The Week Ahead: NCAA Conference Tournaments (Part 2: The High Majors)

The Week Ahead: NCAA Conference Tournaments (Part 2: The High Majors)
Mar 10, 2009, 03:56 pm
The Week Ahead: NCAA Conference Tournaments (Part 2: The High Majors)

Kyle Nelson

It’s March and the madness is just starting to set in as the bubble is getting smaller and the automatic bids are getting more and more important. Thus, it’s the perfect time to kick off the conference tournament preview. This time we shift to the high major conferences, where there are more bids at stake and an ever-shrinking bubble. Scouts and fans alike will be tuning in to see whether or not the nation’s top teams are capable of delivering in the clutch and some of the best prospects in the country can power their respective teams to the NCAA tournament.

High Majors:

Atlantic Coast Conference
March 12th-March 15th
Championship on Sunday, March 15th: 1 p.m. on ESPN

The top of the ACC should keep their eyes peeled, as Boston College, Maryland, Miami, and Virginia Tech are bubble teams looking for either an automatic bid or a pair of marquee wins on the way to the championship game. The winner will more likely come from one of the North Carolina elites, but expect a challenge. Pay particular attention to the quarter finals, should Duke get a rematch with the same Boston College Eagles who upset them the last time the two teams played.

Big East Conference
March 10th-March 14th
Championship on Saturday, March 14th: 9 p.m. on ESPN

Just as in the ACC, the top of the Big East is truly elite, comprised of some of the nation’s best teams. And, as the lower half of the conference is getting weaker and teams under Providence probably don’t have a chance, the second round games have the potential to be thrilling as the underdogs get a shot at the conference middleweights. Then, watch the quarterfinals, as the top teams face a slate of upset bids. The conference seems to have seven tournament locks with Providence being the only team that has the chance to be on the right side of the bubble. Thus, expect the championship to be a battle.

Big Ten Conference
March 12th-March 15th
Championship on Sunday, March 15th: 3:30 p.m. on CBS

The Big Ten is one of the most volatile conferences in the NCAA with Michigan State, Illinois, and Purdue as virtual tournament locks, but no less than five teams on either side of the bubble. The match up to watch is the first round pairing of Minnesota and Northwestern. Neither team is a tournament lock at this point and the winner gets the honor of taking on top ranked Michigan State in the quarterfinals. A win there perhaps would be enough to get either bubble team into the NCAA tournament. Also, though Penn State has been inconsistentm they have played outstanding basketball at times this season. They shouldn’t have much trouble in the first round against Indiana, but if they win, they’ll have the opportunity to take on Purdue in the quarterfinals. Should they win this game, it might be enough to push the Nittany Lions onto the right side of the bubble. Regardless of what happens, however, this tournament has the potential to be a classic.

Big 12 Conference
March 11th-March 14th
Championship on Saturday, March 14th: 6 p.m. on ESPN

There isn’t a lot of suspense in the Big 12 as it seems as though Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri, Texas A&M, Texas, and even Oklahoma State are in to the NCAA tournament. A win for Oklahoma State would certainly seal the deal and they should have no trouble dispatching Iowa State in the first round before taking on Oklahoma in the quarterfinals. For Kansas State, the lone bubble team in the conference, it will take a quarterfinal win over either Texas or Colorado, and then a win against Kansas, Nebraska, or Baylor in the Semifinals before they can consider their ticket safely punched.

PAC-10 Conference
March 11th-March 14th
Championship on Saturday, March 14th: 6 p.m. on CBS

Washington came out of nowhere to claim the PAC-10 regular season title this year, and they’ll have a chance to prove their legitimacy by winning a tournament championship. The real drama in the PAC-10, however, rests around the Arizona Wildcats, who have overcome a lack of depth to insert themselves into the bubble conversation. At 19-12, they need to make a run in the PAC-10 tournament and get a pair of solid wins, at the very least, before they can consider themselves safe. Winning their quarterfinal match up against Arizona State on Thursday is a good place to start. If they win that, Washington is likely waiting in the semifinals. Another team to watch is UCLA, who has a favorable path to the semifinals and, after a less impressive year than usual, may be inspired to make a deep run and prove themselves. The PAC-10 tournament is always entertaining, but don’t miss any of the action this time around.

Southeastern Conference
March 12th-March 15th
Championship on Sunday, March 15th: 1 p.m. on CBS

The Southeastern Conference has consistently underperformed this year and, with only Louisiana State and Tennessee safely in according to the NCAA tournament conversation, there is sure to be a lot of intrigue in the conference tournament. Both Kentucky and Florida must win their first round match ups and, though they shouldn’t have any problems, the second round does not bode well for either team. If Kentucky wins, they face a Louisiana State team looking to avenge bad late season losses to Vanderbilt and Auburn and to solidify a high NCAA tournament seed. Florida, on the other hand, will face off against a red-hot Auburn team, who inserted themselves into the NCAA tournament conversation after winning their final four conference games. Last, but certainly not least, don’t sleep on South Carolina, who seem to be outside of the bubble right now, but could easily make a strong case by winning two games in the SEC tournament. Last year, the Southeastern Conference tournament witnessed Georgia make a surprise run to the championship and so expect nothing to be set, especially in a season this unpredictable.

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