Here is a look into an area of College Basketball not often thought about: the Mid-Major conferences. Not just the 2 or 3 bid conferences with Gonzaga and Dayton, but the conferences that send just one team annually. We will project the top 4 teams of these conferences heading into the conference tournament and then predict a winner. Enjoy.
Projected Top 4: 1. Vermont, 2. Stony Brook, 3. UMBC, 4. Albany
Our Conference Tournament Pick: Vermont over UMBC
Vermont currently sits at 12-0 in the America East and is one of the most underrated mid-majors in America. UMBC is quietly capable to make a run for the bid and likely will provide the biggest challenge for Vermont.
Projected Top 4: 1. SMU, 2. Cincinnati, 3. Houston, 4. Memphis
Our Conference Tournament Pick: SMU over Cincinnati
While both will easily glide into the NCAA Tournament, we believe SMU will take down Cincinnati in the tournament final to take the automatic bid. Houston is the potential sleeper in the AAC this season and can give either of the top teams a tough time.
Projected Top 4: 1. Dayton, 2. VCU, 3. Richmond, 4. Rhode Island
Our Conference Tournament Pick: VCU over Rhode Island
With Rhode Island realistically in need of a conference tournament win to head to the Dance, we think they upset Dayton in the Semis before getting knocked off by VCU in the final. Even with this prediction, we believe Dayton is the best team in this wide open conference. URI’s desperation will simply get the best of the Flyers.
Projected Top 4: 1. Florida Gulf Coast, 2. Lipscomb, 3. S. Carolina Upstate, 4. North Florida
Our Conference Tournament Pick: Lipscomb over Florida Gulf Coast
FGCU will be looking to return to the Madness just a few years removed from a Sweet 16 run. However, Lipscomb will get the better of the Eagles and swipe the bid. A deep sleeper in the A-Sun Tournament to look for is Jacksonville, who is much better than their record shows.
Projected Top 4: 1. Weber State, 2. Eastern Washington, 3. North Dakota, 4. Idaho
Our Conference Tournament Pick: Weber State over Eastern Washington
Weber State is our favorite in the Big Sky as of now. The winner of a potential Idaho-Montana 4/5 matchup will provide a tough test for the Wildcats but if they can prevail there, we think they take down EWU in the final.
Projected Top 4: 1. NC Asheville, 2. Liberty, 3. Winthrop, 4. High Point
Our Conference Tournament Pick: NC Asheville over Liberty
Winthrop is the most talented team in this conference, they just can’t seem to put it together consistently. If they get hot at the end of the season, they are 100% capable of winning this tournament. For now though, Asheville is playing the most consistent basketball and will seize a bid.
Projected Top 4: 1. UC Davis, 2. UC Irvine, 3. Cal St. Northridge, 4. Long Beach State
Our Conference Tournament Pick: UC Davis over UC Irvine
With potential sleeper and defending champion Hawaii ineligible, this tournament is wide open. Davis and Irvine have swapped spots at the top throughout conference season leading to a gut feeling that UC Davis will take it in the final and likely head to Dayton.
Projected Top 4: 1. NC Wilmington 2. Charleston 3. Towson 4. William & Mary
Our Conference Tournament Pick: William & Mary over Charleston
NC Wilmington a few weeks ago was being talked about as a potential at-large team if they lost in this tournament. Now, it is must win for the slumping Seahawks. In our first major upset pick, we think the Tribe will upset both UNCW and CofC en route to a bid to the Dance.
Projected Top 4: 1. Middle Tennessee, 2. Louisiana Tech, 3. Old Dominion, 4. UAB
Our Conference Tournament Pick: Middle Tennessee over Marshall
Despite the fact that we have Marshall projected as the 6 seed for the C-USA tourney, we think they make a run to the final before getting silenced by the Blue Raiders of MTSU. A dream year for Middle Tennessee will continue with a return to March Madness.
Projected Top 4: 1. Valparaiso 2. Oakland, 3. Green Bay, 4. Wright State
Our Conference Tournament Pick: Valparaiso over Oakland
Alec Peters and Valpo at home will be extremely tough to beat for any Horizon team. The only team that can realistically challenge the Crusaders on their home floor in a final is Oakland in our opinion. Even with this, Valparaiso cruises to the NCAA Tournament.
Projected Top 4: 1. Princeton, 2. Harvard, 3. Yale, 4. Columbia
Our Conference Tournament Pick: Princeton over Harvard
In the inaugural Ivy League tournament, the top academic school in the nation will be the heavy favorite. Princeton is one of the hottest teams in the country and should be able to cruise to the final and await a potential Harvard vs Yale winner.
Projected Top 4: 1. Monmouth, 2. Iona, 3. Saint Peters, 4. Canisius
Our Conference Tournament Pick: Monmouth over Iona
Monmouth is red hot and looks to be the clear favorite in the MAAC. Justin Robinson will be too much to handle as the Hawks will cruise to the title. Look out for Saint Peters and even Rider as potential sleepers.
Projected Top 4: 1. Akron, 2. Ohio, 3. Buffalo, 4. Central Michigan
Our Conference Tournament Pick: Akron over Buffalo
Marcus Keene is averaging a nation-high 30 PPG for Central Michigan. Despite this, CMU is 6-6 in MAC play. Meanwhile, Akron has one of the nation’s best records and are clear favorites. We see the Zips taking down Buffalo in the final.
Projected Top 4: 1. NC Central, 2. Norfolk State, 3. Morgan State, 4. Hampton
Our Conference Tournament Pick: NC Central over Norfolk State
NC Central is a major step ahead of their opponents in the MEAC and is the only team with an overall winning record. Watch for Morgan State as a sleeper in March but we see the Eagles cruising to a championship in arguably the worst league in College Basketball.
Projected Top 4: 1. Wichita State, 2. Illinois State, 3. Northern Iowa, 4. Southern Illinois
Our Conference Tournament Pick: Wichita State over Illinois State
In a two-team race for the regular season championship, Wichita State and Illinois State remain deadlocked after splitting their regular season slate. However, the Shockers decimated the Redbirds in their final meeting and we believe that this will carry through Arch Madness leading to a title for Wichita in Arch Madness.
Projected Top 4: 1. Boise State, 2. Nevada, 3. Colorado State, 4. New Mexico
Our Conference Tournament Pick: Nevada over Boise State
Nevada, while sitting at 8-4 in conference play, is the best team in the Mountain West. Not far behind is Boise State, who could definitely win the bid as the #1 seed. However, the Broncos will likely have to go through New Mexico or San Diego State before even advancing to the finals, two teams that are always tough outs in the MWC.
Projected Top 4: 1. Belmont, 2. Morehead State, 3. Murray State, 4. Tennessee-Martin
Our Conference Tournament Pick: Belmont over Murray State
Belmont is clearly the top team in the OVC and currently sit at 18-5 overall. The Bruins have battled with Murray State state regularly in recent years for the OVC bid. This year, we see Belmont holding on and defeating the Racers in overtime to advance to the NCAA Tournament.
Projected Top 4: 1. Bucknell, 2. Boston University, 3. Navy, 4. Lehigh
Our Conference Tournament Pick: Boston University over Bucknell
While Bucknell has been the top team in the Patriot League all year, we have an inkling that Boston U will overtake the Bison when the time is right. An underrated squad has the Terriers up to 2nd in the league and we think it’s their year to dance.
Projected Top 4: 1. Furman, 2. East Tennessee State, 3. Chattanooga, 4. NC Greensboro
Our Conference Tournament Pick: East Tennessee State over Furman
The SoCon is possibly the most underrated mid-major conference in the country. Furman, ETSU, and Chattanooga all are NCAA Tournament caliber teams this season and have battled for first place all season. While Furman has had the upper hand lately, ETSU has the best team in the SoCon and will take the bid.
Projected Top 4: 1. Sam Houston St., 2. New Orleans, 3. Stephen F. Austin, 4. Tex. A&M-CC
Our Conference Tournament Pick: Stephen F. Austin over Sam Houston State
In an up and down year in the Southland, there is no clear favorite. Unexpectly, the Privateers of New Orleans have raced to the top of the standings. However, the experience of SFA, who has taken the Southland bid regularly in recent years, will propel them to a title.
Projected Top 4: 1. Texas Southern, 2. Alcorn State, 3. Southern, 4. Jackson State
Our Conference Tournament Pick: Texas Southern over Southern
The SWAC final will feature a very similar matchup to recent years. It seems like every year it’s TSU and Southern battling for that 16 seed slot in the dance. It’s Texas Southern’s year this year and will likely head back to the familiar 16 line. Watch for Alcorn who could potentially make a run and steal the spot from Texas Southern.
Projected Top 4: 1. North Dakota State, 2. South Dakota, 3. Denver, 4. IPFW
Our Conference Tournament Pick: North Dakota State over South Dakota
The usual favorites North Dakota State look to take the Summit again this year in a relatively down year. A deep sleeper NDSU needs to look out for is South Dakota State, led by Mike Daum who is averaging 24 PPG. IPFW also has shown their talent at times this year but sometimes fail to put it together. NDSU takes it over South Dakota.
Projected Top 4: 1. UT-Arlington, 2. Georgia State, 3. Arkansas State, 4. Georgia Southern
Our Conference Tournament Pick: UT-Arlington over Georgia State
In a crazy year thus far in the Sun Belt, the Mavericks of UTA look the strongest in a pack of 4 fighting for the top. Georgia State and Arkansas State are certainly capable of taking the bid for themselves, as well as deep sleepers Texas State and South Alabama.
Projected Top 4: 1. Gonzaga, 2. Saint Mary’s, 3. BYU, 4. San Francisco
Our Conference Tournament Pick: Gonzaga over Saint Mary’s
Gonzaga will head into the NCAA Tournament with an undefeated record. We are pretty confident of this fact as their only true competition in this league is Saint Mary’s, whom Gonzaga has taken care of relatively easily twice this year. No need even mentioning sleepers for the WCC, it’s Gonzaga all the way.
Projected Top 4: 1. New Mexico State, 2. CSU Bakersfield, 3. Grand Canyon, 4. UMKC
Our Conference Tournament Pick: New Mexico State over Cal State Bakersfield
We were extremely tempted to take Grand Canyon all the way as an upset pick, but stuck with the top two records in the WAC for now. NMSU is not playing their best basketball, creating the opportunity for CSUB to claim the #1 spot in the standings. Despite this, the Aggies are the best team in the WAC and will win the ticket to the Dance.