We are less than six hours away from the selections show, and as some teams lose their collective fingernails waiting for their name to get called, there are still four more automatic bids to be given out.
On ABC at 1 p.m. Ole Miss takes on Florida in the finals of the SEC Tournament. The Gators beat the Rebels 78-64 in their first meeting in Gainesville, Florida and I look for the Florida Gators to lock up both the regular season and conference tournament titles; however, with this run through the SEC tournament, Ole Miss has probably played themselves into a bid.
Also at 1 p.m. on CBS, in the Atlantic 10 Tournament, the top two seeds in the conference, St. Louis and Virginia Commonwealth face off at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York. Both of these teams are ranked and whomever loses will garner an at-large bid; however, I look for the Billikens to beat Shaka Smart and the Rams in this one. Since losing back to back games in mid-January, the Billikens have only lost once in an overtime game at Xavier. This run is all the more impressive when you see who they have beaten: three wins against Butler, a win against La Salle, and a win against VCU.
In the third 1 p.m. game, on ESPN, Miami takes on the Tar Heels of North Carolina in the finals of the ACC Tournament in Greensboro. Miami could be playing for a number one seed in the NCAA Tournament with a win here. The Hurricanes also have a chance to win the ACC Tournament for the first time in school history with a win today; however, I have the Tar Heels taking this one. Between location (Greensboro is less than 60 miles away from Chapel Hill), and save for a big slip-up against Duke, the Tar Heels improved play over the past month, I think Roy Williams squad will come out firing on all cylinders against a sometimes unsteady Hurricanes squad. As much faith as I had in Miami a month ago, their loses to Georgia Tech and Wake Forest have deflated my high hopes for this very experienced and talented team.
In the final game of the regular season, the Ohio State Buckeyes take on the Wisconsin Badgers in the Big Ten Tournament finals from the United Center in Chicago, Illinois. Wisconsin was a fraction of an inch from being a five seed and breaking Bo Ryan's remarkable streak of top-four Big Ten finishes; however, thanks to an unlucky (or incredibly lucky, depending on which side of the coin you are on) roll from Josh Morgan, the Badgers got a bye. From there, they took on Michigan and after one of the most putrid offensive halves in history, exploded for 51 in the second to beat Michigan by nine. In the semifinals, in one of their most complete games of the season, knocked off the top-seeded and third ranked Hoosiers 68-56. On the other side of the bracket, second seeded Ohio State took on Nebraska in the quarterfinals, handily winning by 21. In their next game, they defeated my pick to win the Big Ten Tournament, Michigan State, by 3 in a hard-fought battle. This sets up the third meeting between these two teams with both teams winning one. I'm going with my Wisconsin Badgers in this one. While Ohio State has been playing excellent basketball since their loss at the Kohl Center in mid-February; however, yesterday's game against Indiana showed a versatility I didn't know the Badgers had. They opened the game with 16 points in the paint and only took two threes in the opening 10 minutes (something they typically do on their first two possessions). Between the growth of Ryan Evans and Sam Dekker, to go along with Mike Brusewitz's recently regained three-point stroke, the Badgers will win. Deshaun Thomas will score his points; however, if the Badgers can limit the Buckeyes to one shot on every possession and take Aaron Craft out of the game, the Badgers should be in line for their first Big Ten Tournament title since 2008.