Conference Tournaments get March Madness Rolling


Connor Clark

As March is upon us, that means the most exciting time of the year in sports is on the horizon. While the NCAA Tournament may be the main focus for the majority of teams in college basketball at this point, for some the conference tournament deems just as important. At this point, bubble teams are desperate for a quality win to try and secure their spot in the “Big Dance.”

For each of the six major conference tournaments, a winner will be picked. In addition, there will be information about what the bubble teams for each conference and whether they will make the field of 68.

Atlantic Coastal Conference (ACC)
Location: Spectrum Center, Charlotte, North Carolina
Dates: March 12-16
Tournament Winner: The ACC is always well represented in the NCAA Tournament. With a 15 team field, you have most likely watched an ACC team in action. With eight teams currently in the field of 68 according to ESPN’s Joe Lunardi Bracketology, there are multiple teams within this high powered conference who have a legit shot to take home the title. This tournament will be a must watch for many college basketball fans. This is a tough one to pick a winner because there are three teams that I believe can win this tournament and make a deep run in the NCAA Tournament. My three contenders are the North Carolina Tar Heels, Virginia Cavaliers, and the Duke Blue Devils. Depending on the status of Duke forward Zion Williamson, that could affect my pick. Coach K of Duke even stated, “We are not as good as we are with him,” following Duke’s 71-70 win over Wake Forest at Cameron Indoor. Based on how the Duke Blue Devils have been playing, I am going to have to pick the Virginia Cavaliers. This team is clicking on all cylinders and their lockdown defense is a force to be reckoned with. The Virginia Cavaliers are your ACC Tournament Champions.

Bubble Watch: As far as bubble teams go in the ACC, Clemson finds themselves on the outside looking in, currently on Joe Lunardi’s “First Four In” list. With a close game on the road vs. (13-17) Notre Dame, Clemson was able to pick up the win 64-62 and won at home against Syracuse by a score of 67-55. Clemson still has some work to do in the conference tournament if they want to make it to the NCAA Tournament, in my opinion. This will be tough because the ACC is a world-class league with the best of the best talent, but in order for the Tigers to make it, they must win two games in the ACC Tournament.

Big XII (12)
Location: Sprint Center, Kansas City, Missouri
Dates: March 13-16

Big East
Location: Madison Square Garden, New York City, New York
Dates: March 13-16
Tournament Winner: The Big East is down from its normal stereotype of being a powerhouse conference. Many describe the conference to have Marquette, Villanova, and everyone else, which is completely true. That is what makes this conference tournament so interesting; it’s anyone’s game. Marquette and Villanova are the favorites to win it, but who knows a team such as Seton Hall or Providence could win it, even my favorite team DePaul could win a few games in the Big East Tournament and run the table for an NIT bid. This tournament in the “World’s Most Famous Arena,” is up for grabs. My Pick is going to be a little outlandish and a slight upset. The St. John’s Red Storm will win the Big East Tournament and here is why. This team is much improved from last year with 20 plus wins, they have SWEPT Marquette, which has lost their last four games, and they are playing in their home stadium and trust me, when St. John’s plays at MSG, their fans show out.

Bubble Watch: As I mentioned before, the Big East is up for grabs this season; everyone has an overall winning record, and everyone is competitive with each other. The Big East currently has four teams on the bubble, two of which are in the tournament. St. John’s is currently in Joe Lunardi’s “Last Four Byes,” Seton Hall in the “Last Four In,” and then Creighton who picked up an enormous win in Milwaukee vs. Marquette, and Xavier find themselves in the “Next Four Out.” Seton Hall and St. John’s should make it to the NCAA Tournament, Creighton is very close, and Xavier is not cut out to make it in my opinion. Seton Hall has some quality wins, such as a win vs. Kentucky at Madison Square Garden early in the season, and just beating Marquette this past week at home. The only thing that hurts them is the 12 losses and getting swept by the Blue Demons of DePaul. Same goes for St. John’s, they have some very good wins such as the sweeping of Marquette, but then getting swept by DePaul. Granted DePaul is a much-improved team this year when the committee sees that on their resume is could hurt them come Selection Sunday. Creighton needs to win out and steal at least two wins, maybe even three in the Big East Tournament, and for Xavier, they just aren’t good enough and they don’t have the resume for the Tournament.

Big Ten
Location: United Center, Chicago, Illinois
Dates: March 13-17
Tournament Winner: Ah, the Big Ten, the incredibly deep Big Ten. This is the best I think I have ever seen this conference play. Right now eight teams are projected to make it into the tournament out of the field of 14 teams. You have Purdue, Michigan, Michigan State, Wisconsin, Maryland, Iowa, Minnesota, and Ohio State all battling to capture the elusive Big Ten Title. This tournament is the most interesting as I, also being a Northwestern fan, know that there are a lot of Big Ten alumni that live in Chicago, and they flood Ryan Field and Welsh-Ryan Arena in Evanston, Illinois, year in and year out. This tournament is going to have an excellent atmosphere and if you have the opportunity to go, I highly suggest making a trip down to the United Center to check it out. Just like the Big East, this is a tournament where a surprising team can jump out and win this thing. Yes, Purdue, Michigan, and Michigan State have been the top dog all season, but you have teams such as Maryland and Wisconsin, even Indiana who are coming into this tournament with confidence. I had a really tough time picking a winner for this Tournament, and this was an extremely tough choice, but the Purdue Boilermakers will win the Big Ten Tournament. When they shoot the ball well they can play with anyone in the country and I believe they are slept on a little. The Boilermakers are your Big Ten Tournament Champions.

Bubble Watch: The Big Ten makes itself relevant in the bubble conversation with two teams, Indiana and Minnesota. Indiana has been a weird team all season long, opening up their 2018-19 campaign inside the AP Top 25 poll, lingering in the 20s for a couple of weeks, but then lost 12 of 13 games within conference play. That streak is the main reason why the 17-14 Hoosiers remain in Joe Lunardi’s “Next Four Out.” While that horrendous streak obviously doesn’t help them when it comes to Selection Sunday, a dominating win at home vs. Marquette (96-73) and a SWEEP of Michigan State certainly boosts their March hopes. The Hoosiers still have to make some noise in the Big Ten Tournament, so much noise it can win them three games in that tournament to make them a topic of conversation on March 17th. As for Minnesota, they captured a critical home win against at the time No. 11 Purdue, earning a spot in Lunardi’s “Last Four Byes.” The Golden Gophers have been relying heavily on Amir Coffey, Scoring 32 points against Northwestern on the road, and adding 34 points to the Gophers winning effort against Purdue. Minnesota should be ok for the “Big Dance,” but in my opinion, they still have to win at least one or two games in the conference tournament to solidify their position in March.

Location: T-Mobile Arena, Las Vegas, Nevada
Dates: 13-16
Tournament Winner: The Pac-12 has had a rough year as a conference. No ranked teams despite the Washington Huskies being (24-7) and (15-3) in the conference, and only two teams have at least 20 wins. This conference tournament, on the other hand, could be entertaining based on how close all of the teams are to each other. Washington secured the Pac-12 regular season title and has been the front runner all year, but that doesn’t matter anymore. Everyone is (0-0) and everyone has a shot. With that being said, I am going to have to pick the second place finisher in the Pac-12, the Arizona State Sun Devils. We all have seen what this team can do, beating at the time No. 1 Kansas at home, and being ranked for a couple of weeks during the season. Coach Bobby Hurley knows what he is doing down in Phoenix, and I believe the Sun Devils will capture the Pac-12 Tournament Title.

Bubble Watch: As far as the bubble watch goes for the Pac-12, there really is none. According to Joe Lunardi, Washington is in as an 8 seed, and Arizona State is listed as an 11 seed and is featured on Lunardi’s “Last Four Byes” list. Besides that, there is no other team in the tournament picture, so if a team such as Arizona or Oregon State wasn’t to make it, they are going to have to win the Pac-12 Tournament.

Southeastern Conference (SEC)
Location: Bridgestone Arena, Nashville, Tennessee
Dates: 13-17
Tournament Winner: Now this might just be me, but the SEC continues to prove that they are a basketball conference as well. With a projected eight teams in the NCAA Tournament this year, this tournament should be nothing short of a spectacle. Teams such as the surprising LSU Tigers, Tennessee, and usual favorite Kentucky have their eyes set on the conference trophy, but a team such as Mississippi State could come in and spoil it all. LSU won the regular season SEC Title, but that does not mean that they will run away with the SEC Tournament as well. I believe Kentucky is going to bounce back and win the SEC tournament. They lost a heartbreaker at the Buzzer to LSU, they split with Tennessee, and they are a projected 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. My pick, The Kentucky Wildcats.

Bubble Watch: Just like the Pac-12, there really isn’t much of a bubble for the SEC. The conference currently has eight teams in the NCAA Tournament, second most out of any conference. Alabama is listed on Lunardi’s “Last Four In” list, and Alabama will get their business done in the SEC tournament to solidify their position in the “Big Dance.”