In the 2nd Saturday of March for many sides it is the last game of regular-season games before the lottery of conference tournaments. Yet it remains as the final opportunity for some teams to gain momentum before the tournament.
In recent years, conference tournaments have lit the paper for college sides to catch fire just in time. Look at UConn three years ago who were not even on the bubble but yet got into the NCAA tournament on account of winning the Big East tournament in Madison Square Garden thanks to Kemba Walker; they won five games in New York and then six more in the tournament. Think also of VCU who won there conference title and eventually got to the Final Four.
On Saturday night however, we saw a lot of sides suspected of going deep into the tournament treating the final regular-season game as a means of trying out the bench; how else can you explain Kansas losing 81-58 on the road to Baylor, having known a victory would secure a Big 12 title. Bill Self has to make do with his 9th consecutive conference title.
Syracuse are struggling big time on the offensive end after so much season hype, they were woeful on the road at Georgetown, as they lost 61-39 as the Hoyas secured a share of the Big East title. The Orange are struggling because they have no cohesion, now they may look to Louisville and see that if you make a Big East title run you may make the Final Four, as the Cardinals did last year. Louisville though had stingy defence, something the Orange do not employ at this current moment.
The Tar Heels from North Carolina had been gaining some momentum in recent weeks and secured an at-large tournament bid but they came undone at home to Duke who throttled them 69-53. Duke remain a good team and with the return of Ryan Kelly to the line-up look a dead cert for a number one seed and another final four run for Coach K. Although the ACC title went to Miami who beat Clemson 62-49 to secure the crown.
Current National Champions Kentucky did themselves no harm at all by defeating Florida Gators 61-57 at home, the Wildcats under John Calipari have done well to regroup following the injury to Nerlen Noels and should now have done enough to warrant a tournament bid. A deep SEC tournament run in a weak conference field should secure it.
My dark horse tip for the tournament remains the UCLA Bruins, who won on the road at Washington 61-54 to secure the Pac-12 crown. The talent the Bruins have in Shabazz Muhammed and Kevin Anderson make them an intriguing team and one some teams would like to avoid; their defence has got better and we know they can score.
The Big 10 climaxes today (Sunday 10th) with Wisconsin travelling to Penn State; Ohio State hosting Illinois, Northwestern travelling to #10 Michigan State and the titanic tussle between #2 Indiana at #7 Michigan featuring a star-studded line-up of eventual NBA talent: Cody Zeller, Victor Oladipo, Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr.