Cinderella Candidates: Mid-Major Conference Tourney Previews (Week 1)

This will be a two-part conference tournament preview, complete with analysis and projections.  Week 1 will discuss the conference tournaments that will be decided by Wednesday, March 9, while Week 2 will discuss the few mid-majors that complete their conference tourneys on March 12-13.

Follow us on Twitter this March for all your NCAA Tournament coverage: @headvgut, @nhansen14, @MikeBaniak

Ohio Valley

Location – Nashville, TN
Championship – Saturday, March 5, 5 p.m. (all central), ESPN2
Regular Season Champ – Belmont
RPI Leader – Belmont (83)
Bubble Teams – None

The Favorite – Belmont

Sleeper(s) – Tennessee State (took Belmont to the woodshed on Sunday…potential semifinal matchup)

Projection – Belmont

The Bruins are the class of the conference, although they are ripe for an upset this year.  Murray State having a down year after the departures of Prohm and Cam Payne increases Belmont’s chances to return to the dance.

Missouri Valley


How far can they go?

Location – St. Louis, MO
Championship – Sunday, March 6, 1 p.m., CBS
Regular Season Champ – Wichita State
RPI Leader – Wichita State (41)
Bubble Teams – Wichita State

The Favorite – Wichita State

Sleeper(s) – Northern Iowa (incredibly dangerous and have wins this year over Wichita, UNC and Iowa State), Evansville (avoids both Wichita and UNI until the finals…and Mockevicius is a beast)

Projection – Wichita State

Ron Baker + Fred Van Vleet = Deep March run.

Big South


John Brown can really play.

Location – Bules Creek, N.C. (Home of Campbell University)
Championship – Sunday, March 6, 1:30 p.m., ESPN2
Regular Season Champ – Winthrop/High Point (split reg. season games)
RPI Leader – Winthrop (130)
Bubble Teams – None

The Favorite – High Point:  John Brown is the best player in the conference.  Plus, in the non-conference they lost by 4 at Texas Tech, 3 at Georgia, 3 at Bill & Mary, and 3 at NC State.

Sleeper(s) – Winthrop (I’m still bitter that they beat ND years ago); Coastal Carolina (winners of 10 of last 12…only losses to High Point and at Winthrop.  Also beat both).

Projection – Coastal Carolina

Going out on a limb here because they are hot.  Would like to see High Point win though, because they could put a scare into a 1/2 seed.

Atlantic Sun

Location – Campus Sites
Championship – Sunday, March 6, 6 p.m., ESPN2
Regular Season Champ – North Florida
RPI Leader – North Florida (159)
Bubble Teams – None

The Favorite – North Florida:  They played a very tough non-conference schedule, and lost them (by double digits) all except for a neutral court win over Illinois.

Sleeper(s) – NJIT (too NJIT, too NJIT to quit); Florida Gulf Coast (split with N. Florida and NJIT)

Projection – N. Florida

NJIT and FGCU just aren’t that good.  The experience that N. Florida got by playing a tough non-conference schedule will help them, I think. (Who really knows?)


Location – Baltimore, MD
Championship – Monday, March 7, 6 p.m., NBCSN
Regular Season Champ – Hofstra/UNC Wilmington (split reg. season games)
RPI Leader – Hofstra (60)
Bubble Teams – None

The Favorite – Hofstra:  Winners of six in a row, and have wins over Florida State and at St. Bonaventure.  Plus, they score a ton of points.

Sleeper(s) – Bill & Mary (although they have lost 4 of 6, call it a hunch, but I like their chances); Northeastern (this is a deep sleeper, but I can’t ignore the win at Miami).

Projection – Hofstra

I like the pace they play at, and I think they beat Northeastern in the finals.  Should be a fun conference tournament, so make sure you watch some of these games.



Could the celebrations take place in the NIT?

Location – Albany, NY
Championship – Monday, March 7, 6 p.m., ESPN
Regular Season Champ – Monmouth
RPI Leader – Monmouth
Bubble Teams – Monmouth

The Favorite – Monmouth

Sleeper(s) – Iona (A.J. English can flat out score and is capable of carrying the Gaels to a title); Manhattan (Yeah, they are 12-17, but they have a win over Monmouth and always seem to play well in the conference tournament)

Projection – Iona

Monmouth is beatable, as the Gaels showed in a 16 point win on the road on February 19.  I’ll take the best player (English) in an upset, with Monmouth still getting an at-large.


Location – Asheville, NC
Championship – Monday, March 7, 8 p.m., ESPN2
Regular Season Champ – Chattanooga
RPI Leader – Chattanooga (63)
Bubble Teams – Chattanooga

The Favorite – Chattanooga

Sleeper(s) – E. Tennessee State (97th in RPI, won at Georgia Tech…but lost both games to Chattanooga)

Projection – Chattanooga

Of course there could be a surprise, but Chattanooga is far and away the best team in this conference.



Kay Felder may be this year’s star of March.

Location – Detroit, MI
Championship – Tuesday, March 8, 6 p.m., ESPN
Regular Season Champ – Valparaiso
RPI Leader – Valparaiso (42)
Bubble Teams – Valparaiso

The Favorite – Valparaiso

Sleeper(s) – Oakland (Kay Felder…enough said…well, one more thing…they are playing this tournament in Detroit); Milwaukee (They really struggled in conference, but played ND tough and won at Wisconsin); Wright State (beat Valpo twice).

Projection – Oakland

This could set up a very interesting bubble situation with Valpo.  I just like Felder, in Detroit, to pull off a stunner in the finals.


Location – Campus Sites
Championship – Tuesday, March 8, 6 p.m., ESPN2
Regular Season Champ – Wagner
RPI Leader – Wagner (185)
Bubble Teams – None

The Favorite – Wagner:  Only team in the NEC with more than 15 wins (20).  This conference is so wide open.

Sleeper(s) – LIU Brooklyn:  One of two other teams with a record better than .500 (15-14)…also beat Wagner twice.

Projection – Wagner

While this likely ends up being a team near .500, I’ll go with the chalk.


Location – Sioux Falls, S.D.
Championship – Tuesday, March 8, 8 p.m., ESPN2
Regular Season Champ – S. Dakota St./IPFW (split reg. season games)
RPI Leader – S. Dakota St. (40)
Bubble Teams – None

The Favorite – S. Dakota St:  They play the conference tournament in their home state.

Sleeper(s) – N. Dakota St (They have been brutal on the road, but their past success gives them a chance)

Projection – S. Dakota St.

Very comfortable with this pick.  Go Jackrabbits.


Location – Vegas
Championship – Tuesday, March 8, 8 p.m., ESPN
Regular Season Champ – St. Mary’s
RPI Leader – St. Mary’s (54)
Bubble Teams – St. Mary’s, Duke West

The Favorite – Duke West (solely because of the refs)

Sleeper(s) – BYU (They have a human triple-double, Kyle Collinsworth)

Projection – BYU

Yeah, they just lost at home to Duke West, but I’m praying for a Cougar victory in the semifinals.  Come on Kyle, get it done.


Location – Campus Sites
Date of Championship – Wednesday, March 9, 6:30 p.m., CBSSN
Regular Season Champ – Bucknell
RPI Leader – Lehigh (168)
Bubble Teams – None

The Favorite – Lehigh:  Based on the 15-point win at Bucknell three weeks ago.  They also have won nine in a row.

Sleeper(s) – Army (had won five in a row prior to losing to Lehigh in season finale…plus they chuck threes and if they fall, watch out)

Projection – Lehigh

Wide open tournament, but I’m going with the hot team.


One response to “Cinderella Candidates: Mid-Major Conference Tourney Previews (Week 1)

  1. Pingback: Bracket Projection – March 6 | HEAD VS GUT·

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