We continue with our journey through 68 teams you care about (and undoubtedly like 8 other teams that you will argue that should be cared about) with some more small conferences. But these aren’t your grandpappy’s conferences; no, we got some potential movers and shakers, and some candlestick makers to boot. The America East Conference (AEC), the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA), the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC), and the Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) tournaments are all up for review today.
Let us enter.
First off: They’re called the Catamounts. No idea what that is, but it’s worth instant points in my book. Second: they’ve been on a tear as of late. After starting the season a paltry 9-10, they have gone a blazing 11-1, with their only loss a close affair to Binghamton (disregard the fact that Binghamton is like seriously the worst college basketball team in the entire world). But as a true winner should, they have bounced back in smashing fashion, starching UMBC by 31 points. A trip to the big dance will undoubtedly go through regular season champs Stony Brook, but a recent win by 19 has to have the Catamounts (CATAMOUNTS, people!) feeling good about their chances.
Hartford over Boston University
Not enough ice for BU to excel. That, and I love a good revenge game (BU beat Hartford pretty handily in the last game of the regular season)
Gerardo Suero, Albany
Really, was there any other choice? Top-5 scorer in the country, and the only reason that Albany is 18-13 (9-7 conference) and not much worse. He also leads the team in RPG and SPG. Y’know, just for good measure.
Look at the big names in the CAA: ODU, George Mason, and VCU. Notice something in common? Unexpected NCAA tourney success, that’s what. ODU not nearly as much as the other two, but still has enjoyed its moment in the sun. It’s Drexel’s turn. They’ve clinched the regular season crown, and there’s no reason to think that they won’t keep the heat up in the conference tourney. Also of note: Drexel has beaten all three of the aforementioned teams this season. And for what it’s worth, they haven’t lost since the second day of the year.
George Mason over VCU
This is so cheap, but I really don’t think the lower seeds should even be in the same conference as the big four. Not much of an upset, obviously, but I see GMU doing it in style, avenging the regular season finale loss.
Samme Givens, Drexel
We’re gonna stick with the champs for this one. One of only two players that have started every game for the Dragons this season (with Frantz Massenat being the other), Givens has been a force down low. 7.8 RPG, 1.1 BLK/G, and a respectable 11.7 PPG to go with it. He will step it up without a doubt.
(QUICK ASIDE: When you have two teams called the “Gaels”, you may have too many teams. Just sayin’.)
I’m not really nuts about any of the MAAC squads this year, but Iona is the cream of that crop. With four players averaging over 9 PPG, and a close win against suddenly-relevant Vermont under their belts, the Other Gaels are pretty much a lock to take the conference tournament.
Niagara over Loyola (MD)
Being a 2-seed in the tournament is great and all, Loyola, but you done lost three of your last five, with two of those in embarrassing fashion (17 pts. to Fairfield and 18 pts. to Marist). As we know, momentum is everything in sports (cough UCONN cough), and without it, Loyola is no better than anyone else.
Mike Glover, Iona
“Mike Glover… is there anything he CAN’T do?” – Homer Simpson
Okay, so maybe Homer didn’t really say that, but he should have. Averaging damn near a double-double (18.1 PPG, 9.1 RPG – leads Iona in both categories), Glover is no joke. Scott Machado, Tajj Ridley and Lamont Jones are solid in their own rights, but Mike Glover carries this team without a doubt.
This will probably be the toughest call throughout this entire article. We all know that both Wichita State and Creighton have already filled out their dance card, regardless of the conference tournament, but a win would still be a nice boost. February has not been good for the Bluejays as a whole – 4-4 throughout the month, with three of their four wins during that time coming by 2 points or less – but they are a team that can rattle off a string of wins and make it look easy. They will make waves in the big dance, alongside their MVC brethren Wichita State.
Northern Iowa over Illinois State
I wanted to pick Evansville to get a measure of revenge over Creighton in their rubber match, but I don’t see it happening – although it should be a GREAT game. Rather, I gotta go with the Panthers, who beat Creighton, ODU and Iowa State, and hung close with Wichita State (the first time). Hard to call a #5 over a #4 an upset, but it is what it is.
Colt McDermott, Evansville/Creighton
Truth is, I couldn’t choose between the two, so I chose them both. With Colt Ryan and Doug McDermott you have two of the top-15 scores in all of college basketball, both of them with multiple 30-point efforts and a 40-point game to their name this season. Ryan and McDermott are also the spiritual and physical leaders of their respective teams, and are looked at to not only score, but to run their respective offenses. They also contribute in other ways (McDermott grabs tons of boards, and Ryan is a major-league thief for real), and they’re both RIDICULOUSLY clutch. I would give the slight edge to McDermott since he will be playing in the final, but both are absolute studs.
Next: the NEC, SoCon, Summit, and Sun Belt conferences get some love. (SPOILER: Armando’s got a super-homer pick a’brewing. I bet you’ll never guess who.)