IT’S MARCH! IT’S FINALLY MARCH! HALLELUJAH!!! Quite possibly my favorite month of the year is finally here, and it has started off with a bang! Even the last day in February was wild with Miami’s buzzer-beating victory in Chapel Hill over North Carolina.
March kicked off yesterday with the Second Round of the Big Ten Tournament, which saw Wisconsin outlast Maryland, Michigan survive in overtime against 12-seed Iowa, Penn State use a late run to take out Northwestern and in the finale, last place Rutgers won their second game in as many days, upsetting Indiana thanks to some unconscious shooting in the second half.
Also yesterday, Louisville was on their way to a massive win at home against #1 Virginia, leading by as many as 13 in the second half. But, a foul on a Ty Jerome 3-pointer with less than 2 seconds left and an inbounding violation on Deng Adel were followed by a DeAndre Hunter deep three at the buzzer to shock the Cardinals and give Virginia a crazy 67-66 comeback victory. How could you not love college basketball in March?
The Big Ten Tournament continues today with the Quarterfinals, and here’s a look at how the bracket stacks up so far:
My picks for today remain the same from the picks I originally made back on Monday. I’ll take Michigan State, Michigan, Purdue and Ohio State to advance today.
Arch Madness kicked off yesterday with the First Round in St. Louis, and with no Wichita State to dominate the conference this year, it’s much more wide open! Here is a look at the bracket:
Loyola-Chicago is clearly the most talented team, and they scored a non-conference victory at Florida this season, so they could make some noise if they win Arch Madness and advance to the Big Dance. I believe that happens, and here’s how I see it playing out:
Illinois State is a team that thought they should have gotten an at-large berth to the Tournament last season, but were left out of the field. That could motivate the holdovers in this year’s Arch Madness. I see them reaching the title game, but falling to a more talented Loyola-Chicago team.
Another big tournament will kick off today with the West Coast Conference in Las Vegas, where it’s expected that we’ll have Gonzaga and Saint Mary’s playing once again for the title on Tuesday night. Here’s the bracket:
The Zags and Gaels are pretty much guaranteed to go to the NCAA Tournament, but every other team in this conference would need to win the automatic bid. BYU is talented, and San Francisco could certainly reach the title game, but we seem destined to see a third meeting between Gonzaga and Saint Mary’s. Here’s how I see it shaking down:
Gonzaga is without question the best team in this conference, and I think they’ll prove it here with an easy run through yet another conference tournament. I think they win all three games going away.
For most conferences, the regular season wraps up this weekend, while the first few automatic bids to the NCAA Tournament will be handed out as well. Here’s a preview of the biggest games coming up over the next few days.
#17 Rhode Island @ Davidson
8:00 pm, CBS Sports Network
The Rams are coming off their worst performance of the season, a 78-48 loss to Saint Joseph’s on Senior Night. It was an embarrassing effort from Dan Hurley’s club, and I think they’ll be motivated to get back on track in this one. That won’t be easy though, as they take on the Wildcats, who sit right behind Rhode Island in the Atlantic 10 standings. These teams played a few weeks ago, with the Rams winning it 72-59. Davidson will be out for revenge. This should be a great game.
Ohio Valley Conference Semifinals:
#4 Jacksonville State @ #1 Murray State (8:00 pm, ESPNU)
#3 Austin Peay @ #2 Belmont (10:00 pm, ESPNU)
Once again, the OVC will be the first team to crown a champion and officially send a team to the NCAA Tournament, and I think any of these four teams could get it done. Murray State and Belmont are the two best teams, and they proved that throughout the regular season, but both Austin Peay and Jacksonville State have won the OVC Tournament in recent seasons, so they are experienced and they know what they have ahead of them. The Championship game will take place Saturday night at 8:00 on ESPN2.
#23 Kentucky @ Florida
12:00 noon, CBS
It has been an up and down season for Florida, but they have an impressive resume and are well on their way to the Tournament. They could end their regular season in a great way with a win over the Wildcats. Kentucky is one of the hottest teams in the country, and they could stake their claim to a Top-4 seed in the Big Dance if they add a road win over Florida to their resume.
#18 Clemson @ Syracuse
2:00 pm, ESPN3/ACC Network
Clemson has struggled at times since losing Donte Grantham for the season, but they are still one of the best teams in the ACC, and a win over them would help any Tournament resume. That’s what Syracuse has to be thinking as they take the floor for Senior Day. The Orange are directly on the Bubble and a win in this game could go a long way. It probably doesn’t guarantee them a berth, but it certainly would help.
Notre Dame @ #1 Virginia
4:00 pm, ESPN3/ACC Network
Notre Dame is clinging to it’s NCAA Tournament hopes, but they have Bonzie Colson back, so they have a chance to make some noise in the ACC Tournament and get to the Big Dance. It certainly wouldn’t hurt them to add a road win over Virginia to their resume. The Cavaliers pulled off an improbable win last night over Louisville, and they will be mighty tough to beat on Senior Day.
Louisville @ NC State
6:00 pm, ESPN
The poor Louisville Cardinals. They had a win over Virginia and a likely berth to the NCAA Tournament right in their hands, and they let it slip away. They remain on the Bubble, and I really think it could go either way right now. That’s what makes this game in Raleigh so important. The Wolfpack have worked their way to the top of the Bubble over the last few weeks, so I don’t think a loss hurts them here. That being said, of course they want to win and continue their momentum into the ACC Tournament.
Arkansas @ Missouri
6:00 pm, ESPN2
These are two SEC Bubble teams, and I think if the season ended right now, they’d both be in. Arkansas is probably safer, but Missouri has a huge X-factor that could change everything for them. Superstar freshman Michael Porter Jr. could play on Saturday, and if the Tigers get him back for the postseason, they are going to be a dangerous team. They could end up as an 8 or 9-seed, and they’d be the last 8/9 that any 1-seed would want to see in the Second Round.
#9 North Carolina @ #5 Duke
8:15 pm, ESPN
The most compelling rivalry in college basketball will add another chapter to close out the regular season on Saturday night. Duke had been rolling before falling to Virginia Tech earlier this week. North Carolina had also been playing really well, but were upset by Miami on Senior Night. This will be the last game at Cameron Indoor for Grayson Allen, so I expect him to go off. Whether that means a Duke win or not, we’ll just have to tune in and find out!
UCLA @ USC
10:15 pm, ESPN
A true Bubble battle. These teams are jockeying for position on the Bubble, and I think they could both be in, they could both be out, it’s really up in the air. USC started the season great, had a lull in the middle of the season, and are playing well again here down the stretch. UCLA has been up and down all season, and could use a road win over USC to enhance their resume. I’m sure Bill Walton will be on the call for this game, so that either means it’ll be lots of fun (if you enjoy him), or unwatchable (if you loathe him, as I do).
#10 Cincinnati @ #11 Wichita State
12:00 noon, CBS
The top two teams in the American will do battle for the second time this season, the Bearcats looking for revenge after falling to Wichita at home in the first meeting this season. With a win here and a run through the conference tourney, I think either of these teams could potentially earn as high as a 2-seed in the Big Dance. The first step to that though is a win in this one to finish the regular season.
Big South Championship Game
Radford/Winthrop vs. Liberty/UNC Asheville
1:00 pm, ESPN
The second automatic bid will go to the winner of the Big South. UNC Asheville is the 1-seed, and they and 2-seed Winthrop are the best teams in the conference, and are likely to oppose each other in this title game. Winthrop won the Big South last season, and are looking to make it two trips to the Big Dance in a row, while UNC Asheville looks to make the Tournament for the first time since 2016, when they defeated Winthrop in this title game.
Atlantic Sun Championship Game
#2 Lipscomb @ #1 Florida Gulf Coast
3:00 pm, ESPN
The Atlantic Sun will award their auto-bid Sunday as well, with Florida Gulf Coast hosting Lipscomb, the winner heading to the Dance. The Eagles have won the A-Sun three of the last five years, and they look to head to the NCAA Tournament for the third straight season. Meanwhile, Lipscomb is looking to reach the Tournament for the first time in school history. These two teams just played at FGCU on February 17th with Lipscomb pulling off the 90-87 upset victory. That could give them the confidence they need to win this game and their first Atlantic Sun Championship.
Enjoy the last weekend of the regular season and the start of Championship Week! Selection Sunday is just over a week away! I’ll be back Monday with a new Bracketology and some other fun stuff.