College Hoops Wednesday: Your Commentary

March 9th, 2011
More conference tournaments enter the fray on Wednesday with the Big 12 and Pac-10 being two of the seven conference tournaments that open. The Big 12 will be of particular interest as two teams playing today can ill-afford a first round loss. Baylor and Colorado are both in need of more wins; how many more is unknown but a loss to either Iowa State or Oklahoma could do irreparable harm to their at-large hopes. The task is simple for the Buffaloes: Alec Burks, Cory Higgins and Levin Knutson need to be on offensively while on the defensive end they have to slow down Diante Garrett. Colorado's picked up some impressive wins but they've also dropped a few games an NCAA Tournament team should win, leaving them open to an upset today.

Baylor's resume lacks bulk, a surprising fact for a team that has some very good individual pieces. Such is life when you're without the graduated Tweety Carter at the point, and despite the amount of blame left at the feet of his replacement (A.J. Walton) there's also the matter of senior shooting guard LaceDarius Dunn's decision-making as well. Dunn is the big 12's all-time leading scorer but he averages more turnovers than assists per game, and if the shots aren't falling the Bears have problems. Oklahoma beat Baylor in Norman earlier this season, and while Cade Davis is their leading scorer at 13.8 points per game they can struggle offensively occasionally. But they're still scoring more points per possession than the Bears on the season, and another win isn't out of the realm of possibility. But with Quincy Acy and Perry Jones III up front the Bears enjoy an advantage (not so much anymore as Jones will sit out due to the acceptance of impermissible benefits according to a Dallas news station). Whether or not they take full advantage of it will determine whether or not they play on Thursday.

Two NCAA Tournament bids will be handed out as well with the regular season champions in the Big Sky and NEC hosting games. Northern Colorado survived Northern Arizona last night while Montana used a second half run to vanquish Weber State. The Grizzlies may be on the road but their frontcourt tandem of Derek Selvig and Brian Qvale can pose problems for any opponent. Montana is also the last team to beat the Bears, who have won nine of their last ten games and in Devon Beitzel have the MVP of the conference. He scored 22 in that 55-42 loss at Montana but no other Bear scored more than six and two starters (Neal Kingman and Elliott Lloyd) went scoreless. That can't happen tonight if Northern Colorado is to defend their home court (13-0 at home).

As for the NEC, Jim Ferry's LIU Blackbirds have been the class of the conference for much of the season behind First Team All-NEC performer Julian Boyd. Their depth up front has been a handful for opponents, as has the play of point guards Jason Brickman and C.J. Garner. But in order to be the champ you often have to dethrone the champ, which is the task that faces them in two-time defending champion Robert Morris. First-year head coach Andy Toole has navigated a tough non-conference schedule and most recently the loss of guard Karon Abraham for the remainder of the season to get the Colonials to this point. And in Russell Johnson and Velton Jones the Colonials have two players capable of moving their win streak to nine in a row. The two hottest teams in the conference will be on the same floor and keep in mind that Robert Morris won last year's title game at Quinnipiac, meaning that there will be little fear over playing in a tough environment.

Also of import today is the final game in the second round of the Big East Championship between Marquette and West Virginia. Depending on who you ask the Golden Eagles are in the field of 68 but another win never hurt anyone. Jimmy Butler and Darius Johnson-Odom both played well in their win over Providence on Tuesday, and despite tougher matchups in the form of Truck Bryant and Kevin Jones it would come as no surprise if the Golden Eagles were to win. The Pac-10 will sort out its bottom four seeds and the same goes for the 8/9 matchup in the Mountain West, while the unpredictable Conference USA begins the process of determining its NCAA Tournament representative. But their true suspense will come tomorrow when Memphis, UAB and host UTEP hit the floor.

Big 12 First Round (Kansas City)
12:30 PM Oklahoma State vs. Nebraska (ESPN3)
3:00 PM Iowa State vs. Colorado (ESPN3)
7:00 PM Oklahoma vs. Baylor (ESPN3)
9:30 PM Texas Tech vs. Missouri (ESPN3)

Big East Second Round (New York City)
12:00 PM Connecticut vs. Georgetown (ESPN)
2:00 PM Rutgers vs. St. John's (ESPN)
7:00 PM USF vs. Cincinnati (ESPN)
9:00 PM Marquette vs. West Virginia (ESPN)

Big Sky Final (Greeley, CO)
9:00 PM Montana at Northern Colorado (ESPN2)

Conference USA First Round (El Paso, TX)
1:00 PM UCF vs. East Carolina
3:30 PM Tulane vs. Southern Miss
7:30 PM Houston vs. Marshall
10:00 PM Rice vs. SMU

MEAC Quarterfinals (Raleigh, NC)
3:00 PM Howard vs. Norfolk State (first round matchup)
7:00 PM South Carolina State vs. Bethune-Cookman
9:30 PM Maryland-Eastern Shore vs. Hampton

Mountain West First Round (Las Vegas)
5:00 PM TCU vs. Wyoming (The Mtn.)

NEC Final (Brooklyn, NY)
7:00 PM Robert Morris at LIU (ESPN2)

Pac-10 First Round (Los Angeles)
9:00 PM Oregon State vs. Stanford (FSN)
11:30 PM Arizona State vs. Oregon (FSN)

Southland Quarterfinals (Katy, TX)
1:00 PM Northwestern State vs. Texas-San Antonio
3:30 PM Sam Houston State vs. Stephen F. Austin
7:00 PM McNeese State vs. Nicholls State
9:30 PM Texas State vs. Southeast Louisiana

SWAC Quarterfinals (Garland, TX)
1:30 PM Jackson State vs. Prairie View A&M
9:00 PM Texas Southern vs. Arkansas-Pine Bluff

WAC First Round (Las Vegas)
3:00 PM San Jose State vs. Hawaii
5:00 PM Fresno State vs. Nevada