Who will surprise in the conference tournaments?

March 08, 2011

Watch West Virginia

Matt Murschel

Orlando Sentinel

If you're looking for a sleeper in this week's conference tournaments, look no further than West Virginia. With the possibility of 11 teams making it into the NCAA tournament, it makes perfect sense a team from the Big East would make the most noise.

The Mountaineers are on a roll, winning four of their last five games, including victories over Notre Dame, Connecticut and Louisville. West Virginia is very physical, and that starts with Kevin Jones. The junior forward had double-doubles in the last four wins, averaging 16.5 points and 11.8 rebounds.

The key to a long run in the conference tournament could be the play of Darryl Bryant. The junior point guard has been erratic, and a solid performance this week could help West Virginia earn a higher seed when Selection Sunday rolls around.

mmurschel@tribune.com

Teams in trouble

Chris Dufresne

Los Angeles Times

Desperation is always a good motivator, so let's work from that premise.

Pac-10: USC is in the same situation it was two years ago, when it had to win the Pac-10 tournament to earn an NCAA bid. And it did.

Big Ten: Michigan State, a preseason top-five team, is O-U-T for now, but Tom Izzo's teams are notoriously tough under pressure.

ACC: Virginia Tech is on the bubble again!

Big East: Villanova has been sliding lately but has the talent and coach to regroup for a strong showing in the conference tournament.

Big 12: Same goes for Texas. The Longhorns were the national team to beat last month but need to start playing defense again.

cdufresne@tribune.com

Beware Tennessee

Mike Anthony

Hartford Courant

Tennessee could make some noise in the SEC. The Vols' tumultuous season played out with coach Bruce Pearl suspended for half the conference games. But Tennessee is talented and, if able to get on the same page, dangerous.

In the ACC, Virginia Tech is coming off last year's NCAA tournament snub, is fighting to get back on the bubble and has a late-season home victory over Duke from which to draw confidence.

This is Michigan State's last stand in the Big Ten. The preseason No. 2 Spartans have had all sorts of problems, but there is talent and now desperation.

All season, the Big 12 has been all about Kansas and Texas, the race for first place and even the argument that one or the other is the best team in the nation. But Kansas State is scary like its coach, Frank Martin, and the Wildcats have won six in a row and eight of nine.

manthony@tribune.com

Spartans made for March

Shannon Ryan

Chicago Tribune

All it takes is one hot shooter or a top seed gazing at the NCAA tournament for an upset to occur.

Despite Michigan State's Big Ten struggles, only a fool underestimates Tom Izzo in March. St. John's could harness all the home-court love and turn it into a Big East tournament title.

Boston College brings three straight victories — and only a two-point loss to North Carolina — into the ACC tournament. It's hard to find a team hotter than resurgent Kansas State in the Big 12 with three wins against top-25 opponents in February.

And USC has been flying under the radar and is primed to upset the Pac-10 tournament after wins against Washington, Arizona and Cal this month.

sryan@tribune.com

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