March is upon us and the madness draws closer
It's officially college basketball conference tournament time although most of the first week's tourneys won't make too much of a ripple across the landscape of the sport. With that, let's take a look at what to expect and who might win.
Note: Tournaments are in alphabetical order by start date.
Atlantic Sun — March 3, 5, 8
Sites: Campus sites (Higher seeds host)
No. 1 Seed: Liberty (27-4, 13-3)
Biggest Threat: No. 2 North Florida (1-1 vs. Liberty)
Once again the Flames will conquer the A-Sun and be a thorn in someone's side in the big dance. They've got a veteran group and a taste of March after beating Mississippi State last year in the tourney.
Big South – March 3, 5, 6, 8
Sites: Campus sites, then at Radford; title game at highest remaining seed
No. 1 Seed: Radford (20-10, 15-3)
Biggest Threats: No. 2 Winthrop (1-1 vs. Radford), No. 5 Hampton (0-2 vs. Radford but both losses by a total of seven points)
I know Radford is the home school here, but I think Winthrop could be the better team who already has a win there. If either of these two teams makes the dance, they won't be an easy out either.
Horizon League – March 3, 5, 9, 10
Sites: Campus sites until semis when tourney moves to Indiana Farmers Coliseum (Indianapolis)
No. 1 Seed: Wright State (25-6, 15-3)
Biggest Threats: No. 2 Northern Kentucky (0-2 vs. Wright State), No. 3 Green Bay (1-1 vs. Wright State)
Prediction: Green Bay
The Phoenix play with an extremely fast tempo and I think they have what it takes to come out of this conference. Any of these top three could make things interesting in the field of 68 in a few weeks.
Patriot League – March 3, 5, 8, 11
Sites: Campus sites
No. 1 Seed: Colgate (23-8, 14-4)
Biggest Threat: The winner of Army/Lafayette in the 4/5 quarterfinal game (Lafayette 2-0 vs. Colgate; Army 0-2)
This is the Raiders' conference to lose. Already this season, they've played Clemson, Syracuse, Auburn and Cincinnati so if they get to the dance, they won't be intimidated.
Mountain West – March 4-7
Site: Thomas & Mack Center (Las Vegas)
No. 1 Seed: San Diego State (28-1, 17-1)
Biggest Threats: No. 2 Utah State (0-2 vs. SDSU), No. 4 UNLV (1-1 vs. SDSU)
Prediction: Utah State
Outside of an odd two point loss to New Mexico in their final regular season game, the Aggies have been playing some good basketball. Remember, they were the team that got all the hype in the preseason.
Northeast Conference – March 4, 7, 10
Site: Campus sites
No. 1 Seed: Robert Morris (17-14, 13-5)
Biggest Threat: No. 2 St. Francis (Pa.) (1-1 vs. Robert Morris), No. 5 Fairleigh Dickinson (2-0 vs. Robert Morris)
I know it's a cop out, but this is a real hard conference to predict. Robert Morris is the favorite obviously, but I feel like almost anyone can take it. Unfortunately, whichever team wins will probably be one and done in the Big Dance.
Ohio Valley – March 4-7
Site: Ford Center (Evansville, Ind.)
No. 1 Seed: Belmont (24-7, 15-3)
Biggest Threats: No. 2 Murray State (1-1 vs. Belmont), No. 3 Austin Peay (1-1 vs. Belmont)
Down the stretch, Murray State has played some up-and-down basketball. The Bruins have been pretty consistent and should have an easy path to the title game. Watch out for the team that wins the OVC as it could make some noise in the NCAA Tournament.
Missouri Valley – March 5-8
Site: Enterprise Center (St. Louis, Mo.)
No. 1 Seed: Northern Iowa (25-5, 14-4)
Biggest Threat: No. 2 Loyola Chicago (1-1 vs. UNI)
Prediction: Coin toss
This is a really tough one to predict. You could throw Indiana State to the mix as well. I'd like to think the Panthers will win, but I wouldn't be surprised if it was the Ramblers once again. As usual, the winner of this tourney will not be an easy out.
West Coast Conference – March 5-7, 9-10
Site: Orleans Arena (Las Vegas)
No. 1 Seed: Gonzaga (29-2, 15-1)
Biggest Threats: No. 2 BYU (1-1 vs. Gonzaga), No. 3 Saint Mary's (0-2 vs. Gonzaga)
I really wanted to pick BYU because I think Yoeli Childs makes that much of a difference, but I just can't. I think the Zags take it as usual and the Cougars sweat it out on Selection Sunday after a loss to the Gaels in the semis.