Showing posts with label Conference Tournament. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Conference Tournament. Show all posts

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Conference Tourney Semis, Championships Matchups

Big East: Syracuse, Louisville Advance

After going 6 OTs on Thursday night, Syracuse needed just one extra period to knock off West Virginia, 74-69, to advance to the Big East Tournament Finals. Eric Devendorf led the Orange attack with 23 points, hitting 8 of 17 shots overall, including 4 of 8 three-pointers. The Orange shot only 42%, but hit the offensive boards hard, swiping 18 away from the Mountaineers.

Earlier in the day, Louisville lived up to the promise of their #1 seeding, kicking undersized Villanova into the ranks of the defeated, 69-55.

The Wildcats built an 8-point lead by the half, but Louisville used a 17-2 run at the start of the second period to grab a 43-36 lead. Villanova eventually tied the game at 50 on a Dwayne Anderson tip-in at 8:14, though they could not sustain their run as the Cardinals ran off 10 straight points to take control of the game for good, holding Villanova to just a 3-pointer and a pair of free throws over the final 8 minutes.

Earl Clark led the scoring parade with 17. Jerry Smith added 16 for the Cardinals.

ACC: Duke, N. Carolina Survive Scares

North Carolina and Duke appear headed toward a third showdown as they slipped past determined foes in the ACC quarterfinals on Friday. Carolina rode their big hoss, Tyler Hansbrough, to a 79-76 win in an afternoon tilt with West Virginia. Hansbrough scored a game-high 28 points, going 10-10 from the free throw line and hauling down 8 rebounds. Despite the game effort, the 18-14 Hokies will have to sweat it out until Sunday afternoon when the NCAA field is announced. With the ACC likely to send 7 teams to the tournament, W.Va. is probably headed to the NIT.

Later in the evening, Gerald Henderson's layup with 35 seconds left held up as Duke overcame Boston College, 66-65 to advance to the semifinals. duke scored on 22 first half points, and got just 3 points from their usually-productive bench, but Kyle Singler shouldered the load with 26 points, 8 rebounds and 6 blocked shots for the Blue Devils. Both Duke and Boston College seem assured of getting NCAA invitations.

In the other two quarterfinal games, Maryland kept its hopes alive by downing Wake Forest, 75-64. Greivis Vasquez scored 22 points for the 20-12 Terps. Florida State took care of business, getting past gritty Georgia Tech, 64-62, to reach the semis.

On Saturday, the Seminoles play the Tar Heels at 1:30. Duke and Maryland go at it at 4:00.

Baylor to Meet Mizzou in in 12 Finals

In the Big 12, the Baylor Bears appear to have played themselves into the NCAA picture by winning three straight and reaching the finals of the conference tournament against Missouri. The Bears finished the regular season at 5-11 in the conference, but has knocked off Nebraska, Kansas and Texas along the way. Missouri advanced to the finals with a relatively easy win over Oklahoma State, 67-59. The Big 12 finals are at 6:00 pm Saturday. Baylor would appear to have to win the game, securing the automatic invite, in order to get into the main event.

SEC: Kentucky Down and Out

The Kentucky Wildcats continued their downward spiral, losing to LSU, 67-58, for their sixth loss in their last seven games. The Wildcats probably won't be a feature of the NCAA tourney, as they have floundered badly down the stretch. LSU appears to be on track to take the tournament championship after breezing to the SEC West title.

In other SEC quarterfinal games, Mississippi St. upset South Carolina, 82-68, winning their 4th straight, and possibly having donw enough to impress the tournament committee. The Bulldogs are 12-12 and went 9-7 in the SEC. They face LSU in one semifinal game on Saturday.

On the other side of the draw, Tennessee thumped Alabama, 86-62 and Auburn slipped past Florida, 61-58. The Tigers and Vols have a semifinal date Saturday, with the winner advancing to Sunday's final.

PAC-10: USC Surprises UCLA

USC played its way into the NCAA field by ousting UCLA from the PAC-10 tourney with a 65-55 win Friday night. The Trojans blasted the Bruins, sending them to an early exit along with PAC-10 champ Washington, which fell to Arizona St., 75-65. The Sun Devils pressured the Huskies into one of their worst shooting performances of the season, holding them to 37.5% from the field.

The Sun Devils play USC on Saturday for the automatic bid and PAC-10 tourney title. Tip time is 3:00 pm Pacific.

Big Ten: Buckeyes Only Surprise

The heavyweights in the Big Ten held sway in quarterfinal games, as Michigan State, Purdue and Illinois all advanced. Ohio State provided a mild upset, sending Wisconsin home with a 61-57 defeat.

The Buckeyes have the misfortune of meeting Michigan State in the semis on Saturday, but at 21-9, and 10-8 in Big Ten play, Ohio State has probably proven themselves worthy of inclusion in the NCAA field. Purdue and Illinois play in the other semifinal game Saturday. The Fighting Illini have won both meetings with the Boilermakers this season.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Georgetown, USC Roll; ACC, SEC, Big 12, Big 10 on Selection Sunday

The Big East and PAC-10 conference tournaments ended yesterday not with a couple of big bangs, but with a pair of thuds, those being the lopsided scores by which Georgetown and Oregon completed their conquests.

Today being Selection Sunday, I'll be back blogging later tonight with initial bracket impressions. On Monday and Tuesday, I'll break down the brackets and provide picks the rest of the way. Have a fun day!

Georgetown 65 Pittsburgh 42 - Georgetown romped over the Panthers, holding Pitt to just 26% shooting and limiting them to their lowest point total of the season. Fatigue may have been a factor for Pitt, as their semi-final game against Louisville ended just after 11:00 on Friday night.

Excuses aside, Georgetown absolutely dominated in the paint where Roy Hibbert scored 18 points on 8-10 shooting and hauled down 11 rebounds. By contrast, Pitt center Aaron Gray was just 1-13 for 3 points. He had just 5 rebounds.

Jeff Green, hero of the Hoyas' semi-final win over Notre Dame, was the game's leading scorer with 21 points. The win should boost Georgetown to at least a #2 seed and possibly push Pitt to a #3 or 4.

Oregon 81 USC 57 - Oregon's Bryce Taylor was simply perfect. The 6'5" junior was 11-11 from the field, including 7-7 3-pointers, and 3-3 from the foul line for a game-high 32 points. Led by his scoring barrage the Ducks turned a 13-point halftime lead into a runaway. Aaron Brooks and Tajuan Porter had 15 and 16, respectively, and the Ducks clicked at 54% from the field.

Most of the damage was done from the perimeter as Brooks, Porter and Taylor were a combined 12-18 from beyond the arc. USC shot only 38%, and though they hit a respectable 7-18 of their 3-pointers, they were no match for the quicker Ducks who streaked to the PAC-10 tourney title.

In other tournament action:

SEC Tourney
Florida 80 Mississippi 59 - The Gators advanced to the SEC finals, seeking their 3nd straight SEC tournament championship.

Arkansas 81 Mississippi St. 72 - Charles Thomas and Sonny Weems each scored 18 to lead Arkansas past the Bulldogs and into the SEC finals against Florida. At 21-12 (7-9, SEC), the Razorbacks may have to beat Florida to earn a trip to the NCAA tournament.

Big 10 Tourney
Ohio State 63 Purdue 52 - Greg Oden scored 17 points and grabbed a tournament record 19 rebounds, sending Ohio State to the finals.

Wisconsin 53 Illinois 41 - Alando Tucker scored 21 points and Kammron Taylor had 16 to send the Badgers to a rubber game rematch with Ohio State.

Big 12 Tourney
Texas 69 Oklahoma State 64 - Kevin Durant scored 26 points and teammate AJ Abrams had 20 as the Longhorns outlasted the Cowboys.

Kansas 67 Kansas St. 61 - Mario Chalmers had 16 points to lead the Jayhawks over a determined K-State to the Big 12 finals.

ACC Tourney
NC State 72 Virginia Tech 64 - The Wolfpack continued their unlikely march through the ACC to the finals today against the Tar Heels.

North Carolina 71 Boston College 57 - The Tar Heels got off early against the Eagles and coasted to a big win. Brandon Wright led the way with 20 points. Tyler Hansbrough added just 9 points, but cleared the glass with 13 rebounds.

Today's Picks

1:00 pm Florida (-9) Arkansas - In their only meeting this season, the Razorbacks fell, 79-72, at Florida. The Gators are imposing, but the Hogs have an NCAA bid staring them in the face and will be sky high. Despite their pedestrian 21-12 record, the Razorbacks have proven capable of playing with anyone. A 4-point loss at Texas, a pair of wins over Alabama and their SEC tourney run are proof of that. Take the points and yell, Suuuuu-eeee!Sports Training Products

1:00 pm North Carolina (-15) NC State - The two split their games this season, both winning at home. The Wolfpack needs to win to get an NCAA tournament bid, so on a neutral court, with everything on the line, take the points.

3:00 pm Kansas (-7) Texas - Anyone in their right mind would not give the Longhorns points on a neutral court as they are as good as any team in the nation right now. If Kevin Durant gets hot, it's lights out. These two met on March 3rd in Kansas, and the Jayhawks squeaked by, 90-86. Once again, the point-spread is generous and a must take.

3:30 pm Ohio State (-1) Wisconsin - The Buckeyes have Greg Oden, but the rest of the team is high quality. These teams split their two regular season games, each winning at home. Wisconsin has potential player of the year Alando Tucker and a super half court offense. A close call but I'm going to take the Badgers in a classic.

Friday, March 09, 2007

SHOCKING: UCLA, Maryland, Duke Ousted in Opening Rounds

Major conference tournaments got off yesterday with a bang, the biggest of which was out on the West coast where top-seeded UCLA was unceremoniously ousted by upstart Cal. Other shockers were Duke being dumped by NC State and Miami over Maryland in the ACC; LSU got by Tennessee in the SEC. Recaps follow, then today's picks

Big East Tourney
#12 Louisville 82 West Virginia 71 (2OT) - The Cardinals may end up winning the Big East tourney. They have a balanced attack and a world class coach in Rick Pitino. West Virginia is bubbleicious at 22-9. Louisville's now won 7 in a row.

#13 Pittsburgh 89 #18 Marquette 79 - After losing to Marquette twice in the regular season, the Panthers got their revenge. The 24-9 Golden Eagles are pretty much assured an at-large bid, so they'll get a week off. Pitt's Aaron Gray had 22 points and 10 rebounds in the win.

#9 Georgetown 62 Villanova 57 - Georgetown led by as many as 23 points in the first half, but sloppy play and some foolish fouls in the 2nd stanza made the game much closer than it should have been. The Hoyas' Roy Hibbert was his usual efficient self, leading the Georgetown scoring with 14 points on 6 of 8 shooting, but running mate Jeff Green was only 5-13 for 12 points while picking up 4 fouls.

For the Wildcats, it may have been do or die, as they now must wait until Sunday afternoon to see whether or not they'll play any more this season. At 22-10 and out of the Big East tourney, they are the bubbliest of bubble teams. Their fate is looking grim as their only wins over ranked teams were mid-January back-to-back home wins over Notre Dame and Texas. The only road win of note was a 56-52 win at Georgetown, though the Hoyas were unranked at the time. They have five losses to ranked opponents and closed out their season a shaky 4-3.

Notre Dame 89 Syracuse 83 - Notre Dame built a 10-point lead at the midway point of the 2nd half and held off the Orange the rest of the way. Syracuse could not buy a 3-pointer after the Irish gained their advantage, finishing a sad afternoon from behind the arc at just 5 of 24 (21%). Notre Dame's Colin Falls hit 7 from deep, however, and finished with 23 points. Russell Carter led all scorers (along with SU's Paul Harris) with 24 and Luke Harangody scored 20.

Despite the loss, the Orange are still likely to get an NCAA bid. They're 22-10 and 10-6 in the Big East, though they only have two quality wins, at Marquette and last week over Georgetown. Losses to Louisville, Pitt, Oklahoma St. and Wichita St. are not going to help their cause.

SEC Tourney
Arkansas 82 South Carolina 52 - The 8 men in Arkansas' rotation all got at least 15 minutes of playing time and all scored at least 4 points. Gary Ervin and Darian Townes led the way with 16 each. The Razorbacks could use another win or two to impress the committee. They face Vanderbilt today.

Georgia 80 Auburn 65

LSU 76 #22 Tennessee 67 (OT) - LSU's only hope of getting an NCAA berth is to win the SEC tourney, and they took a step in that direction with the OT win. Tennessee shouldn't worry too much, as they finished strong in the regular season. Their 22-10 record includes wins over Florida, Memphis, Vanderbilt and Kentucky, plus a 2-point loss at Ohio St. "Big Baby" Glen Davis had 25 points for the Tigers. Chris Lofton scored 21 for Tennessee.

Kentucky 79 Alabama 67 - The Kentucky Wildcats extended their season and likely put and end to the long, slow collapse of the Alabama program. Ranked as high as 4th early in the on, the Crimson Tide began the season 13-1, but were only 7-10 the rest of the way. Their 7-9 mark in the SEC is probably not good enough to earn an invitation to the Big Dance.Sports Training Products

Randloph Morris and Ramel Bradley each scored 17 points for the Wildcats. Morris also grabbed 11 boards for the double-double. Kentucky got off to a slow start but built an 8-point lead at the half and maintained their advantage to the finish.

ACC Tourney
Wake Forest 114 Georgia Tech 112 2OT - The Demon Deacons won their opening tourney game and put a real damper on Georgia Tech's NCAA aspirations. At 20-11 and 8-8 in the ACC, an early exit from the tourney was not what they needed. Seven Wake players scored in double figures.

Miami 67 #17 Maryland 62 - One of the hottest teams down the stretch, the Maryland Terrapins found themselves on the wrong side of the score and out of the ACC tournament. The Terps hit only 38% from the field and were 15-26 from the foul line and the missed free throws were more than the difference in the game. Miami only shot 35% but hit 22 of 28 from the charity stripe and pulled off one of the biggest upsets of the day.

Maryland is pretty much assured an NCAA bid, though Miami will have to win the ACC tournament to get in. The Hurricanes are 12-19 and finished their ACC campaign 4-12.

Florida St. 67 Clemson 66 - Al Thonton's dunk with 1:31 left to play tied the game at 66 and his free throw at 1.5 seconds sealed the win as the Seminoles knocked Clemson out of the ACC tournament and may have denied them an NCAA bid. Thornton led all scorers with 25 points.

Despite a decent 21-10 record, the Tigers were only 7-9 in the ACC, and won only 4 times in their last 14 games. Odds are good that they will be playing in the NIT tournament. Florida State earned win #20 here, but will likely have to win at least one more game to get the nod from the selection committee. They also went 7-9 in the ACC and lost 5 straight from Feb. 7-21, though now they are on a 3-game win streak.

Big 10 Tourney
Illinois 66 Penn St. 60
Michigan 49 Minnesota 40
Michigan St. 62 Northwestern 57

PAC-10 Tourney
California 76 #4 UCLA 69 (OT) - The top seed in the PAC-10, UCLA was supposed to cruise past their first round foe, but the Cal Bears had other ideas. The Bruins were only able to muster up 8-25 3-pointers (32%), but their 15-29 free throw shooting doomed them. UCLA will get a bid, but a number 1 slot is now in doubt.

USC 83 Stanford 79

#11 Washington St. 74 Washington 64 - The Cougars were outrebounded 31-24, but their 52% shooting boosted them over the in-state rival Huskies.

#16 Oregon 69 Arizona 50 - Tajuan Porter and Aaron Brooks bombed away from outside while the Wildcats couldn't find the rim and Oregon crushed Arizona in the opening round of the PAC-10 tournament. Porter finished with a game-high 21 points, clicking on 5 of 6 threes. Brooks was 4-8 beyond the arc for 16 points. Arizona's shooting was dismal at 35%, including 19% (3-16) from 3-point range.

Arizona is really going to have to sweat to get in the NCAA. This defeat was the 9th in their last 17 games and the selection committee isn't likely to look too kindly on an 8-9 record down the stretch. Additionally, the 50 points against the Ducks was easily the low point output of the season. Oregon, which tied Arizona and USC in the conference standings at 11-7, likely secured a berth with the win.

Big 12 Tourney
Oklahoma 68 Iowa St. 63

Baylor 97 Missouri 83 - Missouri will not get an NCAA bid. Baylor won't either, unless they win the Big 12 tourney.

Oklahoma St. 54 Nebraska 39

Texas Tech 81 Colorado 71 - Bobby Knight kept his NCAA hopes alive with a first round win. Martin Zeno had 28 points for the Red Raiders. Colorado hit only one of 11 3-point attempts. Tech faces Kansas St. today. The winner of that game should receive an at-large bid.

Today's Picks:

12:00 pm North Carolina (-11) Florida State - These two met back in January and the Tar Heels won at home, 84-58. This one figures to be a little closer. The Seminoles' Al Thornton is on a mission, but the rest of the squad can't match Carolina's starting five, especially in the middle, where Tyler Hansbrough may prove unstoppable. The Tar Heels won't miss a beat here with a double-digit win.

12:00 pm Ohio State (-8) Michigan - These two met just 6 days ago, with the Buckeyes rallying for a 65-61 road win. Greg Oden spent much of the game on the bench, but the Wolverines proved they could hang in. With an NCAA bid on the line, expect Michigan to leave it all on the court. Upset possible, and a close game for sure.

1:00 pm Kentucky (-2) Mississippi State - At 17-12 and 8-8 in the SEC, the Bulldogs could probably use a win here. Kentucky won their only meeting this season, 64-60, at home. On a neutral court, the edge shifts to the hungry Bulldogs, who may be thinking, "a win and we're in."

2:30 pm Boston College (-6) Miami - After beating Maryland, the Hurricanes must be feeling their oats. BC beat them twice this season, 82-63 in Boston and 75-68 in Miami. The Eagles don't have much depth and didn't finish the season well, losing 4 of their last 5. A loss could send them to the NIT instead of the Big Dance and the pressure may just get to them. Take Miami.

Vanderbilt (-2) Arkansas - Maybe the sleeper in the SEC, the Razorbacks beat Vandy on their own court, 82-67, just 6 days ago. Look for a repeat performance from the Hogs and NCAA bids for both of these teams.

6:40 pm Wisconsin (-3.5) Michigan State - The Spartans lost by just a deuce the past Saturday at Wisconsin, 52-50, and now they're on neutral ground. Should be close, but the Badgers should get a better performance from Kammron Taylor, who was only 2-9 in that game, though he did have the winning basket. Wisconsin should win and cover.

7:05 pm Georgetown (-4) Notre Dame - The Hoyas have obvious advantages, especially in their height advantage. Notre Dame, however, is playing very well. They've won 5 straight and seem to understand how to win on the road, which is of utmost importance at this time of year. Luke Harangody in the middle and Colin Falls and Russell Carter on the perimeter should make things tough for the Hoyas. The Irish could easily win this one.

9:00 pm Oregon (-5.5) California - Sure, the Bears topped UCLA, but the Ducks are loaded with offensive weapons and will waddle away with an easy win.

9:25 pm Pittsburgh (-1.5) Louisville - The Cardinals won their only meeting of the year, 66-53, on Feb. 12 at Pitt. The Panthers will make adjustments to counter the Louisville zone defense, but it may not matter. The Cardinals are on a serious roll and should pull out a close win.

11:20 pm Washington St. (-2) USC - The Cougars handled USC twice this season, but only by 2 and 3 points. In another that could come down to the wire, take Washington St. for the three-peat. USC will probably get an NCAA bid in any case, as will Wash. St.

7:05 pm Texas A&M (no line) Oklahoma St. - If you can get down on this one, back up the truck. The Cowboys have no shot at making the NCAA unless they win the Big 12 tourney, but there are too many good teams in their way, the best of which may be right here. The Aggies thumped Oklahoma St. 66-46 just two weeks ago for the road win, and beat them back in January, 67-49. The Aggies will likely be 15 point favorites, but they may win by 25.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Hot Game Picks for Conference Tourneys

With the major conference tourneys underway, the focus shifts to Madison Square Garden, site of the Big East games, LA's Staples Center for the PAC-10, the Georgia Dome for the SEC, Chicago's United Center (Big 10), the Ford Center in Oklahoma City (Big 12) and the St. Pete Times Forum in Tampa for the ACC tourney. But first, two more teams snatched up automatic bids to the NCAA Tournament last night:

Central Connecticut State 74 Sacred Heart 70 - The Blue Devils of Central Connecticut got big games from their upperclassmen guards, junior Tristan Blackwood and senior Javier Mojica, who combined to hit 9 of 16 3-pointers and tally 46 points overall. Those efforts led to a win over Sacred Heart in the finals of the Northeast Conference tournament and the right to play on in March. Central Connecticut was easily the class of the conference at 16-2, with a 22-11 record overall.Sports Training Products

The Blue Devils look very much like a one-and-done kind of team, as their record prior to conference play was an underassuming 3-9, with losses to such stellar powerhouses as St. Bonaventure, Lehigh and Harvard (you really have to work to lose to an Ivy League team). Wherever these guys get seeded, they should at least be able to generate some offense. They scored 70 or more points in 11 of their last 13 games.

Weber St. 88 Northern Arizona 80 - Out in the Big Sky, a trio of scorers -
Dezmon Harris (20 points), Juan Pablo Silviera (21) and David Patten (22) - led the Wildcats to victory in the championship game. Weber St. and No. Arizona had tied for first place in the regular season at 11-5, but the Wildcats shot a blistering 66% (29-44) from the field, opened up a 16-point halftime lead and coasted home.

The Wildcats had already beaten the Lumberjacks twice during conference play, so completing the trifecta was a crowing achievement. They finish up at 20-11 and played just one then-ranked team, losing to Washington in December, 80-51.

Conference Tourney Scores -

Big East
Syracuse 78 Connecticut 65
#18 Marquette 76 St. John's 67
Villanova 75 DePaul 67
West Virginia 92 Providence 79

Washington 59 Arizona St. 51
California 70 Oregon St. 51

Today's Tourney Picks
12:00 pm Florida St. vs. Clemson (-1.5) - Take the Seminoles to move on. Al Thornton scored a career high 45 points in the season finale over Miami. The senior forward is a big time scorer and leader. Clemson won their regular season tilts, 68-66, and 71-58 at Clemson, but Florida St. will have home fans on hand in Tampa. Look for Toney Douglas to add some spark for Florida State.

12:00 pm Georgetown (-5) vs. Villanova - End of the line for the Wildcats. If they lose, their 23-10 record could still be good enough to get a bid. The Hoyas are too big up front and should blow 'Nova away.

1:00 pm Kentucky (-4) vs. Alabama - The Wildcats are no great shakes and Alabama's late season woes are also well-documented. Both teams collapsed late in the season, losing 5 of their final 7 games. The only meeting this season was at Alabama, where the Tide prevailed, 72-61. There's a good chance that neither of these teams will make the field of 65. In what should be an ugly (but close) game, you must take the points.

2:00 pm Notre Dame (-1.5) vs. Syracuse - The Orangemen got hot at the right time, winning 5 straight before dropping their season finale at Villanova. Their win yesterday over UConn was a nice start and they're fully loaded for this one. The Irish beat them 103-91 at the Carrier Dome earlier in the season, one of only three Notre Dame Big East road wins. The Irish ride a 5-game win streak and look good off the first round bye. Tough call, as the Irish don't generally play well at the Garden, but they have the firepower to prevail. Syracuse should get a bid even if they lose here.

3:00 pm Arizona (-2) vs. Oregon - Arizona struggled through the PAC-10 schedule, but won 5 of their last 7 to finish 10-8. One of those wins was a 77-74 win on February 10 at Oregon. Following that game, the Wildcats lost at home to USC and UCLA, but finished up with three straight road wins. Oregon also lost their first meeting, 79-77 at Arizona, so they really are up against it. I'm taking the Ducks to pull off the upset. They can't be too happy losing two close games to the Wildcats.

7:00 pm Duke (-9.5) vs. North Carolina State - The Blue Devils have struggled all season mostly because they don't have a third scoring threat after DeMarcus Nelson and Greg Paulus. Duke finished with losses to Maryland and at North Carolina and are really not on the bubble, though they should be. They crushed NC State back in January, 79-56, and the Wolfpack has been a blowout victim to most of the better teams in the ACC. Duke should handle this one with ease.

9:45 pm Tennessee (-2) vs. LSU - LSU has Big Baby Glen Davis in the middle, but the Vols have Chris Lofton on the perimeter and he should prove to be the decisive factor. Tennessee closed out the regular season with four straight wins including triumphs over Alabama and Florida, so they are rarin' to go and should seal a tourney bid with a win here. The last meeting between these two resulted in a 70-67 Volunteer win. At 16-14, LSU must win the tournament to get an NCAA bid, but dreams die hard this time of year.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Life is Tough on the Road

College hoops is one sport where being at home matters. It was never more evident than yesterday, as a horde of ranked and quality teams hit the road and either lost or failed to cover spreads.

But, with conference regular seasons ending today, the unusually huge demands made on road teams will suddenly fly out the window. As the action shifts to neutral sites for conference tourneys and the Big Dance, that advantage/disadvantage disappears. The real quality will finally begin to step forward.Sports Training Products

Villanova 78 Syracuse 75 - With their season on the line, the wildcats scratched out a regular season-ending home win over stubborn Syracuse. The Wildcats led by 10 with 2 minutes left, but turnovers, missed free throws and some big baskets by Demetris Nichols and Eric Devendorf (career high 33 points) made the game a close call to the final buzzer. Syracuse ended their Big East campaign at 10-6, Villanova, 9-7. Both teams have 21-9 records overall and their NCAA Tournament fate will likely be decided in the Big East tourney which starts on Wednesday at Madison Square Garden in New York.

Washington 61 #2 UCLA 51 - The Huskies led the entire game, at one point by 16, and completed their weekend sweep of the PAC-10's Southern California contingent. On Thursday, Washington humbled USC. With an 8-10 mark in the conference, Washington has slim hopes of making the NCAA Tournament field, though they may qualify if they fare well in the PAC-10 tourney next week.

#1 Ohio St. 65 Michigan 61 - Greg Oden played only 23 minutes due to foul trouble, but the Buckeyes surged late, scoring the last 10 points of the game to overcome a tough home team at Michigan. Oden finished with 16 points, as did senior guard Ron Lewis. Ohio State had already secured the Big Ten regular season title.

#20 Marquette 75 #12 Pittsburgh 71 - Pittsburgh had their chance, but host Marquette denied them a share of the Big East championship, as Georgetown won their final game to finish conference play at 13-3. Freshman David Cubillan and sophomore Wesley Matthews scored 20 points apiece as the Golden Eagles - who led by as many as 17 - held off a late rally by the Panthers. The loss was the 2nd straight on the road for Pitt, which seems to have lost some of its spark.

#10 Nevada 69 New Mexico St. 65 - The Nevada Wolf Pack scored 41 2nd half points and rallied past the determined Aggies for their final regular season home win. Marcelus Kemp had 32 for the victors to go with Nick Fazekas' 22. Nevada had already clinched the WAC title.

#17 Oregon 70 Oregon St. 49 - Overcoming mid-season struggles, the Oregon Ducks finished their regular season with their 3rd straight win, an 11-7 record in the PAC-10 (tied for 3rd with Arizona and USC) and a 23-7 mark overall.

#13 Washington St. 88 #23 USC 86 2OT - Aron Baynes scored a career-high 25 points as the Washington St. Cougars finished their regular season with a thrilling home win and 2nd place in the PAC-10 standings at 13-5.

#22 Notre Dame 73 Rutgers 66 - The Fighting Irish squeezed by Rutgers for only their 3rd road win in conference play against five losses. Notre Dame's Colin Falls was the game's high scorer with 22 points. The Irish finished their Big East campaign at 11-5, good for 4th place and a first-round bye in the Big East tourney.

#6 Memphis 64 SMU 61 - The Memphis Tigers completed an undefeated season in Conference-USA at 16-0, winning their 9th straight road game and extending the nation's longest winning streak to 19 straight. Only Memphis and Big South champion Winthrop concluded their conference schedules unblemished.

#24 Maryland 79 NC State 59 - The Terps won their 7th straight to close out their ACC campaign at 10-6 and 24-7 overall.

Wake Forest 78, Virginia 72 - The Cavaliers had a shot at winning the ACC title outright, but failed on the road to Wake Forest, which won only its 5th conference game. Boston College, North Carolina and Virginia Tech all have a chance to share the crown with wins today.

Creighton 75 Missouri St. 58 - Nate Funk scored a game high 33 points and Nick Porter added a double-double with 19 points and 13 boards as the Bluejays advanced to the Missouri Valley Conference finals against Southern Illinois today. Funk was 10-15 from the field and a perfect 10-10 from the foul line.

#11 Southern Ill. 53, Bradley 51 - Jamaal Tatum scored 20 points and the game-winner to lead the Salukis to their 13th straight win and a spot in the MVC finals today against Creighton.

Conference Tournament Champions:

Davidson 72 College of Charleston 65 - Davidson finished up a 29-4 regular season with a 17-1 record in the Southern conference by winning three straight tournament games. Stephen Curry, son of former NBA standout Dell Curry, scored 29 points as the Wildcats secured their spot in the NCAA Tournament.

Belmont 94 East Tennessee St.. 67 - Andy Wicke and Andrew Preston each scored 18 points as the Bruins made won their 2nd consecutive Atlantic Sun Conference tournament and automatic NCAA bid. Belmont heads to the tourney with a 23-9 record overall and 14-4 in conference.

Winthrop 84 VMI 81 - The Winthrop Eagles (28-4, 14-0) will represent the Big South in the NCAA Tournament for the 7th time in the last 9 years.

Eastern Kentucky 63 Austin Peay 62 - The Colonels upended #1 seed Austin Peay to capture the Ohio Valley championship and NCAA automatic bid.

Sunday's Conference Championships

Big Sky: Montana vs. Portland St.
Missouri Valley: Creighton vs. Southern Illinois

Today's Picks:

Kentucky at #4 Florida (-10) - The Gators have struggled, dropping 3 of their last 4. Kentucky will be seeking to impress the NCAA selection committee for a higher seeding. The Gators won 64-61 at Kentucky on Feb. 10. Take the Wildcats and the points.

Alabama at Mississippi State (-6) - Who dat? The Miss. St. Bulldogs or Alabama can gain a share of the SEC West title (with Mississippi) with a win. "Bama's struggled all year, but they are still tied with the Bulldogs at 7-8 in the conference and beat the Bulldogs 80-79 at home. This one should go right to the buzzer, so roll with the Crimson Tide.

Boston College at Georgia Tech (-6) - BC can earn a share of the ACC title with a win. Georgia Tech can keep slim tournament hopes alive. BC should win it outright.

#14 Duke at #8 North Carolina (-10) - With all the history - and coach K - associated with this game, I'd be very suspect to not go with the Blue Devils and the points. The Tar Heels aren't as formidable as many think, nor are the Devils as bad. In their first meeting on February 7, North Carolina won at Duke, 79-73. 10 is a good number of points to take in a rivalry game, though NC should win the game.

Clemson at #21 Virginia Tech (-6) - Even though Clemson is 6-9 and Tech 10-5 in the ACC, this is a pretty even matchup. Clemson will probably fail late, but will make Tech earn every point. Clemson may upset.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Madness Begins: Conference Tourneys Underway

Some of the lesser conferences already have tournaments underway, vying for the right to represent in the NCAA Tournament. Major conferences still have regular season games going this weekend, some of which will determine titles.

With a full slate on tap for today, I'll be giving some picks and pointers, plus recaps from Friday night.

Most eyes are focused on the Missouri Valley, where the Salukis of Southern Illinois are expected to get to the title game and win it. But the MVC may be sending 3 or 4 teams to the Big Dance, so whichever team comes out on top, it will be battle-tested.

Quarterfinal action from the MVC:

Bradley 51 Northern Iowa 48 - Bradley moved on to play Southern Illinois on Saturday in the semifinals.

#11 Southern Illinois 71 Drake 59 - The Salukis won their 12th straight game, propelled by Matt Shaw and Jamaal Tatum. Each scored 19 points to move Southern Ill. into the semis against Bradley.

Creighton 59 Indiana St. 38 - Creighton's defense did the trick, holding the Sycamores to just 23% shooting. The #2 seed in the MVC tourney will play Missouri St. on Saturday in one semifinal.

Missouri St. 67 Wichita St. 64 - Last season, the Shockers made an impressive run in the NCAA tourney. This year, they couldn't even get through their own conference. The Missouri St. Bears pulled out a close win to advance to Saturday's semifinal game against Creighton.

Saturday's Picks (all times Eastern):

12:00 pm - #15 Texas 22-7 at #3 Kansas (-9.5) - Texas can tie the Jayhawks (and possibly Texas A&M if they win at Missouri) for first in the Big 12 and a share of the conference championship with a win, but the linesmakers don't foresee a close game. I beg to differ. KU is riding a 7-game win streak, but the Longhorns have won 6 straight. Kansas plays tough defense and have only lost twice at home. The Longhorns aren't the greatest on the road, but they've developed as the season progressed and are a legitimate threat to win this. Take the points and enjoy what may be a classic.

1:00 pm - Virginia (-4) at Wake Forest - The Cavaliers can wrap up the ACC championship with a win and Wake Forest hasn't put up much resistance this season, winning only 4 times in the ACC and tied for last place with Miami. Though the Demon Deacons have won their last 2 home games, they were against Clemson and Miami. Virginia should roll to an easy win.

2:00 pm - Syracuse at Villanova (-6) - A sucker line if there ever was one. The Orange are seeking higher NCAA seeding and already beat the Wildcats at the Dome earlier this year. Villanova is in a must-win situation, but they haven't been competitive lately against the top teams in the Big East. Syracuse knows what's riding here and should win this one.

2:30 pm - Bradley vs. Southern Illinois (no line) - I'd make Southern Ill. a 3 to 5 point favorite here and take them over Bradley, though it will be a close game. These two met twice already this season. Bradley won at home, 48-46, but the Salukis were on the tail end of a three-game road trip back then in January. Southern Ill. returned the favor, 60-50 on their home hardwood on Feb. 7. The Salukis should handle them.

4:00 pm - #1 Ohio St. (-4.5) at Michigan - Ohio State can wrap up the Big 10 championship with a win here, but the Wolverines are 6-1 at home in the Big 10 this season. The Buckeyes are riding a 13-game win streak and have had nearly a week off since their big win over Wisconsin. This one is not likely to be close as the Buckeyes roll towards a #1 seeding in the NCAA tourney.Sports Training Products

5:00 pm - Loyola Chicago vs. #18 Butler (no line) - If they make Butler a favorite of 5 or more, take the points. Loyola beat them less than two weeks ago and even though the Bulldogs are ranked and shared the Horizon League title with Wright St., they may be a bit overrated. We're going to find out.

7:00 pm - #23 USC at #13 Washington St. (-5) - The Cougars should handle the Trojans here. USC was dumped badly at Washington on Thursday and don't do well on the road. They've lost 3 off their last 4 road games while Washington St. is 6-2 at home in PAC-10 play. The Cougars may run the Trojans right off the court.

9:00 pm - #12) Pittsburgh at #20 Marquette (-2) - A loss by the Panthers could cost them the Big East championship if Georgetown beats UConn today. Don't count on it. Marquette has lost 4 of their last 5 and look mighty vulnerable even at home.

10:00 pm - New Mexico St. at #10 Nevada (-10) - Nevada has already wrapped up the WAC title, so this game has less meaning for them and the Aggies will want to make a statement to the selection committee. New Mexico St. beat the Wolf pack back on Jan. 20, 73-80, but this will be on the Wolf Pack's home court. Nevada should win this, but it could be an upset and will likely be close. It is, after all, March 3rd, and the madness has begun.

Friday, February 16, 2007

PAC-10 Wide Open: Arizona, Oregon Lose Again

Thursday night saw only 4 games involving Top 25 teams, but, despite the light schedule, 3 of the 5 teams in action managed to lose. #5 UCLA and #22 USC were the two teams which escaped the upset bug, and, in the case of USC, helped secure a spot in the NCAA Tournament.

#5 UCLA 67 Arizona St. 61 - The Bruins kept the Sun Devils winless in conference play, though the game was closer than expected. Arizona State has dropped all 14 of their PAC-10 contests this season. Arron Afflalo scored 24 and Darren Collison returned to the lineup to throw down 18.

California 63 #15 Oregon 61 - The continuing slide of Oregon's basketball program hit another bump on the way down, losing on the road once more. The loss was the 5th in Oregon's last 7 games and dropped the Ducks into a 5th place tie in the conference standings with Arizona. Both teams are 8-6.

#22 USC 80 #19 Arizona 75 Both Nick Young and Lodrick Stewart dropped in 26 points and Arizona's woes continued while the Trojans now appear destined to dance in March. USC improved to 9-4 in PAC-10 play, while the Wildcats fell to 8-6 and 17-8 overall. With just 4 more games in the regular season, Arizona has their work cut out for them. They host UCLA on Saturday, and then close out with 3 straight road games at Arizona St., Cal and Stanford.

The Wildcats will likely be faced with the unwelcome task of having to win or at least reach the finals of the PAC-10 tournament to receive serious consideration by the NCAA selection committee.

Meanwhile, the win did wonders for USC. At 9-4 and 19-7 overall, the Trojans have five regular season games left, but only two against quality opposition. They play Stanford on Thursday and close out the season at #10 Washington St. The Trojans may indeed have punched their own ticket last night.

Purdue 81 #24 Indiana 68 - If the Hoosiers intend to keep playing through March, they'll have to do better than this. While Indiana remained in 3rd place in the Big 10 standings, Iowa, Purdue and Illinois are close. Wins down the stretch and a solid performance in the conference tournament will determine which teams - besides Ohio State and Wisconsin - make it to the Big Dance. Any of the four teams chasing the two leaders could win out and make a positive impression.

David Teague poured in 32 points for the Boilermakers and teammate Carl Landry scored 22 and hauled down 11 boards, his 3rd double-double of the season.