The major conference tournaments are upon us!
It is the week where bubbles burst and other teams fit into Cinderella’s slipper, as underdogs dream of earning bids to the NCAA Tournament later this month.
It is also the time when storied programs make a run in their conference tournaments to solidify top seeds in each region.
Think back to last year, when Georgia came out of nowhere to win the SEC championship and steal an automatic berth.
Who will be this year’s Georgia and who are the teams to beat in each conference tournament?
Atlantic Coast Conference
Bubble game: No. 8 Virginia Tech vs. No. 9 Miami
The loser’s out, while the winner has a chance at playing No. 1 North Carolina. Miami has been underachieving all year, and Virginia Tech won in Miami earlier this year.
This year’s Georgia: No. 6 Boston College
While the Eagles are a win away from locking up a bid, they could make a dangerous run in the tournament as they have beaten UNC and Duke this year. They also avoid the Tar Heels until the final game.
Champion: No. 1 North Carolina
While I think it will be in for a fight in a couple games, North Carolina is a heavy favorite. The question will be how much it cares? If it does, the championship and No. 1 overall seed is the Tar Heels’.
Bubble game: No. 8 Providence vs. No. 9 Cincinnati or No. 16 DePaul; No. 8 Providence vs. No. 1 Louisville
Providence likely needs two wins to assure it an NCAA berth. A win over Cincy/DePaul would make it close, but beating the Cardinals would clinch it. (UPDATE: DePaul knocked off Cincinnati.)
This year’s Georgia: No. 12 Georgetown
You could choose Notre Dame, too, as both teams have greatly underachieved. However, Georgetown gets St. John’s, Marquette (no Dominic James) and Villanova (whom it beat on road) in its first three games.
Champion: No. 3 Connecticut
The Huskies pick and choose when they play, and the Big East Tournament is normally when they do. After losing to Pittsburgh twice this year, they will get revenge and beat whoever is left on the other end of the bracket.
Bubble games: No. 8 Minnesota vs. No. 9 Northwestern; No. 4 Wisconsin vs. No. 5 Ohio State
Minnesota needs the win to clinch a berth, while Northwestern needs to make a deep run. The Wisconsin-OSU winner will be in the dance, while the loser should be in as well, unless the game is a blowout.
This year’s Georgia: No. 7 Michigan
A bunch of teams could do the honors, but Michigan might have the best shot. After Iowa, it gets Illinois and Purdue. It has beaten both teams this year. It also avoids Michigan State until the finals.
Champion: No. 1 Michigan State
Despite a couple head-scratching conference losses, MSU has looked good against the top teams in the conference. If Sparty gets by the Minnesota-Northwestern winner, it should be golden.
Bubble game: TBA vs. No. 4 Kansas State
The Wildcats need to advance to the finals to make the big dance. For that to happen, it would likely have to beat No. 5 Texas and No. 1 Kansas.
This year’s Georgia: No. 7 Oklahoma State
While the Cowboys are nearly locks, not much is expected out of them as the No. 7 seed. They just lost to Oklahoma by four at OU and will likely play them in a quarterfinal game with a game under their belt. The tournament is in Oklahoma City, and they won’t face Kansas until the final.
Champion: No. 7 Oklahoma State
I will go out on a limb here. I like the location and how the Cowboys match up with their opponents. Actually, whoever wins the battle of Oklahoma will win the title.
Bubble game: No. 4 San Diego St. vs. No. 5 UNLV
The winner will likely be in, the loser will be out. San Diego has swept UNLV, but UNLV will be hosting the tournament, as always.
This year’s Georgia: No. 5 UNLV
Hosting the conference tournament and winning at Louisville makes this an easy pick. However, the Runnin’ Rebels have struggled down the stretch.
Champion: No. 5 UNLV
With so many equal teams, the edge has to go to the home team. The Rebels will have some close exciting games, but I think they will pull it out.
Bubble game: No. 4 Arizona State vs. No. 5 Arizona
This is nearly a must-win game for Arizona as it is firmly on the bubble. The Wildcats have already been swept by ASU, and their RPI isn’t great.
This year’s Georgia: No. 7 Washington State
The Cougars have been strong of late, winning at UCLA and sweeping the Arizona schools. They will likely get another chance against UCLA—and if they win that game, watch out.
Champion: No. 2 UCLA
As many as seven teams can win the tournament, making it the most competitive of the bunch. The Bruins have looked much better in recent weeks, especially after losing to WSU.
Bubble games: Plenty
Florida, South Carolina, Kentucky, and Auburn are all on the bubble in a down year for the conference. A Florida-Auburn second-round game should loom large.
This year’s Georgia: No. 5 (East) Vanderbilt
Vandy has been playing much better of late, and a win over LSU proves that. In this conference, as was the case last year, anything can happen.
Champion: No. 2 (West) Auburn
The Tigers have been red-hot, winning nine of their past 10 games. If they get by Florida, they likely get Tennessee, a team they already beat. Conference champion LSU is on the other side of the bracket, and Auburn blew it out Saturday.
Xavier is the team to beat, but has been inconsistent down the stretch. Temple and Rhode Island were hot, until a couple head-scratching losses. This will be a crap-shoot in Atlantic City.
Taylor’s Take: Dayton
I would like to pick against Memphis, but it losing just isn’t going to happen. It must be nice to host the conference tournament every year. What a joke!
Taylor’s Take: Memphis
This is another conference that has a random home court. Reno hosts it a lot and that’s good news for Nevada. Utah State has had a great season, but still might have to win the championship to go to the NCAA tournament. The Aggies lost at Nevada last Saturday. Expect the same to happen again.
Taylor’s Take: Nevada