Never too late to scout college hoops

Two weeks and counting before the hysteria begins.

That’s when the madness engulfs the nation for Division I college basketball and bracketeers sort out their locks as opposed to their Cinderellas.

A slew of conference tournaments will not only reveal its share of surprises but also provide momentum for programs ranked in the higher tier as Selection Sunday arrives on March 17.

From that point, it’s game on as the field of 68 is announced.

For the time being, several questions remain as the regular season winds down.

One local product is attempting to help lead his school into the Big Dance. At 11.9 points per game, former Parkersburg South standout Chase Fieler is the third leading scorer for a Florida Gulf Coast squad which sits one-half game behind Mercer for first place in the Atlantic Sun Conference.

The Eagles own a record of 19-9 and 11-4 in the conference, while Mercer is 18-9 and 11-3 in the league. Of the three remaining league games for FGCU, a home date with Mercer awaits next Thursday.

In addition to having a team-high 47 dunks, Fieler is averaging 5.3 rebounds while scoring in double figures in 12 out of a possible 15 Atlantic Sun contests.

For the Bobcats from Ohio, the next five days will decide much about their fate in terms of a national scope and within the East Division of the Mid-American Conference.

On Saturday, Ohio travels to Nashville, Tenn., to battle Belmont for a 10 p.m. tipoff. The game will be televised on ESPN2 as part of the Ramada Worldwide BracketBusters event.

Four days later on Wednesday, the Bobcats enter pivotal territory when its plays host to East Division-leading Akron. After dismantling Eastern Michigan, 73-50, this past Wednesday, Ohio stands at 20-6 and 11-1 in divisional play. Akron tops the list at 21-4 and 12-0 in the league.

Don’t discount these same Bobcats who advanced to last year’s NCAA’s Sweet 16. Currently, they have won 12 of their past 13 games, including five straight under first-year head coach Jim Christian.

Throw in the fact that I’m always partial to point guards – a position I relished in junior high before I became vertically challenged at the high school level. Ohio boasts one of the more electric playmakers in D.J. Cooper, so anything’s possible.

Ohio Bobcat transplant John Groce is doing his best to keep the Fighting Illini afloat in the Big Ten Conference standings in his first season with the program. Since opening conference play 2-7, Illinois has won five straight against league opponents and improved to 20-8 overall.

In case you missed it, the five-game stretch began with a 74-72 win against No. 1-ranked Indiana at Assembly Hall in Champaign, Ill.

Televised on ESPN and the score tied at 72, Illinois’ Tyler Griffey received an inbounds pass from Brandon Paul and made a wide-open layup with 0.9 seconds remaining in regulation.

Just a sampling of what’s ahead as March arrives.

Contact Kerry Patrick at