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College Basketball Conference Tournament Scenarios: Motivational Angles For 16 Leagues Still in Regular Season

College Basketball Conference Tournament Scenarios: Motivational Angles For 16 Leagues Still in Regular Season article feature image
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Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images

While we are in the heart of conference tournament action, there’s still a lot to be sorted out in the many conferences that will start their tourneys next week.

Whether you’re a curious fan or a bettor just trying to understand motivational angles, here’s a quick look at each conference that’s still playing regular season games this weekend.


Atlantic 10

While all 14 schools will participate in the A-10 tourney, only two seeds are known heading into Friday, with Richmond and Duquesne locked into the No. 6 and 14 seeds, respectively.

We know three of the top four seeds that will receive a double bye: Davidson, VCU and Dayton. The fourth will either go to St. Bonaventure or Saint Louis. The Bonnies can clinch the No. 4 seed with a win Friday night, while the Billikens will need a Bonnies loss and a home victory over VCU.

Davidson can lock up the outright regular season title and No. 1 overall seed with a win at Dayton, which can finish as high as No. 2. If Davidson loses at Dayton, VCU can get a share of the A-10 regular season title and the No. 1 overall seed with a victory at Saint Louis.

The Rams will know this before their game, but it makes no difference from a motivation perspective since they’re fighting for an NCAA Tournament appearance.


ACC

There’s not much intrigue in the ACC this weekend.

Duke already won the regular season title and clinched the No. 1 seed in the conference tournament. We also know the three other teams that will receive double-byes into the quarterfinals:

  • North Carolina
  • Notre Dame
  • Miami (FL)

Additionally, with Wake Forest already locked into the No. 5 seed, it will receive a single-bye, along with Virginia, Virginia Tech, Syracuse and Florida State. The latter two will face off in the 8-9 game, with the winner advancing to take on Duke.

Lastly, while exact seeding has yet to be determined, we also know the six teams that will play in the first round on Tuesday in Brooklyn, NY — Clemson, Louisville, Boston College, Georgia Tech, Pittsburgh and NC State.


AAC

Houston has already won the regular season title and clinched the top seed in the AAC tourney. The Cougars will receive a first-round bye into the quarterfinals on Friday, along with SMU and Memphis.

The final pair of byes will go to two of Temple, Tulane and UCF based on this weekend’s results.

If Wichita State defeats East Carolina on Saturday, Tulane can actually clinch a bye before its game at SMU on Sunday. In that scenario, UCF would only get a bye with a win at Tulsa AND a Temple home loss to South Florida.

I could also see Tulane resting players on Sunday if it already has the bye clinched. It would be locked into the 4-5 game, and has had recent unfortunate injury news. That could spell disaster on the road against an SMU team that needs wins and style points to improve its NCAA resume.

Elsewhere, Cincinnati has already finished its regular season and is locked into the No. 8 seed. The Bearcats will play the loser of Wichita State vs. ECU. The winner of that contest will get the No. 7 seed and take on either Tulsa or South Florida, while avoiding Houston’s side of the bracket.

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Big Ten

Believe it or not, only two seeds are known heading into the final weekend of Big Ten play: Indiana as the No. 9 seed and Northwestern as the No. 12 seed. The Hoosiers will face either Michigan or Michigan State, while the Wildcats will meet either Minnesota or Nebraska.

While you may have seen Wisconsin celebrate on its home court the other night, the Badgers have not locked up the No. 1 seed just yet. They can do so with a home win on Sunday against Nebraska OR an Illinois loss at home to Iowa.

However, Illinois can grab the top spot with a win over Iowa and a third straight road upset by the Huskers.

Regardless of what happens this weekend, Illinois, Purdue and Wisconsin will have double byes into the quarterfinals on Friday. The Boilermakers will end up as either a No. 2 or No. 3 seed.

The fourth and final double-bye will go to either Iowa, Rutgers or Ohio State. Iowa has the inside track since it beat Ohio State in their only regular season meeting, so a win at Illinois guarantees the Hawkeyes the No. 4 seed.

However, a loss would give it to Ohio State if the Buckeyes get a home win over Michigan. If both Iowa and Ohio State go down, Rutgers can sneak into the No. 4 seed with a home win over Penn State. If they all lose, Iowa gets it.


Big 12

The Big 12 is a bit unique this year since it will only be a nine-team tournament due to Oklahoma State’s postseason ban. As a result, the top seven teams all receive a bye in Kansas City, MO.

The only seeds locked in ahead of this weekend are Texas (No. 4) and West Virginia (No. 9). In the lone first-round matchup, the Mountaineers will face the loser of Oklahoma at Kansas State. Meanwhile, Chris Beard’s bunch will take on either TCU or Iowa State.

At the top of the standings, Kansas and Baylor are tied at 13-4 in league play, with Texas Tech sitting one game back at 12-5.

The Jayhawks can clinch the No. 1 seed with a win over Texas on Saturday, or a Baylor loss at home vs. Iowa State. For what it’s worth, the Jayhawks have amazingly won 38 straight games on Senior Day.

In order for the Bears to get the top seed, they need to win and hope Kansas loses.

Texas Tech also has an outside shot — if it wins at Oklahoma State and both Kansas and Baylor lose. In that scenario, the Red Raiders would win a three-way tiebreaker as a result of their 3-1 head-to-head record. Is Lubbock rooting for Texas on Saturday?

Gotta love March.


Big East

Providence is locked into the No. 1 seed on the top half of the bracket, while Villanova has the No. 2 in the bottom half.

Three other teams will also receive a bye, including Creighton and UConn. The fifth and final bye comes down to either Marquette or Seton Hall, which is the biggest storyline for the Big East on Saturday.

Since Marquette swept Seton Hall in the regular season, the Golden Eagles can clinch the No. 5 seed with a home win over St. John’s OR a Seton Hall loss at Creighton. The odd man out will get the No. 6 seed and move to Villanova’s half of the bracket to face Georgetown in the first round.

Meanwhile, Xavier is locked into the No. 8 seed and will face either Butler or DePaul, with the other set to face No. 7 seed St. John’s.

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Big Sky

It will be a pretty anti-climatic final weekend in the Big Sky after Montana State locked up the outright regular season title and No. 1 overall seed on Thursday.

That means the Bobcats will receive one of the five first-round byes in the 11-team tournament.

While the order of the 2-5 seeds can still change, we do know that Weber State, Southern Utah, Northern Colorado and Montana will finish in the top five and receive a bye.

The remaining six teams will all play in the first round, with matchups dependent on Saturday’s outcomes.


Big West

UC San Diego is ineligible for postseason play as it transitions to D-I, but the other 10 teams will compete in the Big West Tournament.

Long Beach State is locked into the No. 1 seed, which comes with a first-round bye. While we don’t know exact seeding yet, we do know the other five teams that will receive a bye, in addition to both first-round matchups.

Ultimately, there isn’t much to be determined on the final day of the regular season in the Big West.


Ivy League

The four-team field for the Ivy League playoff has already been determined. Therefore, none of the Ivy results matter for postseason contention.

If you’re curious, Princeton will take on Cornell and Yale will face Penn on Harvard’s campus next weekend in the semifinals.


MAC

Heading into the last day of the regular season, not one single seed has been locked in for the MAC Tournament. There are still nine teams in contention for the eight-team bracket, with Northern Illinois, Eastern Michigan and Western Michigan already eliminated.

Six teams have already qualified, while Miami (OH), Bowling Green and Central Michigan will battle for the final two spots.

In all likelihood, we will end up with Miami (OH) and CMU, unless BGSU pulls off a stunner against northwest Ohio rival Toledo. Even if the Falcons do indeed shock the world, they would still need at least one of those other two teams to lose.

If you’re into true chaos, root for wins by CMU and BGSU, in addition to a loss by Miami (OH). CMU would get the No. 7 seed, and it appears the No. 8 seed would come down to a coin flip based on the MAC tiebreaker rules.

I don’t know who flips it or where, but I’m here for it.

Now, if Bowling Green can’t pull off the upset, that means Toledo clinches the No. 1 overall seed. However, a Toledo loss could open the door for Kent State to take it if the Golden Flashes can also beat Buffalo.

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MAAC

All 11 teams make the MAAC Tournament, with each of the top five seeds getting a first-round bye.

The only seed set in stone is Iona in the top spot. Of the four other teams that receive a bye, we know three: Saint Peter’s, Siena and Monmouth.

Marist had its longest winning streak in 15 years come to an end on Thursday, which means it needs a road win at Niagara this weekend to secure the final bye.

However, a loss would open the door for Niagara, which would earn it if Fairfield loses at Saint Peter’s. If Fairfield and Niagara both win, the Stags take it.


Mountain West

I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait for this tournament. We actually have a good chunk of the bracket already filled out heading into Saturday.

We know all three first-round matchups:

  • Nevada vs. New Mexico
  • Utah State vs. Air Force
  • Fresno State vs. San Jose State

The winner of that Nevada-New Mexico game will take on Boise State, which has already clinched the No. 1 seed.

We also know the 4-5 matchup as the hometown Rebels will take on Wyoming.

The only thing left to settle is who gets the No. 2 seed between San Diego State and Colorado State. The Aztecs can clinch the No. 2 seed with a win at Nevada or a Colorado State home loss to Boise State.


Pac-12

We know the top and bottom seeds of the 12-team field, with Arizona locked in at No. 1 and the defending champion Oregon State Beavers at No. 12.

The rest of the seeds are still up for grabs.

We do know UCLA and USC have two of the other three byes locked up, with the winner of their game getting the No. 2 seed. The loser will get the No. 3 in the same half of the bracket.

If Colorado wins at Utah OR Oregon loses at Washington State, the final bye will go to the Buffs. The Cougs also still have a shot if they beat Oregon and Colorado loses to Utah.

Without the bye, a team must win four games in four days to cut down the nets in Las Vegas — although, the No. 6 seed gets placed opposite of Arizona. Double-edged sword.


SEC

It pays to finish in the top four of the standings in the SEC, since those teams get the luxury of a double-bye into the quarterfinals. While we don’t know the order just yet, we do know who those four teams will be:

  • Auburn
  • Tennessee
  • Arkansas
  • Kentucky

Auburn actually sits one game ahead of the other three on that list. The Tigers can clinch the outright regular season title and the No. 1 seed with a win over South Carolina on Saturday.

If Auburn loses, the winner of Arkansas-Tennessee will share the regular season title, and get the No. 1 seed. In that scenario, Kentucky could also share the title with a victory at Florida, but the Cats can’t get the No. 1 seed.

Moving down to the cellar of the standings, we already know the two first-round matchups: Ole Miss-Missouri and Vanderbilt-Georgia.

The other six teams, which will each get only one bye, are all within one game in the standings, so their seeding will depend on Saturday’s results.

Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images. Pictured: Bruce Pearl (Auburn)

SWAC

Eight of the 12 SWAC teams make the conference tournament, which doesn’t have any byes.

Mississippi Valley State and Arkansas-Pine Bluff have been eliminated, leaving 10 teams for eight spots. The final two will come down to four teams: Jackson State, Prairie View A&M, Bethune-Cookman and Alabama State.

Alcorn State has clinched the No. 1 seed thanks to its one-game lead over a Texas Southern team that it swept.


WAC

The WAC is chaos. Only one seed has been locked (Cal Baptist, No. 8) ahead of the final day of the regular season.

And that’s massive considering how important seeding is in this conference. Remember, the top two seeds receive triple-byes into the semifinals. Two others get double-byes and two more get single-byes.

We know 10 of the 13 league teams that will compete in the tournament already. Dixie State and Tarleton State are ineligible during their D-I transition period, and Lamar has been eliminated.

Now, let’s get back to the chaos at the top of the standings, where we currently have a three-way tie for first between New Mexico State, Seattle and Stephen F. Austin.

If all three win, they will share the regular season title, but NMSU would get the No. 1 seed and Seattle would grab the highly-coveted No. 2.

There’s a wild scenario where we get a five-way tie if Grand Canyon wins and the three teams above all lose. Sam Houston, which doesn’t have a game this weekend, would also be in that tie.

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