HomeSport College basketball conference tournament predictions: Picks for every men’s league

College basketball conference tournament predictions: Picks for every men’s league

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March Madness is here, and with it begins the best postseason in American sports. Every team in DI college basketball has the opportunity to win the national championship as long as they keep winning, and that trek starts with the conference tournaments.

We saw one of the great runs in NCAA tournament history happen last year when Saint Peter’s ran all the way to the Elite Eight with upsets over Kentucky and Purdue. The Peacocks’ run really started in the MAAC tournament, where they beat Monmouth in the title game to clinch the auto-bid. Next thing you knew, Saint Peter’s was America’s favorite new Cinderella.

Can we get another Saint Peter’s this year? It’s certainly possible given that there hasn’t been a heavy favorite all season at the top of the men’s college basketball landscape. With conference tournament season finally here, we decided to give picks for every league. Here are our conference tournament predictions.

Big 12 tournament bracket predictions
Dates: March 8th-11th, 2023

Location: T-Mobile Center, Kansas City, MO

Our pick: Kansas Jayhawks. The reigning champions look like a team that could very possibly become the first to repeat since Florida in 2006-07. The Jayhawks haven’t been perfect, but the Big 12 has been a bloodbath this year. After losing three consecutive games in January, Bill Self said he wasn’t remotely concerned about the state of his team. Kansas responded by winning 10 of their next 11 games including an 8-point win over #5 Texas and a 16-point blowout of #9 Baylor. The Bears could challenge Kansas, but with a recent ankle injury to their star Keyonte George, Baylor might be more focused on keeping healthy before the big dance. Rock chalk. — Adam Ward

Big Ten tournament predictions
Dates: March 8th-12th, 2023

Location: United Center, Chicago, IL

Our pick: Purdue Boilermakers. It’s almost impossible to lose a top-five NBA draft pick (Jaden Ivey) and one of the best big men in the conference (Trevion Williams) and get even better, but that’s exactly what Purdue has done this season. The Boilermakers have been considered an elite team since earning victories over Duke, Gonzaga, and Marquette early in the season, and for the most part Matt Painter’s team has remained among the country’s best ever since. Everything Purdue does is built around star center Zach Edey, the 7’4 behemoth poised to be college basketball’s national player of the year. With two standout freshmen (Fletcher Loyer and Braden Smith) and a couple of savvy vets around him, Purdue’s pieces just fit better this year even if the talent isn’t as overwhelming. Now it’s time for Painter to prove it in March and get to his first Final Four ever. — Ricky O’Donnell

SEC tournament predictions
Dates: March 8th-12th, 2023

Location: Bridgestone Arena, Nashville, TN

Our pick: Tennessee. The smart thing might be to pick Alabama, due to their consistency and ability to take over games on both sides of the ball. However, Tennessee’s defense is number one in the country according to KenPom, and they’ve beaten Alabama recently, holding them 30 points under their scoring average. Rick Barnes has got this team to be extremely well coached, and while their offense can lag at times, this is an experienced group who knows how to play deep into the tournament. Their defensive pressure should cause fits for the SEC on their way to the title. — JP Acosta

Big East tournament predictions
Dates: March 8th-11th, 2023

Location: Madison Square Garden, New York, NY

Our pick: Creighton Bluejays. A six-game losing streak in the middle of the season without star center Ryan Kalkbrenner threatened to derail Creighton before they ever got to March. Since he’s returned, the Bluejays have mostly played up to their potential as one of the most balanced teams in America. Creighton checks a lot of the boxes for what you want out of a team in the NCAA tournament: Ryan Nembhard is a steady hand at point guard, Trey Alexander is a brilliant shot-creator and shot-maker next to him in the backcourt, transfer Baylor Scheierman is a sniper from three, and Kalkbrenner is an elite rim protector inside. The Big East is loaded this year so anyone you pick in this tournament risks being eliminated early, but the pieces have always been intriguing for the Bluejays and they’re finally starting to come together. — ROD

Pac-12 tournament predictions
Dates: March 8th-11th, 2023

Location: T-Mobile Arena, Las Vegas, NV

Our pick: UCLA. You could really go either way between UCLA or Arizona, but I’m giving the Bruins the best odds to win the Pac-12 tournament based on their conference resume. It’s true, UCLA did lose to Arizona once this season already, and followed that up with an ugly loss to USC. But that’s it; they’ve won every other game against a conference opponent. Arizona, on the other hand, has dropped some stinkers. From a 13 point loss to barely-.500 Washington State, to a baffling 88-79 defeat at Stanford where their star Azuolas Tubelis had as many fouls as he did points. The Cats look fallible, while the Bruins are rolling to a #1 seed. — Adam Ward

Mountain West tournament predictions
Dates: March 8th-11th, 2023

Location: Thomas & Mack Center, Las Vegas, NV

Our pick: Boise State Broncos. The Mountain West is such a tossup this year, with the top 4 teams all having about an equal resume. San Diego State is an NCAA Tournament lock, and although the Azetcs whipped the Broncos in their first meeting, BSU has looked stronger and stronger as the season has gone on and got their revenge at the end of February. The Broncos own the 10th best defense in all of college basketball, and between their three stars Max Rice, Marcus Shaver and Tyson Degenhart (who all averaged 13+ PPG), they have multiple weapons in late game situations. The Broncos have more tournament appearances without a win than any other school in NCAA history, this year seems like as good as any to finally break that streak. — Adam Ward

ACC tournament predictions
Dates: March 7th-11th, 2023

Location: Greensboro Coliseum, Greensboro, NC

Our pick: Virginia. In the ACC, where nothing makes sense and everything is upside down and on fire, you have to choose the team that’s been there before, with the coaching that’s been there before. Virginia has been through some ups and downs this season, but with Tony Bennett still pulling the strings the Cavaliers will be tough to beat. They can turn any game into a rock fight with their defense, and all they need are a few clutch plays from Reece Beekman and Armaan Franklin to make a long run. — JP Acosta

AAC tournament predictions
Dates: March 9th-12th, 2023

Location: Dickies Arena, Fort Worth, TX

Our pick: Houston Cougars. The overwhelming favorite entering March is going to be the Houston Cougars — not just in the AAC tournament but also in the NCAA tournament. Head coach Kelvin Sampson has made the Final Four and Elite Eight in his last two appearances in the big dance, but this feels like his most talented team ever. Marcus Sasser might be the best guard in the country, blurring daring pull-up jumpers on offense with nasty point of attack defense. Jarace Walker is Sampson’s first true five-star on the recruiting trail, and he’s positioned himself as a sure-fire top-10 NBA draft pick with a tremendous freshman year on both ends of the floor. The rest of this team is a bunch of dogs: they defend like hell, crash the glass, and own the paint. I was tempted to go Memphis here as an upset pick, especially if I pick Houston to win the big dance, but it’s just too hard to pick against this Cougars team. — Ricky O’Donnell

WCC tournament predictions
Dates: March 2nd-4th & 6th-7th, 2023

Location: Orleans Arena, Las Vegas, NV

Our pick: Gonzaga. The Bulldogs secured a split regular season WCC title with Saint Mary’s in a 77-68 win on February 25th, denying the Gaels their first outright regular season conference title in over a decade. The Zags are battle-tested, having played one of the most grueling non-conference schedules of any school this year, and they’re led by veteran Drew Timme who is not only one of the best scorers in college basketball, but one of the most efficient shot-takers too. Gonzaga seems to thrive in an underdog role, and while their presence in the postseason has been one of the most consistent things in college basketball for the last 20 years, their journey there this season has been anything but assured. Without the pressure of being essentially perfect like they’ve had over the past few seasons, the Bulldogs should be free to play their best ball heading into March. — Adam Ward

Conference USA tournament predictions
Dates: March 8th-11th, 2023

Location: Ford Center at The Star, Frisco, TX

Our pick: FAU. The Owls are cruising into the Conference USA tournament after winning the regular season championship last weekend. Led by Coach of the Year candidate Dusty May, the Owls have a bevy of scorers and guards who can heat up at any time. By KenPom rankings, the Owls are the best team in the conference, and it might not be close. Their adjusted offensive ranking is top 40 in the country and have a whopping seven players shooting over 30% from deep. The Owls 37.4% three-point percentage is 37th in the country, and defensively they cause havoc. This Owls team is built for March. — JP Acosta

WAC tournament predictions
Dates: March 7th & 9th-11th, 2023

Location: Michelob ULTRA Arena & Orleans Arena, Las Vegas, NV

Our pick: Sam Houston State. Head coach Jason Hooten has been leading the Bearkats for 13 years, and he just won 20+ games for the sixth time in his tenure. Despite a bunch of good seasons, Hooten has never made the NCAA tournament with the program. This could be the year that changes. Sam Houston State is an elite defensive club, currently ranking in the top-20 of the country in efficiency. The Bearkats play a hyper-aggressive style that forces a ton of turnovers and gets them out in transition. Qua Grant, a 6’1 senior guard, might be the best player in this field as a floor general who is also capable of filling it up as a scorer. This tournament feels wide open, but we’ll take Sam Houston State. — Ricky O’Donnell

Atlantic 10 tournament predictions
Dates: March 7th-9th, 11th-12th, 2023

Location: Barclays Center, Brooklyn, NY

Our pick: Saint Louis Billikens. Dayton and VCU feel like the favorites heading into the A-10 tournament, and Fordham is tough enough defensively to win it, too. Still, we’ll go with the Billikens because of their combination of size and shot-making. Veteran point guard Yuri Collins led college basketball with 10.2 assists per game this year, and serves as the ultimate table-setter for this group. His best weapon the perimeter is Gibson Jimerson, a 6’5 wing, who hit 40 percent of his threes on a high volume of attempts. Former Oregon transfer Francis Okoro is an outstanding shot-blocker and rebounder at this level, and Javon Pickett and Javonte Perkins can get a bucket in a pinch. This feels like the time for head coach Travis Ford to make his second big dance appearance with Saint Louis. — Ricky O’Donnell

Sun Belt tournament predictions
Dates: February 28th, March 2nd & 4th-6th, 2023

Location: Pensacola Bay Center, Pensacola, FL

Our pick: Marshall. Don’t let the conference standings fool you. While Southern Miss enters the tournament atop the Sun Belt, Marshall is easily the best team in the conference — assuming they can keep their composure. Consistence has been the Thundering Herd’s biggest enemy, and that could come back to bite them in the tournament unless they pull themselves together. Their backcourt sharpshooters Taevion Kinsley and Kamdyn Curfman both shoot over .400 from three, and if either get hot it’s unclear who in the tournament can stop them. — James Dator

Ivy League tournament predictions
Dates: March 11th-12th, 2023

Location: Jadwin Gym, Princeton University

Our pick: Yale Bulldogs. The Bulldogs are the 70th-ranked team according to Ken Pomeroy, and have the best overall record clocking in at 19-7 on the year. While their 9-4 record within the conference is matched by both Penn and Princeton, Yale swept the Tigers and split the season series with Penn. As the only team ranked in the top 100 by Ken Pomeroy, the Bulldogs seem like the safe pick. — Mark Schofield

Big West tournament predictions
Dates: March 7th & 9th-11th, 2023

Location: Dollar Loan Center, Henderson, NV

Our pick: UC Irvine. This tournament is an absolute tossup. It’s entirely possible that any of the California teams, or Hawaii could win this — but in the end UC Irvine is the best guess for who will come out of the conference. The Anteaters might have some front court weaknesses, but their solid rotation of guards is deep, giving them the ability to wear their opponents down off the bench and should enable them to eek out a win here. — James Dator

Missouri Valley tournament predictions
Dates: March 2nd-5th, 2023

Location: Enterprise Center, St. Louis, MO

Our pick: Drake Bulldogs. The Missouri Valley has mostly been a two-horse race between Drake and Bradley all season, and it’s setting up for a phenomenal battle for the auto-bid at Arch Madness. We’ll go with Drake for a couple reasons: a) sophomore wing Tucker DeVries is the best player in the field and should be the MVC Player of the Year, b) Drake has surrounded him with so many veteran role players, including guards DJ Wilkins and Roman Penn who are 25 years old, and c) Darnell Brodie is a legit big man who can lock down the paint. If the Bulldogs get in to the big dance, they’re good enough to win a game or two. — ROD

Big Sky tournament predictions
Dates: March 4th-8th, 2023

Location: Idaho Central Arena, Boise, ID

Our pick: Montana St. Bobcats: Head coach Danny Sprinkle led Montana St. to its first NCAA tournament appearance since 1996 last season by winning the Big Sky tournament, and his team might be even better this year. The Bobcats get it done on the defensive end, with the only top-100 defense in the conference. They thrive limiting offensive rebounds and forcing turnovers. The offense can be a bit more of a struggle, but Washington transfer RaeQuan Battle has had a breakout season as a wing scorer who serves as the team’s primary option in the halfcourt. This feels like the most balanced team in the field, so it’s our pick. — ROD

MAC tournament predictions
Dates: March 9th-11th, 2023

Location: Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse, Cleveland, OH

Our pick: Akron Zips. The Zips won this tournament last year to get into the big dance, where they gave UCLA a hell of a fight in the first round. John Groce has his team on the doorstep again, and this year’s group might be even better. Akron has two of the top players in the conference in Chicago-bred guard Xavier Castaneda and 6’7 forward Enrique Freeman. Akron chucks a ton of threes, with 44 percent of their field goals coming from deep. That style of play gives them a ton of variance on a game-to-game basis, but also makes them capable of beating anyone. This team can be dangerous if they get hot. — ROD

Atlantic Sun tournament predictions
Dates: Feb 27th-28th & March 2nd & 5th, 2023

Location: Campus Sites

Our pick: Kennesaw State. I’m high on the Owls, who have seen a miraculous turnaround thanks to coach Amir Abdur-Rahim. Kennesaw State went 1-28 just four seasons ago, and now is very likely heading to their first NCAA tournament appearance in school history. They’ve got a well-balanced roster, they shoot 37% from three as a team, and they get to the free throw line a lot. Admittedly Liberty is better on paper, and has the superstar in Darius McGhee, who is one of the most prolific scorers in college basketball. When Kennesaw State and Liberty met in mid-February, McGhee lit up the Owls to the tune of 43 points. The only problem for Liberty: KSU won that game, 88-81. Give me Kennesaw again in the ASUN Championship, punching the ticket to their first dance. — Adam Ward

Southern Conference tournament predictions
Dates: March 3rd-6th, 2023

Location: Harrah’s Cherokee Center, Asheville, NC

Our pick: Furman. The 24-7 Paladins have been the most consistent team in the conference this season, and have tremendous firepower thanks to senior guard Mike Bothwell. Bothwell ranks 59th in college basketball in offensive rating, according to Ken Pomeroy — and has shown a knack for not just playing big against poor competition, but stepping up against their A-tier opponents as well. The biggest threat to Furman heading to the tournament comes from UNC Greensboro, who they split their head-to-head with this season, but in the end Furman has shown to be the most reliable team in the conference and should be able to get things done. — James Dator

Horizon League tournament predictions
Dates: Feb 28th & March 2nd & 6th-7th, 2023

Location: Campus Sites & Indiana Farmers Coliseum, Indianapolis, IN

Our pick: Youngstown St. Penguins: The Horizon League has some great depth at the top this year, with four teams who could legitimately claim the autobid. Still, we’re going with the favorites from Youngstown St. because the offense is just incredible. The Penguins start five seniors, led by All-Conference guard Dwayne Cohill. Cohill shoots 46 percent from three, and he’s flanked by another knockdown shooter in 6’3 guard Brandon Rush. There’s also enough size with 6’8 Adrian Nelson and 6’7 Malek Green to keep teams from gashing them inside. It’s rare to see a low-major offense flirt with the top-30 of the national efficiency rankings, but Youngstown St. has had enough firepower to do it. This will be a popular Cinderella pick if they can get in the dance. — ROD

Big South tournament predictions
Dates: March 1st & 3rd-5th, 2023

Location: Bojangles Coliseum, Charlotte, NC

Our pick: UNC Asheville. There’s a case to be made for Longwood here as well, but ultimately the Bulldogs end up punching their ticket. UNC Asheville has been extremely good in conference this season, racking up a 16-2 record. Forward Taijon Jones is the player to watch. One of the best shooting players in all of college basketball this season (.459) he has the ability to absolutely take over games by himself, which he’s already done several times this season. — James Dator

MAAC tournament predictions
Dates: March 7th-11th, 2023

Location: Boardwalk Hall, Atlantic City, NJ

Our pick: Iona. This is a chalky pick, but the Gaels have been the class of the MAAC this season. They currently sit atop the conference with a 22-7 record with two game remaining, ahead of Rider, who are second in the conference with a 15-12 record. The Gaels have three of the best players in the conference including big man Nelly Junior Joseph, a 6’9 forward averaging 15 points and 10 rebounds a game. The Gaels have a tremendous backcourt tandem in guards Daniss Jenkins — averaging 15 points and five assists a game — and Walter Clayton Jr., who has averaged 17 ppg on the year. — Mark Schofield

Summit League tournament predictions
Dates: March 3rd-7th, 2023

Location: Denny Sanford Premier Center, Sioux Falls, SD

Our pick: Oral Roberts Golden Eagles. Not only do I guarantee ORU will win the Summit Tournament (they’re undefeated in conference play this year), I’m taking it further and guaranteeing they win at least one game in the NCAA Tournament. Oral Roberts has a top 25 offense in all of college basketball, plays a blistering tempo (top 10 among likely tournament teams), and are #2 in turnover rate in the entire country. Senior guard Max Abmas led the Golden Eagles to a Sweet Sixteen appearance in 2021, and he’s only gotten better since then. This is his moment. — Adam Ward

America East tournament predictions
Dates: March 4th, 7th & 11th, 2023

Location: Campus Sites

Our pick: Vermont. Yes, the America East tournament is shaping up to be a two-horse race between UMass Lowell and Vermont, and there are a lot of reasons to pick the River Hawks. They’re the best team in the conference shooting the three, as their three-point percentage of 37.4% is tops in the America East and 28th in the nation. The River Hawks also enter with the better overall record, clocking in at 24-7 on the year, in contrast to Vermont’s 20-10 record. However, the Catamounts are the pick for a few reasons. First, Vermont has the nation’s third-longest active win streak, which reached 12 with Tuesday’s win over Albany. So John Becker’s squad enters the tournament on a hot streak. Second: They are experienced. They start five seniors, and count on a few more seniors in their rotation.Some of those seniors, including forwards Robin Duncan and Finn Sullivan, were key contributors to the Vermont team that made the tournament as a #13 seed a year ago, losing to Arkansas by four in the first round. That experience will help these next few weeks. — Mark Schofield

CAA tournament predictions
Dates: March 3rd-7th, 2023

Location: Entertainment & Sports Arena, Washington, D.C.

Our pick: Charleston Cougars. Pat Kelsey’s jump from Winthrop to Charleston has already made the Cougars the class of the CAA and one of the best mid-majors in the country. The Cougars are an incredibly balanced team with five players averaging double-figures in scoring while ranking in the top-85 nationally of both offensive and defensive efficiency. The Cougars take 47 percent of their shots from three, and make them at a 34 percent clip. On the other end of the floor, Charleston can defend without fouling and does well to hold up on the glass despite not having a ton of size or rim protection. This team is incredibly cohesive and is ready to make noise in the NCAA tournament. — ROD

Patriot League tournament predictions
Dates: Feb 28th & March 2nd, 5th & 8th, 2023

Location: Campus Sites

Our pick: Colgate Raiders. Colgate finished with a 17-1 record in Patriot League play this season, setting a new conference record with those 17 wins. Their one loss came against American, who would need to win three games just to see the Raiders in the Championship Game. Navy might be Colgate’s toughest test, but the Raiders swept their two meeting this year. Oh, and the Raiders are the nation’s best team from three-point land this year. — Mark Schofield

MEAC tournament predictions
Dates: March 8th-11th, 2023

Location: Norfolk Scope, Norfolk, VA

Our pick: Norfolk State Spartans. Senior guard Joe Bryant Jr. leads the Spartans who are looking to return to their third consecutive NCAA tournament after only reaching the big dance once previously. The Spartans have far and beyond the most potent offense in the MEAC with four different players averaging double figures in scoring. They could see a scare from North Carolina Central, who boasts an incredibly efficient defense, but I’m going with my gut and saying senior experience wins out for the Spartans. Now we’ll see if they can make an upset in the tournament like they did in 2012. — Adam Ward

Ohio Valley tournament predictions
Dates: March 1st-4th, 2023

Location: Ford Center, Evansville, IN

Our pick: Morehead State … I guess? Look, the Ohio Valley isn’t great when stacked up against almost any other conference in college basketball, but the one thing going for it this season is parity — and to that end it’s been extremely compelling. There is no great pick for who will stamp their ticket, with five teams being ranked within 30 places in the mid 200s in KenPom. Morehead State narrowly edges out the competition thanks to point guard Mark Freeman, who is the best distributor and offensive difference maker in the OVC. — James Dator

Southland tournament predictions
Dates: March 5th-8th, 2023

Location: Legacy Center, Lake Charles, LA

Our pick: Texas A&M Corpus Christi. The Islanders won the Southland last year before falling in the First Four. They have the talent to win the conference tournament again and get back in the big dance this year. Guard Terrion Murdix returns to lead the way for a team that plays super fast on offense. Their aggressive style often gets them to the free throw line, where they rarely miss: Corpus Christi shoots 80 percent from the foul line as a team, which ranks No. 2 in America. If it gets close late in this tournament, their foul shooting could be the difference. — ROD

SWAC tournament predictions
Dates: March 8th-11th, 2023

Location: Bartow Arena, Birmingham, AL

Our pick: Grambling. The Tigers have never made the men’s NCAA tournament in program history, but this could be the year. Head coach Donte Jackson led the team to a 20 win season for only the second time ever, and the first time since 1980. Grambling has juniors and seniors up and down the lineup, led by 6’6 senior wing Cameron Christon who could be SWAC POY. This is their year. — ROD

Northeast tournament predictions
Dates: March 1st, 4th & 7th, 2023

Location: Campus Sites

Our pick: St. Francis (PA). Look, somebody has to win this tournament. It is true, the NEC is ranked 32nd out of the 32 conferences according to Ken Pomeroy, and all nine of the teams are ranked 300 or higher in Pomeroy’s Adjusted Efficiency Margin (AdjEM). Merrimack, the team with the best record in the conference (12-4), has a 15-16 record overall right now. Wagner, the highest-ranked NEC team in Pomeroy’s AdjEM — 315, one spot ahead of Merrimack — has an overall record of 15-12. But St. Francis (PA) is the pick here, despite their 12-17 record and their ranking of 342 in AdjEM. Why? First, they can shoot the three, having converted 36.7% of their three-point attempts this year, best in the NEC and 48th in the nation. Second, their Effective Field Goal percentage is 54.7% in conference play this season, best in the NEC. The bet is that the Red Flash get hot and shoot their way into the tournament from behind the arc. — Mark Schofield

Source : SBNation

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