Saturday, March 8, 2014

NCAA Conference Tournament Updates

(Updated: 3/12 at 11:30pm)

I'm stuck in a two-year drought of not winning any March Madness pools, and put simply, that sucks.

I have not been following college basketball since November, but I'm hoping a serious cram session can get me - and you the beneficiary of said cramming - up to speed by the time the tournament starts. Especially now that Warren Buffett has offered a BILLION dollars for a perfect bracket.

My goal is to provide conference tournament updates daily for the next week and a half and analyze which auto-qualifiers have the best chance of pulling off an upset or two in the Big Dance.

The exact format is TBD, but by the time Selection Sunday rolls around, I'm hoping this post can be my (and your) one-stop upset shopping hot spot. Just don't get into the same pools as me, please. If you do join Warren's pool and strike it rich, remember to tip your primary information source, TSB.

College Basketball Talk put together this easy-to-use schedule for all the conference tournaments.

The things I'll be looking for when trying to find a team capable of pulling the upset(s):

1. A guy that can win a game by himself. This player doesn't need to be a consistent superstar, just a guy that has proven he can get hot in stretches.
2. Size. It's possible, just not very probable, that a team lacking any rotation player over 6'8" can win against a much higher seed who typically play in the power conferences and attract that highest-skilled bug men.
3. A team that scores. Yes, I would like a superstar, but at the mid-major to low-major level, that's likely not going to happen. But, a team featuring a few double-digit scorers can see all those guys getting hot at the same time to shock someone.

On to the Dancers...

(In order of ticket punching)

Clinched on Friday, March 7th-

Ivy: Harvard

Roster / Stats

You'll notice the Ivy League isn't on the schedule above, and that's because they think they are better than everyone else so they choose not to have a postseason tournament. [Minor truth to the rumor that the Ivy League has adopted a new conference logo for next year of: The Fun Stops Here.]

Anyway, Harvard secured the auto-berth from the Ivy for the third straight season by virtue of winning the regular season, and they have a very good chance of pulling off a first round upset like they did last year as a 14-seed against 3-seed New Mexico.

The Crimson sit at 26-4. They have six guys that all average between 9 and 14 points per game and play the majority of the team's minutes, which I love. Wesley Saunders, their leading scorer, has gone for 20 or more in five games this season, and their second-leading scorer has hit the 20-point mark three times on the year.

All low seeds are going to have warts, and the biggest one for this team is its size. None of their regulars is taller than 6'7" so they could be in trouble if they match up with a bigger team (Captain Obvious Alert). Still, there's plenty of reason for hope here.

Clinched on Saturday, March 8th- 

The Good: The Iowa State-Oklahoma State game was incredibly entertaining, and I loved this:

The Bad: My biggest sleeper - Green Bay - was eliminated today, likely saving me a few incorrect picks in my real bracket.

Just one team punched a ticket today: EKU.

Ohio Valley: Eastern Kentucky

Roster / Stats

EKU knocked off top-seeded Belmont in the OVC Final. The Colonels start four guards which is incredibly troubling to me, and their fifth starter is only 6'8". It stands to reason that they rank 350th in the nation in rebounding. That being said, these guards can play a little bit. Glenn Cosey averages 19 points per game, and four other players average over 9.

I'm not thrilled with this team making the Dance, but I guess it's possible they could knock off a top seed if that opponent had some weaker guards. I like the superstar factor. One more reason for hesitation: the Colonels lost by 25 earlier in the year at Wisconsin.

Clinched on Sunday, March 9th-

This was actually a crushing day for three teams I had high hopes for: Towson, Vermont, and Davidson. Aside from Harvard, my sleepers are dropping like flies. Officially, three teams clinched today although Wichita State clinched a looong time ago, unofficially.

Missouri Valley: Wichita State

This post is meant to find sleepers, not to rehash how great the only defeated team in America is. Sure they haven't played the toughest schedule, but they have have won every game they've played. Give them a lot of credit. They deserve it.

Atlantic Sun: Mercer

Roster / Stats

The Bears upset Dunk City, Florida Gulf Coast, for the auto-berth. I love that they have five senior starters, including Daniel Coursey who registers at 6'10'. They score too (almost 80 per) and have beaten some big conference opponents including Ole Miss and Seton Hall. Unfortunately, they only have one player that averages in double-figures, and Coursey secures less than seven boards a game. How is that possible in the Atlantic Sun?

I haven't made up my mind on these guys just yet, but the seniors will make me give them an extra long look especially if they are matched against a perennial tournament underachiever like Wisconsin or Kansas.

Big South: Coastal Carolina

Roster / Stats

I try to look for the good in all of these auto-qualifiers, and the Chanticleers have a lot of good for a team that will likely be a 16-seed next week.

They are 10th in the country in rebounding and have three guards that score over 14 points per game. They even have a little bit of size with the 6'10" El Hadji Ndieguene manning the middle. The bad news is that after watching the Big South final, I just don't think they can hang with any of the big boys. Nice run, but I think it's one and done for these guys.

Clinched on Monday, March 10th-

MAAC: Manhattan

Roster / Stats

The Jaspers have the superstar I look for in my sleepers (George Beamon - who also has a superstar name), but I have to admit that I wasn't impressed watching these guys in the MAAC Final. Their starting PG Michael Alvarado was limited by a facial injury and didn't look comfortable wearing a mask.

Maybe they can ride Beamon, but I'm just not seeing it.

CAA: Delaware

Roster / Stats

The Blue Hens ride their horses. In the CAA title game, three of their starters played all 40 minutes while the other two logged 34 minutes apiece. They start four guards which I don't like, but three of those guards average over 18 points per game. These guys can put the ball in the hoop, and they take care of the rock too.

These guys are dangerous. 

Full disclosure: My DVR didn't cooperate so this is the only team I haven't actually seen play this year of all auto-qualifiers.

Southern: Wofford

Roster / Stats

G Karl Cochran can play a little, but this team will be one and done. The talent level just isn't there.

I'll save you the Google search: Wofford is in South Carolina.

Clinched on Tuesday, March 11th-

West Coast: Gonzaga

Roster / Stats

It's March which means we will inevitably be talking about the Bulldogs. I'll have more on these guys soon, but they can win a few games if things break right.

Summit: North Dakota St.

Roster / Stats

I'll have more details in the next day or two, but the Bison are live 'dogs with a shot at the Sweet 16. 

Northeast: Mt. St. Mary's

Roster / Stats

Don't waste your time here.

Horizon: Milwaukee

Roster / Stats

Or here.

Clinched on Wednesday, March 12th-

Patriot: American

Roster / Stats
The Eagles have three double-digit scorers and play some solid D, but the talent level just doesn't seem to be there. I won't discount them entirely because they also have a 6'10" player, Tony Wroblicky, that hits the glass a bit.

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