With the regular season winding down, the NCAA Tournament picture is becoming clearer. To clarify, teams are beginning to be lumped together in two categories. On one hand, there are the teams who are in the big dance and are solidifying their position. On the other, there are those still vying for a seat at the table.
Fortunately, there are occurrences called the conference tournaments that will give everyone in both categories a chance to show their worth. Conference tournaments begin next week and there are a few that need more attention than the others.
These are your small conferences. Teams in conferences such as the Northeast, America East, MEAC and SWAC will be eyeing the championships. That is because for these teams to get in, they must win the conference tournament. It’s literally why they are dubbed as one-bid leagues.
For example, we have seen Lamar become one of the teams to watch for. Chastadie Barrs is one of the best players in the country. Unfortunately, we do not get to see much of her this season because Lamar receives no national exposure. The senior is now the all-time leader in steals in NCAA women’s basketball history. She trails only Sabrina Ionescu in triple doubles with five. To see more of her, Lamar has to win the Southland Conference Tournament.
Right now, Lamar is seen as a 13-seed according to Charlie Crème of ESPN. To earn that, the Cardinals must take care of business in the Southland.
The one-bid leagues will be on close watch once the tournaments begin.
The Big Ten has been stellar this season. Night in and night out, teams in this conference have produced countless competitive games.
In light of this, we just don’t know how these teams will stack up. Luckily, the Big Ten Conference Tournament will straighten this out for everybody. Right now, Charlie Creme of ESPN predicts six teams from the Big Ten will make the NCAA Tournament. The conference tournament will be a stellar predictor as to which teams will go dancing and what they will be seeded.
To demonstrate, let’s look at the resumes of three Big Ten schools: Indiana, Ohio State and Purdue
|Big Ten Win-Loss||9-8||10-7||7-10|
|RPI top-10 Win-Loss||2-2||1-2||1-2|
|RPI top-25 Win-Loss||3-2||1-4||2-4|
|RPI top-50 Win-Loss||5-2||3-7||3-7|
These three schools will either make their chances better or bury their chances. In particular, Indiana is seen as one of the Last Four in according to Crème. They will have to have a great conference tournament run to ensure they are in the NCAA Tournament.
Then you look at Maryland, Iowa and Rutgers. These three programs are in the field of 64. Still, they must have good performances to earn a good seeding come the Big Dance.
Summit League, MAC, and Missouri Valley
Charlie Crème has these three conferences getting two teams in the tournament each.
Fortunately, they will have the conference tournament to better their chances.
With these mid-major conferences shaping up to send six teams combined, we will see how each fare in the conference tournaments. Because of this, we all have to wonder what happens if one or both teams from each conference falls in the tournaments.
For example, let’s take the Missouri Valley Conference. Drake and Missouri State are both slated to make the tournament. Let’s say Drake wins the conference tournament. Drake, for all intents and purposes, is seen as a six-seed by most bracketologists. If Missouri State does not win the conference tournament, it could mean the conference turns into a one-bid league. Then it could open door for a team who could be in the Last Four out category of some bracketologists.
The same applies to the MAC and Summit League. We’ll have to watch these tournaments with a keen eye to see if they hold up
The SEC is one of the most competitive leagues in the country. This season has been no different and the conference tournament should be a great one.
Particularly, we should pay close attention to how some teams fare this year.
For starters, Tennessee is seen as a one of the Last Four in according to Charlie Creme. This has been a roller coaster of a season for the Lady Vols. Along with that, people within the Tennessee community are wondering about the job status for coach Holly Warlick. The SEC conference tournament will be critical for the Lady Vols in getting to the NCAA Tournament — as well as the job security of Warlick.
Also, we will be looking at the LSU Tigers. They will have to put on a good showing in the conference tournament to get one of those at-large bids for the tournament.
Plus, Mississippi State will be in the run for one of the No. 1 seeds in the NCAA Tournament. Of course, they will need one of these teams on the one-lines to slip up. For instance, Notre Dame and Louisville are both projected as one-seeds in the tournament. It is being predicted that these two teams will meet in the ACC championship game. If one of those teams fall and Mississippi State takes the SEC championship, do not be surprised to find the Bulldogs as one of those one-seeds.
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