Major CBB Conference Tournament Previews
The Skinny: This is heading toward Round 3 of Cincinnati vs SMU. The Bearcats and Mustangs split the season series in a couple of exciting games and have dominated the conference for the majority of the year. Houston strikes me as sleeper because they likely will need to pull an upset of one of the two favorites to get into the NCAA Tournament, so a lot is on the line for the Cougars. I fully except a Cincy/SMU rematch with SMU and Semi Ojeleye, who is one of the most underrated players in America, to take the title and potentially head for a Top 4 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
The Pick: SMU
Favorite: North Carolina
Sleeper: Clemson and Wake Forest
The Skinny: The ACC is loaded. Plain and simple. There are honestly ten different teams who I could see winning this tournament. North Carolina is the favorite and will likely be heading for a #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament barring an opening game loss to the winner of Syracuse and Miami. Clemson and Wake Forest are teams that are sleepers because of their talent and current position on the bubble. Clemson has lost enough close games to last a decade. UNC by 3, Virginia by 4, Notre Dame by 5, Virginia Tech by 1, Syracuse by 1, Duke by 2, Virginia Tech by 1 again, Florida State by 2. Absolutely crazy the amount of close games Clemson has lost. If they can get a few big bounces in the tournament, they could make a deep run and make their case for an auto-bid. Wake Forest is also in a good position to make a run due to their star big man in All-ACC John Collins, who is criminally underrated. As far as my pick for the tournament, I like Louisville. They are clicking right now and played Carolina tough in Chapel Hill. They will have to get through likely Duke to get to UNC, but Rick Pitino always has his teams playing well this time of year.
The Pick: Louisville
Sleeper: Oklahoma State
The Skinny: The annual Kansas Invitational, as Bubba(@bdentrek) put it on this week’s episode of Benched with Bubba, is yet again the Jayhawks’ tournament to lose. Kansas controls their own destiny to the #1 overall seed, so the motivation is there for Bill Self’s squad to sweep the Big 12. A sleeper here is Oklahoma State, who will be looking to improve their seeding in the NCAA Tournament. The Cowboys played Kansas very tough both times, losing by only single digits each time, and are led by Jawun Evans, who is appointment television. I still like Kansas to win this as they are clearly the most talented team. Frank Mason will want to end his Big 12 career on a high note.
The Pick: Kansas
The Skinny: What a mess this conference is. The Big Ten is on the verge of having zero Top 4 seeds, which would be crazy for a traditional power conference. Purdue is the best bet for a high seed since Wisconsin has gone far off the tracks. Caleb Swanigan has been playing out of his mind and is a candidate for the Wooden Award and will be an All-American. Iowa is the sleeper here as they have played their way on to the bubble, capped off with a massive win on the road against Wisconsin. A big win or two and the Hawkeyes could be in the Big Dance. If Wisconsin can get back on track, I like them to win this tournament. I think they do just that. On Wisconsin.
The Pick: Wisconsin
The Skinny: The Big East is surprisingly strong this year, and that’s even with the injury woes that Creighton and Xavier have had. Villanova and Butler are the clear favorites in this tournament, with Butler actually winning both games this season. Villanova is still playing for the top overall seed should Kansas stumble in the Big 12 Tournament. Marquette is the sleeper, a bubble team who cannot afford an early loss. I think Coach Wojo will have his men ready for a deep run, and they are capable of playing with the best, which was shown in their win over Villanova earlier in the year. I still like Villanova to send Josh Hart and Kris Jenkins out of their Big East careers with a tournament title as the Wildcats prepare to defend their national title.
The Pick: Villanova
Sleeper: St. Bonaventure
The Skinny: The A-10 is far weaker than usual, only having two locks to receive an at-large bid right now in Dayton and VCU. Rhode Island is a team that is right on the bubble and will likely need to make it to the finals of the tournament to be considered for an at-large. St. Bonaventure has played many of the top teams in the conference in close games and even have won a few of them, giving them the role as a sleeper. I think Dayton wins this and sends Archie Miller out with a win, as I predict Miller will take a more lucrative position next year in a major conference.
The Pick: Dayton
Favorite: UCLA….or Oregon…..or Arizona
The Skinny: Some combination of UCLA/Oregon/Arizona will be in the championship game. They are far above the rest of the conference with all three teams likely being #2 seeds in the NCAA Tournament. The way the bracket plays out, UCLA and Arizona would play in the semifinals, a game I like the Bruins to win IF TJ Leaf is healthy. UCLA and Oregon played in two instant classics this year and is a game we all need to see again. That game will likely be for the top overall 2-seed. I like UCLA to win the rubber match behind the play of Lonzo “Daddy’s Boy” Ball.
The Pick: UCLA
The Skinny: Kentucky is clearly the most talented team in the SEC, but that doesn’t mean they have played up to that potential and have dominated. Florida will challenge Kentucky in this tournament and are likely heading toward a rubber match with the Wildcats. Vanderbilt, my sleeper pick, cannot afford an early loss in the tournament with their position on the bubble. They proved recently that they can compete with the top of the conference with a win over Florida and a close loss to Kentucky. I think Kentucky just has too much talent and wins this on their way to a 2-Seed.
The Pick: Kentucky
This week we have some bonus picks by fellow Sports Degenerate Dawk:
ACC: North Carolina – Playing at a high level right now and the most complete team in my opinion.
Big 12: West Virginia – This is a homer pick…I think they can do it. Also have a future on them to win it all so I will pick them to win it all as well…
Big Ten – Wisconsin
SEC – Kentucky I guess…such a weak conference
Pac-12 – UCLA, I like the way they’ve improved defensively
AAC – Cincinnati and SMU will meet in the championship game. I see the Bearcats winning it. There will be no UConn magic folks…
Mountain West – Tough call here, I’ll go with Colorado State
Big East – Villanova
A-10 I’m going to go with Rhode Island, although it wouldn’t shock me to see Dayton take it. The Bonnies could make some noise as well.
Conference USA – Middle Tennessee State