Justin Cobbs

Five power conferences teams that could really use a conference tourney run

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As we get closer to power conference tournaments tipping off, there are always a handful of teams that could use a couple of wins to gain entry into the field of 68. Here’s a look at five teams — actually six, we cheated — that could really use a few wins in their respective conference tournaments to bolster their NCAA Tournament hopes.

California [19-12 (10-8), RPI: 52, KenPom: 70] – The Golden Bears looked like they were in great shape after a February 1st win over then-No. 1 Arizona, but Cal has stumbled to a 4-5 finish and its only win over a NCAA Tournament-caliber opponent came in their finale against Colorado in overtime. Cal has a first-round bye in the Pac-12 Tournament and they’ll likely face Colorado again in the Pac-12 quarterfinals. The Golden Bears should beat the Buffaloes again to feel better about their chances, but another win over No. 1 seed Arizona in the semifinals would make Cal like its chances to make the field of 68.

RELATED: Odds to win every major conference tournament

Florida State [18-12 (9-9), RPI: 58, KenPom: 39] The Seminoles don’t have a particularly strong resume or record, and they could really use a few wins in the ACC Tournament. As a No. 9 seed in the tournament, the Seminoles have to beat Maryland in a dangerous opening game before a matchup with No. 1 seed Virginia. If Florida State can win against the Cavaliers, they’d have to like its chances of getting in.

Georgetown [17-13 (8-10), RPI: 55, KenPom: 50] – The Hoyas could use a Big East Tournament run in the worst way after struggling to 17-13 regular season record. A win over DePaul in the first round is pretty much a given, but the Hoyas will likely need to knock off Creighton in the second round to feel better about their Tournament chances. Georgetown clearly outplayed Creighton on March 4th in a home win and their size and athleticism gave Doug McDermott fits. Would another win over Creighton in March get the Hoyas in?

(MORE: Browse through all of our conference tournament previews)

Minnesota [19-12 (8-10), RPI: 49, KenPom: 52] – Since starting 13-3 on the season, the Golden Gophers are 6-9, as they’ve struggled through the mighty Big Ten. Minnesota has only one win over a ranked opponent since its January 22nd home win over Wisconsin and that came over a reeling Iowa team at home. The Golden Gophers open the Big Ten Tournament with a winnable game against Penn State and then would face No. 2 seed Wisconsin in a game that Minnesota should win if they want to get in.

Providence [20-11 (10-8), RPI: 54, KenPom: 53] and St. John’s [20-11 (10-8), RPI: 57, KenPom: 37] – Okay, we cheated and profiled six teams instead of five but these two teams match up in the first round of the Big East Tournament on Thursday in what could amount to a play-in game for the field of 68. Providence couldn’t close the deal with a road win at Creighton in its final regular season game while St. John’s has played much better after an 0-5 start in the Big East, but they still could use some more quality wins. These teams split in the regular season and a win in the rubber match could vault a team into the field while a loss would surely eliminate them. To feel even safer, these teams should also try to knock off Villanova in the second round.

VIDEO: Michigan State celebrates Tom Izzo’s 500th victory

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Thursday afternoon No. 3 Michigan State rolled past Boston College at the DirecTV Wooden Legacy, winning 99-68 in Fullerton, California. The win was special for multiple reasons, as not only did senior Denzel Valentine post his second triple-double of the season (29 points, 11 rebounds and ten assists) but it was also Tom Izzo’s 500th victory as Michigan State head coach.

Above is video of the celebration, which includes former Michigan State great and current Golden State Warrior Draymond Green giving Izzo a Rolex watch with the words “nice start” engraved on it. As you can tell Izzo got emotional over the entire ordeal, giving thanks to his players past and present for their efforts.

Video credit: Michigan State Athletics

PREGAME SHOOTAROUND: Fourteen ranked teams in action

Trevor Cooney
Associated Press
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GAME OF THE DAY: Syracuse vs. No. 25 Texas A&M (ESPN)

The championship game of the Battle 4 Atlantis matches two teams who arrived in the Bahamas looking to make a statement nationally, and both did so Thursday. The Aggies, who along with Vanderbilt are Kentucky’s greatest competition in the SEC, have experience on the perimeter and some good front court options as well. How Danuel House, Alex Caruso and Anthony Collins navigate the Syracuse zone will be a key factor in this one. As for Syracuse, while seniors Michael Gbinije and Trevor Cooney have led the way the contributions of Tyler Roberson and freshmen Tyler Lydon and Malachi Richardson should not be overlooked either.

THIS ONE’S GOOD TOO: No. 10 Gonzaga vs. No. 17 UConn, 12:30 p.m. (ESPN)

Both teams lost thrillers in the Battle 4 Atlantis semifinals Thursday, with the Bulldogs falling by one to No. 25 Texas A&M and the Huskies losing by three to Syracuse. Now they look to avoid a second straight defeat in what should be an interesting matchup. Gonzaga’s front court size will be something UConn has to find an answer for, but it isn’t as if they don’t have options themselves. Shonn Miller’s matchup with Gonzaga’s Kyle Wiltjer will be something to keep an eye on, as will Gonzaga’s guards taking on UConn’s talented and experienced group.

WHO’S ON UPSET ALERT?: No. 11 Arizona (vs. Providence), 11:30 p.m. (ESPN)

By now we all know Providence point guard Kris Dunn, as he’s one of the nation’s best players. But what makes the Friars a dangerous team now, and moving forward, is the emergence of other options. Ben Bentil’s averaging 15.2 points and 8.0 rebounds per game, and Rodney Bullock’s been even better at 16.4 ppg and 8.2 rpg. While Dunn’s name may be on the marquee this isn’t some one-man band playing for head coach Ed Cooley. Add in the uncertain status of Arizona senior center Kaleb Tarczewski (left ankle) and the Wildcats’ shot selection in a “closer than it needed to be” win over Santa Clara, and this is a good opportunity for Providence to add a quality win to its early-season résumé.

MID-MAJOR GAME OF THE DAY: Monmouth vs. Dayton, 9:30 p.m.

The Flyers aren’t a mid-major, but their opposition is the reason why this game is chosen here. King Rice’ Hawks have won three of their first four games to start the season, which includes wins over UCLA and No. 17 Notre Dame, and the strength of their schedule means that they won’t have any fear of Dayton. Both teams have talented perimeter rotations, with Justin Robinson leading the Hawks and Scoochie Smith doing so for the Flyers. The key will be how Dayton’s front court tandem of Kendall Pollard and Steve McElvene play; if they win their respective matchups Dayton will have the upper hand.


  • No. 1 Kentucky is back in action, this time taking on a USF team (5:00 p.m., ESPN) led by former John Calipari assistant Orlando Antigua. That fact may keep this contest between the high-powered Wildcats and rebuilding Bulls at a respectable margin.
  • No. 24 Cincinnati plays its second game away from home, as they take on Nebraska in Brooklyn. Farad Cobb’s played very well to start the season for the Bearcats, who are a bit underrated nationally. Not only will the Huskers have their hands full on the perimeter, but Cincinnati has both depth and experience in the post as well.
  • Illinois, having already lost three games this season, takes on a tough UAB squad at the Emerald Coast Classic in Florida (9:30 p.m., CBSSN). The Fighting Illini needed a Jalen Coleman-Lands three-pointer to beat Chicago State earlier this week, and the Blazers are an experienced group that reached the NCAA tournament last season.
  • West Virginia and San Diego State meet in the title game of the Continental Las Vegas Invitational (10:30 p.m., FS1) in a fun matchup of defensive-minded teams. “Press Virginia” will look to turn over the Aztecs in the open floor, and SDSU (which can extend its defense when needed) has one of the stingiest half-court defenses in the country.
  • No. 23 Xavier and USC meet in the other AdvoCare Invitational semifinal (2:30 p.m., ESPNU), with the Trojans looking to build on an early-season start that has surprised some people. But while Bennie Boatwright can be a matchup issue offensively as the four, how he competes with the likes of Xavier’s Jalen Reynolds will have a major impact on this game.
  • Boise State will look to do what no one’s been able to do thus far: keep Michigan State’s Denzel Valentine in check (5:30 p.m., ESPN2). The senior guard posted his second triple-double of the season, and he’s got the undefeated and third-ranked Spartans rolling right now. But keep an eye on Boise State’s James Webb III. While he was quiet in their win over UC Irvine, he went for 27 and nine in a loss at No. 11 Arizona last week.


  • Virginia Tech vs. No. 4 Iowa State, 7:00 p.m. (CBSSN)
  • Georgia Tech vs. No. 8 Villanova, 3:00 p.m. (ESPN2)
  • Richmond vs. No. 14 California, 8:00 p.m. (FS1)
  • Northeastern at No. 15 Miami, 4:00 p.m. (ESPN3)
  • No. 17 Notre Dame vs. Iowa, 7:00 p.m. (ESPN3)
  • Alabama vs. No. 20 Wichita State, 12:00 p.m. (ESPN3)


  • Arkansas vs. Stanford, 12:30 p.m. (ESPNU)
  • UC Irvine vs. Boston College, 3:00 p.m. (ESPN3)
  • Southern Illinois vs. UTEP, 3:30 p.m.
  • FGCU at Florida, 6:30 p.m. (SEC Network)
  • Winthrop at NC State, 7:00 p.m. (ESPN3)
  • Texas vs. Michigan, 7:00 p.m. (AXS)
  • Ohio State vs. Memphis, 7:30 p.m. (ESPN2)
  • Long Beach State at Oklahoma State, 8:30 p.m.
  • George Washington vs. Tennessee, 9:00 p.m. (ESPN3)