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Championship Week: Day 9 Preview

UCLA v St. John's

NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 18: Moe Harkless #4 of the St. John’s Red Storm looks on against the UCLA Bruins at Madison Square Garden on February 18, 2012 in New York City. (Photo by Chris Chambers/Getty Images)

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Over the next 13 days, the brackets will start to take shape. Teams with no at-large aspirations will make one final push at the post-season. Teams on the bubble will look to assert themselves as worthy members of “The Big Dance”, and contenders will start priming their engines for a national Championship run. While “March Madness” officially begins following Selection Sunday, the real madness starts now.

Until Sunday, March 11, this will be your home for Championship Week recaps and previews. The players and teams are starting to prepare for March Madness, so you should too.

Game of the Night: Detroit vs. Valparaiso
Detroit will be looking for it’s first Horizon League tournament championship since 1999 and Valparaiso will be searching for it’s first Horizon League title in school history. The Crusaders won both regular season match-ups, but only by a combined seven points. The key to victory for Detroit will be controlling the glass and providing a balanced scoring attack. For Valparaiso, they will look to ride the efforts of forwards Ryan Broekoff and Kevin Van Wijk.

Player to Watch: Maurice Harkless, St. John’s
The Bronx native is one of the most dynamic and versatile players in the Big East, and will be at home playing in front of friends and family at Madison Square Garden. But in his last two games, he’s scored just 12 points, including a four-point performance against Pittsburgh in which he injured his right ankle. If St. John’s is to get a convincing win on Tuesday afternoon, Harkless will have a lot to do with it. He is a high-volume shooter, and will have to make smart decisions against a sometimes-staunch Pittsburgh defense. The first round of the Big East Tournament isn’t always exciting, but Pittsburgh vs. St. John’s should make-up for the other lackluster match-ups.

Miscellaneous Madness: Deja Vu for Uconn. In 2011, the Huskies entered the Big East Tournament as the No.9-seed and played No.16-seed DePaul in the first round. We all know what happened next. Well, Kemba is long gone, but the Huskies are in the same position as last year. They need an impressive Big East Tournament run in order to convince the committee to let them in to the Big Dance.

Tuesday Schedule:

Atlantic-10 Conference First Round
12:00PM - #9 Duquesne vs. #8 Massachusetts
2:30PM - #12 Charlotte vs. #5 St. Joseph’s
6:30PM - #10 Richmond vs. #7 LaSalle
9:00PM - #11 George Washington vs. #6 Richmond

Big East First Round
12:00PM - #16 DePaul vs. #9 Connecticut
2:00PM - #13 Pittsburgh vs. #12 St. John’s
7:00PM - #15 Providence vs. #10 Seton Hall
9:00PM - #14 Villanova vs. #11 Rutgers

Big Sky Semifinals
8:30PM - #3 Portland State vs. #2 Weber State
11:00PM - #4 Eastern Washington vs. #1 Montana

Horizon League Finals
9:00PM - #3 Detroit vs. #1 Valparaiso - ESPN

Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference First Round
11:00AM - #9 Morgan State vs. #8 Hampton
1:30PM - #10 Howard vs. #7 North Carolina A&T
4:00PM - #12 Maryland-Eastern Shore vs. #5 North Carolina Central
6:30PM - #13 South Carolina State vs. #4 Bethune-Cookman
9:00PM - #11 Florida A&M vs. #6 Coppin State

Summit League Finals
10:00PM - #4 Western Illinois vs. #2 South Dakota State - ESPN2

Sun Belt Finals
6:00PM - #7 Western Kentucky vs. #5 North Texas ESPN2