Monday started the most exciting time of the year for college basketball fans, as postseason play began with the quarterfinals of the Atlantic Sun conference tournament. What follows is a two-week stretch of non-stop games, all leading up to 32 champions securing a bid to one of the greatest events in sports.
While the first week of conference tournaments on the men’s side usually features action from mid-major leagues, the first week on the women’s side is where the real show is. All Power 5 conference tournaments on the women’s side take place this week, while all men’s power-conference tournaments except the Big Ten start next week.
Maryland fans have two teams to cheer for this week, but the women’s team is playing for much more. While Brenda Frese’s team is safely in the NCAA Tournament, it still has a chance to lock up a top-16 seed, which means hosting the first and second round. This seemed likely just a week and a half ago, but ESPN’s Charlie Creme knocked the Terps to a No. 5 seed after their recent three-game slide.
If Maryland advances in the tournament, it could find itself scoreboard watching the rest of the conference tournaments. Here’s what to watch for in each of the other Power 5 tournaments.
Note: If Maryland loses to either Indiana or Michigan State, just ignore everything written below.
Teams to watch: Duke, NC State
There’s a pretty large difference between the top and bottom half of Maryland’s former conference. Eight teams finished with a conference record of 10-6 or better, and the next best record in conference play is 6-10. While Louisville, Notre Dame and Florida State will be a higher seed than the Terps no matter what, the intrigue lies with two teams on the research triangle.
Neither Duke nor NC State have been in the committee’s rankings this season, but both teams could play their way in this weekend. The Blue Devils may have already wrapped up a top-16 seed anyway with a No. 12 RPI and five wins against the RPI top 50, including two top-10 wins.
The two in-state rivals are on a collision course to play each other in the quarterfinals, which could end up being a top-16 elimination game. There’s a chance for three wins against the RPI top-25 if they win the conference tournament, but two of those would probably have to come against Louisville in the semifinals and Notre Dame in the finals, a tough stretch for even the best teams in the country.
Teams to watch: None
It’s Baylor and Texas, 50 feet of crap, then everyone else. The Big 12 is in danger of sending just two teams to the Big Dance, which is less than the Big Ten had last year.
Team to watch: Stanford
Oregon is guaranteed to spend the first two rounds at home, and UCLA is not far behind. Like last year, the team that could mess with Maryland’s plans lies in Palo Alto. The Cardinal beat Oregon State to win the Pac-12 title last year, a win that probably sealed the Terps’ fate as a No. 3 seed.
Stanford went just 6-6 against a brutal non-conference schedule that featured five games against teams in the RPI top 25, but turned things around and went 14-3 in conference play. Even with a one-and-done performance in the conference tournament, the Cardinal could still play at home the first two weeks due having success against such a tough schedule.
Teams to watch: Missouri, Georgia, Texas A&M
The nation’s best conference also has the chance to have the craziest championship weekend. By selection Monday, the SEC may have five of the top-16 seeds. Mississippi State and South Carolina are locks to play at home the first weekend, and Tennessee probably joined them after knocking off the Gamecocks on Sunday.
Missouri was No. 11 in the committee’s most recent rankings, and even after losing to Texas A&M on Sunday, it’s hard to imagine it falling out of the top-16. The only thing that could derail the Tigers is losing to the winner of Florida-Ole Miss in their first game of the SEC tournament, which would put them in a precarious situation with a somewhat low four wins against the RPI-top 50.
While Missouri would have to screw up in a pretty big way to fall out of the top-16, Georgia and Texas A&M could see its stock rise or fall quickly.
The Bulldogs have been possibly the most confusing inclusion in the top-16, as their resume is usually worse than every other team picked by the committee. Georgia’s RPI is No. 28, and they have just three wins over RPI-top 50 teams and didn’t play a tough nonconference schedule. Finishing third in the SEC is impressive, but the Bulldogs should be traveling if they fall in their first SEC tournament game.
Like Maryland, Texas A&M did not get a great draw for picking up quality wins in the conference tournament and has some work to do. The Aggies missed out on the double bye after losing the tiebreaker to LSU, and while a win over the Tigers would be nice, it won’t necessarily put them over the hump. A win over Mississippi State in the semifinals would do the trick, but the Lady Bulldogs won the first meeting by 21 points.