Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Courting the Conference Leaders: Major Conferences Edition

No, I won’t put this column into immediate peril targeting the supposed Big 6 ‘BCS’ conferences.

Not in college basketball, at least.

Instead, there’s been increased trepidation across the world of bracket projections – even from their creators – as to who should be “projected” as the conference champion. Remember, we’re talking conference title tournaments when WE project brackets, but for the sake of this column, we’re looking for the “best” (aka #1 seed in the conference tourneys) for the not-so-mid-majors.

Let’s dive in head-first!

Lawson's presence, and susequent return, from the bench
will have a ton to do with the final ACC standings.

Credit: Yahoo! Sports

Atlantic Coast Conference

Current Leader: Duke [22-2, 10-1]

PHSports Bracket Projection: It’s down to Duke and North Carolina [9-2]. SHOCKER. Of course, we all know the Dukies beat the Lawson-less Heels in Chapel Hill. However, it’s likely that two more matchups will follow for the in-state rivals.

Key Matchup: Sat. March 8th has the Heels traveling up Tobacco Road to revisit the Dukies.

Player to Watch: Ty Lawson [Assuming he’s around and near 100% in March 8th, true bragging rights and a #1 seed are likely on the line.]

Big East Conference

Current Leaders: Georgetown [21-4, 11-3] & Louisville [21-6, 11-3]

PHSports Bracket Projection: Georgetown and Louisville also meet during an action-packed March 8th in DC. Meanwhile, UCONN and Notre Dame both sit at 9-3 and plenty of others (Marquette, Cuse, Pitt) are primed to play spoiler.

Key Matchup: March 8th in DC should be all fireworks, and hopefully no white suits, as the Cards may need to sweep the Hoyas to capture their first Big East title.

Player to Watch: David Padgett [Double-doubles a-plenty had better emanate from the Louisville big man before this team is Big East tourney prepped.]

Big Ten Conference

Current Leader: Purdue [21-6, 12-2]

PHSports Bracket Projection: After losses to Wofford and Iowa State, the Boilermakers had been winners of 14 and 15 and passed by the if-nothing-else-unreliable Spartans, Badgers, and Hoosiers. Unfortunately, it didn’t last long with a loss at Indiana on Tuesday night. The Hooisers technically control their own Big Ten destiny, although the Sampson situation might be too much for even this talented roster to overcome.

Key Matchup: Now that Indiana held serve against Purdue, Sunday March 2nd (a popular weekend for big-time matchups in the conference) pits the potential “Sampson-less” Hoosiers against the Spartans in East Lansing.

Player to Watch: Eric Gordon [The freshman-of-the-year candidate might soon have to deal with the national title hopes of an entire Hoosier-nation without his head coach. Good luck, young man.]

Big 12 Conference

Current Leader: Kansas [24-2, 9-2] & Texas [22-4, 9-2]

PHSports Bracket Projection: Potential kinks in the armor have surfaced with recent losses to the Beasleys and the Longhorns in Lawrence. The two aforementioned teams are perched right behind Rock Chalk at 9-2 & 8-2 respectively; however, the depth of the Jayhawks is more than daunting in a conference with 2 teams in the top 10 4 teams in the top 25.

Key Matchup: Sat. March 1st may have more to say about Kansas than KSU and the aforementioned “Beastley”. Either way, it’s bound to be more than entertaining.

Player to Watch: DJ Augustin [Sophomore sensation has a few people calling the Longhorns “better without Durant” (not likely, folks) and may be the nation’s best overall PG (19 and 6 a game ain't too shabby).

Pacific-10 Conference

Current Leader: UCLA [22-2, 10-3]

PHSports Bracket Projection: Quietly boasting the nation’s top RPI, the Pac-10 has a ridiculous logjam near the .500 in-conference mark (Zona, Oregon, ASU, Cal, SC) and as surprising a top-10 team (Stanford at 10-3 in-conference) as any. Still, UCLA appears to be top dog again...barely.

Key Matchup: Mar. 6th may not pit two Top 1o teams between UCLA & Stanford, but it may have two Top 5 teams with the talent piling up on each roster.

Player to Watch: Brook Lopez [Bruin freshman Kevin Love has a TON of responsibility on his stout shoulders, but it’s the resurgent and rejuvenated Lopez that has the Cardinal pushing late in the season for a top seed come March Madness.]

Southeastern Conference

Current Leader: Tennessee [23-2, 10-1]

PHSports Bracket Projection: In a perceived down year for the conference, Tennessee appears the only reliable team. Not so fast. Mississippi State appears more than capable while Vanderbilt (40+-point win over Kentucky last week) is as unpredictable as anyone in the nation.

Key Matchup: Saturday’s matchup between Tennessee and Memphis could potentially help the conference, pitting its top team as close to the #1-seed…you’d think Pat Summit were their coach (ha!). Let's hope for no letdown on Wednesday night for either team.

Player to Watch: Shan Foster [Part of last year’s Sweet 16 run, and as a senior, must be the driving force for a team who could be as high as a 10-seed with Kevin Stallings’ cultivating potential 4-seed talent.]

Who knows, maybe the "mid-majors" will get some love as well soon.

Yeah, that sounds right up our alley.

Until next time...

No comments: