Games of Monday, March 10
Matchup: #5 Seed William & Mary (17-15, 10-8) vs. #3 George Mason (22-10, 12-6), 7:00 p.m. EST, ESPN
Rankings: William & Mary, #192 in Pomeroy Ratings (6th of 12 in CAA); George Mason, #94 (1st)
Pomeroy Prediction: George Mason, 66-57 in 59 Possessions
Upset Possibility: 16%
Prospectus: The Tribe pulled off a shocking upset last night in the CAA Semifinals, making good on an eight percent
chance by beating No. 1 seed Virginia Commonwealth 56-54, as Laimis Kisielius nailed a shot with three seconds left for the win. William & Mary has had quite a thrilling run through the Colonial tournament, beating Georgia St. 58-57 and Old Dominion 63-60, a run made even more surprising by the fact that the Tribe lost six of its last seven regular season games. William & Mary will now play in the conference championship game for the first time, where it will have the chance to go to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in school history. George Mason advanced yesterday by beating NC Wilmington 53-41, and will be looking for its first conference tournament title since 2001. The Patriots beat the Tribe in the teams' only meeting of the year, on February 27 by a score of 60-54. Should Mason somehow lose this game, the NCAA selection committee would have a very interesting decision in whether or not to put either or both of the Patriots and VCU into the tournament field.
Summit League Semifinals
Matchup: #5 Seed IUPU Fort Wayne (13-17, 9-9) vs. #1 Oral Roberts (22-8, 16-2), 7:00
Rankings: IUPU Fort Wayne, #191 in Pomeroy Ratings (5th of 10 in Summit); Oral Roberts, #87 (1st)
Pomeroy Prediction: Oral Roberts, 69-59 in 66 Possessions
Upset Possibility: 14%
Prospectus: Oral Roberts beat Centenary on Saturday to advance, while IUPU Fort Wayne played last night and beat Southern Utah, so fatigue could be an issue tonight for the Mastodons against the top seeded Golden Eagles. While it is highly unlikely that Fort Wayne can get by Oral Roberts, how great would it be to see it advance to set up a battle of Indiana state school acronyms between IUPUFW and IUPUI? Oral Roberts beat Fort Wayne twice during the regular season, the second time by 32 points. The Golden Eagles have one of the nation's best defenses, which does an excellent job of limiting three-point attempts and two-point field goal percentage. The Mastodons are led by senior Demetrius Johnson, who is sixth in the nation in assist rate, having helped on 41 percent of his teammates' buckets while on the floor.
Matchup: #3 Seed Oakland (17-13, 11-7) vs. #2 IUPUI (25-6, 15-3), 9:30
Rankings: Oakland, #143 in Pomeroy Ratings (4th of 10 in Summit); IUPUI, #91 (2nd)
Pomeroy Prediction: IUPUI, 77-71 in 64 Possessions
Upset Possibility: 28%
Prospectus: All acronym-induced wishes aside, the battle between IUPUI and Oral Roberts in the Summit finale has the potential to be an epic one if the Jaguars can take care of the Grizzlies tonight. Like IUPU Fort Wayne, Oakland played last night, beating Western Illinois, while IUPUI topped Missouri Kansas City on Saturday, so the Grizzlies will likely be a more tired lot than the Jaguars. These two teams split their season series, with Oakland handing IUPUI one of its three conference losses on February 21, 84-69 in Michigan (Oakland University is in Oakland County, MI, not the Bay Area). IUPUI is second in the nation in eFG%, led by junior George Hill, a 6'2 guard who has shot an incredible 59 percent on his 258 two-point attempts. The Jaguars also have three players who have shot greater than 42 percent from three-point range, in Hill (44-of-96), 5'10 junior Gary Patterson (88-of-192), and 6'5 senior Austin Montgomery (63-of-150).
Sun Belt Semifinals
Matchup: #4 Seed Middle Tennessee (16-14, 11-7) at #1 South Alabama (26-5, 16-2), 7:30
Rankings: Middle Tennessee, #171 in Pomeroy Ratings (4th of 13 in Sun Belt); South Alabama, #64 (1st)
Pomeroy Prediction: South Alabama, 74-59 in 64 Possessions
Upset Possibility: 7%
Prospectus: Both of these teams played yesterday, with the No. 1 seed South Alabama surviving a scare from Bo McCalebb and No. 8 seed New Orleans in an 81-77 victory, and Middle Tennessee beating No. 12 seed Troy 65-59. The Blue Raiders of Middle Tennessee gave the Jaguars one of their two conference losses on February 14, as South Alabama fell on the road 76-70. Desmond Yates, Middle Tennessee's leader in offensive rating and percentage of shots taken, scored 26 points in that one on 8-of-10 from the floor and 7-of-7 from the line. South Alabama, which has won two straight Sun Belt regular season titles, last won the conference tournament in 2006, while Middle Tennessee, which joined the Sun Belt in 2001, has yet to win either the regular season or postseason conference crown.
Matchup: #3 Seed Western Kentucky (25-6, 16-2) vs. #2 Arkansas Little Rock (20-10, 11-7), 10:30
Rankings: Western Kentucky, #67 in Pomeroy Ratings (2nd of 13 in Sun Belt); Arkansas Little Rock, #183 (5th)
Pomeroy Prediction: Western Kentucky, 71-60 in 68 Possessions
Upset Possibility: 12%
Prospectus: The Trojans are the two seed in name only--the Hilltoppers had the far better season, but Sun Belt rules stipulate that the champions of each division are the top two seeds, and Arkansas Little Rock won the weaker West, while Western Kentucky tied with South Alabama in the East but lost the tiebreaker. The Hilltoppers beat up on the Trojans badly in the one regular season meeting between these two this year, winning at home 71-47. Western Kentucky has a defense that forces turnovers on over a quarter of opponent possessions, while Little Rock ranks in the top 10 nationally in free throw rate and opponent three-point percentage. The Hilltoppers won three straight Sun Belt tournaments from 2001-2003, but have not won since, while Little Rock has never won since joining the conference in 1992.
West Coast Championship
Matchup: #3 Seed San Diego (20-13, 11-3) vs. #1 Gonzaga (25-6, 13-1), 9:00, ESPN
Rankings: San Diego, #129 in Pomeroy Ratings (3rd of 8 in WCC); Gonzaga, #24 (1st)
Pomeroy Prediction: Gonzaga, 70-61 in 66 Possessions
Upset Possibility: 16%
Prospectus: The Toreros have advanced to the WCC championship game thanks to last night's improbable double-overtime 75-69 victory over No. 2 seed St. Mary's, a game in which San Diego overcame a 17-point deficit. Now the Toreros will be looking for their third win in as many days against the Bulldogs, who have won four straight WCC tournament titles and eight of the past nine. The one year they didn't win in that stretch was 2003, when San Diego upset Gonzaga and snapped its four-year tourney winning streak, which the Toreros will atempt to do again tonight. The tournament in 2003 was played at San Diego's home court, the Jenny Craig Pavilion, as it is this year. The Bulldogs beat the Toreros at the Jenny Craig 59-55 on February 18, and took down San Diego in Spokane as well. All of the teams on the NCAA Tournament bubble will be rooting hard for Gonzaga to prevent the Toreros from stealing away a spot in the field of 64.
Matchup: #7 Seed Elon (14-18, 9-11) vs. #1 Davidson (25-6, 20-0), 9:00, ESPN2
Rankings: Elon, #214 in Pomeroy Ratings (7th of 11 in Southern); Davidson, #42 (1st)
Pomeroy Prediction: Davidson, 72-56 in 66 Possessions
Upset Possibility: 5%
Prospectus: Elon, which beat higher seeds Chattanooga and the College of Charleston to reach the final, actually proved a challenge to the Wildcats in the regular season. The Pheonix of course lost both of its games to Davidson, which went undefeated in the Southern Conference, but the Wildcats won by just 59-57 at Elon, which was the only close game that Davidson played in its 20 conference contests. The Pheonix are led by 6'8 junior Ola Atoyebi, who has shot 57 percent on his 263 two-point attempts. For Davidson, sophomore guard Stephen Curry has pushed his offensive rating up to 119.7, which is the fifth best in the country among players using at least 28 percent of possessions. Curry leads the Wildcats offense, but what makes Davidson so tough is that it actually has an even better defense than offense. The Wildcats rank 40th in opponent turnover percentage, and, despite not playing anyone over 6'8, are in the top 20 in defensive rebounding. Davidson, which has won 21 straight games, is looking for its third consecutive Southern Conference tournament title.
Caleb Peiffer is a contributor to Basketball Prospectus. He can be reached here.