The calendar flipped to march over the weekend. That is music to the ears of college basketball fans. The regular season will wind down this week which means “bubble watching” will be our greatest obsession and Joe Lunardi will be America’s biggest unknown celebrity, if there is such a thing. What does Lunardi do the rest of the year? He is kind of like Santa Claus in that he is really busy until Selection Sunday, then after the NCAA Tournament field is announced, his job is done until next year.
After the regular season is over, and in some of the lesser known conferences it already is over, the conference tournaments will begin. That is one of the greatest sports weekends of the year. There is so much drama in these tournament championship games with NCAA bids on the line and games coming down to the final possessions. There is nothing like it. If you have never attended a conference tournament, you should find one near you and go. If you haven’t been to eight live college basketball games over a two-day span, then you can’t really call yourself a hoops junkie.
Here are some of the big story lines going into the final regular season week:
Duke Blue Devils forward Ryan Kelly is back after missing seven weeks due to injury. In his absence, the Blue Devils stumbled a bit, losing four times in ACC play. In his first game back against ACC leader and fifth ranked Miami, he exploded for 36 points on 10 of 14 shooting (7-9 from three points) and 9 of 12 from the foul line. With Kelly, the Blue Devils were putting together quite a resume for the NCAA Tournament. They didn’t slip too far with him gone, so with him back, Duke should be the favorite to win it all.
The Indiana Hoosiers wrapped up at least a tie for the Big Ten championship with the losses of the Michigan State Spartans to the Michigan Wolverines and the surprising loss by the Wisconsin Badgers at home to the Purdue Boilermakers on Sunday. The Hoosiers are a good bet to claim a top seed in of the the NCAA Regionals along with the Blue Devils. The Hoosiers will likely slip to number two in the rankings this week after their loss to the Minnesota Golden Gophers on Tuesday.
The Gonzaga Bulldogs will likely take over the top spot in the polls. The Zags went unbeaten in February. They are now 29-2 and 16-0 in the West Coast Conference after surviving a tight game against the BYU Cougars this past week. Look for the Zags to nail down a one seed. So that leaves one more number one seed to give out. Who will get it?
The Florida Gators are in the running after clinching at least a tie for the SEC championship this week. Much like the Hoosiers, Florida suffered a road loss on Tuesday when they went down to the Tennessee Volunteers in Knoxville. If Florida can beat the Vanderbilt Commodores and Kentucky Wildcats to close out the season and make a decent showing in the SEC Tournament they might nail down the last one seed.
The Miami Hurricanes could still get that top seed though if they were to win out this week and then take the ACC Tournament. The Canes need only one more win to become the ACC champions and they have two home games left with Georgia Tech and Clemson. They could be 25-5 going into the ACC Tournament.
The Georgetown Hoyas could also slip in and grab a one seed. They are one game up with two to play in the tough Big East and 23-4 overall. The Hoyas have games left with the Villanova Wildcats and Syracuse Orange. It is a shame their game with the Florida Gators could not be finished. It was opening night in late November on an aircraft carrier in the Atlantic Ocean and the condensation prevented the second half from being played. The Gators led 27-23 at the half. The two sides could not get together on a day or place to make the game up or finish the game. The winner of that one would probably be in the driver’s seat for the last one seed.