Mid-Major Tourneys Prove As Exciting As Big Ones
by Strike Point Sports - 02/28/2008
March is upon us, and before the Big Dance comes the conference tournaments. Certainly most think of the Big East in Madison Square Garden, the Pac-10 in the Staples Center or even the ACC with a great shot at seeing a third showdown between North Carolina and Duke. But there is much more to this two-week stretch, and the mid-major conference tournaments hold a bit more under-the-radar luster, mainly because if the favorite goes down, any team can get hot and steal a bid during a three- or four-game stretch. Here are some of my thoughts on several of these tournaments:
Missouri Valley (March 6-9)
One of the more enjoyable league tournaments, Arch Madness has a lot of appeal. The MVC boasts a lot of scrappy play from teams, and while these games won't be bringing sexy back any time soon, tune in and you'll see why the winner usually gives everyone else fits come tourney time.
--Drake won't capture glory in St. Louis.
--That means bye, bye at-large big to one of the many mediocre power conference team.
--My prediction: Illinois State
CAA (March 7-10)
Two years ago the slipper fit George Mason all the way to the Final Four. Last year VCU sent Duke packing and nearly topped Pitt as well. Well, heading into March it's tough to say how many bids the Colonial will receive, but right now the Rams look solid at 21-6. George Mason has a good argument, but they too need to finish strong and at least advance to the league's conference title game, in my opinion. As for the rest of the bunch, don't discount some upsets.
--This year's CAA is top heavy, but we won't see a No. 1 and No. 2 title game.
--Old Dominion and Hofstra both had average seasons, but star play can carry them.
--My prediction: George Mason
A-10 (March 7-10)
We've seen a lot of progress with the Atlantic 10 throughout the year. No doubt Xavier is the top team with all they have proven on a consistent basis. But threats remain all throughout this four-day tourney for them to go down. League records don't necessarily tell the whole story, but just know that it won't be as easy as 1, 2, 3 for the X-Men to cruise to a high NCAA seed.
--Dayton flat out hit a wall when they lost key starters. They are still without Chris Wright, however his reemergence could spell a surprise run for the Flyers. If not, well, we will see them in the NIT.
--No one has fallen faster than Rhode Island. They pretty much now need to run the table and sweep the conference tournament for entry into March Madness. And with the trio of Will Daniels, Parfait Bitee and Jimmy Baron, I wouldn't put it past them.
--My prediction: Xavier
MAC (March 9-15)
The Mid American is a two-division, 12-team league, but there has been some impressive depth in 2008. Western Michigan currently sits atop the West and holds the second-best conference mark, however I feel the best four teams reside in the East. You can basically chalk up as the other seven teams as duds, so this league you can you'll see all four semi-final spots held from these five.
--The Golden Flashes of Kent State have impressed me at times this year more than any other mid-major. Well, that's because I don't consider Butler as such anymore.
--Don't read into Miami (OH)'s 13-13 record. They were praised in the preseason, and I think they'll make a strong push to represent themselves in a last ditch effort.
--My prediction: Kent State