A DAY ONE MULLIGAN. AND THE 12 DAYS OF CONFERENCE TOURNEYS OPENING...
Happy Wednesday Buffet patrons, we've reached March, which the means we're leaving the world of the listicle of thoughts of the Oracle of Buffet and moving to conference tourney previews, Waiting Line games, Buffetologies, and other thoughts, observations, and otherwise interesting notes from the happenings in college hoops up until Selection Sunday.
So let's dive in:
Last Night in/Preview: Atlantic Sun - Championship - 3/6: 7pm ET - ESPN2 - @Higher seed
The Atlantic Sun began in earnest last night, with all 8 teams in action, and already March's first upsets have been recorded, Derrick Newton, the Atlantic Sun Freshman of the year dropped 28 points and collected 11 rebounds, as Stetson, the 7 seed who had won 4 conference games all year, went up to Newark and bounced the former team of the people (Grand Canyon of course taking that mantle in 2015-16) NJIT, 82-67. Also, J.C. Hampton found his way to career high 35 points, lifting the 6th seed Lipscomb over the 3 seed, Jacksonville - 92-89 in OT. A 3 pointer with 6 seconds left, had this at 90-89, but a couple of free throws and time expiring before a shot was fire later, and suddenly the A-Sun semifinals feature the top seed North Florida and 4/5/6 seeds.
Buffet Pick:: North Florida established itself as the class of the conference out of the game, not losing their 1st conference game until February. They did suffer a little swoon, from 7-0 to 7-4 it what seemed overnight, but following a mid-February loss to Lipscomb that saw their lead dwindle to a game, they finished with 3 straight wins and the outright conference championship. Don't Sleep on North Florida did drop their last game to their semi-final opponent, Florida Gulf Coast (#dunkcity), by 16. Though playing at home should help the Ospreys avoid the upset...
Keep Your Eyes on: Dallas Moore, the 6'1 Junior guard was the class of the conference this season, average 19.8 points and 6.1 assists per game this season (and, notably, a 3.3 A/TO ratio - making him a strong Gregory D. Ott Award candidate)
You Heard of me? AL SKINNER SIGHTING! Well, brief sighting, the former BC coach coached Kennesaw State to an 11-20 record and first round Atlantic Sun loss. Sounds like Al Skinner...
Last Night in/Preview: Patriot League - Championship: 3/9: 730pm ET CBSN - @Higher seed
Our friends in the Patriot League got started last night, with a pair of 1st round games to set the semifinals, 9th seeded Holy Cross and 7 seed, Navy, rounded up the final 8. The season was a 2 team conference race, between the Bison of Bucknell and Lehigh, with Bucknell finishing the regular season a game up on the MountainHawks to hold the 1 seed, and their first home court advantage, into the conference tourney. Lehigh definitely comes in the hotter team, having not lost since the end of January. And having challenged themselves a bit more (30th ranked non-conference SOS), we consider them a bit more tested and are officially the Buffet Pick. Obviously don't sleep on the regular season conference champ playing home games, but also Boston - the last team to beat Lehigh, rattled off a 7 game win streak mid-conference season, and hold an impressive early season Under the radar win over Albany. Found here: http://hoopshd.com/category/under-the-radar-2/
Keep Your Eyes on: Tanner Plomb of Army, the conference's only 20/game scorer. Tim Kempton, Jr. (Yes, Arizona Buffet subscribers THAT Tim Kempton - former Suns great and broadcast analyst) is a 17.5/12 guy for the Lehigh, which includes a 16/12 game versus Syracuse, 17/9 versus Purdue, and 8 twenty point games in conference play. Chris Hass is the man for Bucknell. averaging 17.3 on the season - He put up 26 versus Wake Forest, 29 against NC State, and relished the 1-on-1 match up versus Tanner Plomb/Army with a 40 point game in an 84-76 win.
You Heard of Me: There can only be 1: Tim Kempton, Jr.
Time to get going in the America East - Championship - 3/12 11AM ET ESPN2 - @Higher seed
Much like the Patriot, the AmEast was a two team race, featuring tournament star crossed Stony Brook Seawolves, who threatened to run away with it before losing 2 of 3 caused them to push back towards their conference tournament nemesis, the Albany Great Danes. Stony Brook has already filled blog post after sports web article about being 2016's "Best team to never make the NCAA tournament" and with good reason - they've played 4 of the last 5 AmEast title games, and lost them all (including last year's buzzer beater in the feel good story of 2015, as Albany's Peter Hooley, who lost his mother to cancer earlier in the season hit the shot), and probably their best team in the run the 2013 Wolver who had 25 wins and 14-2 in conference, couldn't get out of the semi. This year's wolves team comes in at 23-6, 14-2 yet again in conference, and a nice RPI top 50 win over Princeton, and a strong showing at likely tournament qualifier Vanderbilt (losing by 7 in overtime). But, Albany looms. This is a upper classmen laden team (top 3 scorers are seniors, including Mr. Hooley, 10 Jr/Sr overall) and includes a exciting freshman in Joe Cremo. Buffet pick despite the recent warning signs (losing 2 of 3) and conference tournament curse, and the reason is the tournament final experience, the bitter taste from last year, and the man you'll meet in the Keep You Eyes on section. Don't Sleep On: Obviously Albany is a constant threat, Vermont seems to save their best play for this tournament, and deeper sleeping is New Hampshire, they finished 11-5, and have a front court that really plays in the slower, poor shooting realms of the American East, with 2 guys in the top 5 in rebounding, and a good scorer in Tanner Leisner, who put up 20 against Connecticut.
Keep Your Eyes on: But the man to know is 6'8 Senior forward from Stony Brook, Jameel Warney. Soak in these numbers: 18.7 points, 10.2 rebounds, 3.2 blocks (second straight year averaging a double-double), 3-time America East Player of the Year. 1 of 5 players nationally averaging that many points AND rebounds. 2-time American East defensive player of the year. In Stony Brook's 6 games against teams in power conference the last two years, his numbers? 14.5 points, 10.8 rebounds, and 2.3 blocks. Even more impressive: no player in the last 19 years in college hoops has hit the following combination of career milestones: 2000 pts, 1000 rebs, 250 blocks, 200 assists and 100 steals. Forget all of the Ben Simmons needs to play in the NCAA tournament - #warneymadness
It's the N.E.C. - Northeast Conference - Championship 3/8 7pmET ESPN2 @higher seed
Another bird of the ocean enters its conference tournament as the prohibitive favorite. the Seahawks of Wagner, who got out of the conference gates slowly (5-3), but then finished 8-2, including 5 straight by an average of 16+ points. They are led by committee, which bodes well in low major tournament play, as they are less prone to a power outtage from a star. They are typically led by sophomore guard, Corey Henson, although as a slow developing player he is subject to disappearances, at that point, they lean on his backcourt mate, junior guard, Michael Carey, who has proved to be a stronger model of consistency with double figures in 18 of his last 20 games. Below Wagner sits a lot of parity - 3 teams finished two games out, and another three sit within two games of them - so, if Wagner does face an upset and, mind you, they are the the Buffet Pick, things could get interesting in the tournament. Our Don't Sleep On squad will come from that group -- rolling with the St. Francis (NY) Terriers who bring a 4-game streak into tournament play.
Keep Your Eyes on: Cane Broome of Sacred Heart (though they're down by 15 right now to LIU), conference leading scorer at 22.7 per game, with ~5 rebounds and 3 assists to go with, and just a cool name.
Ohio Valley gets started as well, but in the interest of time/length, and the top seeds not getting started yet, that preview will wait.
Waiting Line Games...
(most of the following analysis is barring a deep run in a conference tournament that garners top wins against top teams. That COULD happen, but odds are if you are good enough to do that, you're not on the edge of the tournament/in the waiting line at the Buffet)
St Joseph's at St Bonaventure - Bonnies need this more than the Hawks, though both teams are in continuing to build resume mode, a loss by Hawks doesn't knock them out. Bonnies' loss wouldn't knock them out from a bad loss perspective, but we're nearing the end of resume building season.
Pittsburgh at Virginia Tech - Wrong time of year for bad losses, so Pitt should avoid one, even on the road.
Texas Tech at West Virginia - Both teams are decently safe, although another big win for Tech would be more meaningful than the seeding enhancement WVU would get here
Mississippi St at Ole Miss - whatever hopes Ole Miss might cling to, they likely aren't discussed any longer with a loss here.
Davidson at VCU - VCU needs to keep winning game.
Seton Hall at Butler - Seton Hall became safe last weekend, Butler doesn't like safety, they should win here - loss isn't devastatin, but like Bonnie above, when else do you plan to get needed wins this time of year.
Wisconsin at Minnesota - Wisconsin is pretty safe, but they have piled up some bad losses, best not to add to them.
Arkansas at Alabama - People still like Alabama's profile, Buffet isn't sold, but definitely won't be buying with a loss at home to Arkansas.
Creighton at Providence - The Friars are sliding. Kris Dunn is someone who is fun to watch, so let's win PC, and let him play in the tournament.
Oregon St @ Southern California - Oregon St has a profile people, in the Buffet, like (5 wins over teams projected in), but they are teetering on some important record lines - .500 in conference, 12-10 versus RPI top 200, tough to go at large when you're under .500 in conference and only .500 against the best competition you've played, no matter how strong of schedule (5). They really could use to win one or both of this weekend's LA road games to assist with both of those and their true road record (stands at 3-7, with best true road win at Santa Barbara - they did beat fellow Waiting Liner Tulsa on a neutral court). Southern Cal has emerged out of nowhere to sit at about 8/9, so a loss doesn't devastating, though with Oregon next, getting swept could be damaging.