For college basketball fanatics, the next two weeks start a month-long of complete euphoria. There are 32 conferences that will hold annual tournaments that end with one team from each automatically punching their bid to the NCAA Tournament. These two weeks will feature upsets, stolen March Madness spots, and heartbreak.
Here are the Top 3 conference tournaments this year.
- Big 12Photo Cred: B12.com
The Big 12 has been the best conference this season by far. There are no bad teams in the Big 12. Currently, five teams in the conference are ranked in the AP Top 25 Poll, more than any other conference. Kansas, Texas, and Baylor lead the pack, and all three can win the National Championship, let alone the Big 12 Tournament. Whoever survives this gauntlet of a tournament will already have a lot of big-game experience when the bracket comes out. Last year, Kansas won the Big 12 Tournament before winning the national championship.
Kansas State is the definition of a dark horse. They were picked last in the league in the preseason poll but now find themselves sitting at #11 in the country. There is no deeper league in the nation. Texas Tech is in 9th place but has finally gotten healthy. Mark Adams’ defense is something none of the frontrunners want to see in Kansas City next week.
My Pick: Kansas
Photo Cred: Kansas.com
2. Big 10
Photo Cred: B10.com
In recent years, the Big 10 has been one of the most competitive leagues in the sport. This year, things are no different. Purdue has been one of the best teams in the country all year, led by National Player of the Year candidate Zach Edey. The Boilermakers will be the #1 seed unless they lose both of their remaining games and in-state rival Indiana wins both of theirs.
After Purdue, four teams sit at 11-7 in conference play (Indiana, Maryland, N’Western, Michigan), and three others are 10-8 (Illinois, Iowa, Rutgers). This means that just one game separates the conference’s #2 and #8 seeds. It does not get any closer than that. Michigan State and Wisconsin are two programs outside of the top eight that could make a run in this tournament. These two teams have had down years compared to what they usually do, but Tom Izzo and Greg Gard’s teams will be competitive in Chicago.
My Pick: Indiana
Photo Cred: http://www.Indaina.com
Photo Cred: http://www.CAA.com
The CAA has been the mid-major conference garnering the most national attention this season. This is mainly due to the success of the College of Charleston under head coach Pat Kelsey. Charleston boasts a fearsome 28-3 record on the season and has spent time in the AP Top 25, which is rare for this conference.
Part of the beauty of conference tournaments is neutral site games, which removes the advantage of one team playing in front of a home crowd leading to more parity. This will not be a cakewalk for Charleston. Hofstra matches Charleston’s conference record at 16-2 and features the leading scoring duo in conference play. Aaron Estrada and Tyler Thomas both average (38.5 PPG). NC Wilmington and Towson have had impressive seasons; both teams sit at 12-6 in conference play. They will make up the #3 and #4 seeds. Towson is led by Nicholas Timberlake, who scored 34 points against Charleston.
With Charleston at 28-3, the selection committee will decide if they have played well enough to make the NCAA Tournament. The CAA is typically a one-bid league, means the team who wins the conference tournament is the only one who makes the big dance. But Charleston could change that trend. Pat Kelsey will aim to bring home the CAA trophy and not leave his team’s fate in the hands of the selection committee.
My Pick: Towson
Photo Cred: http://www.Towson.com