March Madness 2020 (What Could Have Been) Midwest Region: First Round (Part 2)

As I’m writing this on a Friday night, it’s finally settling in that sports are going to be gone for a long time. I really hope that the BIG3 reality thing actually works and could give me the basketball and sports I desperately need as there’s no way that I should be getting ready for College Football in mid-March.

#6 Iowa vs. #11 East Tennessee State

Finally, Blake picks an upset! Yes, this might be a huge sucker pick, but I’m in love with the Buccaneers, no not Tom Brady’s Bucs, East Tennessee State’s Bucs. ETSU is the best mid-major teams and they fully deserve their #11 seed as they’re one of four teams to win 30 games, #1 Gonzaga, #2 SDSU, and #12 Liberty. I know I just tore apart Liberty, but that’s because of their poor non-conference schedule, ETSU had one of the most impressive non-conference resumes. The Bucs beat Winthrop, Appalachian State, Arkansas Little Rock, and LSU. Their two losses were to North Dakota State by ten on the road, not a great loss but they’re a tournament team who won the Summit League, and they lost by 12 points at #1 Kansas, obviously a pretty acceptable and good loss. 

Iowa is led by Luke Garza, one of the best players to ever play in the Big 10 based on his insane stat line this season. They lost their last two games and really started to fall off towards the end of the season. Outside of Garza, Iowa really doesn’t have much which is why I believe in the Buccaneers to upset the Hawkeyes in a close game.

#3 Duke vs. #14 Belmont

As a huge Duke hater, every bone in my body wants to pick Belmont here as Duke STINKS this year, and are complete frauds, but I just can’t do it…. this round. Duke along with the biggest fraud of a coach, Coach K, are only ranked this high due to their name and jerseys. Recently, or in any close game, Duke has opted to go for an offense that is Tre Jones-hero ball, something that doesn’t work, at all. This reminds me of last year’s R.J. Barrett hero ball where Zion sat in the corner. Similarly, Tre Jones isn’t the best player on the team, Vernon Carey Jr. is. While he does have a foul problem, he isn’t playing nearly the minutes he should be, and the offense should be through him not Jones. 

Belmont is a team that’s been a dominant force in the Ohio Valley Conference for some time now along with Murray State. After having a poor record against any good non-conference teams, it’s hard to see Belmont giving Duke a good test. I would have expected that Duke would be in a close game at halftime, but then would pull away and win by double-digits in the end.

#7 Providence vs. #10 Arizona State

One of the more underrated coaches, Ed Cooley, has the Providence Friars playing their best ball in March yet again. Becoming one of the nations’ longest win streaks, 6 games, including wins against three ranked opponents. After finishing fourth in the Big East regular season, many predictions had Providence making a run deep in the Big East tournament, so I see no reason why they wouldn’t beat an up and down Arizona State team.

The Sun Devils are similar to Providence as they ended up finishing third in the Pac-12 standings. They had a seven-game win streak in February, and that catapulted them up into the AP Top 25 at a point. With two up and down team who knows, but I’m opting to go with a better coach and a more experienced tournament team, the Providence Friars in what will be a really close game.

#2 Kentucky vs. #15 North Dakota State

One of my favorite teams year after year, Kentucky is a top team yet again. The Evansville loss dominated the headlines and the team’s narrative even though they were beating very good opponents. This game will be a blow out and Kentucky would have been a major problem. Guard Ashton Hagans stepping away from the team scares me, but I am assuming he will be coming back to the team in this hypothetical scenario. Kentucky by a thousand in this one.

March Madness 2020 (What Could Have Been) Midwest Region: First Round (Part 1)

While COVID-19 has taken away not only sports, but my sanity as well, I can still make predictions on what would have happened in the NCAA March Madness. The past five years, I’ve correctly picked three out of four of the Final Four, each year, so I know what I’m doing here. Ok, here we go!

#1 Kansas vs. #16 Siena

Kansas would absolutely crush Siena and will be able to coast throughout this game. Kansas fully convinced me that they’re a real and that they really could have won the title this season. Devon Dotson and Udoka Azubuike would carry the Jayhawks to an easy victory in the first round. Kansas wins big.

#8 Houston vs. #9 Marquette

One team is red hot and the other is ice cold. Houston, one of my favorite teams is absolutely on fire after putting away Memphis in their regular season finale and were looking prepared to destroy the rest of the AAC in the tournament. Guards Caleb Mills and Quentin Grimes form one of the better and more explosive backcourts in all of basketball and they will have their hands full against Markus Howard and Marquette.

Marquette SUCKED down the stretch going 1-6 to end their regular season. They will be at the will of Markus Howard’s scoring but seeing that he scored over thirty points in their last five games and went 1-4, I think that the Golden Eagles will lose in the first round yet again. Houston is a legit threat in this tournament but their draw as an #8 seed and having to face Kansas is unfortunate. Houston wins comfortably but by single digits.

#5 Auburn vs. #12 Liberty

In the famous #5-#12 matchups where upsets are statistically high, I will not be taking this bait. This game is a sucker game where the sexy pick is to go with the Flames upsetting the Tigers. While this could have easily been similar to #5 Marquette vs. #12 Murray State game of last year where the world was on Murray State and Ja Morant and they won, but as I said, I’m not a sucker. 

Liberty is one of the highest seeded mid-major teams this season after winning the Atlantic Sun regular season and winning their conference tournament (as I predicted) they were awarded a #12 seed, but they really didn’t deserve it in my opinion. I’m not nearly as high on Liberty as many are and that’s why I think that Auburn will win this game in close fashion, something they seemingly did every game this year. Auburn, like a lot of teams, got hot at the right time and finished the season with a statement win at Tennessee where Vegas had them as a 2-point underdog. Samir Doughty would have gone off for Auburn and they would have won in a close, high scoring affair.

#4 Wisconsin vs. #13 North Texas

Somehow, seemingly out of nowhere Wisconsin won (a share of) the Big Ten. I’m not a believer in the North Texas Mean Green at all, so I have to back the Badgers here. One of the essentials in life, Life, Death, Taxes, and Wisconsin having many tall shooters, stays true this season. Wisconsin won their last eight games in an absolute gauntlet of a Big 10 schedule. I’ve found myself watching some Wisconsin highlights and games after their elite performance against the Wolverines. After that game I was asking myself, “is Wisconsin for real?” Yes, they are. Wisconsin wins by double digits. 

The “Must Watch” Conference Tournament Previews and Predictions:

As corona virus hysteria has reached an all-time high, I’m seriously worried about the possibility of March Madness happening. That is what inspired me to group two of my favorite conferences together to let you stay inside and healthy while watching Dayton and Houston dominate the A-10 and the AAC conferences respectively. Stay healthy everyone!

The Atlantic 10 Tournament: March 11-15

With the first of the two conferences you have to watch, is the Atlantic 10 Tournament. There are teams at each end of the spectrum in the A10, you have pure basketball goodness in Dayton who is going to be a one seed (barring a collapse in the tournament), and you have horrendous basketball coming from the once mighty St. Joes. As I’m writing this, George Mason leads St. Joes at the half. Later tonight is the George Washington Fordham game, where the winner takes on Duquesne. With teams like Rhode Island and Richmond on the border, upsetting Dayton would be their only chance making the tournament so those games could be a bit more competitive than the regular season where Dayton went 18-0 in conference play.

Rhode Island has 5-1 odds to win the tournament and as expected, Dayton has 1-3 odds, coming in as the biggest favorite in any this season’s conference tournaments. As much as I want to pick against Dayton, you can’t. Obi Toppin and the Flyers are spreading their wings and check every box of a title contender. They are a lethal shooting team being one of the most efficient teams in the country, they can run with you and win a game in the eighties, or they can act like Virginia and win in the low fifties. Obi Toppin and Dayton have risen up the rankings all season and are my favorite to cut down the nets not only in Brooklyn for the A-10 championship, but the nets in Atlanta and be 2020 NCAA National Champions.

The American Athletic Conference Tournament: March 12-15

The American Athletic Conference, better known as the most fun in sports conference or every game is close/goes to overtime conference. The football AAC is known for their high-powered offenses and games all in the forties and fifties. Other than my beloved Big 10, this has to be my favorite conference to watch. Usually on CBSSN and CBS, the American Conference has some pretty famous teams in here and has a dark horse to win the title that I have written about before. All 12 teams make the cut and #1 Cincinnati, #2 Houston, #3 Tulsa, and #4 Wichita State all get byes for the first round. 

Cincinnati, Houston, and Tulsa all tied for first with a 13-5 conference record, but Houston is pegged as the favorite with 1.8-1 odds, followed by Cincinnati with 3.3-1 and Wichita State at 4-1 odds to win the tournament. Personally, I am a huge believer in the Houston Cougars, and I believe that they will make a seriously deep run in March Madness and defeat the Wichita State Shockers in the AAC title game. As fun as it would be for UConn (11-1) and Coach Hurley to win the AAC as a last f-you to the conference that they hate more than anything, I don’t see them getting past the Shockers. Go Cougars.

The “Lesser” Conference Tournament Predictions and Previews (Part 5):

In part five of six of the Lesser Conference Tournament Predictions and Previews, we have the Big Sky, C-USA, and the Southland Conferences. With March Madness becoming less and less likely, the NBA suspended, man this is getting scary. Wash your hands, try and not touch your face, and pray we find a cure not just for sports, but for people worldwide. Seven more days…?

The Big Sky Conference Tournament: March 11-14

As a Midwesterner who lives in New York, I would know nothing of the Big Sky if it wasn’t for Michigan drawing Montana in back-to-back March Madness’s. This time around it will be harder to make it three in a row, with Eastern Washington looking to win it this year after losing to Montana both times in 2018 and 2019.

While Eastern Washington is the #1 seed entering the tournament, they have the second-best odds (2.5-1) to win. The #2 Northern Colorado Bears are pegged at 1.7-1 favorites to win the Big Sky after finishing only one game back of the Eagles, even though they lost both games against them. For that reason and that the Eagles have championship game experience, I predict Eastern Washington to win it. Watch out for the #3 Montana Grizzlies who went 2-0 against EWU and are given 3.5-1 odds at a three-peat. Go Eagles.

The Southland Conference Tournament: March 11-14

The Southland Conference or known better as the “conference that gives us Stephen F. Austin as a 11-15 seed every March” was won again by Stephen F. Austin. Only eight of the thirteen teams get in, and the top two games get double byes, meaning the Lumberjacks only have to win two games to secure their berth.

The pick is Stephen F. Austin and if you’re picking against them, you’re crazy. After going 28-3 overall and beating freaking Duke on the road, they were a lock to win the Southland. Their three losses come at the hands of Rutgers, Alabama, and in conference foe, Texas A&M-CC. After that loss, the Lumberjacks have carried their 15-game win streak into their tournament where they’re likely to face #4 Sam Houston State, then #2 Abilene Christian in the title game where they will cruise to yet another appearance in March Madness. Go Lumberjacks.

The Conference USA Tournament: March 11-14

This year’s Conference USA Tournament is playing out similarly to last year’s where the title game already appears to be set. Last year the C-USA gave us Old Dominion who put up a good fight against Carsen Edwards and Purdue, will they be able to get another 14 seed? Probably.

In a two as opposed to three horse race conference, the C-USA is led by the North Texas Mean Green and the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs. They each have 1.75-1 odds to get the C- USA berth to March Madness, and after splitting the season series with the combined score being 132-133 in favor of LA Tech, it will be one closely contested game. I think that Louisiana Tech will be able to get the job done in this third matchup and clinch a March Madness game. Go Bulldogs.

The “Coasts” Conference Tournament Previews and Predictions

Finally, the major conference tournaments have begun! All of these three conferences are on the coasts, so that’s why they’re in the same post. The ACC, SEC, and Pac-12 are all extremely entertaining and will get you into the mood for some championship basketball if you somehow aren’t in that mood yet! Worried about the corona virus?! Stay inside and watch college basketball and stay away from this terrible disease! Let’s get into the predictions and previews.

The Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament: March 10-14

As what seems to be a theme in these conference tournament preview and predictions from myself, I missed the first day of games. #12 Wake Forest lost to #13 Pitt 81-72, and #14 UNC defeated #11 VA Tech 78-56. While both lower seeds won, Vegas had Pitt and UNC as the favorites entering the game. The ACC is a four-team conference with two dark horses. The top four teams are #1 Florida State (2.9/1), #2 Virginia (7/1), #3 Louisville (2.9/1), and #4 Duke (2.9/1). Each one of these teams has the potential to cut down the nets in Atlanta, and they could also get bounced in the first weekend. The two dark horses are #6 Syracuse (26/1) thanks to their famous zone defense, and #14 UNC (38/1) is a popular favorite thanks to their name and Cole Anthony and Garrison Brooks’ heroic efforts. 

Personally, I’ve fallen in love again with Virginia. The reigning national champs have gotten red hot at the right time. Their odds to win the ACC tournament is currently at 7-1, which is criminally low. They will have no issues with the winner of #7 Notre Dame/#10 Boston College, then they face off against the winner of #3 Louisville vs. #6 Syracuse/#14 UNC. Virginia has a record of 2-0 vs UNC and 1-1 vs Louisville and Syracuse. They just beat Louisville so I’m confident in the Cavaliers’ ability to get to the title game where they will face #1 FSU or #4 Duke. As much as I want it to be the Seminoles (I’m a Coach K and Duke hater), Duke needs to win this title to get a #1 or #2 seed. Duke and Virginia will have the potential of an all-time title game. Virginia grinded out a win over Duke earlier this season and they will stay red hot throughout the ACC tournament. Go Cavaliers.

The Pac-12 Conference Tournament: March 11-14

In one of the most up and down seasons I can remember in a conference, the Pac 12 was crazy this season. With only eight games separating all twelve teams, you can see how close and unpredictable this tournament will be. The top six seeds are all with in three games and each of those six teams were ranked at one point in the season. Currently only the regular season champions, Oregon, finished the season ranked at #13. 

The Ducks enter as the favorites to win the tournament being given 2-1 odds, #5 Arizona is given 3.5-1 odds, #6 Colorado is given 4-1 odds, and #2 UCLA is given 7-1 odds. You would notice that #3 Arizona State (14-1) and #4 USC (10-1) were not in the top four of odds but are the three and four seeds respectively. UCLA needs a run/title to secure their spot in March Madness, and that could be enough to make them win this thing. Personally, I’m backing the Ducks to win the tournament, but I could definitely see a Ducks vs. Bruins title game with Payton Pritchard winning it for Oregon. Go Ducks.

The Southeastern Conference Tournament: March 11-15

In one of the more fun to watch conferences this year, the SEC tournament looks to have the same thrill as the regular season. Kentucky won another regular season title by three games, a pretty large margin. It seems that Kentucky is being heavily slept on despite their dominance in the SEC and really strong resume, so watch out for the Wildcats. Outside of Vanderbilt, every team is a threat, even the 5-13 (in-conference) Georgia Bulldogs due to Anthony Edwards who will go in the top 3 of the NBA draft. 

This is a three-horse race as a few other conferences have been. Those horses would be #1 Kentucky (2.5-1), #2 Auburn (3.5-1), #3 LSU (4.5-1). Kentucky is very undervalued here, but will they be completely up for this tournament after securing high seed. Those three teams have all virtually secured a spot in March Madness so with #4 Mississippi State and #5 Florida on the outside looking in, a loss in the title game or a win would get them a spot in the Big Dance. All that being said, as boring as it is, Kentucky will defeat LSU in the title game. Go Wildcats.

The “Lesser” Conference Tournament Predictions and Previews (Part 4):

In part four of five, we have the MAAC, MEAC, and the SWAC. Three tournaments all starting on the tenth and ending on the fourteenth of March, every team needs to win their conference to get a bid so expect some high emotions! Eight more days……

The Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Tournament: March 10-14

In this year’s edition of the MAAC tournament, Siena enters as the clear favorite, winning the conference one game clear of the second seeded Saint Peter’s. Siena is the favorite in Vegas as well given 2-1 odds to win the tournament and #3 Rider is just behind them with 2.6-1 odds. 

I don’t see any major upsets coming in this tournament as I expect the semi-finals to be #1 Siena vs #4 Monmouth, and #2 Saint Peter’s vs #3 Rider. The Rider Broncs will face off against the Siena Saints, where I predict Siena to complete the MAAC double winning the regular season and the tournament titles. Go Saints.

The Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference Tournament: March 10-14

It’s a three-horse race in the MEAC tournament with those horses being North Carolina Central, North Carolina A&T, and Norfolk State. NC Central won the regular season title with a 13-3 record while NC A&T and Norfolk State each finished with 12-4 records. According to Vegas, this is a wide-open tournament as NC Central is favored with 2.5-1 odds, Norfolk State with 2.55-1, and NC A&T at 3.3-1 odds.

NC Central should be able to sleepwalk to the conference championship game where I predict them to meet the Aggies of NC A&T. I believe that NC A&T, led by senior forward Ronald Jackson will be able to upset the NC Central Eagles in a very close and back-and-forth title game. Go Aggies.

The Southwestern Athletic Conference Tournament: March 10-14

Arguably the worst conference this season, the SWAC had some historically bad teams this year. Most notably were Arkansas-Pine Bluff Golden Lions and the 3-27 Mississippi Valley State Delta Devils. The Devils lost a game this season 143-49, losing by NINETY-FOUR POINTS. Sorry for this being a day late but, as expected, the #1-#4 seeds all advanced to the next round. Prairie View is in a league of their own in this tournament and they should cruse to the title over the #2 Southern Jaguars. With 1.4-1 odds to win the title I’m backing Prairie View here. Go Panthers.

The “Lesser” Conference Tournament Predictions and Previews (Part 3):

In part three of the lesser conference tournament previews and predictions, we have two more strong teams coming out in Vermont and whoever the MAC gives us. I can hear One Shining Moment on repeat in my head as we are just over a week till the best month in sports! I can’t wait!

The America East Tournament: March 7-14

Sorry that this tournament preview is coming late, but we only missed the first round of games where there were no upsets as the top 4 seeds all defeated the bottom 4 seeds. This means that on Tuesday we will have the matchups of #3 Hartford at #2 Stony Brook, and #4 UMBC at #1 Vermont. Vermont is a heavy favorite entering as 1-5 favorites, as they should be. Stony Brook, the two seed, has odds of 5.8-1 to win the title, and then Hartford is 30-1 and UMBC is 40-1 showing again how dominant the Catamounts were this season. 

What makes Vermont the biggest conference favorites we’ve seen and probably will see until Dayton? Vermont scores a lot of points, but they also can defend with the best of them. Similar to all of the elite college basketball teams, Vermont can win in the 70/80’s and they can grind out a 59-50 win in a defensive battle. Vermont suffered only two conference losses to Stony Brook and UMBC, likely their next two opponents. Oddly enough, each of these losses took place on the Catamount’s home court so could this happen again? Probably not. I want to pick against the Catamounts and take the historic UMBC Retrievers, but it took a near perfect performance from the Retrievers to win by two, shooting 56% from three, so barring a miracle Vermont should roll to the final on Saturday. Who they will be facing will likely be the Stony Brook Seawolves. Other than their awesome mascot, Stony Brook similarly needed a lights out performance to win by only four points, shooting 48% from three point range. 

The Seawolves have no chance of getting into March Madness without a win on Saturday so they’ll be up for it. If this was a week ago, I might have predicted the Seawolves to get it done, but with so many other upsets, weak conference power houses like Vermont can’t take the chance of getting an at large bid with teams like SDSU and Northern Iowa likely taking them before Vermont. Go Catamounts.

The Colonial Athletic Association Tournament: March 7-10

In one of the more open conference tournaments, the CAA looks to have an upset filled tournament. We are now into the final four, again sorry for being late, with only one of the top four seeds still alive. #7 Elon upset #2 William and Mary, #6 Northeastern upset #3 Towson, and #5 Delaware upset #4 Charleston. The top seeded Hofstra Pride are still alive, and they play the #5 Delaware Blue Hens tonight. The other game is between the #7 Elon Phoenix and the #6 Northeastern Huskies.

I predict to see the Huskies and Pride advance to the championship in what will be a very close game. The two matchups in the season were 75-71 and 74-72 wins for Hofstra in a very close affair. Northeastern was actually the had the second-best odds to win the tournament even though they entered in as the 6th seed. They had 2.85-1 odds while Hofstra had 2.25-1 odds to win the tournament. Hofstra won each game at the free throwline, fouling less and making more free throws on more attempts. If the Huskies can play a clean game, they should be able to get it done, but I don’t think that will happen. Go Pride.

The Summit League Tournament: March 7-10

Yet again, I’m late and we’re into the final four of the Summit League tournaments where we have currently a 50% upset rate. #1 North Dakota State and #4 Oral Roberts advanced, and #2 South Dakota State was upset by #7 Purdue Fort Wayne, and #3 South Dakota was upset by #6 North Dakota. Tonight, NDSU will face Oral Roberts and Purdue Fort Wayne faces North Dakota, with the winners advancing to the title game tomorrow night on ESPN2.

Both of the North Dakota teams are both slight favorites and I predict both to advance. The battle of North Dakota was split 1-1 in the regular season and with a March Madness birth on the line, the stakes couldn’t be higher. In what should be a closely contested battle, I would predict the NDSU Bison to get the job done and secure a likely #15 seed, currently predicted to face Florida State. Go Bison.

The Sun Belt Tournament: March 7-15

In a bracket similar to the WCC where there are extreme byes with the top two teams getting triple byes, Cinderella’s don’t happen. In this tournament we only missed round one where #10 Costal Carolina upset #7 University of Texas-Arlington, and #8 Louisiana beat #9 Arkansas State. 

The favorite to win the tournament is #3 Texas State at 2.6-1 odds, followed by #1 Little Rock at 2.9-1 odds. With the favorite being 2.6-1, this means that this tournament is wide open among the top four seeds. Looking at the numbers, I predict Texas State to beat #4 Georgia State in the championship on Sunday airing on ESPN2. There’s not much to it other than the analytics love Texas State and barring some crazy shooting performances, they should be able to roll into the bracket, unfortunately as a likely #16 seed. Go Bobcats.

The Mid-American Conference Tournament: March 9-14

While this doesn’t have the same allure of #MACtion that we get when the MAC football teams play on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, who can hate the MAC? The MAC was an absolute mess where there is Akron, and there is everyone else. Only seven games separate the #12 and #2 seeds so there will be some upsets in this year’s MAC tournament. Last season, the top team, Buffalo, won the tournament relatively comfortably and the standings were similar as it was Buffalo and everyone else. 

Akron will be able to sleepwalk to the final and will face Ball State in the final in my opinion. Since the tournament starts tonight, I can give a full prediction! So here goes nothing. Round one: The #9 Central Michigan Chippewas will upset the #8 Ohio Bobcats, the #5 Buffalo Bulls will cruise over #12 Miami (OH) Red Hawks, the #6 Kent State Golden Flashes will beat the #11 Eastern Michigan Eagles, and the #7 Toledo Rockets will easily beat the #10 Western Michigan Broncos. In the next round, Buffalo, Akron, Toledo, and Ball State will advance. Finally, Akron will face Ball State, where the Zips will get a projected #13 seed. Go Zips.

The “One Team?” Conference Tournaments: Previews and Predictions

While some of these tournaments have already started, it doesn’t matter as each of these conferences have a clear favorite where it’s the tournament is just a formality for their inevitable success later this week or earlier next week. But it’s March so that means that bad basketball teams can turn into the Mon-stars from Space Jam so let’s get into the previews and predictions.

The Ohio Valley Conference Tournament: March 4-7

A conference that features a great two horse race every year, Murray State vs. Belmont, is back again with the same two teams in the top two spots for their conference title. While there aren’t any insane prospects like Dylan Windler or Ja Morant, but Belmont and Murray State still have respectable teams. 

For the 2020 OVC tournament, Belmont enter as the favorites after tying Murray State in the regular season with 15-3 conference records. Given 1-1.5 odds to win the tournament, Belmont only has to play two games thanks to the double bye of the OVC tournament. Belmont should have no trouble beating Eastern Kentucky (most likely) and then facing (again most likely) Murray State in the final. The Racers are given 2.25-1 odds which is a large gap from Belmont’s odds so there could be some nice value there. I will trust the Bruins to get the job done but watch out for Austin Peay, they’re playing some nice basketball. Go Bruins.

The Mountain West Tournament: March 4-7

While the Chinese would argue this is the year of the Rat, this is the year of the Aztecs. Since not having this amount of success since the peak of their empire in the 1500’s they’re back winning the grand prize of the Mountain West conference, as opposed to a Central American empire. San Diego State (1-1.9 to win the tournament) has to be one of the most random teams to come out of absolutely nowhere and (probably) snag a #1 seed in March Madness. After a stumble against UNLV, will there be any conquistadors in the Mountain West tournament?

No there will not be. Having one of the most insane time scheduling brackets with games in the early afternoon and the usual 10:00pm west coast game. In what will be a great tournament outside of the Aztec’s games, there’s been a 67% upset rate with #9 Air Force beating #8 Fresno State and #11 Wyoming beating #6 Colorado State. The Wolf Pack of Nevada (13.5-1 to win the tournament) will face Wyoming in what should be a blow out, similarly SDSU will destroy the Air Force academy, and Utah State (3.2-1 to win the tournament) could face a challenge from New Mexico, but ultimately prevail. SDSU will be out for blood against UNLV (who I predict to beat Boise State) and destroy them. Nevada Utah State will get the first “Must Watch” tag from me as both teams need to win to give them hopes of the NCAA tournament. Finally, SDSU will beat Nevada in a thriller. I’ve been finding myself staying up to watch the Mountain West, similarly to football season but thank god Hawai’i isn’t in this conference for basketball as that would give me no sleep, ever. The Aztecs are for real and they darn well might make a run quite deep in March. See you in Atlanta? Go Aztecs.

The Missouri Valley Tournament: March 5-8

Yes, this is the Sister Jean conference. Outside of that one year, the Northern Iowa Wildcats have darn near become a blueblood in their own way, thanks to making the tournament seemingly every season. I’ll keep the praise on the 1-1.05 favorite Wildcats short as they’ve featured on my “Bad Conference Teams” March Madness Preview so go check that out for their extensive breakdown.

Outside of the Wildcats you have the Loyola Sister Jean’s as the second seed, and Larry Bird’s Indiana State in the third spot. Loyola has been given 3.25-1 odds to win while Indiana State has 7.5-1 odds. I really can’t see the Wildcats losing due to them probably needing this auto bids to get into the tournament for sure, so they won’t be taking any chances. Go Wildcats.

The West Coast Conference Tournament: March 5-10

Not only does this tournament make it impossible for Cinderella’s, you also got the rolling ball of chainsaws in Gonzaga lurking at the top of the mountain to face in the final if any team can even get there not names Saint Mary’s or BYU. The WCC makes it so #5 San Francisco and #6 Pepperdine get a bye, #4 Pacific and #3 Saint Mary’s get a double bye, and #2 BYU and #1 Gonzaga get a, wait for it, TRIPLE BYE. So hypothetically if #7 Santa Clara wanted to go to the tournament, they’d have to play five games in six days to face Gonzaga who will be fully rested and healthy.Gonzaga is the heaviest favorite currently having 1-3.7 odds to win their tournament being as close to a guarantee as you can get. BYU and Saint Mary’s are both tournament teams regardless of their successes or failures in the WCC tournament so could a team like #6 Pepperdine get hot? BYU will provide a good championship game opponent for Gonzaga as they split the season series. As much as I want to say BYU, Gonzaga has to be the pick here. Go Bulldogs.

The “Lesser” Conference Tournaments: Predictions and Previews (Part 2)

Continuing on from part one, here are the other “lesser” conference tournament preview and predictions. Once again, sorry for all the favorite predictions but hey, they’re favorites for a reason.

The Patriot League Tournament: March 3-11

To start part two of the lesser tournaments is the always fun Patriot League. The longest tournament with one of the most drawn out schedules and a title on a…. Wednesday night? For a bad league you’d think they’d want some buzz and have the game on Sunday/Monday? Similarly, to the Atlantic Sun, the lower seed will host the game, so advantage Colgate.

Colgate comes into the tournament as 1-1.5 favorites to win the tournament, showing the close nature of the Patriot League. Boston University, the three seed, is 4.2-1 and American is the two seed at 4.75-1 to win it all. I hate to do it, but after sweeping both American and BU in the regular season, home and away, there will be no problems for the Raiders doing what they’re supposed to do. Currently mocked as a 14 seed, Colgate’s prize in addition to a banner in their gym, is to be Duke’s tune up game. Go Raiders.

The Northeast Conference Tournament: March 4-10

This is one of the trickier tournaments to predict based on how even the conference was all season. The top seed gets to play the worst team left each round, and with the top four teams advancing to the second-round last night, there are some pretty nice matchups in the second round. Additionally, Merrimack won the regular season title in their first ever Division 1 season, and since its their first season they can’t be in either of the tournaments which really is a shame as they were balling this year.

The favorite is actually the two seed, Saint Francis (PA) with 1.7-1 odds, with top seeded Robert Morris right behind them with 1.9-1 odds to win the tournament. This is the first time where there’s been a favorite with this high of odds suggesting a closely fought game. I’m backing St. Francis to get the job done as their only recent losses are to Robert Morris in a game where they couldn’t score on a 1-foot rim, and against Merrimack who doesn’t count in this tournament. Go Red Flash. 

The Southern Conference Tournament: March 6-9

Finally, we have the Southern Conference tournament, the one with the nicest schedule. There are three teams that are head and shoulders above the rest and if East Tennessee State loses a close one in the final, the Southern Conference could sneak two teams into March.

Having one of the more underrated teams, I really am glad I bought ESPN+ to see these first three rounds.The East Tennessee State Buccaneers are the favorites and top seed coming in with 1.4-1 odds to win the automatic berth. Currently pegged to be a 12 seed, they could still sneak in with a loss in the title game as I said before, but they will obviously be dying to win this game. When you only lose by 12 points on the road vs #1 Kansas AND you beat LSU on the road, you gain respect. They swept three seed UNCG and split the series with two seed Furman. Furman also took Auburn to overtime on the road and lost by only three points, another good showing for the Southern Conference. They have been given 3-1 odds to win the tournament and University of North Carolina Greensboro has been given 3.2-1 odds. Barring an upset it will be ETSU vs the winner of Furman/UNCG. I will take ETSU all day as they will be one of the more popular upset picks, similar to Murray State over Marquette last season. Go Buccaneers.

The “Lesser” Conference Tournaments: Predictions and Previews (Part 1)

IT’S MARCH! Arguably the greatest month in sports, I would say it is, March is home to the greatest playoffs in any sport, March Madness. However, the teaser for March Madness is the conference tournaments. The big conferences start their tournaments next week but the teams that need the automatic bid for the NCAA Tournament play this week. All that being said here’s a quick preview and prediction for the “lesser” conference tournaments that will/have started this week.

The Big South Tournament: March 3-8

Arguably one of the most irrelevant tournaments to those without a vested interest in the conference as the champion of the Big South is almost always a 16 seed, it’s still fun to watch the emotion of the kids making the tournament. 

Radford and Winthrop come in as the clear favorites and the top and second seeds respectively so they will meet in the final in all likelihood. A team with a strangely low value is Gardner-Webb who is currently given 11-1 odds to win the tournament even though they’re the three seed. Radford is 10-18 and Winthrop is 10-15 to win the tournament. I would predict Winthrop to win the chance to get throttled by a number one seed in March. Go Eagles.

The Horizon League Tournament: March 3-10

I would say I have a bit more knowledge for this league as University of Detroit Mercy is in the league and with some of my good friends attending the school, I find myself following their games. Due to academic issues, UDM is actually banned from the tournament. 

Wright State comes in as the favorite currently given 10-15 odds to win the tournament after winning the regular season title. It’s going to be hard to see them losing this tournament as they only have to play two games, with one being the final vs. Northern Kentucky in all likelihood. The Northern Kentucky Norse (2.3-1 to win tournament) lost both games to the Raiders of Wright State which makes me nervous, yet I will say that Wright State will win the third match up of the two teams. Go Raiders.

The Atlantic Sun Tournament: March 3-8

One of the tournaments where the home team hosts every game, homecourt advantage and winning the regular season title gives a huge leg up to the one seed, the Liberty Flames. 

Given 1-3.5 odds, they are the undisputed best team coming into the tournament and could maybe even make the tournament without a win. It won’t matter though because they will win no matter what. The challengers, North Florida (3-1 to win tournament), and Lipscomb (22-1 to win tournament), pose almost no threat to the favored Flames who look to finish the season undefeated at home. Sorry to be boring and pick another favorite, but come on, they’re far and away the best team. Go Flames.