Its only been one week of conference tournaments, but March hasn’t disappointed so far. There have been a string of big upsets already and that means we are going to see some outrageous teams taking on the big boys in a few weeks once the brackets are released. After a nice warmup we are set to begin conference tournaments for all the major conferences which will take us right up till selection Sunday at the end of this week.
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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.
1st Rd March 12th, 2nd Rd March 13th, Quarters March 14th, Semis March 15th, Finals March 16th – Charlotte, NC
Top Seeds – Virginia 16-2, UNC 16-2
1st Rd March 13th, Quarters March 14th, Semis March 15th, Finals March 16th – Kansas City, MO
Top Seeds – Texas Tech 14-4, KSU 14-4
1st Rd March 13th, 2nd Rd March 14th, Quarters March 15th, Semis March 16th, Finals March 17th – Chicago
Top Seeds – Michigan St 16-4, Purdue 16-4
1st Rd March 13th, Quarters March 14th, Semis March 15th, Finals March 16th – New York, NY
Top Seeds – Villanova 13-5, Marquette 12-6
1st Rd March 13th, Quarters March 14th, Semis March 15th, Finals March 16th – Las Vegas, NV
Top Seeds – Washington 15-3, Arizona St 12-6
1st Rd March 13th, 2nd Rd March 14th, Quarters March 15th, Semis March 16th, Finals March 17th – Nashville
Top Seeds – LSU 16-2, Kentucky 15-3, Tenn. 15-3
1st Rd March 14th, Quarters March 15th, Semis March 16th, Finals March 17th – Memphis, TN
Top Seeds – Houston 16-2, Cincinnati 14-4
The list above is only showing the big name conferences as we also have a bunch more mid major and smaller school tournaments set to begin this week. While the big name conferences will get most of the buzz, the smaller 1 bid leagues are still worth checking out and keeping an eye on.
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Best Top Seed – Virginia (ACC) – There isn’t a Gonzaga like situation with the marquee conferences as every single top seed will be tested this week. Virginia has been swept by Duke, but hasn’t lost to anyone else this year, and like always they have a stingy defense to go along with their methodical tempo on offense. The ACC has talent top to bottom, but Duke, UNC and Virginia seem to be the cream of the crop and its certainly possible you see two of those three in the finals. Virginia to me is the most complete team in the country and even with Zion back I would certainly favor them in another matchup against Duke down the road. Currently the Cavaliers sit atop the odds at around +150 to win the ACC tournament which doesn’t scream great value to me even though I do think they are the team to beat in the ACC.
Most Wide Open Conference – Pac 12 – You can make a case for a lot of conferences being wide open with some deep leagues this year, but the Pac 12 is truly wide open even though its not for the best reasons. This conference is flat out bad and they are seriously flirting with being a one bid league which is something I’d never thought we would see out of the Pac-12. Washington surged to the top of the standings and never looked back and clearly looks like the best team in the entire league. However Washington has certainly come down to earth after a great start, and they recently lost to Cal who was 0-15 in the conference which shows how backwards this conference is. Arizona St. has plenty of talent, but they’re another team who has some head scratching results when you look over their regular season. From there it’s even uglier with teams like Utah, Oregon and Colorado all potential threats, but also with major question marks of their own. In terms of odds you have Washington as the favorite coming in at +250 followed by Oregon and Arizona St. both sitting around +500.
If I had to take a shot here, I would lean towards Arizona St. as they truly have the talent to beat anybody. For them, its more about executing and limiting mistakes. Dort is a possible one and done player and they have talented bigs which present problems for a lot of teams in the conference. Washington matches up well against them IMO with their ability to play tough zone defense, but we’ve seen Arizona St get the better of them (Was @ ASU) so I have no fears they can cut down the nets in Vegas at a decent 5/1 price.
Best Longshot – Xavier +1000 to win (Big East)
Unlike some of the smaller conferences its hard to imagine a true bottom dweller getting thru the gauntlet of having to win four or five straight days against top flight competition. There are some reasonable numbers out there for teams in the middle of the pack, and Xavier is worth a look in the Big East. Its hasn’t been a great year for the Musketeers, but they found form late winning six out of seven to close the year including a win vs Villanova. Xavier gets a bye in the first round and then gets Creighton who they split their two meetings with during the year. If they can get through that test, they will most likely get Villanova who is obviously a favorite, but as I just mentioned Xavier already beat them this year. This team is peaking at the right time and although they aren’t the most talented of the bunch, I could see them making a run in a conference where a ton of teams are capable of cutting down the nets.
Best Player you may have never heard of – Shizz Alston – Temple (American)
Most of the top players in all these conferences are well known by College Bball fans and I’m sure Shizz Alston isn’t a completely unknown name. However he doesn’t get a ton of buzz because Temple isn’t that good and the American conference isn’t one of the premier that we have. Temple has been fighting for their tourney lives and a gigantic win against UCF seems to have gotten them on the right side of the bubble heading into tournament play. Alston is a senior guard who lead the team with just under 20 PPG and down the stretch has really upped his game as he comes in with seven straight 20+ point games. He is automatic from the line which is huge for these late game situations and really is the key for Temple if they are going to make a run in March. There are a ton of quality players out there, but I could envision Alston engineering an upset in the tournament for a very dangerous Temple Owls team with his ability to get hot and rack up the points.
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