After a long regular season we have finally hit March, and that means conference tournaments have officially begun. Most of the bigger conferences still have a few games left on the schedule, but for a few of the 1 bid leagues its playoff time and win or go home mode is activated.
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This article is going to be a crash course on everything you need to know about some of the upcoming conference tournaments that are beginning this week and will highlight a few teams and players you want to be familiar with before the big dance officially begins.
Semis March 7th, Finals March 10th – Higher seed hosts all games
Top Seeds – Lipscomb 14-2, Liberty 14-2
1st Rd March 5th, Quarters March 7th, Semis March 8th, Finals March 10th – Higher seed hosts
Top Seeds – Radford 12-4, Campbell 12-4
Quarters March 5th/6th, Semis March 11th, Finals March 12th – Higher seed hosts quarters, Semis/finals in Detroit
Top Seeds – Northern Kentucky 13-5, Wright St 13-5
1st Rd March 7th, Quarters March 8th/9th, Semis March 10th, Finals March 11th – Albany, NY
Top Seeds – Iona 12-6, 4 teams 11-7
1st Rd March 7th, Quarters March 8th, Semis March 9th, Finals March 10th – St Louis
Top Seeds – Drake 12-6, Loyola Chi 12-6
Quarters March 6th, Semis March 9th, Finals March 12th – Higher seed hosts all games
Top Seeds – Fairleigh Dickinson 12-6, St Francis (PA) 12-6
1st Rd March 6th, Quarters March 7th, Semis March 8th, Finals March 9th – Evansville, IN
Top Seeds – Belmont 16-2, Murray St 16-2
1st Rd March 5th, Quarters March 7th, Semis March 10th, Finals March 13th – Higher seed hosts all games
Top Seeds – Colgate 13-5, Bucknell 13-5
1st Rd March 8th, Quarters March 9th, Semis March 10th, Finals March 11th – Asheville, NC
Top Seeds – Wofford 18-0, UNCG 15-3
1st Rd March 7th, 2nd Rd March 8th, Quarters March 9th, Semis March 11th, Finals March 12th – Las Vegas
Top Seeds – Gonzaga 16-0, St Mary’s 11-5
As you can see we have a lot of basketball on tap with all these tournaments beginning, and its important to note what each conferences format is in terms of how their bracket is structured. It is a huge advantage to be playing at home in some of these games, while other conferences have chosen a “neutral” site where everyone will be playing. Let’s jump into some conferences and see what we have upcoming:
Biggest Favorite – Gonzaga (West Coast Conference) – The Zags are 16-0 in conference play and really weren’t tested at all during the stretch. They did not have a single conference game that was within double digits, and there doesn’t seem to be a team that has the talent to remotely challenge them this year. The tourney is in Vegas so no advantage in terms of home court for any team and that makes it even harder for someone to upset Gonzaga here. They are going to be massive favorites against the entire field to take down this conference and are the biggest lock of any team in any conference to grab the automatic bid.
Most Wide Open Conference – Missouri Valley – The Missouri Valley conference has produced some Cinderella March Madness teams over the years, but his year the conference is a jumbled mess. We have Drake and Loyola at the top both at 12-6, but as we scan down we see only 3 games separated them from the #7 Seed in Illinois St. This shows the parity the conference has and with every team accruing at least 6 losses we could see some fireworks in St Louis.
Loyola was the darlings of the tournament last year with their impressive run and they certainly have the talent to get to the big dance again, but the parity during the year showed there is no clear favorite in this one. All games are being played in St Louis so some minor advantages here and there, but nothing I factor in too much when breaking down these games. It is important to note the format of this is 0 days off so teams are going to be forced to play 3 or 4 straight games if they make a run to the finals.
Best Longshot – Illinois St +1400 to win (Missouri Valley Conference)
Illinois State sits at 9-9 in the MVC conference which put them at the #7 seed and forces them to play in the opening game. This is certainly concerning since the MVC has 4 straight days of games and fatigue could come into play for a team that is forced to play in the opening round instead of getting a bye. Besides a bad draw everything else to me is positive in that Illinois St has experience and the talent to beat anyone in this conference. To prove that point they swept Drake this year and beat Loyola who are the two favorites in the conference so again it speaks to how wide open this tournament will be.
Illinois St ~ +1400 to win the MVC is a pretty enticing spot for me as I truly think they are just as good as the top seeds and it will just be a matter of them executing for 4 straight days. They should get out of the gate fine against Evansville and from there they get the #2 seed in Drake who as I mentioned they’ve already beaten twice this year. Keep an eye on how this MVC conference unfolds as it is a perfect scenario for a relatively unknown team to make a run and who better to do that then Illinois St.
Best Player you may have never heard of – Chris Clemons – Campbell (Big South)
I am not sure how much Campbell Fighting Camel basketball you watched this year, but most likely the answer is 0. If that’s the case then you should try and catch them during their conference tournament for no other reason than watching their all world guard in Chris Clemons. The 5-9 Clemons leads the entire country in PPG at 30.1 and is moving up the record books with each game he plays and he has a chance to finish 5th all time in career points for a college player. He has beyond a green light and is a problem for every single team Campbell faces due to his scoring abilities. Campbell tied Radford at 12-4 in the regular season so it’s certainly a possibility we see Clemons carry them to a NCAA tournament bid which would be a great storyline going forward.
Since things are a few days out we aren’t sure which games will be included in the DFS slate, but if you see Clemons and Campbell listed I would recommend plugging him in despite the lofty price tag.
Best Team you may have never heard of – Wofford – (Southern)
One of the best things about these early conference tournaments is that we know basically every league is only going to be sending the one auto bid to the NCAA tournament, making the games that much more intense. However the Wofford Terriers sit atop the Southern conference at 18-0 and 26-4 overall, and they are no joke. Their losses this year have come against UNC, Miss St, Oklahoma and Kansas so they really do not have an ugly L on the resume. They have broken into the top 25 and sit 22nd nationally as they head into their conference tournament. The Terriers are led by sharpshooter Fletcher Magee and are an incredibly dangerous team to whoever they draw in the tournament with the way they can score.
If Wofford gets upset you are going to have a fascinating debate about whether they are going to be an at large bid and that would cause the Southern conference to have 2 teams going to the dance. I personally think they are in no matter what they do in the conference tourney, but I’m sure they don’t want to leave anything to chance and will be all in to keep the winning stream going and take home the trophy.
If you have any questions find me in the sports betting channel on the Awesemo.com premium slack chat or @JazzrazDFS on twitter.