Saturday, March 4, 2006

Mid-Continent Conference Tournament Preview

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The Mid-Continent Conference did not have a very successful overall season, as their #29 rank in the RPI was their lowest in years. However, their race at the top of the league was as tight as could be. Oral Roberts and IUPUI ended up tying for the conference title at 13-3. IUPUI lost their final two games while ORU won their last two to forge a tie. UMKC finished two backs at 11-5, while three teams finished at 8-8.

Favorite: Oral Roberts came into the season with high expectations, and has been somewhat of a disappointment. They only went 4-8 in non-conference play, but have looked better of late and are now fully healthy and ready to make a run. They own the league's best inside-outside combo in Caleb Green, the most dominant player in the league, and Ken Tutt, a very good perimeter scorer. Larry Owens is an excellent rebounder down low, while Jonathan Bluitt is a solid point guard.

Contenders: IUPUI could have wrapped up the league title but lost their final two games to blow the lead. In other words, they aren't playing their best basketball of the season. George Hill is one of the best all-around players in the league, while Brandon Cole is very versatile and talented on the wing. David Barlow and Matt Burks are also solid perimeter scorers. UMKC has won 5 of 6 and are playing very well lately. Quinton Day is a lock for the all-Mid Con team. He and Tim Blackwell form a very good backcourt duo. Dee Ayuba is a very solid inside player.

Sleeper: It's not the same team as a few years ago with Bryce Drew and company, but Valparaiso still has a lot of talent and the potential to make a run. Dan Oppland is one of the top post players in the league, while Mohamed Kone is an excellent complement to him in the paint. Ron Howard is a very solid all-around player on the wing, rounding out the league's best frontcourt trio.

Prediction: Oral Roberts came into the season as the favorite with the most talent, and I think they still are. However, IUPUI has been more consistent and should have won the league title. On the other hand, the Jaguars are struggling lately, while the Golden Eagles are rounding into form. Both of them should meet in the title game, which should be a great contest. Tutt vs. Hill would be an excellent matchup, but IUPUI has no one to stop Green down low. This time around, ORU won't get beat by an improbable three to beat the buzzer (see last year's game vs. Oakland), and I think their inside-outside combo of Tutt and Green will carry them to the automatic bid.

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