This week begins major conference tournament play. At the end of this week, the field of 68 will be determined and brackets will be filled out. Other than the first week in April, this is the biggest week of the season for many teams. Here is a cheat sheet for major conference tournaments, as well as a few mid-major conferences
The Seminoles secured the number one seed in the ACC. They should easily advance to the semifinals where they should get a rematch with Duke. It seems like the winner of that matchup has the inside track at the title and Florida State played Duke to a near draw in Cameron. Now, on a “neutral-ish” site, the Seminoles might be able to squeak this one out.
Virginia also deserves some legitimate play here. They are the hottest team in the country and are playing great basketball.
The Tar Heels were expected to be a top-four seed in March Madness. After injuries and poor play they are the worst team in the ACC. Now, the only chance for Cole Anthony to reach the big dance is to go “Cardiac Kemba”. Fortunately for Tar Heel fans, he is well aware of that feat. In all seriousness, UNC has started to really score, averaging over 80 points per game in their last five. That will need to continue. Obviously winning the ACC is a long shot, but not impossible.
No one wanted the regular season ACC crown, outside of maybe Virginia. Duke, Florida State, and Louisville all controlled their own destiny over the last 2 weeks and suffered unspeakable losses. They seem to have at least righted the ship partially, but all should be placed on upset watch, especially since they are the only three with firm spots in March Madness.
The Cougars have been the best team in the conference all year and it has not been close. Kelvin Sampson has been nothing short of a superhero during his tenure as Houston head coach and that will continue. Houston is securely in the field of 68, but they have a chance to possibly secure a protected seed if some power conference teams sputter.
The Bearcats have a veteran team. They went through some early growing pains this year with a new coaching staff, but they have straightened most of the problems out. Now, they hope Jarron Cumberland can carry them to a berth in the NCAA tournament. Even though they are the top seed, they need a good showing here to feel safe, so expect them to rattle off a few wins and make some noise.
The Tigers went through a lot this year. They are uber-talented but losing James Wiseman hurt. Now, they will need to win the conference tournament in order to earn a berth in the big dance. That pressure may be too much for such a young team. Memphis could slip up early.
Dayton is undoubtedly one of the best teams in the nation. In terms of talent, they win the Atlantic 10 easily. However, Dayton is securely in the field and probably well on their way to at least a 2 seed. That fact is enough to cause a bit of complacency to at least make the Flyers have to work for the title.
A team that is supposed to make the NCAA Tournament and struggles is always dangerous in these tournaments. VCU has the talent to reach the big dance but will have to win their conference tournament to do so. If Dayton slips, VCU is one of the three teams that can take advantage along with Richmond and Rhode Island.
No one expected Richmond to contend for an at-large bid. The Spiders are probably thinking if they get to the finals of the conference tournament they can enter the field of 68. That forward-thinking could be enough to slip them up.
The Jayhawks are rolling. They have yet to lose a game with a full roster for all 40 minutes. They handled Baylor in Waco and have a stronghold on a number one seed. Once again, Bill Self went to a four-guard lineup which has worked wonders. Kansas should continue their success.
The hottest team in the nation right now may be the Longhorns. About a month ago Shaka Smart was on his way out and Texas was dead in the water. Now, they are on the doorstep of the field of 68. They will definitely need to notch a few more wins to feel safe, but the trajectory is perfect. Admittedly, they were just boat raced by Oklahoma State at home.
The Bears are sputtering. Since losing that number one spot they have not looked like themselves. They can defend and rebound like crazy, but scoring is an issue. They continue to play close games which is always a good case for upset potential. Entering Big 12 tournament play, they have lost three of their last five and it could have been worse.
The Pirates have the best player in the conference and maybe the country in Myles Powell. They shared the conference title with Creighton and Villanova, but Seton Hall performs its best under bright lights and there are none brighter than Madison Square Garden. Expect the Pirates to make a run.
The Friars started the year as bad as possible, but have since turned it around and appear to be a lock to make the NCAA Tournament. They solidified roles and as a collective whole took a major step forward. They will be a legitimate problem for anyone in the Big East, as well as the field of 68.
Villanova has played well this year. They earned a protected seed in March Madness and outplayed some expectations. With that being said, this feels like a very vulnerable Villanova team. They really do not have a go-to guy or a star. Saddiq Bey has been great, but he also is invisible at times. Collin Gillespie is not quite at the level of past Wildcat guards. There is just something that does not feel right with this team.
The Spartans have come back from the dead with a vengeance. They have earned impressive wins at Maryland and at Penn State in the last week. They have even surpassed Maryland as the number two seed in the Big Ten. While this conference is as wide open as ever, it is wise to go with the most talented and experienced team.
The Badgers are another one of the hotter teams in the country. Early in the season, it seemed like the Badgers might not make the NCAA Tournament. Now, they are fighting for a top-four seed after rattling off a few win streaks. If Wisconsin gets hot from deep, they can easily win the Big Ten crown.
Maryland had everything right in the palm of their hand just one week ago. They were planning to cut down nets after winning the Big Ten. Suddenly, one week later they are the three seed in the conference tournament and have lost three of their last five, including two drubbings. Luckily, they secured a piece of the Big Ten crown, but outside of Xfinity Center, they are not nearly as good.
The Ducks have the best player in the Pac-12 in Payton Pritchard and a team that just seems to sneak away with wins. The Pac-12 is much deeper than usual but the Ducks are still the favorite. They will need to shoot the ball well and get some help from someone other than Pritchard.
There is no excuse for the Huskies play this season. They should have been in contention to win the conference but found themselves in the cellar of the Pac-12. They enter the conference tournament winning three of their last four, including at Arizona and at Arizona State. Isaiah Stewart is one of the best players in the Pac-12 and the Huskies should let him carry them to a title.
The Bruins are playing solid basketball right now. UCLA is red hot and played themselves right into the conversation for first place in the Pac-12, falling just short of Oregon. However, they are outplaying their talent and that should come back to Earth soon.
The Wildcats appear to be the clear best team in the SEC. Yes, they lost to Auburn and Tennessee, but Kentucky is part of the group of teams that every opponent gets up for and plays it like a championship. They have some issues offensively with taking good shots, but Immanuel Quickley and Nick Richards have been as good a duo as any. The defense is excellent and Kentucky is a solid team.
The Gators have been mentioned several times as a team that can make a lot of noise. They can also get crushed for no reason. This is a high risk, high reward type of team. If they get on a heater, they can beat anyone. If they fight each other, they can get run out of the gym. It will be interesting to see what team shows up.
The Tigers have a solid record and were very impressive most of the year. However, they really struggle to hold onto leads. They have yet to really play a full 40 minutes. LSU will make the tournament barring an obscene amount of bid stealers, so they may come out lackadaisical and play poorly early.
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