Burlison: Look at Conference Tourneys

Do you think there are more than just a few nervous players, coaches, fans and administrators this week across the country with conference tournament action set to determine who is going to be doing a lot of smiling on March 12? You betcha.

Welcome to Nervous Time, USA – college basketball style.

 

It's Conference Tournament Championship Week – well, in reality, it's a continuation of a two-week process that provides 30 of the 31 automatic bids to the NCAA Tournament. The Ivy League continues to skip the fun but Pennsylvania isn't complaining. The Quakers have that much longer to rest and pound the books before their March 16 or 17 tourney opener.

 

Here's a quick spin around the country for a look at some of the tournaments and a peek at what is at stake, other than the automatic bids:

 

ACC (Thursday-Sunday, Greensboro, N.C.):

Can Duke, which lost at Florida State and at home to Duke to close the regular season, lose a No. 1 seed with a quarterfinal loss to Miami or Clemson? Not a chance. North Carolina wraps up a No. 2 seed with a trip to the tourney final. Florida State better not lose to Wake Forest Thursday or it could be sweating a losing battle on Sunday.

 

BIG EAST (Wednesday-Saturday, New York City):

Connecticut gets a No. 1 seed regardless of what happens in Madison Square Garden, and the same could be true for Villanova. Cincinnati (vs. Syracuse) and Seton Hall (vs. Rutgers) end any at-large trepidation with wins Wednesday. The Orange may need a victory over the Bearcats and a stunner over Connecticut to breath easy on Sunday.

 

BIG 12 (Thursday-Sunday, Dallas)

Texas could play itself back into top seed consideration if its gets to Sunday (and other things break well for the Longhorns across the country). A likely Colorado (unless it is upset Thursday by Baylor) vs. Texas A&M quarterfinal could be played Friday with an at-large bid as the carrot.

 

BIG TEN (Thursday-Sunday, Indianapolis)

Even with early upsets, Ohio State and Illinois probably have No. 2 seeds secured. The Buckeyes have a very slim chance of playing for a No. 1 if they get to Sunday. Michigan is reasonably secure of being the seventh team in the conference in the NCAA tourney barring a loss to Minnesota Thursday.

 

CONFERENCE USA (Wednesday-Saturday, Memphis)

The host Memphis Tigers should be one of the four top seeds if they hold serve at home. UAB has a reasonable hope for an at-large bid and it could be more than reasonable if the Blazers are playing Saturday.

 

MOUNTAIN WEST (Wednesday-Saturday, Denver)

It's difficult to envision San Diego State (the regular-season champ) not getting an at-large bid if it doesn't win out Saturday night. But the Aztecs would be wise not to stumble Thursday. Air Force secures a bid by advancing to Saturday but that would probably mean a Friday night win over a solid BYU team.

 

PAC 10 (Wednesday-Saturday, Los Angeles)

UCLA and runner-up Washington are playing for the highest possible seeds (the Bruins a two and the Huskies a four?), while Cal can wrap up a bid – if it hasn't already – with a victory over USC on Thursday. Arizona Coach Lute Olson is leaving his best player (senior Hassan Adams) in Tucson for disciplinary reasons and the Wildcats will have a tough time beating Stanford without him in a quarterfinal Thursday. But they are in the NCAA tourney, regardless of what happens vs. the Cardinal.

 

Players of the Week

(Based on play during Feb. 26-March 4 games; players whose teams played at least twice during the seven-day span get stronger consideration over those who played just once)

 

Arron Afflalo (6-5, So., UCLA)

After scoring 25 points (21 of those after intermission) during a 67-58 overtime win at Cal, Afflalo came back with 16 points and three assists during a 75-54 win at Stanford that gave the Bruins the Pacific 10 Conference title outright. He hit eight of 14 attempts from behind the arc and played exceptional defense against fellow All-Pac 10 guards Ayinde Ubaka and Chris Hernandez in the wins.

For the season: 17.1 points, 4.5 rebounds, 1.8 assists per game (.481 FG%, .366 on 3's)

 

Ronnie Brewer (6-6, Jr., Arkansas)

The Hogs continued to pad their NCAA Tourney at-large resume with SEC victories over Mississippi State and Georgia, with Brewer getting a collective 48 points, 13 rebounds, four assists and five steals in the games.

For the season: 18.6 points, 4.8 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 2.5 steals per game (.433 FG%, .333 on 3's)

 

Dee Brown (5-11, Sr., Illinois)

The Illini collected road wins against Minnesota and Michigan State to close out the regular season tied for second (with Iowa, a game behind Ohio State) in the Big Ten. Brown had 14 points, four assists and three steals during the 71-65 victory over the Gophers and 20, four and two in the 75-68 decision over the Spartans.

For the season: 14.7 points, 2.9 rebounds, 5.6 assists, 1.5 steals per game (.371 FG%, .327 on 3's)

 

Tyler Hansbrough (6-8, Fr., North Carolina)

He demonstrated why he is a Scout.com All-America with his play Saturday night (27 points, 10 rebounds and two blocked shots) during the Tar Heels' 83-76 victory at Duke. Three nights earlier he had 13 points and eight rebounds in a 45-point knockout of Virginia.

For the season: 19.0 points, 7.6 rebounds, 1.2 assists, 1.1 steals per game (.582 FG%)

 

Acie Law (6-3, Jr., Texas A&M)

He hit just five of 20 shots from the field in his team's Big 12 games with Texas and Texas Tech but that doesn't begin to tell the story of what took place during the respective 46-43 and 75-59 victories over the Longhorns and Red Raiders that moved the Aggies ever-so-closer to an NCAA Tournament bid. Law's 3-pointer was the difference against Texas while he chipped in with 14 points, nine rebounds, five assists and three steals in Lubbock.

For the season: 16.0 points, 3.0 rebounds, 3.8 assists, 1.7 steals per game (.458 FG%, .344 on 3's)

 

Scout.com's updated Top 25

(Last week's ratings in parentheses; records as of March 5)

1. (2) Connecticut (27-2) Next game: Big East Tourney, vs. Cincinnati/Syracuse (Thursday)

2. (1) Duke (27-3) Next game: ACC Tourney, vs. Miami/Clemson (Friday)

3. (3) Memphis (27-3) Next game: Conference USA Tourney, vs. Tulane/Marshall (Thursday)

4. (4) Gonzaga (26-3) Next game: WCC Tourney, vs. Loyola-Marymount (Monday)

5. (6) Villanova (24-3) Next game: Big East Tourney, vs. Seton Hall/Rutgers (Thursday)

6. (5) Texas (25-4) Next game: Big 12 Tourney, vs. Texas Tech/Kansas State (Friday)

7. (7) George Washington (26-1) Next game: Atlantic 10 Tourney, vs. Rhode Island/Temple (Thursday)

8. (9) North Carolina (21-6) Next game: ACC Tourney, vs. Virginia/Virginia Tech (Friday)

9. (10) Ohio State (23-4) Next game: Big Ten Tourney, vs. Northwestern/Penn State (Friday)

10. (11) LSU (22-7) Next game: SEC Tourney, vs. Auburn/Vanderbilt (Friday)

11. (12) Boston College (24-6) Next game: ACC Tourney, vs. Maryland/Georgia Tech (Friday)

12. (13) Illinois (25-5) Next game: Big Ten Tourney, vs. Michigan State/Purdue (Friday)

13. (17) Washington (24-5) Next game: Pac 10 Tourney, vs. Washington State/Oregon (Thursday)

14. (19) UCLA (24-6) Next game: Pac 10 Tourney, vs. Oregon State/Arizona State (Thursday)

15. (8) Pittsburgh (21-6) Next game: Big East Tourney, vs. Louisville (Wednesday)

16. (14) Tennessee (21-6) Next game: SEC Tourney, vs. South Carolina/Mississippi State (Friday)

17. (18) West Virginia (20-9) Next game: Big East Tourney, vs. Pittsburgh/Louisville (Thursday)

18. (21) Nevada (24-5) Next game: WAC Tourney, vs. Idaho (Thursday)

19. (22) Kansas (22-6) Next game: Big 12 Tourney, vs. Oklahoma State/Iowa State (Friday)

20. (23) Florida (24-6) Next game: SEC Tourney, vs. Georgia/Arkansas (Friday)

21. (15) North Carolina State (21-8) Next game: ACC Tourney, vs. Florida State/Wake Forest (Friday)

22. (16) Georgetown (19-8) Next game: Big East Tourney, vs. Notre Dame (Wednesday)

23. (20) Marquette (20-9) Next game: Big East Tourney, vs. Georgetown/Notre Dame (Thursday)

24. (24) Arkansas (21-8) Next game: SEC Tourney, vs. Georgia (Thursday)

25. (ur) Iowa (22-8) Next game: Big Ten Tourney, vs. Michigan/Minnesota (Friday)

Dropped out: Wisconsin (25)

 

 



Inducted into the USBWA Hall of Fame last April, Frank Burlison is Scout.com's national basketball expert and is also a columnist for the Long Beach (Calif.) Press-Telegram. He can be reached at frank.burlison@presstelegram.com. Read more of Burlison's pieces at www.collegehoops.scout.com


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