College Hoops Saturday: Your Commentary

    
March 12th, 2011
The day before Selection Sunday is finally here, which means that a number of conferences will determine their winners throughout the course of the day. Thirteen automatic bids are up for grabs and a 14th, the battle between South Dakota and North Dakota in the Great West, will be for an automatic bid in the College Insider Tournament. The Big 12 and Big East title games may receive a great deal of attention (and rightfully so), but the first meeting between teams with 30 victories will take place in the Mountain West final.

Jimmer Fredette went off on Friday night, scoring 52 points in BYU's win over New Mexico. Things were tougher for San Diego State, who needed a shot from D.J. Gay in the final seconds to knock off UNLV in the night cap. This will likely be a revealing third meeting between the two teams as it's the first time that SDSU gets a shot at BYU without leading rebounder Brandon Davies. With Kawhi Leonard, Malcolm Thomas and Billy White the Aztecs can rebound with anyone, and with Davies out there's the opportunity to control the glass on both ends.

BYU's rebounding margin in the four games post-Davies: minus-16 (New Mexico), plus-11 (Wyoming), plus-8 (TCU) and minus-3 (New Mexico). It would be fair to say that San Diego State is much closer to New Mexico than either TCU or Wyoming when it comes to both rebounding the basket ball and basic skill, and they rank 10th nationally in rebounding margin. Charles Abouo and Noah Hartsock have to hold their own on the boards if the Cougars are to win on Saturday night, and given BYU's tendency to rebound by committee all will need to crash the defensive boards.

In the Big 12 title game rebounding will be key as well, with two of the best teams in the nation meeting for the second time this year. Texas went on a serious run after falling behind by 15 points early, ending Kansas' 69-game home win streak. But the Jayhawks should be in better spirits (the regular season meeting happened the same weekend as the death of Thomas Robinson's mother), and when the Morris twins get going Kansas becomes an extremely difficult team to deal with. But Texas also doesn't lack for depth up front with the likes of Gary Johnson and Tristan Thompson providing points and rebounds inside.

Which Jordan Hamilton shows up will also be important to figure out, for when he's playing hard and efficient the sophomore from Los Angeles become a difficult matchup. Hamilton played well in the win over Kansas but has also had moments of immaturity on both ends of the floor. Kansas will look to make Hamilton work for everything he gets, with the hope being that he's get frustrated and put up some hurried shots. Can Texas works its way back into the conversation for a one-seed? Why not, especially with two other candidates done for the season (Notre Dame and Pittsburgh).

In New York, Jim Calhoun's Huskies will look to do what no Big East team has never done: win five games in five day to take home the conference title. UConn will have their hands full with Lousiville, whose style and personnel have meant a UConn loss in recent meetings. UConn needs all who go into the game ready to contribute because as much as everyone likes to watch Kemba Walker go to town the Huskies won't enjoy a great deal of success if guys such as Jeremy Lamb, Shabazz Napier and Alex Oriakhi continue their solid play of late. Preston Knowles has been the leader for the Cardinals, and his ability to do whatever it takes on both ends rubs off on his teammates. How hard Kemba has to work for his shots will most likely determine the outcome of the game.

The ACC and Big Ten tournaments are in the semifinal round, with Michigan State and Penn State meeting in the second game of the day from Indianapolis. Also in the fold is Michigan, who will have the task of beating Ohio State if they want to make their way into the Big Dance. Virginia Tech and Clemson both have the opportunity to eliminate a chance of Duke/North Carolina part three, and with Nolan Smith jamming a toe last night maybe the Hokies can find a way to get to their first ACC title game. The Pac-10 final shouldn't lack for entertainment either, with regular season champ Arizona taking on preseason favorite Washington. The Huskies are in a similar position to last season, when they had their issues during the year only to get hot in the conference tournament.

Out in the WAC, a Utah State win makes that conference a one-bid league and who really knows what to make of Conference USA at this stage. The America East, MEAC and SWAC games should all be interesting as well, with Morgan State making their third consecutive title game appearance in the MEAC. The SWAC will feature two teams who know they're headed to Dayton with a win: 12-20 Grambling State and 16-17 Alabama State, and Boston University has the talent to throw a scare into an unsuspecting team next week. But they have to get past Stony Brook in order to get the chance to, and with the Seawolves finding a way to get to the title game despite all their injuries is a tribute to Steve Pikiell and his staff.

Harvard and Princeton meet in the Ivy League playoff in New Haven, with the Crimson one win away from their first NCAA Tournament appearance since 1946. Meanwhile Princeton hopes to return the Ivy to its traditional "form" in making a return to the NCAA Tournament as Cornell won the last three conference titles. Alabama has a chance to add to their case with a win over Kentucky in the SEC semis, and Florida/Vanderbilt shouldn't disappoint either. The schedule doesn't have quantity but it definitely has quality, making for an exciting Saturday.

11:00 AM Savannah State vs. North Carolina Central

America East Final (Boston, MA)
12:02 PM Stony Brook at Boston Univ. (ESPN2)

Atlantic 10 Semifinals (Atlantic City)
1:00 PM Saint Joseph's vs. Dayton (CBS College)
3:30 PM Richmond vs. Temple (CBS College)

ACC Semifinals (Greensboro)
1:00 PM Clemson vs. North Carolina (ESPN)
3:00 PM Virginia Tech vs. Duke (ESPN)

Big 12 Final (Kansas City)
6:00 PM Texas vs. Kansas (ESPN)

Big East Final (New York City)
9:00 PM Connecticut vs. Louisville (ESPN)

Big Ten Semifinals (Indianapolis)
1:40 PM Michigan vs. Ohio State (CBS)
4:05 PM Michigan State vs. Penn State (CBS)

Big West Final (Anaheim, CA)
8:00 PM UCSB vs. Long Beach State (ESPN2)

Conference USA Final (El Paso)
11:30 AM Memphis at UTEP (CBS)

Great West Final (Sioux Falls, SD)
9:00 PM South Dakota vs. North Dakota (Fox College Sports)

Ivy Playoff (New Haven, CT)
4:00 PM Harvard vs. Princeton (ESPN3)

MAC Final (Cleveland)
6:00 PM Akron vs. Kent State (ESPN2)

MEAC Final (Winston-Salem, NC)
2:00 PM Morgan State vs. Hampton (ESPN2)

Mountain West Final (Las Vegas)
7:00 PM San Diego State vs. BYU (Versus)

Pac-10 Final (Los Angeles)
6:00 PM Washington vs. Arizona (CBS)

SEC Semifinals (Atlanta)
1:00 PM Kentucky vs. Alabama (ABC)
3:30 PM Vanderbilt vs. Florida (ABC)

Southland Final (Katy, TX)
4:00 PM Texas State vs. McNeese State (ESPN2)

SWAC Final (Garland, TX)
8:30 PM Grambling State vs. Alabama State (ESPNU)

WAC Final (Las Vegas)
10:00 PM Boise State vs. Utah State (ESPN2)