***** – quit your job and divorce your wife if that’s what it takes to watch this game live
**** – best watched live, but if you must, tivo and watch it tonight as soon as you get home
*** – set your tivo but make sure you watch it later
** – set your tivo but we’ll forgive you if it stays in the queue until 2012
* – don’t waste bandwidth (yours or the tivo’s) of any kind on this game
CUSA Championship – UTEP vs. Houston – 11:30 am on CBS (***)
The Miners have been one of the most underrated teams in the country this season, but if they can finish their run through the Conference USA tournament, they could be looking at a #5 of #6 seed in the NCAA tournament. They have now won 16 games in a row, and they will face a mediocre Houston team that is just 18-15 on the year. UTEP is the more talented team, as they rank twelfth in defensive efficiency, but they have had some trouble against the Cougars this year. The Miners won the most recent matchup, but finished the game just 2-18 from the three-point line. In the first contest in January, Houston actually won 75-65 thanks to 11-20 shooting from beyond the arc. UTEP’s Achilles heel has been their free throw shooting, and if Houston doesn’t beat up on themselves (they have a 1.4/1 assist to turnover ratio) the Cougars have a chance to steal a bid.
America East Championship – Boston University vs. Vermont – 12:00 pm on ESPN2 (***)
A few weeks ago, Boston University looked as if they had no business being in the NCAA tournament. At the end of January, the Terriers stood at just 11-11, and were struggling in the America East conference. However, BU won eight of their last nine games, and has earned a shot to dance with a 70-63 upset over top seeded Stony Brook in the semifinals. There has been a few days rest from the semifinal game until today, so they will be more rested than most teams during championship week. Vermont is an equally hot team, as they are 10-1 in their last 11 games, but they have had close calls against the Terriers this season. In February, Vermont won in Boston 76-75, and it took Evan Fjeld’s layup with nine seconds left to seal the victory. The largest lead for either team in the second half was just five points, and Vermont could not stop John Holland, who finished with 29 points. Holland shoots 85% from the line this season, and if the Terriers can grab a lead heading into the closing minutes, free throw shooting could become a factor. However, in their first matchup, BU got five points from their bench, while six Catamounts combined for 22 points, and Vermont ran away with a 20 point victory. Vermont is 9-2 at home this year, and they look strong heading into this game.
MEAC Championship – South Carolina State vs. Morgan State – 2:00 pm on ESPN2 (***)
Morgan State is by far the best team in the MEAC, and the most likely candidate to pull off an upset in the tournament this season. Nevertheless, they are going to have to get past a dangerous SC State team before they can secure their bid. The Bulldogs were just 18-13 on the year, but they actually beat Morgan State on the road in their most recent matchup. The Bears shot just 22% from the three point line, and SC State’s Jason Flagler had 24 points in the 71-68 victory. The first game was a different matter, as Morgan State won by 15 points despite another poor shooting performance. The Bulldogs do not rank among the top 250 teams in either offensive or defensive efficiency, while Morgan State ranks a relatively high #125 in offensive efficiency. If South Carolina State continues to have more turnovers than assists, as they have this whole season, they have no chance of winning this game.