As February comes to an end and the best month of the year inches closer, it’s important for teams to hit the conference tournament in rhythm.
Peaking at the right time and playing your best basketball when it matters most is often times the difference between putting on your Cinderella slippers and not getting invited to the ball.
With conference tournaments starting up and league play coming to a close, here’s who’s finding their groove, and who has two left feet.
Last week’s stock watch can be found here.
Dayton: It’s hardly a hot take to consider Dayton one of the best mid-majors in the country, but the Flyers are firing on all cylinders right now. They’ve now won eight straight, and will have a chance to lock up the A-10 at home against VCU on Wednesday. Their current KenPom ranking of No. 30 is the highest of Archie Miller’s tenure, and this year’s team is the most balanced he’s had on both ends of the court. The Flyers are basically a lock to dance for the fourth straight year, and are currently projected as a No. 8-seed by the BracketMatrix.
South Dakota: The Coyotes have won six straight, and seven of their last eight. They’ve reaped the benefits of their hot streak, and were rewarded with their first Summit League championship. The combination of Matt Mooney and Tyler Flack provide a solid inside-outside duo for the ‘Yotes, and they feature the best defense in the Summit League. Craig Smith has done a great job turning this team around from a 5-11 finish last year to regular season champs this year, and has his sights set on the program’s first NCAA Tournament in their brief Div. I history.
Nevada: At the top of the ever-changing Mountain West standings, Nevada has been one of the league’s few constants. The Pack sits tied for first with Colorado State at 12-4, and will host the Rams on Saturday in a game that could decide the regular season title. Eric Musselman has crafted a top-50 offense with weapons like Marcus Marshall, Cam Oliver, and Jordan Caroline. If their defense continues to be as good as it has lately, the Pack could be dangerous.
East Tennessee State: In only his second year as a Div. I head coach, Steve Forbes appears to be building a power in the SoCon. After falling a game short of winning the regular season title last year, the Buccaneers will have a chance to win it outright. The Bucs are ranked No. 41 by KenPom in defensive efficiency, and are in the top-10 in two-point field goal percentage. If the Bucs get the league’s auto-bid, don’t be surprised if a highly-ranked team is sweating down the stretch against them.
Chattanooga: Keeping things in the SoCon, the Mocs have let their hope of repeating slip away. Three consecutive losses dropped them to fourth in the standings, and their offense appears to be stuck in reverse. In those losses, the Mocs failed to score over 1.00 points per possession, and failed to crack 55 points in two of those. They need to find their footing if they want to have a chance at a second straight conference tournament title, and they need to find it quickly.
Fort Wayne: It’s really been a tale of two halves for the Mastodons this year. After going 10-3 in a non-conference slate that included a win over then-No. 3 Indiana, Fort Wayne sputtered to a .500 finish in Summit League play. The biggest question mark for them has always been consistency, and the Dons have been unable to string together more than a couple of wins at a time. As the No. 6 seed in the Summit League tournament, the preseason favorites will have a tough road ahead of them.
Central Michigan: For as much publicity Marcus Keene and the Chips have gotten, they don’t have much to show for it. After being in the heart of the race in the MAC West, the Chippewas have dropped five straight, and haven’t show any semblance of interest in playing defense. As exciting as it would be to see them make a run, they just don’t have what it takes to get wins when their shots aren’t falling.
Saint Peter’s: Monmouth is the talk of the town in the MAAC, and for good reason. But if anybody is going to deny them a tournament bid, it’ll likely be Saint Peter’s. In their two meetings this year, the Peacocks won by 10 on their home court, and lost by one in overtime in the second meeting. After a brief three-game skid, Saint Peter’s has now won five straight, and their opponents have failed to score more than 55 points in each of those games. Will the Peacocks show their colors and flourish? Stay tuned.
Harvard: In what could be a preview of the first Ivy League tournament championship game, Harvard and Princeton will square off this weekend as the regular season concludes. The Crimson have won six straight, and will be looking to snap Princeton’s 15-game win streak. Tommy Amaker’s team is young, but the youth has complemented the prowess of Siyani Chambers well in Ivy League play. The teams’ first match up ended on a Steven Cook putback just before the buzzer, so the Crimson will be hungry for revenge moving forward.