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AMERICA EAST: Albany was by far the most dominant team in the league this season. The Great Danes didn’t lose their first conference game until Feb. 17. With all games being at campus sites its going to take a lot to keep Albany from repeating.

MISSOURI VALLEY: This certainly was a top heavy league this year as Wichita St and Northern Iowa ran away and hid from the rest of the conference. That’s why it is expected that those will be the two teams playing for the championship on Sunday. In the rubber match, expect Wichita St, the team with the superior experience and talent, to cut down the nets.

METRO ATLANTIC ATHLETIC: A loss on the last day of the regular season is the only thing that kept Iona from winning the league by three games. The Gaels’ misstep doesn’t scare me too much as they’ve been to the tournament recently and will be tough prep on short rest. The tournament will be competitive as always, but expect Iona to go dancing.

SOUTHERN: As good as Wofford has been over the course of the year, Chattanooga has been right there all along. The two squads were far and away the class of this conference and appear to be on a collision course for a Monday night showdown. The teams won on each other’s home floor so this creates a bit of intrigue. Wofford is the favorite here, but not by much.

COLONIAL: The regular season in the CAA finished in a four-way tie for first place. If there’s anyone out there who’ll tell you they have this league pegged than than call that person’s bluff. On a true neutral court in Baltimore anything can happen. Given the disappointment from last season and performing well against the other top teams in the league, I’m going with William & Mary.

WEST COAST: There may be many people wondering if there’s a major kink in the armor of Gonzaga after losing to BYU in it’s last regular season home game. I am not one of those people. BYU played fantastic and could very well be a tournament team itself, but Gonzaga is one of the best teams in the country and it’ll have motivation. The Zags will win in Vegas.

SUMMIT: South Dakota St and North Dakota St went back and forth this season vying for the Summit League’s No. 1 spot. At the end of the day, both teams finished with 12-4 records with South Dakota St winning the tiebreaker. Playing the tournament in the state of South Dakota gives the Jackrabbits a bit of a chance. Despite that, there’s a team on their side of bracket who’s beaten them and is even closer to the site where the tournament will be played. That’s the South Dakota Coyotes and they’re my upset pick to win the Summit League.

The Biggest Cats in the Valley

Northern Iowa’s Seth Tuttle. Photo: Jeffrey Becker, USA TODAY Sports

The country has been so enamored with Wichita St over the past three years that it overlooked a program that has been among the most successful in the Missouri Valley in the past decade. That is no longer an issue as Northern Iowa has staked its claim as the team to beat in the MVC.

As in most years, the Panthers are doing it with defense as they lead the league in points allowed, field goal percentage defense, and three-point field goal percentage defense. In fact, when Wichita St made the trip up to Cedar Falls it only shot 35.4 percent for the game.

Defense can carry a team a long way in March and the Panthers, who’ve only allowed one opponent to score 60 since December 13, have the tools to get to the second weekend.

Stock Up: Oklahoma and Oklahoma St. The arch rivals are having quite the run in recent weeks. Both are climbing the Big XII standings and posting impressive wins while they do it.

Stock Down: Georgetown. There’s a lot of talent on the team, but it’s just not coming together as of yet. The Hoyas have plenty of time to climb out of their current funk, but getting swept by Xavier and Providence won’t look good on Selection Sunday.

Stock Up: Harvard. Hasn’t been the prettiest start, but it looks like the Crimson has found its groove. Harvard is beginning to resemble the team everyone thought it would before the season started.

Stock Down: USC. The Trojans are 1-10 in conference play and this is a down year in the Pac-12. Andy Enfield has yet to get Dunk City to move to Los Angeles.

On to the Bracket.

Last Four In: Miami(FL), Stanford, Purdue, Texas A&M

Last Four Out: Colorado St, Michigan St, Boise St, Rhode Island

This bracket is good for games thru 2/8

Quick Note: Virginia is on the No. 2 line because of Justin Anderson’s injury. We’ll see how this week plays out.

MIDWEST

1.Kentucky16.North Florida/Alabama St Louisville

8.Iowa9.Xavier

5.Ohio St12.Stephen F. Austin Jacksonville

4.Oklahoma13.Harvard

6.Cincinnati11.Old Dominion Portland

3.Utah14.North Carolina Central

7.SMU10.Georgia Charlotte

2.Virginia15.Albany

WEST

1.Gonzaga16.Sacramento St Seattle

8.Georgetown9.Dayton

5.Northern Iowa12.Purdue/Stanford Columbus

4.Iowa St13.Valparaiso

6.Oklahoma St11.Texas A&M/Miami(FL) Louisville

3.North Carolina14.Bowling Green

7.VCU10.Illinois Portland

2.Arizona15.New Mexico St

EAST

1.Duke16.North Dakota St Charlotte

8.Indiana9.Tulsa

5.West Virginia12.Wofford Pittsburgh

4.Wichita St13.Iona

6.Maryland11.UCLA Seattle

3.Baylor14.UC Davis

7.Mississippi10.Texas Pittsburgh

2.Villanova15.Louisiana Monroe

SOUTH

1.Wisconsin16.St. Francis(NY)/Colgate Omaha

8.San Diego St9.LSU

5.Butler12.Murray St Jacksonville

4.Notre Dame13.Louisiana Tech

6.Arkansas11.Temple Columbus

3.Louisville14.William & Mary

7.Providence10.George Washington Omaha

2.Kansas15.High Point

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MISSOURI VALLEY: Who are we fooling here?  There’s only one real choice and that’s Wichita St.  The  Shockers are the nation’s lone undefeated team and there’s nothing that says they’ll lose in St. Louis this week.  Out of 18 conference games, only three were decided by single-digits.  On a neutral floor, this is the Shockers’ tournament to lose.

WEST COAST: This should be one of the more intriguing tournaments early in championship week.  The WCC has gone back to a traditional bracket and away from a system that protected the top two seeds until the semifinals.  That evens the playing field with no one team having a real advantage in Vegas.  With four teams in the top-70 of the RPI, this will be a fun tournament to watch.  I expect BYU to be up to the challenge and go to the Big Dance.

COLONIAL ATHLETIC ASSOCIATION: This should be another barnburner of a tournament.  The CAA has held its tournament in Richmond since the beginning of time, but since many of it’s heavy-hitting Virginia teams have left the league, the conference decided to move the tournament to Baltimore.  At one point it looked like Delaware would run the table, but they’ve lost a couple down the stretch.  One of those losses was to Towson – a team that finished a game behind Delaware and should have plenty of fans in attendance.  I expect the Tigers to ride that advantage and Jerrelle Benimon to the NCAA tournament.

METRO ATLANTIC ATHLETIC: This is a league filled with teams that are fun to watch.  However there is one team that seems to stay in the upper echelon of the league year after year.  Iona won the regular season title outright this year and seems poised to return to the Big Dance.  It would be their third consecutive trip.  The Gaels will get strong challenges from Manhattan, Quinnipiac, and Canisius, but they’re up-and-down style of play should propel them this week.

SOUTHERN: On it’s way out of the conference, Davidson decided to let the SoCon know just what it’ll be missing next season.  The Wildcats ran away with the regular season title with a 15-1 record.  They are the class of league and it’ll be sad to see them in the Atlantic 10 next season.  For this season though, the Wildcats will remind everyone why they were the dominant team in the league.

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WEST COAST: This one is academic.  There is one team in this league that will potentially be a No. 1 seed and then there is one team who may get an at-large bid.  Gonzaga went 16-0 in league play this year with some really impressive victories.  In Las Vegas this weekend, I can’t see anyone beating the Bulldogs on a neutral floor.  Saint Mary’s is playing for its NCAA tournament life, but I don’t think it will be enough to overcome the talent Gonzaga has.

NORTHEAST: Robert Morris finished two games ahead of the crowded bunch of teams which includes Wagner, Bryant and Long Island University.  In fact, the top seven finishers in the NEC finished .500 or above so I expect this to be one of the craziest conference tournaments in all of college basketball.  In a situation like this I give the edge to a team that’s been there before and that team is LIU.  The Blackbirds know how to navigate this tournament and I expect them to go dancing again.

PATRIOT LEAGUE: This year was supposed to be nothing short of a coronation for Lehigh.  However, C.J. McCollum injured his foot and Lehigh wasn’t able to sustain early season success.  One school that has been able to is Bucknell.  The Bison have lost only two games in conference play and five overall and since this tournament is played on the home court of the higher seeded team, I’d say its the heavy favorite to win this tournament.

MISSOURI VALLEY: The eyes of the nation were on Creighton and Wichita St in the Missouri Valley this season.  While many expected the two to dominate; history tells us that this conference has been known to eat its own and that’s why Indiana St’s at-large hopes have gone up in smoke.  This is always one of the more competitive tournaments and this year should be no different.  I expect one of the hottest teams in the league to shock the world.  Evansville will cut down the nets in St. Louis.

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PATRIOT LEAGUE: Defending champion Bucknell was rolling along in the Patriot League until mid-February when two losses tarnished its perfect league record.  The fact that one of those loses came to second-place finisher Lehigh at home would make me extremely nervous if I were a Bison fan.  For that reason, and the fact that the Mountain Hawks have been just as good, I’m taking Lehigh to go dancing.

WEST COAST: Saint Mary’s won the league outright in a minor upset.  However the Gaels finished just one game ahead of Gonzaga and two ahead of BYU.  This will be a competitive tournament with the four teams having a legitimate shot at cutting down the nets in Las Vegas.  BYU in its first season in the WCC is used to playing in Vegas, is relatively close to Vegas and will take the matter out of the committee’s hands by winning the WCC championship.

MISSOURI VALLEY: Wichita St and Creighton has been the class of the Missouri Valley this season, but this is a tournament that has seen its fair share of upsets over the years.  That being said I find it very hard to pick against the Shockers the way they’re playing right now.  I expect them to beat a scrappy Missouri St team in the finals.

NORTHEAST: Wagner got everyone’s attention in December after it upset Pittsburgh.  The Seahawks followed that with an impressive conference record of 15-3.  The problem though is that two of those losses came at the hands of the regular season and defending tournament champion Long Island.  The Blackbirds wouldn’t have to play Wagner or Robert Morris until the finals and will play every game of the tournament at home.  I like them to repeat.

AMERICA EAST: This will be a good one.  I would not be surprised if regular season champion Stony Brook, Vermont or 2011 NCAA tournament team Boston University won this tournament.  I think Vermont is due for the win I thought they’d get last season.  The Catamounts are going dancing.

It’s March and Your Seed Will Not Save You (Welcome Indiana St)

VCU's Brandon Rozzell sinks a three-pointer in the first half against Vertrail Vaughns (11) and George Mason, which is 26-6 but not assured an NCAA bid. (John Mcdonnell/Washington Post)

Yesterday, all hell broke loose on the mid-major level. Number 1 seeds in the Colonial, Missouri Valley, Metro Atlantic Athletic, America East, and Sun Belt all lost.

In addition to that; College of Charleston had to come back from a double-digit second half deficit and Bucknell won with the aid of a no call to stave off disaster.

I say all of this to prove that’s its March and no one is safe. Not on the mid-major level. Not on the high-major level. Even Purdue lost to lowly Iowa on Saturday.

A lot of people, this time of the year, get extremely concerned with seeding, but that’s not nearly as important as playing well. Kansas was the No. 1 overall seed in the tournament last year and look how much that helped the Jayhawks in bowing out early in the Big Dance.

I know being a No. 1 seed is good and is helpful, but playing well helps even more. Last season, Butler and Michigan St both got to the Final Four as No. 5 seeds. The name of the game is not getting a high seed. It’s winning.

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MID-AMERICAN CONFERENCE: This was once again a sub par year in the MAC as failed to cracked the top-15 in Conference RPI. In fact, it sits at 20 with conferences such as the Northeast, Atlantic Sun and Ivy in front of it. Due to that fact, it’ll be another one-bid year for the conference, which magnifies the importance of the conference tournament. Kent St won the regular season title, but it was just by one game over Miami (Oh) and Western Michigan. Despite the one-game difference, I do expect the Golden Flashes to make it to the title game and reclaim the MAC championship.

SOUTHLAND: The Southland Conference has had some really good showings in the NCAA tournament in the past five years, but this doesn’t look like a year where that’s going to be the case. In fact, the winner of this tournament may be relegated to Dayton to play in one of the “First Four” games. McNeese St won the regular season title, but the difference between first and eighth place in this league is just three games. It’s going to be terribly difficult for the Cowboys to navigate this tournament successfully. Mike McConathy is the best tournament coach in this league and I expect him to lead his Northwestern St. ball club back to the NCAA tournament.

SOUTHWESTERN ATHLETIC: The SWAC has needed one team to be head and shoulders above the rest of the league and that’s exactly what happened this season. Texas Southern was on auto-pilot for most of the conference season finishing with a four-game cushion for the league title. The Tigers should enjoy the same kind of success in the conference tournament. I expect Texas Southern to dance.

BIG WEST: Long Beach St has had no peer in the Big West this season, running away with the conference title. In fact, outside of a minor blip at the end of January, the 49ers have been downright dominant in the 2011 calendar year. This team has won 15 of its last 17 with ten of those wins coming by double figures. There is no reason to believe that Long Beach St is going to forget how to win. The 49ers are the pick to win the Big West.

Today’s Bracket Projections:

Last Four In: Memphis, Colorado, Butler, Richmond
Last Four Out: Michigan, Virginia Commonwealth, Clemson, USC

Good for Games through 3/6

EAST
1.Ohio St16.McNeese St/Bethune-Cookman Cleveland
8.Villanova9.Gonzaga
5.Texas A&M12.Harvard Tampa
4.Kentucky13.Wisconsin-Milwaukee
6.Temple11.Georgia Washington, D.C.
3.Syracuse14.Kent St
7.Cincinnati10.Boston College Tulsa
2.Texas15.Bucknell
WEST
1.Duke16.Boston U Charlotte
8.Vanderbilt9.George Mason
5.St. John’s12.Butler/Colorado Washington, D.C.
4.Wisconsin13.Oakland
6.Georgetown11.Washington Denver
3.BYU14.Indiana St(MVC)
7.Tennessee10.UAB Chicago
2.Notre Dame15.Northern Colorado
SOUTHEAST
1.Pittsburgh16.UNC-Asheville(BSouth) Cleveland
8.Utah St9.Illinois
5.Kansas St12.Richmond/Memphis Tucson
4.San Diego St13.Belmont(ASun)
6.Connecticut11.Michigan St Tampa
3.Florida14.Charleston
7.UCLA10.Missouri Charlotte
2.North Carolina15.Long Island
SOUTHWEST
1.Kansas16.Texas Southern/Middle Tennessee St Tulsa
8.Old Dominion9.Marquette
5.West Virginia12.St. Mary’s Tucson
4.Xavier13.Iona
6.Arizona11.Florida St Denver
3.Louisville14.Morehead St(OVC)
7.UNLV10.Alabama Chicago
2.Purdue15.Long Beach St

In Graphical Form

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PATRIOT LEAGUE: Bucknell and American are way ahead of the pack in this league. Bucknell ran through Patriot League competition with only one loss and American only three. Too bad for the Eagles, two of those losses came from the Bison. Nothing really to say here, but to expect part three with Bucknell winning again.

MISSOURI VALLEY: I’m used to seeing multiple bids come from this league, but the trend of it being one-bid the past few seasons has to be troubling for commissioner Doug Elgin. Despite this, there are still teams in this conference who can win a game in the NCAA tournament. The Missouri St. Bears finished in first with the Wichita St. Shockers one game behind. The two teams were the most consistent all year and appear to be on a collision course. In round three, expect the Shockers to come out on top.

NORTHEAST: Long Island’s uptempo style has led it to an impressive 16-2 league record. In fact, the Blackbirds have only loss once in the 2011 calendar year. Given the fact that this tournament is played entirely on home courts give them an extra advantage. The Blackbirds should expect a challenge from the tournament-tested Robert Morris Colonials, but this team is head and shoulders above the rest of the league and will make their way to the NCAA tournament.

COLONIAL ATHLETIC ASSOCIATION:
This one should be interesting. After back-to-back losses to Hofstra and Old Dominion, George Mason ran off 15 wins in-a-row to put a stamp on an at-large bid. Old Dominion, by virtue of stellar play in the non-conference did the same. The question right now goes to the hunger of both teams and I believe both may already know they’re dancing. One team however, isn’t going to be dancing without an automatic bid and I expect it to come out firing on all cylinders. Virginia Commonwealth, at home in Richmond, will “steal” a bid and punch its ticket to the NCAA tournament.

METRO ATLANTIC ATHLETIC: After its impressive showing in BracketBusters, the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) became one of the most intriguing leagues in the country. The conference tournament is usually entertaining and this year should be no different. Fairfield finished in first in the regular season, but show kinks in the armor in losses to Rider and Iona, the two teams that tied for second. Iona, by virtue of being hot at the right time seems to be surging towards a NCAA bid, which it’ll get.

SOUTHERN: College of Charleston was cruising through league play until the last week of the regular season where it lost its final two games. That brought into a tie for the South Division and league title with defending champion Wofford. Although Charleston has a win over Tennessee and an almost win at Maryland, I think its going to be tough for it to navigate through this tournament. Chattanooga and Wofford will meet for round 3 with Wofford making a repeat trip to the NCAA tournament.

WEST COAST: St. Mary’s and Gonzaga both have at-large hopes with Gonzaga’s chances being a tad bit better at the moment. Given that the tournament is set up to give top two teams an advantage expect to see the two class programs in the conference go at it one more time. It will be a heavyweight slugfest in Vegas with St. Mary’s getting an automatic bid ensuring two WCC teams go dancing.

AMERICA EAST: Vermont and Boston University have been the two best teams in league play, but neither is perfect. Maine had a run at the both of them and should be in the mix this weekend in Hartford. However, I still believe that Vermont and Boston will get through a tough tournament to meet for all the marbles once again. Boston will not be able to finish Vermont for a third time and the Vermont Catamounts will go dancing.

Swamp Things

Florida point guard Erving Walker does everything for the Gators

After a slow start to the season, the Florida Gators have distanced themselves from the pack in the SEC East. Tied for the overall lead in the league, they have easily been the most impressive team thus far in the SEC.

Billy Donovan seems to finally getting his program back the level it enjoyed when it won back-to-back national titles in 2006 and 2007. He’s getting a balanced attack that is proving a difficult task for opponents to guard.

Erving Walker leads the team with 14.8 points per game, but gets plenty of help from Kenny Boynton, Vernon Macklin and Chandler Parsons who score about 35 points per game together. They’re an experienced group that has been through the rigors of the SEC before and want to return the program to glory.

Despite the success though, now is not the time for the Gators to rest on their laurels. Their final four games of the season all look to challenge their stranglehold on the standings. Home games against Georgia and Alabama along with trips to Kentucky and Vanderbilt will test the Gators. Time to see how bad the Gators’ bite is.

Stock Up: St. John’s. About 3 weeks ago, the Red Storm was the quintessential bubble team. Now, it looks like the only way it doesn’t make the NCAA tournament is if its canceled. St. John’s has beaten Duke, Georgetown, Notre Dame, West Virginia, Pittsburgh, and Connecticut. At this point, it looks like they may be just playing for seeding now.

Stock Down: Missouri Valley Conference. The MVC’s showing in BracketBusters this weekend was very dissapointing. The conference did harbor some hopes to be a multiple bid league before the weekend, but after its three best teams lost in national TV games, those hopes are dashed. I’m used to seeing this as one of the best mid-major leagues, but it is truly a down year in the Valley.

Stock Up: Cliff Ellis. Here is a man in charge of a team that won the regular season title in the Big South last season, but was upset in the conference tournament. His Coastal Carolina squad is dominating the regular season again, but lost it’s starting point guard to a torn knee ligament. Then it found out leading scorer Desmond Holloway was suspended for a violation of NCAA rules. Ellis didn’t wallow in pity, he just got his team prepared to go out and beat North Carolina Central by 35 points. He continues to do a hell of a job with that program.

Stock Down: Minnesota. Gopher fans are seeing why Wildcat fans ran Tubby Smith out of Kentucky. A promising season is now on the verge of disaster as the Gophers have lost five of their last six. The Gophers face the real possibility of missing the dance altogether – possibly putting Smith on the hot seat. That’s something no one saw coming.

This Week’s Bracket Projections:

Last Four In: Memphis, Virginia Commonwealth, Boston College, Alabama
Last Four Out: Richmond, Butler, Colorado St, Virginia Tech

Good for Games through 2/20

SOUTHWEST
1.Kansas16.McNeese St/Morgan St Tulsa
8.Utah St9.Old Dominion
5.Arizona12.Alabama/Memphis Tampa
4.Connecticut13.Princeton
6.Syracuse11.Nebraska Tampa
3.Florida14.Bucknell
7.Florida St10.St. Mary’s Chicago
2.Purdue15.Miami(Oh)
WEST
1.Pittsburgh16.Montana Cleveland
8.UNLV9.Washington
5.Missouri12.Boston College/VCU Denver
4.Wisconsin13.Missouri St
6.Xavier11.Minnesota Washington, D.C.
3.Villanova14.Belmont
7.St. John’s10.Tennessee Tulsa
2.Texas15.Long Beach St
SOUTHEAST
1.Ohio St16.Vermont Cleveland
8.Kansas St9.Georgia
5.North Carolina12.Cleveland St Washington, D.C.
4.Louisville13.Oakland
6.Kentucky11.Illinois Charlotte
3.Georgetown14.Morehead St
7.George Mason10.Marquette Denver
2.BYU15.Florida Atlantic
EAST
1.Duke16.Long Island/Texas Southern Charlotte
8.UCLA9.Cincinnati
5.Texas A&M12.UTEP Tucson
4.Vanderbilt13.Charleston
6.Temple11.Gonzaga Chicago
3.Notre Dame14.Fairfield
7.West Virginia10.Michigan St Tucson
2.San Diego st15.Coastal Carolina

In Graphical Form

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PATRIOT LEAGUE: Lehigh won the regular season crown but it does not give of the vibe that its a favorite. It only finished one game ahead Bucknell and two games ahead of Lafayette, both of whom have victories over Lehigh. I just worry about the Mountain Hawks ability to get through this tournament. Even their first round opponent, Army, finished with a .500 overall record in the regular season. I believe Navy has an ambush set up and will win this tournament-only to be sent to the play-in game.

MISSOURI VALLEY: This is a tournament where the No. 1 seed doesn’t win all that often. That’s because of how competitive the conference is. Northern Iowa is far and away the best team in the league, but they’re going to the Big Dance regardless of whether they win this tournament or not. Illinois St guard Osiris Eldridge came back for this very moment. He saw the dream of going to the Big Dance vanish in OT of last year’s MVC title game. This year, he’s going to cut the nets down.

NORTHEAST: Defending champion Robert Morris had a pretty good stranglehold on the NEC before two late season losses ended forced them into a first-place tie with Quinnipiac. They both finished three games better than Mount St. Mary’s, but no team in the conference has it going more than Mount St. Mary’s. After a rough start, the Mountaineers have won 10 in a row. At the end of the NEC tournament, it’ll be 13 in a row.

COLONIAL ATHLETIC ASSOCIATION: Routinely, the CAA is one of the best conferences outside of the top-10 and this year was no different. Old Dominion, Northeastern, William & Mary, George Mason and Virginia Commonwealth, the league’s top five teams, can compete with teams from any conference and all five are capable of winning this tournament. William & Mary’s style of play will be difficult to prepare for in such short time and I expect the Tribe to go dancing.

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Western Kentucky G Orlando Mendez-Valdez

Western Kentucky G Orlando Mendez-Valdez

Sun Belt: The Western Kentucky Hilltoppers enters the conference tournament winners of 12 of their last 14.  They’ve been solid all year, which included a win over Louisville.  Orlando Mendez-Valdez leads the Hilltoppers who are trying to repat as Sun Belt Conference champions for the first time since the 2002 and 2003 seasons.  In their way will be the Trojans of Troy and Arkansas-Little Rock (Yes, they’re Trojans too).  Troy can boast wins over both the WKU and UALR while the other Trojans has an 0-3 record against both squads.  I expect UALR to make a run at it, but look for WKU and Troy in the finals and the Hilltoppers will repeat.

American G Derrick Mercer

American G Derrick Mercer

Patriot League: The American Eagles enter this year’s Patriot League tournament looking to continue its two-year dominance over the conference. Seniors Derrick Mercer and Garrison Carr lead an experienced group who gave Tennessee all it can handle in last year’s tournament. Lying in wait to upset American is Holy Cross. The Crusaders are responsible for the lone blemish on the Eagles conference record and have been gone to the tournament 4 times already in this decade.  It’s going to be a raucous atmosphere in Bender Arena next Friday.  An atmosphere that will be too much for the Crusaders to handle and American will make a return trip to NCAA tournament.

Missouri Valley: There may not be another team in the country playing the kind of basketball the Creighton Blue Jays are playing right now.  They’ve won 10 in-a-row and have firmly implanted themselves in the at-large discussion.  For a time this season, Illinois St was in the at-large discussion itself.  However, the Redbirds struggled down the stretch against some pretty stiff competition and closed the season on a three-game losing streak.  I believe the team that’s going to win in St. Louis will be Northern Iowa.  They finished the season on an uptic and can claim victories over the Blue Jays and a season sweep of the Redbirds.  Expect the Panthers to cut the nets down.

And before we continue the predictions, let’s take a moment of silence for Cincinnati’s at-large hopes.  South Florida just killed them.

Northeast Conference: This may be a crazy tournament.  Mount St. Mary’s, Long Island, and Sacred Heart all finished with identical 12-6 conference records.  None of them are responsible for the regular-season champion’s, Robert Morris, three conference losses.  History tells me it is going to be difficult for Robert Morris  to be two good teams three times in the regular season.  Given this league’s history for conference tournament upsets, it only strengthens that theory.  In a situation like this, take the team playing the best basketball.  Sacred Heart will navigate through a very competitive conference tournament and will be #16 seed.