Unpredictable NCAA Tournament Needs (in part) Predictable Conference Tournaments

9 Feb

During the NCAA Tournament everybody loves the Cinderella and the unpredictability of the event.  There are a bunch of different factors that add to that unpredictability, a couple of which are; parity, that is to say no dominant team in the game (definitely something we have this year) and predictability of some of the conference tournaments of perceived one-bid leagues resulting in those leagues sending their best teams to the tournament.  Here is a look at five of those teams we should be hoping win their tournaments because they would make the NCAA Tournament even more crazy.

Arkansas-Little Rock 21-2, 11-1 in Sun Belt:   The Trojans began the year 10-0 before falling at Texas Tech.  Chris Beard’s squad then reeled off six straight wins before they were bitten on the road by Arkansas State 76-73, six more wins later and the Trojans find themselves with a two-game lead over Louisiana-Lafayette in the conference.  During their undefeated start UALR won at San Diego State, Tulsa and DePaul and although they only average 10.4 points per game the nation’s best 57.2 points allowed per game and allowing only 37% shooting are their calling cards and keeps them in games.

Chattanooga 22-3, 11-1 in Southern:  The Mocs began the year with wins over Georgia and Illinois and were only defeated in the non-conference by Iowa State and Louisiana-Monroe.  Since losing to the Warhawks on Nov. 30 the league leaders have rattled off 17 wins in their last 18 contests and have a 2.5 game lead over East Tennessee State.  Chattanooga averages over 77 points per game and is led by senior guard Casey Jones and his 12.6 points, 6.5 rebounds and 3.9 assists per game.

Monmouth 19-5, 11-2 in Metro Atlantic:  In the first couple of months of the season one the bigger stories was the antics of the Hawks bench, seriously check them out on YouTube.  Lost in the bench hysteria is the fact that Monmouth is having a really good basketball season.  Before conference play began Monmouth had wins over UCLA, Notre Dame, USC, Georgetown and Rutgers in their back pocket.   That performance has earned them a very respectable RPI rank of 30 and their nearly 81 points per game has them 31st in the country.  For a team that averages that many points they only have three players averaging in double figures;  junior Justin Robinson 20.5, freshman Micah Seaborn 11.8 and senior Deon Jones 10.3.

Stephen F. Austin 17-5, 10-0 in Southland: Over the past three seasons Brad Underwood’s Lumberjacks have averaged 29 wins and have made the NCAA Tournament the past two seasons and have a win over VCU.  They are led by five seniors and their star is Thomas Walkup who leads the team in points (17.9), rebounds (6.5), assists (4.2) and steals (1.7).  The team ranks 3rd in the country in assists per game at 19 and senior guard Trey Pinkney leads the country in assist-to-turnover ratio at 5.43.

Valparaiso 20-4, 10-1 in Horizon: It has been 18 years now since Bryce Drew arrived on the NCAA scene with a game winning shot against Mississippi, Now he’s the head man at his alma mater and leading the Crusaders towards another NCAA Tournament bid.  Valpo is a deep team that uses a 9-man rotation most nights but with just two players averaging double figures led by junior big man Alec Peters and his 17 points and 7.8 rebounds per game but it’s the Crusaders’ work on the defensive end that has them where they are.  Their 59.8 points allowed per game is 3rd best in the country and they are 6th in the country with 42.6 rebounds per game and their 29.92 defensive rebounds per contest is 5th best, add that to the 36.9% field goal percentage defense (3rd best in the country) and you have the recipe for a March nightmare.

If you look forward to an NCAA Tournament that is full of the unexpected, these are five teams you need to be rooting for to win their respective conference tournaments.

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