Daily Sports: Monday Night Showdown In San Antonio

Its conference tournament week in college basketball and five championship games are on tap tonight, including one involving #1-ranked Gonzaga. But unless you’re a fan of one of the small-conference teams playing for their NCAA lives, the biggest action tonight is still in the NBA. The top spot in the Western Conference is on the line when Oklahoma City visits San Antonio (8:30 PM ET, NBA-TV).

The Spurs are playing without Tony Parker right now, though the point guard will be back in time for the playoffs. They have to hope that a combination of homecourt and a potentially tired OkC team can make up the talent gap. The Thunder won a competitive game yesterday with Boston and now have to immediately turn around and play what might be their biggest game between now and the playoffs. San Antonio comes into the game a slight two-point favorite.

Spurs-Thunder is one of two big games in the pros on Monday night. New York pays a visit to Golden State, a rematch of a game a couple weeks ago when Golden State’s Stephen Curry lit up MSG for 54 points, but the Knicks survived with a win. Golden State was playing without power forward David Lee that night. Lee, one of the best in the game, was suspended for a fight in Indiana. Now Golden State has its full roster, while Carmelo Anthony’s availability is a question mark for the Knicks. Golden State is 2 ½ games ahead in the race to hold on for the playoffs, and New York is only plus a half-game on Indiana for the two-seed in the East. The Warriors come in as a three-point favorite on their home floor.

Golden State’s lead in the playoff standings—along with Houston’s—as now over Utah, as the Lakers have replaced the Jazz in the 8-spot in the Western Conference. I’ll refer you over to Jeff Fogle’s Stat Intelligence blog, where he’s broken down the upcoming schedule to see how this race is going to shake out.

Now on to college hoops. I really can’t excited over Gonzaga-St. Mary’s (9 PM ET, ESPN) tonight for the West Coast Conference tournament title. The Zags are going to be a 1-seed regardless, and even if a loss knocked them off the top line I don’t think it really matters. I think St. Mary’s has its bid wrapped up. This game might have been interesting had BYU come through the bottom half of the bracket as the opponent for Gonzaga—the Cougars were unlikely to be an at-large and had shown they could at least play competitively with the Zags. But BYU poured more dirt on its grave with an early loss to San Diego.

There are four more games that are winner-take-all for NCAA bids, with no at-large cushion for the losers. Three games go at 7 PM ET. Northeastern-James Madison play for the Colonial title on the NBC Sports Network. This is a league that’s been decimated by the loss of Virginia Commonwealth and the collapse of Old Dominion. Davidson meets the College of Charleston in the Southern Conference final on ESPN2.  Undoubtedly Stephen Curry will take a peek at a score to see how his alma mater in Davidson is faring. And the Sun Belt bid will be settled on ESPN by Florida International and Western Kentucky. Then at 9 PM ET, opposite the Gonzaga-St. Mary’s telecast, will be the MAAC final of Iona-Manhattan on ESPN2. Iona got in as an at-large last year, but they shouldn’t expect the same mercy this time around.

I’ll be podcasting this afternoon at 4 PM ET with Greg DePalma of Prime Sports Network. Our projections for the field of 68 will be the prime topic and there will be plenty of discussion about these championship games going tonight. And tomorrow TheSportsNotebook’s college basketball coverage will look at what’s on the line in the power conference tournaments.

It’s a very quiet night in hockey, with Boston-Ottawa being the only notable game and it not picked up by any national outlet. The Bruins were featured here yesterday as part of TheSportsNotebook’s NHL analysis, as they and rival Montreal joust for position in the Northeast Division.