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Conference Tournament Predictions

by Photo of Ross Bernhardt

March Madness is almost here as the power conferences prepare for their conference tourneys.

Conference Tournament Predictions

The NCAA regular season is finally 100 percent complete. Conference tournaments have already begun (and finished, in some cases) and tickets to the dance have already been punched. Selection Sunday is just a week away, and between now and then the power conferences have to be played. We'll predict which teams are going to come out on top and earn the automatic bids from their conferences and which ones need to do work to improve their at-large hopes.

Atlantic 10: Butler - The super-sized A-10 has been one of the more confusing conferences in all of college basketballs. So many teams have risen and fallen over the course of the year, but when tournament time nears, it's never wise to bet against Brad Stevens. Butler is healthy and has finally had some time to play together. They have difficult waters to navigate, but I like them to come out on top in the Barclays Center.

While LaSalle looks good at 21-8, they haven't really beaten anyone outside the A-10. Wins over Butler and VCU look great, but I think they still might have some work to do, especially with that 88 strength of schedule. UMass killed any hopes they have of an at-large bid when they lost to Butler at home last week. The Minutemen need to run the table to make the tourney, but they will have to go through Temple and VCU just to get to the championship game.

ACC: Miami - It goes against logic to pick against the Duke Blue Devils. They haven't lost with Ryan Kelly in the lineup and he has looked terrific since returning from injury. Even though Duke fans travel well, I think the neutral court will take away a bit of their advantage here. I like Miami to exact a little bit of revenge and take down the Blue Devils in the title game.

North Carolina State could do well to make a deep run just to avoid any confusion, but the teams that really need a hot streak are Maryland and Virginia. Both teams boast nice resume wins, but both teams have also suffered disappointing setbacks after those wins. Both teams are dangerous, but their inconsistencies have them in danger of missing out on the tournament.

Big East: Georgetown - Even though the Hoyas just fell to Villanova, the way they responded to it against Syracuse speaks volumes about the team. The defense combined with Otto Porter's ability to take games over will carry them through the final Big East Tournament as we know it. *Tear*

Cincinnati is a tournament team (no losses to sub-100 RPI teams, a one-point loss to New Mexico in December), but just for their own sake, advancing deep in this tournament would be a good way to head into the big dance. They have lost seven of their last 12 games, and for a team that was ranked in the top 10 earlier this year, a little win streak could give them some much-needed confidence. 

Villanova finds themselves in this category, too. They have an awful loss to Columbia, but they have really nice wins over all the top Big East teams. Their recent win over Georgetown might well be enough to get them in, but avoiding an early exit certainly wouldn't hurt.

B1G Ten: Ohio State - Aaron Craft's excellent play of late on both ends of the court has me high on the Buckeyes. With Craft starting to warm up offensively to provide DeShaun Thomas with a partner in crime to take some of that scoring load. One of the most competitive conferences in the country this year will obviously be hard to come out of. Two-thirds of the teams could realistically win this thing. But I like the Buckeyes and think they are getting hot at the right time.

Iowa on the outside looking in right now, and I don't think they have feasible at-large hopes. Their best win is against Minnesota, but their worst loss isn't terrible (Virginia Tech). I don't think it will happen, but if Iowa were to somehow make a run and get to the conference championship game? Who knows.

Big XII: Kansas - After getting embarrassed on the road at Baylor over the weekend, I wholeheartedly expect Kansas to come out with fire and not mess around in this tournament. Kansas is definitely the class of this conference, and they will make that clear over the weekend.

Even though Baylor got that big win over Kansas, they still have work to do. Baylor doesn't have many other quality wins on the resume, and a small run might not be enough. Baylor could need that automatic bid, so they will surely come out playing hard. Oklahoma and Iowa State also could stand to avoid an early exit. Both teams are in good position, but quick losses could hurt them.

Conference USA: Memphis - The Tigers are the class of this conference yet again, and the only real challenge they should face is Southern Miss. The Golden Eagles might not have the resume to pull an automatic bid, however, and will likely have to take down Memphis to advance to the NCAAs.

Mountain West: UNLV - Quietly, the Mountain West sported the best conference RPI of any conference in the country this year. There are so many good teams out West, but I think UNLV takes the tourney. They are finally starting to hit their stride and are going to head into the NCAA tourney with a full head of steam.

Boise St., Wyoming and Air Force are all teams that could make a run here. Boise and Wyoming have the best shots for at-large consideration, but both need to add some more wins here. Boise scheduled cupcakes and then suffered losses to bottom-dwellers Nevada and Utah in conference. A run to the finals might be enough to get them in. Wyoming has an ugly loss at Fresno State where they only put up 36 points and only two wins against top-50 teams. They will likely get overlooked if they can't somehow win this tournament.

Pac-12: UCLA - I think Shabazz Muhammad is going to want to go out with a bang, and they have the talent to really make some noise. It hasn't been the greatest of seasons for the Bruins, but I could really envision them taking it all here and maybe even advancing a little bit in the NCAA's.

Oregon got super hot early on, but have looked pretty normal down the stretch. They have two wins against the RPI top-25, and are likely in, but a weak SOS (and non-conference SOS) might doom them if they suffer a loss early here. They are probably safe, but I wouldn't risk anything if I were the Ducks. Arizona State is in a similar boat. They are .500 against the RPI top-50, but they have a pretty bad SOS. A decent run should ensure a bid, however.

SEC: Florida - The Gators have looked shaky down the stretch, but they are still clearly the top team in the SEC. They have too much balance on offense and defense not to get it done here and clean things up before the real dance.

But outside of the Gators, Missouri, and now Kentucky, there are really no sure things in the SEC. Teams like Ole Miss, Alabama, Tennessee and Arkansas have at times all looked like tournament teams. None have been able to display much consistency in games against top opponents (although Tennessee and Arkansas have fared better than the other two). At-larges for those teams could go either way, so all four of them have work left to do.

Let CHARGED.fm get you tickets to see your favorite teams this March!

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