Let's try a quick early preview of the matchup between last season's winning conferences, shall we? It's the CCIW, 2-0 in tourney history, vs the USA South, looking to avenge their narrow defeat of two seasons ago.
Martin Luther 50 @ Palm Beach Atlantic 81 USA South leads 1-0
The all Lawrence starting backcourt down in sunny Florida took over in this one, combining for 36 points and 6 assists in the early matchup. Palm Beach's defense was dominant, holding ML to under 34% from the field.
La Grange (0-8, 299) @ Wisconsin Lutheran 6-2, 7)
This looks to be the most lopsided matchup of the tourney, with La Grange, the only USA South team under .500, making the unexpected decision to go with the young guys, and WiscoLuth playing some tremendous early season basketball.
The line: Wisconsin Lutheran +20.
Greensboro (4-4, 189) @ Wheaton (5-3, 62)
Greensboro travels to Wheaton for what looks like an interesting contrast in styles. Wheaton looks to put pressure on the opposition with its press, but having two walkons makes that situation not ideal, while Greensboro continues to play a zone with new coach, tarvolon, who has admitted to not having experience with the zone. However, both teams like to keep the score down and grind out close games and this one will probably come down to whoever can best execute in crunch time.
The line: Wheaton +4.
Milikin (6-2. 72) @ Shenandoah (5-3, 74)
Milikin is riding the wave of a 4 game winning to streak to an early top 100 RPI, lead by senior PF Herbery Murphy and his nearly 20 points per game. Can he keep up his torrid pace against Shenandoah's stingey interior defense? Both squads are looking to turn last year's PI appearances into NT spots this season, and this game could go a long way to determining that.
The line: Shenandoah +4.
Averett (8-0, 3) @ Carthage (2-6, 53)
Averett holds the highest RPI ranking among the two conferences at #3 and has been very impressive doing it. Early "experts" mocked Averett's preseason #2 ranking, but coach Zack has quieted the critics with an undefeated start that includes wins over Skidmore and MBBC. Jonathon Bailey might be the best player in the conference this season. Carthage, on the other hand, has been coming up just short against a very tough schedule. The team is very talented, but this doesn't look like the game for them to turn it around.
The line: Averett +10.
North Park (8-0, 38) @ Piedmont (6-2, 78)
Coach garger brings a senior heavy squad into this year's tourney, but the schedule has been a little suspect. Piedmont has also matched up against a light schedule thus far, but it's hard to discount a veteran coach like windixies. Piedmont's ability to slow down Judson Stoneburner on the outside could decide this one.
The line: North Park +1.
North Carolina Wesleyan 8-0, 49) @ Elmhurst (6-2, 8)
The prime time matchup features perennial contenders NCWC and Elmhurst. NCWC is coming off three straight seasons of at least a top 10 RPI and sweet sixteen birth, while Elmhurst has reached at least the sweet sixteen 3 of the past 4 seasons, including a national title that helped shift away the total dominance of power from the big four. Elmhurst has been extremely impressive navigating it's early top of the line schedule and fully deserve the high rpi mark. NCWC's schedule has been weak, leaving some to wonder how good they are. No one questions the talent, but can they play with the top teams? The seeding committee will be watching this one closely.
The line: NCWC +5.