College Basketball Betting: Top 15 Conference Tournaments
by Robert Ferringo - 03/03/2009
Today marks the official tip-off of March Madness and the beginning of the conference tournament schedule. The Horizon, Ohio Valley and Big South conferences all get their postseason underway and right now just about every team in the country has a shot at glory in the form of a trip to the Big Dance.
Below I've ranked the Top 15 Most Intriguing Conference Tournaments of this March. It's a pretty loose ranking and is simply one man's opinion. But there are definitely some playoffs that I'm going to be watching a bit closer than others and there are some games and situations that are going to have a significant impact on the NCAA Tournament Field.
Here are my 2009 NCAA conference tournament rankings:
1. Big East Tournament (March 10-14)
The annual Beast summit at MSG is always one of the most thrilling tournaments on the board. This year the Big East has 11 teams with a legitimate NCAA Tournament resume and so much of what happens with the bracket is going to be determined by what goes on in New York. Will the Big East get eight or nine teams? Will they have two No. 1 seeds? Will there be a team that makes a surprise run to the finals to punch their ticket? Lots to be decided and a lot of dominoes will start falling from MSG.
2. SEC Tournament (March 12-15)
This conference has been a disaster this season and this will be one of the wildest and wackiest tournaments of the month. It's going to be tough to top last season, when Georgia made an improbable run to take the title and steal a bid. Right now I have just one lock, LSU, out of this conference. A lot of teams will have a shot to play themselves in or out and this is going to be a wild one. (Watch out for Auburn.)
3. Mountain West Tournament (March 10-14)
I love the Mountain West. Love it. And I don't think that either of the top two teams - BYU or Utah - are going to win this tournament. Since I already have those two in The Dance I think a third mystery team is going to emerge. UNLV is always tough on their home court, but New Mexico and San Diego State are loaded with upperclassmen that will be looking to make a run. And beware red-hot Wyoming.
4. ACC Tournament (March 12-15)
Much like the Big East, the ACC still has an incredible number of teams vying for tournament berths, as well as three teams - Wake, UNC and Duke - that still could earn a No. 1 seed by winning this tournament. Going to be a very high level of basketball being played here and sleepers abound. This will be a good one.
5. Big Ten Tournament (March 12-15)
Third verse, same as the first; the Big Ten has a few top teams that are already in the Big Dance, but has as many as five teams still clawing for a spot on the card. The Big Ten has given us several surprise winners over the last several seasons and I won't be at all surprised if a club like Penn State or Ohio State gets hot and takes the title.
6. Horizon League Tournament (March 3-10)
It's going to be nearly impossible for Butler to lose this tournament. But March is the time for the impossible. The Bulldogs get a bye into the semis, along with UW-Green Bay and Cleveland State. Either of those teams could knock off Butler and I think that the semis in this tourney is going to be as entertaining as any semis in the country.
7. A-10 Tournament (March 11-14)
The A-10 is generally a pretty unpredictable tournament in the early rounds. There are all kinds of sleepers and land mines - Richmond, Massachusetts, St. Louis - waiting and there are five quality teams - Xavier, Dayton, St. Joseph's, Temple and Rhode Island - that it would not surprise me to see cut down the nets in Atlantic City. This might be the most wide-open tournament going.
8. Pac-10 (March 11-14)
I have the Pac-10 Tournament listed so low because for me the drama is all gone. The top five teams - Washington, UCLA, Cal, Arizona State and Arizona - are all in the tournament already. I don't think anyone else deserves a bid or can make a case, so the drama is gone. And with teams like Washington State and Oregon State grinding games down to a halt, this one is for serious college hoops fans only.
9. CAA (March 6-9)
This conference has some of the most underrated rivalries in the country and this tournament is always entertaining. VCU and George Mason are the teams you know, and people will want to see another classic final between them. But don't sleep on Northeastern being a thorn in someone's side and ODU is coming on strong.
10. Big 12 (March 11-14)
The finals of this tournament is always, always must-see basketball. And with the strength and the variety of styles and storylines that they have at the top of the conference - OU as a No. 1 seed? Kansas trying to repeat? Missouri as a sleeper? - I expect another great game to close. Also, Oklahoma State is making a strong late push for a spot in the NCAA Tournament and will be playing close to home. Look for a lot of emotion out of this squad.
11. Missouri Valley (March 5-8)
Arch Madness has lost a bit of luster in my eyes this year because the MVC is really down and has been an ugly conference to follow. But other than Creighton I don't think anyone can confidently say they know how any other team will produce. There are as many as seven teams that could win this thing, making it one of the most unpredictable brackets on the board.
12. Metro Atlantic (March 5-9)
I definitely want to see Siena and Niagara match up one more time to determine which team should go to the Big Dance. There aren't many other challengers out there, but I'm intrigued to see how Siena handles the pressure of having to win this playoff in order to get a second straight NCAA bid.
13. Southern (March 6-9)
Steph Curry's club has to win to get in, and they will have to do so on one of their primary challenger's home court. I think either Chattanooga or Charleston could knock off the Wildcats - if they can avoid upsets themselves. But the fun here is watching Curry play with his back to the wall. He's been unreal in those situations in the past.
14. CUSA (March 11-14)
I don't know why, but I still think that Memphis is not going to win this conference tournament. I know it's going to be tough to beat them on their home court but I think that some team is going to pull of a miracle.
15. MAC (March 10-14)
What does it tell you when the favorite to win the conference tournament finished in fourth place in the league? Miami, OH is the best team but they haven't consistently played the best ball. I don't know who is going to emerge from this cesspool but I know this: it won't be anyone from the pathetic MAC West.