It’s college basketball szn, folks. More importantly, conference play is about to commence (except for you B1G, shame on you for starting early). Of course we all love filling out brackets, especially if we don’t want to follow all the teams in NCAA Division I Basketball. Why not start thinking about teams now so you might be able to see where a UMBC might seem to come out of nowhere?
In an effort to prepare for the dance, I’ve prepared just a list of teams that will likely win their conference to then go on to the dance. It’s only really exciting that we’re about to hit peak college basketball season.
NCAA Tournament Bound: The Ohio State University, Michigan, Wisconsin, Nebraska, Michigan State, and Indiana
The B1G isn’t playing, they’re here for good basketball. In fact, they were so ready for basketball they started conference play in early December (what a rebellious conference). They’ll send multiple teams to the tournament, and at least two will make it pretty far because they’re tired of seeing Villanova and ACC teams get it done.
NCAA Tournament Bound: Tennessee, Auburn, Kentucky
The SEC’s teams look pretty alright this season, especially Tennessee. They knocked off Gonzaga toward the end non-conference play, and it was impressive. They’ll likely run the SEC, but other teams like Kentucky and Auburn will make tournament appearances also, fear not, SEC fans.
NCAA Tournament Bound: Virginia Tech, Virginia, North Carolina, Duke, Clemson, NC State
You look at that Duke team Coach K put together and tell me they’re not going to win the conference, you’re smoking meth. Zion Williamson is the team, and we all know this. We also know that the ACC will have multiple teams making it to the dance. Virginia will be seeking redemption, while Carolina will be lucky to make it to the Sweet Sixteen with their young team.
NCAA Tournament Bound: Kansas, Texas, Iowa State, Texas Tech
Going into conference play you might think Texas Tech may give Kansas a run for their money. Kansas is going to win the Big 12, don’t you worry. Bill Self hasn’t been running a tight ship to not win the conference. Fear not non-KU Big 12 fans, Texas Tech, Texas, and Iowa State will most definitely be showing their faces in the tournament.
NCAA Tournament Bound: Arizona State
Of the Power Five conferences, the PAC12 comes in last place. So much potential, yet the face of West Coast basketball is Gonzaga. The PAC12 needs to step it up and have teams make it to the Final Four this year. Thus far, Arizona State has shown the most potential.
Now that I’ve gotten through the Power Five conference that some folks believe to be the only teams (I know, it’s a shock to hear there are other schools out here). Here’s the great thing about smaller schools and conferences – everything, everything about them is great. Don’t act like you don’t enjoy seeing the little guy win.
NCAA Tournament Bound: Stony Brook
Moment of honesty, I made an educated guess that this team will make it to the tournament based off their pre-conference schedule (this educated guessing will happen often). The American East teams enter conference play with something to be desired (wins). Stony Brook will enter conference play with the strongest record, therefore I think they’ll probably keep collecting W’s.
American Athletic Conference
NCAA Tournament Bound: Cincinnati
Honestly, the American Athletic Conference has a few teams people should be on the lookout for. Overall, they will enter conference play in good shape. There will likely be a few upsets, but ultimately Cincinnati is going to have their year.
NCAA Tournament Bound: Davidson
I didn’t pick Davidson just because of the Steph Curry effect. Genuinely, Davidson will have the preparation of facing Power 5 teams in non-conference play. I don’t think they’ll go far in the tournament, but they’ll win their conference and a spot at the dance.
NCAA Tournament Bound: Lipscomb
As much as I want to say FGCU will make another run, they probably won’t and Lipscomb will go on to represent this conference in the tournament. Their non-conference schedule wasn’t weak, and they performed well(ish). I can see them performing well again their conference opponents just because the conference isn’t exactly stacked.
NCAA Tournament Bound: Villanova, Providence, Marquette
The Big East is here and gives not a single good damn that people overlook non-Power 5 conferences and teams. They all enter conference play with winning records, and will likely have some of the more exciting conference matchups.
NCAA Tournament Bound: Montana
Non-conference play says all of these teams would be knocked out of the tournament in round one. My educated guess is the Grizz from Montana will make it. My hope is they make a run and win the entire tournament.
NCAA Tournament Bound: Longwood
This was another educated guess based off their record. And another conference that isn’t exactly sending multiple teams to the dance.
NCAA Tournament Bound: UC Irvine
UC Irvine will enter conference play with the best record, which doesn’t always mean much. However, when some of your opponents enter conference play 3-8, it’s a fair assumption that a team with a decent record will win the conference and go to the tournament.
NCAA Tournament Bound: Charleston
Charleston will start conference play on an 8 game winning streak AND they kick off conference play against a 4-8 team. They’re in a good position to keep the ball rolling through conference play into the tournament where they might get to round two.
NCAA Tournament Bound: North Texas
North Texas got a taste of Power 5 play against Oklahoma and took their only non-conference play L. Maybe they had a weak non-conference schedule, but maybe they’ll just be a real contender for Conference USA.
NCAA Tournament Bound: Northern KY
Northern KY enters conference play with the best record, therefore I choose them to win the conference. I also choose them to lose fairly swiftly in the tournament should they make it.
NCAA Tournament Bound: Penn
My pride wanted me to say Cornell would win the conference. My intelligence told me to pick the team that handed Villanova and Miami L’s. We see you, future doctors, lawyers, and politicians, out here hoopin’.
Metro Atlantic Athletic
NCAA Tournament Bound: Niagara
Another conference where I’m fairly certain their teams will be shredded in round one. Non-conference records lead me to think Niagara may make it…common sense tells me no matter who makes it, this conference has a way to go before they produce any UMBC like teams.
NCAA Tournament Bound: Buffalo
Buffalo the wrecking ball didn’t drop a game until they played Marquette. That sting of losing right before conference play should drive Buffalo to maybe dropping one or two games in conference play.
NCAA Tournament Bound: Ball State
Looking at records of teams in the MAC West, Ball State does not have the best record. However, they faced opponents like Virginia Tech, Alabama, and Purdue. While those matchups are losses for Ball State, they weren’t blowouts and Ball State held their own. They’ll come into conference play ready to dominate after rising to the challenge of a few P5 teams.
NCAA Tournament Bound: Howard
Might I add here a resounding yikes. These teams…yikes. Hopefully conference play is kinder to them than non-conference play. Yikes.
NCAA Tournament Bound: Drake
There are states where I just assume their teams are good, Iowa, Indiana, North Carolina, and Texas. Drake will be one of a few Iowa teams to power through their conference play and then make a statement at the tournament. They had a solid non-conference schedule, leading me to think they’ll crush their conference opponents.
NCAA Tournament Bound: Nevada, Fresno State
Another pride moment, I would love to say Wyoming will dominate conference play and rep the Mountain West in the tournament.
The Muss Bus rolls on, and will likely roll right through conference play. Despite the Mountain West being quite weak this year, Nevada remains strong. They may drop a game here or there in conference play, but Eric Musselman likely won’t let that happen since he’s basically interviewing with all Power 5 teams for his next head coaching gig this season. The Wolfpack will dominate the Mountain West and hopefully make a long run in the tournament.
NCAA Tournament Bound: St. Francis BK
I will own my ignorance about this team and league. St. Francis BK enters conference play leading the Northeast conference. This pick was primarily an educated numbers pick.
NCAA Tournament Bound: Belmont
While UCLA isn’t great, it’s still a P5 team, and for Belmont to hand them an L just looks good. A win over a P5 team going into conference play really helps with confidence that hopefully carries through the season and lands them a spot in the tournament.
NCAA Tournament Bound: Holy Cross
Holy Cross’ pre-conference schedule wasn’t stacked but they did play Michigan and made it on the board to lose 37-56. They may not make it far in the tournament, but they’ll likely get the invite.
NCAA Tournament Bound: UNCG
UNCG has the best record which was the primary reason I think they’re going to the tournament. I also have this idea in my head that the state of North Carolina is a basketball state, so I think UNCG might be able to make a run in the tournament. And finally, despite their loses, they held their own decently against Kentucky and LSU.
NCAA Tournament Bound: Abilene Christian
ACU didn’t have a super difficult pre-conference schedule, but they also don’t have a super difficult conference schedule. Their record is the only reason I picked them here and they’ll likely be out first round if they make it.
NCAA Tournament Bound: Grambling State
This pick was purely based on numbers in non-conference play. There are teams in the Southwestern Atlantic league entering conference play 1-11. Even if Grambling State makes it to the tourney, I’m not convinced they’re getting passed round one.
NCAA Tournament Bound: MIKE DAUM! South Dakota State
The most recognizable player from the South Dakota State team is Mike Daum (who should have gone to play in Wyoming, since both his parents played there, but that’s just my humble opinon) and he’s their key to making it to the tournament again. They had some good non-conference matchups again Nevada and Memphis to prepare for tournament time since their conference opponents likely won’t rattle them too much.
NCAA Tournament Bound: Texas State
Looking at non-conference play standings, Texas State looks like they’ll hold their own. They didn’t have any enormously challenging matchups, but they’re in a good spot moving forward in conference play.
NCAA Tournament Bound: Gonzaga
You’re also smoking meth if you think any team but Gonzaga will dominate this conference. Mark Few is one of the best coaches in college basketball right now and the Zags are just an elite team. They may have stumbled a bit against Tennessee and Carolina, but in all likelihood they might drop one game in conference play. The loss won’t come as a result of Few’s coaching or the players’ talent, but because of fatigue. Regardless, they’re repping West Coast basketball come tournament time.
NCAA Tournament Bound: New Mexico State
New Mexico State was very competitive when playing KU. Granted, KU doesn’t look great but still managed to win many games they shouldn’t have. The match up against a basketball powerhouse gave New Mexico State their taste of what the tournament will be like and they proved they can hang.
The views expressed here are my own opinions and you are free to think whomever will win their conferences.