Submitted by Jim Hurley’s Network on Monday, March 7, 2016 at 2:47 PM
The first Monday of March has historically been the unofficial start of tournament basketball. Sure… there are early round games before that. And, the Missouri Valley finishes up on Sunday. But, that game is overshadowed by all the regular season major conference finales.
Wall-to-wall TOURNAMENT basketball begins MONDAY for most of you when you check out CHAMPIONSHIP games in the Colonial, Metro-Atlantic, and Southern Conferences. These games will be ultra-dramatic because only the winners will go to the Dance. No shots at at-large’s for any of Monday’s losers (unless the committee smiles very brightly on Monmouth if they get upset). One of the drawbacks of the major tournaments is that the championship loser is just biding time until the Dance anyway. The season ends tonight for three of the teams you see below. Adding to the drama… EVERY game matches a #1 seed vs. a #2 seed!
To help get you ready, here are respected computer rankings for Monday night’s teams (taken from Sunday because of publication deadlines). You regulars know we give priority to the work of Ken Pomeroy at kenpom.com and Jeff Sagarin at USA Today. Â
COLONIAL CHAMPIONSHIP (in Baltimore)
#1 seed Hofstra: #78 in Pomeroy, #97 in Sagarin
#2 seed NC Wilmington: #77 in Pomeroy, #94 in Sagarin
Both teams survived nailbiters in the semifinals. In fact, each won by exactly three points as short favorites. Hofstra beat William & Mary 70-67. Wilmington beat Northeastern 73-70. You can see that the computers have them very close to even. Pomeroy is generally more fond of the Colonial Conference… so they’re neck and neck in the high 70’s with him… but down in the mid 90’s with Sagarin.
Should be a thriller, with neither team gaining any meaningful advantage from playing in Baltimore. Whoever wins is going to have a shot to score an upset in the first round of the Dance. They’ll be a top 100 team with plenty of rest and preparation time! The glory days of the Colonial may be long gone. Great coaches here will get hired away (which happened to George Mason). But this year’s winner has some darkhorse hopes. Be sure you watch this one with an eye toward an early Dance shocker.
METRO-ATLANTIC CHAMPIONSHIP (in Albany)
#1 seed Monmouth: #66 in Pomeroy, #81 in Sagarin
#2 seed Iona: #86 in Pomeroy, #103 in Sagarin
Monmouth beat Fairfield by a lucky 13 points, coasting to cover a spread that was right around 10 points. The top seed has played like it so far… and will be favored in the final. Pomeroy may well have them in his "top 68" come tournament time… which means they would have belonged even without an automatic bid. That should lead to a respected seed… possibly a #13 with a shot at breaking the hearts of an unprepared #4. Joe Lunardi of ESPN has given them even more respect… suggesting an 11-6 or 12-5 upset opportunity. Should the other side win… Iona will also be dangerous a bit further down the ladder. The Gaels jumped to a 14-point halftime lead over Siena Sunday night on the way to a win/cover. This league has a history of causing real headaches to major conference pretenders in the NCAA’s.
SOUTHERN CHAMPIONSHIP (in Asheville)
#1 seed Chattanooga: #107 in Pomeroy, #109 in Sagarin
#2 seed E. Tennessee State: #147 in Pomeroy, #159 in Sagarin
Chattanooga is a bit further down the ladder than the other two top seeds we’ve discussed. And, East Tennessee is in another time zone. But, Chattanooga will be knocking on the door of the top 100 should they win Monday night. You could make the case that East Tennessee State was more impressive in the semi’s. They beat Furman 84-76, while the Movin’ Moccasins were only four better than Western Carolina.
It’s too early at press time to know whether or not one, two, or all three of these games will be on the NETWORK ticket. You can purchase the final word for all Monday basketball right here at the website with your credit card. If you have any questions, call us in the office at 1-888-777-4155 during normal business hours.
Quirky schedule for us this week because of the tournaments. We’ll put together some major conference summaries for you in a special "midweek" report. Those will set the stage for all the superpowers you’ll be watching this week. As we get deeper in the brackets, we’ll find a marquee game each day to preview.
Midweek: Capsule tournament summaries for the most serious contenders in the ACC, Big 12, Big 10, SEC, and Pac 12 tournaments.
Friday, Saturday, and Sunday: Big game previews for marquee matchup
Many sports bettors consider THIS the most exciting week in sports betting because the games go all day and all night… and because so many DREAM matchups just naturally form in the brackets. WIN WHILE YOU WATCH!
Champions will be crowned Monday night and all through the week. WHEN CHAMPIONSHIPS ARE ON THE LINE, YOU NEED WORLD CHAMPION HANDICAPPER JIM HURLEY! Get Jim Hurley’s Network''s Complete March Madness Program here on the web site or by phone at 1-800-323-4453.
Be sure to follow:
Jim Hurley on twitter @vsm_hurley
Vegas-Sports-Masters on twitter @vsmasters