Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Above the Rim: Conference Tournament Preview

Hello, friends. I am Dan Elzer, SportsJudge's newest basketball columnist. Beginning today, I am going to be providing you with all of the NCAA hoops advice you need, beginning with the conference tournaments and continuing straight through March Madness.

Here is what we have on tap:

March 13th-16th at the Bobcats Arena in Charlotte
Favorites: After a very impressive win over the #6 Duke Blue Devils (25-3) on Saturday night, the #1 North Carolina Tar Heels (27-2) enter the ACC tournament as the 1 seed in the conference. Besides the title of ACC tournament champion, Duke and North Carolina are fighting for the number 1 seed in the East bracket of the NCAA tournament. This particular bracket will start in Raleigh, NC for the first two rounds, and then move to Charlotte for the regionals. This means Duke or North Carolina could potentially spend the next month playing “home” games in the state of North Carolina without boarding a plane to travel. Look for the ACC championship game to be a rematch of Saturday’s game with even more intensity and even more on the line. Clemson (22-8) is comfortably in the field of 65, so look for them to make a splash early in the week then fade off as they gear up for the NCAA tournament.
On the Bubble:
Miami (21-9), Virginia Tech (18-12), and Maryland (18-12)
Star Watch:
Tyler Hansbrough (Jr, 23.1 ppg, 10.5 reb), North Carolina
Ty Lawson (So, 12.9 ppg, 5.5 ast), North Carolina
DeMarcus Nelson (Sr, 15.2 ppg, 5.8 reb), Duke

March 12th – 15th at the Staples Center in Los Angeles
Favorites: #2 UCLA (26-3) is a very impressive team that has bought into Ben Howland’s defensive mind set. With a third straight regular season Pac-10 title under their belts, the UCLA Bruins are the favorite to win the conference tournament and secure a 1 seed in the west bracket. #7 Stanford (24-4) stumbles into the tournament with back to back losses to UCLA and USC. #23 Washington State (22-7) is a fashionable pick because of their national ranking, but they too have lost a couple of games recently and may have peaked too early in the year. This year’s true sleeper is OJ Mayo and the USC Trojans (20-10). Mayo has his team rolling into the Pac – 10 tournament winning 5 of their last 6 games, including an impressive home victory over #7 Stanford. This team is also the only Pac-10 team to beat UCLA at home this year.
On the Bubble:
Arizona (17-13), Oregon (18-12), and Arizona State (19-11)
Star Watch:
Kevin Love (Fr, 17.4 ppg, 10.9 reb), UCLA
OJ Mayo (Fr, 20.9 ppg, 4.7 reb), USC

Big East
March 12th – 15th at Madison Square Garden in New York City
Favorites: #11 Georgetown (24-4) has won two consecutive regular season Big East titles. They enter the conference tournament as the favorite fresh off an impressive victory over #12 Louisville (24-6). Georgetown has been getting solid play from their front court, but their guards really need to prove that they can be counted on late in a game. Besides the loss to the Hoyas, Louisville has recently been playing great basketball. Rick Pitino is a world-class coach who will have his kids ready to play. #13 Connecticut (23-6) is a great story this season, following their miserable 2006-07 season. Aside from a few, minor off the court issues, the Huskies will be a tough out at the Garden because of the inside presence of 7’3” Hasheem Thabeet. #19 Notre Dame (22-6) and #21 Marquette (21-7) have played well this year, but neither team is built to make the kind of run necessary to win it all. Pittsburgh (22-9) has been good in the Garden recently, most recently beating a potential 1 seed in Duke, on December 20th, but the Panthers have looked lost since the return of Levance Fields.
On the Bubble:
Syracuse (19-12) and Villanova (19-11)
Star Watch:
Roy Hibbert (Sr, 13.6 ppg, 6.4 reb), Georgetown
Luke Harangody (So, 21 ppg, 10.3 reb), Notre Dame

March 13th – 16th at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta
Favorites: #4 Tennessee (26-3) is the clear cut favorite. Bruce Pearl has no problem going 10 deep and that kind of bench does wonders when you are playing 3 games back to back. Tennessee will be fighting for a 1 seed and to prove they belong among the elite of college basketball. #16 Vanderbilt (24-5) recently beat Tennessee, but they have yet to prove that they can beat top notch teams away from their home gym. Kentucky (18-11) looked to be rounding into form late in the season, but a blow out loss to Vandy and the loss of freshman phenom Patrick Patterson, have the Wildcats scrambling.
On the Bubble:
Arkansas (20-10), Mississippi (21-9), Kentucky (18-11), and Florida (21-10)
Star Watch:
Chris Lofton (Sr, 15.6 ppg, 3.3 reb), Tennessee
Shan Foster (Sr, 20.6 ppg, 4.9 reb), Vanderbilt

March 13th-16th at the Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis
Favorites: #10 Wisconsin (26-4) has dominated during the regular season, with their only losses coming to #15 Purdue (24-7). Brian Butch has anchored a strong Badger team, but he has to continue to be effective down low if the Badgers expect to win. Purdue is the conference’s biggest surprise with the outstanding play of their freshman class, but their inexperience will come back to haunt them. #18 Indiana (25-6) has all the talent in the world, but the instability and distractions surrounding the team may be too much to overcome. With that said, NBA first round picks, DJ White and Eric Gordon can win any game they play. Tom Izzo will have the #17 Michigan State Spartans (24-7) ready to play, however they are going to need a superman effort from senior guard, Drew Neitzel, if they are going to be playing on Sunday.
On the Bubble:
Ohio State (19-12)
Star Watch:
Eric Gordon (Fr, 21.3 ppg, 3.3 reb), Indiana
DJ White (Sr, 17 ppg, 10.2 reb), Indiana
Drew Neitzel (Sr, 13.6 ppg, 4.2 ast), Michigan State
Brian Butch (Sr, 12.7 ppg, 7 reb), Wisconsin

March 13th-16th at the Sprint Center in Kansas City
Favorites: This tournament is loaded with talent and quality teams. The front runner is the #5 Kansas Jayhawks (26-3). Led by Brandon Rush, the Jayhawks started the season 20-0 and are 8-3 since then. The #9 Texas Longhorns (24-5) are 9-2 in the last 11 games, but a close loss to a very bad Texas Tech(16-14) team has me questioning if the Longhorns can stay focused. I would never count out Mike Beasley and Kansas State (20-10). Beasley is a top 3 pick in this year’s NBA draft and he has proven that he can carry Kansas State past the elite teams in the Big-12.
On the Bubble:
Baylor (20-9) and Texas A&M (21-9)
Star Watch:
DJ Augustin (So, 19.8 ppg, 5.8 ast), Texas
Mike Beasley (Fr, 26.5 ppg, 12.5 reb), Kansas State
Brandon Rush (Jr, 12.3 ppg, 5 reb), Kansas

Related Posts by Subject