by Ken Pomeroy on Tuesday, March 10, 2015
The Big Sky rewards its regular-season champ with hosting duties for the conference tourney. This season, the scramble for that very important distinction was pretty wild with four teams in the mix over the final two weeks. Montana improbably gave itself a shot at hosting by winning at Eastern Washington 77-76 on February 28. But they still needed Sacramento State to drop its final two games of the season, which is exactly what happened.
SMU and Cincinnati are safely in the field, but Temple is teetering on the edge, perhaps needing an opening-game win over Memphis (or more) to feel safe. And Tulsa’s got some work to do. The Golden Hurricane finished second in the conference on the strength of an unlikely 10-0 start in AAC play. Among those wins was a close call on the road against lowly UCF and an overtime win at home against a USF team that has a 1-in-23,426 chance of winning this tournament.
The Sun Belt employs the double stepladder format which gives the top two seeds a bye to semifinals. The favorite here is Georgia State, who is led by their junior wing, R.J. Hunter. Georgia State was preseason #66 and there was some anticipation that the Panthers could have a special season with Hunter’s leadership. They currently sit at #71 and the won the Sun Belt regular season title, so it’s not like the season was a disappointment in any sense. But they haven’t put together a profile that makes you feel good about getting a win or two in the NCAA tournament.
Texas has become the symbol of power conference privilege this season. Many people are questioning why the Longhorns deserve a bid, having failed to achieve a .500 record in conference play. “You’re a bunch of losers,” people say. At least that is what I am making them say in this argument. “If you can’t win half your games, you are not worthy of playing basketball. Give us Murray State. They won all of their games (in regular-season conference play),” these people might also say.
The SEC has the consensus best team in the land but then the next highest team is ranked 30th in my system. However, there are seven teams between 30 and 50, and two more between 50 and 70. While Kentucky got the bulk of the attention, there was a lot going on in the middle of the league. You get that many teams together of fairly equal quality and conference record is going to be determined by just a handful of possessions.
by Ken Pomeroy on Monday, March 9, 2015
One of the things that has come out of doing preseason ratings is that a team can survive a lot of attrition is they return a high usage player. Oregon’s roster was gutted in the offseason for a variety of reasons, but they still had Joseph Young. They were preseason #34 and enter the Pac-12 tournament the 2-seed. (Though, their overall ranking is #49.)
When historians look back on this season, they’ll be puzzled by Wisconsin’s loss to Rutgers. I know Frank Kaminsky missed the game and Traevon Jackson got hurt in the middle of it, but that doesn’t come close to explaining the outcome. Even without those two, the Badgers should have been able to preserve a 12-point lead that they owned with 17:30 left. Wisconsin has better than a 1-in-2 chance of winning the Big Ten tournament. Rutgers has a 1-in-97478 chance of doing so. And that includes the result of Rutgers beating Wisconsin.
The Big East tournament has been held in Madison Square Garden every year since 1983, the longest-running show in college hoops. While being excluded from “Power 5” status, the conference is currently ranked second in my system and is going to be well-represented in the NCAA tournament. But that doesn’t mean it couldn’t use more publicity.
Boise State was brought into the Mountain West for its football talents, but look at its hoops team, earning the top seed in the basketball tournament. Not bad for a team that started 0-3 in conference play and needed overtime in their fourth game to beat UNLV at home. James Webb III went from a guy who could barely get on the court early in the season to someone who should make the all-MWC preseason team next year, providing head coach Leon Rice with some desperately needed size and athleticism in the paint.
by Ken Pomeroy on Sunday, March 8, 2015
The Southland Conference led the country in pace this season, leading the second-fastest conference by a comfy 1.6 possessions per 40 minutes. Nine of the 13 teams in the league finished in the top 100 of adjusted tempo.