The weekend before the conference tournament is one of the most exciting weekends in NCAA College Basketball. The weekend is an elimination of teams on the bubble of making the NCAA Tournament. It is also a weekend when teams that have crushed their fellow conference rivals all year, must win their own conference tournament or face the possibility of missing the NCAA Tournament.
Bracketology 101 is accurate but not the the bible for NCAA Tournament teams.
While Joe Lunardi of ESPN’s Bracketology 101 (see Lunardi’s constantly updated bracket here) is very good at determining the NCAA Tournament teams that will and will not make it, his word is not the determining factor for teams to live by. Several teams listed as last four in by Lunardi and teams ranked in the 8-10 seeds need to either win their conference tournaments or at least make the final to make it to the Big Dance.
Conference USA Tournament Memphis must make final.
The Memphis Tigers cannot leave their fate to chance. Memphis must either make the final or beat UTEP in the Conference USA Tournament, or their NCAA Tournament hopes are lost and they are in the NIT Tournament. Memphis, an 11-5 second choice at the Las Vegas Hilton Superbook, will play Houston a 20-1 shot to win the Conference USA Tournament. Memphis matches up well in their opening game but then they have play UAB (University of Alabama Birmingham) the third seed in the tournament and a 7-2 third favorite to win the tournament.
The UAB versus Memphis game will be the most important game of the tournament. Both UAB and Memphis are bubble teams, and their fate will be determined in this game. Memphis is still not the same since their coach John Calipari left them high and dry, leaving for Kentucky.
My pick in the Conference USA Tournament is for UAB to beat Memphis and make the final against UTEP (University of Texas El Paso) the 2-1 favorite. UTEP does not need to win this game to make the NCAA Tournament. UAB will win the Conference USA Tournament.
Mountain West Tournament UNLV and San Diego St need to make final.
UNLV hosts the Mountain West Tournament despite the annual protests of New Mexico coach Steve Alford. New Mexico and BYU are in the NCAA Tournament no matter what transpires in Las Vegas this weekend. The two Mountain West teams playing for an NCAA Tournament bid are San Diego St and UNLV. The problem for UNLV is that their first game of the Mountain West Tournament is against Utah. UNLV was swept by Utah in Mountain West Conference play this year, and they must solve Utah if they want to make the NCAA Tournament.
UNLV coach Lon Kruger has his Runnin Rebels on a roll heading into the Mountain West Tournament and he has had plenty of time to study film of those two Utah losses. Look for UNLV to make a statement in front of a packed Thomas and Mack home crowd and advance to the semi finals to face BYU in the rubber game of their series. San Diego St will make the semi finals against a New Mexico team with nothing to prove. San Diego St will advance to the finals.
UNLV has owned BYU in the Thomas & Mack Center and this game will be no different. UNLV will advance to play San Diego St in the final, and the winner will receive the automatic bid. The loser is out and headed to the NIT. UNLV has a case to make the NCAA Tournament, if they make the Mountain West Conference Final and lose but they cannot leave that to chance. UNLV will beat San Diego St in the final in what will be the best game of the Mountain West Tournament.
Atlantic 10 features two teams that must make final.
The Atlantic 10 features two teams that have a tough road to make the Atlantic 10 Conference title game. Rhode Island and Dayton must make their way to the Atlantic 10 Final, or their hopes of making the NCAA Tournament are over.
Rhode Island, a #5 seed in the Atlantic 10 Tournament, plays Rick Majeris, and his #4 seeded Saint Louis Billikins are not an easy task. Although Saint Louis is a 25-1 underdog and Rhode Island is a 12-1 fifth choice to win the tournament, Rhode Island will expend a ton of energy getting by Saint Louis. Dayton meanwhile, the 8-1 fourth choice, according to the Las Vegas Hilton Superbook, must play #2 seed Xavier the 8-5 second favorite to win the Atlantic 10 Tournament. Xavier has nothing to play for and Dayton will press by them to advance to the semi finals.
The Atlantic 10 semi finals will most likely pit Temple against Rhode Island and Dayton versus Richmond. If Richmond does not make it to the semi final their NCAA Tournament bid could be in jeopardy if either Dayton or Rhode Island win the Atlantic 10 Tournament. Richmond versus Dayton is the key game; the winner of this game advances to the NCAA Tournament, the loser is headed to the NIT. Rhode Island will be given a pass by Temple and they will advance to final. The Atlantic 10 Conference champion will be 4-1 third choice Richmond over Rhode Island, and Rhode Island will have to sweat out an NCAA Tournament bid on the bubble Selection Sunday.
Las Vegas Hilton Superbook Odds to Win Conference Tournaments betting sheet