Today is the last chance for teams to make a statement before conference tournament play next week for major conference teams. Smaller conferences are already doing battle for their only spot in the dance. It. Is. Awesome! Teams that ran over opponents during the regular season are now losing early in conference tournament play. Nerves for the top seeds and no pressure for the low seeds is a scary combination.
Most people only enjoy watching teams like Kentucky, Duke, North Carolina, Kansas and the other traditional powers. If you are on of the people that does only watch the bigger schools, please do yourself a favor and watch the smaller conference tournaments. No, the talent is not the same. But, it is not as far off as you think. That is why Mercer can beat Duke in the tournament and Norfolk State can knock off Missouri. The main difference with the powerhouse teams and the non-power teams is size. These teams will have 4 guards and a center who is 6’7”. These teams can still play. In this year of parity, many top seeds can lose early in the tournament. That is the beauty of March.
Teams relying on making a run in their conference tournament in order to make the NCAA Tournament wilt under pressure more times than not. When a bubble team has the weight of the world on their shoulders, it is tough to play. Doubt creeps in. Palms are sweaty. Add in the fact you are playing a team who has nothing to lose, it can spell trouble. Teams like LSU, Florida, Michigan and many others cannot lose today. They would need a deep run in their tournament next week to make it. To reference Ace Ventura, “What do you know about pressure?”
Back to the smaller conferences. These guys are fun to watch. They give everything they have, because it is all they have. Most of these guys are 4-5 year players who will never put on a uniform again once the season ends. They have their degree from college and will not play pro ball. They give it all. It is a beautiful thing to watch these teams fight for a tournament slot. Some of these bubble teams have future pros on their team and are still disappointing to watch. The ratings for the smaller conference tournaments are not great, as evidenced by being on ESPNU or not on TV at all until the championship game. But, when you can find the games on TV, you will enjoy. That is one thing I can guarantee.