Wednesday, March 03, 2010

2010 Conference Tournament Previews: Part II

For the complete list of conference tournament previews, as well as a schedule of when all of these games will be played, please click here.

America East:
Stony Brook narrowly won the America East with a 13-3 record, but according to both Sagarin and Pomeroy the two best teams are Vermont and Boston University. That said, Stony Brook did sweep both Vermont and Boston University during the regular season, so they will probably be picked by Vegas (should a casino in Vegas actually take bets on the America East tournament) as the favorite. But I've been picking Vermont as my personal favorite, because I just think they're the best team. And most importantly, they have been the dominant team in the conference over the past decade or so, and so their players have experience in games like this. Stony Brook's players have never been in a situation like this. The defending champs, Binghamton, actually played pretty well this season despite losing so many players in that scandal, but they have disqualified themselves from the tournament. So there really isn't a sleeper here: it's going to be either Vermont, BU or Stony Brook.

Big Sky:
Weber State won the regular season title, but Northern Colorado was only one game back, with a very impressive 24-6 overall record. Weber State is an excellent offensive team, but they are not very athletic and can struggle defensively or with aggressive rebounding teams. They split their regular season games with Northern Colorado. I give Weber State the slight edge, but it will be a close battle. A sleeper team is Montana, a team considered by both Sagarin and Pomeroy to be the second best team in the conference (both computers put Northern Colorado third).

The Colonial will have a very interesting conference tournament because of the at-large implications. Most likely it will be a one-bid conference, but there are still four teams that think they have a shot at an at-large (Northeastern, Old Dominion, VCU and William & Mary). It's possible that those four teams will be the four semifinal teams, which would make each of the semifinal games elimination games. I don't see any of these teams having a legitimate shot at an at-large without a strong run to the finals, with a very close loss in that final game. The favorite to win the tournament has to be Old Dominion, the best team this season. Old Dominion is also fighting for seed, as with a tournament win they will be in play for an 11, or even a 10 seed. They will get no worse than a 13. VCU is the top competitor, and the most likely team to knock off ODU. A sleeper team is Hofstra, an uptempo team that has given offenses in the league fits all season long.

Akron and Kent State are tied atop the league at 12-3, and both are far and away the best teams in the conference. It would be pretty surprising to see the automatic bid going to any team other than those two. Kent State beat Akron at home back in January, and they close their regular season at Akron on Friday night. I give the narrow edge to Kent State because they were pretty dominant in beating Akron in January and because I just think they're the better team. Miami of Ohio, Buffalo and Western Michigan are considered the best of the rest. But I'd look at Ohio as the best sleeper pick.

Morgan State has been far and away the best team in the conference, and is cruising into the conference tournament with a 14-1 record. They'll end up 15-1 if they can avoid a shocking home upset against a horrible Coppin State team. Morgan State is the heavy favorite, and the only team in the conference with a good shot at avoiding a 16 seed should they earn the automatic bid. The second and third placed teams in the standings are Delaware State and South Carolina State (the latter being the only MEAC team to beat Morgan State this season), but I think that the team with the best shot to take out the favorites might be Hampton.

As usual the SWAC is the worst conference in the nation. Forget avoiding a 16 seed: it's unlikely that the winner of the SWAC tournament will avoid the play-in game. The regular season champion is Jackson State, with Arkansas-Pine Bluff a couple of games back in second place. The second best team in the conference is actually probably Texas Southern, the team that is also the only SWAC team to beat Jackson State this season (not that the rest of the country had much trouble, as Jackson State went 2-10 out of conference, which is pretty par for the course in the horrendous SWAC). So while Jackson State is the favorite, I'd pick Texas Southern as the team most likely to knock them off.

Oakland was the team with all of the hype preseason, and after honing their game against a very tough out of conference schedule (opponents included Syracuse, Kansas, Michigan State, Wisconsin, Memphis and Oregon, a non-conference strength of schedule rated 6th in the nation by Pomeroy) they took care of business in conference with a 17-1 record. Their one conference loss came to IUPUI, the team that finished second in the conference with a 15-3 record. IUPUI is certainly a dangerous team (both Sagarin and Pomeroy actually rate them as better than Oakland), and while Oakland is the favorite there is no reason that IUPUI can't take them out. The sleeper team is Oral Roberts, the best defensive team in the conference.

Sun Belt:
While Isiah Thomas will likely get the most media attention, his 4-14 FIU team will not be a factor. The best team, as it's been for several straight years, was Western Kentucky. But this Western Kentucky team is nowhere near as good as it's been the last couple of years, and they actually finished in third place in the Sun Belt East at 12-6. But despite their record, I do think they're the best team, and I do think they're the favorites. But don't expect another Tournament run, as WKU is unlikely to do better than a 15 seed in the NCAA Tournament. Middle Tennessee State is probably the top contender for WKU, although Troy and North Texas have to be taken seriously since they also tied for the conference-best record of 13-5. A sleeper team is Florida Atlantic.

Gonzaga will be in the NCAA Tournament, and Saint Mary's will more likely than not get in as well. Portland still has a shot at an at-large bid as well, but not a very good shot. They'll have to win their WCC semifinal game over Saint Mary's to have any chance. Gonzaga is the obvious favorite, although they're actually not that much better than Saint Mary's, so I wouldn't be shocked to see the Gaels pull the upset. There really is no sleeper team in the WCC, as Gonzaga, Saint Mary's and Portland are so much better than everybody else.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Just a quick post...UNI held Drake scoreless for 21 minutes in the Quarterfinal game two days earlier, so the the WSU defensive shut-down was only their second best effort of the weekend. Great post.