Setting the Stage

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Setting the Stage

Northern Iowa beat Illinois State to claim the Missouri Valley automatic bid.

Northern Iowa beat Illinois State to claim the Missouri Valley automatic bid.

Northern Iowa beat Illinois State to claim the Missouri Valley automatic bid.

Northern Iowa beat Illinois State to claim the Missouri Valley automatic bid.

Kyle Laska, Tyler Skinner, News Editor, Staff Writer

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American East- One-bid conference. The winner of this conference will most likely be a 15 or 16 seed, but the games will be competitive, as each of the top four teams in the conference have fewer than 12 losses on the season (Albany, Stony Brook, Vermont, New Hampshire). Favorite: Albany (15-1 in conference; won tournament past two years) Sleeper: Vermont (won 5 times since 2003)


American Athletic Conference- Pretty strong conference with a potential to have four teams in the tournament. With one team in the top 25 (Southern Methodist University) and three others already above the 20-win mark (Tulsa, Cincinnati, Temple), this conference tournament could be fun one to watch. The conference has five teams with at least 10 conference wins when you add in UConn. Favorite: SMU (Easily the deepest team in the conference, plus they have a great coach, which can’t be undervalued). Sleeper: UConn (Not projected in tournament as of now, but as reigning National Champions, they can’t be counted out; Ryan Boatright was instrumental on that team, and he should be with this team)


Atlantic 10- Most likely sending two teams to the tournament this year. Dayton and Davidson are the favorites as they’ve both played great this year. But tournament-favorite VCU is just outside the mix with Rhode Island. All four teams have been above average and deserving of spots, but there’s just not enough room at the Big Dance. This conference  tournament should be representative of the NCAA tournament: physical and fast basketball. Favorite: Dayton (good coaching has a team with little height very dangerous in the tournament) Sleeper: Richmond (closing in on the bubble, but will be going all out for an automatic bid; on a six game winning streak)

ACC- The arguably second-best conference in basketball after the Big-12 will have a thrilling tournament this year, as always. Both Virginia and Duke are possibly a 1-seed in the Big Dance, and Notre Dame, Louisville, North Carolina are all also locks for the tournament. Miami, NC State, and Pittsburgh will all need some wins in the conference tournament to solidify themselves in the NCAA Tournament. Favorite: Duke (fighting for a 1-seed, the best coach that ever lived will have this team going all out; beat Virginia on the road this year for Virginia’s only loss) Sleeper: North Carolina (another usual suspect in the ACC Tournament, but this team also sports a great coach with very good players; if there is a team that Duke doesn’t want to see in this tournament, it is UNC, the team with elite rebounding and passing).


Atlantic Sun- North Florida defeated USC Upstate for the automatic bid from the Atlantic Sun. It will be the only representative from this conference.


Big 12- The best conference in all the NCAA this season. This 10-team conference will be represented by anywhere from six to eight teams in the Big Dance. Night in and night out, the games have been intense and almost always competitive to the end. This is the main event of all the conference tournaments. Favorite: Kansas (won six of past nine tournaments; 13-4 in conference) Sleeper: Texas (great rebounding team with big man Myles Turner, who is always a mismatch; they will be hungry in the tournament knowing that if they don’t win there is a good chance they don’t made the NCAA Tournament).


Big East- Villanova, Providence, Butler, Georgetown, St. John’s, and possibly Xavier will be representing the Big East in the NCAA tournament this year. In a conference where only four teams won’t make it, expect the games to be played at a very high level with some physicality to them. Favorite: Villanova (likely to be a 1-seed in the NCAA Tournament if they are able to sew up this one; 28-2 record on the season, with only two losses being to teams that they later beat) Sleeper: St. John’s (tournament is played on their court, Madison Square Garden; coming in hot, having been 7-2 in their last nine regular season games)


Big Sky- One-bid conference. One of the weakest conferences in the NCAA, the winner of this tournament will almost certainly be a 16-seed in a play-in game against another 16-seed. Having said that, with two teams in the conference still in single-digit losses for the season, the conference tournament will likely be entertaining to watch. Favorite: Montana (played both Cal and Boise State to double overtime on the road; won the Big Sky a league leading nine times) Sleeper: Eastern Washington (21-8 record overall; won at Indiana).


Big South- Coastal Carolina beat Winthrop for the right to represent the Big South. It will be the only tournament team from the Big South.


Big Ten- In their best-case scenario, the Big Ten could send eight representatives, but most likely it will end up being six or seven. Teams like Illinois and Purdue could use some wins in the Big Ten tournament against good teams in order to send them dancing. Eleven teams are .500 or better on the season, so this tournament will feature a bunch of teams hungry to solidify their position in the tournament or teams with aspirations of stealing a bid. Favorite: Wisconsin (only two losses all year in conference, and both were on the road in close games; lead by probable player of the year, senior, Frank Kaminsky the Badgers will be the matchup nobody wants to see) Sleeper: Michigan State (great coaching by Tom Izzo always has this team playing its best come tournament time; senior-led team will be hungry to win and get a better seed for the NCAA Tournament)


Big West- One-bid conference. The story of this tournament will be if anyone can knock off UC Davis, which has gone 12-2 through conference. Favorite: UC Davis (fourth highest field goal percentage in all NCAA; first in three point percentage) Sleeper: UC Santa Barbara (beat UC Davis by 14 during the season; took SMU and Oregon to overtime).


Colonial Athletic Association- One-bid conference. This is a pretty top-heavy conference, with the top four teams (Northeastern, William & Mary, James Madison, UNC Wilmington) each with a real shot to win the bid to the NCAA tournament. Favorite: Northeastern (Won at Florida State; 20-11 record throughout regular season) Sleeper: UNC Wilmington (Swept Northeastern and James Madison).


Con-USA- Most likely a one-bid conference, but if enough goes their way, Old Dominion could possibly get in as an at-large bid, although they shouldn’t hold their breath. The way into the NCAA Tournament is through winning the Conference USA Tournament, which will have four teams with 10 or fewer losses. Favorite: Old Dominion (wins against VCU and LSU; beat number-one seed in conference Louisiana Tech by 19) Sleeper: Western Kentucky (win at Ole Miss; win at Old Dominion).


Horizon- One-bid conference. Very top-heavy conference, with Valparaiso and Green Bay being the best teams and everyone else a step behind. A crazy tournament not withstanding, the Horizon will be represented by one of those two. Favorite: Valparaiso (2013 winner; beat Murray State) and Green Bay (win at Miami) Sleeper: Oakland (wins against both Valparaiso and Green Bay).


Ivy- One game playoff between Harvard and Yale to decide who represents Ivy League.


Metro Atlantic Athletic- One-bid conference. If Iona or Rider win the conference, they could be as low as a 13-seed, but if anyone else wins, more than likely they will be a 16. Favorite: Iona (17-3 in conference; top 10 in all NCAA in points per game) Sleeper: Manhattan (reining champion; took Rider to overtime twice).


Mid-American- One-bid conference. The MAC has been an extremely even conference this year, and it is anyone’s game come tournament time. Buffalo, Bowling Green, Kent State, Central Michigan, and Toledo won double-digit conference games. Favorite: Central Michigan (won at Northwestern; 4-0 against Buffalo and Toledo) Sleeper: Akron (4-1 against Buffalo, Kent State, and Bowling Green; won tournament three times in past six years)


Mid-Eastern Athletic- One-bid conference. Weak conference with the winner likely a 15 or 16 seed. Favorite: North Carolina Central (undefeated in conference this year) Sleeper: Delaware State (top 15 in rebounds in the nation; win at Wake Forest)


Missouri Valley- Northern Iowa defeated Illinois State for the automatic bid from the Missouri Valley. Northern Iowa will be joined by Wichita State in the NCAA Tournament.


Mountain West- This is shaping up to be a two-bid conference, with San Diego State and Colorado State making it. Colorado State is close to the bubble, so a bad loss in this tournament would be a death sentence for them. With four other teams in double-digit wins in conference this year, this conference could easily go to a team with a bid steal in mind. Favorite: San Diego State (13-4 they pretty much ran the table this season; they allow the third least points in the nation at 53.7 per game)


Northeast- One-bid conference. Winner of this tournament will be a 16-seed come time for the tournament. Favorite: St. Francis (15-3 in conference; number 14 in the nation in rebounding) Sleeper: Robert Morris (won tournament 12 times; 12-6 in conference).


Ohio Valley- Represented by Belmont who beat Murray State 88-87. Murray State is on the bubble for the NCAA Tournament.


Pac-12- There will be anywhere from 2-5 bids in the Pac-12 this year. The most likely scenario is Arizona, Utah, and Oregon getting in, and either UCLA or Stanford getting in with a run in the Pac-12 Tournament. The Pac-12 plays at a very fast pace, and this tournament will be the same; expect this to be a very high-quality tournament. Favorite: Arizona (fighting for a 1-seed, they will be going all out; with a 27-3 record, they have handled most of their opponents all year long) Sleeper: UCLA (didn’t lose a home conference game all year; the easy way off the bubble is to win the tournament, and they will be playing their hearts out).


Patriot- One-bid conference. Bucknell has been running the table in this conference all year, and actually for the past four years or so. Having said that, with five losses in conference, they have shown they are vulnerable, so they need to come to play if they want to represent the Patriot League in the NCAA Tournament. Favorite: Bucknell (played in the finals in three of the past four years; 13-5 in conference) Sleeper: Colgate (15th in field goal percentage in the nation; swept Bucknell this year).


SEC- The SEC is most likely looking at six bids this year, but it could go down to five if a team like Ole Miss, Texas A&M, or Georgia take a bad loss. The obvious talk of the tournament will be if anybody can knock off Kentucky, who is sitting at 31-0 going into the tournament. Teams near the bottom will have a tough road to steal a bid because it will have to go through the NBA talent-filled roster of Kentucky. Favorite: Kentucky (haven’t lost all year, enough said) Sleeper: Florida (always plays big this time of year; have played very close games throughout all of the conference season, and they have the experience of how to play those close games).


Southern- One-bid conference. With only three teams in the conference above .500 in league play (Wofford, Chattanooga, Mercer), the conference tournament could be dull until the final game or two, but expect those to be exciting. Favorite: Wofford (16-2 in conference; win at NC State; swept Mercer) Sleeper: Virginia Military (third in the nation in points per game; top-10 in steals and blocks per game).


Southland- One-bid conference. Stephen F. Austin has lost one conference game over the past two years so this tournament may be just a formality, but on the off chance that someone else does get through, then they will be a 16-seed. Favorite: Stephen F. Austin (2nd in assists per game; win at Memphis) Sleeper: Texas A&M-CC (beat Stephen F. Austin; split with second place team Sam Houston State).


Southwestern Atlantic- One-bid conference. Another top heavy conference, which has spent the league year beating up on bottom feeders Grambling State (0-16) and Alcorn State (4-12). Favorite: Texas Southern (wins at Michigan State and Kansas State; each of their eight rotational players is an upperclassmen) Sleeper: Alabama State (12-4 in conference; averaging over 70 points per game).


Summit- One-bid conference. Expect a very competitive tournament among teams that are trying to be a Cinderella story in the NCAA Tournament after watching North Dakota State down Oklahoma just last year. Favorite: South Dakota State (won twice in the past three years; tournament is played in South Dakota) Sleeper: North Dakota State (split with South Dakota State; reining champion).


Sun Belt- One-bid conference. The winner of this will almost certainly be a 16-seed, but it would still be a thrill, as most of these teams are chomping at the bit to just get one shot to down one of the best teams in basketball. Favorite: Georgia State (13-5 in conference; 7th in steals per game) Sleeper: UL Monroe (took Florida to overtime; good defensive team led by senior Tylor Ongwae gives them a chance to stick with any team in the league).


West Coast- Most likely there will be two tournament teams from the West Coast Conference in the Big Dance. Gonzaga is looking at a 2-seed if they can win this tournament, and BYU is currently a bubble team, so a tournament win would do a lot for them. Favorite: Gonzaga (won it 13 times in past 17 years; best field goal percentage in the NCAA) Sleeper: Saint Mary’s (made championship five of past six years; senior leadership from guys that have been here before).

Western Athletic-
One-bid conference. A 16-seed is a certainty for any team except for New Mexico State, who has a chance for a 14 or 15 if they win. Favorite: New Mexico State (11-1 in conference; won three straight WAC Tournaments) Sleeper: Seattle (beat New Mexico State; three-game winning streak going into the tournament).