It’s officially Championship Week in college basketball. A week where tickets will be punched and dreams will crash. Some conference tournaments have already been finished, with Florida Gulf Coast, Yale, UNC Asheville, Northern Iowa and Austin Peay all punching tickets to the Big Dance. The major conference tournaments haven’t begun, which means the ACC, Big 12, Big 10, Pac-12 and SEC champions have yet to be decided. So who will take home their respective conference crown in the coming days?
The strength at the top of the ACC will prevent any lower ranked team to make a run. So bubble teams like #8 seed Pittsburgh and #9 seed Syracuse will need to win at least two games to potentially have a chance in this years field. Pitt and the Cuse will actually meet in the second round of the tournament, so only one of the squads will have a chance to get to the ACC Championship.
The winner of that game, which will be Syracuse, will play #1 UNC, which would spell the end of their season right there. #5 Duke will handle #13 Wake Forest after they knock off #12 seed NC State. #2 Virginia will draw and defeat #7 seed Clemson after their matchup with #10 Georgia Tech. #11 seed Florida State will dismantle a historically bad BC team and then upset #6 Virginia Tech to face #3 Miami in an in-state rivalry. Miami has the experience, but I think Florida State will pull off the upset over the Canes.
In a #4 vs #5 matchup, Duke will take down the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame, which means we get to see a third matchup between Duke and UNC. They rivals split their two games, each winning in each others houses, but I like Duke to take down the ‘Heels and advance to the ACC championship game vs Virginia, who will avoid an upset against Florida State.
Duke beat Virginia in Cameron Indoor on a questionable non-travel call on Grayson Allen before he banked in a buzzer beater. This game will be a battle of strengths, as it will pit Virginia’s stifling defense against Duke’s explosive offense. Duke has been streaky this season, but I like Coach K’s experience and Grayson Allen’s clutch play to give Duke the ACC Championship.
Duke 68 Virginia 62
With the top six seeds in this tournament mortal locks to go dancing, #7 seed Texas Tech is the only team on the bubble remaining in the Big 12. The Red Raiders should handle #10 TCU in the first round but run into “Press Virginia” in the second round.
With Texas Tech losing by 22 the last meeting, #2 West Virginia should easily take care of them. The games between #3 Oklahoma and #6 Iowa State and #5 Baylor and #4 Texas should be classic Big 12 high scoring match ups.
The Cyclones knocked of Buddy Hield and Sooners at home by five, but on a neutral court and with Iowa State’s struggles in March, the Sooners will get their revenge. Baylor and Texas met twice in the regular season splitting the two games, but with Texas being a dark horse final four contender, I can’t go against them.
Following their wins, Oklahoma will play West Virginia and Texas will run into #1 Kansas. I expect Kansas and Oklahoma to meet for a third time this year, and if the first two match ups were any indication, this will be another classic game.
But Kansas has Oklahoma’s number this season, and will go a perfect 3-0 against the Sooners and lock up the number one overall seed in the NCAA Tournament.
Kansas 89 Oklahoma 88
The Big Ten might be the deepest conference in America, as six teams are locks to get in and two more who need some work done to go dancing. The bubble teams are #7 seed Ohio State and #8 Michigan.
With Michigan losing Caris LeVert for the rest of the year, their tournament hopes could come crashing down against #9 Northwestern in the first round Ohio State draws #10 Penn State, so they’ll move on easily.
Ohio State will then draw #2 Michigan State, who has handled the Buckeyes easily twice already and should do it again. #6 Wisconsin will handle the winner of #14 Rutgers and #11 Nebraska, setting up an intriguing matchup against #3 seed Maryland, who has struggled down the stretch. With Wisconsin being one of the hottest teams in the country, they’ll upset the Terps.
The potential matchup of #4 Purdue and #5 Iowa will be a battle of inside power vs outside marksmanship. And with bigger bodies usually playing a big factor in March, the Boilermakers will beat the Iowa Hawkeyes and then continue their run with a win over the red hot #1 seed Indiana Hoosiers.
Purdue will then face off against the Michigan State Spartans, who will knock off Wisconsin in the fourth round. Earlier in the season, Sparty lost to the Boilermakers by one in West Lafayette, but with a roster full of seniors led by Denzel Valentine, the Spartans will get their revenge.
MSU 76 Purdue 68
At least four teams out West will be dancing, with #1 seed Oregon, #4 Arizona, #3 Cal and #2 Utah all locks to make it to the Big Dance. However, #5 Colorado, #7 USC and #6 Oregon State all have work left to do if they have any chance of joining them.
Both Colorado and Oregon State should move on, but USC has a tough draw against #10 UCLA, who has underperformed but has a host of impressive wins. USC has also been slumping recently, and I expect those struggles to continue.
Oregon should handle #9 Washington, who will beat #9 Stanford, in the second round, and will face the winner of Colorado and Arizona. The Buffaloes defeated the Wildcats at home by three just two weeks ago, but Arizona will get their revenge. Utah will handle UCLA in the second round easily, but the matchup to watch is #3 Cal vs #6 Oregon State.
The teams split in the regular season, with each side winning at home. Cal has been hot as of recently, but only won four games away from home, so give me Oregon State in an upset.
The Beavers will then face off against the Utes in the semi-finals, and both of those teams split as well. Oregon State will head into that matchup with confidence and take down Jakob Poeltl to advance to the Pac-12 Championship against in state rival Oregon, after the Ducks defeat Arizona.
The story remains the same for Oregon State, as them and Oregon split in the regular season, with each side winning at home. But Oregon has been rolling as of late, and will take home the Pac-12 Championship for the first time since 2013 in a physical game.
Oregon 74 Oregon State 64
The SEC has only two locks in #2 Kentucky and #1 Texas A&M, a bunch of teams have some work to do. #3 South Carolina and #5 Vanderbilt should get in while #8 Florida and #10 Alabama would likely have to take home the SEC crown to get in. Teams like #4 LSU, and #6 Georgia will also have to win the tournament, but their résumés aren’t nearly as strong.
Vandy will handle the winner of #12 Tennessee and #13 Auburn to meet up with Ben Simmons and a disappointing LSU squad. LSU took the only previous meeting this year, but the Commodores have been playing well recently and will move on.
#1 Texas A&M will face off against #8 Florida after they beat #9 Arkansas, and the Aggies will move on to the semis. Kentucky has been rolling of late and that trend will continue against #10 Alabama, who will upset #7 Mississippi State.
#3 South Carolina will end #6 Georgia’s hopes of dancing and will face Kentucky in the semi-finals. Kentucky will continue their winning ways against the Gamecocks to get to yet another SEC Final, where they’ll face off against Vanderbilt, who will defeat #1 seed Texas A&M in their semi-final matchup.
But Kentucky will be too much for Vanderbilt and the Wildcats will win yet another SEC Championship.
Kentucky 87 Vanderbilt 70
Other Notable Conference Championship Matchups
American– #4 Cincinnati over #2 Houston
Atlantic 10– #4 Saint Joseph’s over #2 VCU
Big East– #1 Villanova over #2 Xavier (sorry Tyler and Gabe)
Horizon– #2 Oakland over #1 Valparaiso
Mountain West– #1 San Diego State over #3 Boise State
West Coast– #2 Gonzaga over #1 Saint Mary’s