Conference Tourney Preview: March 6

After the final Saturday of the 2016 regular season, we now have the seedings set for most major conference tournaments. The American and the Big Ten still have some games today, so those tourneys won’t be set until tomorrow, but for today’s post, I’ll be giving you a preview of all the other major conference tournaments, including the favorites, the dark horses, the teams that can gain the most, and my prediction for who will win these conferences and get automatic bids to the NCAA Tournament. Make sure to check the blog on Tuesday to view previews for the American and the Big Ten Tournaments, as well as short previews for all of the mid-major tournaments kicking off this week.

 

ACC Tournament (Washington, D.C.)
First Round: March 8 (ESPN2)
Game 1: No. 13 Wake Forest vs. No. 12 NC State, 12 p.m.
Game 2: No. 14 Boston College vs. No. 11 Florida State, 2:30 p.m.
Second Round: March 9
Game 3: No. 9 Syracuse vs. No. 8 Pittsburgh, 12 p.m. (ESPN)
Game 4: Winner Game 1 vs. No. 5 Duke, 2:30 p.m. (ESPN)
Game 5: No. 10 Georgia Tech vs. No. 7 Clemson, 7 p.m. (ESPN2)
Game 6: Winner Game 2 vs. No. 6 Virginia Tech, 9:30 p.m. (ESPN2)
Quarterfinals: March 10 (ESPN)
Game 7: Winner Game 3 vs. No. 1 North Carolina, 12 p.m.
Game 8: Winner Game 4 vs. No. 4 Notre Dame, 2:30 p.m.
Game 9: Winner Game 5 vs. No. 2 Virginia, 7 p.m.
Game 10: Winner Game 6 vs. No. 3 Miami, 9:30 p.m.
Semifinals: March 11 (ESPN Networks)
Game 11: Winner Game 7 vs. Winner Game 8, 7 p.m.
Game 12: Winner Game 9 vs. Winner Game 10, 9:30 p.m.
Championship: March 12 (ESPN)
Game 13: Winner Game 11 vs. Winner Game 12, 9 p.m.

Favorite: North Carolina
There are a lot of good teams in the ACC this season, but you have to look at the Tar Heels as the favorite here, entering the postseason coming off a huge win over rival Duke at Cameron Indoor. Marcus Paige and Brice Johnson will look to close out their careers as undisputed ACC Champions.
Dark Horse: Miami
It might be a stretch to call the 3-seed in this tournament a dark horse, but I don’t think anybody is considering Miami a threat to win this thing. They should be though. A potential semifinal with Virginia would be an exciting game, and we know that the Hurricanes can be Virginia, they just did a couple weeks ago.
Most to Gain: Florida State
The Seminoles are on the wrong side of the Bubble as it stands today, but with a lengthy run in this tournament, they could get some attention from the committee. Wins over Boston College and Virginia Tech could get them to a quarterfinal against Miami, where a win is certainly not out of the question. They’d be playing with momentum at that point, and I could see FSU having an outside shot to get to the final if they can get it together.
Prediction: Virginia
The Cavaliers are balanced, they’re experienced, and they’re playing like one of the best teams in the nation right now. They are on a quest for a 1-seed in the NCAA Tournament, and I think they’ll get it after winning the ACC Tournament.

 

Atlantic 10 Tournament (Brooklyn, NY)
First Round: March 9
Game 1: No. 13 Saint Louis vs. No. 12 George Mason, 6:30 p.m.
Game 2: No. 14 La Salle vs. No. 11 Duquesne,  9 p.m.
Second Round: March 10 (NBC Sports Network)
Game 3: No. 9 Richmond vs. No. 8 Fordham, 12 p.m.
Game 4: Winner Game 1 vs. No. 5 George Washington, 2:30 p.m.
Game 5: No. 10 UMass vs. No. 7 Rhode Island, 6:30 p.m.
Game 6: Winner Game 2 vs. No. 6 Davidson, 9 p.m.
Quarterfinals: March 11 (NBC Sports Network)
Game 7: Winner Game 3 vs. No. 1 Dayton, 12 p.m.
Game 8: Winner Game 4 vs. No. 4 Saint Joseph’s, 2:30 p.m.
Game 9: Winner Game 5 vs. No. 2 VCU, 6:30 p.m.
Game 10: Winner Game 6 vs. No. 3 St. Bonaventure, 9 p.m.
Semifinals: March 12 (CBS Sports Network)
Game 11: Winner Game 7 vs. Winner Game 8, 1:30 p.m.
Game 12: Winner Game 9 vs. Winner Game 10, approx. 4 p.m.
Championship: March 13 (CBS)
Game 13: Winner Game 11 vs. Winner Game 12, 12:30 p.m.

Favorite: Dayton
You could make a really good case for any of the top four teams in this conference as the favorite, but I’ll go with Dayton, who defeated VCU yesterday to earn a share of the conference regular season title and the 1-seed in this tourney. They have had some struggles down the stretch, but they’ve been the most consistent team in the conference, and they are the only team in the A-10 that is a lock to make the NCAA’s.
Dark Horse: Rhode Island
Watch out for the Rams. Prior to the season, they had hopes of making the NCAA Tournament, but haven’t performed at that level at all this season. That being said, a potential quarterfinal match-up with VCU is very winnable, as is a potential semifinal against Davidson or St. Bonaventure. Rhode Island needs to win the A-10 to make the Big Dance, but I could definitely see it happening.
Most to Gain: St. Joseph’s
The Hawks were looking like a good bet to make the Tournament, but then they lost at home on Senior Day to Duquesne, the 11-seed in the A-10. That was not a good way to enter the postseason, but the Hawks should get a couple opportunities for good wins here. A potential quarterfinal against a solid George Washington team could be followed by a semifinal against Dayton. I think St. Joe’s is in right now, but you can put a stamp on it if they can get to the A-10 title game.
Prediction: St. Joseph’s
I’m taking a little shot in the dark here, but I think the home loss to Duquesne to end the season might have been a blessing in disguise. I think Phil Martelli will have his team thinking they need to win the conference to make the Tournament, and they are definitely good enough to get it done.

 

Big 12 Tournament (Kansas City, MO)
Opening Round: March 9 (ESPNU)
Game 1: No. 9 Oklahoma State vs. No. 8 Kansas State, 7 p.m.
Game 2: No. 10 TCU vs. No. 7 Texas Tech, 9:30 p.m.
Quarterfinals: March 10
Game 3: No. 5 Baylor vs. No. 4 Texas, 12:30 p.m. (ESPN2)
Game 4: Winner Game 1 vs. No. 1 Kansas, 3 p.m. (ESPN2)
Game 5: Winner Game 2 vs. No. 2 West Virginia, 7 p.m. (ESPNU)
Game 6: No. 6 Iowa State vs. No. 3 Oklahoma, 9:30 p.m. (ESPNU)
Semifinals: March 11 (ESPN/ESPN2)
Game 7: Winner Game 3 vs. Winner Game 4, 7 p.m.
Game 8: Winner Game 5 vs. Winner Game 6, 9:30 p.m.
Championship: March 12 (ESPN)
Game 9: Winner Game 7 vs. Winner Game 8, 6 p.m.

Favorite: Kansas
Not only is Kansas the favorite to win the Big 12 Tournament, but right now, they’re the favorite to win the National Championship. The Jayhawks have looked borderline unbeatable the last few weeks. If any team can beat Kansas, that will be mighty impressive.
Dark Horse: Iowa State
Speaking of beating Kansas, Iowa State just nearly pulled off a massive upset on the road against Kansas, but the Jayhawks went on a late run to get the win. Iowa State is the 6-seed in this conference, but they’re a really good team. Nobody will be surprised if the Cyclones make a run to a conference title.
Most to Gain: Texas Tech
I know the extra game is against TCU, but the more wins the better for a Bubble team like Texas Tech. A potential quarterfinal against West Virginia would be a huge opportunity for the Red Raiders to add one more finishing touch to their Tournament resume.
Prediction: Texas
Call this a hunch, but I just think Texas is an underrated team, and they are more than capable of putting together a run to a conference title. I think they’ll avenge a bad loss to Baylor in the quarters, and then stun Kansas in the semis. They’ll use that momentum to get a win in the conference title game. Shaka Smart has done an incredible job in his first year at Texas, and this would be part of the icing on the cake (Texas will now lose it’s first game to Baylor. You can mark it down).

 

Big East Tournament (New York City)
Opening Round: March 9 (FS1)
Game 1: No. 9 DePaul vs. No. 8 Georgetown, 7 p.m.
Game 2: No. 10 St. John’s vs. No. 7 Marquette , 9:30 p.m.
Quarterfinals: March 10 (FS1)
Game 3: Winner Game 1 vs. No. 1 Villanova, 12 p.m.
Game 4: No. 5 Butler vs. No. 4 Providence, 2:30 p.m.
Game 5: Winner Game 2 vs. No. 2 Xavier, 7 p.m.
Game 6: No. 6 Creighton vs. No. 3 Seton Hall, 9:30 p.m.
Semifinals: March 11 (FS1)
Game 7: Winner Game 3 vs. Winner Game 4, 6:30 p.m.
Game 8: Winner Game 5 vs. Winner Game 6, 9 p.m.
Championship: March 12 (FOX)
Game 9: Winner Game 7 vs. Winner Game 8, 5:30 p.m.

Favorite: Villanova
Jay Wright has another spectacular team, and they’ll look to couple their Big East regular season title with a tournament championship. This is one of the best teams in the country, but the recent postseason struggles still loom large. They’ll have to overcome that, and they have the team this year to do it.
Dark Horse: Providence
The Friars have two of the most talented players in the conference in Kris Dunn and Ben Bentil, but they were very inconsistent during conference play. That being said, they did beat Villanova once this year, and a possible semifinal rubber match is very intriguing. They won the Big East Tournament two years ago, and would love to do it again.
Most to Gain: Creighton
This team was looking like a possible at-large team before closing the regular season by losing four of their last five games. But they have a draw that could help them work their way back into the conversation, with a quarterfinal game against Seton Hall and a potential semifinal against Xavier, two teams that the Bluejays have beaten this season.
Prediction: Villanova
It’s certainly not going to be easy, but I think Villanova is underrated due to their postseason struggles. This is one of the more balanced teams in the country. They can shoot the lights out and lock you down defensively. I don’t know how they’ll do in the NCAA’s, but I like them to win the Big East Tournament.

 

Pac-12 Tournament (Las Vegas, NV)
Opening Round: March 9 (Pac-12 Network)
Game 1: No. 9 Stanford vs. No. 8 Washington, 3 p.m.
Game 2: No. 12 Washington State vs. No. 5 Colorado, 5:30 p.m.
Game 3: No. 10 UCLA vs. No. 7 USC, 9 p.m.
Game 4: No. 11 Arizona State vs. No. 6 Oregon State, 11:30 p.m.
Quarterfinals: March 10
Game 5: Winner Game 1 vs. No. 1 Oregon, 3 p.m. (Pac-12 Network)
Game 6: Winner Game 2 vs. No. 4 Arizona, 5:30 p.m. (Pac-12 Network)
Game 7: Winner Game 3 vs. No. 2 Utah, 9 p.m. (Pac-12 Network)
Game 8: Winner Game 4 vs. No. 3 California, 11:30 p.m. (FS1)
Semifinals: March 11
Game 9: Winner Game 5 vs. Winner Game 6, 9 p.m. (Pac-12 Network)
Game 10: Winner Game 7 vs. Winner Game 8, 11:30 p.m. (FS1)
Championship: March 12 (FS1)
Game 11: Winner Game 9 vs. Winner Game 10, 10 p.m.

Favorite: Utah
Yes, Oregon is the 1-seed and they won the regular season title outright, but if you look at how these teams are playing right now, Utah has to be considered the favorite to win this conference tournament. Jakob Poeltl has been an absolute force, and he could easily put the team on his back and win this tourney.
Dark Horse: Washington
This is a very, very dark horse, but the Huskies had a great start to the season, but struggled a good amount down the stretch. But you look at the start they had to this season, and you see a team that could compete for a conference title. If they can find that success here again in the postseason, you could see Washington make an unlikely run to the conference title game.
Most to Gain: Colorado
Many experts think Colorado is safely in, but I think they could still be on the Bubble. A loss to Washington State would be brutal, but if they win that one, they get another match-up with Arizona, whom they just beat a little over a week ago. A win there and they’d play Oregon in the semis. The draw is set up for Colorado to really improve their tourney stock.
Prediction: Arizona
Despite recent losses to Colorado and Utah, this Arizona team is probably playing better now than that have at any other point this season. They are healthy, and they are really talented. I could see eight different teams having a legit shot to win this thing, but I like Arizona.

 

SEC Tournament (Nashville, TN)
First Round: March 9 (SEC Network)
Game 1: No. 13 Auburn vs. No. 12 Tennessee, 8 p.m.
Second Round: March 10 (SEC Network)
Game 2: No. 9 Arkansas vs. No. 8 Florida, 1 p.m.
Game 3: Winner Game 1 vs. No. 5 Vanderbilt, 3:30 p.m.
Game 4: No. 10 Alabama vs. No. 7 Ole Miss, 7 p.m.
Game 5: No. 11 Mississippi State vs. No. 6 Georgia, 9:30 p.m.
Quarterfinals: March 11 (SEC Network)
Game 6: Winner Game 2 vs. No. 1 Texas A&M, 1 p.m.
Game 7: Winner Game 3 vs. No. 4 LSU, 3:30 p.m.
Game 8: Winner Game 4 vs. No. 2 Kentucky, 7 p.m.
Game 9: Winner Game 5 vs. No. 3 South Carolina, 9:30 p.m.
Semifinals: March 12 (ESPN)
Game 10: Winner Game 6 vs. Winner Game 7, 1 p.m.
Game 11: Winner Game 8 vs. Winner Game 9, 3:30 p.m.
Championship: March 13 (ESPN)
Game 12: Winner Game 10 vs. Winner Game 11, 1 p.m.

Favorite: Kentucky
For the first half of the season, Kentucky looked like a team that had a lot of talent, but little-to-no chemistry. Most people weren’t sure if this team was for real. But in the second half of the season, they’ve figured out the chemistry thing, and they now look like a team that can compete for a National Title.
Dark Horse: Vanderbilt
Not sure if they’re exactly a dark horse given the way they’ve played down the stretch, but this team struggled for much of this season, and it’s a minor miracle that they’re even being considered for the NCAA Tournament field. Led by NBA prospect Wade Baldwin IV, this team is definitely good enough to win the SEC Tournament, something they haven’t done since 2012.
Most to Gain: Florida
The Gators need all the help they can get if they’re going to make it to the Big Dance. They have a very winnable second round match-up with Arkansas, and if they win that, they’ll face 1-seed Texas A&M, which would be a huge opportunity. That’s a win that could get them in the NCAA Tournament, but with a win there, they’d have a really good shot at getting to the title game.
Prediction: Kentucky
The way the SEC standings ended up gave Kentucky a really good draw in this tournament. Their biggest roadblocks (Vanderbilt, LSU, Texas A&M) are all on the opposite side of the bracket. I expect them to breeze to the championship game, where I think they’ll just be too much.

Be sure to come back to the page tomorrow for my latest edition of Bracketology, which will include the first five automatic bids earned this postseason!

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