Sunday, March 8, 2009

Conference Tournament Countdown: MEAC, MAC, WAC

[Editor's Note: SportsJudge continues it's breakdown of all 30 conference tournaments leading up to March Madness with this evening's preview of the MEAC, MAC, and WAC Championships.]

MEAC (previewed by Kevin Fenstermacher)

The Morgan State Bears have all but ran through the competition they face in the MEAC this season. Led by Reggie Holmes (16.5 PPG, 5.4 RPG), Marquise Kately (11.0 PPG, 5.3 RPG), and Kevin Thompson (9.1 PPG, 7.2 RPG) they finished the conference regular season 13-3. They even pulled off an upset win at Maryland midway through the season. They aren’t a team to be taken lightly and barring a surprise slip up they will be in the big dance come mid-March.

Morgan State does, however, have one foe they want to avoid in the MEAC tournament. The 8-8 Hampton Pirates have given Morgan State two of its three conference losses. That would make Hampton (even though finishing 7th in the conference) a strong contender to upset the MEAC regular season champ and head to the field of 65. South Carolina State, Bethune-Cookman, NC A&T (sounds like a phone company), Coppin State, and Norfolk State all finished with better conference records than Hampton. They will all be rooting strongly for Hampton to get their shot at taking down Morgan State before the final round, since none of them have been capable of doing so.

Look for Morgan State to cruise into the tournament this year. They have trounced the MEAC (outside of Hampton of course) and should easily advance into the dance.

Brian Doyle: Morgan State
Kevin Fenstermacher: Morgan State
Mike Colligan: Morgan State

Western Athletic Conference (previewed by Mike Colligan)

On Tuesday, the Western Athletic Conference tournament kicks off from Reno, Nevada. Utah State grabbed the top seed with a 14-2 record but after reeling off a 19-game winning streak earlier this season, the Aggies have lost 3 of their past 6 and seem to be questioning themselves. They were pummeled by #2 seed and tournament host Nevada last week.

Nevada might be the team to watch out for in this tournament and the future, as they feature a slew of talented young players, including super-freshman Luke Babbitt. Unfortunately, lack of focus can affect a young team and this was obviously the case when Nevada fell to last-place Fresno State just two days prior to spanking Utah State.

If there's a team able to pull of a big upset in this year's tournament it's probably #4 Boise State. The Broncos put up a ton of points, including over 100 a few times this season, but defensive lapses will keep them from reaching the big dance. In the end, a hot Nevada team on their home court is too tough for me to pass up.

Brian Doyle: Utah State
Kevin Fenstermacher: Nevada
Mike Colligan: Nevada

MAC (previewed by Brian Doyle)

The Mid-American conference is split into two divisions, with each division winner and the top two non-division winners getting a bye in the first round of the MAC tournament in Cleveland. Coming into today, the last regular season date in MAC play, four MAC teams in the East division sit at 10-5 in the conference, while Kent St. sits in fifth place in the East at 9-6. Meanwhile in the MAC West only Ball St. and W. Michigan have a chance to finish the season at .500 in conference play, heading into Sunday with 7-8 records.

Look for the conference champion to come from the MAC East, where Miami (OH), Akron, Bowling Green, and Buffalo are all tied at the top. Their finals games may make all the difference in their tournament chances, wrapping up a top four seed is the difference between playing four days straight to win the championship versus that extra day of rest. Buffalo limps into the tournament, having lost five of there last six after a nine game winning streak to start conference play off at 9-1. Buffalo shouldn’t be totally discounted, they seem to be streaky, and can play with the best teams in the country as they showed by playing UConn to a tough four point loss.

Similarly, Miami (OH) has played a slew of tough non-conference opponents, including visits to UCLA, Pitt, Xavier, West Virginia, and Dayton, and managed to keep most of those games fairly close. The RedHawks generally prefer to play at a slower pace, keeping most of their games low scoring, but they still do manage to have two players in Michael Bramos and Kenny Hayes who average in double-digit scoring.

Akron, much like Buffalo, had a long winning streak (seven games) earlier this season, but have since shown some inconsistency with a 3-3 record in their last six. Akron spreads their scoring fairly evenly among their players, making them. Meanwhile, Bowling Green is entering the tournament playing the best out of the top teams, heading into Sunday with a 9-3 record in their last twelve games. Bowling Green is led by seniors Brian Moten and Nate Miller, and like other teams in the MAC, they generally play good defense, which means low scoring games. In a conference that could be won by a handful of teams this year, look for Bowling Green to come out on top and get the automatic bid.

Brian Doyle: Bowling Green
Kevin Fenstermacher: Buffalo
Mike Colligan: Buffalo




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1 comments:

Emily said...

I agree with Philly. They have no chance at the tourney if they dont win at least one conference game.