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2006 March Madness Teams

Hot & Cold Teams Heading Into the Tournament

Hot Teams and Chilly Clubs: Who’s Playing Their Best Ball

Timing can be everything, especially when it comes to tournament play. The five-month college basketball season can take its toll on teams, and conference tournaments can create unlikely winners and losers. Heading into March Madness teams need to be playing the best they have all season. March Madness is unforgiving when it comes to mistakes, miscues, and inconsistent play. Here are a few teams that have impressed lately and others that may have fans and pundits wondering.

Maybe it’s because it’s such a powerful conference or perhaps it’s because it has four teams in the top twenty of the NCAA RPI rankings but the Big East has to have novice handicappers and prognosticators doing a double take. Syracuse, a team that until this weekend was definitely on the March Madness bubble, not only wins the Big East Tournament to secure a NCAA berth but also in doing so knocks off number one Connecticut, number 23 Georgetown, and number 15 Pittsburgh! The Orangemen are about as hot as a team gets.

The Pittsburgh Panthers were also impressive in the tournament, beating the 23rd ranked West Virginia Mountaineers and the second ranked Villanova Wildcats. They’re a team to watch.

Duke came into the ACC this weekend a little worse for wear, having played poorly in the last week of the regular season and as a result losing to North Carolina and Florida State. Although they took the tournament title, the Blue Devils had all they could handle with the Boston College Eagles, winning the championship by two points. Duke captured the number one seed for the tournament, but that’s as much due to the disappointing play of Connecticut and Villanova in the Big East as it is to their conference victory.

In the Conference USA Tournament, the number five Memphis Tigers beat the number 24 Alabama-Birmingham Blazers in a low scoring contest, 57-46. Just a few weeks before, the Tigers had lost to the Blazers, 80-74. That was their first loss in 15 games, a string where they defeated number 15 Tennessee; earlier in the year they easily beat Gonzaga (4) and lost to Duke (3) by three. The Tigers have been amazingly consistent all year.

Number 8 Texas Longhorns, who finished their Big 12 regular season play in first place, had been faltering just prior to their tournament. The Longhorns lost two of their last five games to unranked Texas A&M and Oklahoma State. Number 17 Kansas, an underdog for the Big 12 Championship, leveled Texas by 12 points, taking the Big 12 title. During the season, the Kansas Jayhawks were exceptionally strong down the stretch, winning 12 or their last 13 contests. This is a club to watch and a potential final four caliber club as this young steam is maturing, and gaining experience and more confidence each and every game.

Ohio State, ranked 7, is a club many experts have on their lips when speaking of potential Final Four teams. The Buckeyes had a dominant year, losing only four regular season games. One of those losses was to the twentieth ranked Iowa Hawkeyes. Iowa repeated their performance by taking the Big 10 Conference title from the rival Buckeyes, 60-67. The loss may be a wake-up call for Ohio or, because Iowa ably beat them twice, it could indicate a weakness in the Buckeyes’ game. Prior to the Big 10 Tournament, Iowa had its own problems losing three of its final seven games.

Conferences such as the Big East, Big 10, Big 12, Conference USA, and ACC should do well in the tournament. Teams from these leagues are used to battling with other quality clubs, and that high level of experience pays dividends in the pressure cooker known as March Madness. The question for teams that suddenly find themselves on the slide is can they regroup and rise to the occasion? For those on the rise, it’s a matter of consistency and confidence. Let the madness begin and the teams prove their grit.

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