Conference tournaments will tip off early Tuesday afternoon, when Winthrop and Radford get it going in the opening round of the Big South tournament from the campus of Coastal Carolina. That first shot across the bow will commence 13 days of conference tourney action -- culminating with the Big Ten final on March 17. During that entire not-quite-a-fortnight, you can stay tuned right here to follow all the latest scores and updates from the brackets that will yield the bracket.
Who's going to be celebrating between now and March 17? We're glad you asked.
Below you'll find our quick take on all 30 conference tournaments, listed in order of when each will commence:
Big South (March 5, 7, 9-10 -- Conway, S.C.)
What we expect to happen: The injury to High Point's stud freshman John Brown means that
Horizon (March 5-12 -- Campus sites of higher seeds)
What we expect to happen: Valparaiso and Detroit battled down the stretch during the season, but the Crusaders came out on top. In the conference tourney, the tables will turn -- Ray McCallum will carry the Titans to the NCAA tournament.
Atlantic Sun (March 6-9 -- Macon, Ga.)
What we expect to happen: Both Mercer and Florida Gulf Coast picked up impressive non-conference wins, but which team will get the chance to prove itself in the NCAA tournament? FGCU's Bernard Thompson and Sherwood Brown will be tough to stop.
Ohio Valley (March 6-9 -- Nashville, Tenn.)
What we expect to happen: Belmont is the clear favorite heading into the tournament, but can Murray State defend its title? Isaiah Canaan would have to carry the way, but Belmont is too balanced and playing too well right now.
West Coast (March 6-9, 11 -- Las Vegas)
What we expect to happen: There is a lot at stake in Vegas, with Gonzaga playing for a No. 1 seed and Saint Mary's playing for an at-large bid. A third matchup between the two could be in the offing, with the Zags completing an undefeated romp through the WCC.
Northeast (March 6, 9, 12 -- Campus sites of higher seeds)
What we expect to happen: This is going to be a wide-open tournament, as six teams were within three games at the top of the standings. Robert Morris is rolling, winning 14 of its last 16, and should win. With that said, look for Quinnipiac as a potential sleeper.
Patriot (March 6, 9, 13 -- Campus sites of higher seeds)
What we expect to happen: A third battle between Bucknell and Lehigh would be interesting -- if C.J. McCollum were to come back healthy. Since that's not happening, expect Mike Muscala and Bucknell to be a dangerous team in the NCAA tournament.
Missouri Valley (March 7-10 -- St. Louis)
What we expect to happen: We saw Creighton and Wichita State lose several times in the final month of the season, so neither team will roll through the league. In Arch Madness, anything can happen -- and here's the pick to win it all: Colt Ryan and Evansville.
MAAC (March 8-11 -- Springfield, Mass.)
What we expect to happen: This is another league that is going to be completely wide-open. Five teams were within two games at the top of the standings, with Niagara finishing first. In the tourney, though, Iona and its duo of Momo Jones and Sean Armand could get the job done.
Southern (March 8-11 -- Asheville, N.C.)
What we expect to happen: This one is Davidson's to lose. The Wildcats won the league by three games and have won 14 games in a row. Charleston is playing well lately, but Davidson will get a chance to pull an upset in the NCAA tournament.
Sun Belt (March 8-11 -- Hot Springs, Ark.)
What we expect to happen: Middle Tennessee could need the automatic bid, since its at-large resume is questionable. Will the Blue Raiders finish the task? They are head and shoulders above the rest of the league and should win it all.
America East (March 8-10, 16 -- Campus sites; High seed hosts final)
What we expect to happen: Stony Brook will look to avoid its third straight conference championship game loss -- and I think this is the year the Seawolves break through to the dance. Tommy Brenton could be the difference.
Colonial (March 9-11 -- Richmond, Va.)
What we expect to happen: It's only a seven-team tournament this season, so pretty much anything can happen. First-place Northeastern has lost three of five, and Delaware has rolled off 10 of 12. The talented Blue Hens might have the edge in Richmond.
Summit (March 9-12 -- Sioux Falls, S.D.)
What we expect to happen: This one should be fun. South Dakota State and Western Illinois split the title, and
MEAC (March 11-16 -- Norfolk, Va.)
What we expect to happen: Will Norfolk State get a chance to repeat its Round of 64 upset win from last season? The Spartans are undefeated in the league, and they have the home-site advantage. But here's our pick: North Carolina Central.
MAC (March 11, 13-16 -- Cleveland)
What we expect to happen: Akron swept Ohio during the regular season, and the Zips might need the automatic bid to get to the NCAA tournament. But D.J. Cooper is the best player in the league, and he will put the Bobcats on his back.
Big East (March 12-16 -- New York)
What we expect to happen: The last "true" Big East tournament will be a fun one, with no clear-cut favorite. You can pick Syracuse, Georgetown, Marquette, Louisville, Pittsburgh, pretty much anyone -- and not seem crazy. I think Louisville is hitting its stride and is the pick.
SWAC (March 12-16 -- Garland, Texas)
What we expect to happen: If Texas Southern and Arkansas-Pine Bluff were eligible for the NCAA tournament, this might be an interesting event. But they're not, so Southern is the heavy favorite. Malcolm Miller and Derick Beltran are too talented.
WAC (March 12, 14-16 -- Las Vegas)
What we expect to happen: Is Louisiana Tech's resume enough to get them an at-large bid without the tournament title? The Bulldogs shouldn't leave it to that. I think it will be a battle of tempos between them and Denver -- and I think the Pioneers get the upset.
Big 12 (March 13-16 -- Kansas City)
What we expect to happen: There will be plenty on the line in terms of tournament seeding in Kansas City, but
Conference USA (March 13-16 -- Tulsa, Okla.)
What we expect to happen: Any pick besides Memphis -- especially with UCF ineligible for the NCAA tournament -- is just being different. And we're not going to be different. The Tigers need not worry about at-large profiles; they're going to win the bid.
Mountain West (March 13-16 -- Las Vegas)
What we expect to happen: This is going to be one of the more exciting conference tournaments, with any number of teams capable of winning it all. The pick here is UNLV, which has a ton of talent and the advantage of playing at home.
Pac-12 (March 13-16 -- Las Vegas)
What we expect to happen: With no clear-cut favorite, it could come down to who is hot in Las Vegas. California might be the hottest team in the league, but I think UCLA is playing well at the right time. The Bruins will knock off Arizona and win the auto bid.
Southland (March 13-16 -- Katy, Texas)
What we expect to happen: The Southland had a close finish to the regular season, with Stephen F. Austin, Northwestern State and Oral Roberts all in a tight race. In the tourney, Stephen F. Austin and its lockdown defense will win the day.
SEC (March 13-17 -- Nashville, Tenn.)
What we expect to happen: The SEC could have the most at stake in terms of bubble teams during Championship Week, but regular-season champion Florida will win the automatic bid. As for bubble teams, who makes the deepest run? I'll go with Kentucky, but the Wildcats will fall short in the title game.
Big Sky (March 14-16 -- Site of regular season champ)
What we expect to happen: With Montana potentially missing Mathias Ward and Will Cherry, the first-place Grizzlies might not even be the favorite. Weber State has been overlooked this season, and the Wildcats are experienced and balanced.
Big West (March 14-16 -- Anaheim)
What we expect to happen: Regular-season champion Long Beach State wasn't exactly playing its best basketball down the stretch, and Pacific and Cal Poly are definitely threats. But the 49ers are plenty talented and aren't going to be an easy out in the NCAA tournament.
ACC (March 14-17 -- Greensboro, N.C.)
What we expect to happen: With Ryan Kelly back, Duke might be the favorite even though it finished in second place. Throw in the fact the game is in Greensboro, and the Blue Devils have the edge over Miami. Look out for North Carolina, too.
Atlantic 10 (March 14-17 -- Brooklyn, N.Y.)
What we expect to happen: Someone else has to figure out the A-10, since it has been impossible to know what's going to happen. It will be interesting to see if VCU can be successful with its press on the road, but here's the pick: La Salle and its talented perimeter.
Big Ten (March 14-17 -- Chicago)
What we expect to happen: The Big Ten has been anything but predictable this season, with several teams capable of winning the auto bid. Indiana could be the NCAA tournament favorite, but we're going with Michigan State -- if Keith Appling gets his focus back.
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