Question of the Day: Which team stands the best chance of surprising in the ACC, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac 10 and SEC tournaments? [Updated]
Writers from around Tribune Co. weigh in on the topic. Please check back throughout the day for more responses, and feel free to leave a comment of your own.
Shannon Ryan, Chicago Tribune
Despite Michigan State’s Big Ten struggles, only a fool underestimates coach Tom Izzo in March. St. John’s could harness all the home court NYC love and turn it into a Big East tourney title. Boston College brings three straight victories -– and only a two-point loss to North Carolina -– into the ACC tournament.
It’s hard to find a team hotter than resurgent Kansas State in the Big 12 with three wins against top-25 opponents in February. Tennessee needs sharp-shooting Scotty Hopson to get in the zone and it could surprise the SEC.
USC has been flying under the radar and is primed to upset the Pac-10 tournament with wins against Washington, Arizona and Cal this month.
[Updated at 8:51 a.m.: Matt Murschel, Orlando Sentinel
If you are looking for sleeper in this week’s conference tournaments, look no further than West Virginia. With the possibility of 11 teams making it into this year’s NCAA Tournament, it makes perfect sense that a team from the Big East would make the most noise.
The Mountaineers are on a roll going into the conference tournament, winning four out of their last five games including upset wins over Notre Dame, Connecticut and Louisville. West Virginia is a very physical team and that starts with Kevin Jones.
The junior forward had a double-double in the teams' last four victories averaging 16.5 points and 11.8 rebounds. The key to a long run in the conference tournament could be the play of Darryl Bryant. The junior point guard has been erratic at times and a solid performance this week could help West Virginia go far to earning a higher seed when Selection Sunday rolls around.]
[Updated at 9:43 a.m.:
Chris Dufresne, Los Angeles Times
Desperation is always a good motivator, so let's work from that premise.
Pac-10: USC is in the same situation it was two years ago, when it had to win the Pac-10 tournament to earn an NCAA bid. And did.
Big Ten: Michigan State, a top preseason five team is O-U-T for now, but Tom Izzo's teams are notoriously tough under pressure.
Atlantic Coast: Virginia Tech is on the bubble again!
Big East: Villanova has been sliding lately but has the talent and the coach to regroup for a strong showing in the conference tournament.
Big 12: Same goes for Texas. The Longhorns were the national team to beat last month but need to start playing defense again.
SEC: Vanderbilt lost to Florida on Saturday. Big deal. The Commodores are 1-11 in regular season final games under Kevin Stallings. The bigger deal is Vandy has lost three of its last four and squandered a first-round bye in the SEC tourney. This is still, though, a dangerous team.]
[Updated at 1:22 p.m.:
Mike Anthony, Hartford Courant
Tennessee could make some noise in the SEC. The Vols' tumultuous season played out with Coach Bruce Pearl suspended for half of the team's conference games. But Tennessee is talented and, if the team is able to get on the same page, dangerous.
With all its experience, all its victories over ranked teams, all the buzz surrounding the program's rise under Steve Lavin -- and even being able to play on its home court -- St. John's has to feel good about a run in the Big East tournament.
In the ACC, Virginia Tech is coming off last year's NCAA tournament snub, fighting to get back on the bubble and has a late-season home victory over Duke from which to draw confidence.
This is Michigan State's last stand in the Big 10. The preseason No. 2 Spartans have had all sorts of problems, but there is talent and now desperation.
All season, the Big 12 has been all about Kansas and Texas, the race for first place and even the argument that one or the other is the best team in the nation. But Kansas State is scary, like their coach, Frank Martin, and the Wildcats, having won six in a row and eight of nine, have the momentum and motivation to knock off anyone. And, yes, they beat Kansas and Texas in February.
Has there been a more inconsistent team than California? The Bears won four in a row, then lost four in a row, now have won another four in a row to close the Pac-10 regular season. You think first-place Arizona, who won both regular season meetings by two points (once in triple-overtime) wants to run into Cal a third time?]
Photos, from top: Michigan State's Tom Izzo; West Virginia's Kevin Jones. Credits: Al Goldis / Associated Press; Jeff Gentner / Associated Press