Frank Hoops: More Conference Tourney Previews

Scout.com's college basketball writer, <b>Frank Burlison</b> previews the conference tournaments across the country. Today he analyzes the ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Mountain West, Pac-10 and the SEC...

Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament

At Washington, D.C. (MCI Center)

Thursday-Sunday

Regular-season champion: North Carolina (14-2).

Thursday schedule: Maryland vs. Clemson; North Carolina State vs. Florida State; Miami vs. Virginia.

Friday quarterfinals: North Carolina vs. Maryland/Clemson winner; Virginia Tech vs. Georgia Tech; Wake Forest vs. NCSU/FSU winner; Duke vs. Miami/Virginia winner.

Best non-championship matchup: Virginia Tech-Georgia Tech. Hokies won in Atlanta on Jan. 22. What are at-large hopes for loser in rematch? Slim.

Keep this in mind: UNC can face only one (2-3 seeds Wake Forest and Duke) of the teams that beat the Tar Heels in the regular season.

Player to check out: John Gilchrist. The point guard was the tourney MVP while leading Maryland to the title a year ago. He'll need that kind of effort to get his team to at least the semifinals (translated: wins over Clemson and UNV).

Projected tournament winner: Duke over North Carolina. This one figures to match the first two meetings in terms of thrills and chills.

At-large Land: UNC, Wake Forest and – if it gets to tourney final and the chips fall the right away in other tourneys – Duke are in the hunt for top seeds. Georgia Tech (needing just one win, max) is in the best shape among the bubble-types, followed by NCSU, Maryland and Virginia Tech, which could use a couple of W's to feel compy on Sunday.

 

Big Ten Conference Tournament

At Chicago (United Center)

Thursday-Sunday

Regular-season champion: Illinois (15-1)

Thursday schedule: Northwestern vs. Michigan; Iowa vs. Purdue; Ohio State vs. Penn State.

Friday quarterfinals: Illinois vs. Northwestern/Michigan winner; Indiana vs. Minnesota; Michigan State vs. Iowa/Purdue winner; Wisconsin vs. Ohio State/Penn State winner.

Best potential non-championship matchup: Ohio State, in each round. The Buckeyes are trying to make a big statement, comparable to the one they made in Columbus on Sunday.

Keep this in mind: The United Center is going to be bursting on the seems with followers of you-know-who . . . Ohio State's self-imposed ban from post-season (NCAA or NIT) means Buckeyes are aiming to be considered the best team not among the field of 65 Sunday.

Player to check out: Bracey Wright. If Indiana is going to get at least the one (vs. Minnesota) and maybe the second (vs. Illinois, undoubtedly) victory its needs for an at-large bid, the junior guard will have to be dynamic.

Projected tournament winner: Illinois over Michigan State. The Illini will bounce back from their first loss in very impressive fashion.

At-large Land: Illinois will be a No. 1 seed and MSU and Wisconsin are just as safely in the tournament with solid seeds. Minnesota better beat Indiana Friday if the Gophers don't want to be sweating marbles going into CBS's Selection Show.

 

Big 12 Conference Tournament

At Kansas City (Kemper Arena)

Thursday-Sunday

Regular-season champion: Oklahoma and Kansas (12-4; Sooners are tourney's top seed).

Thursday schedule: Missouri vs. Nebraska; Iowa State vs. Baylor; Texas A&M vs. Kansas State; Texas vs. Colorado.

Friday quarterfinals: Oklahoma vs. Missouri/Nebraska winner; Texas Tech vs. Iowa State/Baylor winner; Kansas vs. Texas A&M/Kansas State winner; Oklahoma State vs. Texas/Colorado winner.

Best potential non-championship matchup: Oklahoma vs. Texas Tech (semifinals). It would be a rubber match between teams that won on the other's home floor this season.

Keep this in mind: One of the five or six best players in the conference (swingman Keith Langford of Kansas) is questionable because of an ankle injury . . . Oklahoma State starts four of the players who were in the lineup when the Cowboys won the tournament and advanced to the Final Four a year ago . . . OU's Kevin Bookout and Taj Gray have evolved into the best set of post players in the conference, and one of the best nationally.

Player to check out: Curtis Stinson. The sophomore guard is capable of guiding Iowa State to the semifinals, at least.

Projected tournament winner: Oklahoma State over Oklahoma. The Cowboys gear up for a trek to St. Louis for a second Final Four in a row.

At-large Land: Kansas needs to get to Sunday to keep dimming No. 1 seed hopes alive. Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Kansas and Texas Tech are in the field, no matter what happens Friday, and Texas probably became a "lock" with the Saturday win at Oklahoma State. A win over Baylor probably put Iowa State in. Does Texas A&M's gosh-awful non-conference slate mean the Aggies need two wins in Kansas City to crack the 65-team club Sunday?

 

Mountain West Conference Tournament

At Denver (Pepsi Center)

Thursday-Saturday

Regular-season champion: Utah (13-1).

Thursday quarterfinals: Utah vs. Colorado State; UNLV vs. Wyoming; New Mexico vs. Brigham Young; Air Force vs. San Diego State.

Best potential non-championship matchup: Air Force vs. New Mexico. This could be the game that seals the Lobos' at-large hopes – one way or another.

Keep this in mind: UNLV was the pre-season favorite of the MWC media to win the conference but finished just .500 in conference play . . . New Mexico has lost just three times (to Oregon, Wake Forest and Wyoming) when 6-8 Danny Granger played . . . Utah guard Marc Jackson held Luke Ridnour in check when the Utes upset Oregon in the first round of the NCAA tournament two years ago.

Player to check out: Andrew Bogut – the Utah center is the best player in the country and probably the No. 1 NBA pick in June.

Projected tournament winner: Utah over New Mexico. Only fitting that the two best teams with the two best players (Bogut and Granger) meet in the final.

At-large Land: Utah gets in, even with a stumble Thursday. New Mexico can't felt really comfortable without a couple of Denver wins.

 

Pacific 10 Conference Tournament

At Los Angeles (Staples Center)

Thursday-Saturday

Regular-season champion: Arizona (15-3).

Thursday quarterfinals: Arizona vs. Cal; UCLA vs. Oregon State; Washington vs. Arizona State; Stanford vs. Washington State.

Best potential non-championship matchup: UCLA vs. Arizona (semifinals). The Bruins are rapidly improving and could be primed for this upset.

Keep this in mind: Washington will have to cope with the conference Player of the Year (Ike Diogu) to get by its first-round foe . . . Washington State knocked off Stanford – on the road – on March 3 . . . Arizona beat Cal by 20 and 21 points in their regular-season meetings.

Player to check out: Channing Frye of Arizona, who is playing as well at both ends of the floor as any center in the country not named Andrew Bogut.

Projected tournament winner: Arizona over Washington – in the rubber match. There will be lots of 3's and lots of dunks, too.

At-large Land: Arizona, Washington, UCLA and Stanford – if win of the four wins the tournament, the other three have no at-large worries.

 

Southeastern Conference Tournament

At Atlanta (Georgia Dome)

Thursday-Sunday

Regular-season champion: Kentucky (14-2).

Thursday schedule: Mississippi vs. South Carolina; Georgia vs. Mississippi State; Tennessee vs. Arkansas; Auburn vs. Vanderbilt.

Friday quarterfinals: Alabama vs. Mississippi/South Carolina winner; Florida vs. Georgia/Mississippi State winner; Kentucky vs. Tennessee/Arkansas winner; LSU vs. Auburn/Vanderbilt winner.

Best potential non-championship matchup: Kentucky vs. LSU (semifinals) – the regular-season champion against the club that may be the SEC's best right now.

Keep this in mind: A Kentucky-Florida final would come just one week after the Gators edged the Wildcats in Gainesville . . . There are more high caliber freshmen in the SEC than in any other conference in the country this season . . . Alabama (final eight) and Vanderbilt (Sweet 16) were the only SEC teams playing in the second week of the NCAA tourney in 2004.

Player to check out: Brandon Bass of LSU. The sophomore forward was the SEC Player of the Year but is still be shorted, nationally, attention wise.

Projected tournament winner: Kentucky over Florida. The Wildcats will play a lot better offensively than they did the week before.

At-large Land: Florida, Alabama, LSU and Mississippi State will join Kentucky in the Field of 65. And one win (over Auburn) could be enough to get Vanderbilt into that group, too.


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