March Madness doesn’t technically start until the 17th of this month, but we’re already getting pumped! NCAA conference tournaments across the country begin next week, so we’re in for a bunch of exciting college basketball as teams vie for those remaining spots in the big dance! (If you win your conference tourney, you’re automatically granted a berth.) After these tournaments wrap up, the official NCAA Tournament brackets will be unveiled on Selection Sunday, March 15th.
So which teams should you keep your eye on during next week’s tournaments? Here’s a breakdown of what’s going on in the major conferences and where you can get tickets to all the important NCAA matchups! It’s almost spring break right? Get out and catch some live college basketball!
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ACC Conference Tournament in Greensboro, NC
Neither Duke nor UNC is at the top of this year’s ACC rankings as they head to Greensboro Coliseum on March 10th for the ACC Tournament. Louisville and Florida State are looking to take the top two seeds, and they’re also hoping their performance here will snag them an overall higher seed in the NCAA Tournament. But anything could happen. Remember, you’ve also got the reigning National Champs the Virginia Cavaliers looking to make some noise in March, and Duke is always a powerhouse in this tournament. UNC fans are holding out for a miracle, and then there are bubble teams like NC State hoping to prove they’re worth a spot in the bracket.
Big 12 Conference Tournament in Kansas City, MO
Talk about some top teams! The Big 12 Tournament features Kansas, currently number one in the nation, and Baylor, currently number four. Not only that, this conference is tight, with four teams – Texas Tech, Texas, Oklahoma, and West Virginia – all within one game of each other as of Friday. So long as Kansas doesn’t stumble this weekend (unlikely), the Jayhawks will head into this conference tournament on a 16-game win streak. Iowa State pulled the upset here last year, but even if there are no surprises, the Big 12 Tournament should provide a great preview of some of the best March Madness has to offer. This one tips off in Kansas City at the Sprint Center on March 11th.
Big East Conference Tournament in New York City
The Big East Tournament is going down at Madison Square Garden in NYC beginning on March 11th. Last year’s winners of the trophy and the usual dominant force in the Big East (and nationally), Villanova, will be dealing with conference leaders Creighton and Seton Hall. These three teams have relatively equal odds of winning the tournament, but hey, this is still college basketball, so don’t count out Butler or Marquette just yet! The Big East is a strong conference, with a whopping 7 out of 10 teams projected to make it to the NCAA Tournament. The regular-season title is still up in the air as well, and that won’t be decided until this weekend’s games are finished.
Big Ten Conference Tournament in Indianapolis
This is yet another tight conference race, with Maryland, Wisconsin, and Michigan State all tied at the top with a record of 13-6 in conference play. This weekend’s games should clear up the seeding of the Big Ten Conference Tournament, but until then, we say it’s anyone’s game. The Spartans always look like a dominant force in March, but they have struggled a bit this season, and Maryland just took a tough loss to Rutgers. The Badgers have the top seed in the tournament right now and they’re on a seven-game win streak, but they’ve still got to play Indiana this weekend. As perhaps the deepest D1 conference, don’t expect the Big Ten Tournament to be predictable. This one begins March 11th.
Pac 12 Conference Tournament in Las Vegas
Need a good excuse to go to Vegas? Here it is. The Oregon Ducks are the reigning champs of this much-improved conference, and they’re looking to make waves in March. The Ducks already have a first-round bye for the tournament, but they’re still tied at 12-5 with UCLA heading into the weekend. On Saturday, Oregon, currently ranked 13th in the nation (and the only nationally ranked team in this conference), will look to clinch the regular-season title as they play Stanford. UCLA, however, is on a seven-game win streak, and they’ll take on cross-town rivals USC this weekend in an attempt to do the same. The Bruins have been receiving a lot of hype late in the season, so we’ll see if they can’t ride that wave to a conference tournament victory and possibly on into March Madness.
SEC Conference Tournament in Nashville
Rather head to Music City to check out some basketball next week? The Auburn Tigers are the current holders of this tournament trophy, but Kentucky always shines in March. Calipari’s Wildcats are ranked number six in the nation right now and number one in the SEC, having already clinched the regular-season championship. Behind No.1 Kentucky in the SEC tournament, you’ve got LSU, Auburn, and Florida vying for that No.2 spot with records of 11-6 in conference play as they head into the weekend. Even when they’re great, Kentucky has been known to bomb occasionally – they blew a huge lead in a loss to Tennessee this week – but having won 12 of their last 14 games, they still look like a dominant force going into the SEC Tournament.
Not into these games? There are plenty of other conference tournaments happening next week too! Remember, you’ve top-ranked teams like Gonzaga over in the West Coast Conference, Dayton in the Atlantic 10, and San Diego Stage in the Mountain West. After all these tournament trophies are handed out, don’t forget to check back in and grab your tickets to the NCAA College Basketball Tournament when the bracket is revealed!