Conference Tournament Preview

Conference tournament
Dana Evans leads Louisville in a two-week sprint to selection Monday. Credit: Jody Demling, 247Sports

No matter how big of a WNBA or NBA fan one professes to be, let’s face it: we love March the most. However, the women’s tournament won’t start for over two weeks? Good gravy, we can’t wait that long! Thankfully, with the major conference tournaments beginning this week, we don’t have to! NBS has you covered with previews of the Big Ten, Pac-12, Big-12, SEC, ACC, and “other” (other isn’t just a 2% throwaway though; still great basketball!)

ACC

Where: Greensboro, North Carolina

When: Wednesday through Sunday

Notre Dame is a prohibitive favorite to; hold on a second, they’re the ten seed? Yep, after brutal graduation losses, the fighting Irish are fighting for their postseason lives. The favorite is instead regular season outright champion Louisville and conference player of the year Dana Evans. According to the official NCAA sneak preview and bracketing principles, the Cardinals probably lock as the #2 seed in Fort Wayne, barring an extraordinary Maryland upset. Conference is about pride, however; there’s no better satisfaction in basketball than besting one’s peers and rivals.

#2 NC State is fading and needs a strong showing to improve seeding, while #3 Duke is fighting for every win. There’s not much excitement outside the top three, other than the chance to relax on selection Monday.

SEC

Where: Greenville, South Carolina

When: Wednesday through Sunday

First note: the Lady Vols have never missed the NCAAs, but at 20-9 could use at least one win to ensure another ticket. Looking at the top of the bracket, 16-0 SEC and #1 projected overall seed South Carolina looms like an executioner. The lady Gamecocks won four straight SEC bracket crowns before Missippi State dethroned them last season. The #3 Bulldogs are in a transition phase but want to remind the nation of the only team ever to make Uconn 111-1. Kentucky somewhat overachieved at #2, while Junior phenom Chennedy Carter has ambition to give the #4 Aggies a boost in an inconsistent 2020.

Big Ten

Where: Indianapolis

When: Wednesday through Sunday

Maryland and Northwestern shared the conference title, but Maryland projects as #4 overall with the Wildcats #9. ESPNW legend Rebecca Lobo opined that the Terrapins are equal to the much-ballyhooed top three, so the rest of the Big Ten must proceed cautiously. The Wildcats, however, have a goal to make a school statement as a for-real athletics program. The rest of the field is unimpressive in a conference that, sadly, underemphasizes women’s basketball.

Pac-12

Where: Las Vegas

When: Thursday to Sunday

#1 Oregon and stupendous senior Sabrina Ionescu top basketball’s most competitive conference. Ionescu’s 26 triple-doubles are the most in college ever, and she’s the only player with 2,000 points, 1,000 rebounds, and 1,000 assists. Her potential opponents include #2 UCLA and #3 Stanford. Regional placement is critical, as the top two seeds can’t be from the same conference.  The Cardinal and Bruins, then, desire to win to avoid the South Carolina region. (Oregon will play in Portland). #6 Oregon State plays to retain a top 16 NCAA seed (the best 16 host the first weekend).

The Ducks appear nearly invincible now, but it’s called March Madness for a reason. (Well, maybe this year it’s just teams mad they have to play Oregon).

Big 12

Where: Kansas City, Missouri

When: March 12th-March 15th

Baylor swept through the Big 12 undefeated and is miles better than the competition. The sizable post menace Lauren Cox leads the defending national champion Bears in an event with little widespread anticipation. Texas, previously an elite program, is currently third at six games back. West Virginia, then #6, pulled a significant upset to win in 2017, so the outcome isn’t guaranteed. Yes, Baylor has disappointed in March, but more likely, the other nine teams will be even more disappointed in 2020.

Other

Again, not a Green Party sideshow; every conference tournament is intriguing. The American (Friday-Monday in Uncasville, Connecticut) features a Uconn team stampeding to a seventh straight AAC tourney title. In the Big East (Friday-Monday, Chicago) coach Doug Bruno muses how to keep NCAA home court for DePaul and stabilize for a first-ever Final Four appearance. And #1 seed Stony Brook, in the America East (March 4th, 8th, and 13th, campus sites) must dismiss a shocking loss to winless Hartford to make the NCAAs.

With Oregon, South Carolina, and Baylor seemingly laps ahead, each conference tournament offers last chances to either make the NCAAs or gain skills and confidence for a champion. And if the ambitious young women are to hold the walnut and bronze, they should accept their precious opportunity to compete with sanity too rare in March.

Jeffrey Newholm
About Jeffrey Newholm 202 Articles
Hey there! I’m Jeff Newholm and depending on your point of view I’m blessed or cursed that my two favorite sports are outside the limelight. Being a UW-Whitewater grad (winter 2013) my first love was d3 college football, but over the last few years I have picked up a huge interest in woman’s basketball (Uconn being my favorite team as their 90 game winning streak helped show me how good a team can get in the woman’s game). I like all the sports everyone else likes (NFL, NBA, MLB, NCAA basketball and football) but those two sports are where I really have a passion.
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