Dates: March 7-11 at the Barclays Center
Arguably the most stacked conference in the nation, the hyper competitive ACC has a handful of teams that have the chance to make a deep run in the NCAA tournament. With around 10 potential tourney teams, the entire ACC field could stand to bolster their already impressive resumes with a crucial conference tournament victory. North Carolina enters as a favorite with their 14-4 record in conference play over the season, but a closer look at their schedule reveals all of their losses have come on the road this season. This doesn’t take anything away from North Carolina’s spectacular regular season, but it could have implications on a heavy neutral site schedule in March.
Florida State, Duke, Louisville and Notre Dame all have talented teams and could very well string off enough wins in a row to capture the title, but we are going to side with the experienced Virginia Cavaliers. Virginia’s stifling defense and efficient offense creates a recipe for a team that has the ability to get on a winning streak. As the 6 seed, the Cavaliers wouldn’t have to face North Carolina, Duke or Louisville until the championship game. And coming off a convincing double-digit victory over top-seeded North Carolina, the Cavaliers have plenty of momentum entering the tournament. Senior London Perrantes has been in this situation countless times, and he has his Cavaliers playing some great basketball after a disappointing February.
A potential dark horse is the 9th seeded Miami Hurricanes, who would match up with the Tar Heels in the second round if they can get past Syracuse. The Hurricanes handed the Heels their worst loss of the season back in January and have the talent and depth to play with anybody in the country.
Dates: March 8-11 at the Sprint Center in Kansas City
It’s difficult to side with any team besides the Kansas Jayhawks, who have completely dominated the confernce over the past decade. Devonte’ Graham and Frank Mason form the most fearsome and experienced backcourt in the nation. Mason, one of the favorites for player of the year, is having the best season of his collegiate career averaging 20.5 points per game, 5 assists, and shooting 49.3% from deep. Talented freshman Josh Jackson adds another dimension to the Jayhawks, having the ability to take over games on both ends of the floor.
Baylor could give them a great game, and both West Virginia and Iowa State have beaten Kansas earlier in the season, but there’s no way we’re betting against Bill Self here. The Jayhawks take it, convincingly.
Dates: March 8-12 at the Verizon Center in Washington DC
The Big Ten has suffered a bit of a down season, as arguably no teams in the conference have legitimate NCAA title aspirations currently. While the teams aren’t as talented as the other four major conferences, there is plenty of parity within the Big Ten making for an interesting conference tournament. Any of the teams in the field could string together a few wins and capture the title, instantly bolstering their March Madness seeding.
Purdue has the top seed and has consistently played the best basketball throughout the season, but it’s Maryland that is home to the best player. Melo Trimble has that Shabazz Napier/Kemba Walker-type ability, as he is fully capable of carrying his lesser talented team to multiple victories. Combine that with the fact they would get a slumping Wisconsin team in the semi-finals and it’s enough to convince me the Terrapins have a chance.
This is really anyone’s tournament, so don’t be surprised if one of the lower seeded teams makes a push to book a spot in the big dance.
Dates: March 8-11 at TMobile Arena in Las Vegas
It is pretty easy to argue that the Bruins are the most talented offensive team in America and UCLA has a lot to play for in this tournament. A weak strength of schedule and low RPI could spiral the 3rd ranked team in the nation to a potential 3 or 4 seed with a poor conference tournament showing. The Bruins pulled the short end of the stick by being placed third in the tournament since it will likely result in a second round matchup with cross-town rival USC.
The Trojans already beat UCLA earlier this year, and certainly have the ability to do it again. UCLA would then (more than likely) have to beat Zona and then Oregon to win the title – a tall task for any team in the nation, but we still like their chances. The Pac-12 tourney has the potential to be the most exciting of all the conference tournaments, and we think future lottery pick Lonzo Ball shines under the bright lights.
Dates: March 8-12 at the Bridgestone Arena in Nashville
Despite challenges over the last few years, SEC basketball is still very much dominated by the Wildcats. Florida is a great story after suffering a disappointing season in 2016, and Arkansas just doesn’t have the firepower to match up with Kentucky. Backcourt running mates Malik Monk and De’Aaron Fox are a dynamic tandem, and the Wildcats’ size and athleticism will overwhelm the rest of the field.
As far as any upset pick goes, the Tennessee Volunteers surely have the talent to put up a fight against the Wildcats. It’s been an up and down season for the Vols, but they’ve competed and fought hard against some tough competition all year. Close losses to Gonzaga, North Carolina, Oregon and Wisconsin are nothing to hang your head on and they already have a win over Kentucky during the regular season.
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