Conference Tournament News and Notes

Re: Conference Tournament News and Notes

Ohio Valley Conference Tournament Preview
The Sports Network

FACTS & STATS: Site: Campus Sites (Quarterfinals); Municipal Auditorium
(9,654) -- Nashville, Tennessee (Semifinals and Championship). Dates:
Tuesday, March   4th  through   Saturday,  March   8th.  Television:
OVCSports  TV (Quarterfinals);  ESPNU (Semifinals); ESPN2 (Championship).
Defending Champion: Eastern Kentucky.

OUTLOOK: The Ohio Valley Conference Tournament will begin on March 4th, as
eight  of the league's 11 teams will battle for a chance to take part in
the NCAA Tournament. The quarterfinal matchups will take place at the home
courts of the higher-seeded teams, but the semifinals and the championship
contest will take place at the Municipal Auditorium in Nashville. For the
second consecutive season the Governors of Austin Peay will pose as the top
seed. However, the team is looking for much different results then last year,
when the squad fell in the title game. Murray State, Morehead State and UT
Martin round out the top four seeds and will each have the luxury of opening
the tournament on their respective home floors. The Governors were by far the
best team in the conference, and are the only team with 20 or more wins on the
season (21-10). Unfortunately all that means nothing if Austin Peay can not
close the deal this season, and there are seven other teams looking to make
sure the Governors stumble again.

The highlight matchup of the quarterfinals will be a rematch of last season's
Championship game between Austin Peay and Eastern Kentucky. However, last
season the Colonels were the second seed in the conference, while this year
the team is the eighth seed. As mentioned earlier the Govs enter this 45th
installment of the OVC tourney as the top seed for the second year in a row.
Austin Peay storms into the postseason with three straight victories and eight
wins in its last nine matchups. One of the eight wins came against EKU, as the
Govs defeated the Colonels twice this season, but by only a combined 12
points. As for the defending OVC champs, they took a step backwards this
season, finishing just 10-10 in league play. The Colonels stumble into this
matchup, as the team closed out its regular season with five losses in its
last six games. This is not a normal one versus eight setup, however, as the
Colonels always play the Governors close, and will likely give Austin Peay
tough battle in the opening round.

The matchup between the second-seeded Murray State Racers and the seventh-
seeded Tennessee Tech Golden Eagles might not have the amount of history as
the meeting between Austin Peay and EKU, but these two teams will undoubtedly
put on a show in this contest. Murray State has been solid at both ends of the
floor this season, and comes into this tourney on a positive note, as the squad
pounded Tennessee-Martin, 98-59, in its season-finale. However, it was just
third win in the last seven games for Murray State. One of the setbacks during
the final stretch for Murray State came against Tennessee Tech, as the Golden
Eagles defeated the Racers, 71-66. That win over Murray State came in the
regular-season finale for TTU, and it brought the team's three-game losing
skid to a halt. Although the Golden Eagles had a bit of trouble near the end
of the campaign, a recent victory over Murray State will surely give the team
some confidence heading into this battle.

Third-seeded Morehead State is set to tangle with sixth-seeded Tennessee State
this Tuesday. The two teams split the regular season series, but the Eagles
won the more recent matchup, defeating the Tigers, 84-76 on February 28th. It
was just the third win, however, in the final seven contests for Morehead
State, which closed out its regular season with a 72-56 setback to Austin
Peay. As for the Tigers, they finished as the third best scoring team in the
OVC with 75.5 ppg, and that is mainly due to the play of the backcourt tandem
of Bruce Price (17.8 ppg) and Gerald Robinson (15.6 ppg). Tennessee State won
three of its last four contests, including a strong, 73-69 victory over the
top-seeded Austin Peay Governors. The Tigers ferocious offensive play will
make them extremely dangerous, but they need to overcome their road woes, as
the squad finished with a 6-9 mark on the road this year.

The fourth-seeded UT Martin Skyhawks will unleash Lester Hudson and the OVC's
top ranked offense (76.8 ppg) this Tuesday when they host the fifth-seeded
Samford Bulldogs. Hudson has been unstoppable throughout the season and is
currently fourth in the nation with 25.4 ppg. Hudson's play was a big reason
for the Skyhawks rise in the OVC, as the team finished 11-9 in league action.
UTM won six games, before closing out its regular-season with a 98-59 loss to
Murray State. While the Skyhawks are the top offensive team in the OVC,
Samford was the top defensive squad in the conference, surrendering a mere
60.4 ppg. However, the team is not overly impressive offensively and that
showed in Samford's season-finale loss to Eastern Illinois (64-61). The
setback snapped a three-game winning streak for the Bulldogs, who finished an
even 10-10 in OVC action. The Bulldogs will need to play their usual hard-nosed
defense if they plan on winning, but more importantly the team must forget
about the two embarrassing setbacks to Skyhawks during the regular-season.

Last year the Governors were the favorites to win the tournament and fell just
short. This season the team will try again, and will have a shot to get rid of
EKU in the first round. However, teams such as Murray State and UT Martin will
be lurking in the following rounds. It will not be an easy road for Austin
Peay, but expect the Governors to capture their first OVC Tournament title
since 2003.

Sports Network Predicted Champion: Austin Peay

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Re: Conference Tournament News and Notes

Patriot League Tournament Preview
The Sports Network

FACTS & STATS: Site: Campus arenas. Dates: Wednesday, March 5th through Friday,
March 14th. Television: ESPN2 (Championship Game). Annual: 18th. Defending
Champion: Holy Cross.

OUTLOOK: In yet another example of how the so-called experts can't seem to get
it right, the American University Eagles went from a preseason ranking of fifth
in the Patriot League to first in the final regular-season standings and will
now be one of the team's to beat as the 18th Annual Patriot League Tournament
tips off at school sites beginning March 5th.

The Eagles (18-11, 10-4), who will take on last-place Holy Cross (15-13, 5-9)
in the quarterfinal round on Wednesday, closed out the regular season on
Saturday with an 84-72 victory against Lafayette, marking the team's seventh
win in eight tries down the stretch. American, which defeated local nemesis
Maryland a few days before Christmas for just the second time in history and
the first time ever in College Park, is paced by Garrison Carr with his 18.1
ppg on 44.7 percent shooting behind the three-point line.

Ironically the Crusaders, who won the tournament crown a season ago with a
75-66 decision against Bucknell and have played in the title game in six of the
last seven years, were an overwhelming favorite to take the regular-season
title this season and appeared to be well on their way to said championship
with six straight wins to open 2007-08, but then things began to fall apart.
The squad closed out the campaign with a 65-58 loss at Lehigh on Friday night,
giving the team back-to-back defeats and three setbacks in the last four games.
Picked as the preseason favorite to be named player of the year, Tim Clifford
has not disappointed by leading the squad in scoring in each of the last 14
games and averaging 17.8 ppg for the defensive-minded group.

Predicted to give Holy Cross a run for its money at the top of the Patriot
League standings coming into the season, Bucknell (11-18, 6-8) finds itself
with the seventh seed in the tournament and will have to travel to second seed
Navy (16-13, 9-5). The Bison were beaten and bruised in the final months of the
season, losing three in a row and eight of the last 10. The two victories
during that stretch were both in overtime versus the likes of Colgate and
Lafayette. Bucknell, which has played for the tournament title in each of the
last three seasons and won in both 2005 and 2006, split the two meetings with
the Middies this season, with each squad winning on its home floor.

As for Navy, which was expected to finish at or near the bottom of the
standings, it had won six in a row heading into the regular-season finale on
Saturday, but the streak was snapped by Colgate in a 73-62 setback. The academy
opened up the offense this season and led the league in scoring with better
than 76 ppg, which is rather unusual given how much the Patriot League focuses
on defense. Greg Sprink shot just 36.3 percent from the field for Navy, but
still he led the program in both scoring (21.1 ppg) and rebounding (6.4 rpg) to
close out a great career in Annapolis.

The other academy in the Patriot, Army (13-15, 6-8) tied for its best-ever
finish in the regular season with six wins in 14 tries versus the rest of the
league, which was good enough to earn the squad a fifth-place finish. The Black
Knights closed out the campaign on Saturday with a 54-51 win over Bucknell in
West Point, the team's second straight victory down the stretch. Joining
American as the only teams in the Patriot without a conference tournament
title, Army has won just three of its 20 tourney games over the years, but is
hoping that Jarell Brown and his team-best 18.5 ppg will get them beyond the
quarterfinals this season.

The fourth-seeded Lehigh Mountain Hawks (14-14, 7-7) closed out the regular
season in fine fashion by winning back-to-back games in the final week for the
first time since the 1990-91 campaign. While that's certainly something to be
proud of, turning the trick against Bucknell and Holy Cross makes it that much
more special. The 2004 tournament champions, Lehigh had a mere three road wins
this season as it struggled to come up with significant scoring (63.9 ppg)
effort on a regular basis.

The other matchup in the quarterfinal round has sixth-seeded Lafayette (15-14,
6-8) paying a visit to third-seeded Colgate (16-13, 7-7). The Leopards, who had
to endure a nine-game road trip and at one point played 11 of 12 games away
from home during the campaign, struggled down the stretch with just a single
win since the start of February. Lafayette closed out the regular season with
an 84-72 loss to American in the nation's capital this past Saturday.

As for the Raiders, who won the tournament title in back-to-back years in 1995
and 1996, they closed out the season strong with four straight wins, including
a 73-62 triumph over Navy at home on Saturday afternoon. Scoring about 66 ppg
this season, Colgate has a pair of reliable double-digit scorers in Kyle Roemer
and Kendall Chones, with the duo also combining for about 10 rebounds per game
as well.

With the final standings coming down to the last moments of the final day of
the regular season, it is clear that anything is possible in the Patriot League
this year. Does that mean that American or Navy could end up with the automatic
bid to the NCAA Tournament? Perhaps. However, counting out the experience of
both Bucknell and Holy Cross simply because of where they are seeded in this
tournament might not be the best idea.

Sports Network Predicted Champion: Navy

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Re: Conference Tournament News and Notes

Southern Conference Tournament Preview
The Sports Network

FACTS & STATS: Site: North Charleston Coliseum (13,600) -- Charleston, South
Carolina. Dates: Friday, March 7th through Monday, March 10th.  Television:
SportSouth (Semifinals), ESPN2 (Championship Game). Defending Champion:
Davidson.

OUTLOOK: Davidson will get a chance to grab its third consecutive Southern
Conference Tournament title when the Wildcats head to the North Charleston
Coliseum, along with 10 other teams in hopes of collecting that coveted at-
large bid for the NCAA Tournament. During Davidson's reign of terror in the
SoCon, the Wildcats have posted a remarkable 47-6 league ledger. This year
Davidson was flawless against Southern Conference foes, collecting a perfect
20-0 league record en route to the obvious top seed. Davidson is clearly the
top team in the tournament, but teams such as Chattanooga and Georgia Southern,
and even Appalachian State have a chance to walk away with the championship in
the 87th installment of this postseason tournament. However, Davidson will have
an easy road, especially with a first road bye. Going undefeated throughout
conference action was truly an amazing display, but that will all mean nothing
if the Wildcats do not claim their 10th overall Southern Conference title.

First round action kicks off Friday afternoon when the Western Carolina
Catamounts collide with the Wofford Terriers. The Catamounts never really got
anything going this season, posting just 10 wins on the year, while finishing
with a 6-14 league mark, which landed the team the ninth seed. WCU dropped
eight of its last 11 games, but one of those victories came against Wofford,
62-57. As for the Terriers, they were able to grab a win against Western
Carolina, posting an 83-73 win back in January. Unfortunately the team did not
enjoy much more success in league play, finishing with an 8-12 mark against
Southern Conference foes. Wofford has never won the tournament, and playing as
the eighth seed, it is unlikely the team will go much further than the first
round.

The next first round contest with pit the lowly 10th-seeded Furman Paladins
against the seventh-seeded Elon Phoenix. The Paladins finished last in the
Southern Conference with a pathetic 62.1 ppg, and the poor offensive play left
the team with a terrible 6-14 record in conference action. The Phoenix also
finished the regular season with a league mark below .500, but in the team's
9-11 SoCon record, Elon defeated Furman twice. However, the team won both
matchups by a combined seven points. The Phoenix did not enter this tournament
on a high note, losing three of their last four games, but the team will have a
strong chance of finding its way back into the win column.

The final first round matchup on Friday is a bit of a mismatch, as the sixth-
seeded College of Charleston Cougars will enjoy a slight homecourt advantage
against the 11th-seeded Citadel Bulldogs. It is hard to imagine a team with 23
losses earning a spot in the postseason, but in the Southern Conference, the
Bulldogs have a chance to pull off the improbable. The Citadel went through an
entire SoCon schedule and grabbed just one victory in 20 tries and
unfortunately that did not come against Charleston. As for the Cougars, they
won their last two contests of the regular season to finish with a mere 9-11
conference mark. The main issue that will hurt the Cougars is their struggles
defensively, as the team is currently ninth in the league, allowing 73.1 ppg.
What does work in the favor for the Cougars is that they defeated The Citadel
twice this season by double figures, and barring a major surprise, Charleston
should slip past the Bulldogs for a third time this year.

While the top three teams will enjoy a bye into the quarterfinal round,
Appalachian State and UNC Greensboro will have to battle as the fourth and
fifth seed in the tournament. The Mountaineers finished with 18 wins on the
season and posted a 13-7 ledger in SoCon play, but the team went just 4-5 in
its last nine games, striking some concern as the team enters the tournament.
As for the Spartans, they were at their best in the final stretch of the
season, winning their last four games. UNCG finished with a solid 12-8 ledger
in conference play, and that includes one victory and one loss against
Appalachian State. The Spartans have done an incredible job defensively,
limiting teams to just 66.7 ppg, and if the team continues its strong defensive
play UNCG could move into the next round.

Davidson will have the luxury of resting and preparing for a quarterfinal
matchup. The two-time defending champs won all 20 conference matchups this
season, and finished with 23 overall victories. Led by Southern Conference
Player of the Year, Stephen Curry, the Wildcats scored a league best 78.9 ppg,
while at the same time, holding the opposition to 64.2 ppg, which was also tops
in the conference. After starting the year with a 4-6 ledger, the Wildcats
reeled off 19 consecutive wins and head into this tournament as the clear
favorite to represent the SoCon in the NCAA Tournament.

The Mocs are the only team that has enjoyed as much success as Davidson, as
Chattanooga has collected nine league titles, tying the Wildcats. As the second
seed Chattanooga has the best chance to take the title away from Davidson.
Along with their experience, the Mocs are currently second in the SoCon with
and impressive 76.2 ppg. However, where the team has struggled is defensively,
as the team is surrendering 73.3 ppg. Chattanooga closed out its season with
three wins in its last four games, and should continue that success all the way
to the title matchup where the Mocs will undoubtedly face Davidson.

The third seed belongs to the high flying Eagles of Georgia Southern. While
the Eagles posted a 13-7 ledger in league action, the team heads into this
postseason matchup on a down note, losing its last three games. Georgia
Southern rode the success of its offensive play, as the team finished behind
Davidson and Chattanooga with an impressive 75.1 ppg. Georgia Southern has
never won this tournament and has a mere 12-14 ledger in postseason action.

Anything is possible in sports. The underdog will come out of the wood-work
from time to time to shock the world, but in the Southern Conference, Davidson
is as close to a sure thing as possible. The Wildcats breezed through their
conference schedule and three of the team's losses came against national
powerhouses North Carolina, Duke and UCLA. Chattanooga and Georgia Southern are
very talented teams, but they do not possess the depth of the Wildcats, plus no
other team has the services of Curry in the backcourt.

Sports Network Predicted Champion: Davidson

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Re: Conference Tournament News and Notes

Summit League Tournament Preview
The Sports Network

FACTS & STATS: Site: John Q. Hammons Arena at the UMAC (5,662) -- Tulsa,
Oklahoma. Dates: Saturday, March 8th through Tuesday, Match 11th. Television:
Summit League TV (Semifinals). Annual: 24th. Defending Champion: Oral Roberts

OUTLOOK: The 24th annual Summit League Tournament will begin on Saturday, March
8th in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament is on the
line. Known as the Mid-Continent Conference prior to this season, the Summit
League gets little national media attention during the regular season, and the
idea of a team from the conference receiving an at-large bid to the tournament
is extremely remote, therefore adding to the intensity of this tournament.
Eight teams will compete in this event, and both North Dakota State and South
Dakota State are ineligible until 2009 because of an NCAA reclassifying period.
Of the eight teams in this year's field, Oral Roberts is the only team to have
won this conference tournament more than once after capturing its second title
last season.

Oral Roberts is the top seed in the tournament, and it will do battle with
eighth-seeded Centenary in the quarterfinal round on Saturday. The Golden
Eagles were 16-2 against Summit foes during the regular season, although they
are coming off a 13-point loss to North Dakota State in the finale. They did
beat Centenary twice during the regular season, although one of the wins did
come in overtime. Speaking of the Gentlemen, or Gents, they finished the
regular season with a 10-20 record, including four wins in 18 conference games.
They did carry a 10-game losing skid into the regular season finale against
South Dakota State, but that clash ended in a much-needed victory. Oral Roberts
is tops in the league in scoring defense (62.2 ppg), while Centenary is dead
last (77.0 ppg).

The other quarterfinal matchup on Saturday pits the second-seeded IUPUI Jaguars
against the UMKC Kangaroos. IUPUI is 11-6 all-time in this tournament and won
the title in 2003. The Jaguars finished the regular season 24-6 overall and
15-3 in conference, just one game back of Oral Roberts, and they beat UMKC
twice, including a 20-point thrashing in the most recent meeting. IUPUI leads
the conference in scoring margin by a wide margin, as its +12.2 ppg is 5.2 ppg
better than the next closest team. The Kangaroos are eighth in scoring offense
and ninth in scoring defense, and the result is a scoring margin of -5.9 ppg.
Although UMKC won only six of 18 games against Summit foes, three of the last
five did result in victory.

On Sunday, the fourth-seeded Southern Utah Thunderbirds will battle fifth-
seeded IPFW Mastodons in what promises to be an entertaining bout. The two
teams squared off in the league opener way back in early December, a game won
by IPFW. They finally met again in the regular season finale, and Southern Utah
got its revenge in a classic overtime battle. IPFW has never won this
tournament, while Southern Utah captured its lone title in 2001. The
Thunderbirds are last in the conference in blocked shots but first in assists.
Meanwhile, the Mastodons are ninth in both rebounding margin and steals. Both
finished 9-9 against Summit foes during the regular season and are clearly
evenly matched.

The third-seeded Oakland Golden Grizzlies will tangle with the sixth-seeded
Western Illinois Leathernecks in the final quarterfinal game. Oakland won this
tournament back in 2005, while Western Illinois captured its lone crown way
back in 1984 and is 11-21 in games played at this event. Oakland finished 16-13
during the regular season, including 11-7 in league action. The Golden
Grizzlies, who are second in the conference in both scoring offense and
rebounding margin, beat the Leathernecks in both meetings thus far, so expect
confidence levels to be high. As for Western Illinois, it is ninth in the
league in scoring offense and field goal percentage. The Leathernecks closed
out the regular season with losses in three straight games and six of seven.

Oral Roberts and IUPUI appear to be superior to the rest of the competition,
and it would be hard to imagine a scenario that didn't pit those two squads
against one another in the title game. George Hill of the Jaguars leads the
league in scoring with 21.2 ppg, and his individual brilliance may be the
difference in the championship matchup.

Sports Network Predicted Champion: IUPUI

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Re: Conference Tournament News and Notes

Sun Belt Conference Tournament Preview
The Sports Network

FACTS & STATS: Site: Campus Sites (first round); The Mitchell Center (10,000)
-- Mobile, Alabama. Dates: Wednesday, March 5th through Tuesday, March 11th.
Television: ESPN Plus (Semifinals), ESPN2 (Championship Game). Annual 32nd.
Defending Champion: North Texas.

OUTLOOK: The Sun Belt Conference Tournament includes all 13 members of the
league, with each divisional winner and the team with the next best conference
record receiving a bye into the quarterfinals. The South Alabama Jaguars and
Western Kentucky Hilltoppers shared the East Division crown at 16-2, but the
Jaguars swept the Toppers during the regular season and were awarded the top
seed. The Arkansas-Little Rock Trojans captured the West Division title and
were given the second seed at 11-7, while Western Kentucky landed the third
spot, despite having a much better record than the Trojans. The Middle
Tennessee Blue Raiders and UL-Lafayette Ragin' Cajuns finished with the same
record at 11-7, but the Raiders snatched the fifth seed due to the tie-breaker
rules. North Texas, the defending champion, was the final team to post a
winning record in conference play a 10-8 and it landed the sixth seed. The
winner of this event will earn an automatic berth into the NCAA Tournament.

The SBC Tournament kicks off with a pair of local rivals hooking up, as the
seventh-seeded Florida Atlantic Owls host the 10th-seeded Florida International
Golden Panthers on Wednesday. Both teams played out of the East Division, with
FAU finishing 8-10 and FIU 6-12. The Panthers, though, swept a pair of meetings
from the Owls during the regular season.

The eighth-seeded New Orleans Privateers will try to make it three wins over
the ninth-seeded Denver Pioneers, when the two teams clash on Wednesday. The
Privateers are paced by the conference's top scorer in Bo McCalebb (23.2 ppg)
and they are in search of their first title in this event since 1996. The
Pioneers have never won this tourney and they dropped their last six games of
the regular season.

In a rematch of last year's title game, the sixth-seeded North Texas Mean Green
entertain the 11th-seeded Arkansas State Indians. As the fifth seed last
season, the Mean Green triumphed over the second-seeded Indians, 83-75, to
claim its first title in this even. Arkansas State won its lone championship in
1999 and has gone just 10-15 all-time in this tourney.

The fourth-seeded Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders host the 13th-seeded UL-Monroe
Warhawks in another first round contest. The Raiders' 11-7 league record was
tied for third best in the conference, but since they played in the East
Division with South Alabama and Western Kentucky, the team had to settle for
the fourth seed. Middle Tennessee has never won this event, going an even 7-7
all-time. UL-Monroe received the last seed after a 4-14 finish, but the team
did beat the Raiders during the regular season.

The first round of the tourney will wrap up with the fifth-seeded UL-Lafayette
Ragin' Cajuns battling the 12th-seeded Troy Trojans. The Cajuns won five of
their last six games during the regular season to earn a share of the West
Division crown with Arkansas-Little Rock at 11-7. ULL, though, was swept by
Arkansas-Little Rock and therefor had to settle for the fifth seed. The Cajuns
won back-to-back titles in 2004-05 and they have five championships to their
credit. Troy is fairly new to the league and it has gone just 1-2 in this
event. The Trojans finished in a last place tie with UL-Monroe at 4-14 and it
was defeated by ULL in the only meeting this season between the programs.

The top-seeded South Alabama Jaguars have the luxury of hosting this tournament
and that is big considering they are a perfect 16-0 at the Mitchell Center this
season. The Jaguars have claimed at least a share of the last three East
Division titles and they are in search of their sixth tournament title and
second in three years. South Alabama, which has tied a school-record with 25
overall wins, will take on either Denver or New Orleans in the first
quarterfinal game on Sunday.

The second-seeded Arkansas-Little Rock Trojans won their last four games of the
regular season and that run helped them earn a share of the West Division crow
with UL-Lafayette at 11-7. The Trojans took a pair of meetings from the Cajuns
and were awarded the higher seed and more importantly a first round bye. The
Trojans have won 14 games in this event, but they are still in search of their
first title. The team will meet up with the winner of the Florida
Atlantic/Florida International matchup in the third quarterfinal game on
Sunday.

The third-seeded Western Kentucky Hilltoppers lost only two games in conference
play, unfortunately, both came to South Alabama. The Toppers and Jaguars earned
a share of the East Division title with the best record in the conference at
16-2, but South Alabama received the top seed with the regular season sweep of
Western Kentucky. The Toppers won this event five times and three times in a
row from 2001-03, and they own the best mark of any program at 31-20. The
Arkansas State/North Texas survivor will get the chance to take on Western
Kentucky in the last quarterfinal round bout on Sunday.

South Alabama and Western Kentucky really separated themselves from the pack
and there is more than a good chance these two programs will meet in the
finals. There seems to be a big drop off after these squads and it doesn't
appear the Jaguars or Toppers will be really tested. South Alabama has the
luxury of hosting this tournament and that will play a big part in it capturing
the championship.

Sports Network Predicted Champion: South Alabama

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West Coast Conference Tournament Preview
The Sports Network

FACTS & STATS: Jenny Craig Pavilion (5,100) -- San Diego, California.
Dates: Friday, March 7th through Monday, March 10th.  Television: ESPN2
(Semifinals), ESPN (Championship Game). Annual 22nd. Defending Champion:
Gonzaga.

OUTLOOK: The Jenny Craig Pavilion will serve host to the 22nd annual West
Coast Conference Tournament, which features all eight teams in the league. The
top two seeds receive a bye directly into the semifinals, while the third and
fourth spots begin play in the quarterfinals. To no surprise, the 22nd-ranked
Gonzaga Bulldogs enter the tournament as the top seed, as they won their
eighth consecutive WCC regular season title with a 13-1 finish. The Bulldogs
topped Saint Mary's-CA in a first place battle on March 1st and because of
that loss the Gaels had to settle for the second seed with a 12-2 ledger. The
host of this tourney, San Diego, finished one step behind at 11-3 and that was
plenty for the third spot. With just a 6-8 finish, the Santa Clara Broncos
earned the fourth seed and the last first round bye. San Francisco,
Pepperdine, the University of Portland and Loyola Marymount round out the
field and they will be required to play a first round game. To the victor the
of this tournament goes an automatic berth into the Big Dance.

The WCC Tournament will begin when the fifth-seeded San Francisco Dons tangle
with the eighth-seeded Loyola Marymount Lions on Friday. The Dons, under the
guidance of legendary head coach Eddie Sutton, won three of their last four
games to finish 5-9 in conference play. San Francisco won its lone title in
this tourney in 1998 and it hasn't even made it back to the finals since that
appearance. The Lions have captured this event three times, with the most
recent of their championships coming in 1990. Loyola won just two conference
games during the regular season, but one of those victories did come against
San Francisco.

The first round will wrap up with the sixth-seeded Pepperdine Waves doing
battle with the seventh-seeded University of Portland Pilots. The Waves logged
a 4-10 record in conference action this season and they are gunning for their
fourth crown in this event and their first since 1994. The Pilots finished
one game behind Pepperdine in the league standings at 3-11 and they are in
search of their first championship since 1996. Portland has the fewest wins in
this tournament of any active member, with just seven.

On Saturday, the quarterfinal round will get started with the fourth-seeded
Santa Clara Broncos challenging the winner of the Loyola Marymount/San
Francisco matchup. As the second seed last season, the Broncos reached the
finals of this event before bowing out to top-seeded Gonzaga by a 77-68 score.
Santa Clara owns a solid 22-19 all-time mark in the tourney, but it hasn't
taken home the hardware since 1993.

The second quarterfinal matchup pits the third-seeded San Diego Toreros
against the survivor of the Portland/Pepperdine bout. The Toreros have the
luxury of hosting this tournament and that is good news when considering they
went 6-1 against WCC foes at the Jenny Craig Pavilion. San Diego won its lone
title in 2003, becoming the first host team in the league to capture the
championship.

The top-seeded Gonzaga Bulldogs won their 10th regular season title in the
last 11 seasons and they will begin defense of their crown in the semifinal
round on Sunday. The Bulldogs are under the guidance of Mark Few, who earned a
share of his seventh WCC Coach of the Year award, and they are led by the
league's Player of the Year in Jeremy Pargo (11.8 ppg, 6.2 apg). Gonzaga has
won a record nine championships in this event, including four straight and
eight in the past nine years. Overall, Gonzaga has appeared in each of the
last 10 finals of this tourney.

The second-seeded Saint Mary's-CA Gaels will make their first appearance in
this event in the semifinals on Sunday. The Gaels were the only WCC team to
defeat Gonzaga, although their loss to the Bulldogs on March 1st cost them the
league title. Still, Saint Mary's-CA has nothing to be ashamed about, as it
earned a Top-25 ranking for the first time since the 1988-89 season. The Gaels
have even matched a school record with 25 overall wins, helping Randy Bennett
earn a share of the WCC Coach of the Year honors. In 1997 is when Saint Mary's-
CA won its lone title in this event, and it reach of the finals in both
2004-05.

Gonzaga is clearly the team to beat in a conference that is pretty top-heavy
between the Bulldogs, Gaels and Toreros. Saint Mary's-CA has had a great
season and showed it can knock off Gonzaga, so that makes it a threat. San
Diego, though, has a big advantage playing this tourney at home and that could
help it immensely. Still, when push comes to shove, the Bulldogs are the bully
of this conference and they will show that by claiming yet another title.

Sports Network Predicted Champion: Gonzaga

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Sun Belt Conference Tourney Preview   
by: Brian Gabrielle

The South Alabama Jaguars and Western Kentucky Hilltoppers shared the East Division crown at 16-2, but the Jaguars grab the top seed in this event by virtue of their season sweep over the Toppers during the regular season. Add that to the fact that the Jag's will host this Tournament at the Mitchell Center after the completion of the opening rounds at that really has to tilt the scales in favor of South Alabama to capture the Conference's Automatic bid. Remember, the Jag's were a startling 16-0 at The Mitchell Center this season.

The Tournament kicks off with a pair of local rivals hooking up, as the Florida Atlantic Owls will host Florida International Wednesday evening. The visiting Panthers swept the season series with the Owls but the playoff pressure and the home court should keep Florida Atlantic as a small favorite in this affair. In fact, the BGS Power Ratings show the Owls as a basket better here at home.

Also Wednesday night, the New Orleans Privateers will try to make it three wins this season over the Denver Pioneers. New Orleans boasts the Conference leading scorer in Bo McCalebb, who should be the difference maker tonight in a game I am calling by 6 points or better for New Orleans. Denver has never won this tournament and they limp in here on a season ending six game losing skid.

The North Texas Mean Green will host the Arkansas State Indians in a rematch of last year's title game. North Texas fans were in this same boat a season ago as the Mean Green were not pegged to do much out of the 5-hole, but proceeded to run the table, win the Tournament and go to the Dance. That remains to be seen in 2008, but the BGS Power Ratings do favor the Green to start things off right with a double digit win in this game.

Middle Tennessee will host the Warhawks of Louisiana-Monroe UL-Monroe in another first round contest. Once again, the BGS Power Ratings favor the home team, showing MTS as -8 point chalk BUT the Warhawks did beat the Raiders during the regular season.

The first round of the tourney will wrap up with the UL-Lafayette Ragin' Cajuns hosting the Troy Trojans. The Cajuns enter the event red hot, having won five of their final six games and should take this game easily against the last place Men of Troy. The Cajuns won the only regular season meeting and the BGS Power Ratings suggest they will win here as well by close to double digits.

South Alabama has the luxury of hosting this tournament and that is big considering they are a perfect 16-0 at the Mitchell Center this season. The Jaguars are in search of their sixth tournament title and second in three years. The Jag's tied a school-record with 25 overall wins, and should chalk up another facing either Denver or New Orleans in the first quarterfinal game on Sunday.

The Arkansas-Little Rock Trojans won their last four games of the regular season and should keep it rolling when they face the winner of the Florida Atlantic/Florida International matchup in the third quarterfinal game on Sunday. The Trojans have never won this event.

The Western Kentucky Hilltoppers won this event five times and they own the best mark of any program at 31-20 in the event. The Toppers lost only two games in conference play, but both came to South Alabama and that's not likely to improve here at the Mitchell Center, however, they will get a chance to flex their muscle against the survivor of the Arkansas State/North Texas game in the last quarterfinal round bout on Sunday.

This Conference really is a two dog race between South Alabama and Western Kentucky and there is more than a good chance these two programs will meet in the finals, however, South Alabama has the luxury of hosting this tournament and should be considered a heavy favorite to capture the championship.

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Patriot League Tourney Preview   
by: Brian Gabrielle

This is one of those Conference's where the Tournament games are scheduled on the home court of the highest seed so it's no small wonder that the top seed has won this Tournament in 11 of the last 14 seasons.

This season the top seed is the American University Eagles, who dominated down the stretch, winning seven of it's final eight games. However, it seems the Eagles have drawn a bitter-sweet reward for their efforts, earning themselves a first round matchup with the defending champion and pre-season favorite Holy Cross Crusaders. The BGS Power Ratings have these teams nearly dead even with home court being the only real difference and giving the Eagles a small -4 point edge. The Crusaiders will be a tough out however, having played in the title game 6 of the last 7 years and picked by many *still* as the best team in the Conference despite it's last place record.

Also under-achieving is Bucknell, which finds itself in the 7-hole and will have to travel to 2nd seed Navy. The Bison lost three in a row and eight of their last 10 and the outlook isn't sunny in this series, which was dominated in the regular season by the home team. Navy is the flip side of the coin, winning six of it's final seven and leading the Conference in scoring this season, averaging 76 ppg.

Army finished the regular season with a 54-51 win over Bucknell at West Point. However, they have a spotty history in this event with a record of just 3-17 over the years and will face a Lehigh team who was decidedly better at home than on the road this season. The BGS Power Ratings give Lehigh a distinct 6 point advantage in the opening game.

The final matchup in the quarterfinal round has Lafayette paying a visit to Colgate. The Leopards struggled down the stretch with just a single win since the start of February and closed out the regular season with a double digit loss to American University. Meanwhile, the Raiders closed out the season strong with four straight wins, including a double digit home win over Navy. However, this one has upset written all over it, as Lafayette, for my money, ranks in the top 3 teams in this conference.

Certainly it would seem that the Patriot League's Automatic bid is up for grabs this season, but don't discount home court advantage, which has delivered the prize to the #1 seed in 11 of the previous 14 seasons.

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Northeast Conference Tourney Preview   
by: Brian Gabrielle

This is one of those Conference's where the Tournament games are scheduled on the home court of the highest seed so top seeds get a big advantage, as was the case a season ago when top-seeded Central Connecticut State defeated second-seeded Sacred Heart, 74-70, to capture their third NEC Tournament title. This season, the Robert Morris Colonials are the top seed and truly in a league of their own atop this division, with the BGS Power Ratings giving them a minimum -9 point edge (at home) on the next best teams in this Conference. Then again, the two Conference losses the Colonials have suffered have both come at home.

Robert Morris isn't just the best team in this Conference, but also the hottest, closing the season with 13-straight conference wins. That win streak also ranks currently as third best in the Nation. The team has substance as well, not just dominating this Conference, but the team has beat the likes of Boston College this season and ranks in the top 82 teams in the nation, making them a legitimate upset threat in the Big Dance later this month. Indeed, their first round quarter-final against the Monmouth Hawks is nothiong more than a formailty. Colonials should win this game by 3 TD's!

Second seed Wagner broke a school record with 22 wins this season and would appear poised to keep it going in their opening round matchup against Long Island. As mentioned above, this Conference runs it's tourney on the home court of the higher seed, and Wagner has been especially tough at home, posting a 12-2 record this season. However, it is worth noting that Long Island posted a 20 point win over the Blackbirds in the first meeting between the two and Wagner squeeked out a single basket win in the rematch in February. Another interesting side-bar here is that Long Island suffered 6 of it's 11 conference losses by 2 baskets or less. In other words, if your getting local action on this game - take the points. Home court should still make the ultimate difference however. Wagner in a squeeker.

The defending champion Central Connecticut State Blue Devils open their title defense on the road to 3rd seed Sacred Heart, a team that reeled off eight straight victories at one point during their season. However, Sacred Heart has cooled off, limping into the Tourney losing three of its last five and allowing 94 ppg in the three setbacks. If you are looking for a first round upset, look no further.

The final quarterfinal matchup pits a pair of 11-7 teams against each other with the Mount St. Mary's Mountaineers hosting the Quinnipiac Bobcats. Mount St. Mary's won five of its final six games to seal home court advantage in this matchup - no small thing in a series where the home team has dominated. A clash of styles here as well as the Mountaineers boast the Conference's best defense, holding teams to less than 67 ppg. A stark contrast to the offensive minded Bobcats who average over 74 ppg and boast the Conference's top scorer in DeMario Anderson. In this matchup I like defense and the home court advantage.

In the final analysis Robert Morris is head and shoulders above any team in this Conference and will enjoy the home court advantage all the way through, making them as close to a lock as it gets to earning the prized Automatic bid.

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Big South Conference Tourney Update   
by: Brian Gabrielle

This is a two dog fight at the top but I still like Winthrop when it matters. Last season Winthrop edged VMI, 84-81, capturing their third straight title and seventh in the last nine years. The Eagles went on to beat Notre Dame, 74-64, in the first round of the NCAA Tournament to become the first Big South team ever to advance to the second round.

This season the tourney starts off a little different, as the Eagles enter the event off a critical double digit loss to UNC Asheville to close the season and in doing so, lost the #1 seeding. However, none of that will mattered in the opening round against Radford when the Eagles soared to a 31 point first round win. Things will get a little tougher today against High Point, but the BGS Power Ratings do show Winthrop as a clear -7 point favorite on a neutral court, as is the case here at Justice Center.

Likewisde, UNC Asheville has to be considered a TD favorite in it's semifinal matchup against Liberty. The Bulldogs certainly have momentum, riding 4 straight wins into this game, being the Tournament's top seed and playing in front of the home crowd here in Asheville. Their solid season includes a season sweep of the defending champion Eagles. The Bulldogs are the #1 team in the conference shooting from the field at almost 49%. The Flames are no slouch shooting the rock either, second in the conference from the stripe and behind the arch and third from the field at almost 47%. Offence may be the name of the game, especially considering the Flames 103 point performance in their opening round win over VMI. However, Asheville's defense is a clear step up in class and has to get the nod in this venue.

When the dust clears on Thursday I anticipate nothing less than a Winthrop vs Asheville final. Asheville will have home court PLUS they did sweep the season series, but Winthrop just seems to own this conference and plays big in big games. Should be a good final.

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Mo-Valley Conference Tourney Preview    
by: Brian Gabrielle

Creighton has won six of the last nine conference tournaments but this season the field is tougher than ever with no fewer than 4 Mo Valley teams ranked in the top 64 teams in the nation. In fact, top seed Drake is a top 20 team in the nation and boasts an impressive 21 game winning streak this season which does include wins over the top teams in this conference and also a road victory over Big 10 foe Iowa. Drake and second seed Illinois State draw first round byes in the 10 team Tournament which takes place at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis Missouri. This event has found a neutral home in St. Louis, which has neutralized somewhat the advantage of the top seeds. In fact, a #1 seed hasn't won this Tournament in the past decade and Drake fans may be extra nervous, as the Bulldogs have never won this event, they are just 11-29 all-time in this tournament and haven't reached the NCAA Tournament since 1971.

The Tournament fires up with the eighth-seeded Indiana State Sycamores facing the ninth-seeded Wichita State Shockers. The teams split the regular season with both teams holding serve on home court, while the Sycamores enjoyed a 5 point total scoring advantage in the two games. The BGS Power Ratings make Indiana State a small favorite and oddsmakers echo this, making either team a +1 point dog depending on where you bet. I'll call this game Indiana State 64, Wichita State 61. However, the winner of this contest faced Drake on Friday, so any celebration early will be short lived.

The other MVC opening round game pits the Missouri State Bears against the Evansville Purple Aces. The Bears won three straight to end regular season, including an upset of Drake. In the last meeting between these two teams the Bears doubled the Aces 76-38. In fact, Evansville has never won this tournament and after a last place finish with just 3 conference wins this season, that shouldn't change. I have the the Bears big here. Missouri State 74, Evansville 56. The second round matchup pitting the winner (Da' Bears) against Illinois State should prove to be a fantastic second round game.

On Friday, the Creighton Bluejays face the Bradley Braves. These teams split a pair of meetings, with the Bluejays capturing an amazing 111-110 double-overtime thriller to punctuate the regular season. Last season, the Bluejays defeated Southern Illinois for their 10th Conference title, twice in the past three years and six times in the last nine seasons. That success should give Creighton an emotional edge, but these teams are very closely matched, with the BGS Power Ratings suggesting a mere basket seperating the two. It should be noted that Bradley out-scored the Blue Jays by a combined 27 points in the two regular season meetings.

The quarterfinal round wraps up with the Southern Illinois Salukis battling the Northern Iowa Panthers. The Salukis have reached the finals of this tournament the last two seasons, winning it all in 2006 and losing out to Creighton last season. In fact, the Saluki have made it to the championship game four times in the past six seasons. After lofty pre-season expectations, the Salukis struggled with consistency for most of the season, however, they did finish strong, winning five of their final six games. The teams split a pair of regular season games but the Saluki out-scored the Panthers by a combined 15 points in the two games and the BGS Power Ratings suggest a -5 point Saluki win. Considering the success Southern Illinois has enjoyed in this tournament, I am sticking with that. Southern Illinois 68, Northern Iowa 63.

This Tournament has been a two dog race in recent years with Creighton and Southern Illinois passing it back and forth. While both teams are right in the thick of it again this season it cannot be ignored that Drake is the team to beat.

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Is Xavier for Real ?
By Matt Fargo

Xavier is an appropriate team to focus on this week as its final test of the season takes place on Thursday night at St. Joseph’s. The Musketeers conclude their season on Saturday at home against Richmond. Xavier, 25-4 overall, has won 11 straight games and 17 of its last 18 to basically run away with the regular season Atlantic Ten title. The Musketeers broke the school record for most regular season wins and now they are gunning for the overall record of 28 wins set by the 1989-90 Sweet 16 team.

Most teams with 25 wins prior to the end of the regular season are not even discussed as being a possible fraud team but unfortunately, the Musketeers are part of that group. This is not due to the fact of having any significant weaknesses, but more so of the fact it really has not been tested a great deal. The non-conference schedule was nice but certainly not overwhelming. A victory over Kansas St. was the biggest win while losses to Miami Ohio and Arizona St. are unsettling. A loss to Tennessee was expected.

Some other non-conference wins included SE Missouri St., Coppin St., Oakland, Belmont and Delaware St. Again, not very impressive. Add to that playing in a weak Atlantic Ten Conference and what you have is a record that might be skewed based on a relatively soft schedule. Still, Xavier is eighth in the AP Poll, its highest ranking since being ranked a school-record seventh early in the 1997-98 season. Collegerpi.com has the Musketeers listed at sixth, which is extremely surprising based on the schedule rank.

The Musketeers are a solid 9-3 in road games and this includes six straight wins in the Atlantic Ten. The problem is that there has been a lack on domination as the last four wins have come by an average of only 3.5 ppg. Making that even worse is the fact that all four of those wins came against teams with a .500 conference record or worse. Xavier has dominated at home this season, which it does basically every year, but there will be no home postseason games so stepping up on the road is a must.

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As far as the bad, that is about it. You cannot fault Xavier for playing in a weak conference and it has won the games it needed to. There are a lot of positives on this team and come tournament time, those aspects will need to come out if it plans to make a historic run. Xavier leads the Atlantic Ten Conference in scoring margin (seventh in the nation at +14.1 ppg.), rebounding margin (26th in the nation at +5.7), field goal percentage defense (30th in the nation at 40.1 percent) and A/TO ratio at 1.20.

The Musketeers are second in the conference and 18th in the nation in free throw shooting at 75 percent, second in the conference and 16th in the nation in three-point shooting at 39.7 percent, 2nd in the conference and 38th in the nation in scoring defense at 62.0 ppg and second in the conference in three-point shooting defense at 33.3 percent. All of these statistics show what a powerful team this really is no matter who it has played. One of these stats needs to be touched on further and that is free throw shooting.

There probably is not a bigger factor come tournament time than free throw shooting. With so many tight games, making free throws is vital and Xavier possesses this trait. The Musketeers have an amazing four players that are shooting over 80 percent for the season. Josh Duncan is hitting 86.2 percent, B.J. Raymond is hitting 86.2 percent, Drew Lavender is hitting 85.3 percent and Stanley Burrell is hitting 83.5 percent. Words cannot describe how important this is and they are going to have an edge in nearly every game.

The Musketeers rely heavily on balance and Xavier is one of only three teams in the country to have five players that average double figures in scoring with Duke and Clemson being the other two. This type of balance can be a nightmare for defenses and the Musketeers have five players ranging from 10.6 ppg to 11.7 ppg. Xavier is 18-0 when four or more players score in double figures and the reason is fairly obvious since the points can come from basically anywhere on the floor.

This is a very veteran team with three seniors and two juniors comprising five of the seven players that average double-digits in minutes. They have been here before and they know what to expect. There is also going to be a chip on their shoulder following the debacle from last season. The Musketeers led Ohio St. by nine points with less than three minutes left but the Buckeyes rallied and tied the game with a three-pointer with two seconds left that sent the game into overtime and an eventually Ohio St. win.

Another good thing going for Xavier has been it plays up or down to the competition. The Musketeers are 0-6 ATS against teams with a losing record but 11-5 ATS against winning teams and they are going to face nothing but over .500 teams come postseason time. The Musketeers have been overpriced for the majority of the season and they are 1-5 ATS when favored by more than 17 points but they won’t be laying those numbers in the Big Dance. Soft schedule or not, this is going to be an extremely dangerous team.

VegasInsider.com

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HANDICAPPING MID MAJOR TOURNAMENTS
Scott Spreitzer

It’s hard to believe that tournament basketball is finally here! Several mid major tournaments start this week, with the winners earning automatic bids to the NCAA Tournament. Everybody else has their tournaments the following week.

A year ago at this time I outlined some suggestions for handicapping the mid majors. These tournaments have a different atmosphere because so few teams can count on getting an at large bid. You’re going to see some very intense basketball! I’m not going to write up a new version of that piece. But I do want to quickly review those themes. They matter just as much this year as they did last year:

# The TOP teams bring peak intensity because they just can’t afford a loss. It’s safer to play favorites in these events because so much is stake for the top seeds. Upsets are much more common in the major tournaments where top seeds are already locked into the Dance. Betting against mid major powers is a dicey proposition at best.

# Depth is very important because teams are playing big games on consecutive days. Short rotations fade from fatigue. Deep teams are able to handle the gauntlet.

# Inside basketball trumps outside basketball most of the time. For every game where a team happens to get hot from long range, there are two where the power teams are dominant. Focus on defense and rebounding when comparing teams in a matchup.

# Bad guard play will kill you, but good guard play won’t necessarily win any games. The media tends to overrate the impact of guards in tournament action, and underestimate the impact of the inside men. Don’t bet on a team just because they’ve got a star guard. It’s okay to bet against teams who are weak at guard.

# Look to play UNDERS in the first half and full game whenever good defenses or slow tempos are on the court. When those factors are in play on a NEUTRAL court, scoring really plummets.

Okay, you should know that stuff by now anyway if you’re a serious handicapper. I’d like to add these elements to your handicapping arsenal…

# Study how all tournament teams performed in their conference ROAD games. This is usually a great indicator for playoff performance. Some teams who look pretty good in their full season numbers just padded their stats by winning blowouts at home. Unless they’re hosting the tournament, they’re probably going to underachieve expectations in the tourneys. This particular truth has helped me pick winners for many years. It also works great with college bowl games. Throw out home performances when studying neutral site games. Regular season “road warriors” typically do very well in tournaments.

# Make sure you pay close attention to the turnover category as you study past boxscores, and “read and react” once the tournament is under way. Teams with turnover problems will typically see those magnified in tournaments because the officials don’t blow as many whistles. Players have to learn to maintain possession when getting hacked or pushed. The refs just aren’t going to bail them out. One reason scoring goes down in tournaments is that more possessions are ending with turnovers instead of free throws. Teams who are prone to losing the ball anyway often have disastrous results. They’ll score in the high 40’s or 50’s rather than the 60’s or higher. Look to take the opponent and the Under whenever a sloppy team is playing in a neutral floor in a tourney.

# Remember that teams who live by the three die by the three…which means that any team that just won a big game by making a bunch of treys is about to fall back to earth with a thud. Some of my biggest winners in recent years have come on day two of a tournament because I knew a first round winner had played way over their heads. This one factor can trump everything else. There’s just no way to maintain red hot shooting over a period of games. And, there’s no way to win if you’re having a horrible day from behind the arc. Successful tournament handicapping consists of both pre-tourney preparation and “in the moment” analysis. Either will make you money. Mastering both will make you A LOT of money!

Some of today’s issues will also be important in the major tournaments down the road. But, I wanted to point them out to you here because the mid-major conferences can have a lot of variance from top to bottom. There’s more consistency in the majors because of the caliber of athletes. When you’re talking about the Horizon Conference, or the Sun Belt, or the Ohio Valley, you’ll see BIG differences in depth, road play, inside strength, turnover tendencies, and three-point shooting streaks. That leads to some extreme results against conservative Las Vegas pointspreads that are based on full season averages. Double digit covers are common. Finding them ahead of time isn’t very difficult if you’re studying the right indicators!

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Re: Conference Tournament News and Notes

Pac-10 Conference tourney preview and analysis
By MARC LAWRENCE

Date: March 12 - 15 (All games at Staples Center • Los Angeles, CA)

THE TOP GUNS

No. 1 seed - UCLA Bruins


Record: 28-3, 16-2 Pac-10 play

Everyone’s easy-to-like top seeded Bruins struggled a bit down the stretch. But the fact of the matter is Ben Howland’s bunch is as talented as any team in the land.

We’re sure the Uclans well remember last year’s faux pas when they were bounced in the first round of this tournament as a No.1 seed against 15-point underdog California.

The most impressive achievement on their ledger? How about the fact they were 13-1 SU (straight up) and 12-1-1 ATS (against the spread) in games against .650 opposition or better this season.

No. 2 seed – Stanford Cardinal

Record: 24-6, 13-5 Pac-10 play

The Tree Farm is led by the seven-foot Lopez twins, Brook and Robin – both of whom will be dancing with the NBA stars.

It’s no surprise they rank No. 3 in the land in net rebound margin and No. 17 in defensive field goal percentage. They have, though, gone one-and-out the last two years in this event and are just 3-6 ATS at this tourney since its inception.

The feeling here is Stanford is a real sleeper and will be on our NCAA March Madness buy list.

No. 3 seed – Washington State Cougars

Record: 23-7, 11-7 Pac-10 play

The Cougars have ascended to new heights in their two years under head coach Tony Bennett. They are, however, just 4-9 SU and ATS against conference foes with a win percentage of .714 or greater behind Bennett.

After a 15-0 start out of the gate, WSU leveled out at 9-7 SU and 6-10 ATS to close out the campaign. They will need to step it up in order to wear the crown.

No. 4 seed – USC Trojans

Record: 20-10, 11-7 Pac-10 play

Like Bennett above, Tim Floyd has also done a masterful job with USC. He has been money in the bank as a dog, going 26-13-1 ATS (with 18 SU wins), including 8-0-1 ATS against .900 or better opposition.

Heed our advice - don’t fade the Trojans in their most desirable role. They shoot the ball straight (No. 13 offensive field goal percentage) and they defend it with conviction (No. 16 defensive field goal percentage).

THE NEAR MISSES

No. 5 seed – Arizona State Sun Devils


Record: 19-11, 9-9 Pac-10 play

A pleasant surprise this season when second year head coach Herb Sendek took the Sun Devils’ six-win season in his first year at the helm last year and transformed them into a 19-win ‘on the bubble’ unit this season.

A win against USC in the first round will virtually cement an invite to the Big Dance.  Unfortunately, they have never won a game in this event (0-5 SU and 1-4 ATS).

No. 6 seed – Oregon Ducks

Record: 18-12, 9-9 Pac-10 play

The other two teams, atop and below this write-up, certainly qualify as a sleeper team in this event. We’ll cast our vote the Ducks’ way, though.

A 29-win team last year, with four returning starters, Oregon severely underachieved this season. They are, however, deeply talented, and a team none of the ‘big boys’ are anxious to rub up against.

A bevy of good tournament numbers heading in, including a 5-0 ATS mark with three-plus days of rest, makes the Web Feet attractive.

No. 7 seed - Arizona Wildcats

Record: 18-13, 8-10 conference play

As improbable as it may be, the Wildcats finished the season with a losing record in conference play for the first time since 1984.

Still, with a roster as deeply talented as any in the conference, it would be no surprise should they knock one or two of the Top Guns, especially with starting PG Nick Wise back in the lineup.

An interesting stat finds the Cats 1-5 ATS in this tourney against foes off back-to-back wins; 5-1 ATS otherwise.

No. 8 seed – Washington Huskies

Record: 16-15, 7-11 Pac-10 play                                                                                   

Now this is a canine with some clout. At 16-15 this season, the Huskies won’t make the Big Dance but appear to be a legitimate NIT or CBI squad.

The No. 12 rebounding team in the nation, the Huskies beat UCLA, while also taking out Oregon and both of the Arizona’s. They have won 25 conference games straight up as puppies this decade, making these Huskies dangerous dogs.

FYI: they are 0-4 ATS as postseason favorites of more than six points.

THE VICTIMS                                                                                                                   

No. 9 seed – California Bears


Record: 15-14, 6-12 Pac-10 play

One game under .500 last season. One game over this year. The Bears, however, enter this tourney on a 1-7 losing slide with zero-to-little confidence.

On the plus side, California was 8-3 ATS away from Berkeley this season. If they somehow get past Washington in their first game it would likely be the end of the road as they are 0-6 ATS in this extravaganza against an opponent off a win.

No. 10 seed – Oregon State Beavers

Record: 6-24, 0-18 Pac-10 play


It used to be the Beavers were a lousy football team and competitive on the hardwood. The dichotomy has done a 180 lately, though, as the Beaverball rides a 21-game conference losing streak (6-15 ATS) in this tourney.

Unfortunately, it’s nothing but bad numbers for OSU in this event too (0-3 ATS as dogs of more than six points, 0-3 ATS versus .700 or greater opposition, and the list goes on).  Not exactly the kind of team you want to sink your teeth into.

PARTING SHOTS:

After tailing at season’s end, the Bruins will be pumped up looking to make amends for last year’s opening round blunder. Remember this: teams in this tournament that score 66 or fewer points are 6-24 SU and 5-23 ATS. UCLA can apply those kind of clamps.

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Re: Conference Tournament News and Notes

ACC tourney preview and analysis
By Matty Baiungo

The ACC men’s basketball tournament runs Thursday through Sunday in Charlotte, N.C., with all games being played on the home floor of the Charlotte Bobcats. All 12 ACC teams are in, with the top-four seeds - North Carolina, Duke, Clemson and Virginia Tech - getting a first-round bye.

For the other eight teams, that means they’ll need to win four consecutive games to win the tournament - no easy task. Let’s take a closer look at the teams (listed according to their seeding):

No. 1 North Carolina Tar Heels

UNC earned the No. 1 seed after winning at Duke on Saturday night. The Tar Heels are the complete package:  they get excellent point-guard play (Ty Lawson), great perimeter shooting (Wayne Ellington), a monster inside game (Tyler Hansbrough), good team defense, and they hit their free throws (76.1 percent). They only have two losses this year, to Maryland and Duke at home in conference play. The obvious team to beat, but they were only 3-4 ATS as a road favorite in conference play.

No. 2 Duke Blue Devils

The team everybody loves to hate just keeps winning. The Dukies have been ultra-impressive this year, considering just one starter is a senior. Although all five starters average double-digits in scoring, the Blue Devils’ biggest strength is on defense: they’re No. 2 in conference efficiency. In conference play, it’s been a tale of two seasons for Duke. The Blue Devils went 8-0-1 ATS over their first nine games, but 1-6-1 to the spread since. They can win the ACC, but their youth and lack of an inside game might prevent it.

No. 3 Clemson Tigers

Clemson’s fast non-conference starts have historically tailed off once conference play begins. But this season, the Tigers haven’t faded as much as in previous years, going a solid 10-6 SU in ACC games. The Tigers have the ability to beat both top seeds, but they could also lose to a lower-tier team -- you never know what kind of performance you’re going to get. Clemson is also the worst free-throw shooting team in the ACC (59.1 percent), which doesn’t help.

No. 4 Virginia Tech Hokies

At 18-12 SU and squarely on the bubble, Tech will be playing for an NCAA bid. The Hokies need to win a couple of games, but it won’t be easy. Believe it or not, they have the best defense in the conference, according to efficiency numbers. But they also have the conference’s worst offense. That means they’ll be in lower-scoring games, which usually helps in tournament games. Their defense may get them past their quarterfinal game, but don’t expect much after that.

No. 5 Miami Hurricanes

The Hurricanes are quietly having a good season at 21-9 SU, but eight of those losses have come in conference play with six of them on the road. Asking the ’Canes to win four straight here is asking too much. Miami-Fla is also looking for an NCAA bid, but it needs a better team effort. Junior guard Jack McClinton is the only starter averaging more than 10 points per game – that’s the main reason Miami has been held to 70 points or less 12 times this season. The Hurricanes could still get to the semis, but further than that is unlikely.

No. 6 Maryland Terrapins

After looking like a sure-fire NCAA tournament team, Maryland has tanked over its last seven games. The Terrapins have gone 2-5 SU, while covering just one point spread. But this team is capable: it did win tough road games in North Carolina, Georgia Tech and Wake Forest. Gary Williams will have to do one heck of a coaching job over the next few days to get this group back on track. The Terrapins need a good showing to get an NCAA bid, and their road to the semifinals is not all that difficult.

No. 7 Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets

This team is erratic offensively. The Yellow Jackets take a ton of bad shots, but they’ve been in a nice groove lately. They’ve scored 74 points or more, while winning and covering three of their last four games. Two of the wins came against Clemson and Wake Forest, so the Yellow Jackets should not be overlooked. They own the best perimeter defense in the ACC, holding opponents to just 29 percent. That will allow them to hang around with the better teams. It’s no surprise that they are 10-6 ATS as an underdog this year. If they survive Round 1, Tech will lose to Duke in Round 2.

No. 8 Wake Forest Demon Deacons

This could be the sleeper team in this tournament. The Demon Deacons are young, and they’ve certainly taken their lumps this year. But they are extremely talented and should get by the first round, which will pit them against UNC. Their free-throw shooting needs improvement (66 percent); it’s cost them many close games. Of their 12 overall losses, Wake has lost eight times by eight points or less. Wake Forest could make some noise, but getting by UNC in the second round will be tough.

No. 9 Florida State Seminoles

Another middle-of-the-road ACC team coming into the tournament with some confidence. The Seminoles are 4-1 SU their last 5 games (3-1-1 ATS), but they get a bad draw with Wake Forest. Wake swept the two meetings this year while shooting 50% from the floor and from behind the arc. Florida State’s offense is next to last in the conference in efficiency and dead last in assists. The Seminoles simply cannot match points with the higher-scoring teams, and most likely will be gone after one game.

No. 10 Virginia Cavaliers

As Sean Singletary goes, Virginia goes. Singletary is a one-man wrecking crew, averaging almost 20 points per game. But he doesn’t get much help from his teammates. And in bad Singletary games, this team has virtually no chance of winning. The Cavaliers have won four of their last six games, while covering five of those. Expect a close game with Georgia Tech in the first round, as one game went to overtime and the other was decided by a bucket earlier this season.

No. 11 Boston College Eagles

Aside from Tyrese Rice, Eagles head coach Al Skinner doesn’t have much to work with. BC enters this tournament on a massive slide having lost 14 of its last 17 games - including six straight. The Eagles only won a single road conference game, and that was back in December at Maryland. Guess that’s a good thing, because they’ll face Maryland in the first round. Even if BC gets past Maryland, next up would be Clemson, which beat the Eagles by 22 points earlier this season.

No. 12 N.C. State Wolfpack

Losers of eight straight, NC State has little hope of turning things around and making a run in this tournament. The Wolfpack plays no defense, and they’ve allowed 79.5 points per game over their current losing streak. They shoot the long ball well, with the best three-point attack in the conference (39.7 percent). But they are also the league’s worst perimeter defense, allowing 41.7 percent from three-point land. One and done for the Pack.

Overall, this should be another competitive ACC tournament. In the end, the top teams will again prevail, which means a third meeting this season between North Carolina and Duke, with the Tar Heels emerging as ACC champions.

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Re: Conference Tournament News and Notes

SEC tourney preview and analysis
Matty Baiungo

SOUTHEASTERN CONFERENCE

March 13 - 16 (All games at the Georgia Dome, Atlanta, GA)

THE TOP GUNS:

No. 1 Seed East – Tennessee Volunteers (28-3 SU / 14-2 SEC)


If you are a history buff, the loop’s top team is hard to like here. Consider the Vols are 0-8 SU and ATS off a Conference Tournament win, 1-8 SU and ATS versus a No.1 or 2 seed and 2-12 SU and 3-11 ATS versus a .620 or greater opponent.  Yikes.  It’s no wonder they’ve gone one-and-out the last two years.  If you find the number, they were 8-0 SU and 4-0 ATS this season when not forced to lay points. Be careful here.

No. 1 Seed West – Mississippi State Bulldogs (21-9 SU / 12-4 SEC)

Here’s a top seed from a major power conference that managed to stay under the radar all season.  In other words, our kind of team.  The Bulldogs bring along the nations No. 2 ranked defensive field goal percentage unit and No.14 net rebounding bunch into the tourney. Toss in a highly accurate shooting squad (No. 46 in offensive field goal percentage) and you have a well rounded team that can adapt to any situation. They are also 7-0-1 ATS in this tourney against foes off back-to-back SU and ATS wins.   

No. 2 Seed East – Kentucky Wildcats (18-11 SU / 12-4 SEC)


It took a while but, unlike John Beinlein at Michigan, the young Wildcats adapted to new coach Billy Gillespie’s playbook and now enter this event with confidence and momentum, usually a deadly combination for most teams this time of the season. They are certainly a team no one in the SEC wants in their path in this event. A history of strong success in this tournament (25 titles and 36-7 SU last 43 games) serves them well once again this year.

No. 2 Seed West – Arkansas Razorbacks (20-10 SU / 9-7 SEC)

Look out for the Pig. We see this five-returning starter team in a sleeper role and that can’t be good for the rest of the league. Sure, the Hogs played like slop down the stretch but, like a hooker dressed to the nines, the dirtier looking they are the more appealing they become. Remember, this same unit lost to Florida in the title game last year. They are 17-3 SU laying points in this tournament.

No. 3 Seed East – Vanderbilt Commodores (25-6 SU / 10-6 SEC)


Yes, the Commodores had a strong season, but they are not the team that opened the year 16-0 (that’s what life in the SEC will do to you).  They certainly have firepower, but their spotty history in this tourney keeps us from buying a futures ticket. Especially a gaudy stat that reminds us they are 1-12 SU and 2-11 ATS in this tourney off a spread win of more than three points. Nice team, just not our cup of tea.

THE NEAR MISSES:

No. 3 Seed West – Mississippi Rebels (21-9 SU / 7-9 SEC)


Much like their brothers from Starkville, Ole Miss is another unsung club that stayed under the radar this season - only they did so thanks to the schedule maker. The Rebels opened up 12-0 to start the season, with he majority of wins coming against the Sisters of the Poor. The fact of the matter is they’ve struggled in this tourney, especially against good teams (2-10 SU and ATS versus .678 or greater opposition).  No surprise should they get exposed here.

No. 4 Seed East – Florida Gators (21-10 SU / 4-8 SEC)

The defending National Champs, sans the five starters, put up pretty decent numbers for a team this young and inexperienced. Credit goes to head coach Billy Donavon whose teams have won this tournament each of the last three years running (9-0 SU and 7-1-1 ATS since 2005). The Gators are also 8-1 SU and 6-1-2 ATS in their initial SEC tourney tilt. While they won’t be around to complete the grand slam this year, they could add to their strong bank account.

No. 5 Seed West – Alabama Crimson Tide (16-15 SU / 5-11 SEC)


Quickie Quiz: next to Kentucky’s 25 SEC Tournament championships, name the team with the second most titles.  Answer: you’re reading about them.  The Tide is next on the totem pole with six post-season conference crowns.  They will certainly be a long shot to improve on those numbers in this year’s contest.  They are 5-1 ATS in this tourney when they own a win percentage of less than .560 on the season. Should they manage to squeeze the orange juice out of Florida they won’t live to see the weekend.

THE VICTIMS:

No. 4 Seed West – LSU Tigers (13-17 SU / 6-10 SEC)


Give this gutsy bunch the credit they deserve. After the surprising departure of head coach John Brady during the season, they refused to throw in the towel. They enter Thursday’s game against South Carolina on a 4-1 SU and 5-0 ATS winning roll. So then why is it they are not on our ‘Near Miss’ list, you ask? Simple.  Top seed Tennessee awaits and the Bengals are 7-13-1 ATS taking points in this tourney. Enough said.

No. 5 Seed East – South Carolina Gamecocks (13-17 SU / 5-11 SEC)


Head coach Dave Odom knew coming in it would be a difficult campaign. Off a four-win effort last year, the Gamecocks more than tripled that output, making this a successful season. USC is 9-3 ATS in first games in this tourney but they’ve dropped four in a row to LSU.  Like the Tigers, they won’t see the weekend.

No. 6 Seed East – Georgia Bulldogs (13-16 SU / 4-12 SEC)

It was a bummer for Dennis Felton and his Bulldogs this year, to be sure. On the heels of a 19-win effort last year, with four starters back, Georgia figured to be in the hunt in the East Division. Instead, thanks to a 2-11 SU and 4-7-1 ATS season ending skid, they are in a Donkey Game. They are also 3-10 ATS their last thirteen games in this tourney. No thanks.

No. 6 Seed West – Auburn Tigers (14-15 SU / 4-12 SEC)

On paper, the prospects were bright for Auburn this season. With five starters back from a 17-win season last year, there was talk of surprising the West. After dust settled the only ones surprised were the Tigers. Injuries, and a 2-10 finish did them in. Still, they are 6-0 SU and ATS in this tournament when playing off a loss of eight or more points and they have cashed three straight in their series against Vandy (Thursday’s opponent).  Let’s see what happens.

PARTING SHOTS:

While Tennessee appears to be the heir apparent to Florida’s three-year grip on the crown, we can’t help but like the chances of defensively stout Mississippi State - should both teams make the title game.  Keep this thought in mind: The Vols are 20-0 SU and 12-2-2 ATS in games in which they have scored 80 or more points this season; 8-3 SU and 2-9 ATS when they don’t reach 80. Worse yet, they are 1-24 ATS as a favorite in their last twenty-five games in which they failed to score 80 points. The Bulldogs held 28 of the 30 opponents they faced this season to less than 80 points, including Tennessee.

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Re: Conference Tournament News and Notes

Big Ten Conference tourney preview and analysis
By MARC LAWRENCE

This year’s Big Ten will be held at Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis from Thursday to Sunday. Let’s take a closer look at the competition:

No. 1 Wisconsin Badgers (26-4 SU / 16-2 Big Ten)


When it comes to defense, Bo Ryan’s troops take a back seat to no one in this conference. Since the inception of this tournament, the Badgers allow just 57 points per game, while never surrendering more than 66 points in any one game. That’s why they’ve played in the title game three of the last four years. While the Big Ten is down a notch or two this season, the teams are still defensively sound, a trait epitomized by the Badgers.

No. 2 Purdue Boilermakers (23-7 SU/ 14-3 Big Ten)


The Boilers posted 20 wins for the second straight year and deserve their No. 2 seeding. The problem we have sucking up with Purdue is their putrid performances in this event in the past: 4-11 SU and 5-10 ATS overall (including 0-7 SU and ATS versus a foe off a win of eight or more points). But the Boilermakers were 10-2 SU and ATS against conference foes off a win this season, indicating – perhaps - a reversal of fortune may be in order.

No. 3 Indiana Hoosiers (25-6 SU/ 14-4 Big Ten)

The Hoosiers are the shakiest-looking 25-win team to come down the pike in a while. The choke job at Penn State to close out the season - blowing the No.2 seed in the process - indicates that Dan is not their man. I don’t know how far they will go under interim mentor Dan Dakich. Indiana is 1-7 SU in this tournament against .666 or better opposition. Thus an early exit would be no surprise in our eyes.                                     

No. 4 Michigan State Spartans (24-7 SU/ 12-6 Big Ten)

Tom Izzo’s Spartans rarely play second fiddle to anyone on defense. MSU is 7-2 ATS against No. 6 or higher seeds in this tourney, and they bring two valued commodities into the post-season: a top-10 ranked rebounding team and a top-20 ranked unit in defensive field-goal percentage. They also bring five starters back from last year’s 23-win team. Look out Big 10, here comes the Izzard of East Lansing.

No. 5 Ohio State Buckeyes (19-12 SU/ 10-8 Big Ten)

The Buckeyes, the runner-up in last year’s NCAA Big Dance Contest, were steady if not spectacular this season. Thanks to a sticky defense that allowed less than 65 points per game, they suffered only five losses by more than seven points this season. They are 4-1 ATS as dogs of more than four points, and 12-2 SU in games in which they surrender less than 70 points in this event. Yeah, they smell like our kind of dog.

No. 6 Minnesota Golden Gophers (18-12 SU/ 8-10 Big Ten)

As tip of the hat to new Minny mentor Tubby Smith, the Gophers doubled their win total to 18 this year from nine last season. The five returning starters who adapted to Smith’s schemes realize they are going to need to reach the coveted 20-win plateau in order to get off the bubble, meaning a pair of wins in this tourney is mandatory.  Thus, after disposing of Northwestern Thursday, Friday’s contest will be critical. Having Tubby on the sidelines helps.

No. 7 Penn State Nittany Lions (15-15 SU/ 7-11 Big Ten)

With Sunday’s upset win over Indiana, the never-say-die Lions have put themselves into position to snag a NIT (or a new CBI) invite, should they win at least one more game. The good news is, they’ll be favored to do so in their opening-round game Thursday. The bad news is, they are only 2-9 ATS as conference chalk in games off an underdog win, and just 2-4 SU and ATS in this event versus No. 8 or lower seeds.

No. 8  Iowa Hawkeyes (13-18 SU / 6-12 Big Ten)

Like other struggling first-year head coaches in conference, Todd Lickliter’s maiden voyage with the Hawkeyes met with resistance.  Butler’s ex-boss couldn’t win consecutive conference games, and ended the year 6-12 SU -- but 11-7 ATS in Big Ten battles (10-4 as a dog). The feeling is his methodical style, and Iowa’s 6-0 ATS mark as a dog of four or more points in this tourney, gets him some season-ending cabbage.

No. 9 Illinois Fighting Illini (13-18 SU/ 5-13 Big Ten)

Easily the most disappointing team in the loop, the Illini went from a 23-win contender to 13-win pretender this season. Like many bad teams in the league, they suffered from an age-old Indian disease – lack-a-buckets – as Illinois averaged a mere 62 points per game in conference play (57.5 on the road). Until they get healthy, they can’t be trusted.

No. 10 Michigan Wolverines (9-20 SU / 5-13 Big Ten)

Yet another first-year coach who disappointed was John Beilein, former boss man at West Virginia. (Gridiron fanatics are hoping the few football staff doesn’t come with the same DNA.) A 22-win team last year, the Wolves did not take to Beilein’s playbook during his debut season. A loss last week against Penn State snapped a 10-game series win skein against the Lions. They warrant a look in the rematch.   

No. 11 Northwestern Wildcats (8-21 SU/ 1-17 Big Ten)

We’ll soon learn why the phrase “one-and-done” applies to the Wildcats. A winner of only one of its last 24 conference games, Northwestern has reverted back to its losing ways in Big Ten play.  The only saving grace for the Wildcats is the fact they’re 4-1 ATS in this tourney as a double-digit dog when seeking revenge. That a $4 will get you a gallon of gas these days.

The Big Ten appears down this year.  That’s confirmed by the fact teams were just 31-31 SU and 23-35-3 ATS outside the conference against winning opposition this season. In conference play, double-digit favorites were 32-2 SU but only 12-22 ATS, including 8-19 off a win. Be careful laying any kind of lumber in this low-scoring circuit.

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