Three conferences will determine their automatic bid today, while a fourth, the Ivy, could also crown a champion if Princeton wins at Harvard. It’s also the final weekend of regular season basketball, and several conferences have set up rivalry matchups to close the season.
The conference tournaments in several mid-major and small conferences are already underway. The Missouri Valley is in the semifinals today, while the Colonial Athletic Conference plays the quarterfinals with George Mason, Old Dominion, and company. Drexel and Virginia Commonwealth meet in a quarterfinal today.
The Big South will be the first conference to put a team in the field of 68, when Coastal Carolina hosts UNC-Asheville (4 pm et, ESPN2). Coastal Carolina may be 28-4, but they’ve lost 2 of their last 4 regular season games, and these teams aren’t that far apart. I could see this going either way.
The second tournament champion, on the other hand, is a massive mismatch. North Florida (15-18) has managed to reach the Atlantic Sun final as a #6 seed, where they will meet Belmont (29-4) at 6 pm est on ESPN2. Ken Pomeroy puts this one at 95% for Belmont.
The third official tournament title game is tonight at 8 pm est, also on ESPN2, involving the Ohio Valley Conference. Props to Pomeroy for having Morehead State as the best team despite being the #3 seed, and they advanced with a convincing win over Austin Peay, while Tennessee Tech upset top-seeded Murray State in the other semifinal. Morehead State won both regular season meetings by double digits.
We’ll have tournament capsules for the champions of these games starting tonight as we get ready for the NCAA tournament to begin in ten days. One more team could join them tonight from the Ivy, even though it’s not officially a championship game. According to Brendan Prunty of the Newark Star-Ledger, Harvard and Princeton would meet in a playoff game late next week if they end in a tie. Harvard needs to win tonight to make that happen; otherwise we will have four entries today.
And of course, I’ve written a few hundred words on college basketball and haven’t even mentioned Missouri versus Kansas. Several big-time programs that will be playing in the tournament end the season today with great matchups.
Missouri will use their Charlie Sheen Tiger Blood to try to upset the Kansas Jayhawks (noon, CBS). Kansas can win the Big XII conference outright yet again with a victory (or yet another Texas loss).
Duke goes to North Carolina tonight at 8 pm, also on CBS, in a game that will decide the regular season ACC champion. In the Big East, struggling Villanova goes across the state to Pittsburgh (4 pm, CBS), Notre Dame plays at Connecticut (2 pm, ESPN), and Louisville goes to West Virginia (noon, ESPN). Pittsburgh wins the Big East outright with a win, while Notre Dame can tie them with the road win and a Pitt loss.
[photo via Getty]