Conference tournaments are in full swing! We’ve got your previews of the Big Ten Tournament—starting tomorrow night!—Big Ten bracketology, BTT preview podcast, and BTT Pick’em Challenge, but there is, I’m told, a world outside the Midwest.
I’ve yet to see any proof.
But with some at-large bids to the tournament on the line—and teams like the Indiana Hoosiers and Purdue Boilermakers holding out hope of making the NCAA Tournament—we might as well take a gander at the conference tournaments around the country.
Here are a few you might be interested in watching, along with an open thread for your perusal!
Just kidding, you don’t want to watch this. It’s in Greensboro, for some reason, which I think is the only UNC school to which the North Carolina Tar Heels didn’t lose in 2019-2020.
-  Pitt Panthers vs.  Wake Forest Demon Deacons (3:30pm, ACCN, Pitt -1.5)
-  North Carolina vs.  Virginia Tech Hokies (6pm, ACCN, UNC -4)
There’s some potential for fun as this one goes on, though the games today are pretty brutal. The Manhattan-Fairfield opener...well, it’s there, but this is a slow-’em-down, tackle-basketball kind of game. It beats watching the lowest of the ACC walrus-slap up against one another, though.
-  Manhattan Jaspers vs.  Fairfield Stags (4pm, ESPN3, Manhattan -2)
-  Canisius Golden Griffins vs.  Iona Gaels (6pm, ESPN3)
The games get better—I promise.
Horizon League Championship
 UIC Flames vs.  Northern Kentucky Norse
6pm | ESPN | NKU -4 | O/U 129
NOW we’re talking! The Flames dispatched the IUPUI Jaguars in the weird 4-9 matchup in the first round of the Horizon League, which then reseeds its winners of the 4-9, 5-8, and 6-7 games into two matchups with the #3 seed Green Bay. UIC came out of its win over Youngstown State, while Green Bay dispatched the Oakland Fighin’ Kampes.
After another reseeding (this is format is amazing and how did I never know about it?), the top four teams descended on the Indiana Farmers Coliseum—a New Deal WPA project! Did you know? There, the Phoenix fell to the #2 seed Norse, while UIC faced the Wright State Raiders and came away with a stunning 73-56 win.
There’s some good stuff here. Norse G Jalen Tate has come alive in the tourney, with 23 points to send off the Phoenix, and NKU F Dantez Walton is a presence on the wing and inside. The Flames, meanwhile, aren’t the most offensively-gifted squad you’ll see all year, but they’ll try to push the Norse out of their slow-down, defense-oriented tempo. I wouldn’t be surprised to see UIC rely on a little of their height—forwards Braelen Bridges and Michael Diggins—if they’re forced to play to NKU’s speed.
Take the under, is what I’m saying, but enjoy this game between based in Kentucky and called the “Norse” and a team who starts its games at 3:12pm because of its area code and has the official color of “Fire Engine Red.”
THIS. IS. MARCH.
Northeast Conference Tournament Final
 St. Francis (PA) Red Flash vs.  Robert Morris Colonials
6pm | ESPN2 | SFPA -1.5 | O/U 142
Kind of a weird one here, because Robert Morris isn’t technically the best in the Northeast—that would belong to Northwestern Wildcats-slayers, the first-year Merrimack Warriors, who won the NEC in their opening go-round with a 14-4 record but are ineligible for postseason play until 2024 as part of their transition to Division 1.
Instead, you get the next best thing—a surely-competitive game between two teams who split their season series and don’t play a ton of defense!
The Red Flash are a pretty gifted offensive club—at least they were in the couple games I caught on NEC Front Row, an app which my wife has not kicked me out of the house for downloading and watching unironically on our living room TV. Before a 2/9 shooting performance in the quarters against Bryant, G Isaiah Blackmon had scored double-digits in every game since a December romp over a non-D1 team. He’s been held under 10 points just 5 times the whole year and takes about 14 shots a game, including 6.7 threes per contest. Give it a look—if Blackmon’s on, just sit back and enjoy the ride.
I’ve got less fun to say about the Colonials, though they roll a strong 8 deep with little appreciable height and instead rely on a smothering defense that grinds out victories. If they allow over 70 points, they lose.
Colonial Athletic Association Finals
 Northeastern Huskies vs.  Hofstra Pride
6pm | CBSSN | Hofstra -2 | O/U 134.5
Here’s your Cinderella for the evening!
The Huskies have crashed the party at the Entertainment and Sports Arena in Washington, D.C., during the CAA Tournament—after Never Made the Tourney Club member and 7-seed Elon took down 2-seed, OG NMTC member, and presumptive CAA finals pick William and Mary Tribe, the Huskies took down the Phoenix to set up a date with the Pride. Northeastern slows it down and counts on efficient shooting, with G Jordan Roland pouring it in from deep, joined by G Bolden Brace.
I wouldn’t bet against Northeastern—of their 9 conference losses, 8 of them were by 5 points or less, and 6 of those were by one possession.
The Pride roll with a talented front five but have little depth after that. Look for a lot of threes—guards Desure Buie, Eli Pemberton, Jalen Ray, and Tareq Coburn all play more than 30 mpg, take at least 4.2 threes a contest, and shoot no worse than 38% from deep. I’m personally excited to tune in and see that aerial barrage, especially because most of the CAA is locked away on FloSports throughout the year.
America East Tournament Semifinals
NMTC member and also Northwestern-conquerer (I’m starting to think the ‘Cats weren’t very good this year) Hartford is here, but this is Vermont’s game to lose—the Catamounts are a perennial March contender and host giant-killers UMBC tonight in a home-site round. Maybe there’s something, but I’m not getting up for this until I see a close one late.
-  UMBC Retrievers at  Vermont Catamounts (6pm, ESPN+, UVM -16)
-  Hartford Hawks at  Stony Brook Seawolves (6pm, ESPN+, SB -7)
MEAC Tournament Round 1
Here, but behind a FloSports paywall. Bummer, because I’m curious about what the Norfolk Scope is. Is it sponsored by the mouthwash? Is it some sort of basketball panopticon? THERE ARE SO MANY QUESTIONS. We’ll have to wait until the championship on Saturday (ESPN2, 1pm).
-  Maryland-Eastern Shore Hawks vs.  Delaware State Hornets (5pm, DSU -1.5)
-  Howard Bison vs.  South Carolina State Bulldogs (7:30pm, SCSt -6)
SWAC Tournament Quarterfinals
Here as well, but your reminder that there exists a section of basketball—and college football, really—that doesn’t play with the same resources that even low-major northern schools play with. Thankfully Alabama A&M puts its games on YouTube, so you can catch them, but we’re denied the rest in any capacity until the finals (Wikipedia insists they’re on ESPN3, but I see no record of that on ESPN’s app).
-  Alabama A&M Bulldogs at  Prairie View A&M Panthers (7:30pm, YouTube)
-  Alcorn State Braves at  Jackson State Tigers (7:30pm)
-  Alabama State Hornets at  Southern Jaguars (7:30pm)
-  Grambling State Tigers at  Texas Southern Tigers (8pm)
Summit League Tournament Final
 North Dakota St. Bizon vs.  North Dakota Fighting Hawks
Denny Sanford Premier Center, Sioux Falls, SD
8pm | ESPN2 | NDSU -6 | O/U 141
HERE WE GO.
You’ve got the Fighting Hawks, under first-year coach Paul Sather—whose CV includes playing for Princeton HS in Minnesota then Aberdeen’s Northern State, where he would succeed legendary coach Don Meyer after leading Black Hills State for 5 seasons—who have toppled #3 South Dakota and upstart #7 Purdue Fort Wayne.
You’ve got the #1 seed Bizon—seeking their first NCAA Tournament berth in six years under Saul Phillips’ successor David Richman—who have escaped Denver, 71-69, and Oral Bob’s House of Learning, 75-69, en route to a shaky but real place in the conference finals.
You’ve got the Denny Sanford Premier Center hosting, which I’ve learned tonight is not the three-toned Denny Sanford Pentagon court—though I think you can understand why I’d be confused.
So, I mean, does it really matter that the 24-8 Bizon should handily dispatch their in-state rivals in a rival neighbor state?
Actually...it might? Hawks G Marlon Stewart—who hit the winner against the Coyotes—and Serbian F Filip Rebraca (who averages 14.5 ppg and 9.1 rpg) comprise a lineup that beat NDSU just three weeks ago and could definitely do it again. Rebraca and F Kienan Walter have no problem going toe-to-toe in the paint with NDSU big Rocky Kreuser, which they did to great effect back in February.
The Bizon, meanwhile, ride diminutive gunner Vinnie Shahid—the Minneapolis native will toss up 13-14 shots and 7 threes a game—and slasher Tyson Ward for better or for worse, with Kreuser cleaning up inside and a bevy of defensive lockdown guards to stifle opponents from the outside in.
It’s a rivalry! It’s local! It’s better than the alternative! That being...
WCC Tournament Finals
 Saint Mary’s Gaels vs.  Gonzaga Bulldogs
Orleans Arena, Paradise, NV
8pm | ESPN | Zaga -9 | O/U 143.5
When I went to bed last night, the 2-seed BYU Cougars were riding the Mormon Mamba T.J. Haws and F Yoeli Childs to what felt like a stifling 10-point second-half lead as Saint Mary’s players not named Jordan Ford couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn.
But even though he’s not related, SMC HC Randy Bennett can ruin a basketball game with the best of ‘em. The Gaels found their shot, ground this game into the boring-ass dust, and got a game-winner from Ford with :01.4 left to stun ranked BYU.
And so we get the matchup that the WCC’s bullshit bracket and ESPN probably wanted, the usual SMC-Gonzaga matchup. I don’t know, Killian Tillie will probably do some good stuff—he’s a good basketball player, after all—and Filip Petrusev and Corey Kispert will both be big and beefy and hard to move, and Gonzaga’s lineup that rolls about 40 players deep will probably win.
Talk about the games here, if you so choose! And feel free to check out all the basketball coverage on OTE below as well.