By Matt Citak
The calendar has flipped to March, which means we are just days away from the most exciting time of the year — March Madness. Thirteen conferences have already settled their tournaments, meaning 13 schools have already sealed their automatic bids to the Big Dance. Nineteen automatic bids remain up for grabs, with the rest of the conferences set to finish their tournaments this weekend.
Michigan pulls off upset, wins Big Ten Tournament at MSG
The Wolverines entered the Big Ten Tournament as the five seed. After a tough overtime win over Iowa in their first game, Michigan completely dominated Nebraska, winning by 19 to set up a semifinals matchup against the tournament’s one seed, Michigan State. But not even the Spartans could slow Michigan’s roll, as the Wolverines defeated their intrastate rival by 11 to set up a Championship Game against No. 8-ranked Purdue.
Led by Moe Wagner, Michigan defeated the Boilermakers, 75-66, to become the first team to repeat as Big Ten Tournament champions since Ohio State in 2010 and ’11. Wagner took home the honor of the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player after averaging 15.8 points in Michigan’s four games. Wagner and teammate Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman were named to the All-Tournament Team, along with Purdue’s Carsen Edwards, Penn State’s Tony Carr, and Rutgers’ Corey Sanders.
ACC Tournament features several powerhouses vying for championship
Over in Brooklyn, Duke is set to begin its attempt at repeating as ACC Tournament Champions. Tonight the Blue Devils will take the court for the first time, facing off against Notre Dame. The Fighting Irish put together an impressive comeback yesterday to take down Virginia Tech, keeping Notre Dame’s tournament hopes alive for at least one more day.
Virginia, the No. 1 seed in the tournament and the No. 1-ranked team in the country, had a tough matchup against No. 9 seed Louisville today. But the Cavaliers kept up their strong play, defeating the Cardinals by 17 to set up a semifinals game against the winner of Clemson and Boston College.
In what should be the best game among today’s ACC match-ups, No. 12-ranked UNC will battle No. 24-ranked Miami tonight at the Barclays Center. Whichever team comes out victorious will play the winner of the Duke-Notre Dame game, meaning if both favorites win their respective games, we will get another rematch between Duke and UNC. Battle for Tobacco Road, Round 3? Yes, please.
With Iowa State out, Big 12 will have a new champion
Iowa State could not repeat its magical run from last year, as the Cyclones fell to Texas in the opening round of the Big 12 Tournament last night. Texas moved on to the quarterfinals, where they will face Texas Tech. The Longhorns are looking to avenge the last meeting between the two teams, which resulted in an overtime loss at United Supermarkets Arena. This won’t be an easy feat, as Texas Tech enters the game ranked No. 14 in the country.
West Virginia is looking to push their season record against Baylor to 3-0 with a win tonight. If the Mountaineers do come out victorious, they will take on the winner of Texas vs. Texas Tech, both of whom West Virginia has faced within the last 10 days.
Elsewhere in the Big 12, No. 1 seed Kansas, ranked No. 9 in the country, should have a relatively easy game against No. 8 seed Oklahoma State, who they defeated by 18 this past Saturday. The winner of this contest will take on Kansas State in the semifinals.
SEC Tournament should be a nail-biter, while Arizona leads the way in the Pac-12
Kentucky has been the perennial powerhouse of the SEC in recent years, winning the last three conference tournaments. But things are different this year, as the Wildcats enter the 2018 SEC Tournament as the No. 4 seed. Auburn and Tennessee shared the conference’s regular-season title, with Auburn taking home the No. 1 seed and Tennessee owning the tournament’s No. 2 seed, thanks to the Tigers’ January 2nd win over the Volunteers.
Not to be forgotten is Florida, the tournament’s No. 3 seed. The Gators went 11-7 in conference play, but pulled off two big victories over Kentucky and one against Auburn over the last six weeks of the season. The betting odds are extremely close for these four schools, meaning we should witness a very entertaining SEC Tournament.
The same cannot be said about the Pac-12, as Arizona goes into the conference tournament as the heavy favorites. The Wildcats have had a rollercoaster of a season. Arizona began as the No. 3-ranked team in the country in the preseason polls and survived a suspension to guard Allonzo Trier, as well as allegations against head coach Sean Miller, just to come out the other side as the Pac-12 Tournament’s No. 1 seed. Arizona’s biggest competition is likely USC, who they would not have to face until the tournament championship.
Several mid-major conferences crown their champions
While the Big Ten is the only major conference to already have a champion, many smaller conferences have also finished their tournaments. Listed below are the 12 schools that have clinched their spots in the NCAA Tournament.
Atlantic Sun – Lipscomb
Big South – Radford
Colonial Athletic – Charleston
Horizon League – Wright State
Metro Atlantic Athletic – Iona
Missouri Valley – Loyola-Chicago
Northeast – LIU Brooklyn
Ohio Valley – Murray State
Patriot League – Bucknell
Southern – UNCG
Summit League – South Dakota State
West Coast – Gonzaga
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Matt Citak is a contributor for CBS Local Sports and a proud Vanderbilt alum. Follow him on Twitter.