Welcome to part two of our Conference Championship predictions. Byron and Sam are getting you all set with the automatic bids taking you to Selection Sunday this weekend. Make sure to check back next week for our NCAA Tournament predictions featuring sleeper picks, upsets, and what team will be left standing when the dust settles.
Check out Part One of our predictions here.
Tickets punched so far: Utah State, Belmont, Winthrop, Bradley, Liberty, ETSU, Robert Morris, Northern Kentucky, North Dakota State, Hofstra, Gonzaga
Byron: Twelve teams picked yesterday and another ten picks today! A total of eleven teams are already planning their outfits for next week’s Big Dance, including Gonzaga and Hofstra, whom we both picked yesterday. You ready to finish these picks?
Sam: You know it… we’ve got some big conferences kicking off today. I’m ready to sink into the couch and take in all the action this weekend. Let’s get to the games!
#1 Seed: Colgate, 25-8 (14-4)
Colgate plays Boston University (20-13, 12-6) in the Patriot League conference championship on Wednesday night and the Raiders have already beaten the Terriers twice this season. The adage about it being hard to beat the same team three times may often be true, but neither writer is picking an upset in this one.
#1 Seed: Vermont, 26-7 (14-2)
B: I expect for the Catamounts to win the conference and get the automatic bid to the Big Dance for the second year in a row. They won on the road at St. John’s earlier in the season and have only lost twice this calendar year.
S: I’m also taking Vermont, although if Hartford (18-15, 9-7) shoots the three at a 54% clip like they did against Stony Brook in the semis, they could be more dangerous than their record would indicate!
#1 Seed: Stephen F. Austin, 28-3 (19-1)
The Lumberjacks shocked the world when they upset the tenth-ranked Duke Blue Devils at Cameron Indoor Stadium back in late November, but they have proven it was no fluke. Losers of just 3 games this season, both writers tap them to win the conference tournament in convincing fashion.
MID-EASTERN ATLANTIC CONFERENCE
#1 Seed: North Carolina Central, 17-13 (13-3)
B: The Eagles have won five games in a row and have the Conference Player of the Year in Jibri Blount. I expect him to dominate in the tournament and for NC Central to ride his shoulders all the way to the bid.
S: This conference has a heck of a time on the road. If the game were at NCCU, I’d take them in a landslide. But on a neutral court, I’m picking the upset for NC A&T (16-15, 12-4). Take the Over in this one as both teams are going to be throwing haymakers.
#1 Seed: Yale, 23-7 (11-3)
S: (papers rustling) I can’t find my notes on this game…
B: Congrats to Yale, who takes the first-ever “Coronavirus Open”! We were both going to pick them anyway, right? Right??
S: Of course, just don’t tell Harvard.
B: I’m giving us both a “W” for this one.
#1 Seed: Eastern Washington, 23-8 (16-4)
B: The Northern Colorado Bears (22-9, 15-5) are a relatively small team as they play seven (7) guards at ten-plus minutes per game. I like their style. I’m trusting their up-tempo offense to carry them to the Big Sky championship.
S: Give me the Grizzlies (18-13, 14-6) from the great state of Montana. Their regular season ended with a few whimpers but with two strong wins over top-seeded Eastern Washington, I think they have more than enough talent to run the table.
#1 Seed: New Mexico State, 25-6 (16-0)
B: This is one of the easier picks to make on today’s slate. It should really come as no surprise because the Aggies are easily the best team in the conference. They’ve won 19 games in a row and went undefeated in conference play. A really good team who should make some noise in the Big Dance next week!
S: Agreed. It’s easy to see that there’s no one else in the WAC on their level, and depending on where they are sent in next week’s games, don’t be surprised to hear more from them when the real deal gets underway.
#1 Seed: Creighton, 24-7 (13-5)
B: Feels like this conference is finally returning to its old glory, doesn’t it? In what is a very deep league, I would’ve picked the Creighton Bluejays here, had star guard Marcus Zegarowski not been injured in their win over Seton Hall last week. But injuries happen, and for that reason, I’m picking Jay Wright and the Villanova Wildcats (24-7, 13-5). Seddiq Bey, Collin Gillespie, and Jeremiah Robinson-Earl are as good a trio you can find on a team.
S: March is always about what team catches fire at the right time, and this conference may boast the most teams capable of doing just that. That said, I can’t go against Creighton (24-7, 13-5) who has seemed to be the most consistent of the bunch while facing a slew of tournament hopefuls. I expect Marcus to have a good shot to return by the semis. Part of me wants to give Seton Hall the nod playing in New York… I’m just not sure if there will be anyone there to cheer them on.
#1 Seed: Cincinnati, 20-10 (13-5)
B: I’m picking the Houston Cougars (23-8, 13-5) solely due to their depth here. They play 9-10 guys on any given night and are extremely well-coached. Kelvin Sampson has a good team and they have only lost by double digits once all season.
S: Homer Alert! Yup, I’m taking the Bearcats. While they may not be the most talented team in the conference, they are battle-tested to the tune of a whopping seven overtime games, winning four. That sort of experience is a bonus at tourney time. If they can make a few free-throws, Cincinnati finally silences the bubble talk and needn’t sweat out Selection Sunday.
#1 Seed: Kansas, 28-3 (17-1)
B: I’m in on Baylor (26-4, 15-3) in the Big 12. As much as I’d like to pick Bill Self and the #1 ranked Kansas Jayhawks here, I think the Bears are seeking revenge from their instant classic clash back in February. Scott Drew and his top-five ranked Bears have had a little skid here lately dropping games on the road against TCU and West Virginia, but I think they’ll win the Big 12 and snag a number-one seed for the Big Dance.
S: The Jayhawks haven’t lost a game since their first matchup with Baylor, two months ago today… a string of 16 straight dubs with eight on the road. Not only am I on the Kansas train, but I’ve also got a fresh stick of chalk ready to fill in their first four games next week.
#1 Seed: Wisconsin, 21-10 (14-6)
B: The Michigan State Spartans (22-9, 14-6) might be the trendy pick here (and for good reason) as they’re playing great ball at the right time. I’m going a different route and choosing the Fighting Illini of Illinois (21-10, 13-7). Ayo Dosunmu and Kofi Cockburn (great name hall of fame candidate) will put the Illini on their backs and win the mighty Big Ten, which is stacked with tournament teams.
S: In a field full of solid teams, you would think getting the double-bye is an absolute must. However, in this case, that one extra game for the Iowa Hawkeyes (20-11, 11-9) might be just what the doctor ordered to reclaim some swagger after botching the end of the season. Luka Garza and company will take advantage of a bracket full of upsets to sneak into the final and take the trophy to Iowa City.
Don’t forget to check out TheScorecrow next week for more March Madness picks and analysis after the “first four” is completed leading up to Thursday’s full slate! Stock up on hand sanitizer and stay away from the complimentary beer nuts on the bar.
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