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Wednesday, Mar 8
by Larry Ness - 03/08/2006
The Horizon League, the Mid-Continent Conference and the Sun Belt Conference added three more teams to this year's 65-team NCAA field last night. Wisconsin-Milwaukee took care of Butler 87-71, giving the Panthers their third league title in the last four years. Wisconsin-Milwaukee made a Sweet 16 run in last year's NCAA tournament.
My free play for Wednesday is on Fullerton State over CS Northridge at 11:20 ET. My Wednesday college basketball card features two more 15* plays (8-2 start in March), my first Las Vegas Insider Play in the tourneys (69% start in the college tournaments with all plays!) plus my 20* Big Sky Tourney GOY. In the NBA, I look to continue my 65% run since Feb 3 with my 10* Western Conf Game of the Month.
Oral Roberts vindicated itself after losing last year's conference final on a three-pointer with 1.3 seconds remaining, by beating Chicago State 85-72 last night. It gives the Golden Eagles their first NCAA berth in 22 years. South Alabama made short work of Western Ky in last night's SBC title game, beating the Hilltoppers 95-70. For the Jaguars, it's their first NCAA trip since 1998 and their 24-6 record is the school's best since 1980-81.
There are a total of 15 conferences that began or will begin, their postseason tourneys this week. The MAC, MEAC, MWC and Southland have already begun, while the A-10, Big East, Big West, C-USA and Pac-10 will begin today or tonight. The ACC, Big-10, Big-12, SEC, SWAC and WAC start on Thursday. Tonight's 17-game schedule features just one title game, as the Big Sky Conference plays its championship game tonight on ESPN2 at 9:30 ET.
Northern Arizona, the regular season champ, will host Montana in Flagstaff, where the Lumberjacks are 14-1 on the season after beating CS Sacramento last night 98-83. Montana escaped with a 73-71 overtime win against Eastern Washington last night and will try for the school's second straight conference title. Montana lost in last year's NCAA first round to Washington (88-77). The teams split two meetings this year and in tonight's game Northern Arizona is favored by 1 1/2 points (152).
EPSN will cover all four of the Big East's first round games, beginning with Syracuse/Cincinnati at 12:00 ET and ending with Louisville/Pittsburgh at about 9:20 ET. FSN airs the first round of the Pac-10 tourney, with Oregon State meeting Arizona State (Sun Devils are favored by 2 1/2 points with a total of 135) in the first game (9:00 ET) and Washington State/Oregon (Ducks are favored by three points with a total of 111 1/2) following.
The only two top-25 teams in action tonight are both Big East schools. No. 23 Georgetown, losers of four of its last six, will take on Notre Dame at about 2:20 ET. The Hoyas are favored by three points with a total of 132 1/2. In the last game of the night in the Big East (around 9:20 ET), No. 15 Pittsburgh takes on Louisville. Pitt, which hasn't played since a week ago Monday, is favored by four points with a total of 132 1/2.
Some conference notes
In the A-10, No. 6 George Washington is the only 'lock' for a bid, although Charlotte (18-11) will likely get one. The Big East owns the nations' No. 1 (U Conn) and No. 2 (Villanova) teams plus Georgetown, Marquette, Pitt and West Va are virtually assured bids. On the "bubble" are 19-11 Cincinnati, 18-10 Seton Hall and 19-11 Syracuse. Pacific went 18-0 in the Big West regular season last year but lost to Utah State in the tourney final. Pacific's at-large bid last year, was the Big West's first since 1993.
The much-changed C-USA is in its 10th season and just two seasons ago, sent six teams to the Big Dance. Only three went last year and that seems about right this year with Memphis and UAB as "sure things" and 19-8 Houston and UTEP as possibles. The MAC, which started Monday and resumes Thursday, has sent just one team to the Big Dance in every year since 1999. Delaware State is the class of the MEAC (30-6 the last two years) and of course this conference will get just one invite.
The MWC has sent multiple teams to the tournament each of the last five years (two last year but three in the four previous years). The conference sports three 20-game winners this year, Air Force (24-5), BYU (20-7) and San Diego State (21-8). An interesting quirk is that this league has seen six different schools win its conference tourney each of the last six years and Air Force could made it seven straight if the Falcons were to win this year.
The Pac-10 is including all 10 teams in its tourney for the first time this year and in 11 of the last 12 years, has sent at least four schools to the NCAA tournament. Arizona owns the nation's longest current streak of NCAA appearances with 21 straight but the 18-11 Wildcats (11-7 in conference) are clearly on this year's bubble. So is Cal (18-9 and 12-6 in the Pac-10).
However, history says they'll both go, as no Pac-10 team with at least 11 league wins has been left out since 1988. In the Southland Conference, Northwestern State (23-7 and 15- 1 in league play) features its best showing in its 30 years in Division I. It last made the Big Dance in 1993.
The Mavs' 93-87 win over the Blazers last night was hardly impressive but coupled with San Antonio's loss to the Clippers (98-85), brought Dallas back into a tie with San Antonio at 47-13. The loser of the Southwest Division will get only the West's No. 4 seed and be forced to play on the road in the second round at the winner! It's a big deal! Tonight's 10-game schedule sees no TV action with college basketball taking center stage.
A number of games of note are Cleveland at Toronto at 7:05 ET, Detroit hosting Chicago at 7:35 ET and Memphis visiting Seattle at 10:05 ET. The Cavs beat the Raptors last night in Cleveland (106-99) and tonight the two clubs conclude the home-and-home. Toronto is favored by two points (199).
Detroit is back home and still owns the league's best overall record (48-11), as well as its best home mark (26-2). Detroit has won all three games this year against Chicago and 14 of the last 16 meetings between the two clubs. Surprisingly, Chicago's only two wins during that span have come in Detroit. The Pistons are favored by 10 points (187).
In Seattle, the league's worst defensive team (Seattle allows 106.2 PPG) hosts the league's second-best defensive team (Memphis allows 88.9 PPG). The Sonics are playing better lately, going 3-3 SU and 5-1 ATS, while Memphis continues to struggle away from home, with a 4-13 SU record on the road since Jan 1. Seattle is favored by one point (199 1/2).
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