Final Predictions for the Champions of Every 2019 CBB Conference Tournament

Joel Reuter@JoelReuterBRFeatured ColumnistMarch 8, 2019

Final Predictions for the Champions of Every 2019 CBB Conference Tournament

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    Justin Casterline/Getty Images

    Win and you're in.

    For the winners of the 32 conference tournaments throughout the NCAA landscape, an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament awaits.

    For teams from small, one-bid conferences, victory presents the only path to March Madness participation. For teams on the bubble, it's the one surefire way to avoid a stressful Selection Sunday.

    Even for teams who are already NCAA tournament locks, a strong conference tournament is a tried-and-true way to move up a seed line.

    With that in mind, ahead you'll find our updated predictions on who will secure those 32 automatic bids. For reference, our early predictions can be found here.


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    Campbell star Chris Clemons is the nation's leading scorer.
    Campbell star Chris Clemons is the nation's leading scorer.Associated Press

    America East: Vermont (24-6, 14-2)

    Top-seeded Vermont will have to get past No. 3 UMBC if it wants to win the America East tournament. The Retrievers handed the Catamounts their only two conference losses this season. Maybe they'll get lucky, and No. 2 Stony Brook will take care of them earlier in the proceedings.


    Atlantic Sun: Lipscomb (25-6, 14-2)

    The Atlantic Sun is down to Liberty and Lipscomb after the conference's two top teams scored semifinal wins in their conference tournament on Thursday. Lipscomb has an impressive win over TCU on the road and another strong performance against Louisville on its resume.


    Big Sky: Northern Colorado (21-9, 15-4)

    The Bears are 7-1 in their last eight games, including a two-point win on the road over conference leader Montana on Feb. 25. The two teams split the season series, and there's a good chance Round 3 will decide the Big Sky tournament title.


    Big South: Campbell (20-11, 12-4)

    The Fighting Camels (yep, you read that right) are 8-2 in their last 10 games. That includes a two-point win over Radford last Saturday that tied the teams atop the conference standings at 12-4 apiece. Senior Chris Clemons leads the nation with 30.3 points per game, and he's made 132 threes—tied for second throughout the NCAA, behind only Wofford's Fletcher Magee (139) and even with Detroit's Antoine Davis (132).


    Big West: UC Irvine (26-5, 14-1)

    A 14-1 conference record and a 12-game winning streak make UC Irvine the clear favorites in the Big West tournament. The Anteaters are holding opponents to 63.5 points per game, and they rank fifth in the nation by forcing opponents to shoot only 38.0 percent from the floor.


    Colonial: Hofstra (25-6, 15-3)

    Led by senior Justin Wright-Foreman (26.8), the Pride rank eighth in the nation at 84.3 points per game. This is a team that could pull off an upset in the NCAA tournament.


    Conference USA: Old Dominion (23-7, 13-4)

    Despite Wednesday's 59-52 loss to Southern Mississippi, Old Dominion is still the favorite to emerge from Conference USA. The Monarchs beat a tournament-bound Syracuse team at the Carrier Dome earlier this year.


    Horizon League: Wright State (20-12, 13-5)

    The Raiders have already won one game in the Horizon League tournament, knocking off IUPUI with a 15-point victory. They advance to face Green Bay on Mondaya team that beat them 70-67 on Feb. 28. However, Wright State won the first meeting by 12 points.


    Ivy League: Harvard (16-9, 9-3)

    Yale was originally the pick here. But that was before the Bulldogs dropped two of three, including a two-point loss to Harvard, which now appears to be in the Ivy League driver's seat. The Crimson, led by junior Bryce Aiken (21.0 PPG), have won 10 of 12.


    MAAC: Iona (14-15, 12-6)

    A sub-.500 team predicted to make the field? Iona has won seven in a row and moved to the top of the MAAC standings in the process. The Gaels even beat top contender Quinnipiac on the road by four points on Feb. 19.


    MAC: Buffalo (27-3, 15-2)

    The Bulls sit at No. 16 in the NET rankings, and they're projected as a No. 7 seed in the Bracket Matrix's most recent update. They're going to the NCAA tournament regardless, so bubble teams will hope they can take care of business. Bowling Green will be their toughest test, and the two meet in the regular-season finale on Friday.


    MEAC: Norfolk State (19-12, 14-2)

    The Spartans won six in a row before losing to Howard by three points on Thursday. Even with that loss, they're still the clear favorites to emerge from the MEAC. The school's lone NCAA tournament appearance came in 2012 when it upset No. 2-seeded Missouri.

Mid-Majors Continued

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    Mike Daum will try to lead South Dakota State to the tournament once again.
    Mike Daum will try to lead South Dakota State to the tournament once again.Sam Wasson/Getty Images

    Missouri Valley: Loyola-Chicago (19-12, 12-6)

    Loyola-Chicago and Drake are the two front-runners in the Missouri Valley. While Drake (23-8) has had a better year, the Ramblers swept the season series and earned an identical conference record.


    Mountain West: Utah State (25-6, 15-3)

    While Nevada has been the talk of the Mountain West all season, Utah State has quietly put together an excellent resume. The Aggies currently check in at No. 30 in the NET rankings, and the latest Bracket Matrix update has them as a No. 10 seed. They closed out the regular season on a seven-game winning streak that included an 81-76 win over Nevada on March 2.


    Northeast: Fairleigh Dickinson (18-13, 12-6)

    The Knights, owners of a six-game winning streak, are rolling. With five players averaging double figures and a 40.0 three-point percentage that ranks sixth in the nation, this team is dangerous.


    Ohio Valley: Belmont (25-4, 16-2)

    Belmont and Murray State could meet in one of the nation's most compelling conference tournament title games. If Murray State and NBA lottery prospect Ja Morant lose, the Racers would likely be headed to the NIT. If Belmont, which sits at No. 44 in the NET rankings, falls, it would be firmly on the bubble. The Bruins have won 13 in a row, and they bested the Morant-led Racers in their lone regular-season meeting.


    Patriot: Colgate (22-10, 13-5)

    The Raiders took an eight-game winning streak into the Patriot League tournament and kicked off postseason play with an 81-69 win over Boston University on Thursday. Their winning streak included a nine-point victory over Bucknell, which appears to be the biggest competition for an automatic bid.


    Southern: Wofford (26-4, 18-0)

    This year's Southern Conference was quite strong, and Wofford still steamrolled the competition with a perfect 18-0 record. The Terriers are projected for a No. 7 seed by Bracket Matrix, and it would be nothing short of shocking if they don't take the SoCon tournament.


    Southland: Lamar (18-12, 11-6)

    Sam Houston State (15-2), Abilene Christian (13-4), SE Louisiana (12-5) and New Orleans (12-6) all have better conference records than Lamar. However, the Cardinals have momentum on their side with seven straight wins, including a three-point victory over top-seeded Sam Houston State.


    SWAC: Texas Southern (19-11, 14-3)

    The Tigers have won 11 straight after a 3-3 start to conference play. They also beat Baylor, Texas A&M and then-No. 18 Oregon earlier this year, so they're a battle-tested group. Moreover, they've made the NCAA tournament four times in the past five years.


    Summit: South Dakota State (24-7, 14-2)

    With Mike Daum (25.6 PPG, 11.7 RPG) and David Jenkins Jr. (19.4 PPG, 46.5 3PT%) leading the way, the Jackrabbits could be a dangerous draw as a No. 14 seed—where they're currently projected by Bracket Matrix. They'll need to win to get in, but they're the clear favorites.


    Sun Belt: Georgia State (21-9, 12-5)

    The Sun Belt tournament should be a good battle; Georgia Southern (12-5) and Texas State (12-5) are tied with the Panthers atop the conference standings, and UT-Arlington (11-6) is close behind. Georgia State and Georgia Southern will meet in the regular-season finale on Saturday.


    West Coast: Gonzaga (29-2, 16-0)

    As usual, Saint Mary's (NET: 39) and BYU (76) will be the biggest competition for Gonzaga in the WCC tournament, though San Francisco (66) is also a factor this year. The Bulldogs have won the conference tournament six years in a row, and this year's group should make it seven.


    WAC: New Mexico State (26-4, 14-1)

    Per Bracket Matrix, only Nevada (6), Buffalo (7), Wofford (7), Belmont (12) and Lipscomb (12) rank above New Mexico State (13) among mid-major teams projected for an automatic bid. In other words, this team is better than your run-of-the-mill small-conference leader.


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    Jarron Cumberland
    Jarron CumberlandJoe Murphy/Getty Images

    Predicted Winner: Cincinnati (25-5, 14-3)

    The regular-season finale between Cincinnati and Houston will be telling.

    The Bearcats have won five of six, including a five-point win over a tournament-bound Central Florida team that just beat Houston by the same margin Saturday. However, UCF turned around and beat Cincinnati by three on Thursday, as the carousel continues.

    Those three look like the legitimate contenders, while Temple, with an 8-5 record on the road, is also capable of making some noise.

    A championship matchup between Houston (No. 13 in adjusted defensive efficiency, per and Cincinnati (No. 21) would pit two of the best defenses in the country against one another.

    It might come down to who has a bigger game between Bearcats star Jarron Cumberland (18.3 PPG) and Cougars standout Corey Davis Jr. (16.2 PPG).

    We'll go with Cincinnati as the pick for now. But again, that regular-season finale could change things.

Atlantic 10

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    Marcus Evans
    Marcus EvansMitchell Layton/Getty Images

    Predicted Winner: VCU (24-6, 15-2)

    VCU and Davidson are the clear front-runners in the A-10.

    While the Rams lost to the Wildcats by seven points in their lone head-to-head matchup back on Jan. 12, they've since dropped just one more conference game—a 71-65 loss to Rhode Island (NET: 139) on the road. During that span, they've gone 13-1. 

    Throughout the same window, Davidson has gone 10-4 with bad losses to Saint Joseph's (172), Massachusetts (223) and La Salle (217) clouding its resume.

    In short, the Rams are the best team in the conference, even if Davidson got the better of them earlier this season.

    Defense will be their ticket to a conference tournament title. They rank among the nation's leaders in opponents' field-goal percentage (No. 6 at 38.2), opponents' three-point percentage (No. 2 at 27.2) and points allowed per game (No. 9 at 61.1).


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    Kyle Guy
    Kyle GuyRyan M. Kelly/Getty Images

    Predicted Winner: Virginia (27-2, 15-2)

    As long as Virginia takes care of business against Louisville during Saturday's regular-season finale in John Paul Jones Arena, the Cavaliers will be the No. 1 seed in the ACC tournament.

    That would be a huge advantage since it puts North Carolina and Duke on the other side of the bracket and forces them to play one another en route to the title game. Not to knock Florida State, but the Seminoles make for a much more favorable path to the championship game.

    Virginia has only lost to Duke this season. However, Zion Williamson went for 27 and 18 points in those two games.

    It sounds like the Blue Devils freshman star might be ready for the ACC tournament, per David M. Hale of But there's no telling how many minutes he'll play or what type of impact he'll make.

    The Cavaliers beat North Carolina 69-61 on the road Feb. 11, holding the Tar Heels to their lowest scoring output of the season—more than 25 points below their average (86.8).

    With the ACC's three top dogs likely playing for two No. 1 seeds, a lot is on the line.

Big East

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    Phil Booth
    Phil BoothMitchell Leff/Getty Images

    Predicted Winner: Villanova (22-8, 13-4)

    Marquette looked like the team to beat in the Big East before dropping three straight.

    Villanova, which seems to have righted the ship after its own three-game losing streak, handed the Golden Eagles one of those losses.

    The Wildcats won 10 straight to open conference play after a disappointing non-conference slate that included losses to Furman and Penn, so they're capable of rolling when momentum is on their side.

    Fifth-year senior Phil Booth has upped his production in conference play with 19.9 points per game and a 35.6 percent conversion rate from beyond the arc, and he has as much experience as any player in the country during big games.

    Marquette and St. John's are still legitimate threats. Don't discount Creighton and Seton Hall, either.

    But Villanova has taken control of the conference, and the Wildcats appear ready for a fresh start in postseason play after a disappointing regular season.

Big Ten

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    Cassius Winston
    Cassius WinstonDylan Buell/Getty Images

    Predicted Winner: Michigan State (24-6, 15-4)

    Michigan, Michigan State and Purdue are all tied atop the Big Ten standings and have asserted themselves as the class of the conference this season.

    Let's see how they've fared head-to-head:

    • Michigan: 1-0 vs. Purdue, 0-1 vs. Michigan State
    • Michigan State: 1-1 vs. Purdue, 1-0 vs. Michigan
    • Purdue: 0-1 vs. Michigan, 1-1 vs. Michigan State

    Round 2 of Michigan vs. Michigan State will determine a lot Saturday. Just like in the ACC, the No. 1 seed in the conference tournament offers a significant advantage: not having to play on the same side of the bracket as the other top teams.

    The Spartans won on the road at Michigan by seven points on Feb. 24, then they promptly lost to a disappointing Indiana team six days later. But that's life in the Big Ten.

    They remain the only team to notch wins against the other two leading squads, and they'll be a tough draw for any opponent with star point guard Cassius Winston (18.8 PPG, 7.7 APG) leading the way.

    If they lose to Michigan on Saturday, maybe the pick flips to the Wolverines. For now, Michigan State gets the nod.

Big 12

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    Jarrett Culver
    Jarrett CulverJohn Weast/Getty Images

    Predicted Winner: Texas Tech (25-5, 13-4)

    The Kansas Jayhawks' streak of regular-season Big 12 titles is officially over, which ends a run that dates back to 2005. Either Texas Tech or Kansas State will raise a banner next season.

    The Red Raiders have been rolling down the stretch, going 10-1 with their lone loss coming on the road at Kansas. They have a stifling defense to thank.

    They lead the nation in opponents' field-goal percentage (36.5) and rank second in points allowed per game (58.2), which helps them earn the No. 1 rank in KenPom's adjusted defensive efficiency. Meanwhile, potential lottery pick Jarrett Culver (17.9 PPG, 6.3 RPG) leads the offense and allows them to lean on a star.

    The Big 12 is a group in which everyone outside of Oklahoma State and West Virginia is capable of winning the conference tournament. Texas Tech is the odds-on favorite, though.


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    Luguentz Dort
    Luguentz DortChris Coduto/Getty Images

    Predicted Winner: Arizona State (20-9, 11-6)

    Can the Pac-12 even be considered a major conference this season?

    Washington (33) is the only team with a NET inside the top 60 and is projected for a No. 8 seed in the latest Bracket Matrix, while Arizona State is in as a No. 11 seed. Those are the conference's only two projected bids.

    Washington may have wrapped up the regular-season title, but Arizona State looks like the team to beat in the Pac-12 tournament.

    The Sun Devils scored a commanding 75-63 win over the Huskies on Feb. 9, and their resume also includes impressive victories over Kansas and Mississippi State. Bobby Hurley's squad has won four of its last five, and freshman standout Luguentz Dort is playing some of his best basketball with 16.9 points per game in his last eight appearances.

    The Sun Devils are on the bubble if they don't secure the automatic bid, so that should give them a sense of urgency.


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    Tremont Waters
    Tremont WatersMichael Hickey/Getty Images

    Predicted Winner: LSU (25-5, 15-2)

    As I wrote two weeks ago while picking LSU to win the SEC tournament:

    "A young LSU team seems to finally be hitting its stride.

    The Tigers have won five of six, including a road win over Kentucky and a home win in overtime over Tennessee, who were both ranked No. 5 in the AP poll at the time.

    Their only two conference losses came by a combined six points, as they fell to Arkansas by one point and lost to Florida in overtime by five."

    All of those points still stand. Except now they've won eight of nine with quality road victories against Florida and Alabama added to the resume.


    All stats courtesy of Sports Reference unless otherwise noted, and accurate through March 7.