It's here. Who's ready for the Madness?
OK, so the NCAA tournament doesn't begin for another couple weeks, but there's plenty to see during final few days of the regular season – like the remaining conference races.
The ACC, A-10, Big Ten, C-USA, MAC, SEC, and WAC are among those still waiting for a team to win the league or clinch at least a share of the crown. That's fairly typical. Most races usually come down to the last week.
Sara D. Davis/AP
|Brian Zoubek and Duke will try to hold off Maryland on Wednesday.
It'll all be settled by Sunday, so which ones will be the most entertaining? Mike DeCourcy did a breakdown of the best, and singles out the A-10, Big Ten and MAC as the top 3, though Wednesday's Duke-Maryland showdown is probably the best game of the conference races all week.
The Devils (24-4, 11-2) drilled Virginia on Sunday night and ran away from Maryland during their Feb. 13 matchups at Cameron, 77-56. The Terps (21-7, 11-3) haven't lost since and will provide a stern test for Duke's defense, which – oddly enough – has been exceedingly efficient in the last five games.
Duke's playing for a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament, which hasn't happened since 2006. I'd say Coach K's crew isn't about to let this one get away.
What else to watch this week?
Who's punching their dance ticket?
Three conference tournaments begin Tuesday – Big South, Horizon and Ohio Valley. (A complete schedule can be found here.)
The major conferences don't get underway until next week, but some of the most entertaining tourneys are this week. The Missouri Valley almost always has an upset (beware Northern Iowa!) and mighty Butler fell in last year's Horizon tourney to Cleveland State.
OK, but who's in?
The first team the Big Dance will be Cornell. Simple as that. The Big Red (25-4, 11-1) earned a share of the Ivy League title by routing Penn on Saturday. They're two games up on Princeton and Harvard. Winning one of those two games on Friday or Saturday seals it.
And then the major conference teams can hope Cornell's not in their region…
Searching for answers
It's been a rough week for Purdue. It lost Hummel for the season on Thursday and couldn't muster enough offense to beat Michigan State on Sunday. E'Twaun Moore and JaJuan Johnson combined to go just 7 for 27 from the field and shot just 30 percent from the field.
If the Boilermakers (24-4, 12-4) can't replace Hummel's scoring and rebounding, March is going to be unpleasant. Mostly for those of us watching. Purdue's defense is capable of keeping it in games, but it'll be an ugly thing to watch and probably won't result in many NCAA tourney wins.
Searching for answers, part II
Poor Fordham. It was 3-25 last season, started 1-4 this time time around, fired coach Dereck Whittenburg and still couldn't get it together.
The Rams are 2-24 overall and a lock to finish 0-16 in the A-10 with games against Xavier and at Duquesne this week. This is a team that can't wait for next season.
Race to 2,000 (revisited)
North Carolina began the season just 16 wins shy of 2,000. Kansas needed 30. Somehow, it was a race for second place. (Kentucky got there back in December.)
Turns out the Heels will still get there before the Jayhawks. UNC needs just one win before Kansas plays its Big 12 tournament opener sometime on March 12. That's at least three games to get one win, while KU must beat Kansas State and Missouri just to get to 1,999.
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