Monday, March 09, 2009

A Three Pack For Championship Monday

A look at the three biggest conference tournament finals on Monday's schedule:

George Mason vs. VCU
The previous two Colonial conference tourney champs will face off in what should be a competitive final. These two only played once during the regular season, with the Rams winning on their home floor. For the most part, bubble team fans really don't have a rooting interest in this one since neither team has any at-large possibility. However, Creighton and Rhode Island fans actually do have a team to cheer for. URI's best win (RPI-wise) came against VCU in a home game way back in November, while Creighton picked up a BracketBuster home win against George Mason a few weeks ago. Creighton needs all the help it can get this week and every win over a tourney team will put them that much closer to a bid (that's why Bluejay fans should probably actually cheer for Dayton and New Mexico as well). Rhode Island will still need to do plenty of damage in the A-10 tourney, but a trip to the conference final would put them in contention for an at-large.

Niagara at Siena
All season these two were the cream of the MAAC crop, and they will settle things in the final. They split during the regular season, each winning at home, but Niagara won by 15 just 10 days ago. This one is back on Siena's home court, so you have to like their chances to return to the NCAA tourney. Despite their 24 RPI, the Saints really have no at-large profile. They have no wins over teams currently in the top 50 RPI and lost two regular season games in the 13th rated conference in the country. A loss for them here would leave them in about the same boat as Davidson, and surely behind Creighton.

Gonzaga vs. St. Mary's
This one is easily the biggest game of the night, and could end up being one of the biggest bubble games of the week. Patty Mills made his triumphant return last night against Portland, and helped the Gaels advance to the final. The star guard was a little rusty (he was 3-of-12 from the floor), but he still managed to lead St. Mary's to a 10-point win. Now the real test comes against Gonzaga, who went unbeaten in conference. We've been anticipating this matchup for a week now, and with Mills back, we think the Gaels will have enough firepower to take down Gonzaga for the first time away from Moraga since 1997. The Gaels do have some at-large potential should they fall again to the Bulldogs. They have neutral court wins over Providence and SDSU, and a BracketBuster win over Utah State that came without Mills. It would really come down to how much of a break the committee gives them for their play when Mills was out. They suffered blowout road losses to Portland and Santa Clara during that time. If they do lose, they will have another chance to show the committee that they are a tourney team in a late week matchup with Eastern Washington.


dethwing said...

Two things. First, do you think the eastern washington game really matters to the comittee? What can a win against a non D1 team realistically do for their profile?

Second, it would be a real shame if OU was given a break for Griffin missing two games and getting a one seed, and Saint Mary's wasn't given the same benefit of the doubt. Especially when there's a much bigger difference between making and not making, and a 1 vs a 2 seed.

Bracketology 101 said...

Eastern Washington is a D1 team out of the Big Sky. Obviously a loss in the game would be devastating, but if they go out and play well and win big it can't hurt. The game likely won't hurt their RPI since it is on the road and maybe they won't get forgotten about as much during all the conference tournies.

Bracketology 101 said...

We agree with you for the most part on the Griffin-Mills point. St Mary's was 18-1 before Mills got hurt, and they were well on their way to beating Gonzaga in the game he went down. The only slight problem with the argument is that OU lost to Texas and Kansas without Griffin, while St. Mary's lost to Portland and Santa Clara. When you're a mid-major like St. Mary's, conference losses hurt you a lot more, especially when they come against sub-.500 teams. It may not be fair, but it's reality.

dethwing said...

Whoops! My bad, sorry for the miss on the D1. Thanks for the response.

DBATL said...

I think the main reason for the game with E. Washington really has nothing to do with getting an INVITATION for the tournament, rather it has to do with prep for the tournament. St. Mary's believes, correctly or not, and I suspect correctly, that they are in no matter what happens tonight v. Gonzaga.

Patty Mills has been out for a number of weeks, and it is tough to integrate the team again during games that are highly important. St. Mary's desperately needed to win last night and they sure will try to keep things under their own control tonight.

I think the idea of the Eastern Washington game was really more of a pre-season for the tournament -- a chance to experiment with a few things and to get Mills yet one more game, lower pressure, to get into "game shape". It was also scheduled before the Portland game and so nobody really knew for sure what to expect from Mills. I think that he put the doubts to rest last night, and so this E. Washington game is probably now superfluous, but I think it was scheduled as a chance to get Mills back up to speed both with the game and his team.

DBATL said...

Addendum to the previous comment -- While certainly not a bad move in a vacuum, St. Mary's sure will be re-thinking this strategy if somebody gets hurt.

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