Busting Brackets

10 Must-Watch Conference Tournament Games For Friday


First, let me tell you that’s there’s probably no reason for you to be reading this. In my article that mirrored this one for yesterday’s action, I was a whopping 3-5 in my predictions. Instead of looking at is as a sub-.500 record, I’m going to look at is as if I was a batter in baseball and I’m basically a Hall-of-Famer with my .375 average.

Today, the action is even more hotly contested, which guarantees a worse record. But considering the blistering pace I’m on right now, my batting average can take a hit. First, let’s hand out some awards for yesterday’s action:

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MVP: Isaac Hamilton. In my infinite wisdom, I thought USC could upset UCLA in the conference tournament for the Pac-12. And for a solid five minutes of game time, I looked like a genius. Then Hamilton took over. He finished the game with 36 points on 13-17 shooting from the field with 7-9 shooting from beyond the arc. Red. Hot.

LVP: LaDarius White. With his Ole Miss Rebels ahead 58-57 and the clock ticking, the South Carolina Gamecocks needed to go the length of the floor to potentially win the game. White made their job infinitely easier by fouling Tyrone Johnson on a three-point shot. Johnson promptly hit all three free-throws and sent Ole Miss’ fans back to focusing on football (as if they weren’t already).

Choke Job of the Day: Welcome to the outside looking in, Texas. In true Longhorn fashion akin to this season, Rick Barnes’ crew needed a big win to solidify their resume and it looked like they would do so as they led 65-55 with 4:17 left in the second half. The Cyclones scored the last 12 points of the game, capped off with a Monte Morris game-winner. Stay strugglin’, Texas.

No Show of the Day: Is there something in the water in Texas? The Aggies of Texas A&M were also on the bubble and needed to advance in the tournament to win their way into the Big Dance. And much like their former conference foes, the Aggies led 33-23 at the half.

Annnnd they lost. Auburn started the second half on a 26-7 because Bruce Pearl is a wizard, apparently. And the Aggies are left on the outside looking in!

Bubble Winner of the Day: Yes, I did create a somewhat dumb category to give my Indiana Hoosiers a shout-out, but really everything went their way on Thursday. Aside from Texas and Texas A&M, Miami lost, BYU lost their last game, Illinois lost their last game, and Old Dominion lost.

And, to top it off, the Hoosiers looked like the team that was a lock for the tournament in mid-January and whooped up on the Northwestern Wildcats. The only negative on the day was the injury to forward Hanner Mosquera-Perea, who took a scary fall after having his leg and knee rolled up on. The Colombian was able to walk off the court gingerly and has x-rays scheduled for today.

Now that this is out of the way, let’s look at some match-ups!

10. Temple vs. Memphis, 2:00 PM, ESPN2

As it stands currently, Temple is barely hanging on to their tournament hopes. A loss would doom them, although maybe not to badly after the actions of the team on the bubble on Thursday. Temple owes the likes of Texas A&M, Miami, and Texas massive thank-yous for relieving the pressure.

Winner: Temple

9. Penn State vs. Purdue, 2:00 PM, ESPN

Winner of the biggest shock victory yesterday is Penn State. The Iowa Hawkeyes’ win streak of six games coming into their match-up with Penn State was more than the amount of conference wins the Nittany Lions had all year (4). Now, thanks to DJ Newbill and company, the Lions could shock even more fans and burst Purdue’s bubble, as the Boilermakers are in the “Last Four Byes” category.

Winner: Penn State (Because we need one Cinderella somewhere)

8. Indiana vs. Maryland, 6:30 PM, Big Ten Network

As we mentioned earlier, the Hoosiers were the winners of the day among bubble teams, but all they really did was stop the bleeding. A win over Northwestern won’t turn heads, but a win over Maryland would. The Terrapins have already fallen victim to the Hoosiers in Assembly Hall this year and barely edged them out at home, winning by two. If the Hoosiers defend like they did against Northwestern, they could seal their spot in the NCAA Tournament

Winner: Indiana (totally not biased at all)

7. Ohio State vs. Michigan State, 8:55 PM, Big Ten Network

While this game really has minimal ramifications on the tournament, it’s a plain old good game between two high level teams. On one side, you have one of the most exciting freshman in the country in D’Angelo Russell, who have led the Buckeyes to a 23-9 record this season. On the other side is Tom Izzo, who always has his squads playing their best basketball by March. This is a coin flip.

Winner: Ohio State (heads was Ohio State, tails was MSU)

6. Iowa State vs. Oklahoma, 9:00 PM, ESPN2

My pick to win the Big 12 tournament, Oklahoma, is still alive, which is shocking given my history of selections. But they will have no small task in front of them to advance to Saturday’s finals, with a match-up against the Cyclones. The two teams split the season series with both home teams winning, meaning this is the ultimate rubber match. Can Iowa State recover from near-disaster on Thursday?

Winner: Oklahoma

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5. UCLA vs. Arizona, 9:00 PM, Pac-12 Network

You know, I’m not sure who had the better showing in Las Vegas, the Wildcats or the Bruins. Both teams blew out their opponents, one with suffocating defense and the other with high-octane offense. Which means we have an immovable force vs. an unstoppable force. Arizona won the only regular season meeting, beating Steve Alford‘s crew in California. But with the Bruins in dire need of a statement win to earn their spot in the tournament, they’ll be playing with nothing to lose.

Winner: Arizona (but this will be close)

4. Villanova vs. Providence, 7:00 PM, Fox Sports 1

Villanova has moved from an underrated team for most of the year to an overrated team now that announcers and analysts can’t stop drooling over them. But at 30-2, there’s a certain amount of respect earned. Against Kris Dunn, co-Big East Player of the Year with ‘Nova’s Ryan Arcidiacono, the Wildcats can make another statement, but there’s little else they can do to strengthen their resume substantially any more.

Winner: Villanova

3. UNC vs. Virginia, 7:00 PM, ESPN

The Cavaliers were not impressive for most of their game against Florida State, even with the return of Justin Anderson. Meanwhile, North Carolina had a nice statement win over Louisville. The defending regular season and reigning ACC tournament champions will have their hands full defending their crowns.

Winner: Virginia

2. Duke vs. Notre Dame, 9:00 PM, ESPN

Duke is absolutely rolling right now, winners of 12 straight games and 15 of their last 16 games. The only loss? On the road at Notre Dame. The Blue Devils eviscerated their demons and murdered the Fighting Irish in Durham to the tune of a 30-point blowout (which was still a generous score line). With Jerian Grant, anything is possible, so the Blue Devils will have their hands full as well.

Winner: Duke

1. Kansas vs. Baylor, 7:00 PM, ESPN2

These two sides had wars on Thursday, with Kansas downing the Horned Frogs and Baylor beating the Moutaineers. The result is that arguably the two best teams in the conference battling in the semi-finals, which says a lot about the insane state of the the conference. The Jayhawks are prime for an upset if Perry Ellis out yesterday and Cliff Alexander no where near returning.

Winner: Baylor

Next: Pac-12 Tournament: The Day Two Rundown