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MAC opens tourney, and four leagues crown champs

Mike Huguenin
Yahoo Sports

The Mid-American Conference tourney opens Monday, and four other leagues have their tournaments finals.

Finals will be held in the Colonial, Metro Atlantic Athletic, Southern and West Coast. The WCC is a lock to get more than one bid, while the CAA could get two. The MAAC and Southern will get one.

[ Related: North Carolina claims ACC title, eyes bigger prize | UNC crushes Duke ]

The power conferences begin tournament play Tuesday, with the opening of the Big East tourney in Madison Square Garden. The Big 12 and Pac-12 tourneys get under way Wednesday, and the ACC, Big Ten and SEC start Thursday.

Here’s a quick look at each conference tournament, with expanded info on a league as its tourney begins. The Ivy League is the only league without a tournament.

Conference tournaments
America East
When: March 1, 3-4, 10
Where: Hartford, Conn.; final is at site of best remaining seed.
TV for final: 11 a.m., ESPN2
Regular-season champ: Stony Brook
Format: All nine teams qualified, with the No. 8 and No. 9 seeds meeting in a sort of play-in game.
Projected NCAA bids: 1
The buzz: Stony Brook won the regular-season title by a game over Vermont; the teams split their regular-season games, with each winning at home. Stony Brook has won 11 of its past 12, with the only loss by 19 at Vermont. Vermont also has won 11 of 12, but its loss was a shocker to Binghamton, who was winless going into the game. Stony Brook is 12-0 at home this season, which is noteworthy because the Seawolves will play every league tourney game at home. A potential dark horse is fifth-seeded New Hampshire, which has won five of its past six, including wins over third-seeded Boston U. and fourth-seeded Albany.
The pick: Stony Brook
Atlantic 10
When: March 6, 9-11
Where: Atlantic City, N.J., with first-round games at campus sites.
TV for final: 1 p.m., CBS
Regular-season champ: Temple
Format: The top 12 teams qualify, and the top four seeds get a first-round bye.
Atlantic Coast
When: March 8-11
Where: Atlanta
TV for final: 1 p.m., ACC syndication/ESPN
Regular-season champ: TBD
Format: All 12 teams qualify. The top four seeds get first-round byes.
Atlantic Sun
When: Feb. 29-March 3
Where: Macon, Ga.
TV for final: 7 p.m., ESPN2
Regular-season champ: Belmont
Format: The top eight qualify. The top two seeds play their first-round games on Feb. 29, then would get a day off if they win before the semifinals.
Projected NCAA bids: 1
The buzz: Belmont won the regular-season title by three games but still wasn't as dominant as expected. The Bruins are aiming for their second NCAA bid in a row and their fifth in seven seasons. They come in riding an 11-game winning streak. You can be sure Belmont is wary of second-seeded Mercer, the tourney host; Belmont swept the season series with the Bears but only by a combined five points, including a one-pointer at Mercer in the regular-season finale. Still, the host Bears come in having lost three of four. Third-seeded USC Upstate, which handed Belmont one of its two league losses, has won five of its past six. But Upstate lost twice to Mercer this season.
The pick: Belmont
Big East
When: March 6-10
Where: New York.
TV for final: 9 p.m., ESPN
Regular-season champ: Syracuse
Format: All 16 teams qualify. The top four seeds get a bye into the quarterfinals; seeds five through eight get a first-round bye.
Big Sky
When: March 3, 6-7
Where: Campus sites in the first round; the regular-season champ hosts the semifinals and final.
TV for final: 9 p.m., ESPN2
Regular-season champ: Montana
Format: The top six teams qualified, with the top two seeds getting byes into the semifinals. The "better" seed hosts in the first round.
Projected NCAA bids: 1
The buzz: Montana won the regular-season title by a game over Weber State, with Portland State five games back in third. Montana and Weber split the season series, with each winning at home. Montana will play each of its league tourney games at home, but Weber has the best player in the league in G Damian Lillard, the nation's No. 2 scorer (24.5 ppg). Montana has won 12 in a row since losing at Weber State on Jan. 14; the Grizzlies' most recent win was by 15 over Weber in the regular-season finale on Feb. 28. Weber's seven-game winning streak was snapped in that loss. Portland State, which has won six of its past seven, was the only other team in the nine-team league to finish above .500 in league play.
The pick: Weber State
Big South
When: Feb. 27, 29, March 1, 3
Where: Campus sites in the first round. UNC Asheville, the regular-season winner, hosts the quarterfinals and semifinals, and the best remaining seed hosts the final.
TV for final: Noon, ESPN2
Regular-season champ: UNC Asheville
Format: Ten of the 11 teams qualify. As a provisional member, Presbyterian is ineligible for the tourney. The top six seeds get a bye into the second round.
Projected NCAA bids: 1
The buzz: UNC Asheville won the regular-season title by four games. The Bulldogs were 12-2 at home this season, losing only to North Carolina and Charleston Southern. Charleston Southern is the No. 4 seed and is in the same bracket as UNCA. UNCA won the conference tourney last season, upsetting top-seeded Coastal Carolina in the final. Coastal is seeded second this season and beat UNCA by five at home on Feb. 14. But Coastal is stumbling into the tourney, having lost five of its past seven. Third-seeded Campbell has lost four of its past six, while Charleston Southern split its past eight games. A dark-horse is fifth-seeded Liberty, which has won five of its past six for coach Dale Layer, in his third season with the Flames after being fired at Colorado State. But Liberty is 14-17 overall and lost its two games to UNC Asheville by a combined 37 points.
The pick: UNC Asheville
Big Ten
When: March 8-11
Where: Indianapolis
TV for final: 3:30 p.m., CBS
Regular-season champ: TBD
Format: All 12 teams qualify. The top four seeds get byes into the second round.
Big 12
When: March 7-10
Where: Kansas City, Mo.
TV for final: 6 p.m., ESPN
Regular-season champ: Kansas
Format: All 10 teams qualify. The top six seeds get byes into the second round.
Big West
When: March 8-10
Where: Anaheim, Calif.
TV for final: 10 p.m., ESPN2
Regular-season champ: Long Beach State
Format: The top eight teams qualify.
Colonial
When: March 2-5
Where: Richmond, Va.
TV for final: 7 p.m., ESPN
Regular-season champ: Drexel
Format: All 12 teams qualifies. The top four seeds received byes into the second round.
Projected NCAA bids: 1-2
The buzz: This will be one of the most scrutinized mid-major tourneys, both for the solid play and for the intrigue. The CAA has two produced two Final Four teams in the past six seasons (George Mason in 2006 and VCU last season), and though the league as a whole doesn't have the same power numbers it has had in recent seasons, it has three relatively high-level teams in Drexel, VCU and George Mason. Drexel won the regular-season title by one game over VCU and by two over Mason; the Dragons also beat both in their lone head-to-head matchups this season, while VCU and Mason split their season series. Drexel started 0-2 in league play, but carries a 17-game winning streak (including 16 in a row over league opponents) into the conference tourney. VCU has won 14 of 15, with the only loss a one-point setback at Mason. George Mason, in turn, comes in on a two-game losing streak. VCU and Drexel can make a case for potential at-large bids, albeit not strong ones. VCU, whose RPI was 58th after play Wednesday, is 12-5 away from home and has four top-100 wins. Drexel, whose RPI was 64th, also is 12-5 away from home and has four top-100 wins. Still, both will be in the at-large discussion should they advance to the CAA final. Mason has to win the tourney to get an NCAA bid. Keep an eye on fifth-seeded Delaware. The Blue Hens have won eight in a row and 10 of 12, and they own victories this season over Drexel and Mason.
The pick: Drexel
Conference USA
When: March 7-10
Where: Memphis, Tenn.
TV for final: 11:30 a.m., CBS
Regular-season champ: TBD
Format: All 12 teams qualify. The top four seeds get byes into the second round.
Horizon
When: Feb. 28, March 2-3, 6
Where: First round is at campus sites; Valparaiso, the regular-season champ, hosts the quarterfinals and semifinals, with the best remaining seed hosting the final.
TV for final: 9 p.m., ESPN
Regular-season champ: Valparaiso
Format: All 10 teams qualify. The No. 1 and 2 seeds get byes into the semifinals.
Projected NCAA bids: 1
The buzz: This will be one of the most closely watched smaller league tourneys simply because this has been Butler's domain. The Bulldogs have made five consecutive NCAA appearances, but the only way that increases to six is if they win the league tourney. Butler is seeded fifth and comes in having won six of eight. But one of those losses came at league champ Valpo in the regular-season finale. Valpo won the regular-season title by two games, and the Crusaders closed by winning seven of their final eight conference games. Fourth-seeded UW Milwaukee bears watching; the Panthers won at Valpo this season and also beat second-seeded Cleveland State, third-seeded Detroit and Butler. Valpo is 13-2 at home this season and is guaranteed to play every league tourney game on its home court.
The pick: UW Milwaukee
Metro Atlantic Athletic
When: March 2-5
Where: Springfield, Mass.
TV for final: 7 p.m., ESPN2
Regular-season champ: TBD
Format: All 10 teams qualified. The top six seeds received byes into the second round, and the No. 7 seed plays the No. 10 and the No. 8 plays the No. 9 in the first round.
Projected NCAA bids: 1
The buzz: Iona won the regular-season title by two games over surprising Loyola (Md.), which split the season series with the Gaels. Iona has modest at-large credentials, with a 14-5 record away from home and five top-100 wins. The Gaels should at least be in the at-large discussion if they advance to the league tourney final. Iona has won nine of its past 10, with the only loss in that span at Loyola. Loyola, on the other hand, is limping in; the Greyhounds have lost three of their past five, including a shocking 18-point loss to eighth-seeded Marist. Interestingly, Marist has won six of eight, but the Red Foxes still are one of just four league teams having to play in the first round of the tourney.
The pick: Iona
Mid-American
When: March 5, 7-10
Where: Cleveland, but with first-round games at campus sites.
TV for final: 8 p.m., ESPN2
Regular-season champ: Akron
Format: All 12 teams qualify. The division winners are the top two seeds and they get byes into the semifinals. The rest of the teams are seeded by conference record, regardless of division. The No. 3 and 4 seeds get byes into the quarterfinals.
Projected NCAA bids: 1
The buzz: Akron won the regular-season title by a game over Buffalo, which swept the season series with the Zips. Eastern Michigan won the West Division title but is the No. 5 seed. The Eagles were the only team in their division to finish with a league record above .500 and are 14-17 overall. A strong case can be made that the league's four best teams are in the East Division. Akron comes in having lost three of five. Buffalo has split its past six games. Ohio, which finished third in the East, has won five of its past six, split with Akron and swept the season series with Buffalo. Kent State, which was fourth in the East, has lost four of its past five, was swept by Akron and split with Buffalo and Ohio. In short, this should be an interesting tourney. Akron is looking for its second bid in a row and its third in four seasons.
The pick: Buffalo
Mid-Eastern Athletic
When: March 6-10
Where: Winston-Salem, N.C.
TV for final: 1 p.m., ESPN2
Regular-season champ: TBD
Format: All 13 teams qualify. The top three seeds get byes into the second round.
Missouri Valley
When: March 1-4
Where: St. Louis
TV for final: 2 p.m., CBS
Regular-season champ: Wichita State
Format: All 10 teams qualified. The top six seeds received byes into the second round; the No. 7 seed plays the No. 10 and the No. 8 plays the No. 9 in the first round.
Projected NCAA bids: 2-3
The buzz: Wichita state won the regular-season title by two games over Creighton, and there was a five-way tie for third, with those teams five games behind Creighton. Wichita and Creighton are NCAA locks, so if any other team earns the automatic bid, that's bad news for some bubble teams. Keep an eye on third-seeded Evansville, which split with Creighton and played Wichita State close in one of their meetings.
The pick: Creighton
Mountain West
When: March 6-10
Where: Las Vegas
TV for final: 7 p.m., NBC Sports Network
Regular-season champ: TBD
Format: All eight teams qualify.
Northeast
When: March 1, 4, 7
Where: Campus sites
TV for final: 7 p.m., ESPN2
Regular-season champ: Long Island
Format: The top eight teams qualified, and the "better" seeds host in each round.
Projected NCAA bids: 1
The buzz: LIU won the regular-season crown by a game over Wagner. LIU, which prefers a fast pace, swept the season series with the Seahawks. LIU is 12-0 at home and will play at home in each of its league tourney games. Wagner comes in having won nine of 10. But the loss came to Quinnipiac, and they meet in the first round. Sixth-seeded Monmouth bears watching. The Hawks have won five of six, including a 28-point demolition of LIU. But Monmouth gets third-seeded Robert Morris in the first round, and Robert Morris swept the season series.
The pick: Long Island
Ohio Valley
When: Feb. 29-March 3
Where: Nashville, Tenn.
TV for final: 2 p.m., ESPN2
Regular-season champ: Murray State
Format: The top eight teams qualify. The No. 1 and 2 seeds get byes into the semifinals. The No. 3 and 4 seeds get byes into the second round. The No. 5 seed plays the No. 8 and the No. 6 plays the No. 7 in the first round.
Projected NCAA bids: 1-2
The buzz: This is another league tournament that will be heavily scrutinized. Murray State, which is 28-1 and 29th in the RPI after Sunday's action, won the regular-season title four games, and the Racers were the last team to lose a game this season. But the schedule hasn't been overly taxing, and Murray played just four foes in the RPI top-100. The Racers beat them all, though, including Memphis, Southern Miss and Saint Mary's. It would appear they are safely in the NCAAs regardless of what happens in this tourney. But any loss suffered by Murray in this event is going to be a bad one, and the Racers would be better off not tempting fate. Second-seeded Tennessee State has won nine of its past 10, both losing to and beating Murray in that stretch. Third-seeded Morehead State is the other team to watch; the Eagles won seven of their final nine conference games.
The pick: Murray State
Pacific-12
When: March 7-10
Where: Los Angeles
TV for final: 6 p.m., CBS
Regular-season champ: TBD
Format: All 12 teams qualify. The top four seeds get byes into the second round.
Patriot
When: Feb. 29, March 3, 7
Where: Campus sites
TV for final: 7 p.m., CBS Sports Network
Regular-season champ: Bucknell
Format: All eight teams qualified. The "better" seed hosts in each round.
Projected NCAA bids: 1
The buzz: Bucknell won the regular-season title by a game over Lehigh; the teams split the season series, with each winning on the road. Lehigh comes in on a five-game winning streak, and one of those victories was a three-pointer at Bucknell on Feb. 16. The hot finish was a bit of an aberration, though, as three of the victims were Army, Navy and Colgate, which won a combined seven league games. Bucknell's only league losses came in back-to-back games Feb. 16 and 18. Before the loss to Lehigh on the 16th, the Bison had won 12 in a row. Fourth-seeded Holy Cross could be the dark horse; the Crusaders beat Bucknell and Lehigh, and come in on a six-game winning streak.
The pick: Bucknell
SEC
When: March 8-11
Where: New Orleans
TV for final: 1 p.m., ABC
Regular-season champ: Kentucky
Format: All 12 teams qualify. The top four seeds get byes into the second round.
Southern
When: March 2-5
Where: Asheville, N.C.
TV for final: 9 p.m., ESPN2
Regular-season champ: Davidson
Format: All 12 teams qualify. The No. 1 and 2 seeds from each division get byes into the second round.
Projected NCAA bids: 1
The buzz: Davidson dominated the league, winning the regular-season title by four games. The Wildcats, who won at Kansas in December, did lose twice on the road in league play. But they beat the teams that beat them handily at home. And each of Davidson's past seven league wins has been by a double-digit margin. Davidson is one of just three league teams that have an overall winning record; the others are College of Charleston and Wofford. Charleston, one of the teams that beat Davidson, comes in having won six of seven. UNC Greensboro, which won the North Division crown and thus is seeded second, is 12-18 overall. It would be a surprise if there is more than one North Division team in the semifinals.
The pick: Davidson
Southland
When: March 7-8, 10
Where: Katy, Texas
TV for final: 3 p.m., ESPN2
Regular-season champ: UT Arlington
Format: The top eight teams regardless of division qualify.
Southwestern Athletic
When: March 7-10
Where: Garland, Texas
TV for final: 8 p.m., ESPNU
Regular-season champ: Mississippi Valley
Format: The top eight teams qualify. Grambling and Southern are ineligible for postseason play because of bad APR numbers.
Summit
When: March 3-6
Where: Sioux Falls, S.D.
TV for final: 9 p.m., ESPN2
Regular-season champ: Oral Roberts
Format: The top eight teams qualified. As a provisional member of Division I, South Dakota was ineligible for the postseason.
Projected NCAA bids: 1
The buzz: Oral Roberts won the regular-season title by two games over South Dakota State; Oakland finished third, six games back, and was the only other team to finish above .500 in the conference. ORU and SDSU split their season series, with each winning at home. Oral Roberts' loss at South Dakota State was its only setback since Dec. 15; the Golden Eagles come in having won 19 of their past 20, including a 22-point mauling of host Xavier. South Dakota State has won eight of its past nine. A dark horse might be seventh-seeded IUPUI, which has won six of eight. The two losses in that span were in OT at ORU and at South Dakota State. IUPUI meets South Dakota State in the first round of the league tourney. While South Dakota State isn't playing at home, the Jackrabbits should enjoy a home-court advantage nonetheless; SDSU's campus in Brookings is about 60 miles from Sioux Falls, S.D., which is the site of this tourney.
The pick: Oral Roberts
Sun Belt
When: March 3-6
Where: Hot Springs, Ark.
TV for final: 7 p.m., ESPN2
Regular-season champ: Middle Tennessee
Format: Louisiana-Monroe, which was 2-14 in the league, is banned from postseason play because of low APR scores, so it will be an 11-team tourney this season. The division champs received byes into the second round, as do the teams seeded third through fifth. In the first round, the No. 6 seed plays the No. 11 seed, the No. 7 plays the No. 10 and the No. 8 plays the No. 9.
Projected NCAA bids: 1
The buzz: Middle Tennessee won the regular-season title by two games over Arkansas-Little Rock, which will be playing this tourney about 45 miles from its campus. MTSU beat visiting UALR, which is just 15-15 overall, by eight in the teams' lone regular-season meeting. The only teams to beat MTSU in league play are third-seeded Denver and seventh-seeded Western Kentucky; those two teams, along with UALR, are in the opposite bracket from MTSU. Arkansas-Little Rock comes in having won seven of nine, and the Trojans were the surprise league tourney winners last season. Denver has won five of its past six; this is the last go-round for the Pioneers in the Sun Belt, as they are leaving for the WAC next season.
The pick: Middle Tennessee
West Coast
When: Feb. 29-March 3, 5
Where: Las Vegas.
TV for final: 9 p.m., ESPN
Regular-season champ: Saint Mary's
Format: All nine teams qualified, with the No. 8 and 9 seeds meeting in the opening-round game. The No. 1 and 2 seeds received byes into the semifinals. The No. 3 and 4 seeds received byes into the quarterfinals.
Projected NCAA bids: 2-3
The buzz: Saint Mary's won the regular-season title by a game over Gonzaga. The teams split the season series, with each winning at home. Both received byes into the semifinals and look to be safely in the field; BYU, which finished third in its first season in the league, also looks good for a bid. As long as the Cougars don't lose in the quarterfinals, they're in. Watch fourth-seeded Loyola Marymount, which won at Saint Mary's and BYU. The Lions are looking for their first NCAA bid since 1990, when they made a miracle run to the Elite Eight in the wake of the death of Hank Gathers.
The pick: Gonzaga
Western Athletic
When: March 7-10
Where: Las Vegas
TV for final: 11:59 p.m., ESPN2
Regular-season champ: TBD
Format: All eight teams qualify.

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