heat off coach Fran McCaffery. With two wins already over Ohio State and another over North Carolina, Iowa could be a top-five seed with a run in the conference tournament . . . Nebraska's Terran Pettway offered to resign as team captain during a midseason slump prompted by a recurrence of soft-tissue cancer in his mom, Joetta. "I felt I was being selfish," Pettway told the Associated Press, "and I felt like I was letting [my teammates] down."
At Kansas City, Mo.
8-Kansas St. vs. 9-TCU, 7
7-Texas vs. 10-Texas Tech, 9:30
4-Baylor vs. 5-West Virginia, 12:30
1-Kansas vs. K-State/TCU, 3
2-Iowa St. vs. Texas/Texas Tech, 7
3-Oklahoma vs. 6-Oklahoma St., 9:30
Times: 7 & 9:30
Semifinal winners, 6 (ESPN)
NCAA Tourney prospects: Kansas, Iowa State, Oklahoma, West Virginia and Baylor are in. Oklahoma State could use a win over Oklahoma and Texas needs to beat Texas Tech and Iowa State.
Fun facts: Kansas has won at least a share of 11 consecutive conference regular-season crowns. The Jayhawks went on to win only six of the 10 conference tournaments in that span . . . This is the inaugural year for the Julius Erving Award given to the nation's best small forward. Oklahoma State's Le'Bryan Nash and Texas' Jonathan Holmes are among the 15 finalists . . . Texas started 7-0 and was ranked sixth in early December. The Longhorns went 5-9 midseason and now reside in Bubbleville.
At Birmingham, Ala.
7-Texas-San Antonio vs. 10-FIU, 1
6-M. Tennessee vs. 11-Charlotte, 3:30
5-W. Kentucky vs. 12-Marshall, 7
8-N. Texas vs. 9-Rice, 9:30
2-UTEP vs. UTSA/FIU, 1
3-Old Dominion vs. MT/Charlotte, 3:30
4-UAB vs. WKU/Marshall, 7
1-La. Tech vs. N. Texas/Rice, 9:30
Times: 4 & 6:30
Semifinal winners, 3:30 (FS1)
NCAA Tourney prospects: This probably is a one-bid league. Old Dominion came into the week with a 36 RPI and wins over LSU and VCU. But the Monarchs also have lost to three teams with RPIs worse that 150 - UAB (177), Middle Tennessee (181) and UT-San Antonio (225). That won't get it done.
Fun facts: This is the third regular-season conference crown for Louisiana Tech. It won the Sun Belt in 1999 and CUSA last year. It failed to win the conference tournament each time, however . . . Credit to the Texas-San Antonio sports information department for unearthing this one: Brooks Thompson is one of nine D-I coaches who were first-round NBA picks. The others are Johnny Dawkins, Stanford; Bryce Drew, Valparaiso; Bobby Hurley, Buffalo; Dan Majerle, Grand Canyon; Danny Manning, Wake Forest; Scott Padgett, Samford; Reggie Theus, Cal State Northridge; Rex Walters, San Francisco.
4-Bowling Green 88, 12-Ball St. 75
7-Akron 76, 10-Northern Illinois 52
8-Eastern Michigan 62, 9-Miami (Ohio) 61, (ot)
6-Western Michigan 82, 11-Ohio 74
Bowling Green vs. E. Michigan, 6:30
Western Michigan vs. Akron, 9
4-Toledo vs. Weds. early winner, 6:30
3-Kent St. vs. Weds. late winner, 9
1-C. Michigan vs. Thurs. early winner, 6:30
2-Buffalo vs. Thurs. late winner, 9
Semifinal winners, 7:30 (ESPN2)
NCAA Tourney prospects: This is a one-bid league.
Fun facts: Top-seeded Central Michigan was picked to finish fifth in the West Division. The last time the Chippewas were in the NCAA Tournament was in 2003, when they upset sixth-seeded Creighton. Chris Kaman had 12 points in that game for CMU . . . Cleveland has hosted this tournament since 2000 and a recent agreement will keep it there at least through 2023 . . . Buffalo, the No. 2 seed, played at Wisconsin in December and led by one at the half. Wisky came back to win by 12.
At Las Vegas
8-New Mexico vs. 9-Air Force, 3
7-UNLV vs. 10-Nevada, 5:30
1-Boise St. vs. New Mexico/Air Force, 3
4-Wyoming vs. 5-Utah St., 5:30
2-San Diego St. vs. UNLV/Nevada, 9
3-Colorado St. vs. 6-Fresno St., 11:30
Times: 9 & 11:30
Semifinal winners, 6 (CBS)
NCAA Tourney prospects: Boise State and San Diego State are in. Colorado State could use a win over Fresno State in the quarters.
Fun facts: Boise State started 0-3 in league play and closed it by winning 14 of 15, all without star swingman Anthony Drmic, who suffered a season-ending ankle injury in December. When the seniors were freshman, Boise State went 3-11 and finished last in the MWC. This year, they were 14-5 . . . San Diego State allows only 53.4 points per game, second in the nation to Kentucky . . . UNLV's Goodluck Okonoboh is a 35 percent free throw shooter and a 53 percent field goal shooter. Good luck figuring that out.
At Las Vegas
8-California vs. 9-Washington St., 3:10
5-Arizona St. vs. 12-USC, 5:40
7-Oregon St. vs. 10-Colorado, 9:10
6-Stanford vs. 11-Washington, 11:40
1-Arizona vs. Cal/WSU, 3:10
4-UCLA vs. ASU/USC, 5:40
2-Oregon vs. Oregon St./Colo., 9:10
3-Utah vs. Stanford/UW, 11:40
Times: 6:10 & 11:45
Semifinal winners, 11:05 (ESPN)
NCAA Tourney prospects: Arizona is in the hunt for a No. 1 seed, but the Wildcats are likely looking at a 2. Utah and Oregon are in. UCLA could play Arizona in the semis. A win there might be enough to get the Bruins into the NCAAs.
Fun facts: Arizona's three losses were on the road by a total of nine points, but all to teams with bad RPIs entering the week: Arizona State (83), UNLV (99) and Oregon State (114) . . . Utah avoided bad losses until getting bit by Washington (109) in the season finale. Freshman Jakob Poeltl is from Austria. A big reason he landed at Utah was that coach Larry Krystkowiak was able to fly to Austria twice to recruit him. The Salt Lake Tribune cited benefactor John Huntsman for helping with the costs. Stuff like that is why they named their arena for him . . . Constitution High product Savon Goodman is averaging 13 points and nine rebounds in his last nine games for Arizona State.
At Nashville, Tenn.
12-Mississippi St. vs. 13-Auburn, 7
11-South Carolina vs. 14-Missouri, 9:30
9-Florida vs. 8-Alabama, 1
5-Texas A&M vs. MSU/Auburn, 3:30
7-Vanderbilt vs. 10-Tennessee, 7
6-Mississippi vs. S. Caro./Missouri, 9:30
1-Kentucky vs. Florida/Alabama, 1
4-LSU vs. TAMU/Miss. St./Auburn, 3:30
2-Arkansas vs. Vand./Tennessee, 7
3-Georgia vs. Miss/S.C./Missouri, 9:30
Times: 1 & 3:30
Semifinal winners, 1 (ESPN)
NCAA Tourney prospects: Arkansas, Georgia and LSU are safely in. Mississippi needs to avoid a loss in the quarterfinals against either South Carolina (15-15) or Missouri (9-22). Reports that the Selection Committee will put Kentucky directly into the Final Four are untrue - unless they appear on Twitter.
Fun facts: Say what you want about Kentucky's John Calipari, but the guy is doing a remarkable job coaching. The Wildcats (31-0) have gotten better seemingly each week . . . Arkansas would figure to be Kentucky's biggest threat, but UK blew the tails off the Hogs in their only meeting . . . LSU gave the Wildcats its closest shave before losing by two. Texas A&M played them into double overtime and Mississippi took them to overtime, but that was in January, when Kentucky was still finding its way.
At Katy, Texas
5-McNeese St. vs. 8-S.E. Louisiana, 6
6-Nicholls St. vs. 7-New Orleans, 8:30
4-N'western St. vs. McNeese St./SELa., 6
3-Texas A&M-CC vs. Nich. St.-UNO, 8:30
1-S.F. Austin vs. Thurs. early winner, 6
2-S. Houston St. vs. Thurs. late winner, 8:30
Semifinal winners, 9:30 (ESPN2)
NCAA Tourney prospects: This is a one-bid league.
Fun facts: Stephen F. Austin is gunning for its second consecutive conference tournament championship. The Lumberjacks were a 12-seed in last year's NCAA Tournament and beat VCU in their opening game . . . SFA's Brad Underwood became the winningest second-year coach in NCAA history with his 59th victory in the season finale. He surpassed North Carolina's Bill Guthridge, who won 58 from 1997-99.