[title_box title=”Monday Madness: Conference Tournament Week”]
The 2015-2016 men’s basketball regular-season is over and post-season play is here.
But before we get to the Big Dance, up first is the conference tournaments — where teams will either brush up their resumés or go for last-second runs to earn a tournament berth.
Regardless of a team’s standing, the conference tournament is the last chance that any team has to make its claim before the NCAA tournament.
Let’s take a look at the upcoming week in college basketball.
Teams to watch heading into the post-season:
LSU: In their last regular-season game of the season, the Tigers lost to Kentucky by 17 points. On the same day, Ben Simmons was announced reportedly academically ineligible to be a candidate for the Wooden Award (Player of the Year, equivalent to the Heisman Trophy in college football). There was finger-pointing in the locker room.
This LSU team — one that had such great expectations — is in turmoil. As far as the national stage goes, the Tigers don’t matter.
However, LSU finished the regular-season 18-13 with an 11-7 SEC record. Now, they are facing a sudden death scenario.
Win the SEC tournament or go home.
“We’ve got to win it,” said Simmons to ESPN.
According to freshman standout Antonio Blakeney, “leadership is a problem” for the Tigers.
Someone on this LSU team needs to step up and take the leader role, because the Tigers face a huge obstacle in the SEC tournament.
Tigers’ head coach Johnny Jones has constantly been criticized for the job, or lack thereof, that he has done with this team.
It is now time for Ben Simmons to (FINALLY) take control of the team, make it his team and lead this talented roster to its potential level of success.
I think it’s possible for the Tigers to make an SEC tournament run, but only if Simmons completely takes the reigns and controls the game.
If Ben Simmons wants to cement his role as a glorified stat-sheet stuffer, he can go ahead and keep scoring close to his 19 points, 11 rebounds, and 5 assists and then disappear in the last five minutes of the game.
But if Ben Simmons is so “annoyed” and “frustrated” like he mentioned after the loss to Kentucky, he must show his ability to lead a team and control a game.
Simmons is a lock for the top pick in the 2016 NBA Draft so he doesn’t personally need this tournament run.
But for the good of the game of college basketball, LSU needs to run the table in Nashville and at least make an appearance in the NCAA tournament.
Team on top
North Carolina: I’ve said over and over this year that the Tar Heels are the best team in college basketball. (UNC was my pick at the beginning of the season to win it all)
The Tar Heels have withstood a crazy season and proven they are the best in the ACC en route to winning their seventh ACC regular-season title in 13 years.
Now it’s time for the Heels to show they can maintain success over a period of time, something they haven’t really done this season. It’s time for this team to define who they really are.
Are they a contender or a pretender?
The week they were the No. 1 team, they were upset by Northern Iowa. After they worked their way back up to No. 2, they lost two straight to Louisville and Notre Dame.
Carolina’s seniors just got their first win at Duke in their college careers. This is the program’s first ACC regular-season title since 2012.
Now, the Tar Heels must play like the front-runner they began the season as.
They don’t necessarily have to win the conference tournament (their win against Duke on Saturday proved they are ready for tournament play), but winning the ACC tourney would show the Heels have what it takes to dominate March.
For head coach Roy Williams, this may be one of his last chances to win another national title.
I believe we are about to witness a very special run by seniors Brice Johnson and Marcus Paige, along withthe rest of the Tar Heels.
The next time you read Monday Madness, it will be the day following the release of the 2016 NCAA tournament field. Soak it in, it’s here folks.
Enjoy this week’s edition of Monday Madness and this week in college basketball.
Featured image by Dalton King
Edited by Nathan Odom
Dalton, a firm believer that sporting events are best spent on Twitter, is an Assistant Sports Editor for TNJN and a sophomore studying Journalism at the University of Tennessee. Two of his favorite pastimes include beating his roommates at 2k and remaining in awe of the amount of stories fellow editor David Bradford writes. Twitter: @dk_writes