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College Basketball Conference Tournament Week Tips Off This Week

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Starting next week, Men’s College Basketball Conference Tournaments across the country will begin. In what is one of the best precursors to March Madness, all 32 conferences across the nation will hold tournaments to crown their own respective champions and send an automatic qualifier to the Big Dance. While all 32 conferences have something to offer, I wanted to zero in on two specific mid-major conferences and look at the upcoming conference tournaments. 

The first conference is the Missouri Valley Conference (MVC), which tips off their tournament, which is nicknamed Arch Madness, on March 7th. The MVC is among the most fun conferences in college basketball this year. They had three teams who finished with 20 or more wins and two teams who finished with 25 or more wins. The conference also had two teams finish with 19 wins, and one more with 18. 

The Indiana State Sycamores clinched the number one seed in Arch Madness this season, with a 17-3 conference record. The Sycamores are 26-5 overall and are led by sophomore center, Robbie Avila. Avila, who is nicknamed “Larry Nerd”, averaged 17.6 points per game and 6.9 rebounds per game this season. He also averaged 3.9 assists. Junior guard Isaiah Swope and Sophomore guard Ryan Conwell also each average 16 or more points per game. 

The Drake Bulldogs are the number two seed in the MVC. They finished just one game behind Indiana State with a 16-4 conference record and a 25-6 overall record. Drake is led by junior guard Tucker DeVries. DeVries averages 21.9 points per game, which is 6th in the NCAA. He also averages 6.9 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game. Drake is the reigning MVC champion and has played in three consecutive MVC title games. 

The Bradley Braves are the three seed in the Missouri Valley Conference this season. Bradley finished 13-7 in conference and 21-10 overall. The Braves spread the ball out, with three players each averaging 14 points per game, and another who averages nearly 12 points.

The top four teams in the MVC receive a first round bye into the quarter finals. Thanks to a win over Southern Illinois on the final day of the regular season, Northern Iowa clinched the 4th seed and the first round bye. Arch Madness tips off at 1 pm on Thursday March 7th when 8th seeded Murray State and 9th seeded Missouri State play at the Enterprise Center in St. Louis Missouri. Prediction: Indiana State over Drake. These two teams are clearly ahead of the pack in the MVC and both have cases for at-large bids if they don’t win the conference tournament. 

The second conference I wanted to look at is the Mountain West, which has been nicknamed the “Mountain Best” this season. The Mountain West tournament tips off on March 13th and follows the same structure as the Big East Tournament, with the top five teams in the conference getting a bye. The Mountain West currently has six teams with 20 or more wins this season and one already with 25+. 

The Utah State Aggies currently sit in first place in the Mountain West and have a chance to clinch at least a share of the regular season title on Wednesday night. Utah State is 12-4 in conference play and sits in first place. The Aggies are led by junior forward Great Osobor, who averages 17.5 points and 9 rebounds per game. Behind Osobor is a great guard trio of Ian Martinez, Darius Brown III and Mason Falslev who average 13.2, 11.9 and 11.4 points per game respectively. Brown also leads the team averaging 6.2 assists per game. The Aggies have two remaining games. They play on Wednesday at San Jose State and close the regular season on Saturday at home against New Mexico. 

Behind the Aggies and in a three-way tie for second are the Nevada Wolfpack, the UNLV Rebels, and the Boise State Broncos who all sit at 12-5. Nevada is led by the Mountain West’s second highest scorer, Jarod Lucas who averages 17.5 points per game. Lucas is a fifth year senior who transferred to Nevada from Oregon State before last season. Nevada will meet UNLV with the two seed on the line on Saturday night in their regular season finale. 

Another game that is important for seeding will be Boise State and the San Diego State Aztecs’ regular season finale on Friday night. Boise is currently 12-5 and San Diego State is 11-6 and if San Diego State wins they will jump Boise and claim the four seed in the Mountain West. San Diego State is led by Jaedon LeDee, who is the Mountain West’s number one scorer averaging 20.5 points per game. Tyson Degenhart leads the way for Boise State, averaging 16.9 points per game. The game is a must-win for San Diego State. If the Aztecs lose and New Mexico wins their final two, New Mexico likely claims the final bye in the Mountain West tournament. 

The Mountain West tournament tips off on March 13th from the Thomas & Mack Center Paradise on UNLV’s campus. Prediction: San Diego State over Nevada. There isn’t a set bracket yet for the Mountain West, so there is still a chance these two teams can meet before the championship game. However, these are two teams I truly think are set up to meet in the Mountain West final if the bracket falls in such a way. San Diego State is the reigning Mountain West champion and I believe they are set up to repeat, While Nevada has defied the odds this season and won big game after big game. 

The other 30 conferences are sure to bring great action throughout next week and a half leading up to Selection Sunday. Mid Majors and Power Conferences alike will have eyes on them by college basketball fans across the United States. The bid stealers, or teams who don’t have a case for an at-large bid but win their conference tournament, are out there. Anything can happen in March.