As Rodger detailed earlier today, conference tournaments are starting today, giving many mediocre to terrible teams around the nation a chance to play their way into the NCAAs for the first time ever. Usually, I find myself rooting for fellow NCAA virgins to finally pop their cherry, as I'm well aware of how much it sucks to root for a team that's never made the tournament.
However, there's one big problem this year: Northwestern is currently on the NIT bubble, and in grave danger of falling to the dreaded CBI. Why is that relevant? Well, if a school wins their conference's regular season championship, but doesn't win their conference tournament and misses out on the NCAAs, that school gets an auto-bid to the NIT. So if a bunch of regular season champions flame out in their conference tournaments, it gets that much harder for NU to make the NIT.
All this leads to some conflicting interests. Take tonight's Big South quarterfinal between Gardner-Webb and Coastal Carolina, which Rodger previewed earlier. On the one hand, we should be rooting for Gardner-Webb to make an improbable run to the NCAAs. But on the other hand, if Coastal Carolina doesn't win the Big South, there goes an NIT bid. Serious conundrum. And this problem will continue to come up in most of the other mid-major conferences; Bethune-Cookman and Northern Colorado are the only two regular season champions who have never made the tournament. I have no idea what to root for here; this sucks. I guess Northwestern will just have to win the Big Ten tournament and render all this moot.
Tonight's Big Ten games after the jump:
Illinois Fighting Illini at Purdue Boilermakers (-9.5), 6 PM central, ESPN
It's senior night at Mackey Arena for the fantastic duo of E'Twaun Moore and JaJuan Johnson, and they're facing the dysfunctional, underachieving Illini, who have lost games away from home to such juggernauts as Illinois-Chicago, Northwestern, and Indiana. This has blowout written all over it, so take Purdue and hope McCamey decides to bench himself again.
Ohio St. Buckeyes at Penn St. Nittany Lions (+6.5), 8 PM central, BTN
I'm really looking forward to watching this game. You've got huge NCAA implications for Penn State, #1 overall seed for Ohio State, senior night for Talor Battle, Jeff Brooks, David Jackson and Andrew Jones, and William Buford returning to the scene of the crime (as a side note, quite the objective title on that video, I wonder if an Ohio State fan uploaded it..) I'd pay good money to see Buford hit a dagger three late in this game, then run back up the court doing the Sam Cassell dance. While I don't expect Penn State to pull the upset, I think they manage to keep it close enough to where I'm going to take PSU and the points. I'm a little worried about Battle going into chucker mode, but he's been more in control as of late; we can only hope he doesn't revert back to his old ways.