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

The Big Ten is this week too…wake me up for that one once we get to the semifinals on Saturday.  For purposes of transparency, I have Sparty.

Ohio Valley

Location – Evansville, IN
Championship – Saturday, March 3
Regular Season Champ – Murray State
RPI Leader – Murray State (66)
Bubble Teams – None

The Favorite – Murray State (47.3% chance according to KenPom).  The Racers are back after a down year, having won 11 in a row.  Jonathan Stark is the OVC POY, averaging almost 22 a game.  Ja Morant does it all (12.7 PPG, 6.8 RPG, 6.4 APG).

Sleeper(s) – Jacksonville State.  Not only did they win the conference tournament last year, but they beat Murray State and also knocked off Belmont twice.

Projection – Belmont

Last year I wrote that Belmont losing would be the biggest upset…and they lost.  Belmont chucks (they hit 20 threes in the regular season finale), and they typically don’t sit out two NCAA tournaments in a row.

Missouri Valley

Location – St. Louis, MO
Championship – Sunday, March 4
Regular Season Champ – Loyola-Chicago
RPI Leader – Loyola-Chicago (30)
Bubble Teams – Loyola…

The Favorite – Loyola-Chicago (43.8% chance according to KenPom).  The Ramblers are good, which very much excites this blog (both of us attended law school there).  Now, I listed Loyola as a bubble team, but that’s not realistic.  First, the rest of the conference is awful and they have some bad losses.  Second, Boise State beat them by 33.

Sleeper(s) – Illinois State.  They ALWAYS have a shot to win this thing, and the Redbirds lost two tight ones to Loyola.

Projection – Loyola-Chicago



Clayton Custer – MVC POY (Ron Irby – AP)

Big South

Location – Campus Sites
Championship – Sunday, March 4,
Regular Season Champ – UNC Asheville
RPI Leader – UNC Asheville (118)
Bubble Teams – None

The Favorite –  UNC Asheville (30.7% chance according to KenPom).  Ahmad Thomas and Macio Teague are a formidable tandem.  Radford and Winthrop finished a game back.

Sleeper(s) – Charleston Southern.  Winners of 8 out of 10 after starting Big South play 1-7.  They won at Winthrop in the regular season finale.

Projection – Charleston Southern

Let’s live a little and go with the hot team.

Atlantic Sun

Location – Campus Sites
Championship – Sunday, March 4
Regular Season Champ – Florida Gulf Coast
RPI Leader – Lipscomb (111)
Bubble Teams – None

The Favorite – Florida Gulf Coast (66.6% chance according to KenPom).  Dunk City is the class of this conference, and they get to play each of their games at home.

Sleeper(s) – I wrote this last year, and amazingly it fits perfectly again…

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

I guess I’ll be boring and stick with Dunk City since I already made that pick on Twitter.  I’ll be rooting for the multiple herds of Bison, however.




Location – Albany, NY
Championship – Monday, March 5
Regular Season Champ – Rider/Canisius
RPI Leader – Rider (64)
Bubble Teams – None

The Favorite – Canisius (31.1% chance according to KenPom).  Both Canisius and Rider went 15-3 to share the regular season crown.  The Golden Griffins have two players that average 17 a game, including Jermaine Crumpton, who could be a blog favorite at 6’6, 245 pounds.


Crumpton used to play at 270+.  My man. (Harry Scull / Buffalo News) 

Sleeper(s) – Iona.  I couldn’t tell you the last time Rider or Canisius were in the tournament.  This has been a league run by Iona and Manhattan, and the Jaspers stink this year.

Projection – Canisius

I’m going with the big man and KenPom in the MAAC.


Location – Asheville, NC
Championship – Monday, March 5
Regular Season Champ – UNC Greensboro
RPI Leader – UNC Greensboro (81)
Bubble Teams – None

The Favorite – UNC Greensboro (31.7% chance according to KenPom).

Sleeper(s) – Mercer has won eight in a row.  Furman has won six in a row.  But the sleeper is the team that started 13-0 in the Southern…ETSU.  The Mocs amazingly just fell apart, losing 4 of their last 5.

Projection – ETSU

I’m going with the Mocs here, hoping that they just got bored after starting 13-0 in conference.


Location – Charleston, SC
Championship – Tuesday, March 6
Regular Season Champ – Charleston/Northeastern
RPI Leader – Northeastern (60)
Bubble Teams – None

The Favorite – Charleston (31.9% chance according to KenPom).  This one’s tough, but they’re playing at home and already have beaten Northeastern twice.

Sleeper(s) – Bill and Mary is always the sleeper in this tournament.  They could be 0-18 in conference, and I will put them as the sleeper.  Why?  THEY CHUCK IT.  In their regular season win over Charleston, they put 116 points.  116!  And, they lead the country from deep (43.5%).


They even make collages of dudes chucking.

Projection – Bill & Mary

This conference tournament is always wild.  Charleston is the safe play since they’ll be at home, but let’s hope the Tribe can get hot.


Location – Detroit, MI
Championship – Tuesday, March 6
Regular Season Champ – Northern Kentucky
RPI Leader – Wright State (105)
Bubble Teams – None

The Favorite – Wright State (20.1% chance according to KenPom).  While the Norse won the conference and are given a 50.8% chance to win the Horizon by KenPom, Wright State beat them twice.

Sleeper(s) – Milwaukee.  They always seem to play well in this tournament.  Plus, they beat Wright State twice, and have wins over Iowa State and Loyola.

Projection – Northern Kentucky

I was tempted to take Oakland and Kendrick Nunn (transfer from Illinois who is second to Trae Young in scoring), but I’m going with the NORSE.



Location – Campus Sites
Championship – Tuesday, March 6
Regular Season Champ – Wagner
RPI Leader – Wagner (104)
Bubble Teams – None

The Favorite – Wagner (53.1% chance according to KenPom).  There are only three teams above .500 in the conference.

Sleeper(s) – Mount St. Mary’s has won 8 of 10, they beat Wagner by 11 in the season finale, and (a common theme) they chuck it.

Projection – Mount St. Mary’s

Don’t they always win this tournament?  I’m on them until they lose.


Location – Sioux Falls, S.D.
Championship – Tuesday, March 6
Regular Season Champ – South Dakota State
RPI Leader – South Dakota State (52)
Bubble Teams – None

The Favorite – South Dakota State (36.4% chance according to KenPom).  One reason…Mike Daum.  Another reason, they went 15-1 to win the regular season title.

Sleeper(s) – South Dakota.  SDSU’s only conference loss, and they have won 10 of 12.  Plus, the rest of the conference blows.  KenPom actually has South Dakota favored (50.4% chance).

Projection – South Dakota State

I want to see Mike Daum scare the hell out of a 4 or 5 seed in the NCAA Tournament.


Photo: Ryan Soderlin/The World-Herald


Location – Vegas
Championship – Tuesday, March 6
Regular Season Champ – Duke West
RPI Leader – Duke West (29)
Locks – Duke West
Bubble Teams – St. Mary’s

The Favorite – Duke West (58.9% chance according to KenPom).  They are ranked in the Top 10, which is just comical.  Thankfully, they aren’t nearly as good as they were last year.

Sleeper(s) – There really isn’t a sleeper in this one.  Duke West and St. Mary’s are going to play in the championship.  If you force me to pick one, I’ll go with the Dons of USF, as they were the only team to beat the Zags or the Gaels.

Projection – St. Mary’s

Hopefully, the Gaels play like they need to win to get in the tournament.  Because they might need to…


Location – Campus Sites
Date of Championship – Wednesday, March 7
Regular Season Champ – Bucknell
RPI Leader – Bucknell (76)
Bubble Teams – None

The Favorite – Death. Taxes. Bucknell wins the Patriot. KenPom has them at a 69.2% chance to win.

Sleeper(s) – Lehigh has won eight in a row and has a win over the Bison.  Keep an eye out for Navy…

Projection – Bucknell

Bucknell isn’t losing at home.


One response to “Mid-Major Conference Tourney Previews – Week 1

  1. Pingback: Bracket Update – March 3 | HEAD VS GUT·

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