NCAA Basketball: Predicting the Winners of Each Power-6 Conference Tournament
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With the regular season in the books, it's time to predict the winner of each power-six conference tournament. After one of the wildest regular seasons in recent memory, who will make it through their conference tournament and receive an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament?
With Duke and Miami (Fla.) appearing to be the favorites to win the ACC tournament and Kansas, Kansas State and Oklahoma State being heavy contenders in the Big 12, there are four other conferences where no one is sure which team will make it to the championship game.
The Big East tournament is always filled with upsets at Madison Square Garden, and the Big Ten consists of five solid teams that all have a chance to win their tournament title. Not to mention, all five teams are already locks to be in the dance.
The real question is: Who's going to win the Pac-12 and SEC tournaments? At this rate, an eight-seed has just as good of a chance of winning the tournament as the No. 1 seed does. It's been a mystery all season long, as we never know which teams are going to show up and play in the Pac-12 and SEC.
With that said, here are the predicted winners for the power-six conference tournaments:
1. ACC Conference
Senior guard Seth Curry against North Carolina on March 9.
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There may not be a more dangerous team in college basketball right now than the Duke Blue Devils.
Since the return of senior forward Ryan Kelly, the Blue Devils have been rolling. In Kelly's first game back from his foot injury, he had the best performance of his college career by scoring 36 points against the eventual ACC regular-season champion Miami. Since the critical 79-76 home win against the Hurricanes on March 2, Duke has won handily over Virginia Tech and rival North Carolina.
Not only has Ryan Kelly been a catalyst for this Blue Devil team, but senior guard Seth Curry and senior forward Mason Plumlee have looked solid as well. Curry has averaged 20.0 points in his past two games, and Plumlee was impressive at North Carolina Saturday night as he scored 23 points and recorded 13 rebounds.
Duke will be the No. 2 seed in the ACC tournament. From the look of the bracket, the Blue Devils will get a chance to seek revenge on No. 7 seed Maryland in the quarterfinal round. Duke will then defeat the winner of Florida State-North Carolina in the semifinal round for a chance to play Miami in the ACC Conference tournament championship.
Duke will win their fourth conference tournament title in five years and clinch a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament.
ACC Prediction: No. 2 Duke over No. 1 Miami
2. Big East Conference
Georgetown teammates Moses Ayegba, left, Otto Porter Jr., middle, and D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera, right.
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The Big East tournament is always a difficult one to win with so many talented teams competing against one another.
If there is a team to watch right now in the Big East, it has to be the Georgetown Hoyas.
They may have had their 11-game winning streak snapped this past Wednesday at Villanova, but they answered back on Saturday by blowing out Syracuse 61-39 in their final regular-season meeting with the Orange in Big East Conference history.
Porter has been a force to be reckoned with as of late. In the Hoyas' last five games, he has averaged 22.0 points, 6.6 rebounds and 4.0 assists.
Starks has played well at the point guard position this season, and he made a big impact on his team winning the Big East regular-season title on Saturday. He has averaged 14.8 points in Georgetown's last four games and will be asked to make big plays in the Big East tournament.
The Hoyas will get Cincinnati in the quarterfinals, then face Pittsburgh in the semifinals. Georgetown will make the championship and take on the No. 7 seed Villanova Wildcats in a rematch of March 6.
What a great matchup this will be to end an era of Big East basketball. The Hoyas will get revenge on Villanova and win the Big East tournament title.
With a Big East tournament title, the Hoyas will be considered for a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament.
Big East Prediction: No. 1 Georgetown over No. 7 Villanova
3. Big 12 Conference
Kansas freshman guard Ben McLemore.
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The Kansas Jayhawks won their ninth-straight Big 12 regular-season title in a row, but were forced to share it with rival Kansas State because of a loss at Baylor on Saturday.
The Jayhawks may have been outplayed by a Baylor team that desperately needed a win to salvage their chances of making the NCAA tournament, but this Kansas team will be ready this week and will be a heavy favorite to win the Big 12 tournament.
This Kansas squad continues to be led by Ben McLemore. The freshman guard has averaged 24.0 points and 2.7 assists in the Jayhawks' past three games.
When in close games, McLemore steps his game up to a whole new level. We should expect to see him make big shots in the semifinal and title game, where the Jayhawks will be challenged.
Kansas will start its quest for the title with a struggling West Virginia squad in the quarterfinals. Kansas pounded West Virginia 91-65 at home on March 2.
The Jayhawks will then play another close game with Iowa State in the semifinals and somehow find their way past the Cyclones again to make the title game.
Kansas will meet in-state rival Kansas State, who it shared the Big 12 regular-season conference title with, and win in tough fought game. This won't be like the game we witnessed at Allen Fieldhouse on Feb. 11, where Kansas State was blown out. The game will be on a neutral court in Kansas City this time around.
The intensity will match that of the 2010 Big 12 Conference tournament championship game.
The Jayhawks will win their sixth Big 12 Conference tournament title in eight years and be in the running for a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament.
Big 12 Prediction: No. 1 Kansas over No. 2 Kansas State
4. Big Ten Conference
Spartan junior forward Adreian Payne.
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The Big Ten has been the best conference in college basketball this season.
Indiana, Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State and Wisconsin are all talented teams that will make noise in the NCAA tournament. With the quality of talent in this conference, it should be fun to see who comes out on top in the Big Ten tournament.
The Indiana Hoosiers found a way at Michigan to win their first outright regular-season title since 1993, but watch out for Tom Izzo's squad this week.
The Michigan State Spartans, who will be the No. 3 seed, always find a way to win games this time of year. The Spartans may have struggled near the end of the season by losing three close games, but this past week they demolished Wisconsin and took down Northwestern.
Michigan State has a lot of talent and wears down opponents with its physical style of play. The Spartans are led by junior guard Keith Appling, freshman guard Gary Harris and junior forward Adreian Payne.
Appling has averaged 17.5 points in the Spartans last two wins, Harris has scored 13.2 points per game this season and Payne has been a force down low, averaging 10.1 points per game and 7.5 rebounds per game.
The Spartans will take down an Iowa team that is right outside of the bubble in the quarterfinals, then get Ohio State in the semifinals. The winner of this semifinal matchup will win the Big Ten tournament championship.
The Spartans will win in a close one against the Buckeyes, though, and finally get revenge on Indiana in the championship game. Michigan State has lost to Indiana twice this season by a combined total of nine points.
Big Ten Prediction: No. 3 Michigan State over No. 1 Indiana
5. Pac-12 Conference
Cal junior guard Allen Crabbe against Arizona on Feb.10.
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How does one even describe the inconsistency of the Pac-12 Conference?
Look at this past week for an example. UCLA lost at Washington State on Wednesday, giving Oregon a chance to win the Pac-12 regular-season title.
All Oregon had to do was win one game and it lost both. Not to mention the Ducks looked awful in both losses. With two Oregon losses, UCLA won its last game at Washington and clinched the Pac-12 regular-season title outright.
The fact that Arizona needed UCLA, Oregon and Cal to lose all their games last week and still came up just one game shy of earning a share of the Pac-12 regular-season title is saying something.
Who will decide to show up this week and make it out of Sin City alive? By looking at the bracket, it appears the Cal Golden Bears have the best chance.
The Bears lost their regular season finale at home to Stanford in a physical game that included a brawl and ejections. Cal had been on a a seven-game winning streak prior to the disaster that ensued on Wednesday night.
Crabbe has averaged 18.6 points and 6.0 rebounds per game this season. Cobbs has been consistent at the point guard position and has averaged 16.9 points and 5.6 assists in the Golden Bears' last nine games.
Cal will play a USC team who has given it problems this season in the quarterfinals. The Golden Bears will defeat the Trojans and play Oregon for a chance to play in the championship game.
Cal wins in a close game against the Bruins and captures its first tournament title in school history.
Pac-12 Prediction: No. 2 Cal over No. 1 UCLA
6. SEC Conference
Florida senior forward-center Erik Murphy.
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The SEC Conference only has one team that is officially a lock for the NCAA tournament, and it's the Florida Gators.
There are going to be six teams from the SEC that will be in desperation mode this week as they try to get off the bubble.
Florida may be coming off a tough loss at Kentucky, but the Gators are still the favorite to win the SEC tournament and earn a No. 2 seed in the NCAA tournament.
The Gators are led by senior guard Kenny Boynton and senior forward-center Erik Murphy. Boynton leads his team in scoring with 12.5 points per game this season. Murphy has averaged 14.0 points and 8.3 rebounds in the Gators' past three games.
Senior center Patric Young has also been playing well, and he will need to continue to put points up in the paint. He's averaged 12.4 points in the Gators' past five games.
The bracket sets up nicely for Florida. It will be surprising if they don't make the SEC Conference tournament championship. The Gators will get Georgia in their first matchup in the quarterfinals round, then get Alabama or Tennessee in the semifinals.
The Crimson Tide and Volunteers, of course, are both sitting on the bubble and need a win over the Gators. Florida gets a win in the semifinals and takes on the Missouri Tigers in the championship game.
In a close game against Missouri, Billy Donovan's Gators somehow get the job done.
SEC Prediction: No. 1 Florida over No. 6 Missouri