We are less than a week away from the start of the 2015 NCAA Tournament, and there are still several spots in the Big Dance up for grabs. For some teams, winning their conference tournaments is their only shot at landing a spot in the field of 68. For other teams, conference tournaments are all about improving their stock as much as possible before Selection Sunday.
With most conference tournaments set to be decided by Saturday night, we have compiled our predictions on who will be cutting down the nets as the champions of each major conference tournament.
The American Conference tournament appears to be a three-team race between SMU, Tulsa, and Cincinnati. SMU, led by legendary head coach Larry Brown, is the only team to advance to the conference semifinals at this point, and are widely considered to be the favorites here. With that being said, March Madness is all about getting hot at the right time, and that is definitely something Cincinnati has going for itself.
Predicted winner: Cincinnati Bearcats
The ACC is down to four teams, and all of them are legitimate threats to make deep NCAA Tournament runs. Duke and Virginia are both strong candidates to land No. 1 seeds in the Big Dance, Notre Dame could end up as high as a No. 2 seed, and North Carolina could easily land as high as a No. 3 seed. As impressive as that is, this tournament is a two-team race between Duke and Virginia in our eyes. Duke may have the more talented team, but Virginia is deep, experienced, and one of the most disciplined teams in the country.
Predicted winner: Virginia Cavaliers
The A-10 has four teams with NCAA Tournament-caliber résumés, and all four of them will be looking to lock up their spot in the Big Dance during the A-10 Conference tournament. VCU has the strongest tournament résumé despite finishing fourth in the regular-season A-10 standings. Davidson has a strong resume, as well, but is far from a lock to hear its name called on Selection Sunday. Dayton, last year’s NCAA Tournament Cinderella story, and Rhode Island also have a chance at earning bids, but will likely need to at least make it to the conference championship game. In this wide-open tournament, we believe that the battle-tested VCU Rams hold the edge here.
Predicted winner: VCU Rams
Four teams remain in the Big 12 Conference tournament, and like the ACC, all four are capable of making deep runs in the NCAA Tournament. Kansas, Baylor, Oklahoma, and Iowa State will all be making an appearance in the Big Dance but have the ability to greatly improve their seeding with every win they capture in their conference tournament. In arguably the most competitive conference tournament this season, the Kansas Jayhawks are our choice.
Predicted winner: Kansas Jayhawks
The Big East is having a down year. With that being said, the top team in the conference, the Villanova Wildcats, have an excellent shot at landing a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. Likewise, the Wildcats are heavy favorites to win the Big East tournament.
Predicted winner: Villanova Wildcats
The Big Ten may end up with more teams in the NCAA Tournament than any other conference in the country. Wisconsin is the cream of the Big Ten crop and will likely land a No. 1 seed on Selection Sunday. The top contenders to knock off the Badgers in the Big Ten tournament are Michigan State, Ohio State, and Maryland. Simply put, we don’t see the Badgers losing another game before the Big Dance.
Predicted winner: Wisconsin Badgers
The Mountain West has three teams — Boise State, Colorado State, and San Diego State — with NCAA Tournament-worthy résumés, but none of them are considered a lock at this point. Those three, along with Wyoming, remain in the conference tournament, with no clear-cut favorite among the group. San Diego State is deep, experienced, and well coached. With Colorado State forward J.J. Avila hobbled by an ankle injury, we are giving the Aztecs the nod here.
Predicted winner: San Diego State Aztecs
The Pac-12 may only get three teams into the Big Dance, but all three are capable of doing big things. The Pac-12 Conference tournament will go a long way in deciding how Arizona, Utah, and Oregon get seeded by the selection committee, and UCLA, a bubble team, can play its way in with a strong showing. Arizona is one of the most talented teams in the country, but we’re guessing the hottest team in the group, the Oregon Ducks, will win this conference tournament.
Predicted winner: Oregon Ducks
There’s not a whole lot to say here. The Kentucky Wildcats are not only undefeated, but they are the best team in America by a fairly wide margin.
Predicted winner: Kentucky Wildcats