It’s almost that time of year in college basketball as many of the smaller mid-major conferences will tip off their conference tournaments next week.
I will examine several of the mid-major conferences and how the race for seeding stands as we head into the final week of regular season action.
The Colonial Athletic Conference Tournament will be held in North Charleston, S.C. UNC Wilmington, Charleston, Towson, Elon, William & Mary and Northeastern are the top 6 seeds right now but Northeastern has a slim one-game lead over James Madison and a two-game lead for that 6 spot over Hofstra and Delaware. Northeastern has a tough final two games as they face Elon and UNC Wilmington on the road while James Madison plays the more manageable slate hosting Drexel and Hofstra in their final two games, so the race for that final bye spot to the Quarterfinals is still very much on.
The tournament will be played at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit. The top 6 seeds seem to be nearly set with Valparaiso, Oakland, Wright State, Green Bay, Northern Kentucky and UIC. Valpo and Oakland are still in a tight battle for the top seed. Youngstown State needs to win their last two games to have a shot but that is unlikely to happen, so outside of the 1 seed battle, there may not be as much to play for in the final week in this particular conference.
As usual, the Metro Atlantic Conference AAC Tournament will be held at the Times Union Center in Albany, N.Y., which is the home court of the Siena Saints. All 11 teams are in the tournament but the top five seeds get byes to the Quarterfinals. Monmouth, St. Peter’s, Iona, Siena and Canisius hold the top five seeds right now with a major battle on tap for the 5 seed. Fairfield in 6th trails 5th place Canisius by just a half game and the Stags have a game in hand as they play three games in the final week, hosting Monmouth (already clinched the top seed) on Tuesday night followed by a massive road tilt at Canisius on Friday and then at Niagara to finish on Sunday.
The Missouri Valley Conference tournament will again emanate from the Scottrade Center in St. Louis, Missouri starting on March 2. The MVC has the same format as the Horizon League and CAA with the top six seeds going straight to the Quarterfinals with two first round games prior to that with the 7 vs. 10 and 8 vs. 9 seeds.
Wichita State and Illinois State are tied for the top seed going into this week’s action so the Shockers and Redbirds should have full motivation to win in their remaining two games.
Northern Iowa, Southern Illinois, Loyola Chicago and Missouri State have the 3 through 6 seeds right now and seem to be safely into the Quarterfinals as it will be nearly impossible for any of them to be caught by trailing Evansville, Drake and Bradley.
The Ohio Valley Conference Tournament will be held in Nashville. Belmont, Morehead State, Jacksonville State, Tennessee Tech, UT Martin, Murray State, SE Missouri State and Tennessee State seem to be locked in as the top 8 teams at this point with only positioning and seeding left to be determined. However, five teams are tied with 8-6 conference records for third in the conference so the race for at least a single bye in this tournament is a very crowded one entering the home stretch.
Asheville, North Carolina will host the Southern Conference tournament. It has the No. 1 through 6 straight to the Quarterfinals format with 7 through 10 playing in first round games. Samford and Mercer are tied for that sixth and final bye position to the Quarterfinals. Samford plays fourth place Chattanooga followed by ninthh place The Citadel at home. Mercer hosts third place UNC Greensboro and then goes on the road to face Chattanooga.
The Top 8 teams qualify for the league tournament being played in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Oral Roberts appears to be the team on the outside looking in as the ninth and last place team in. North Dakota State and South Dakota are locked in a heated battle for the top seed with identical 10-4 conference records heading into their final two games, which could mean these two teams are “bet on” this week. They have clearly been the class of the league this year.
The West Coast Conference tourney is again at the Orleans Arena in Las Vegas. The WCC uses the No. 1 through 6 bye to the Quarterfinals format with 7 through 10 being matched up in the first round. Gonzaga and St. Mary’s have locked up the top two seeds. The fiercest competition is a three-way battle between Loyola Marymount, San Diego and Pepperdine for the 6 seed and final bye spot. The Lions have a one-game edge over the Toreros and Waves for that position entering the final two games of the regular season.