Conference Tournaments Head To Championship Games

By: Adam Markowitz | Friday, March 9, 2012

Thursday was a day of carnage for a number of teams on the bubble for the NCAA Tournament. Teams like the South Florida Bulls, Connecticut Huskies, Northwestern Wildcats and Mississippi State Bulldogs were all bounced out of their conference tourneys, and though that doesn't mean that they are all bound for the NIT, they will definitely all be sweating come Selection Sunday this weekend.

Not every team on the bubble was a loser, though. The Texas Longhorns picked up a big time win over the Iowa State Cyclones in the quarterfinals of the Big XII Tournament. The 'Horns now have a respectable win late in the season to add to their resume, but the big gap is a brutal 0-7 record against Kansas, Baylor, Missouri and North Carolina.

Texas has its shot again on Friday for that true signature win against the Missouri Tigers in a 10:00 p.m. (ET) tip at the Sprint Center. The Longhorns went 3-3-1 ATS this year against the top teams that we mentioned before, though Missouri went 1-0-1 ATS in the two meetings with Texas.  The Tigers were 5½-point favorites for the match, and the winner will meet the winner of the Baylor-Kansas semifinal that found the top-seeded Jayhawks -6½ in their clash with the Bears.

In the ACC, bubble teams Miami and North Carolina State were relatively easy winners in Atlanta on Thursday, but the Hurricanes and Wolfpack now move onto what might be their defining games of the year on Friday. Miami takes on the Florida State Seminoles in the final tip of the night at Philips Arena at 9:00 (ET), while the Wolfpack have to contend with another team that could be on the bubble, the Virginia Cavaliers at 2:00 (ET).

Virginia is favored by 2½ the contest against NC State, and the winner will next meet up in one of Saturday's semifinals with the North Carolina Tar Heels who cruised past Maryland in their quarterfinal contest. Florida State is 2½-3 point chalk against Miami.

The remaining quarterfinal match in the ACC Tournament pitted the Duke Blue Devils against the Virginia Tech Hokies.  Duke was listed -8½, and the winner of that game will clash with the FSU-Miami game in the other Saturday semifinal.

Bubble teams will also be paying attention to the Atlantic 10, which features a slew of teams that need to go on a run in Atlantic City to be able to make the NCAA Tournament.

Two of those teams, the Dayton Flyers and Xavier Musketeers, are doing battle in primetime at 9:00 (ET). These two teams split the proceedings this year, though Dayton did cover both spreads. The X-Men are getting the nod by 2½-3 from the oddsmakers.

The A-10 Tournament also features the Temple Owls, the only team truly safe for a spot in the NCAA Tournament, laying 7½-points against the Massachusetts Minutemen. The La Salle Explorers are 6½-7 point underdogs against the Saint Louis Billikens. The intriguing game though, pits the St. Joseph's Hawks against the St. Bonaventure Bonnies. Had the Hawks won when these two teams met on February 29, perhaps they would be on the right side of the bubble now. They are favored on Friday, but only by two points.

At the other end of the bracket, the chase for the No. 1 seeds in March Madness is still on.

No one figures that the Kentucky Wildcats are in any danger of losing their top seed, and they open their SEC Tournament against the LSU Tigers in a 1:00 (ET) tip in New Orleans. UK is the overwhelming favorite to win this tournament, and it is no surprise that it is a 16½-point favorite on Friday.

The Wildcats are likely going to be in Saturday's semifinal, and they might get a third shot at the Florida Gators when they get there. Kentucky dominated Florida this year, winning both games with tremendous ease. However, before this matchup is set, the Gators have to dispose of the Alabama Crimson Tide, who are 4-point underdogs to Florida on Friday.

The Cincinnati Bearcats emerged victorious in one of Thursday's key games, beating the Georgetown Hoyas in double overtime. Now, they have the short turnaround to take on another team gunning for a top seed, the Syracuse Orange. Syracuse had to fight hard to get rid of a pesky Connecticut side on Thursday, but now, it is into the Big East semifinals and is just one step away from taking on either the Notre Dame Fighting Irish or the Louisville Cardinals in the conference final on Saturday night.

Syracuse is favored by 7½ vs. Cincinnati. Both games will be shown on ESPN, as will the finale on Saturday night at Madison Square Garden.

Finally in the Big Ten, there are four tremendous contests on tap. In the early game, the Iowa Hawkeyes and Michigan State Wolverines will do battle. The Hawkeyes are a bit of an upstart team, and their win over the Illinois Fighting Illini on Thursday might have spelled the end for Bruce Weber in Champaign.

Still, Iowa would be fortunate to get past this one, as MSU has its sights set on a No. 1 seed in the dance, and it is laying 11-points in this 12:00 (ET) tip from Bankers Life Fieldhouse.

Later Friday afternoon, the Indiana Hoosiers are favored by a bucket over the Wisconsin Badgers. The night wraps up with the Ohio State Buckeyes taking on the Purdue Boilermakers, while the Michigan Wolverines will try to burst the Minnesota Golden Gophers' bubble.

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