Conference tourney previews, Part 1

South Carolina Gamecocks v Florida Gators

Since approximately half of the country’s conferences have completed their regular season schedules, CHD presents its predictions for which teams will win their conference tourneys and secure a spot in the NCAA tourney in a couple of weeks:

1. America East tourney predicted champ: Stony Brook (The Seawolves are undefeated at home in conference play this year, and the high seed gets to host the tourney final. Also, BU swept Vermont this year but got swept by Stony Brook, and Stony Brook has come close in losing the last 2 tourney finals by a total of 10 points.)

2. Atlantic Sun tourney predicted champ: Mercer (The Bears have the #1-seed and will get to play host in Macon. However, with 2-time defending champ Belmont’s move to the OVC and Mercer’s loss to #2-seed FGCU last Thursday, this tourney is more wide-open than usual.)

3. Big South tourney predicted champ: Gardner-Webb (The Runnin’ Bulldogs lost 4 of their 1st 6 conference games in January, but have turned it around with only 1 loss in February. Also, they swept the 3 other top teams in the South division [Charleston Southern/NC Asheville/Coastal Carolina], and North division champ High Point is stumbling toward the finish line with consecutive losses to close out February.)

4. CAA tourney predicted champ: Northeastern (The Huskies beat Towson by double-digits in their only meeting this season. The 2 tourney champs over the past few years were VCU, who moved to the A-10, and ODU, who is in last place in the league, so get ready for a brand-new champ.)

5. Horizon tourney predicted champ: Detroit (This tourney involves games at campus sites, and Butler has moved on to the A-10. Detroit and Valparaiso won on each other’s home courts this season, but the Titans beat the Crusaders in last year’s tourney title game and hope to do it again.)

6. Ivy tourney predicted champ: no conference tourney

7. MAAC tourney predicted champ: Canisius (This is another wide-open tourney, with several teams bunched together at the top of the standings that split with each other during the season. With 3 different tourney champs over the past 3 years, and since it is boring to just pick all the #1 seeds, let’s go with the Golden Griffins.)

8. MVC tourney predicted champ: Creighton (The Bluejays’ loss to Wichita State on January 19th started a stretch of 6 losses in 11 games. However, after bouncing back with a home win over the Shockers in their regular season finale, take the team with the better offense/superstar.)

9. NEC predicted champ: Robert Morris (The Colonials started off conference play on the wrong foot by losing their only 2 home games of the year, but they turned things around by winning 14 of their final 16 to get the #1-seed. LIU is the 2-time-defending tourney champ, but Robert Morris won it all in 2009 and 2010, so they hope to add another title to their trophy case by getting to play all their tourney games at home.)

10. OVC predicted champ: Belmont (Murray State is the defending champ and beat Belmont last month in their only meeting this year. However, the Bruins’ 5 Atlantic Sun titles in the past 7 years show that they know what it takes to win in March, and joining a conference that hosts its tourney in Nashville gives them the home-court advantage they will need to beat the Racers.)

11. Patriot predicted champ: Bucknell (The Bison won the tourney in 2011 and lost the title game to Lehigh in 2012, so they are hungry to get back on top by getting all of their tourney games at home. Bucknell is 14-3 since Christmas, and 4 of their 5 losses this year were by a combined 9 points.)

12. Southern predicted champ: Davidson (Since losing to Georgia Southern on January 14th, the Wildcats have won 14 in a row and are 1 of the hottest teams in the country. Davidson won the tourney in Asheville last year in double-OT, so they will hope for a little less excitement this time around.)

13. Summit predicted champ: South Dakota State (The Jackrabbits stumbled down the stretch by losing 3 of their final 6 games 3/9, but 6 of their 9 losses this year were by 5 points or less. They swept Western Illinois and split with North Dakota State, so look for them to defend their title in Sioux Falls)

14. Sun Belt predicted champ: Middle Tennessee State (The Blue Raiders finished 19-1 in conference play and avenged their only loss to Arkansas State with a double-digit win over the Red Wolves. They have never won the Sun Belt tourney but they are well-prepared, as their non-conference losses were to a trio of regular season conference champs [Florida/Akron/Belmont].)

15. WCC predicted champ: Gonzaga (The Bulldogs have appeared in the tourney title game every single year since 1998, winning 10 and losing 5, including a 2012 loss to St. Mary’s by 4 points in OT. They went undefeated in conference play this year and their only loss since Christmas was a 1-point buzzer-beater at Butler, so they have earned their #1-national ranking.)