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March 7, 2008
Conference Tournament Previews
MAAC, West Coast Conference, America East, Summit League, Big Sky

by Ken Pomeroy

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As the BCS conferences and the other basketball elite close out their regular seasons, five more conferences falling a bit below the radar will start the process of finding a champion to send to the dance. Among these five, just two teams--Gonzaga and St. Mary's from the West Coast Conference--stand to reach the NCAA tournament without winning their league's event first.

Metro-Atlantic Athletic Conference

                     Qtrs Semis Final Champ
1  Siena              100  92.9  80.0  58.6
2  Rider              100  83.8  52.3  21.0
3  Niagara            100  51.7  22.8   7.1
6  Marist             100  48.3  20.6   6.0
4  Loyola MD          100  53.7  10.9   3.9
5  Fairfield          100  46.3   7.1   2.4
7  Iona              80.2  15.1   4.2   0.7
8  Manhattan         57.9   4.6   1.5   0.3
9  St. Peter's       42.1   2.5   0.6   0.1
10 Canisius          19.8   1.1   0.1   0.005

Format: All games at Siena, March 7-10.
Most likely championship matchup: Rider at Siena (42%)

Siena and Rider shared the regular-season title, but the top six teams in the conference finished within two games of each other. That kind of balance should mean an upset or two will occur will occur in the semis. Despite not being demonstrably better than the rest of the MAAC, Siena is a little more upset-proof playing on its home court, a place where they beat (a Brook Lopez-less) Stanford by 12 back in November.

West Coast Conference

                    Semis Final Champ
1 Gonzaga            99.8  94.7  66.3
2 St. Mary's         98.5  80.4  30.1
3 San Diego          89.9  18.9   2.8
4 Santa Clara        78.1   4.9   0.7
5 San Francisco      21.9   0.4   0.02
6 Pepperdine         10.1   0.5   0.01
7 Portland            1.5   0.2   0.004
8 Loyola Marymount    0.2   0.01  0.0001

Format: All games at San Diego, March 7-10.
Most likely championship matchup: Gonzaga vs. St. Mary's (76%)

Everybody likes to celebrate parity in college hoops. I'm not sure what the opposite of parity is called, but the WCC is the model of it. In how many other conferences do you see a five-game difference between third and fourth places? San Diego hosts the tourney, yet their chances of winning barely register, which will make most of America happy since St. Mary's and Gonzaga are at-large worthy and chances are overwhelming that one of them will take the WCC auto bid. Gonzaga is ranked, projected as a six or seven seed, yet I haven't heard much buzz about them, which is a shame because this is Mark Few's most well-rounded team in years.

America East

                     Qtrs Semis Final Champ
1 UMBC                100  93.3  54.4  43.4
3 Albany              100  75.7  53.6  19.2
5 Binghamton          100  56.9  27.0  15.0
4 Vermont             100  43.1  17.7   9.9
2 Hartford            100  73.6  25.0   8.0
6 Boston U.           100  24.3  14.5   3.4
7 New Hampshire       100  26.4   6.9   1.0
8 Stony Brook        64.6   4.3   0.7   0.1
9 Maine              35.4   2.4   0.2   0.03

Format: First three rounds at Binghamton, March 7-9. Championship at higher seed, March 15.
Most likely championship matchup: Albany at UMBC (29%)

The America East rumble gets underway tonight with a single game. It's a fairly wide open event with five teams having legitimate title hopes. Because the event is hosted by the five-seed Binghamton, the top-seeded Retrievers of UMBC may have to play a road game in the semifinals.

Summit League

                    Semis Final Champ
1 Oral Roberts       93.7  80.3  44.1
2 IUPUI              91.3  71.0  42.6
3 Oakland            79.5  24.2   8.9
5 IPFW               55.2  10.5   2.2
4 Southern Utah      44.8   7.4   1.3
6 Western Illinois   20.5   2.4   0.4
7 UMKC                8.7   2.4   0.4
8 Centenary           6.3   1.8   0.2

Format: All games at the Hammons Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma, March 8-11.
Most likely championship matchup: Oral Roberts vs. IUPUI (58%)

I've been remiss in saluting IUPUI guard George Hill's performance this season. Hill was awesome in 2006, then effectively missed all of last season after breaking his foot, then was awesome again this season as a redshirt junior. IUPUI leads the land in eFG%, and Hill himself is making 59% of his twos and 46% of his threes. He's also made 83% of his 215 free throw attempts. Most impressively, he's 6'2" and his team's best defensive rebounder. It will be worth your while to check out the Summit finale to see what Hill can do.

Big Sky

                    Semis Final Champ
1 Portland St.        100  78.3  49.7
2 Northern Arizona    100  68.0  32.1
3 Weber St.          75.6  26.1   8.6
5 Montana            67.2  19.0   7.8
6 Montana St.        24.4   6.0   1.4
4 Idaho St.          32.8   2.7   0.4

Format: First round at higher seed, March 8. Semifinals and finals at the Rose Garden, Portland, Oregon, March 11-12.
Most likely championship matchup: Northern Arizona vs. Portland State (53%)

The Big Sky presents the smallest tournament in D-I, leaving three of its teams out of postseason play. It's probably not a coincidence that I have little to say about it. Montana is actually a significant favorite at Idaho State in first-round play. The Griz won in Pocatello two weeks ago.

Ken Pomeroy is an author of Basketball Prospectus. You can contact Ken by clicking here or click here to see Ken's other articles.

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The Winehouse Factor (03/07)
Next Article >>
Around the Rim (03/07)

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