Previewing conference tournaments that begin Thursday.
All games in Greensboro, NC
Favorite: Duke. With Ryan Kelly in the lineup the Blue Devils are undefeated. Despite the 39-point game he had in his return, Kelly is not a dynamic player, but he is solid and obviously crucial to the teamís success.
Contenders: Miami, North Carolina, Virginia. The Hurricanes seem to be out of their brief slump and what makes them great is the pieces all fit together, a true team. Carolina has all sorts of talent, but still hasnít been able to figure it out totally. A wakeup call could come at any time. Virginiaís defense will be the key.
Long shot: Florida State. The Seminoles will give teams problems with their tough man-to-man defense.
All games in Brooklyn
Favorite: Saint Louis. Positively the best defensive team in the country and although theyíre not pretty, they play enough offense.
Contenders: Virginia Commonwealth, Temple, LaSalle, Butler. The A10 is as evenly matched as any conference. VCUís suffocating, full-court press could make the difference. Temple has the player of the year in Khalif Wyatt, whoís capable of carrying a team. LaSalle has three really good guards while Butler is extremely well coached.
Long shot: UMass. This could be Chaz Williamsí moment.
Prediction: Saint Louis.
All games in Missoula, Mont.
Favorite: Montana. Not only did the Grizz dominate the regular season at 19-1, but now they get to play on their home court.
Contenders: Weber State, North Dakota.
Long shot: Northern Arizona.
All games in Chicago
Favorite: Indiana. The Hoosiers may have lost their final home game, but they rebounded to win at Michigan. This is a great unit thatís well-coached, plays together and guards well.
Contenders: Michigan, Ohio State, Michigan State, Wisconsin. These teams have been through the battles of the best conference in America so you canít rule out any of them. Michigan does have to play an extra game and that doesnít help.
Long shot: Minnesota. The opening-round game between the Gophers and Illinois could produce an upset champion.
All games in Anaheim, Calif.
Favorite: Long Beach State. The 49ers were in semi-rebuilding mode this season but instead they were clearly the best team in the league.
Contenders: Pacific, UC Irvine. Pacific is on a mission in the 25th and final season for coach Bob Thomason. The Anteaters had a nice win over Long Beach late in the season.
Long shot: Fullerton State
- Michael Vega
- Mark Blaudschun
- Nancy Marrapese-Burrell