Tracking The Conference Tournaments
Forgive us if you've seen us write this once (or more) before: This year's College Basketball Conference Tournaments - a/k/a the mini-tourneys, as we'd like to say - likely will KO a batch of NCAA Tournament "deserving" teams and put forth a handful-or-more teams that come from nowhere to cop their wild / often wacky league tournaments.
Sure, you can say it happens each and every year but if you've truly been following the college hoops universe this 2018-19 campaign then you know that parity is widespread - there's fifth- and sixth-place teams in the Big East Conference, for example, that can get on a roll and win the automatic NCAA Tourney bid and there's a slew of mid-major schools that are peaking at precisely the right time and thus ready / willing / able to make a run at their mini-tourney championships even if they happen to be sitting "off the pack" from the lead right now.
So, without further ado we'll begin to examine /analyze this month's mini-tourneys as we check out all the leagues - big and small - that are on-the-Las Vegas-board items.
HORIZON CONFERENCE - Tues, Wed, Mon. (Mar. 11) and Tues. (Mar. 12)
Semis and Finals - At Detroit, MI
Wright State and Northern Kentucky shared the regular-season conference crown with matching 13-5 SU (straight-up) records though the former was rewarded with the #1 seed, However, keep in mind the number one seed has captured this mini-tourney just once since 2015. Wright State's the best defensive team in the league and PG Cole Gentry is a smooth operator while Northern Kentucky's deep and athletic but star F Drew McDonald has been hurting lately.
The Favorite: Wright State
The Dark Horse: Oakland
Pointspread Note: Northern Kentucky is a money-burning 11-17-1 ATS (against the spread) this year
OHIO VALLEY CONFERENCE - Wed-thru-Sat
At Evansville, IN
Truth of the matter is we'd really like to see the OVC's top two teams make it to this month's NCAA Tournament as both top seed Belmont (25-4, 16-2) and Murray State (25-4, 16-2) are truly special squads and - we'll predict right now - if these clubs do make it to Saturday's championship game then both of 'em will be headed to the Big Dance! Note that Belmont ranks second nationally in scoring (88.3 ppg) behind G Dylan Windler's 21.1 ppg average while Murray State's led by sure-fire NBA top five pick guard Ja Morant (24.1 ppg).
The Favorite: Belmont
The Dark Horse: Austin Peay
Pointspread Note: Belmont is 17-9-2 versus the vig while Murray State's 18-9 against the odds … and that combined 37-18-2 spread mark is a .673 winning rate.
MISSOURI VALLEY CONFERENCE - Thurs-thru-Sun
At St. Louis, MO
It was a long and winding road but, when the carousel finally stopped, there was Loyola-Chicago back on top with the #1 seed as it won the tie-breaker for the top spot with Drake. Sure, this Ramblers bunch differs greatly from the one that made it to the Final Four - Sister Jean, get ready to be back on center stage again! - but Loyola warbled its way to first place and now we'll see if this depth-shy crew can hang on to win three times in three days.
The Favorite: Drake
The Dark Horse: Northern Iowa
Pointspread Note: Drake's 21-7 ATS mark this year included a 5-1-1 spread log down the stretch of play.
WEST COAST CONFERENCE - Thurs-thru-Sat / Mon-Tues
At Las Vegas, NV
In case you lost track, Gonzaga (29-2, 16-0) has copped the WCC Tournament seven years in a row and it will rank as a major shocker if the 'Zags don't make it eight straight … and this could be romp city throughout if Mark Few's club has its eyes on the prize (see an NCAA Tournament number one seed). Gotta believe Saint Mary's (20-11, 11-5) needs to win at least one game in this mini-tourney while BYU (19-12, 11-5) needs to get to the finals to have any hope at all.
The Favorite: Gonzaga
The Dark Horse: San Francisco
Pointspread Note: Gonzaga is a rock-solid 20-11 against the odds though the Zags have failed to cover four of their last six outings this season.
METRO ATLANTIC ATHELTIC CONFERENCE - Thurs-thru-Tues
At Albany, NY
P.S., the MAAC is ranked 29th out of 32 teams in college b-ball and so we're not talking about one of the really elite leagues here - and the fact Iona (14-15, 12-6) copped first place in regular-season play is a little scary.
The Favorite: Rider
The Dark Horse: Manhattan
Pointspread Note: Iona is just 11-17-1 versus the vig this year
SOUTHERN CONFERENCE - Fri, Sat & Mon
Wofford (26-4, 18-0) rock-n-rolls into this mini-tournament on a sweet 16-game winning streak but remember that Furman (24-6, 13-5) has spent time in the Top 25 this year too.
The Favorite: Wofford
The Dark Horse: East Tennessee State
Pointspread Note: Furman's covered eight of its last nine games while heading into this mini-tourney.