It’s been a busy start to the conference tournament with still a long way to go. So far we have had the usual upsets, close calls, stars getting suspensions before tip-off, and refs screwing teams out of possible upset wins.
The Big East tournament has been full of everything so far. Villanova choked away a 17 point second half lead to a team that won’t be playing in ANY post season tournaments in South Florida. Jay Wright’s Wildcats for a second straight year are on a tailspin out of control as the season comes to an end. They have finished this year losing 10 of 15 and 5 in a row. Will this nose dive keep them out of the big dance? If you think that you more than likely rode a short bus to school. Villanova will get in but their seeding will not be pleasant and I wouldn’t bet on them to be there long at all. South Florida could bot use the momentum of knocking off Villanova though as they got their butts kicked with ease by Cincinnati.
The Bearcats got 25 points from hometown beast Yancy Gates and whether or not they can knock off Notre Dame later ( I like their chances by the way ) it appears that Cincinnati will be back in the tournament for the first time since Bob Huggins took them there in 2005. While I think Cincinnati will pull off an upset later tonight.
Connecticut has already done it….the legand of Kemba Walker will continue in New York. UConn knocked out the top seeded Pittsburgh Panthers today 76-74 as Walker did what he does best, finishing off a team with a shot at the buzzer. Kemba scored 24 total points and the Huskies are advancing to the semifinals to face the Syracuse. The Huskies haven’t won the Big East tournament since their National Championship year of 2004.
St.John’s “luck” and by luck I mean the refs completely screwing the pooch in their second game. After slipping past Rutgers yesterday the Red Storm lost just their second BIg East game in Madison Square Garden this year and was to the same team…Syracuse. The Orangemen zone and size gives the smaller St.John’s team troubles.
Heading into the Big 12 tournament the Baylor Bears needed a good run to get off the bubble and secure a bid back to the tournament. Scott Drew’s team made the Elight Eight last year but lost several key players and despite a solid recruiting class have underachieved badly this year. Going into their 1st game of the tournament though, star Freshman center Perry Jones was declared ineligible. Now this was a big blow to Baylor but facing a sorry Oklahoma team it shouldn’t have effected them to the point of getting their asses kicked the way they did. Losing to the Sooners 84-67 and never once showing life. After that pathetic of a performance I would hope Scott Drew even turns down a NIT bid as punishment for his players and himself.
Colorado is another team on that bubble. First year coach Tad Boyle has done a great job this year. With two college superstar player in Alec Burks and Cory Higgins this Buffaloes team is very dangerous. Colorado got a scare versus a bad but big-hearted Iowa State team in their 1st round match. Mr. Burke wasn’t going to allow that upset to occur. Burke put up 29 points, 25 of them in the second half and grabbed 15 rebounds as the Buffaloes held on to a 77-75 much-needed win. Already beating Missouri, Texas and now Kansas State three times ( beating Wildcats today ), I see no reason to keep Colorado out of the big dance. Yes the Buffaloes are a two-man team but they are two damn good players. In todays win Higgins led them with 28 points, while Burks continued to be unstoppable scoring 24 points. I know I have been horrible at predictions but I am going on record as saying Kansas better be careful tomorrow cause I reall like this Colorado team to pull off the upset.
Another team who was fighting for its life in the Big 12 and their coach may be fighting for his job was Oklahoma State and Travis Ford. The Cowboys finished the conference season 6-10 and needed at least a conference title to get a tournament bid. They didn’t get that but unlike Baylor they didn’t roll over and die either. Oklahoma State knocked off a Nebraska team in their first game who needed just one win to get in and then today gave Kansas all they wanted before falling 63-62. Kansas and Bill Self teams are getting a bad reputation for playing down to competition in tournament play, both conference and NCAA so this close call should not come as to much of a shock.
SEC early tournament games have been as boring as expected much like their conference. Georgia dominate one of the worst teams in the country Auburn as expected and Mississippi cruised past a equally bad South Carolina team. Georgia will now face SEC West champ Alabama which should be a much better game. I am a huge fan of Anthony Grant ( Alabama ) and Mark Fox ( Georgia ), while despite my jokes about how bad the SEC is ( and it is pretty bad ) both these team are well coached and have NBA talent on them. Georgia’s Trey Thompkins will be a 1st round pick if he decides to leave early and Alabama’s JaMychal Green is a complete player as there is in college basketball. If for no other reason these to matching up against each other is worth watching this game.
Kentucky will get a chance at revenge versus Ole Miss in their 1st game. Ole Miss was one of many teams the Wildcats lost a close game to on the road this year after Rebels guard Chris Warren hit a clutch 3-pointer to win the game. I like Warren and fellow Senior and backcourt mate Zach Grahm have been solid this year but they were lucky to knock off Kentucky earlier in the season. Kentucky will roll in this game. Unless you’re a UK fan ( feel bad for you if you are ) then skip watching this game and direct your attention to one of the better conference tournament games going on somewhere else.
In the early ACC games, Miami (FL) and Boston College both rolled to wins. I could care less. Miami will get rolled up and smoked by North Carolina tomorrow and while Boston College may knock off Clemson (lost to them 77-69 this season), it really doesn’t matter. ACC is a two team league (what a shock) and all other games are just time fillers before Duke and North Carolina have their rubber match of the season in the ACC title game.
In the only Big Ten game concluded at time I post this, Northwestern ended Tubby Smith’s Minnesota season. The Gophers were looking solid at the beginning of the year but bad luck and injuries derailed this season and may have ended Tubby’s time in the twin cities. Northwestern gets a shot at Ohio State now. The Wildcats gave the Buckeyes all they wanted earlier in the year, making them slowdown the game and keeping it at Northwestern’s pace. Don’t expect a repeat of this as Thad Matta’s Ohio State Buckeyes should and will roll but don’t forget I called them to get upset in the next game. Of course I picked Pittsburgh to win the Big East tournament so it’s obvious I know nothing about what I am talking about.