Saturday, March 7, 2009

The Conference Tournament Pool -- Friday Recap and Saturday Preview, All Rolled Into One Huge Post

Today is the first magic day, people. Of the 12 tournaments that see action today, three will crown champions. That means three teams -- one each from the Ohio Valley, Big South and Atlantic Sun Conferences -- will qualify for the NCAA Tournament.

(So far, the only team in is Cornell, which plays in the Ivy League, which does not have a conference tournament and is therefore dead to us.)

First, some housekeeping. We continue to await three sets of brackets for tournaments that tip off tonight -- the Big Sky and Summit League. Jim, Jon and Greg must submit these brackets by 8 pm EST tonight, or they will receive no points for these tournaments.

Second, due to a miscalculation (and those damned Ivies), it turns out there are only 30 conference tournaments, not the 31 I said there were in my initial posts. So the prize money will break down more neatly -- I just added $1 to the prize for picking the most correct champions, which is now $10 instead of $9.

Third (and this is tied into the second point), it has come to my attention that nobody has yet paid their entry fee. If you still need the address to which to send your $5, please let me know.

Now, onto the action. We will offer a short breakdown on each of the 12 tournaments that played/play yesterday and/or today, and what they all mean for our pool. At the bottom of this very long post/e-mail is a look at the overall points standings through Friday. But first, the breakdown by conference.

The Big South did not play Friday. Its final is scheduled for today at 4 pm, with No. 2 seed VMI taking on No. 1 seed and host Radford in Radford, Va. Jon is our current Big South leader, with eight out of a possible eight points so far. (That's right -- Jon has an unblemished Big South bracket.) If VMI (Jon's pick for champion) wins the game, Jon will earn the $1 Big South prize with a perfect score of 11. However, if Radford wins the game, Chris and Steve will tie for first with 10 points and each take home 50 cents.

Second-round action Friday in the Horizon League saw No. 3 seed Cleveland State nip Illinois-Chicago and No. 4 seed Wright State take out UW-Milwaukee. The Horizon semifinals are today, with Cleveland State facing No. 2 Green Bay and Wright State taking on No. 1 Butler. As of now, Dan, Nino and Steve all have perfect Horizon brackets and eight out of a possible eight points. But that will change today, as they all have different winners. Dan has Cleveland State and Butler winning today. Nino is going with Green Bay and Butler. And Steve is picking Green Bay and a Wright State upset of the top seed. Oh, and Sal can still win this, if Cleveland State goes all the way and cuts down the nets Tuesday night at Hinkle Field House in Indianapolis.

Apparently, the old adage "You don't bet against the Racers in March" needs to be amended to read, ", unless it's March 2009." Murray State was horrendous against the Austin Peay defense and lost by 17 in their OVC semifinal. So 2-seed Austin Peay takes on 4-seed Morehead State (which upset top-seeded Tennessee-Martin) in tonight's final in Nashville (8 pm, ESPN2). HOWEVER, our pool's OVC champ has already been crowned. Mark Feinsand has seven out of a possible eight points so far to lead our OVC pool and cannot be passed. He has Peay in the final tonight, and nobody picked Morehead State, so Mark has already clinched the $1 prize for the OVC portion of our competition. Congratulations to Mark, the first of what I hope is a great many prizewinners this year.


The blood rivalry that is Lipscomb-Belmont will not be renewed in this year's A-Sun final, as both of those teams lost semifinals Friday. Instead, top-seeded Jacksonville will play No. 2 seed East Tennessee State for the A-Sun's bid to the Big Dance. Sal and Steve each have seven out of a possible seven points -- perfect Atlantic Sun brackets so far -- and have picked East Tennessee State to win the final. So if ETSU wins tonight's final (also in Nashville, and also on ESPN2, but at 6 pm), Steve and Sal will split the $1 A-Sun prize. However, if Jacksonville wins, Jim and Mark will move ahead of Steve and Sal with eight points apiece, and Jim and Mark would split the $1.

Nine of the 12 people in this pool picked Creighton to win the MVC. So it was a good thing they beat the buzzer and eked out a 63-62 second-round victory over Wichita State. Creighton will take on Illinois State and Northern Iowa will play Bradley in today's MVC semifinals. Nino is our MVC leader, having correctly picked all six games so far for a total of 10 points. But a number of people can still win this, especially Ed, if Illinois State can take out Creighton in tonight's second semifinal. Of the nine who didn't pick Creighton, all three have Northern Iowa winning the MVC.

In the America East's play-in game, Hartford snapped a 14-game losing streak to beat Maine 65-56. This result was correctly forecast by Sal, Rob, Jim and Greg, each of whom has one point in the A-East standings to show for it. The America East tournament begins in earnest today with four quarterfinal matchups: Binghamton/Hartford, Vermont/Albany, BostonU/UMBC and New Hampshire/Stony Brook. Eight people have Vermont winning this thing. Two picked top seed Binghamton. Ed went with Albany (since that's where the tournament is). And Mark picked his alma mater, the Fightin' Terriers of BU.

Well, everybody had Drexel, and they lost to Towson, so nobody has a perfect CAA bracket after Day One. Dan, Steve, Chris, Nino and Rob all managed to get the other three games right, but Dan and Rob had Drexel advancing one more round, so that's kind of a rough loss for them. The top four seeds join for today's quarterfinal matchups: VCU/Georgia State, George Mason/James Madison, Northeastern/Towson and Old Dominion/Hofstra. Watch that Northeastern team, which may have got a break with the Towson upset. Jon has Northeastern winning this whole thing. Seven others picked George Mason, three picked top seed VCU and Bracket Boy went with Old Dominion.

Only two first-round games in the MAAC on Friday. Canisius beat Loyola, earning a point each for Dan and Ed, and Marist beat Iona, earning a point each for Nino, Jim and Greg. No long-term damage, really, as the quarterfinal matchups today will go much further toward shaping this bracket: Siena/Canisius, Niagara/Marist, Rider/St. Peter's and Manhattan/Fairfield. Five people picked Siena to win this tournament, five somewhat surprisingly picked Rider and two picked Niagara.

The big upset in the Southern Conference on Friday was apparently Elon's 62-55 victory over Wofford. Not only did 10 of the 12 of us have Wofford winning this game, six of us had Wofford then going on to upset Chattanooga in the quarterfinals. Not gonna happen, thanks to Elon. Jim and Jon each got all four games correct Friday in the Southern conference, which plays its quarterfinals today: Davidson/Appalachian State, Chattanooga/Elon, Samford/Citadel and Western Carolina/Charleston. Ten of us have Davidson winning this thing. Ed has Chattanooga, and Nino went with The Citadel.


San Diego takes out Loyola-Marymount and Pepperdine beats San Francisco, resulting in two points for everybody but Jim and Yohan (who had the Dons in the nightcap). In today's second round, San Diego faces Santa Clara while Pepperdine matches up with Portland. All the while, top seeds Gonzaga and St. Mary's just bide their time, awaiting their opponents for tomorrow's semifinal games. Ten of the 12 picked Gonzaga to win this tournament. Dan and Jim each have St. Mary's.

The Big Sky tournament kicks off tonight in Montana and Idaho with two first-round matchups -- Idaho State vs. Northern Colorado and the knockdown/drag-out border war that is Montana vs. Montana State. I'd tell you who everybody picked in this one, but as I said earlier, we're still waiting for three people to pick it.

The Summit League is just dipping its toe in the water yet. Two of the league's four first-round games take place tonight in Sioux Falls. Top seed North Dakota State faces Centenary, and No. 2 Oral Roberts takes on South Dakota State, which should pack the place with fans. The other two first-round games take place tomorrow.

As always, if anybody has any questions about any of this, you know how to reach me. I'll almost certainly be watching basketball.

Steve Politi: 52
Sal Sabatino: 48
Rob Biro: 48
Jon Graziano: 47
Greg Lester: 47
Paul "Nino" Canino: 47
Jim Graziano: 46
Ed Price: 46
Yohan Sengamalay: 45
Chris Sabatino: 44
Dan Graziano: 42
Mark Feinsand: 42

(as you can see, I'm as awesome at this as I was at the football. yee-haw.)

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