It's the most wonderful month of the year - if you love basketball. I can tell you right now that there are a subset of people who groan when March comes around, with all the squeaking sneakers and excited fans and passion and unproductive co- workers...
But if you've been hanging around Rumble in the Garden, you probably know that March is an awesome month, even if St. John's hasn't been any kind of March factor since the early 2000's.
We're going to do our best to be a one-stop hub of college hoops awesomeness. You can help too - leave some comments, make Fanposts, let's keep talking through the month well after the Johnnies are home, working on their offseason improvements.
Though the major conferences are finishing their regular seasons this week. the lower-level conferences are vying for our time with high-energy and passionate hoops. Here's what's popping off tonight in the world of conference tournaments.
All games are at the higher seed. Bucknell is the #1 seed, Lehigh is the #2 seed. The championship game will be on March 9th on CBS Sports Network at 7:30 PM.
|#10 Lafayette @ #7 Navy||7:00 p.m.||Patriot League Network|
|#9 Holy Cross @ #8 Loyola||7:30 p.m.||Patriot League Network|
What to watch for:
Neither Bucknell nor Lehigh covered themselves in non-conference glory, but they played well enough to earn a bye and draw the winners of tonight's matchups. Navy has a winning record at 18-13, with a win over a solid IPFW squad (that's Indiana U/ Purdue U - Fort Wayne for the uninitiated), but Navy dropped four straight games to land on the wrong side of some tiebreakers, ending conference play at 9-9 like three other teams.
For the deeply interested, those four were two-possession losses to the top two teams in the league; a double-overtime home loss to rival Army; and a road loss to American, who are also 9-9.
Holy Cross is coached by former Northwestern coach Bill Carmody. Holy Cross also lost by more than 15 points twice to Loyola. Loyola's shot-hungry sophomore Andre Walker can get some buckets, but the Greyhounds are without star forward Jarred Jones. Holy Cross has been awful on defense, but freshman Karl Charles has been a bright spot.
|#6 Lipscomb @ #3 Jacksonville||7:00 p.m.||ESPN3|
|#5 Kennesaw State @ #4 Florida Gulf Coast||7:05 p.m.||ESPN3|
|#7 Stetson @ #2 NJIT||7:30 p.m.||ESPN3|
|#8 USC Upstate @ #1 North Florida||7:30 p.m.||ESPN3|
What to watch for:
The Atlantic Sun is the nation's highest scoring conference, and the leader in the league, North Florida, takes almost 50% of their shots from beyond the arc. (No, they don't defend very well, either.) Matthew Driscoll's team won the conference's NCAA bid last year, but lost to Robert Morris in the play-in game.
The Ospreys are very experienced, return all the major players from last season, and have solid height. Beau Beech is a 6'9" forward who shoots 43% from beyond the arc.
NJIT lost to North Florida twice, but Jim Engels's team defends very well, forcing steals and applying pressure. You may remember them from December, when they beat St. John's by nine points. For tonight's game, Stetson - ineligible for the NCAA Tournament because of low Academic Progress scores - lost to NJIT twice, but by only four points in mid-February.