King’s of their tourneys

Philip Consuegra

This season of college basketball has given everyone enough to cheer about. To start off the season, the number one ranking in the country was elusive, creating some great upsets early in the year. We’ve seen a great Duke-North Carolina matchup that ended with an exciting lay-up play in overtime from Chris Duhon and a last-ditch trifecta chance for UNC. We’ve seen Stanford come from four points behind with 44 seconds left to beat Arizona on a long 35 foot trey that was a prayer of a shot. Some of that magic has even visited our own Pavilion, with an exciting game against St. Joseph’s.

With all that excitement behind us, we can look forward to three more weeks of great action, and also get hyped for the conference championships. Luckily for all you college basketball fans who will be confused as to which tourneys to watch, I have prepared a viewer’s guide – a list of suggestions, if you will – to get everyone ready for March.

Here’s the way we do it. I’ll outline each major conference and who I think will win it. We’ll go in order of quality of teams.

The ACC: No other conference in America has given us so much excitement and reason to watch. The ACC is, in a word, stacked. With the top-ranked team in the country, Duke, and its rivals North Carolina, NC State, Georgia Tech, Wake Forest, and Maryland, the conference tournament should be a treat to watch. Don’t think for a moment that the weaker teams in the conference, namely Florida State, can’t pull some upsets. They’ve already knocked off UNC and Georgia Tech, and they’ll definitely by out for blood. When Duke plays their style of basketball, which they always do, they just can’t be beat. Led by JJ Redick and Chris Duhon, this Duke team has the potential to capture yet another National Championship for coach Mike Kryzewski. If you only watch one conference championship this season, make it the ACC. Pick: Duke.

The SEC: If you want to talk about excitement, you can take a ride down south to Rupp Arena in Kentucky. With teams like Mississippi State, which is possibly the most under-rated team in the nation, South Carolina, Vanderbilt and Florida, this tournament could be fun to watch. If this past week’s Kentucky – South Carolina game wasn’t enough to whet your appetite, wait til the conference really heats up. Kentucky is strong, as always, but the Bulldogs of Miss State are lurking to take the top spot in the conference this year. The Bulldogs are aching to avenge their 67-66 loss earlier this season. Pick: Mississippi State.

The Big East: This was, at the beginning of the year, supposed to be the best conference in the country. We learned over the next few weeks that it really wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. UConn busted quick, with the virtual disappearance of Charlie Villanueva and losses to Providence, Georgia Tech, and Notre Dame, UConn’s stock has gone down. Still, they’ll be ready for tournament time. Pittsburgh has sure shown that they deserve a No. 1 seed in the Dance, but can they use the postseason to their advantage? Ever since the 68-65 loss at UConn, the Panthers have been licking their chops to get the Huskies in Pitt. But a loss to Seton Hall could have slowed down the Panthers just a bit. Other teams that could make noise are Providence, Syracuse, Boston College, and our beloved Villanova. The ‘Cats backs are against the wall, and if they don’t get to at least the third round of the tournament, this year’s senior will be only the second class to never see a dance. Pick: Pittsburgh.

The Big XII: With Kansas dropping from the top ten, the Big XII has opened up enormously. Oklahoma State has won my favor, along with Texas. Texas has been very quietly climbing the ladder of the Big XII and the Top 25. Bobby Knight’s Texas Tech team has been solid, but the team to beat is Oklahoma State. After a 20-point thrashing of Kansas this past week, OSU has gotten easier and easier to like in March. But don’t count Bobby out yet – he still may have something up his sleeve. Bill Self also may have some magic in the bag for Kansas. They’re dripping with talent, and know how to win in the postseason. Pick: Oklahoma State.

Conference USA: Two teams have really set the tone for C-USA. Louisville and Cincinnati have both been good but have faltered as of late. Charlotte is always a dark horse, but Memphis and John Calipari have looked stellar as of late. Still, the team to beat is Louisville. If the Cardinals can find the consistency they had at the beginning of the year, they will not only win C-USA, but will have a nice run in the dance. Pick: Louisville.

Whichever tourney you decide to pay attention to, you’ll have plenty to talk about. The tournaments that won’t be so exciting: Pac-10 (Stanford will win over Arizona), Atlantic 10 (St. Joseph’s is the strongest of the weak) and Big 10 (Wisconsin and Illinois will have a good row).

I’ll be watching with intensity, so I expect that you all will be too.