By: Dan Leach
As sports fans salivate as the calendar turns to March, we all know the NCAA Tournament is right around the corner. On the way though, there is going to be the first rash of buzzer beaters, insane upsets, and broken hearts as the conference tournaments get going. I will take a look at conference tourneys far and wide, players who could become household names, and who will cut down the conference nets, getting you ready for what should be a March and April to remember.
MAC (March 11th-16th) Campus Sites and Quicken Loans Arena, Cleveland
Favorite-Akron (24-5 14-1) Odds to win -$125 the regular season Mac champ Zips have romped through conference play and have won 20 of their last 21 games overall. Their only loss since mid December was last weekend on the road at Buffalo. Led by big man and leader senior Zeke Marshall, forward Demetrius Treadwell, and guard Alex Abreu, the Zips are a true inside-outside team that is extremely hard to defend.
Contenders-Ohio (22-8 13-2) +$125
Western Michigan (18-11 9-6) +$350
DTM Pick-Ohio-Last years NCAA tourney darlings have had an up and down year thus far, but are playing their best basketball at the right time. They have won 14 of their last 17, with most wins by double digits. Senior guard D.J Cooper just went over 2,000 points for his career and was a big part of the Bobcats run to the Sweet Sixteen last year. The Bobcats other two senior leaders Reggie Keely and Walter Offutt have been playing great as well and averaging double digit scoring. The Zips are a very tough team, but I think it will come down to the Bobcats experience in the end and they are talented enough to make another run if they get into the Big Dance.
HORIZON (March 5th-12th) Campus Sites
Favorite- Valparaiso (24-7 13-3) Odds to win -$160 The mascot might remind you of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade , but Valpo has been playing at a high level for months now, winning 17 of their last 20. Forward Ryan Broekhoff is a beast and Alex Rossi is a three point assassin.
Contender- Detroit (20-11 12-4) +$190
DTM Pick- Detroit- The Titans are one of the most underrated teams in the country and point guard Ray McCallum Jr is one of the most underrated players in the country. The coach’s son, McCallum Jr is averaging 19.2 ppg, 4.7 apg, and almost 2 steals and can literally take over a game. Ray McCallum Sr has postseason tournament coaching experience and has been to the NCAA tourney three times.
Missouri Valley Conference (March 7th-10th) Scottrade Center, St Louis
Favorite-Creighton (24-7 13-5) -$150 The Blue Jays have been playing their best ball as of late, led by player of the year candidate and back-to-back MVC player of the year Doug McDermott. He can do it all for the Jays and is leading the team in scoring at 23.4 ppg and rebounds 7.6. Guard Grant Gibbs could be the X-factor as he rarely turns the ball over and his leadership has been huge for Creighton all season long.
Contenders- Wichita State (24-7 12-6) +$140 – The Shockers started the season on fire, but have cooled as of late. They still have the talent to win this tourney and should make the NCAA’s regardless. Coach Gregg Marshall is fast becoming one of the more respected mid-major coaches in the country and is building a heck of a program in Wichita. Keep your eye on forward Cleanthony Early who has one of the longest names in college hoops and also one of the largest wingspans.
Northern Iowa (18-13 11-7) +$280
DTM Pick- Creighton- March Madness is always a ton of fun and this year should be no different. Look for it to come down to the two best teams in the conference and for the Blue Jays led by one of the best players in the country, Doug McDermott to get it done in St Louie.
ATLANTIC 10 (March 14th-17th) Barclays Center, Brooklyn
Favorite- VCU (23-6 11-3) +$125 The Rams have been playing out of their minds and simply pummeling their opponents. None bigger than their recent 32 point win over conference newcomer Butler. Treveon Graham has been doing it all for the Rams and is one to watch if this team makes it to the Big Dance. Troy Daniels has been deadly from 3, and Juvonte Reddic has been something to behold on the defensive end. Look For Shaka Smart’s team to run through a very talented tourney and going into the NCAA’s with tremendous confidence.
Contenders- Saint Louis (23-6 12-2) +$150
La Salle (20-7 10-4) +$250
Butler (22-7 9-5) +$250
Dtm Pick- VCU
Dan Leach has a PhD in Bracketology and Semantics, just put down an $11,000,000 deposit to be the first human to walk the surface of Mars, and recently was invited by the Queen of England to perform his one man interpretation of “Red Dawn”