These next two weekends are going to be filled with some great college basketball, but before you take time to fill out your brackets you might want to keep an eye on these conference tournaments.
ACC - March 13-16
Favorites - The big game between Duke and North Carolina tomorrow night will ultimately decide who the number one seed goes to in the ACC, but UNC will have to fight to overcome a hostile Duke crowd. I don't see anyone reaching the final game other than these two perennial powerhouses
Sleepers - Clemson and Miami. Each team has played well in this tough conference, but have also displayed aggressiveness and ability to play well against top tier teams. Clemson has taken North Carolina to OT in each of their meetings this year and also has a nice win at Michigan State. The Hurricanes beat Duke in a thrilling game in Miami and have a solid road win against Mississippi State as well.
Surprise - Virginia can pick up its fifth consecutive win on Sunday to have plenty of momentum going into the tournament. Their renewed sense of confidence will make them a difficult team to beat so they have the ability to surprise some people.
Prediction - North Carolina beats Duke for the ACC Championship
Atlantic 10 - March 12-15
Favorites - Xavier comes into this tournament as the favorite, being the only team in the conference who is ranked in the Top 25. Their offense is extremely balanced throughout the lineup and is fluid when run by the little guy, Drew Lavender. They will be tough to knock off in this one.
Sleepers - Temple has two big guards in Christmas and Tyndale who are capable of carrying the team when necessary. Temple's losses this year have also come mainly on the road to tough teams, but they will need to win on the road if they want to compete. St. Josephs showed it was capable of pulling off an upset in the big win against Xavier yesterday, but they have played too inconsistent throughout the season and they rely too much on Pat Calathes' (17.8 points, 7.8 rebounds) shooting and not enough on interior play.
Surprise - Massachusetts has the senior leadership necessary to propel them through the tournament if they continue on their win streak.
Prediction - Xavier beats Massachusetts for Atlantic 10 Championship
Big 12 - March 13-16
Favorites - Currently Kansas and Texas sit atop the Big 12, but each plays a tough team desperately seeking a win on Saturday. These two teams are the sure bets to be in the championship game, but the Big 12 have proven to be very difficult this season.
Sleeper - Kansas State has the ability to surprise anyone in this tournament simply because of Michael Beasley (27 points, 12.6 rebounds). In his campaign for player of the year, Beasley will get Kansas State to 20 wins this weekend and position them to get revenge on Kansas.
Surprise - Texas A&M, Oklahoma, and Baylor are all deadlocked at 8-7 in conference play. A&M has fallen off a bit at the end of this season as has Baylor and Oklahoma has seen its best player, freshman Blake Griffin (15.2 points, 9.3 rebounds), suffer a knee injury. All three of these teams are capable off ruining the Longhorns and Jayhawks plans, but will have to play exceptionally well. Oklahoma has the best chances for an upset of these three teams if Griffin returns soon.
Prediction - Kansas beats Kansas State for Big 12 Championship
Big East - March 12-15
Favorites - This conference is loaded with talent and will prove to be a battle for anyone hoping to hoist the trophy at the end. Georgetown and Louisville appear to be the front-runners for the Big East, each with outstanding records and players.
Sleepers - Notre Dame's Luke Harangody (21 points, 10.2 rebounds) looks to lead the Irish to a Big East Title, but the weight is stacked against them. They have not performed well on the road against good teams.
UConn is sitting in great shape with Coach Calhoun at the reigns and star guard A.J. Price and forward Jeff Adrien both averaging 15 points per contest. They have played great this year in the Big East until that loss at Providence last night; they must bounce back quickly in order to perform well.
Marquette is playing extremely unselfish basketball and has momentum. Their only loss in the last seven games was in overtime to a great Georgetown team by only two points. This team will be very tough to beat if James and McNeal can step up and make their free throws, otherwise they might drop another one to Georgetown.
Surprise - Pitt and Nova have both played inconsistent basketball, especially down the stretch. That being said, they still have the talent and capability to break through to the championship if they play their absolute best.
Prediction - Louisville defeats Georgetown for Big East Championship