Conference Tournament Preview Week 2: Majors

Conference Tournament Preview Week 2: Majors


Conference Tournament Preview Week 2: Majors


<![CDATA[The second week of Conference Tournament action is upon us. The 12 remaining Mid-Major conferences and the 6 Major conferences will enter Tournament play for the right to earn an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. This year's field is oriented towards the major conferences as very few Mid-Major leagues have a top-end team capable of earning an At-Large bid. The bubble right now is comprised mostly of mediocre major conference teams and Conference Tournament play will be a huge factor in determining which teams ultimately earn the last few spots in the Field of 68. With the first set of tournaments drawing to a close, stay up to date on who has locked up their place in the field with my Conference Tournament Tracker. Also, if you’re so inclined, check out my projected NCAA Tournament Bracket.


March 9-12

Top Seeds: SMU, Cincinnati

Sleeper: UConn

Tournament Format: All 11 teams qualify. The bottom 6 play in 3 play-in games followed by a normal bracket.

Recent History: The Committee treated the AAC like a mid-major conference in the first two years of its existence but altered their thinking last year as both Temple and Tulsa received at-large bids with RPIs above 50.

Preview: SMU and Cincinnati dominated conference play this season and both finished with 27-4 overall records and a head-to-head split. SMU got the top seed due to Cincinnati losing at UCF (who closed the season on a 5-game winning streak). Both SMU and Cincinnati should feel secure about their spots in the 68-team field. If the Committee views the AAC this year in a similar manner to last year, that could bode well for third place Houston. That said, despite decent computer numbers the Cougars lack a Top 25 win and have 3 losses to sub-100 teams. The name of the game in the AAC is defense with SMU, Cincinnati, and UCF all holding opponents under 61 points per game. SMU has been led by Duke transfer Semi Ojeleye (18.5 PPG) while Houston boasts two of the top 4 scorers in the league in Rob Gray, Jr (20.3 PPG) and Damyean Dotson (17.4 PPG). UConn was highly ranked at the beginning of the season but the talent never materialized into success for the Huskies and they finished in the middle of the pack. That said, UConn won the tournament last year from the 5-seed and has appeared in all 3 AAC Championship Games since the conference was formed in 2014.


March 7-11

Top Seeds: North Carolina, Florida St

Sleeper: Miami

Tournament Format: All 15 teams qualify. The top 4 seeds get double byes to the quarterfinals. The bottom 6 teams play in 3 play-in games in the first round.

Recent History: One of the top 3 seeds has won the ACC Tournament in each of the last 9 years. A different team has won the ACC Tournament in each of the last 6 years. The last team to repeat as Champions was Duke who won 3 straight from 2009-2011. North Carolina has reached the ACC Championship Game in 5 of the last 6 years. Either UNC or Duke has played in the ACC Championship in 20 straight years. If you add Wake Forest to that list the last ACC Championship Game that did not feature UNC, Duke or Wake was in 1990 (Georgia Tech vs Virginia).

Preview: North Carolina won the regular season title by two games and is solidly in line for a #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament regardless of what happens in Brooklyn. Florida St, Notre Dame, and Louisville finished in a 3-way tie for second place. The ACC was an absolute murderer’s row this season with only three teams (UNC, Notre Dame, and Virginia) finishing above .500 on the road. Of the top 10 teams in the league, only Virginia lost more than 3 home games all season. The ACC is loaded with talent and with good teams and could get as many as 10 teams into the NCAA Tournament on Selection Sunday. North Carolina, Louisville, Florida St, Duke, Notre Dame, and Virginia should all see their names come up within the top 5 seed lines while Miami and Virginia Tech will be in the middle of the pack. Wake Forest and Syracuse are both hovering right around the bubble and will need to do some work in Brooklyn to prove they are capable of winning games away from home.

Big East

New York
March 8-11

Top Seeds: Villanova, Butler

Sleeper: Seton Hall

Tournament Format: 10 teams with 2 play-in games followed by a normal bracket

Recent History: Villanova has been the #1 seed in all four Big East Tournaments since the conference split but a different team has won the Tournament each year. Both of Villanova’s losses in the Big East Tournaments were to Seton Hall.

Preview: Villanova is the defending National Champions and didn’t do anything this year to hinder their chances at a repeat. The Wildcats rattled off a 28-3 record with their only losses coming in a sweep by Butler and a loss at Marquette. Villanova is solidly in line for a #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament and possibly the #1 overall seed. Providence, Marquette, Creighton, and Seton Hall finished in a 4-way tie for third place. Creighton and Xavier are interesting cases as their seasons both took a hit due to point guard injuries. The Blue Jays lost point guard Mo Watson for the season in mid-January and Xavier lost Edmond Sumner at the end of January. Xavier had lost 6 in a row prior to beating DePaul in the season finale. The Musketeers will need to beat DePaul again in the first round of the Big East Tournament in order to not torpedo their NCAA Tournament chances. Marquette is the top 3-point shooting team in the nation at 43% which makes the Eagles dangerous if they get hot this week. Providence is the hottest team in the conference, winners of 6 straight entering Tournament play. The Big East could get as many as 7 teams into the NCAA Tournament and Villanova, Butler, Creighton, and Seton Hall should feel relatively safe heading into Selection Sunday. Providence, Marquette, and Xavier may be sweating it out but have some good wins at the top of their profiles that will keep them in the conversation.

Big Ten

Washington, DC
March 8-12

Top Seeds: Purdue, Wisconsin

Sleeper: Iowa

Tournament Format: All 14 teams qualify. The top 4 seeds get byes to the quarterfinals. The bottom 4 teams play in 2 play-in games in the first round.

Recent History: One of the top 3 seeds has won the Big Ten Tournament each of the last 9 years. Only once in the last 9 years has a team other than Michigan State, Wisconsin, or Ohio State won the Big Ten Tournament (Purdue in 2009).

Preview: 2017 was a bizarre year in the Big Ten. The top teams in the conference all played terrible non-conference schedules and failed to win big games in non-conference play which resulted in lower-profile resumes for most of the Big Ten teams. Regular season champion Purdue has the league’s highest RPI at 18 and only 3 teams rank in the Top 30 of the RPI. Purdue’s Caleb Swanigan is a National Player of the Year candidate, averaging 18.7 PPG and 12.6 RPG. Minnesota has been quietly consistent and Richard Pitino’s team could be in line for a surprisingly high seed in the NCAA Tournament. Wisconsin, Maryland, Michigan, and Northwestern all have similar profiles with 4 Top 50 wins and double-digit Top 100 wins but 3 or 4 losses outside the Top 50. Northwestern is the story of the year in the Big Ten as the Wildcats have played their way into position to earn their first trip to the NCAA Tournament in school history. Iowa, Illinois, and Indiana are all hovering around the bubble but will all need to make some noise in the Big Ten Tournament if they want to catch the Committee’s eye. Iowa is the hottest team in the league, winners of their last 4 including victories over Maryland and Wisconsin.


Kansas City
March 8-11

Top Seeds: Kansas, West Virginia

Sleeper: Kansas State

Tournament Format: All 10 teams qualify with 2 play-in games before the normal bracket.

Recent History: Another year, another Big XII regular season title for Kansas. That makes 13 in a row for the Jayhawks. Kansas has won 7 of the last 11 Big XII Tournaments with the only other champions being Missouri and Iowa State.

Preview: Kansas won the conference by 4 games over a 3-way tie between West Virginia, Baylor, and Iowa State. The Jayhawks feature National Player of the Year candidate Frank Mason (20.5 PPG, 5.1 APG) and a stellar freshman in Josh Jackson who will be an NBA lottery pick. The Big XII has plenty of capable offensive teams as Kansas, West Virignia, Iowa State, and Oklahoma State all average over 80 points per game.  On the other end, Baylor is the stingiest defensive team, allowing just 62.5 PPG. “Press Virginia” is a matchup nightmare in a short turnaround format like a conference tournament as their full-court pressure enabled the Mountaineers to lead the nation in steals at 10.9 per game. Kansas will be a #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament and is in contention for the #1 overall seed. Baylor will likely find themselves on the 2-seed line with West Virginia landing somewhere between the 3 and 5 lines. Iowa State and Oklahoma State should feel fairly comfortable about their positions while Kansas State enters the Big XII Tournament squarely on the bubble.


Las Vegas
March 8-11

Top Seeds:  Oregon, Arizona

Sleeper: Colorado

Tournament Format: All 12 teams qualify with the Top 4 receiving byes to the quarterfinals

Recent History: Oregon, Arizona and UCLA have all won the tournament in the last 4 years.

Preview: Oregon and Arizona tied for the regular season title with UCLA finishing just a game behind. All 3 teams have stellar resumes and should wind up on the top 4 seed lines on Selection Sunday. UCLA is the hottest team in the conference, winners of 9 in a row including a come-from-behind victory over Oregon and a win over Arizona. Freshman PG Lonzo Ball leads the nation in assists at 7.8 per game and is the catalyst for UCLA’s offense that leads the nation in scoring at 91.3 PPG. Oregon’s Dillon Brooks has battled injuries all season but is one of the most talented players in the nation and capable of carrying the Ducks deep into March. Arizona is a bit of a hard team to gauge as their 4 losses came against their top 4 opponents but the Wildcats did not lose a game to a team ranked outside the Top 20. USC has 2 good wins this season over UCLA and SMU which the Trojans will need to hope will be enough to carry them to an at-large bid on Selection Sunday. However, their situation is precarious as they played a mediocre non-conference schedule and don’t have the volume of good wins that many other teams possess. California and Utah have both been seen on bracket projections but frankly don’t belong there. The Bears and Utes both have just 1 Top 50 win and 4 losses outside the Top 50. Colorado started the season cold but went on a bit of a run towards the end of the season, winning 8 of their last 11.


March 8-12

Top Seeds: Kentucky, Florida

Sleeper: Vanderbilt

Tournament Format: All 14 teams qualify. The top 4 seeds get byes to the quarterfinals. The bottom 4 teams play in 2 play-in games in the first round.

Recent History: One of the top 3 seeds has won the SEC Tournament in 7 straight years. Kentucky is the 2-time defending champions.

Preview: Kentucky and Florida were head and shoulders better than the rest of the SEC this season. The teams split their head-to-head meetings but Florida’s sweep at the hands of Vanderbilt gave Kentucky a 2-game edge in the conference standings. Kentucky enters the postseason winners of 8 straight and averaging nearly 87 points per game. Both Kentucky and Florida should see their names appear on the top four seed lines on Selection Sunday. Beyond that, South Carolina should be safely in the field while Arkansas and Vanderbilt are hovering around the bubble. Ole Miss and Georgia would need something drastic to happen in order to get into the NCAA Tournament. Kentucky freshman Malik Monk and South Carolina’s Sindarius Thornwell led the conference in scoring at 21.2 PPG.


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