Summit, Sun Belt, Big Sky, America East: Conference Tournament Preview
Quarterfinals—Mar. 6, Sioux Falls Arena, Midcontinent TV
No. 1 Oakland vs. No. 8 UMKC
Oakland beat UMKC twice by double digits in the regular season. Oakland is far superior to the Kangaroos and will win easily.
Oakland 88, UMKC 71
No. 4 South Dakota State vs. No. 5 IPFW
IPFW was playing well towards the end of the season. The Mastodons had a four-game winning streak snapped in a three-point loss at first place Oakland. On the flip side, South Dakota State was struggling down the stretch.
IPFW 71, South Dakota State 67
No. 2 IUPUI vs. No. 7 Western Illinois
IUPUI lost three conference games by a total of six points. The Jaguars are so much better than the struggling Leathernecks.
IUPUI 73, Western Illinois 60
No. 3 Oral Roberts vs. No. 6 North Dakota State
North Dakota State is the defending champion in the Summit. The Bison went to the 2009 tournament as a No. 14 seed and came close to upsetting Kansas in the first round. This year, with the loss of talent, the Bisons have struggled. Oral Roberts has won its last five games and swept North Dakota State in the regular season.
Oral Roberts 71, North Dakota State 64
Semifinals—Mar. 8, Sioux Falls Arena, Metro Sports TV
No. 1 Oakland vs. No. 5 IPFW
Oakland beat IPFW in close games twice this season. Just cause Oakland has been more consistent, it is a better team to pick in this matchup.
Oakland 73, IPFW 66
No. 2 IUPUI vs. No. 3 Oral Roberts
IUPUI and Oral Roberts split the season series, with both games being decided by three points or less, and one game going into overtime. These teams match up very well and make this game hard to predict. IUPUI is a much better shooting team from the field and from the charity stripe. This should give the Jaguars a small edge.
IUPUI 75, Oral Roberts 70
Championship—Mar. 9, Sioux Falls Arena, ESPN2
No. 1 Oakland vs. No. 2 IUPUI
IUPUI beat Oakland 85-82 in the first meeting, and then in the following meeting, Oakland blew out the Jaguars. Both teams have good shooters, although IUPUI is a little better. IUPUI's biggest struggle will be keeping Keith Benson from having a huge game. Benson is much bigger and stronger than any of the IUPUI players. He should score a lot and get a lot of rebounds, leading Oakland to a conference championship.
Oakland 81, IUPUI 76
First Round—Mar. 6, Summit Arena/Convention Center Court
No. 8 Florida Atlantic vs. No. 9 South Alabama
South Alabama has struggled a lot in higher scoring games—Florida Atlantic usually plays up-tempo and scores a lot. This is a huge advantage for Florida Atlantic.
Florida Atlantic 79, South Alabama 71
No. 4 WKU vs. No. 13 New Orleans
Western Kentucky has won its last six games. New Orleans has been horrible this year. Western Kentucky will easily win this game, and send New Orleans home early in its final game in D-I.
Western Kentucky 78, New Orleans 59
No. 5 Arkansas State vs. No. 12 UALR
Both of these teams struggled late in the season, but UALR struggles were much worse. UALR has not won a game away from home, and the Trojans won't win their first on Saturday.
Arkansas State 74, UALR 62
No. 6 Denver vs. No. 11 Florida International
Florida International has lost eight straight games. Five of the losses were by four points or less. Based on this, the Panthers will stay close with Denver, but won't be able to pull out a win.
Denver 68, Florida International 63
No. 7 Louisiana-Lafayette vs. No. 10 Louisiana-Monroe
Louisiana-Lafayette swept Louisiana-Monroe. The Warhawks have had a lot of struggles in the last few weeks and I can't see them winning a game in the Sun Belt Tournament.
Louisiana-Lafayette 67, Louisiana-Monroe 60
Quarterfinals—Mar. 7, Summit Arena/Convention Center Court
No. 1 Troy vs. No. 8 Florida Atlantic
Troy and Florida Atlantic split the season series. Troy played much better than the Owls in the final month of the season and the Trojans get an edge due to their success in the last few games.
Troy 74, Florida Atlantic 67
No. 4 WKU vs. No. 5 Arkansas State
Arkansas State controlled its destiny for a conference championship with only a few games left in the season. The Red Wolves struggled late in the season and flew their chances. Western Kentucky got hot to pull ahead of the Red Wolves into fourth place. The Hilltoppers are playing much better now and will be able to beat Arkansas State.
Western Kentucky 71, Arkansas State 64
No. 3 Middle Tennessee vs. No. 6 Denver
Middle Tennessee won 11 of its last 13. The Blue Raiders are playing great basketball, and it is unfortunate for them that they were put on the bottom of the three-way tiebreaker.
Middle Tennessee 68, Denver 59
No. 2 North Texas vs. No. 7 Louisiana-Lafayette
North Texas finished the season with eight straight wins. North Texas is playing too well right now to lose to Louisiana-Lafayette
North Texas 73, Louisiana-Lafayette 63
Semifinals—Mar. 8, Summit Arena
No. 1 Troy vs. No. 4 WKU
Troy is a better shooting team than WKU. All of the other major stats just about matchup, so shooting will be the difference.
Troy 80, WKU 76
No. 2 North Texas vs. No. 3 Middle Tennessee
North Texas is much more efficient from the field. The Mean Green score 1.42 points per shot. This efficiency will send the Mean Green to the championship game.
North Texas 79, Middle Tennessee 73
Championship—Mar. 9, Summit Arena, ESPN2
No. 1 Troy vs. No. 2 North Texas
Troy's biggest strength is three-point shooting. North Texas plays very good perimeter defense and its opponent rarely has a big game from beyond the arc. If the Mean Green play good defense, the Sun Belt's NCAA Tournament bid is theirs.
North Texas 82, Troy 77
First Round—Mar. 6, Hosted by higher seed
No. 3 Montana State vs. No. 6 Portland State
Portland State usually thrives in high scoring games, while Montana State usually struggles in them. However, Montana State beat Portland State twice in games that were higher scoring than the Bobcats are used to. The fact that Montana State was still able to beat Portland State when it played the Vikings game makes me think that the Bobcats will avoid the first round upset.
Montana State 74, Portland State 69
No. 4 Montana vs. No. 5 Northern Arizona
Montana had a better non-conference record and had bigger wins in conference. The Grizzlies already beat Northern Arizona twice by 17 points and 20 points. There is no doubt that Montana will win and advance to the semifinals.
Montana 70, Northern Arizona 63
Semifinals—Mar. 9, Dee Events Center (Weber State), Altitude
No. 2 Northern Colorado vs. No. 3 Montana State
I have became a big fan of Northern Colorado this year—so readers, beware.
Northern Colorado split the season series with Montana State. However, the Bears have better wins than the Bobcats, and also, they have better stats. This game belongs to Northern Colorado.
Northern Colorado 73, Montana State 65
No. 1 Weber State vs. No. 4 Montana
Montana and Weber State split the season series. Although Montana did beat Weber State by 14 this year, the Wildcats have the advantage. Weber State is a better shooting and rebounding team. In addition, the Wildcats look more athletic.
Weber State 72, Montana 67
Championship—Mar. 10, Dee Events Center (Weber State), ESPN2
No. 1 Weber State vs. No. 2 Northern Colorado
This is a must-watch conference championship game. Northern Colorado and Weber State split the season series in two exciting games. The Wildcats and the Bears matchup evenly and pose for a great game. Both teams have balance on the inside and the outside.
Both teams play faster paced games. In a game where there will a be a lot of shooting, Northern Colorado will win. The Bears shoot 39.0 percent from three-point range and have many threats.
Northern Colorado 80, Weber State 77
Quarterfinals—Mar. 6, Chase Arena, America East TV
No. 1 Stony Brook vs. No. 8 Albany
Stony Brook almost lost at Albany a few weeks ago. In the final game of the regular season, the Seawolves had a 10-game winning streak snapped by New Hampshire. Stony Brook has been consistent enough in conference play that it will not come close to losing to Albany again.
Stony Brook 69, Albany 59
No. 4 Boston U vs. No. 5 Hartford
Boston won six of its last seven games and looked like the team that it was supposed to be. Hartford hit a five-game setback in February, before winning the season finale in overtime against Albany.
Boston U 71, Hartford 62
No. 2 Vermont vs. No. 7 UMBC
UMBC was horrible this year and Vermont was the opposite. UMBC has no chance of beating Vermont.
Vermont 75, UMBC 59
No. 3 Maine vs. No. 6 New Hampshire
Although New Hampshire just blew out first place Stony Brook, Maine dominated New Hampshire in the regular season. The Black Bears are better fit in this matchup.
Maine 60, New Hampshire 55
Semifinals—Mar. 7, Chase Arena, America East TV
No. 1 Stony Brook vs. No. 4 Boston U
Stony Brook swept Boston in the regular season. Stony Brook picked up a questioning loss to New Hampshire to finish the regular season. Since Boston has been playing to its full potential in the last few weeks, Stony Brook will struggle with the Terriers.
Boston U 67, Stony Brook 63
No. 2 Vermont vs. No. 3 Maine
Vermont swept Maine in the regular season. Maine does not have the inside play to keep up with Marqus Blakely.
Vermont 67, Maine 58
Championship—Mar. 13, Hosted by higher seed ESPN2
No. 2 Vermont vs. No. 4 Boston U
Vermont swept Boston in the regular season. Just like many of the teams in the A-East, the Terriers do not have a player that can keep up with Marqus Blakely. This should be a close game, but Vermont will pull out a conference championship and go to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2005, when the Catamounts upset Syracuse in the first round.
Vermont 72, Boston U 65
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