Last-Second Predictions for Major Conference Tournaments

Doug Brodess@DougbrodessCorrespondent IMarch 12, 2013

Last-Second Predictions for Major Conference Tournaments

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    If you are a basketball fan and you don't like Championship Week, you may want to consider going to the doctor...quickly!

    So much collegiate basketball action in just six days; have I died and gone to hoops heaven?

    Here are some last-second predictions for the the major conference tournaments. We won't predict every game, but we will try to show you what the overall flow of the action might look like.

9. Conference USA Tournament (Tulsa, Okla.)

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    Though 10 Conference USA teams will begin play in Tulsa this week, this really is about one team.

    In fact, the one team didn't lose a league game and only lost one game since mid-December. 

    How it could go down

    Southern Mississippi is a solid team that loves to get up and down the court, moves the ball well and can shoot the lights out.

    The Golden Eagles shouldn't have trouble with anyone on their half of the bracket, including No. 3 seed UTEP.

    Memphis, though, is the class of the conference. The Tigers are big, strong and athletic.

    Though some of the scores of their undefeated (16-0) season did not reflect their league dominance, the Tigers are primed for big things in the 2013 postseason.

    Conference USA Finals: Southern Miss vs. Memphis

    Conference USA Champs: Memphis

8. Southeastern Conference Tournament (Nashville, Tenn.)

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    The SEC is not nearly as dominant as it has been in the recent past.

    It's one thing when Kentucky doesn't come in as strong as normal. It's another to have Vanderbilt and Mississippi State drop down too.

    The fact that Florida discovered defense this year makes the Gators tough as nails, while Kentucky made a push at the end of the season to recover from the loss of Nerlens Noel. 

    How it could go down

    The fact that several teams are fighting for their postseason lives will make even some of the early-round games more competitive than expected.

    Kentucky, Missouri and Ole Miss will tussle, but the Tigers will come out of the bottom half of the bracket.

    If Tennessee and Alabama face each other in the quarterfinals, the winner will punch their ticket to the Dance.

    As much as the Vols and Tide can get after it on the defensive end, neither team will be able to compete with postseason Billy Ball. For that reason, expect the Gators to cut down the nets.

    SEC Finals: Missouri vs. Florida

    SEC Champs: Florida

7. Atlantic 10 Tournament (Brooklyn, N.Y.)

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    Though the Atlantic 10 may be the least known of these major conferences, the quality of basketball is still exceptional.

    VCU and Butler entered the league this year and played as expected.

    Saint Louis is as hot as any team in the country, winning 12 of its last 13 games.

    How it could go down

    When Butler is a No. 5 seed, you know there is some good hoops action in the A-10.

    But if Brad Stevens' Bulldogs play like they know how in March, they will shift into their "Stevens gear" and start knocking off one team after another. Expect them to run through Dayton, La Salle and even Saint Louis to get to their first A-10 conference title game.

    After dispatching their second-round opponents, Temple and VCU will square off, and it will be a battle.

    But Shaka Smart's "Havoc" defense will be more than the Owls can handle. The Rams will, like Butler, get to the conference championship game in their first try, creating a matchup of recent mid-major tournament surprises.

    A-10 Finals: Butler vs. VCU

    A-10 Champs: VCU

6. Pac-12 Tournament (Las Vegas, Nev.)

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    The Pac-12 is in a lot better shape than it was a year ago—the inaugural year of the new-look conference.

    Last season, it was a foregone conclusion that the only entry they were going to have in the NCAA tournament was the team that cut down the nets at the Staples Center.

    This time around, the action goes down in Vegas, and there's a good chance that the Pac-12 will send five teams into March Madness. 

    How it could go down

    This season was supposed to be a two-team race, with UCLA and Arizona battling it out and everyone else trailing.

    Both teams have had their ups and downs, and after impressive campaigns from California and Oregon, the Bruins and Wildcats will have to meet up in the semifinals instead of the finals.

    Arizona will most likely have to take care of the Colorado Buffaloes, with whom the Wildcats split the season series. Expect them to prevail and meet up with the Bruins, who took out U of A both times they played.

    Sean Miller will have his squad back at the top of their game, and they will send Shabazz Muhammad back to Westwood with a loss before he goes into his one and only NCAA tournament.

    The other side of the bracket, with the aforementioned Cal and Oregon at Nos. 2 and 3, respectively, is not nearly as intense.

    When the Bears and Ducks throw down, Mike Montgomery's Cal should come out on top, only to then fall to the Wildcats in the championship game.

    Pac-12 Finals: Cal vs. Arizona

    Pac-12 Champs: Arizona

5. Big 12 Tournament (Kansas City, Mo.)

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    The Big 12 tournament will provide the perfect opportunity for teams to win their way into March Madness or improve their seeding for Selection Sunday.

    No less than three teams (Oklahoma, Iowa State, Baylor) find themselves in a possible “win or go home” situation.

    How it could go down

    Between the two first-round games, the Texas vs. TCU offers more intrigue. The Horned Frogs beat Kansas and Oklahoma in the regular season. The Longhorns, meanwhile, are 5-3 since Myck Kabongo returned to the roster from his 23-game suspension.

    Baylor needs to not only win here but also in a semifinal contest (most likely against Kansas State) if it has any hopes of making it into the NCAA tournament.

    Unfortunately for the Bears, Oklahoma State has too much firepower and too much Marcus Smart for them to go any further. The Cowboys should take care of business in their part of the bracket and make it to the title game on Saturday.

    The Sooners may have stumbled against TCU to finish the season, but Lon Kruger will have them ready to shut down Iowa State's barrage of three-pointers, setting up a semifinal showdown with Kansas.

    OU beat KU in Norman during the Jayhawks’ three-game rough patch. Self’s squad went 7-1 since then and will be ready to not only beat West Virginia but to play all the way through cutting the nets.

    Big 12 Finals: Oklahoma State vs. Kansas

    Big 12 Champs: Kansas

4. Big East Tournament (New York, N.Y.)

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    The Big East tournament at the hoops mecca (a.k.a. Madison Square Garden)—is this the last time to see this?

    We hope that with all of the changes that are ahead for the conference that they will still lace 'em up a year from now at MSG.

    Louisville and Georgetown hung tough through most of the season, Syracuse is in the middle of a weird rough patch, Pitt is as steady as ever and Notre Dame could again put on a fundamentals clinic.

    How it could go down

    Though every team has a chance, the bottom teams in the conference will quickly pass in and out of their early-round contests.

    While Villanova might be a fashionable pick to make a deep run, it won't make it past Louisville.

    Notre Dame and Marquette will play one of the best early-round games, with the Fighting Irish coming out on top.

    When the Cards and ND go at it, it won't take five overtimes to settle this one. Rick Pitino will get his revenge and advance to the Big East finals.

    Though the Orange will come out on top in their first game, they will have a short run in their last Big East tournament. Pitt, also in its last Big East tourney, will knock off Syracuse and then face Georgetown.

    Otto Porter and the Hoyas have too much, and they will take out Pitt on their way to the finals, where they'll then lose to Pitino's Cardinals.

    Big East Finals: Georgetown vs. Louisville

    Big East Champs: Louisville

3. Mountain West Tournament (Las Vegas, Nev.)

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    Depending on what list you consult, the Mountain West may have been the most competitive conference in the nation.

    When the ball goes up in Vegas, as many as five or six teams could end up cutting down the nets.

    How it could go down

    New Mexico is rewarded for winning the league's regular season with the only first-round bye. The Lobos will not only take care of business in their second-round game, but they should have no trouble against either San Diego State or Boise State in the next round.

    A UNLV vs. Colorado State semifinal may not be thought of as must-see TV at the national level, but that will be a good game.

    The Rebels have too much talent up front, and they should break the tie of their season series with the Rams.

    Recently, we've seen the strength and skills of UNLV's perimeter play, and that should carry it to a Mountain West championship.

    Mountain West Finals: New Mexico vs. UNLV

    Mountain West Champs: UNLV

2. Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament (Greensboro, N.C.)

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    With Duke playing out of this world since the return of Ryan Kelly, the Blue Devils are back in the national championship conversation.

    But you better not disregard this year's surprise ACC regular-season champions, the Miami Hurricanes. 

    How it could go down

    After beating Virginia Tech, N.C. State will take down Virginia. The Wolfpack will have two good games under their belts when they go up against the "U."

    With some fresh mojo going, look for N.C. State to beat Miami and advance to the ACC finals.

    Florida State and Maryland will come out of the first-round games on the other side of the bracket, but they'll both fall in the second round, setting up another Duke-North Carolina matchup.

    Unfortunately for the Heels, they may be 0-3 this year against their rivals.

    ACC Finals: N.C. State vs. Duke

    ACC Champs: Duke

1. Big Ten Tournament (Chicago, Ill.)

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    It's hard to imagine a better conference tournament than what will go down in Chicago at the house that Michael Jordan built.

    Four of the B1G teams ended up in the AP Top 10.

    Because of the intense game-to-game competition, no one came through the last month of the regular season unscathed.

    The top teams are all playing well and are ready to rock in a tournament that could be just as fierce as the Final Four. 

    How it could go down

    It's amazing that Michigan is having to play a first-round game—No. 6 in the nation, yet the No. 5 seed in the B1G tournament. The Wolverines should put away Penn State and Wisconsin.

    It's interesting that the Indiana Hoosiers' first game will be against a team (either Illinois or Minnesota) that beat them during the regular season. But whichever team gets out of the first round will meet an abrupt end against IU.

    Crean's crew will then make it a three-peat against Michigan on their way to the B1G title game.

    On the other side of the bracket, Michigan State and Ohio State will take care of business after getting a first-round bye. From there, Tom Izzo's squad will grind out the rubber match against the Buckeyes before falling to the Big Ten's top team.

    B1G Ten Finals: Michigan State vs. Indiana

    B1G Ten Champs: Indiana