***** – 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
Sun Belt Championship – North Texas vs. Troy – 7:00 pm on ESPN2 (***)
This neutral site game will feature two of the hottest games in the country, as North Texas has won ten consecutive games, while Troy has won seven in a row. Given the recent play of both teams, it should come as no surprise that they are the top two teams in the Sun Belt Conference. The offensive and defensive efficiency statistics are not impressive for either team (#156 and #196 for UNT; #128 and #241 for Troy), but they indicate that these two teams rely more on their offensive weapons. Both teams have four players averaging in double figures, and Troy shoots nearly 48% from the floor. What may be Troy’s undoing is their 65% free throw shooting. Richard Delk, Troy’s second leading scorer at 12.7 points per game, has shot just 10-35 in his last three games, and needs to get back on track if Troy wants to do some damage over the next two weeks. The biggest difference between the recent play of these teams is that Troy has beaten the third and fourth best teams in the league during their streak, while North Texas has been feeding on the weaker members of the conference, so look for Troy to make their second-ever NCAA tournament appearance with a win tonight.
Horizon League Championship – Wright State @ Butler – 9:00 pm on ESPN (****)
Butler has struggled in recent years with finishing out conference tournaments, despite their high level of success on a national basis. Given their recent play, that shouldn’t be a problem tonight. The Bulldogs, who have won 19 games in a row, match up well with Wright State’s guard-heavy lineup. In their two matchups, Butler had perhaps their best performances of the season. In their first game, all four offensive weapons for Butler scored in double figures, and they shot 50% from beyond the arc in addition to a nearly perfect 23-24 from the free throw line. The second game featured an equally impressive showing from the Bulldogs, who shot nearly 80% from two-point range, and made 89% of their free throws. Not only does Butler have a fundamentally sound offense, they are among Ken Pomeroy’s top 25 defensive teams. Although Wright State does not rank in the top 65 in either offensive or defensive efficiency, something must be said for their consistency this season. They have had four different streaks of three wins that were followed by a loss, and have never won more than four games in a row or lost more than two consecutive games. If the Raiders are to have one last three-game winning streak, they will have to beat Butler and win an NCAA tournament game, something that seems unlikely given Butler’s outstanding play.