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NCAA Basketball

Get Ready For March Madness With Conference Tournament Previews


The college basketball season is coming to a close and that only means one thing: March Madness. With conference tournaments beginning and final regular season games being played this week, it’s already time to start thinking about your bracket, or at least mentally preparing for your bracket. Most sites have signups already and you may have already been sent an invite from your yearly pool.

RotoExperts and SportsGrid will help make the transition from fair weather to diehard fan college basketball fan easy. Over the next couple of weeks we’ll take a look at all the relevant teams entering conference tournaments. We’re talking Belmont and Creighton, not Northeastern or Mercer. Radio shows and video segments will be provided to help you get to know the schools you may not. When the seedings are complete, we’ll put all that information into helping you complete your brackets.

This is just the tip of the iceberg, but you have to start somewhere – and we start with the Horizon League and the Ohio Valley Conference.

Horizon League

Valparaiso will host the second round and semifinals, with the highest remaining seed hosting the championship game.

VALPARAISO
Record: 24-7, 13-3
Best conference wins: at Detroit
Worst conf. losses: vs. Loyola (IL)
Non-conf. wins: at Murray State
Non-conf. losses: at Saint Louis, at New Mexico
Current run: Won 8 of last 9, with only loss being at home to Detroit
Conference tourney: March 5-12
NCAA Outlook: 14-seed if win tourney
Small blurb: Valpo got the 1-seed by just one game over Detroit. They split the season series with the Titans and it’s going to be a great final between the two if they make it there. Green Bay, the 4-seed, will be their hardest competition prior to the final, whom they just beat by 19 points on the road. Since they didn’t do much in out-of-conference play, they won’t make the big dance if they don’t win this tourney. Their best wins are very shallow.

DETROIT
Record: 20-11, 12-4
Best conference wins: at Valparaiso, at Wright State
Worst conf. losses: vs. Wright State, at Cleveland State
Non-conf. wins: at Akron
Non-conf. losses: at Miami (FL), Pittsburgh, Syracuse, Wichita State, Temple
Current run: Four straight conference wins including road win at Valpo
Conference tourney: March 5-12
NCAA Outlook: 14-seed if win tourney
Small blurb: Much like the Crusaders, they need to win the tourney to make it further. They played a lot of tough teams out of conference, but they weren’t able to get many big wins. A four-point loss at Syracuse stands out. If Ray McCallum is on, this team can threaten a lot of 3-seeds. In the Horizon tourney, they’ll likely face Wright State, a team they split with, before the final.

The others: Wright State (3-seed) could be the dark horse of this conference as they already have shown what they can do with road wins at Detroit and Green Bay. They fought in two games against Valparaiso, losing by a combined 13 points. It’ll be unlikely for them to reach the final past Detroit, but it’s not out of question this time of the year.

Prediction: It’s going to be very hard to beat Valparaiso on their home court in this tournament, but it’s not like upsets never happen. Detroit went to Valpo in mid-February and outscored them by 21 points in the second half. McCallum (19 PPG) was the Titans third leading scorer in that game. Detroit has a very experienced starting lineup that can lead them to the NCAA tourney.

Ohio Valley Conference

Nashville, TN

BELMONT
Record: 24-6, 14-2
Best conference wins: at Eastern Kentucky, at Morehead State
Worst conf. losses: at Tennessee State
Non-conf. wins: vs. SDSU, vs. Ohio, at Stanford
Non-conf. losses: at VCU, at Kansas
Current run: Four straight easy wins
Conference tourney: March 6-9
NCAA Outlook: 12-seed if win tourney
Small blurb: This is Belmont’s conference to lose it and would be a major disappointment if they didn’t win the tourney. Even at 24-6, they probably won’t make the big dance if they can’t take the Championship. The Bruins will get either Morehead State or Tennessee State in their first game. Both teams gave them problems on the road this year, but not at home. In the final, it could be Eastern Kentucky or Murray State. No matter, they finished two games above everyone else in the OVC and should win. With a couple NCAA Tourney veterans in the starting lineup, Belmont could cause problems as the 12-seed.

MURRAY STATE
Record: 20-9, 10-6
Best conference wins: vs. Belmont, at Morehead State
Worst conf. losses: vs. Tennessee-Martin, vs. SE Missouri State
Non-conf. wins: vs. St. John’s (neutral), at Evansville, vs. SDSU
Non-conf. losses: vs. Valparaiso, vs. Colorado (neutral)
Current run: Two straight bad home losses
Conference tourney: March 6-9
NCAA Outlook: 13/14-seed if win tourney
Small blurb: They have the players, but it’s just not coming to fruition for the Racers, for right now at least. Murray State was tied with Belmont for the best record in the OVC at the beginning of February until they started to fall apart. Now that they’ve lost four of their last six games and their season is all but over. Seniors Isaiah Canaan, Ed Daniel and Stacy Wilson can stick with the best, but things haven’t gone their way as of late. If they can pull things together, an upset of Belmont is very possible in the final as they’ve already beat the Bruins once this year.

The Others: Tennessee State and Eastern Kentucky will be hard to take down. EKU has the chance to get by Murray State in the semis to face Belmont, a team they were swept by during the regular season.

My prediction: The Racers are a fun team to like with Canaan leading the way; however, it’s hard to trust them after losing two straight home games to subpar competition. Belmont doesn’t exactly have an easy route to winning this conference, but they are also led by seniors and are primed for postseason action.

Photos via Getty



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