NCAA Tournament Predictions: Best and Worst Conferences
by Aaron Smith - 3/16/2011
As you are handicapping each region and filling out your March Madness brackets for every game in the NCAA Tournament, you must consider every factor that could affect the outcome. One of the tools that you’ll need to use is strength of conference. It absolutely matters what type of conference each team played in during the regular season. These teams will be well-prepared for the tournament if they are in a strong conference with a regular slate of top-notch opponents. If they are in a weak conference, the teams might not be ready for the intensity of the NCAA Tournament. Let’s take a look at some of my NCAA Tournament predictions for conferences that you might want to back, and some conferences you might want to avoid in this year’s NCAA Tournament.
Conferences to Back
Atlantic 10- The Atlantic 10 got three teams into the NCAA Tournament this year, and I think all three of them are better than most people realize. Xavier has one of the best guards in the nation in Tu Holloway, and they will be a tough out. The Temple Owls know how to win, and they are looking for redemption after a quick out last year in the tournament. The Richmond Spiders won the conference tournament and could only muster a No. 12 seed for some reason. Having said that, I think Richmond has a good shot at being one of those common No. 12 over No. 5 upsets in the first round.
Big Ten- The Big Ten Conference was expected to be the best in the nation this year, but t fell a little short of those expectations. Michigan State’s terrible season didn’t help, and Robbie Hummel’s torn ACL probably cost Purdue a shot at the national title. It seems as if most people are fairly down on the conference now, but I like the way these teams are set up for a run in the tournament. The Big Ten teams in the NCAA Tournament all play solid defense and have the ability to slow the game down. It is much easier to slow a team down than to speed them up during March Madness. Don’t be surprised if the Big Ten outperforms expectations in this tournament.
Mountain West- The Mountain West may have been first on my list if it weren’t for the Brandon Davies suspension at BYU. Jimmer Fredette and his team received a favorable draw in the Southeast Region. UNLV is also a team that could be overlooked because of their poor play in the middle of the year, but I think they are dangerous. San Diego State is a team I’ve followed closely all year, and they are definitely built for a deep postseason run. The Mountain West played some great basketball all season long, so these teams should be ready for a nice run in the tournament.
Conferences to Go Against
SEC- The Southeastern Conference is certainly the best college football conference in the nation, but the basketball played in the SEC this year didn’t impress me at all. Kentucky is playing the best of any team in the league, but they received a difficult draw. Vanderbilt has proven unable to win any meaningful game in the past, and I don’t think it will start this March. Georgia probably shouldn’t have gotten in the tournament, but they will likely be out in their first game. Florida received a great draw, but they are one of the weakest No. 2 seeds I have ever seen.
ACC- Duke is the lone member of this conference that I believe could make a deep run in the tournament. North Carolina’s offense just isn’t very good in the half court set, and they don’t have many shooters capable of opening up the lane. Clemson hasn’t had any success in the NCAA Tournament for the last few years, and I don’t think they’ll have much this year either. Florida State will get Chris Singleton back for this tournament, but their lack of offensive production will be difficult to overcome. The ACC was extremely weak this year, and that is likely to show in the NCAA Tournament.
Conference USA- Sure, the conference only got two bids into the NCAA Tournament, but that was definitely one too many. Memphis started playing a little better at the end of the year, but they are still an undisciplined team that will struggle with consistency. UAB didn’t have the type of season that typically would get a team into the tournament, and they probably won’t be around for long. The mediocrity of this conference should show in the NCAA Tournament.
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