By Riley Saxon
Champ Week Predictions
The Favorite: Duke
The Sleeper: Virginia
The CHB Pick: Duke
Outlook: From a bubble perspective, this is probably the most intriguing tournament, as Miami, Wake Forest, and Notre Dame are all looking to solidify their standing in the Big Dance. Yet, due to the lack of big wins available, most of these bubble teams will be looking to avoid bad losses and then try to defeat their fellow bubble sitters. The best win a team can get is over Duke, but Duke will not be losing.
The Favorite: Baylor
The Sleeper: Iowa State
The CHB Pick: Texas Tech
Outlook: Although lacking bubble teams, the Big 12 has a lot of intrigue for seeding purposes as there are a lot of big wins available and each of the top 6 seeds are solidly in the tournament. If Chalk holds, the final four of the tournament will feature 4 teams in the top 15 of Ken Pom.
The Favorite: Villanova
The Sleeper: Marquette
The CHB Pick: Providence
Outlook: The Big East Tournament always delivers, and there is a plethora of talent to watch. Each team, with the exception of DePaul (and in reality, Georgetown) can make a case for winning the whole thing. As we saw last year, anything is possible. Villanova has a strong case for the regular season championship (won more conference games than Providence and beat them twice), but expect Providence to silence the haters.
The Favorite: Purdue
The Sleeper: Michigan
The CHB Pick: Illinois
Outlook: The hardest bracket to pick, because so many teams can win it. Illinois seems to have the best combination of star power and defense, but we’re not putting any money on this tournament. The most intriguing matchup early on in all of the brackets rests here, with bubble teams Michigan and Indiana meeting in a de facto win-or-go-home matchup.
The Favorite: Arizona
The Sleeper: Oregon
The CHB Pick: Southern Cal
Outlook: Is there another version of Oregon State in this field? Arizona State seemingly has the qualities needed, but people seem to forget Oregon State was the five seed in the tournament and, due to U of A’s postseason ban, actually had a first round bye. By that logic, Colorado as the four seed has potential, as does OSU rival Oregon. Regardless, Southern California has the right mix of size, defense and motivation (they got owned by the top 2 seeds leading into the tourney)… plus that sprinkle of a “Kemba-Candidate”’ in Drew Peterson. I expect Southern Cal to win each game of the Pac 12 Tourney by double digits.
The Favorite: Kentucky
The Sleeper: Alabama
The CHB Pick: Kentucky
Outlook: Luckily, Kentucky and Auburn ended up on opposite sides of the bracket, because that is the perfect marquee matchup to watch on Selection Sunday. Of course, LSU, Arkansas, Tennessee, and Alabama will all have a say in it. This should be one of the most exciting conference tournaments of the season
Other Conference Tournament Picks
Big West Championship: #1 Long Beach State over #3 Hawaii
Quick Note: The Beach’s hot streak continues as they ride the momentum to being a trendy upset pick in the Big Dance
Mountain West Championship: #2 Colorado State over #5 UNLV
Quick Note: This tournament is going to be spicy, as Wyoming plays UNLV in the quarterfinals, and SDSU and Colorado State can meet in the semifinals.
Western Athletic Championship: #1 New Mexico State over #3 Stephen F. Austin
Quick Note: The WAC is going to be one of the better mid major conferences in the coming years. Abilene Christian, winner of a game in March Madness last year, registers as the resident sleeper in the WAC. They’ll have to win four straight games (against the 7/10, 3, and 2 seeds, and then the winner of the other side of the bracket) in order to get it done, however.
College Hoops Breakdown appears weekly at JoeTorosian.com
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