Conference Tourneys: Teams With No Shot at an at-Large Birth, But A Shot
The College basketball Season is finally coming to an end. Every night experts are changing their "ins" and outs" accordingly to the updated results. Teams are winning one week and losing the next. There have been more upsets this year than many can recall in recent memory, and some team's records aren't truly indicating how strong or weak those teams actually are.
With the NCAA Tournament bubble being extremely lenient, some could argue that their team deserves to get into the NCAA's over another, but where this years true argument lies, is far beneath the bubble.
The tournament is about who can get hot at the right time and who has what it takes to make it all the way. It's not just about records and RPI's. Below, are five teams who statistically have no chance at an at-large birth, however they not only can win their respective conference tournaments, but also steal a game or two in the NCAA Tournament:
1) Georgia (SEC East)- The Bulldogs boast a talented team that features the most athletic man in college basketball, Travis Leslie. Leslie already had the dunk of the year over Demarcus Cousins—seriously, look it up—and many other high flying dunks to complement his game. He can finish at the rim and eat an entire meal in the middle of the air before landing. He is that good.
Not only do the Bulldogs have Travis Leslie, but big men Trey Thompkins (17.9 ppg, 8.1 rpg) and recent contributer Jeremy Price have really helped round this team out. The Bulldogs have upset victories over Tennessee, Vanderbilt, Florida, and Georgia Tech. Five of their nine SEC Losses to the "contenders" have been by less than four points. Don't be surprised to see this Bulldog squad win the SEC Tournament, or even grab a win or two in the NCAA Tournament.
2) Arkansas (SEC West)- Ah, Another SEC team, this time from the West Division. Why would I include two SEC teams in my discussion for sleeper Conference tournament winners? Because Arkansas could very well be playing Georgia in the final of the SEC Tournament. Yes, the number of dominant teams in the SEC is down this year, but the teams are no less talented from a year ago.
Arkansas Boasts three players who put up 15+ ppg. Courtney Fortson (18.5 ppg), Rotnei Clarke (15.8 ppg) and Marshawn Powell (15.1 ppg) help keep the opposing defenders very busy trying to contain the Razorbacks offensive attack. No other SEC Team, let alone NCAA Division 1 team in the country has three players averaging 15+ ppg. Come conference Tournament time, when teams are forced to play up to five nights in a row, it will be hard to keep up with Arkansas's depth.
3) Washington (Pac-10)- Who will be the only player from the Pac-10 selected in the first round of this years NBA Draft? The answer is Washington's Quincy Pondexter. He is putting up numbers close to twenty points and eight rebounds per game. He, together with returning speedster Isaiah Thomas (17.2 ppg, 4.3 ast) are going to be a lot to handle without other teams home crowds getting into their heads.
One reason Washington is out of the bubble discussion is because of their dismal 2-6 road record. At home, they are an astonishing 17-2. Washington is fully capable of winning the Pac-10 tournament and grabbing a ten or eleven seed. If they can carry that momentum into the NCAA Tournament, their talent and effectiveness will be too much for their first round counterparts. Teams who are seeded five through seven shouldn't get to comfortable this year.
4) Iona (MAAC)- Who can name me the nine other teams in the MAAC besides for Siena? I thought so. Fortunately, there is only one other team you need to know about and that team is Iona. What's cool about Iona?
Besides for being able to say stupid jokes like, "Iona (I own a) house." Yeah, pretty lame. What else thats cool about them is that they ended a teams season, a season full of hard work and thrilling upsets, in just two hours. Iona played its Bracketbuster game against William and Mary at home and gave them a thrashing. William and Mary went from an "in" team, to a team that has to win their conference championship, but won't, otherwise they'd be listed in this article.
Iona has a guard by the name of Scott Machado who can penetrate and dish it out to their Center, Jonathan Huffman, who has the capability to hit the three point shot. It should be interesting to see them play teams who play the zone—Syracuse—and teams in which their defenses Revolve around their big man—Kansas and Cole Aldrich—barring the Iona Gaels win the MAAC Championship and are given a 15 or 16 seed in the tournament.
5) Illinois State (MVC)- Northern Iowa this, and Northern Iowa that. Illinois State, coming off their last season MVC Tournament loss in the finals, is poised to redeem itself this year. Senior leader and NBA Draft hopeful, Osiris Eldridge brings the whole package for his Redbird team capping off at 28 points one game, to six three pointers another, while also having season highs of nine rebounds and 5 assists on other occasions. He is probably the best player in the MVC and this redbird gang came up just short against Division leader Northern Iowa this past weekend on the road.
Ohio (Mac)- Indiana transfer and former Big Ten 3 point percentage leader Armon Bassett is averaging fifteen points per game in his first year in the MAC. His Counterpart, D.J Cooper, a Freshman, is putting up unheard of numbers for a freshman in any league. Cooper is averaging 14 ppg, 5 assists, and 6 rebounds—hes a point guard!—and listed at only 5'10.
This back court duo combined with sharpshooting wing Tommy Freeman (Preseason top fifty shooter honor) can put up points quickly. their two-Hundred and twenty one three-pointers rank 45th in the country and they have a great freshman class that provide them with depth. They have played the two MAC Division leaders tough (lost to Akron 91-88 in OT, and lost to RPI no. 52 Kent state 74-67 on the road.) An appearance in the MAC Championship final would not surprise me, neither would a victory against a team with a weak low post—offensively and defensively like Villanova—in the first round as well.
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