Almost everyone is in agreement that the Big Ten tournament, which Michigan won for the second straight season, being held a week early is dumb, but we still have a ton of other conference tournaments which not only give schools automatic bids, but can also go a long way in determining the top seeds in the 68-team NCAA Tournament field. Let’s preview the remaining powerhouse conference tournaments in what should be an exciting few days of basketball leading up to Selection Sunday.
In Brooklyn for a second straight year, the ACC Tournament will hopefully deliver thrilling action. The top four seeds (with the benefit of a double bye in the ACC) in the tourney are Virginia, Duke, Miami, and Clemson. They’re all already in the final eight, so just two wins gets them in the championship game. It’s possible both Virginia and Duke grab number one seeds in the NCAA Tournament, but the Blue Devils might need a tournament win to secure it. Whatever happens, Virginia has probably done enough to secure a number one seed. If they win the ACC, North Carolina might have a shot for a one-seed, too, but they’re likely just trying to stay on the two-line. I see Virginia and Duke getting to the final, with Duke coming out on top thanks to Grayson Allen coming up clutch and Marvin Bagley III continuing to play like a beast.
Prediction: Duke Blue Devils
After winning the Big 12 regular season title for the 14th consecutive season, which is both mind-boggling and an NCAA record that may never fall, they are again the top seed in the Big 12 Tournament. No. 2 seed Texas Tech and No. 3 seed West Virginia are probably the only schools that will give them much issue in their quest to also win the postseason conference title, but Oklahoma’s Trae Young feels he was snubbed for Big 12 Player of the Year and could be on a mission. But his team was 8-10 in conference play, and the experienced Devonte’ Graham will probably be on his A-game in a potential matchup with the Sooners after he actually won the Player of the Year award. Bill Self simply knows how to get it done, so the Jayhawks are the pick in the Big 12.
Prediction: Kansas Jayhawks
The ACC has a shot, but the most likely conference with two number one seeds in the NCAA Tournament is probably the Big East with Villanova and Xavier. However, Seton Hall and Creighton should not be slept on in the conference tournament, as they’ve both had their share of upset victories. Anything that happens wouldn’t be a huge surprise, but given how good they’ve been all season, Villanova and Xavier meeting in the final is the pick. The Wildcats blew out the Musketeers in both their matchups this season, so they’ll have a ton of confidence if they do meet again in the Big East final.
Prediction: Villanova Wildcats
Arizona is probably the clear top team in the Pac-12, but they had that ESPN report of FBI wiretaps on head coach Sean Miller surrounding them. However, Miller denies the reports, and some are thinking it was fake news. Amidst the off-the-court chaos, the Wildcats have played well, and Miller might have his team on an “us against the world” mentality starting with the Pac-12 Tournament. But the 12-team tournament field should deliver some high-scoring affairs, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see any of the teams make a run and win the whole thing. Basically everyone in the conference but Arizona is considered a bubble team, so one team might explode with an automatic bid on the line. I’ll take Miller’s team, though.
Prediction: Arizona Wildcats
Quietly, several SEC teams have had very good seasons, and a bunch of them should be representing in the NCAA Tournament. Perhaps more than any other conference, the SEC Tournament should be very much up in the air. And like in the ACC, the top four seeds (Auburn, Tennessee, Florida, and Kentucky) get a double bye all the way to the quarterfinals. Kentucky will be the trendy pick because it’s Kentucky, and John Calipari’s team does have a lot of upside. Overall, the balanced and explosive scoring attack of Auburn should be enough for Bruce Pearl to lead the Tigers to their first SEC title since 1985.
Prediction: Auburn Tigers