Championship Week: Tracking top remaining conference tournaments
Conference tournament season is off and running. Four conferences — Atlantic Sun, Big South, Missouri Valley and Ohio Valley — crowned champions during the weekend, leaving 27 of the 31 automatic bids still up for grabs during Championship Week. FOX Sports South has pieced together a list of must-see tourneys and players leading up to Selection Sunday on March 15.
Mark Zerof-USA TODAY SportsMark Zerof
Pac-12: March 11-14, Las Vegas
MATCHUP WE WANT TO SEE: Arizona-Utah. The Wildcats only dropped two conference games, and weren't challenged often. Utah, led by dynamic guard Delon Wright, only fell by six to Arizona last month. PLAYER TO WATCH: Joseph Young, Oregon. Young led the Pac-12 in scoring, but teams have had success slowing him down lately. If the No. 2-seeded Ducks want to upset Utah and Arizona and take the conference crown, Young needs to score at will. PREDICTED CHAMP: Arizona. Outside of a rivalry loss to ASU on Feb. 7, Arizona won 14 of 15 games since the middle of January with just three of those wins by 10 points or less.
Russ Isabella-USA TODAY SportsRussell Isabella
Big 12: March 11-14, Kansas City, Mo.
MATCHUP WE WANT TO SEE: Iowa State-Oklahoma. Yes, Kansas took the league title again. But this would pit the league's best offense (Iowa State) vs. its best defense (Oklahoma) in an up-and-down affair. These two teams averaged 162 total points in their regular-season meetings. Yes, please. PLAYER TO WATCH: Georges Niang, Iowa State. A Swiss Army knife in an NBA system, the 6-foot-8 forward is one of the nation's most gifted offensive players. PREDICTED CHAMP: Oklahoma. Following a midseason swoon, the Sooners won nine of their final 11 games and can rely on their defense in times of need.
Atlantic 10: March 11-15, Brooklyn, NY
MATCHUP WE WANT TO SEE: Davidson-Dayton. With conference favorite VCU limited by injuries, the Wildcats and Flyers finished 1-2 in the standings. Davidson won the one regular-season matchup between the two 77-60, and a rematch would offer the mid-major league's best two teams before they look to make noise in the Big Dance. PLAYER TO WATCH: Tyler Kalinoski, Davidson. The 6-foot-4 senior has been an efficiency machine since arriving on campus, and he's filling up box scores again this season, averaging nearly 17 points and six rebounds. PREDICTED CHAMP: Dayton. In last season's NCAA darlings, Archie Miller has yet another balanced group that can make noise this month.
Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY SportsJeremy Brevard
SEC: March 11-15, Nashville, Tenn.
MATCHUP WE WANT TO SEE: LSU-Kentucky. Only four of UK's 18 conference wins were within seven points. The Tigers gave the 'Cats a scare and match up well. PLAYER TO WATCH: Karl-Anthony Towns, Kentucky. Towns, a certain NBA lottery pick, is a dominant force inside and has added to his all-around game. PREDICTED CHAMP: Kentucky. The Wildcats made it through the regular season with a perfect 31-0 record. They'll still be unbeaten after the SEC title game.
Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY SportDerick E. Hingle
ACC: March 10-14, Greensboro, NC
MATCHUP WE WANT TO SEE: Duke-Virginia. It's a rematch between the unquestioned top dogs in a competitive conference. Duke handed Virginia its first loss of the season, and will look to knock off the reigning champs again for Coach K's 14th ACC tourney title. PLAYER TO WATCH: Jerian Grant, Notre Dame. The 6-foot-5 guard is a superstar operating a top-15 offense nationally. He can take over at any moment. PREDICTED CHAMP: Virginia. Defense, defense, defense. After wrapping up a two-loss regular season, coach Tony Bennett's group takes care of business and earns a No. 1 seed in the Big Dance.
Geoff Burke-USA TODAY SportsGeoff Burke
Big East: March 11-14, New York (on FOX Sports 1)
MATCHUP WE WANT TO SEE: Villanova-Butler. There really hasn't been a blueprint drawn on how to beat regular-season champ Villanova, but Butler played the Wildcats somewhat close both times and have proven itself in big games. PLAYER TO WATCH: Kris Dunn, Providence. Dunn led the Big East in steals and assists and finished sixth in scoring — over his last three games he's scored 56 points If the Friars want to be around for the title game, Dunn must take them there. PREDICTED CHAMP: Villanova. The Wildcats have far and away been the best team in the Big East all season, and an NCAA tourney top seed is likely in their future.
Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY SportsBrian Spurlock
Mountain West: March 11-14, Las Vegas
MATCHUP WE WANT TO SEE: San Diego State-Boise State. The two Mountain West powers feature near-identical resumes and star power. Boise State solved the Aztecs' defense twice this season. Could the Broncos do it again? PLAYER TO WATCH: Derrick Marks, Boise State. With backcourt mate Anthony Drmic missing most of the season, Marks has completely taken over for the league champs, averaging nearly 20 points per game. PREDICTED CHAMPION: Colorado State. It's a surprise pick. Flying a bit under the radar, the Rams have proven they can hang with and beat the league's two top teams and they have the ability to push the tempo in a slow-paced tourney.
Brian Losness-USA TODAY SportsBrian Losness
Big Ten: March 11-15, Chicago
MATCHUP WE WANT TO SEE: Wisconsin-Maryland. Maryland might be ranked lower than Wisconsin, but a Feb. 24 win over the Badgers shows the Terps are capable of beating the regular-season champs. Maryland closed the season with a seven-game win streak. PLAYER TO WATCH: D'Angelo Russell, Ohio State. The Buckeyes could improve their NCAA seeding with multiple wins in the Big Ten tourney, and Russell putting up points is important to make that happen. He's scored 73 points in the last three games, and finished second in Big Ten scoring. PREDICTED CHAMP: Wisconsin. But it won't be easy. The Badgers likely are facing a tough semifinal foe in Purdue, then possibly Maryland or Michigan State in the final. Wins here could equal a 1-seed in the NCAA tournament.