Posted 03/21/2009 at 11:58 AM
Two teams that made a lot of noise in the tournament last year have done so again this season as Western Kentucky and Siena have both moved on with upsets. Neither was a big upset in terms of the pointspread or even the national perception but both are great achievements. Western Kentucky lost the top two scorers from last year’s team and had to deal with a coaching change yet still find itself with a shot to make a return trip to the sweet 16. Siena was given a #9 seed as a nod to their stature based on last year’s run but in reality they were dealt a tough draw playing Ohio State in a less than neutral venue. The Saints somehow found a way to win despite trailing most of the way in one of the most entertaining games of the first round.
Those upsets were both at the expense of the Big Ten and the much maligned conference went 2-5 ATS in the first round although four teams are playing this weekend. Penn State is still alive in the NIT so the conference may have a chance to live up to its billing as a deep quality league.
The Big XII has been the team to play-on so far in first round action with a 6-0 ATS mark on closing numbers although many likely would have lost or pushed on Kansas if they played it early. All six teams are standing from the Big XII so the league will have the opportunity to make a big splash on the field this year and prove its worth. Before getting too eager to back the conference consider that those teams were solid favorites in all but two of the games and that the Oklahoma State and Kansas games could easily have gone the other way. The Big 12 is also off to a 0-4 ATS start in the games played in the NIT, CBI, and CIT games.
The ACC had an awful Friday night with Boston College, Wake Forest, and Florida State joining Clemson out of the field. Unless Maryland pulls off another upset today the powerhouse league will be down to the two perennial contenders, Duke and North Carolina. The Big East has also raised some questions as Pittsburgh, Villanova, and Marquette really struggled in first round wins. Syracuse and Connecticut were impressive and but the Big East went just 2-5 ATS in the first round although West Virginia was the only team sent home.
The conference that seems to continually be underrated and undervalued is the Pac-10 and although it seemed to be a down year for the league with no true national contender there are teams that appear ready to do some damage. Washington and USC were very impressive in opening wins UCLA squeaked by but Arizona and Arizona State also picked up nice wins. California was the only disappointment and the league went 4-2 ATS in the first round.