Tthe unabashed chaos of the conference tournaments this year may have reached a climax Monday night, with a pair of teams losing-and maybe even three-who will now be talked about at length for the next week. Then again, the night was pretty much par for the course for this season, so we shouldn’t be surprised in the least if/when it continues.
Monmouth and Valparaiso both lost in their conference tourneys Monday night, and both now for the next six days are going to be subject of cheerleading for their causes and condescension from major school apologists who still do think they would’ve finished 12th in the Big Ten. The Hawks lost to red-hot Iona 79-76 in the Metro Atlantic final, while Valpo took a 99-92 loss to Wisconsin-Green Bay in the Horizon League semis.
Coupled with Wichita State, we already have a trio of schools from outside the major TV conferences that are hoping, praying that the selection committee will have compassion on them and understanding of circumstances that don’t work in their favor. We’ve already said our part on these teams-we believe their regular season conference titles should be significant chips in their favor-but in fact each is going to present a unique case.
Wichita State’s case essentially rests on mercy for losses that occurred without All-American point guard Fred VanVleet, as well as a reliance that the committee has become so attached to Ken Pomeroy’s ratings that it will refuse to leave out a team in the top 15 of that formula. For Monmouth, it’s a hope that glossy name wins, attempts to schedule anyone, anywhere out of conference and a glittery record against a schedule that included 23 of 34 games away from home is enough to survive a host of low-rated losses, even as some of them likely weren’t as bad as the numbers say (Army, for instance, was a more-than solid team at times this year). For Valpo, the hope is the committee understands the Crusaders tried darn hard to schedule tough out of conference, won handily at Oregon State and played better on the Oregon road trip than any Pac-12 team did, has weathered a ton of injuries and still passed the “eye test” most of the season.
Another team to keep an eye on is Hofstra. The Pride also lost in a league title game Monday, falling to UNC Wilmington 80-73 in overtime in the CAA final. Hofstra is not getting the attention of Monmouth, Valpo or Wichita State, but it does have wins over St. Bonaventure (away) and Florida State (neutral) and a 6-4 mark vs. the RPI top 100. The biggest blight is five sub-100 losses (three of those just outside the top-100), but the committee has thrown curveballs like this before.
In all of these teams’ cases, the request is that the committee evaluates them with perspective. If the committee is “considering” Syracuse’s record when Jim Boeheim was suspended as part of a probation, then it absolutely better heavily look at Wichita State losing VanVleet, Valparaiso’s nagging injuries all year and its attempts to schedule better, only to see Iona and Rhode Island hammered by injuries themselves, and Monmouth’s thorough attempt to play a tough schedule, only to see Georgetown and UCLA flop to a degree.
All three teams also played a lot more on the road than the Michigans and Oregon States of the world. It’s pointless to try to hold them to the same standards of schedule strength and sheer quantity of things like top 50 wins, when they aren’t playing by the same rules. They’re not allowed to.
- Tennessee-Chattanooga was a fringe at-large team that took care of business in its conference tourney, holding off East Tennessee State 73-67 in the Southern Conference final. What a season under first-year coach Matt McCall-a 29-5 record, and a team capable of winning a few games in the NCAAs.
- The Summit League semifinals did nothing to diminish the tourney’s growing reputation as one of the best events few know about. Defending champion and No. 4 seed North Dakota State trailed by 18 at one point and led for four seconds in the entire game, but the timing could not have been better in a 69-68 win over top seed IPFW. Then, second-seeded South Dakota State rallied from a 13-point deficit in the final 11:24, coming from behind to stun upstart 6 seed Denver 54-53. NDSU or SDSU meet in the final Tuesday night and in the league title game for the third time in five years, and one of the two will win the Summit tourney for the fifth straight year.
- Saint Mary’s and Gonzaga will meet in the WCC final Tuesday. The top-seeded Gaels looked the part in an impressive 81-66 win over Pepperdine, avenging two losses to the Waves earlier this year. Gonzaga held off BYU 88-84 in a game every good as anticipated.
- The tourney surprises just kept coming in the MAC. Higher seeds Ball State and Kent State are gone, with Miami (Ohio) nipping the Cardinals 49-47 and Bowling Green rallying for a 70-69 win in Kent.
- The Horizon final will be Green Bay against Wright State after the 3 seed Raiders won the battle of tempo and beat second-seeded Oakland 59-55. Terrific bounce-back year for Billy Donlon’s team.
- “College Basketball Tonight” a comprehensive look at America’s most popular sporting event, the NCAA Tournament, will return in March and moves to WOR AM 710 New York and will air Sundays beginning Selection Sunday from 5-7 p.m. EST. Hosted by veteran college basketball broadcaster Ted Sarandis, it will focus on all aspects of the NCAA Tournament and will be live-streamed from WOR710.com as well as here on Hoopville. More information is available here, and Hoopville will have links to the show on its front page.
- Championship games are on tap in the Horizon, Northeast, Summit and WCC. The NEC squares off the top two seeds with an all-Jersey matchup of Fairleigh Dickinson at Wagner (7 p.m. EST, ESPN2).
- The ACC, Big Sky, Conference USA and SWAC tournaments all open with first round play.
Enjoy a super Tuesday.