It is finally March, and as a big college basketball fan, my favorite month of the year. Selection Sunday is right around the corner and then the NCAA Tournament can begin. But before we can get to Selection Sunday, conference Tournaments must take place. And I have a feeling that these conference Tournaments are going to be filled with amazing games.
The ACC has once again proven that it is the best conference in the nation, with eight teams that could finish the season with 20 wins or more (that is if Syracuse beats Clemson and Louisville beats Virginia this weekend). The ACC Tournament is shaping up to be a fantastic bunch of games.
Personally, I think that the path to winning the ACC goes through Virginia. And yeah I know they are the top-ranked ACC team and you could say I’m taking the easy way out, but find someone who is better right now, and it is definitely not Duke. Yeah, Duke beat Virginia earlier this year, but that was at Cameron Indoor and with a HEALTHY Zion. If Virginia continues to play like they have been as of late, with that crazy defense and three-point shooting (they dropped 18 three’s at Syracuse, new school record), I don’t see anyone beating them.
The team with the most to prove going into the ACC Tournament, for me, is Clemson. I see eight teams right now that should be in the tournament from the ACC. But if Clemson can get a quality win vs Syracuse this weekend, and pick up another win or two in the ACC Tournament, they would be making a serious case for themselves.
The Big 12 has produced some very good teams this year. They too have numerous 20-win teams. But, I feel that only three teams have a shot to win the Big 12 Tournament this year. Those teams being the three atop the standings: Texas Tech, Kansas St., and Kansas.
Of these three teams, you can almost say “one of these things is not like the others,” with Kansas being the team to beat, all the time, in the Big 12. Even though Kansas hasn’t lived up to their usual top-five ranked self, I still pick them to win this tournament. They have the experience, they have been there before, and Bill Self is a fantastic coach, so I think when it comes down to crunch time, I would trust Kansas more than Texas Tech or Kansas St.
The Big 12 has a few teams that have good overall records, but sub-par conference records in Texas, TCU, and Oklahoma. This usually doesn’t bode well with the selection committee for the NCAA Tournament. But, if any of these teams can make a run deep into the Big 12 Tournament, I’d say it has to be at least 3rd round, they could potentially sneak into one of those “last four in” play in games.
The Big Ten is always strong, but there are a few newcomers towards the Big Ten standings. Maryland and Iowa have both had a very impressive season and they both should be locks for the tournament. There are six teams that have a great shot at taking the Big Ten tournament; Purdue, Michigan, Michigan St., Wisconsin, Maryland, and Iowa.
Out of these teams, I am going to have to go with I’m going to have to go with Michigan, for much of the same reasons I picked Kansas, they have been there, and in crunch time, my gut says Michigan will come away with the win. But, I do think that this weekend’s Michigan vs. Michigan St. match-up could be a Big Ten Tournament Championship preview.
There are also some teams in the Big Ten that really need to show up this week for a shot at the tournament. Teams like Minnesota, Ohio St., and Indiana. It is weird seeing Indiana towards the bottom of the Big Ten, but with a conference record of 6-12, the only way I see them making the NCAA Tournament is winning the Big Ten tournament and getting that automatic bid that comes with a conference tournament championship.
I feel like nobody really has talked about the Pac-12 this season. Maybe it’s because all of their games start super late during the week and no one wants to stay up until 1:00 or 2:00 in the morning watching them. But whatever the reason, there really aren’t many teams with amazing resumes. Washington is obviously the best team in the Pac-12 and the favorite to win the Pac-12 Tournament.
So, even though its a lame pick, I have to go with Washington for the Pac-12 tournament. They are 14-2 in the Pac-12 this season. There only conference losses coming at Cal and at Arizona St. Washington is a team that I could see running right through their conference tournament with little to no resistance, but then maybe running into some issues in the NCAA Tournament.
There are plenty of teams that are playing to build their resume enough to squeak into the NCAA tournament in the Pac-12. They have eight teams that are going to fall in the 15-19 total win column, which is right on the bubble to make the NCAA Tournament. Of these eight teams, I see a max of four of them making the NCAA tournament, and if I had to pick those four, I’d say Oregon St., Colorado, Oregon, and Arizona. There is still plenty of time for teams to get some quality wins, or losses, so it is still very tough to tell who will come out of the Pac-12 to play in the NCAA Tournament.
Finally, not just Kentucky! After years of domination, Kentucky finally has company atop the SEC standings. The SEC has been extremely strong this year, having three of the best teams in the nation with Tennessee, LSU, and Kentucky. And other teams that have impressed at times this year like Ole Miss, Mississippi St., and Auburn. The SEC Tournament looks to be wide open.
After watching what Tennessee did to Kentucky last weekend (a 71-52 victory), it is impossible to pick against them to win the SEC Tournament. Tennessee has been a force this year, and I kind of feel like they pretty much came out of nowhere this year. But, anyway, they are definitely my pick to win the SEC Tournament, but it won’t be easy, especially if they see LSU, or Kentucky again. I don’t think they will demolish Kentucky again, especially at a neutral site, but I do think they could beat them again if they have too.
The teams playing for the most going into this tournament I’d say have to be Florida and Alabama. Both sitting right below 20 wins, they both need to have a strong showing in the SEC Tournament to get into the NCAA Tournament. Both teams have had some quality wins, but also some rough losses so it is really tough to determine who has the upper hand. But this would be a super fun match-up to look forward too if it happens in the SEC Tournament.