College Basketball Conference Tournament Selections


AP Photo/David Becker

Gonzaga guard Rasir Bolton, second left, celebrates with the championship trophy after the team defeated Saint Mary’s in an NCAA college basketball game in the finals of the West Coast Conference men’s tournament Tuesday, March 7, 2023, in Las Vegas.

It’s March. It’s the best month of the year for college basketball. March Madness begins next week and is set to be one of the most entertaining tournaments ever. But before “The Big Dance” gets underway, the conference tournaments will take place over the course of the next few days. With spots in the NCAA tournament on the line, these games are so important that they will be sure to entertain anyone who chooses to watch. Predicting who will win these tournaments will be very difficult, especially given how wild this college basketball season has been. 

Atlantic Coastal Conference (ACC): Virginia Cavaliers

Finishing the regular season with a 15-5 conference record, Virginia enters the ACC tournament as the number two seed, earning one of the four double-byes and an automatic spot in the quarterfinals. The Cavaliers currently sit ranked number 13 in the AP poll, one spot ahead of Miami, who is seeded first in the ACC tournament. A big factor for Virginia will be the play of their defense, who finished ninth in the country in points per game allowed. They have won six of their last eight games, and have been playing their best basketball as of late. Riding this momentum is going to be important for Virginia to make a run at the conference title and earn an automatic berth into the NCAA tournament. Their quest to another championship begins Thursday night in Greensboro, and they only need three wins to earn their first ACC title since the 2018 season. 

Southeastern Conference (SEC): Texas A&M Aggies

Coming into the SEC tournament winning eight of their last nine games, the Aggies enter with the second seed, also earning a double-bye and a spot in the quarterfinals. They finished with a 15-3 conference record, and went 4-1 against teams currently ranked in the top 25. A&M finished as the third best total defense in the SEC and fifth best total offense. Their biggest competitors coming into this tournament are Kentucky and Alabama, two teams they split against in the regular season, defeating the Crimson Tide and falling to the Wildcats. On offense, the Aggies will have to get production from Wade Taylor, who led the team with 16.3 points per game. Texas A&M is looking for their first SEC tournament win in the program’s history, and this is definitely the year they can accomplish that.

Big 10 Conference: Northwestern Wildcats

After a wild up-and-down regular season, Northwestern enters the Big Ten tournament as the number two seed. The Wildcats finished with a 21-10 overall record, with a 12-8 conference record. Coming into the tournament, the heavy favorite to win are the Purdue Boilermakers, a team that the Wildcats defeated during the regular season. Northwestern allowed just over 62 points per game, putting them in the 19th best position in the country in that category. While their offense wasn’t as successful, their defense is the main reason why they have a legitimate shot at winning this championship. Defeating top-seeded Purdue and third-seeded Indiana won’t be an easy task, but this defense for the Wildcats is built for the challenge. With this title up for grabs, it’s gonna come down to which defense plays the best throughout the entire tournament, and I believe the Northwestern Wildcats will be the team that prevails. 

Big 12 Conference: Texas Longhorns

Looking to avenge last season’s early exit from the Big 12 tournament, Texas finds themselves as the two seed with a strong opportunity to win the conference title. They had an interesting regular season. They split with Baylor. They split with TCU. They split with Kansas State. And in their one meeting against regular season champion Kansas, the Longhorns won in dominating fashion. Led by guard Marcus Carr, the Longhorns will look to their top overall offense in the Big 12 to lead them to a conference championship. They also finished with roughly similar defensive stats as their main competition in the conference, Kansas and Kansas State. So with their offense performing as well as it has, I find it too hard for any of the other teams to slow down this Texas offense enough to defeat them during this tournament. 

Pac-12 Conference: UCLA Bruins

Looking to have another run to the Pac-12 championship and a deep run in the NCAA tournament, UCLA will look to their defense to win them these games. A team that ranked sixth-best in the nation during the regular season in total defense will be crucial to slowing down the explosive offenses in the Pac-12, specifically second-seeded Arizona. The Wildcats are the only team I could see possibly giving UCLA a problem, but I think the well-roundedness of the Bruins will be too difficult to contend with. The Bruins had the top defense and second-best offense in the Pac-12 during the regular season, so it seems like they’re a clear favorite to win this conference tournament. Jaime Jaquez, Tyger Campbell, and this UCLA Bruins squad is in prime position to win another Pac-12 tournament championship, and ride that momentum deep into the NCAA tournament. 

Big East Conference: Marquette Golden Eagles

Top-seeded Marquette comes into the Big East tournament having won six in a row, two of which are teams currently ranked in the top 25. The Golden Eagles went 17-3 in conference play, with all three losses coming on the road. Ending the regular season ranked sixth in the country, Marquette will look to their fourteenth-best total offense to lead the way. Leading the way for the Golden Eagles will be first-team all Big East selection Tyler Kolek, who led the team with almost 8 assists and 2 steals a game. Winning this tournament will not be easy for Marquette, but given how well their production on offense has been, I find that it will be too tough for their opponents to match that intensity. Looking for their first Big East tournament win in the school’s history, I believe this is the year for Marquette to capture the title.