Wednesday, March 14

Conference Tournament Winner Recap

You may recall a couple of weeks ago when I posted predictions for each conference tournament winner. After getting 10 right last year (and coming within a late Princeton field goal of getting 11), I had plenty of room for improvement. So how did I do?

Correct Picks
America East - Vermont
Atlantic Sun - Belmont
Big South - UNC-Asheville
Big Ten - Michigan St.
Big West - Long Beach St.
Colonial (half) - VCU (I did say to watch out for VCU, but ultimately picked Drexel)
Ivy - Harvard
MEAC - Norfolk St.
Mountain West - New Mexico
Northeast - Long Island
Ohio Valley - Murray St.
SWAC - Mississippi Valley St.

The Good: Not even counting the half-point for the VCU mention, I fared a bit better this year, getting 11 out of 32 correct. Nailing Norfolk St. and New Mexico especially made me proud. And I correctly predicted the Big 10 would come down to Michigan St. and Ohio St. Not like that was super challenging, but still. Outside of Vermont, I believe all of these teams were in first place in their leagues when I wrote the article, and most of them were ahead by a wide margin, so getting them right isn't particularly impressive.

The Bad: There were a TON of high seeds that fell in the first game of their conference tournament. Oral Roberts, Middle Tennessee State, Nevada and Texas San-Arlington are just a few of the teams from one-bid leagues that really blew their shot at getting into the big dance. I mentioned New Mexico State (WAC tourney champs) as the only team that would even come close to challenging for the title, but dismissed them as the winner. Ditto with Vanderbilt. After Akron surprised everyone in a wide-open MAC last year, I probably shouldn't have gone with the favorites in a similarly mediocre league this year.

The Lesson: Teams will always choke in any tournament, and other teams will rise to the occasion. We saw two teams blow huge leads tonight in the play-in games--Mississippi Valley State was up 17 with under five minutes to play and lost to Western Kentucky, who will have to make the Final Four to finish with a .500 record, and Iona was up 25 in the first half and only scored 17 second-half points en route to a six-point defeat to BYU. This was a microcosm of the conference tournaments--especially with some of these smaller schools, it really is just a matter of who plays terribly for the least amount of time.

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