Mid-Major Conference 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 8, while Week 2 will discuss the few mid-majors that complete their conference tourneys on March 11-12.

Ohio Valley

Location – Nashville, TN
Championship – Saturday, March 4, 7 p.m. (all central), ESPN2
Regular Season Champ – Belmont
RPI Leader – Belmont (58)
Bubble Teams – None

The Favorite – Belmont.  They won the conference by 5 games…yes…5 games.  12-19 Tennessee Tech is the only conference opponent to beat the Bruins.

Sleeper(s) – UT Martin.  The only other team in the conference with 20 wins lost to Belmont by 16.  However, they can score the ball.

Projection – Belmont

This would probably be the most surprising upset if Belmont goes down.  I just don’t see it happening.  Could be a dangerous team in the tournament, as they have a stud down low (Bradds – 21/9 per game) and four guys who chuck it from deep around him (although they surprisingly only shoot 34.4%)

Missouri Valley


Landry wants a ring.

Location – St. Louis, MO
Championship – Sunday, March 5, 1 p.m., CBS
Regular Season Champ – Wichita State/Illinois State
RPI Leader – Illinois State (35)
Bubble Teams – Wichita State/Illinois State

The Favorite – Wichita State.  The Shockers have won 8 straight by 17+, including a 41 point beatdown of Illinois State.  Granted, that was without Mychal McIntosh, but he was not making up 41 points.

Sleeper(s) – None.  Either Wichita or ISU is winning this thing.

Projection – Wichita State

Landry Shamet is a player.  The Shockers get production from 10 players and shoot 40.6% from deep.  They are going to be incredibly dangerous in the tournament (and yes, they are in regardless).

Big South

Location – Campus Sites
Championship – Sunday, March 6, Noon, ESPN
Regular Season Champ – Winthrop/UNC Asheville
RPI Leader – UNC Asheville (67)
Bubble Teams – None

The Favorite –  Winthrop.  Only reason…they are the #1 seed and the higher seed gets to play the championship on their home floor.  Keon Johnson is 10th in the nation in scoring at 21.8 PPG.

Sleeper(s) – Liberty. The Flames are 14-0 in the Big South against teams not named UNC Asheville or Winthrop.  In fact, they lost all four of those games by double digits.  Maybe they don’t have a chance…

Projection – UNC Asheville

The Bulldogs have two guards (Ahmad Thomas and MaCio Teague) that average 18.0 and 15.5 points respectively, and both shoot above 45% from behind the arc.  UNC Asheville/Winthrop will be a good one, if it materializes.

Atlantic Sun

Location – Campus Sites
Championship – Sunday, March 5, 2 p.m., ESPN
Regular Season Champ – Florida Gulf Coast
RPI Leader – Florida Gulf Coast (90)
Bubble Teams – None

The Favorite – Florida Gulf Coast.  Dunk City is the class of this conference, and they get to play each of their games at home.

Sleeper(s) – Lipscomb beat FGCU on the road, handing the regular-season champs 1 of their 2 conference losses.  Notably, they are nicknamed the “Bisons,” which technically would be multiple herds of Bison I believe.

Projection – Florida Gulf Coast

They are just too talented.


Location – Charleston, SC
Championship – Monday, March 6, 6 p.m., CBSSN
Regular Season Champ – UNC Wilmington
RPI Leader – UNC Wilmington (39)
Bubble Teams – None

The Favorite – UNC Wilmington.  This is always an excellent conference tournament.  The Seahawks are the slight favorite over Charleston, but expect this tournament to produce some wild results/finishes.

Sleeper(s) – Bill and Mary is only 10-8 in the CAA, but they chuck it and have wins over each of the Top 3 (UNCW, Charleston, Towson).  They’ll at least be involved in a really fun game at some point.

Projection – UNC Wilmington

Going with the chalk here.  UNCW averages 85 points per game, and if they get hot from deep, could be a dangerous 12 seed in the tournament.  Denzel Ingram has amazingly shot 264 threes.



Location – Albany, NY
Championship – Monday, March 6, 8 p.m., ESPN2
Regular Season Champ – Monmouth
RPI Leader – Monmouth (45)
Bubble Teams – Monmouth

The Favorite – Monmouth may not have the wins that they did last year in the non-conference, but the band is back together with serious motivation to not leave their fate in the hands of the committee.  It’s imperative that they don’t, because their inclusion as an at-large would be shocking.

Sleeper(s) – Saint Peter’s.  They play like Virginia, as ND found out in December.  In two matchups with Monmouth…won at home by 10, lost at Monmouth by a point.

Projection – Monmouth

I sure hope Justin Robinson gets in the NCAA Tournament.  It would be a damn shame if he fell short again.


Location – Asheville, NC
Championship – Monday, March 6, 6 p.m., ESPN2
Regular Season Champ – ETSU/UNC Greensboro/Furman
RPI Leader – ETSU (74)
Bubble Teams – None

The Favorite – UNC Greensboro.  I was leaning toward ETSU, then they blew a 16 point second half lead tonight against Greensboro.  Francis Alonso leads them in scoring and shoots 47.8% from deep.

Sleeper(s) – Chattanooga.  The Mocs won by 13 at Tennessee, but they are reeling…losers of four straight going into March.

Projection – ETSU

It’s tough to beat a team three times in a season.  ETSU gets the job done over UNC Greensboro in the finals.



Location – Detroit, MI
Championship – Tuesday, March 7, 6 p.m., ESPN
Regular Season Champ – Oakland (beat Valpo twice)
RPI Leader – Valpo (66)
Bubble Teams – None

The Favorite – Oakland.  Not only do they own Valpo this year, but they also get to play the tournament in their backyard.

Sleeper(s) – Northern Kentucky.  The Norse (what?) have won 7 of 8 coming into the Horizon tournament, with a win over Valpo (without Alec Peters) in the regular season finale.

Projection – Oakland

Valpo rested Alec Peters for the final two regular season games, but Oakland seems to have their number.  Plus, Greg Kampe is a gem.


Location – Campus Sites
Championship – Tuesday, March 7, 6 p.m., ESPN2
Regular Season Champ – Mount St. Mary’s
RPI Leader – Mount St. Mary’s (172)
Bubble Teams – None

The Favorite – Mount St. Mary’s.  The regular season champion is 16-15?  Yeah, whoever wins this tournament gets a trip to Dayton.

Sleeper(s) – LIU Brooklyn.  The second place finisher played two tight ones against Mount St. Mary’s.  I’m not going to pretend to know any more about this conference.

Projection – Mount St. Mary’s

They have the 10th ranked non-conference SOS, which explains the 16-15 (14-4) record.  They tested themselves, and I think it pays off.


Location – Sioux Falls, S.D.
Championship – Tuesday, March 7, 8 p.m., ESPN2
Regular Season Champ – South Dakota
RPI Leader – North Dakota St. (103)
Bubble Teams – None

The Favorite – North Dakota State.  Finished second behind South Dakota, but they have the experience necessary to get back to the NCAA Tournament.

Sleeper(s) – What the hell happened to Fort Wayne?  8-8 in this conference after beating Indiana and a respectable performance in South Bend?  They just refuse to play defense apparently, but they have the talent to win this.

Projection – Fort Wayne

Going with the upset here, as they are the most talented team in the conference.



Location – Vegas
Championship – Tuesday, March 7, 8 p.m., ESPN
Regular Season Champ – Duke West
RPI Leader – Duke West (12)
Locks – Duke West, St. Mary’s
Bubble Teams – None

The Favorite – Duke West

Sleeper(s) – BYU is the obvious sleeper after knocking off Duke West in Spokane.  The combination of Mika, Emery, Haws and Bryant could do some damage in Vegas.

Projection – Duke West

While I’d obviously like to pick someone else, St. Mary’s is not good…and BYU likely won’t get them again.


Location – Campus Sites
Date of Championship – Wednesday, March 8, 6:30 p.m., CBSSN
Regular Season Champ – Bucknell
RPI Leader – Bucknell (76)
Bubble Teams – None

The Favorite – Bucknell won the regular season title by three games and has three straight wins by 20+.  They also have quality wins over Vanderbilt and Richmond.

Sleeper(s) – Lehigh beat the Bison twice (by 8 and 11)…so they have the goods to steal a bid.

Projection – Bucknell

If Lehigh gets to the title game, Bucknell could be in trouble.  However, I think having the home court advantage will be the key.


One response to “Mid-Major Conference Previews (Week 1)

  1. Pingback: Big Boy Basketball: Major Conference Tournament Notes | HEAD VS GUT·

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