Saturday, March 14, 2009

The Conference Tournament Pool --- Friday Recap, Saturday Preview

Oh, we got a race, boys.

On a day that saw 16 tournaments play, one champion crowned and another slew of top seeds hit the bricks, Rob Biro moved into first place in the overall points standings of The Conference Tournament Pool.

But it’s tight behind him. Chris Sabatino is two points back, Steve Politi just three out of the lead, and Sal Sabatino and Greg Lester are each within nine points of the top spot.

Today is a big day, with 15 tournaments in action and 12 of them holding their title games. By the end of today, with only four games on the schedule tomorrow, we should have some idea of who’s going to win.

I’d like to thank all of you for the work you put in on your picks. There are no more picks to make, which I’m sure comes as a relief. I hope you’ve enjoyed this as much as I have.

Now, onto the daily summary:

The Patriot League tournament played three rounds over 10 days, and it ended early Friday evening when top-seeded American beat Holy Cross 73-57 to earn the title and the league’s automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. Nino, Chris, Yohan, Rob, Jim, Ed, Mark and Steve all had American winning, but Mark and Steve had the best brackets, with 10 out of a possible 11 points. (Both missed only with Lehigh in the first round.) Mark and Steve therefore each pocket and additional 50 cents. Congrats, Mark and Bracket Boy.

I always feel like it’s a cool day when the sports I want to watch start playing before noon. Today is such a day, as top-seeded Binghamton and sixth-seeded UMBC meet in the final of the America East tournament. If you’d forgotten about this tournament, you can be forgiven. The semifinals were six days ago.
To refresh: Jim leads with 10 out of a possible 15 points so far, but he cannot score any more, since he had Vermont winning the tournament. Nobody had UMBC, and Dan and Steve had Binghamton. Dan is hopelessly behind, but Steve has seven points and would get four more if Binghamton won the final, passing Jim and winning the dollar. So if Bingy wins, Steve gets a buck. If UMBC pulls the upset, Jim gets the buck.
Game is on ESPN2 at 11 am EST.

Top-seeded Morgan State advanced to the final with a 75-67 victory over Coppin State, and Norfolk State took out South Carolina State in the other semifinal. These results give the MEAC dollar to Nino regardless of the outcome of today’s final. Nino leads with 16 points out of a so-far possible 17 and has Morgan State winning the tournament. Jim has Norfolk State winning the tournament, but he only has 11 points, and the final is worth four. So while Jim would still get credit for a champion pick if Norfolk State wins, he’d only get to 15 points and would not catch Nino. So Nino wins this $1. Congrats, Meat Sticks.
Norfolk State takes on Morgan State in the MEAC final tonight at 7 pm in Winston-Salem, N.C.

I keep thinking of that Vince Vaughn line at the end of Anchorman, where he’s holding the ladder and threatening to push Will Ferrell back into the bear pit, going on and on about how much he hates him and then he finally says, “But goddamn it, I respect you!” This is how I’m starting to feel about Syracuse, and in particular the kid Jonny Flynn.
A night after playing six overtimes to take out the No. 4 team in the country, Syracuse needed another overtime to take out West Virginia in the Big East semifinals. Louisville whipped Villanova in the other and will face the Orange tonight, as Syracuse attempts to become only the third team (and the second Syracuse team) ever to win four games in four days to win the Big East tournament. (Incidentally, I looked it up – neither of those other two teams played a six-overtime game in their tournaments. True story.)
Mark Feinsand correctly predicted this final, and has 21 out of a possible 32 points so far to lead the pool. He also picked Syracuse to win, and nobody picked Louisville, so Mark has already wrapped up the Big East dollar. Congrats again to Mark, who’s making a strong late push to win back the entry fee he has yet to pay.
Syracuse faces Louisville tonight at 9 pm in the Big East final from Madison Square Garden. The winner does get an automatic bid, but I have a hunch the loser might sneak into the field too.

Second-seeded Nevada eliminated Louisiana Tech while top-seeded Utah State nipped New Mexico State 71-70 in the semifinals. The latter game was interesting for reasons outlined in the AP recap I’ve copied here:

Tai Wesley missed a short hook in the lane with 7 seconds left, but NMSU's Chris Gabriel swatted the ball out of bounds. During an ensuing time out, the Utah State mascot "Big Blue" the bull confronted the New Mexico State's cowboy mascot "Pistol Pete" -- both teams are Aggies -- and ripped off his fake mustache.
The cowboy then chased the bull to halfcourt, jumped on his back and tried to pull him to the floor before retreating to his end of the court.
After fans for both teams started booing, Wesley caught the inbounds pass at the top of the lane and passed to Tyler Newbold on the left wing. His 15-footer rolled off the rim, hit the backboard and rolled in.

The upshot, for our pool, is this: Both Jim and Sal have perfect WAC brackets so far, with 15 out of a possible 15 points. But only one will get to 19. Sal has Utah State winning the final, and if they do, he gets the dollar. Jim has Nevada winning the final, and if they do, he gets the dollar. Just watch out for that bull, Jim.
Utah State and Nevada meet in the WAC final tonight at 10 pm in Reno, Nev. The game is on ESPN2. The winner goes dancing.

Akron and Buffalo are the semifinal winners, setting up a 3-vs.-4 matchup in the finals of the Mid-American. Steve and Rob each have 13 out of a possible 18 points so far, but Rob picked Miami to win this and is therefore done scoring. Steve picked Buffalo, and if Buffalo wins, Steve pockets the MAC dollar. However, Yohan picked Akron, and if the Zips pull it out, Yohan will pass Steve and win the dollar.
The MAC final pits Akron against Buffalo tonight at 8 pm EST in Cleveland and will be shown on ESPN2.

Carnage in Atlantic City, as fourth-seeded Temple knocked off top-seeded Xavier and seventh-seeded Duquesne took out fourth-seeded Dayton to make the A-10 final a bubble team’s worst nightmare. These results also torched almost everybody’s A-10 bracket, as seven of us had forecast a Xavier-Dayton final and nine of us had either Xavier or Dayton winning. Yohan and Mark picked Temple. Yohan and Ed each have 11 points to lead the pool, but only Yohan can get more. (Ed had Rhode Island winning.) If Temple wins, Yohan will have 15 points and get the dollar. But if Duquesne wins, Yohan and Ed will remain tied with 11 points and split the dollar.
Duquesne vs. Temple for the A-10 title and a trip to the tournament tonight at 6 pm on ESPN2, live from the boardwalk.

San Diego State upset top-seeded BYU to advance to a final-game matchup against second-seeded Utah. Jim Graziano was the only one in the pool to correctly forecast this final, and as a result he has already locked up the MWC dollar. Jim has 12 points out of a possible 15 so far and is one of six who picked Utah to win the tournament. Nobody picked San Diego State to win the tournament. Congrats to Jim, whose victory left his brothers as the only ones yet to win any money – until the next paragraph.
San Diego State vs. Utah in the MWC final tonight at 8 pm EST in Las Vegas. Winner dances.

BIG 12
Baylor continues its Cinderella run, taking out Texas in the semis and advancing to the finals. Missouri knocks off Oklahoma State, meaning three more points for Greg. Since everybody had either Kansas or Oklahoma winning this tournament, there are no more points to be scored, and the Big 12 pool ends in a seven-way tie between Greg, Ed, Jim, Jon and Sal. Each gets 20 cents, and Jon is on the board. Leaving only Dan with no money. Fitting. And we haven’t even talked about Wake Forest yet…
Baylor-Missouri for the Big 12 title tonight at 6 pm EST on ESPN, live from Oklahoma City. Would be a big win for Baylor.

Memphis won, of course, and so did second-seeded Tulsa. Dan, Sal and Yohan all correctly forecast this final, but Sal did better in the quarterfinals and has locked up the C-USA dollar. Sal leads with 15 out of a possible 18 points, one more than Dan and Mark. And since everybody has Memphis winning, Sal can’t be passed. Good work, Sal.
Memphis is scheduled to beat Tulsa like a bowl of eggs in the Conference USA title game starting this morning at 11:35 am EST on CBS, live from…well, Memphis, of course.

Chalk in the SWAC, with Alabama State and Jackson State advancing to the final. Seven of us correctly forecast this final, and Rob currently leads with a perfect 8-of-8 points so far. Rob, like seven others, has Jackson State winning, and if they do, he’ll finish with a perfect score of 11 and win the SWAC dollar. But if Alabama State wins, Ed and Sal will pass Rob and finish in a tie for first with 10 points, each getting 50 cents.
SWAC final between Alabama State and Jackson State is tonight at 9 pm EST in Birmingham on ESPNU.

The top two seeds in the Pac-10 go down, and so does almost everyone’s bracket. Eight people had UCLA winning the tournament and two had Washington, and both lost in the semis. Jim and Steve were the only ones to correctly forecast Arizona State’s semifinal win (nobody picked USC’s), and as a result they are tied for the pool lead with 12 out of a possible 16 points so far. Steve had UCLA winning, and cannot score any more. However, Jim picked Arizona State to win, and if they do, he’ll get another buck.
Arizona State against USC tonight at 6 pm EST on CBS, live from L.A.

The finals are Cal State-Northridge against Pacific. Chris, Yohan, Jim and Greg all got this right. Yohan leads with 11 points, and he gets a buck if Pacific wins the final. If Northridge wins the final, Chris gets the dollar.
Pacific vs. Northridge in the Big West final tonight at midnight EST on ESPN2 from Anaheim. Winner gets a dance ticket.

The only quarterfinal upset was Maryland over Wake Forest. The only one who had Wake winning the tournament was (guess) Dan. So this is still a free-for-all. Mark, Rob and Sal are tied for the lead with 9 of 12 possible points so far.
Semifinal matchups today: North Carolina-Florida State, Duke-Maryland.

Ed Price correctly picked all four quarterfinal winners – LSU, Mississippi State, Tennessee and Auburn and therefore leads the pool with 10 out of a possible 12 points so far. Yohan and Steve (Florida) and Jon (South Carolina) saw their predicted champions bow out.
Semifinal games today: LSU-Mississippi State and Auburn-Tennessee.

Bit of a dull day (big surprise) in the Big Ten. Michigan State, Ohio State, Illinois and Purdue all advance. Nobody’s champion eliminated. Greg has picked all eight games correctly so far and leads the Big Ten pool with 11 points.
Semifinal matchups today: Michigan State/Ohio State and Illinois/Purdue.

Couple of nailbiters here, with sixth-seeded UT-San Antonio upsetting second-seeded Nicholls State and top-seeded Stephen F. Austin advancing over Texas A&M Corpus Christi in the semifinals of the hardest tournament to type. Dan, Nino, Rob, Steve, Ed, Jon and Jim all are tied with 5 out of a possible 8 points so far, but Nino (Sam Houston State) and Jim (Nicholls State) picked champions that have already been eliminated. So, if SF Austin wins the final, Dan, Rob, Steve, Ed and Jon would all tie and each win 20 cents. If San Antonio wins the final, it remains a seven-way tie, and each person in it would win 14 cents.
Stephen F. Austin and UT-San Antonio square off in the Southland final TOMORROW at 1 pm with a bid to the NCAA tournament on the line.

Rob Biro: 281
Chris Sabatino: 279
Steve Politi: 278
Sal Sabtino: 274
Greg Lester: 272
Paul “Nino” Canino: 266
Ed Price: 265
Yohan Sengamalay: 259
Mark Feinsand: 256
Jim Graziano: 252
Jon Graziano: 251
Dan Graziano: 242 (come on, Auburn!!!)

Ed Price: 7
Chris Sabatino: 7
Sal Sabatino: 6
Steve Politi: 6
Jon Graziano: 5
Greg Lester: 5
Rob Biro: 5
Yohan Sengamalay: 4
Paul “Nino” Canino: 4
Mark Feinsand: 3
Jim Graziano: 2
Dan Graziano: 1 (thank you, North Dakota State!)

Steve Politi: $3.16
Ed Price: $2.86
Sal Sabatino: $2.86
Paul “Nino” Canino: $2.66
Mark Feinsand: $2.50
Yohan Sengamalay: $2.16
Jim Graziano: $1.20
Greg Lester: $0.70
Chris Sabatino: $0.50
Jon Graziano $0.20
Rob Biro: $0.16
Dan Graziano: NUTTIN

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