What we're reading while we keep the Bubble Watch page updated in advance of the conference tournaments. Submit links via Twitter.
While the ACC's bottom-feeders play out their early-round tournament matchups (and you avert your eyes from the unfortunate aesthetics on display), Tuesday night brings four more conference tournament finals, with four more automatic bids to the NCAA tournament on the line. As on Monday, the West Coast Conference is by far the most high-profile. Both BYU and Gonzaga rolled through their semifinal matchups (against Portland and Pepperdine, respectively) en route to a rematch of last Saturday's shocking BYU upset in Spokane. That victory made the Cougars a likely, if not definite, NCAA tournament team; at the very least it gave Dave Rose a marquee totem to display claims that BYU was far better than the eight closes losses on its résumé. Tuesday night gives the Cougars a chance to erase all doubt. But if the Cougars lose, will they still get in? Will it matter if the loss is close? What will the committee be watching? Does Gonzaga have any chance at a No. 1 seed? And can Kyle Collinsworth -- who extended his all-time single-season triple-doubles record to six against Portland Monday -- possibly be contained?
The NEC tournament format provides home-court advantage to the regular-season champs, which means the setting for Tuesday's title game between the league's top two teams -- the St. Francis Terriers and Robert Morris Colonials -- is St. Francis College. That presents some logistical obstacles, as the Staten Island Advance's Cormac Gordon explains: "Where do you put the TV truck? That's question No. 1 as ESPN brings its equipment to the crowded, narrow, always-bustling streets around Brooklyn's tiny St. Francis College on Tuesday evening for the Northeast Conference championship. The answer is, they'll likely be closing down the street behind what we guess could be called the St. Francis 'campus.' Campus being five interconnected former office buildings on Remsen Street in Brooklyn Heights."
The Keifer Sykes-led Green Bay Phoenix have long been considered the most dangerous team in the Horizon League, but Bryce Drew's Valparaiso Crusaders, on the heels of a stellar 27-5 campaign, might well have usurped that title. The two will meet in Tuesday night's Horizon final, and while Valpo has the benefit of home-court advantage, it might well be without one of its most important pieces: It appears unlikely that guard Tevonn Walker will be ready to go because of an unspecified right knee injury suffered with nine minutes left in the first half of Saturday's semifinal against Cleveland State.
The South Dakota State Jackrabbits have a chance to return to the NCAA tournament for the third time in four seasons in Tuesday night's Summit League final. They looked like heavy favorites in Monday's semifinal win over South Dakota … which doubled as an in-state revenge smackdown of the highest order: "And that’s what it accomplished with a never-in-doubt 78-65 victory over South Dakota in the rubber match of three meetings this season. But with a crowd of 10,153 on hand, and with the Jackrabbits having been beaten soundly by USD at the DakotaDome in the season finale, this certainly had the feel of a game that was also for things like bragging rights, state supremacy and even revenge."
Matt Norlander details the remarkable fight of former Butler center Andrew Smith, whose overseas playing career was cut short by T-cell lymphoblastic lymphoma. Just when he seemed to be recovering from that dire disease, he suffered a severe cardiac arrest that stopped his heart for more than 20 minutes; whose full recovery from both (probably related) maladies is nothing short of a miracle.