Previewing the conference tournaments that begin Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
All Games in St. Louis
Favorite: Creighton. The Blue Jays were a Final Four contender in my eyes, but their lack of attention to defense has come back to haunt them. To win they have to outscore teams and, most often, that’s good enough.
Contenders: Wichita State, Evansville, Indiana State. Wichita has to be viewed as co-favorite; the Shockers split two games vs. Creighton. Evansville will ride the sweet-shooting stroke of guard Colt Ryan. Indiana State has been inconsistent but they could easily win three games in a row (they could lose in the quarterfinals too).
Long shot: Illinois State. The Red Birds need an MVP performance from big man Jackie Carmichael.
Prediction: Wichita State.
All games in Springfield, Mass.
Favorite: Niagara. The Fightin’ Murphys were 3-6 at one point but finished in a rush to win the league. They are no lock, a lukewarm favorite at best.
Contenders: Loyola of Maryland, Iona, Rider. All the teams in the MAAC have flaws, a break here or there and any of these three could win it.
Long shot: Canisius. Baron and Son have been the surprise of the season and young Billy can fill it up for his coach/father Jim.
Prediction: Iona. The Gaels' high-scoring guard duo of Momo Jones and Sean Armand will prevail.
All games in Asheville, N.C.
Favorite: Davidson. This edition of the Wildcats is much like others; they shoot really well and play together. There’s no one player as good as Stephen Curry, but league player of the year Jake Cohen is tremendous.
Contenders: College of Charleston, Elon. Elon only lost by six to Davidson, while Charleston lost both games.
Long shot: Georgia Southern. The only team to beat Davidson this season.
All games in Sioux Falls, S.D.
Favorite: South Dakota State. The Bison and their spectacular guard Nate Wolters should return to the NCAA Tournament.
Contenders: Western Illinois, North Dakota State. North Dakota State holds a victory over South Dakota State while Western Illinois is a tough defensive team.
Long shot: Oakland. If sometimes spectacular shooter Travis Bader gets on a roll.
Prediction: South Dakota State
All games in Hot Springs, Ark.
Favorite: Middle Tennessee. The Blue Raiders were upset in the tournament last season, but they’re determined not to let that happen again after going 19-1 in the league.
Contenders: Arkansas State, South Alabama.
Long shot: North Texas. The Big Green upset their way to the conference tournament final last season.
Prediction: Middle Tennessee.
- Michael Vega
- Mark Blaudschun
- Nancy Marrapese-Burrell