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Conference Tournament Previews, Pt. IV: Boardwalks, Multi-Court Tournaments, and Loan Sharks

Some islands sponsor a WHOLE TOURNAMENT! Also Madison Square Garden or whatever.

NCAA Basketball: Long Beach State at UCLA
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

ACC Tournament

March 8-12 (Official Bracket)

Madison Square Garden (New York, NY)

Kind of...I have nothing to say about the ACC generally, or this specific tournament. Go get your Coach K farewell treacle somewhere else. The league is garbage this year. I WILL call attention to the 15-team bracket. There are several 11-team conferences, but I will grant the ACC their (Notre Dame-slurping) uniqueness here.

Let’s not give a shit and predict the Miami/Wake Forest quarterfinal winner to win the whole thing.

MNW: Works for me. I had no idea Notre Dame was good again.

MAAC Tournament

March 8-12 (Official Bracket)

Jim Whelan Boardwalk Hall (Atlantic City, NJ)

Kind of...: Atlantic City used to host the A-10, but have you been to Atlantic City lately?

Iona is the overwhelming favorite, which is good since we all thirst to have more Rick Pitino in our lives, right? Iona will probably get a 13 at worst, so Illinois and/or an early-exiting-from-B1G-tournament-UW had better look out. That said, they’re only 90 in KenPom and none of the three conference losses do them any favors, so it might be title or bust for the Gaels. I suspect they’ll get it done, but I don’t think it’s a certainty by any stretch.

MNW: I’d be shocked if 30-Second Rick got an at-large, but I guess you never know. The folks who could trouble the Gaels are St. Peter’s, on the other side of the bracket—the Peacocks held five MAAC opponents to 51 points or fewer and do a nice job of playing defense and taking the air out of the ball.

The problem for St. Pete’s is that that didn’t work against Iona, who is so damn long and athletic under Pitino that it’s tough to see it breaking a different way. Give me the Gaels and some 13-over-4 fun in the first round.

C-USA Tournament

March 8-12 (Official Bracket)

Ford Center at the Star (Frisco, TX)

Any time you have “Court A” and “Court B”, you know it’s gonna be a good tournament. Get some Otis Spunkmeyer cookies baking in that mini-oven and 11-year old me crying behind some lockers, and it’s like a traveling basketball tournament all over again.

Kind of...: I think North Texas should have an at-large locked up already, but the committee may not feel that way, especially given the season-ending loss to UTEP. But 23-5, 16-2, and #43 in NET should count for something.

Here’s the secret, though. UAB may actually be better. They split the season series, and UAB’s loss was by a single point. Andy Kennedy (remember him from Ole Miss?) has the Blazers playing pretty well, and I’m picking them to make it a two-bid league.

MNW: North Texas is showing up as a 12-seed in Lunardi’s bracketology, so that at-large miiiiight be out of grabs unless it’s a damn close loss to UAB in the final?

I just enjoy the batshit insanity of C-USA’s weird divisions, its two-court tournament setup...and I’m probably not going to watch a minute until the final. Maybe, if you’re up for it, check out the games featuring LaTech, who I recall having a pretty chonky point guard who does some fun stuff. But I’ll take North Texas to win it.

Big West Championship

March 8-12 (Official Bracket)

Dollar Loan Center (Henderson, NV)

Presented by the ENTIRETY of the Hawaiian islands! BITCHIN!

Kind of..., this tournament takes place at the Dollar Loan Center, and I would like you to stop laughing because this is a very serious conference that will definitely not send former Minnesota coach Dan Monson to the NCAA Tournament as longtime head coach of The Beach.*
* Yes, you remember correctly that Long Beach State changed its nickname from 49ers—amid campus conversations over the legacy of the Gold Rush and settler colonialism—to simply “The Beach”. I know.

Kind of...: That is too good, especially since UC Riverside sounds like a business that specializes in shady mortgages.

Dan Monson notwithstanding, I have a good friend who is a Gaucho, so I’ll be cheering for UCSB to make a run. Given that the top six seeds are all between 120 and 171 in KenPom’s rankings, I’m looking forward to a wide open tournament.

MNW: It really feels odd that the Big West is supposedly this good, because I’ve hardly seen or heard from any of them—COVID cancelations in California and such, I assume. While Hawaii’s got 6’10” phenom Kemaka Hepa, for height in the Big West I turn to the Anteaters of UC Irvine, who I just assume are going to roll out at least two trees at 6’11” or better every game. That’s the steady hand I crave. Roll Anteaters.

WAC Championship #WACVegas HELL YEAH

March 8-12 (Official Bracket)

Mar. 8: Michelob Ultra Arena (Las Vegas, NV)
Mar. 9-12: Orleans Arena (Las Vegas, NV)


Kind of...: It’s just never going to happen for Chicago State, is it?

The novelty factor has worn off for Grand Canyon (and who would really cheer for them anyway?), so let’s cheer for Stephen F. Austin or New Mexico State, as they both are traditionally tough outs in the NCAA tournament. (New Mexico State has already beat Davidson this year.) And Seattle gave us Elgin Baylor, and one of the more improbably national finalists many decades ago.

The mid-majors are supposed to be where the real craziness happens, but I’m rooting for chalk here (and then for the winner to not be placed opposite UW, so Stephen F. Austin is definitely beating UW in a 3/14 game, aren’t they?).

MNW: Your lips to God’s ears.

You’re right that the two at the top are really the fun ones here, but this is actually...a decent conference?! Let’s look at Kenpom:

  • NMSU: 24-6 (KP 87)
  • Seattle: 23-8 (KP 131)
  • SFA: 22-8 (KP 108)
  • GCU: 22-7 (KP 92)
  • SHSU: 18-13 (KP 153)
  • Abilene: 20-9 (KP 138)
  • Utah Valley: 19-11 (KP 114)
  • Cal Baptist 17-14 (KP 199)
  • Tarleton: 14-17 (KP 213)
  • Chicago State: 7-24 (KP 334)

That...uh...that’s not too shabby? NMSU is on its way out for C-USA, of course, as is Sam Houston State, but there’s a nice little stew there with Seattle, SFA, and GCU.

Anywho, outside the Aggies’ loss to heroic Chicago State—who we all hope makes a deep run in the tournament, of course—the fun starts when Seattle and SFA hit the court. That one’s going to have some pace and some wild offense. I’ll take the Redhawks to trip up NMSU and go dancing.

Here’s a place to talk some hoops, if you so choose. Basketball’s already on. Enjoy!