It’s officially Champ Week as some of the mid-major conference tournaments have commenced. Most mid-major conferences only send one team to the NCAA Tournament, raising the stakes of the conference tournaments. Some of these games and tournaments go under the radar due to this. The Missouri Valley and Colonial conferences are two prime examples.
Previewing the Missouri Valley and Colonial Tournaments
Missouri Valley Conference
Beginning on Thursday is Arch Madness as the Missouri Valley Conference gets underway in St. Louis. The past two MVC tournaments saw the Loyola Ramblers defeat the Drake Bulldogs and receive the MVC auto bid to the NCAA tournament. Luckily for Drake, they managed an at-large bid in 2021. Addionitally, the 2018 MVC tournament kicked off a historic run by the Loyola as they marched all the way to the NCAA Final Four. The landscape of the MVC looks different this year as Loyola left the conference this past summer.
Favorites: Coming off back-to-back tournament finals appearances, the Drake Bulldogs are looking to finally break through this year. The Bulldogs finished as the 2-seed in the MVC with an overall record of 24-7, including a win over then-15th-ranked Mississippi State. Drake was led by star sophomore Tucker DeVries who averaged nearly 19 PPG. Ahead of Drake in the standings are the Bradley Braves. The Braves won their first regular-season conference title since 1996. More recently, Bradley won the MVC tournament in 2019 as the 5-seed and in 2020 as the 4-seed. Ja’Shon Henry was a member of both of those Braves teams, and he’s looking to add another. Drake and Bradley both rank in the top 70 of the NET rankings. The teams split their previous two matchups this season and seem destined to meet in the MVC finals.
Bracket Buster: The Belmont Bruins finished as the 4-seed in their first season in the MVC. The Bruins swept the two-game season series vs Bradley, albeit by a total of five points. With a potential matchup in the semi-finals, Belmont would be in a solid position to pull off an upset, especially if Ben Sheppard continues his excellent season.
Key Info: Round 1 begins Thursday, March 2nd, and the MVC Finals are Sunday, March 5th at 1 PM on CBS.
Prediction: The third time is the charm. Drake advances to the MVC finals once again, but this time coming out victorious.
Colonial Athletic Association
Tipping off on Friday in the nation’s capital is the Colonial tournament. The Delaware Fightin’ Blue Hens are the defending champions, having won the 2022 tournament as the 5-seed. In 2021 the finals consisted of Drexel, who was the 6-seed, and Elon, who was the 8-seed. Typically, the CAA tournament has been wide open. But this year is drastically different.
Heavy Favorites: The Hofstra Pride went 16-2 in conference games and claimed their fourth regular season title since 2016. Unfortunately, the only conference tournament they won in that span was in 2020, when the NCAA Tournament was canceled. Senior guard Aaron Estrada averages 20.3 PPG, 5.4 RPG, and 4.1 APG for the Pride. Also, Hofstra has an 11-game winning streak. Although they are not the 1-seed, the Charleston Cougars are arguably having their best season in school history. Early in the season, the Cougars won 20 consecutive games and climbed to 18th in the AP Poll. They finished a phenomenal 28-3 and 16-2 in conference play. Charleston is well-balanced as they have five players averaging over ten points, with Dalton Bolon leading the way. These teams met once earlier this season as Hofstra won 85-81. It would be very shocking if these two teams do not meet in Washington, D.C.
Longshot: Delaware enters on a three-game winning streak and is led by CAA leading scorer Jameer Nelson Jr. Between Nelson Jr. and the Blue Hens tournament experience, Delaware has a chance to pull off some upsets.
Key Info: Round 1 begins Friday, March 3rd, and the CAA Finals are Tuesday, March 7th at 7 PM on CBS Sports Network.
Prediction: Hofstra and Charleston cruise to the finals, and the Pride squeak out a close win.