Both the Atlantic 10 and Big East Conference Tournaments didn’t disappoint, as there were plenty of upsets, and, ultimately, celebration, as the Saint Joseph’s Hawks and Providence Friars cut down the nets at Barclays Center and Madison Square Garden, respectively.
Both tournaments lost their #1 seeds in their first outings, as Seton Hall dropped Villanova on Thursday with a buzzer beater and St Bonaventure did the same to Saint Louis on Friday. The early upsets assured that an underdog would win both tournaments.
Halil Kanacevic, a forward from Saint Joseph’s, and Bryce Cotton, a guard from Providence, won the Most Outstanding Player awards for the tournaments, and are both headed to the NCAA tournament, as well as several other teams that were in the city a week ago.
Of the 23 teams that participated in the two tournaments in New York City last week, I think Creighton from the Big East Conference has the greatest potential to go furthest. Led by Doug McDermott, who is averaging over 30 points in his last 13 games, Creighton has a player who can score in a variety of ways and is difficult to defend, especially when you have only watched him on video. I suspect one of the reasons Providence was able to knock off Creighton in the Big East Final was the fact that McDermott scored a career-high 45 points against the Friars just a week earlier. Expect Creighton to make it past the opening weekend and into the Sweet 16, and possibly in the Elite Eight round with a chance to make it to the Final Four.
Out of the A-10 Conference, Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) and Saint Joseph’s have the potential to go furthest. VCU has the ability to disrupt just about any team in the country, and their forced turnovers, led by sophomore steal magnet Briante Weber, turns quickly into offense. Their offense is not consistent enough to be a true contender for a title, but future NBA big man Juvonte Reddic will be determined to make his last game as a college player as deep into the tournament as possible.
Saint Joesph’s has a tough matchup out of the gate against former Big East titan University Connecticut, now out of the AAC. This is a classic #7 versus #10, where often the #10 is favored.
Although Saint Louis has been the top-ranked team in that conference, (and currently ranks #25) they have not played well recently. A second round matchup against another former Big East giant, the 2013 NCAA Tournament Champion Louisville Cardinals, should face Saint Louis in the second round and should send the Billikens home early.
Providence didn’t get a favorable seed in the tournament, and, as a #11 seed, will face North Carolina in round one. If they win, #3 Iowa State should be waiting.
March Madness is upon us, and if you are a basketball junkie like me, you will be in front of a screen, be it a television, computer, tablet or smart phone, with your favorite snacks glued for hours watching tremendous basketball.