It's finally March! And that means only one thing..other than Baseball Spring Training. NCAA Basketball Conference Championships begin this week all the way through to. Then the Madness Starts!!!! This is my preview of a few major conferences and things to come over the next 2 weeks before the Field of 68 is announced.
There are a few conferences that stand out more than others going into the college Post-Season. The Big Ten is looking to put 8 teams into the Field, but there are a few teams that will need strong showings in the Big Ten Tournament to make their cases that they deserve a shot to play for the Championship.
First off, the Purdue Boilermakers sit at a record of 19-10 (11-5 in conference). Even though they have a strong conference record, their out of conference record isn't that great including bad losses to the Gardner-Webb Bulldogs and the Ospreys of North Florida. One non-conference game that Purdue was expected to lose is the #12 ranked Notre Dame Fighting Irish. They have three big in conference wins against #20 Ohio State, #22 Indiana and #25 Iowa. At this point before the tourney starts, Purdue has made it's case and sits right now in my Final Four In. Let's see how the rest of their regular season shapes up with games against Michigan State 19-10 (10-6 in Conference) and Illinois 18-11 (8-8 in Conference) and if they can make a run in the conference tournament.
The Michigan State Spartans have struggled this season but they sit at 19-10 overall and are 10-6 in conference. Their non-conference loss to Texas Southern and in conference foe Nebraska, look bad, but overall with a non-conference schedule that has included #3 Duke (26-3, 13-3), #11 Kansas and #21 Notre Dame, the Spartans have battled through a very tough schedule this season. The Spartans are my favorite team and March tends to be the time that Michigan State, led by coach Tom Izzo, tends to step up their game. Let's see what happens when they face Purdue and then Indiana to close the regular season, before they start conference tourney play. If healthy, the Spartans can be a dark horse come March Madness time, but that's a big IF. They should make the Field of 68 regardless.
The Big Ten has two Top-10 teams currently with #10 Maryland and #6 Wisconsin headlining the conference. Ohio State also appears to be a lock for the NCAA's.
Looking at the ACC now, #2 Virginia clinched their 2nd consecutive conference championship tonight. The first team to do so other than teams named Duke or North Carolina in quite some time. This is a rather deep conference especially when you have two top 5 teams in the Cavaliers and Blue Devils ranked #2 and #3 respectively. #12 Notre Dame a record of 24-5 overall and a 12-4 Conference record is amongst the top teams in the conference and the Nation along with the #16 Louisville Cardinals (23-6, 11-5) and the #19 North Carolina Tar Heels (20-9, 10-6) round out the top teams in the conference. NC State has surprised a few teams this year as well. The ACC Conference tournament could possibly be the conference tourney to watch during Championship Week with Coach K, Roy Williams and the top ranked Virginia Cavaliers lurking.
Now it's time for the Kentucky Conference, I mean the SEC. Led by the Undefeated and #1 Kentucky Wildcats, there are a few teams in the conference that could make a splash in the post-season. Kentucky outshines everyone with their team of cyborgs. They are about 10 team of young studs that are atleast 6'6" in height and have rolled to their current record of 29-0. They have been tested a few times, but none the less have remained undefeated. Since I don't see them losing in the regular season, the Wildcats need to lose in the Conference Tournament so they have a sense of what defeat feels like going into the NCAA Tournament ranked as the overall #1 seed. The #18 Arkansas Razorbacks (23-6, 12-4) are one of the other teams in the conference that I see as a very strong club heading to the post-season and are more than capable of making a splash in the Field of 68. The Lousiana State Tigers are unranked, but have a very respectable record of 21-8 overall and are 10-6 in conference play. The Championship is Kentucky's to lose. It's basically a Championship or Bust year for John Calipari's Club.
As far as the Big 12 goes, #11 Kansas leads the way, but this year wasn't as easy for the Jayhawks. #14 Baylor (22-8, 10-7) have had another good season. They lost to Texas tonight 61-59 in overtime, while #15 Oklahoma (20-8, 11-5) and the #17 Cyclones of Iowa State (20-8, 10-6) are also legitimate conference contenders to compete with the top dog Jayhawks. The Sooners and Cyclones also faced off in a late regular season match-up tonight at Iowa State. Currently the Sooners are winning big in the 2nd half. This game could have big implications for Conference Tourney seeding. Until proven otherwise, it's Rock Chalk Jayhawks in the conference Tourney.
The Pac-12 this year has been pretty weak. #5 ranked Arizona Wildcats have had an outstanding season posting a record of 26-3 and an impressive 14-2 conference record thus far. The #13 Utah Utes (22-6, 12-4) are the only other most impressive team in the conference to watch in the post-season. Other than these two teams, the only other one that has had a decent season are the unranked Oregon Ducks (22-8, 12-5).
These four conferences are the ones that will headline the tournament with multiple teams for sure who will make the Big Dance. There is one team though out west that is more than worth mentioning and that's the #3 ranked Zags of Gonzaga (29-2, 17-1). Their only conference loss came this weekend to unranked BYU. It was their first home loss in their last 40+ home games. It was the longest home winning streak in the Nation.
All these teams that I have mentioned in this article, they all just want to get started with the Madness and I have to say, that I CAN'T WAIT! BRING ON THE MADNESS! I'll have a Tournament Preview once all these conference tourneys have concluded.