JEFF: Championship Saturday Preview
By Jeff Falconio
Today marks one of the best days for a college basketball junkie. 11 automatic bids will be handed out today and there will be wall-to-wall basketball throughout the day and well into the night. Bubble teams will be watching the Conference USA and Mid-American championship games as both conferences will likely get one bid if the top seed wins today. In the major conferences there's still some jockeying for position and a few teams want to get one more win to impress the selection committee. Here's a rundown of each conference and what's at stake.
Conference USA: Memphis vs. Tulsa-Memphis is a lock and a one seed in the NCAA Tournament for sure. Tulsa on the other hand is try to crash the party with a win today. With bubble teams Houston and UAB exiting early in the tournament it's likely C-USA gets only one bid if Memphis wins. The only way Tulsa makes the tournament is to beat Memphis however the Tigers ripped through their previous two opponents in the conference tourney. Look for that trend to continue today.
America East: UMBC vs. Hartford-A trip to the dance is up for grabs between the top two seeds in the conference. However, neither team will make much noise next week. The winner will likely be a 16 seed.
ACC: North Carolina vs. Virginia Tech & Duke vs. Clemson-UNC-Virginia Tech is one of the more intriguing matchups of the day. A Tar Heels win would make UNC the overall number one seed in the NCAA Tourney in my opinion. Virginia Tech is very much on the bubble and not assured anything at this point. A win here would give the selection committee something to think about. Duke is likely locked in as a two seed and Clemson is in for sure.
Big Ten: Wisconsin vs. Michigan State & Illinois vs. Minnesota-With one more impressive win the Badgers could jump to a number two seed. The Illinois-Minnesota matchup makes plenty of teams nervous. Neither team will get an at-large bid but the winner today will play in tomorrow's championship. If Illinois or Minnesota wins the Big 10 it will take away an at-large bid from a bubble team.
Big XII: Texas vs. Oklahoma & Kansas vs. Texas A&M-Not too much drama here. All four teams are in, the only question is will both Kansas and Texas nail down a two seed with wins today.
SEC: Georgia vs. Kentucky, Tennessee vs. Arkansas, Mississippi State vs. Georgia/Kentucky winner-A tornado ripped through Atlanta yesterday, forcing the SEC to postpone the Georgia-Kentucky quarterfinal to today. That means the winner will have to play twice in one day. When was the last time that happened in college basketball? Tennessee, Arkansas, and Mississippi State are all in. Kentucky is on the bubble but a win over Georgia will probably put the Wildcats in. It would be quite a lot to ask Kentucky to win twice in a day to make the tourney.
Atlantic Ten: St. Joseph's vs. Temple-St. Joseph's upset over Xavier yesterday means the A-10 will get at least two teams in. Both teams did some nice things down the stretch however neither team is a lock for an at-large bid. The winner is in, the loser will be sweating right up to the selection show.
Pac Ten: UCLA vs. Stanford-A rematch from ten days ago when the Bruins won the Pac 10 regular season title. UCLA should be a one seed. Stanford is a likely three seed but a win over UCLA could be enough to merit consideration as a two seed.
MAC: Kent State vs. Akron-A huge game for Kent State. The Golden Flashes have a strong enough resume to be an at-large team but if enough bubbles burst today there may be no room for Kent State. Akron is hot, having dispatched of two seed Western Michigan yesterday but will the MAC gets two teams in if the Zips win today?
MEAC: Morgan State vs. Coppin State-The MEAC will only get one team and whoever wins will be a 16 seed. Morgan State won the regular season crown but Coppin State finished seventh in the league and would love to complete a Cinderella run through the conference tourney.
MWC: BYU vs. UNLV-The Mountain West tournament is usually entertaining and that's been the case again this year. This is a one versus two matchup and both teams should be in regardless of what happens tonight.
SWAC: Mississippi Valley State vs. Jackson State-Jackson State knocked off one seed Alabama State last night and now get two seed MVS today. Much like the America East & MEAC winners, the winner here will be a 16 seed.
Big East: Georgetown vs. Pittsburgh-The Panthers love Madison Square Garden and will play their fourth game in four days. Georgetown has been on a mission to prove they are not only worthy of a two-seed but also a force to reckon with once the tourney starts. Both teams are in but keep an eye on Pittsburgh in the second half, chances are the Panthers will be winded, giving the edge to Georgetown.
WAC: Boise State vs. New Mexico State-A number three versus number four here. The WAC gets only one bid this year and both teams were impressive in the semis last night. Perhaps another momentum building win will make the winner a dangerous draw in the first round next week.
Big West: UC Irvine vs. Cal State Fullerton-Another unlikely matchup as the top two seeds fell late last night. There's no consolation prize for the loser as this conference will only get one bid. UC Irvine will be playing for the fourth time in four days, giving the edge to Cal State Fullerton.