Who solidifies their case for a NCAA bid? Who makes an improbable run through the conference tournament to earn a bid? We've already seen on team get an automatic bid in their first year of eligibility in Northern Kentucky. I'm looking for Northwestern to make a run in the Big Ten tournament and put to rest the doubts about whether they will earn a bid for the first time in school history. What other drama is ahead? Let's hope a lot.
ACC 3/7-3/11 Brooklyn, NY
In a "year for the ages," it can't be understated that UNC won the league by two games. While the Heels closed out the toughest homestretch in college basketball with a 6-2 record (4-2 vs top-25), it's still a tournament you could see 6 teams winning. The quarterfinals pit Louisville against Duke, and Notre Dame against Virginia. The quarterfinals! A one seed is likely on the line for whomever wins the tournament.
Big XII 3/8-3/11 Kansas City, MO
West Virginia and Baylor set their sights on taking down Kansas, but that's a tall task. Senior Frank Mason provides the leadership and freshman Josh Jackson provides the extra pop on offense. Oklahoma State's guard play could be a factor in the tournament, but they have to survive Iowa State first. Their offense is great, but their lack of defense loses them too many games.
Big East 3/8-3/11 New York City, NY
According to ESPN analysis, Villanova has a 70% chance to win the conference tournament. I'm not sure if it's THAT high of a probability, but they are great... again (still). Nova dropped three games in conference play. Two of those were to Butler. The Bulldogs need to figure out how to beat Creighton, in order to get a 3rd shot at Nova.
PAC-12 3/8-3/11 Las Vegas, NV
Could we just fast forward to the semifinals of this one? Assuming all goes "chalk," Arizona will face UCLA in what could be the best game of the week nationally. It would be the rubber game of that series. In the final, who doesn't want to see Dillon Brooks (Oregon) vs Lonzo Ball (UCLA)? I expect by the end of the NCAA tournament EVERYONE will be talking about Lonzo Ball.
American East 3/1-3/11 @highest seed
The conference tournament final pits #1 seed Vermont against #3 seed Albany. The Vermont Catamounts were 18-0 in conference play, counting the tournamnet. The Cats handled the Great Danes by double digits twice.
Big Sky 3/7-3/11 Reno, NV
The obvious interest locally for this tournament is whether #1 seed North Dakota can win the title. That frees up another potential at-large bid in the NIT that could go to UNC Asheville. Eastern Washington has the conference Player of the Year in Jacob Wiley. He's scored 30-plus seven times since mid-January. He trails teammate Bogdan Bliznyuk in scoring, shockingly enough.
Prediction: Eastern Washington
Did ETSU Just Knock The Bulldogs Out of The NIT?
Big West 3/9-3/11 Anaheim, CA
UC-Irvine holds opponents to just 65 ppg, on average. That ranks them in the top 35 in the nation. They have held opponents to 58 or fewer 13 times. The problem for them? Two of those games were losses. The Anteaters' offense ranks in the bottom 10 in the country. Cal State- Fullerton is the most balanced team in the league, and led by guards. Those are two key pieces to winning in the postseason.
Conference USA 3/8-3/11 Birmingham, AL
Teams on the bubble are praying that Middle Tennessee State doesn't lay an egg in the tournament, because they are in line for an at-large bid if they do. The only slip-up for MTSU was against UTEP. All but four of their 17 conference wins were by double digits. JaCorey Williams turned in 11 double-doubles, averages 17.5 ppg and 7.5 rebounds. LA Tech's Erik McCree puts up similar numbers, giving the 2-seed a chance to ruin someone's Selection Sunday.
Prediction: Middle Tennessee St.
MAC 3/9-3/11 Cleveland, OH
Top-seeded Akron limps into the tournament, having lost three of its final five games in the regular season. Despite that, they still won the league by three games. Ball State's Taylor Persons is averaging 21 ppg in his last five, including two 30-plus performances. Western Michigan won nine straight before the tourney. Thomas Wilder scores nearly 20 per for the Broncos and shoots 42% from three-point range.
Prediction: Western Michigan
MEAC 3/6-3/11 Norfolk, VA
Norfolk St. and NC Central have outstanding senior guards in Jonathan Wade (NSU) and Patrick Cole (NCCU), both averaging around 20 a night. They are the only teams in the conference above .500. Norfolk plays the tournament at home.
Prediction: Norfolk St.
Mtn. West 3/8-3/11 Las Vegas, NV
#1 seed Nevada is led by senior guard Marcus Marshall (19.7 ppg) and has a top-50 offense that has not scored under 80 in four games. Sophomore guard Jordan Caroline grabs nearly 10 boards per outing and adds 14 points to his stat line. Fresno State swept Nevada in the regualr season, and that's their likely semifinal match-up. Their last meeting, however, was January 21st. It's tough to beat a team three times in a year.
SWAC 3/7-3/11 @highest seed
Texas Southern has swept all teams that are left in the tournament. They've also beaten them all by double digits, at least once. Guards Zach Lofton and Demontrae Jefferson can take over games. Forward Derrick Griffin averages a double-double.
Prediction: Texas Southern
WAC 3/9-3/11 Las Vegas, NV
With Grand Canyon still a year from postseason eligibility, Cal State- Bakersfield seems to be the overwhelming favorite. CSB has around 20-point wins over its closest competition, New Mexico St. and UM-Kansas City.
Prediction: Cal State- Bakersfield
Big Ten 3/8-3/12 Washington, DC
Wisconsin's postseason prospects are tough to figure. Despite being the 2-seed, they lost five of their last seven. Their top-10 defense played well in losses to Michigan, Northwestern, and Iowa, but the offense could score enough. The Badgers shot 42% from the field in that seven-game stretch. Maryland still feels like a disappointment after two years of high hopes. Minnesota and head coach Richard Pitino (pictured above), and Northwestern would be my biggest fears, if I were #1 seed Purdue. Caleb Swanigan and company are the only "for real" team in the league. For example: Lost to Villanova by 3, beat Notre Dame, and lost to Louisville by just 8 (it was a 4-point game in the last 30 seconds).
SEC 3/8-3/12 Nashville, TN
Kentucky's young stars are playing better together late in the year, which means trouble for everyone else. It is a little reminiscent of 2014, when a young crew of Wildcats entered the NCAA tournament as an 8-seed and almost won it all. Of course, this team is, and has been, better all year than that team was. A well-balanced Florida team stands in the way. The Gators beat UK by 22 earlier in the year. Can they do it again?
AAC 3/9-3/12 New Orleans, LA
Semi Ojeleye is shooting well for SMU. He's hit 3 or more three-pointers in 5 of his last 7 games, and 55% from the floor over that stretch. The Mustangs allow less than 60 ppg! As SMU ranks 3rd in the nation in points allowed, 2-seed Cincinnati is ranked 4th (60.2 ppg). In their last three games, opponents have been held under 50.
Prediction: SMU (barely)
A-10 3/8-3/12 Pittsburgh, PA
What better way to cap off his career at Dayton than for Archie Miller to lead his team to a sweep of the regular season and conference tournament titles. There is a 0% chance he returns next year. Of course, the sam goes for Will Wade at VCU. Between Dayton, VCU, and Rhode Island, Saturday and Sunday should be great, must-see basketball.
Ivy League 3/11-3/12 Philadelphia, PA
It's the first Ivy League tournament ever. Prior to this, the league's bid into the NCAA tournament went to the regular season champion. Only four teams made the tournament. Princeton was 14-0 in conference play and has played several close games with tournament contenders Cal, VCU, Monmouth, and Lehigh.
Southland 3/8-3/12 Katy, TX
This is the conference that has brought us thrills from Stephen F. Austin so many times. Houston Baptist is the hottest team in the conference this year, though. They won 9 in a row coming into the tournament. New Orleans and Texas A&M- Corpus Christi are solid at their level as well. UNO has conference Player of the Year Erik Thomas, who averages nearly 20 ppg, 8 rebounds, and makes 60% of his shots. That's a tiebreaker.
Prediction: New Orleans
Sun Belt 3/8-3/12 New Orleans, LA
UT- Arlington won the league by two games, beat St. Mary's and Mt. St. Mary's, Texas, and barely lost to Arkansas. Not bad for a team you rarely hear about. If they survive Coastal Carolina on Friday, they should win-out. However, Texas St. and Kavin Gilder-Tillbury - who is shooting lights out from three-point range lately - could surprise folks.
Prediction: UT- Arlington