It’s March, so that means it’s time for madness. But before we can get to the 68-team tournament, teams are wrapping up their regular seasons with conference tournaments beginning this week. A few mid-majors have already punched a ticket to the dance, so let’s preview championship week for college basketball’s Power 5 conferences.
Let’s start off with what’s widely regarded as college basketball’s top conference: the ACC. With six teams in the Top 25 (North Carolina, Louisville, Florida State, Duke, Notre Dame, Miami) it’s hard to argue with that claim.
North Carolina comes in as the favorite after winning the regular-season title led by ACC Player of the Year Justin Jackson. But with multiple player of the year candidates and potential All-Americans, and rich program history throughout this conference, the tournament is wide open. Look for the impact of some legendary coaches to come into play in later rounds.
This conference has been confusing all year, with some teams underachieving and some exceeding expectations. Purdue comes in as the favorite, led by double-double machine and probable All-American Caleb Swanigan. As a very top-heavy conference, look for most of the excitement to come in the later rounds, as star power should have a big impact on whoever wins this conference title.
If the top of the Big 12 has been anything over the past few years, it has been consistent. Kansas pulled off its 13th straight regular-season title and gave head coach Bill Self his fifth Big 12 Coach of the Year award. But that’s not to say that this conference has nothing to offer. Teams such as Baylor and West Virginia have been staples in the top 10 for the entire year and will not be an easy out. Known for its fast-paced style of play, look for this conference to be decided by a number of up-tempo games led by intense defensive play that come down to who has the ball last.
Another conference that, outside of the top teams, doesn’t offer too many interesting storylines. With that being said, those top teams are loaded with talent. UCLA, Oregon and Arizona have been shifting around the top 10 for much of the year.
All three teams are led by possible All-Americans and future top NBA draft picks, headlined by UCLA’s Lonzo Ball. Look for this conference to exhibit some high-scoring contests, as these teams have been known all year for their high-powered offenses and ability to put up points in a hurry.
This conference is much like the Big 12 in that the top rarely changes much. Kentucky has been a staple at the top for years now and has done so with the excellent play of elite freshmen, and this year is no different. Led by star freshmen D’Aaron Fox and Malik Monk, Kentucky looks poised to win its fifth conference title under Coach John Calipari. Look for teams like Florida and South Carolina to try and stand in their way, as both teams have been a part of the Top 25 for most of the year.
Conference tournament week is the week that sets the mood for the entire NCAA tournament, the official start of March Madness. With these games tipping off, basketball fans can rejoice and enjoy the pinnacle of one of the greatest postseasons in all of sports.