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Tommy Keeler Jr.: Time to focus on college hoops

Tommy Keeler

By Tommy Keeler Jr.

Now that the Super Bowl is over and the NFL season is finally behind us, it's time to move on and turn our attention to other sports.

For me that means college basketball. Usually, I'm watching college basketball from November to April, but this season for whatever reason I've barely watched any games. I've watched bits and pieces of games here and there, mostly watching my Duke Blue Devils, of course.

With football done, tennis in a lull, the NBA still in the middle of its season and baseball still over a month away from starting, college basketball will now have my full, undivided attention.

Everyone pays attention to college basketball during "March Madness," but I think February is just as important of a month on many levels. February is very big to all the teams as they jockey for position for the conference tournaments in March. It's the time when teams need to fine-tune their games to make sure they're ready for when it really counts.

Many of us love the tournament pools at work or wherever else we can find them. We live for the brackets, and the chance to fill out a dance card in March.

February is a great time to watch basketball and start to evaluate teams and figure out which teams you might select to pull off those first-round upsets. Who will be this year's Cinderella story?

It's a great time to see who's hot and who's not heading into the most important month of the season.

Of course, it's also a time to cheer on your favorite teams and hope that this will be the year they win it all.

I'm not a big fan of any so-called local teams, but I think it could be a good year for teams in the state of Virginia.

Virginia Commonwealth University is tied for first place in the Atlantic 10. Clearly the move from the Colonial Athletic Association has not hurt the Rams. VCU is 18-5 and 6-2 in the A-10. I think they have a good shot at winning the conference, although Butler is pretty strong as well. Either way, VCU should have no problem making the Big Dance, and they could go a long way just like they did two years ago. One of the Rams' losses came to Richmond, which is only two games behind them in the A-10 standings.

The University of Virginia is in fourth in the ACC -- who could have seen that coming? The Cavaliers are 15-6 overall and 5-3 in the conference. They still have some work to do to get into the NCAA Tournament, but they are certainly off to a good start. While Virginia Tech is not looking so good with an 11-10 record and only has two conference wins, the Hokies at least have one of the top scorers in the country. Millbrook standout and Virginia Tech senior Erick Green is leading the country in scoring (25.0), which he has done for most of the season.

James Madison University is tied for second in the CAA, a half game ahead of George Mason University. The Dukes are only 14-11 overall, but they are 8-4 in the conference. Not bad for a team that many picked to be in the bottom of the conference at the beginning of the season.

George Mason could make some noise in March as well. They have a 14-9 record, they swept JMU, beat Virginia and only lost to Maryland by seven this season.

Virginia Military Institute is in second place in the North Division of the Big South. They are 10-10 overall, but 5-3 in the conference.

Norfolk State is undefeated in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference. The Spartans are 14-10 overall, and lost by only 10 points to Illinois. The Spartans have won eight games in a row.

So, whether you're cheering for one of your favorite teams or just enjoy watching the games, this month is sure to be a great one for college basketball. The month before "March Madness" can be just as crazy and exciting as March itself.

Contact Assistant Sports Editor Tommy Keeler at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or tkeeler@nvdaily.com


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