Howard guard James Daniel (11) dribbles the ball past Rutgers guard Mike Williams during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Sunday, Nov. 15, 2015, in Piscataway, N.J. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)
(AP Photo/Mel Evans)

MEAC Conference Tournament Preview and Postseason Awards

Leave a comment

The MEAC conference tournament begins this week as No. 1 Hampton is the heavy favorite after making the NCAA tournament last season and winning the conference’s regular season. The Pirates (18-10, 13-3) are led by a strong inside-outside duo of Quinton Chievous and Reginald Johnson Jr as both players were first-team All-MEAC selections. Norfolk State, South Carolina State and Bethune-Cookman round out the top four seeds in the event as the winner of this conference tournament almost assuredly plays in a First Four game in Dayton.

The Bracket 

4582114

When: March 7-12

Where: Scope Arena, Norfolk, Va.

Final: March 12, 1:00 p.m. (ESPN2)

[   MORE: All of NBCSports.com’s conference tournament previews   ]

Favorite: Hampton

After making the NCAA tournament last season, the Pirates won the conference regular season and have the league’s best duo in Quinton Chievous and Reginald Johnson Jr. Hampton’s offense can struggle at times, but their defense is among the league’s best.

And if they lose?: Norfolk State

Riding the momentum of beating Hampton for the No. 2 seed in the tournament in the last game of the regular season, Norfolk State also owns a win over No. 3 seed South Carolina State in the last few weeks. The Spartans have shown that they can beat the league’s elite and senior guard Jeff Short is one of the top players in the MEAC.

Other Contenders:

  • South Carolina State: Over their last 15 games, the Bulldogs are 12-3 and two of those losses came against Savannah State.
  • Bethune-Cookman: Before a loss to South Carolina State, the Wildcats had won five straight games to get the No. 4 seed.

MEAC Player of the Year: James Daniel, Howard

The nation’s leading scorer (27.2 ppg) and No. 20 nationally in steals, Daniel did everything he could this season for Howard. The junior guard averaged 37.1 minutes per game and was held below 20 points three times all season. His season low was 15. Daniel isn’t the most efficient scorer in college basketball but he consistently puts up points and does it against all competition.

MEAC Coach of the Year: Gravelle Craig, Bethune-Cookman

After three consecutive losing seasons in conference play, Bethune-Cookman re-tooled with nearly an entirely new roster and finished fourth in conference play at 10-6. With only two players returning from last season’s team the Wildcats faced a ton of uncertainty but they were a surprise team in league play.

First-Team All-MEAC:

  • James Daniel, Howard
  • Quinton Chievous, Hampton
  • Reginald Johnson, Jr., Hampton
  • Jeff Short, Norfolk State
  • Dominique Elliott, UMES

CBT Prediction: Hampton over South Carolina State

Southern Conference Tournament Preview and Postseason Awards

Chattanooga head coach Matt McCall directs his team during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Iowa State, Monday, Nov. 23, 2015, in Ames, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
Chattanooga's Matt McCall (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
Leave a comment

This year’s version of the SoCon looks quite a bit different than last year’s version. Wofford, who won the league last season, saw their roster almost completely turned over. The team they beat in the SoCon title game last year, Furman, finished last place in the league a year ago. They’re the three seed this season. Will Wade left Chattanooga for VCU and Matt McCall, a first time head coach, out-dueled Steve Forbes, another first time Division I head coach, for the league title.

The Bracket 

16BKBrackets

When: March 4-7

Where: U.S. Cellular Center, Asheville, N.C.

Final: March 7th, 9:00 p.m. (ESPN2)

Favorite: Chattanooga

Matt McCall has done a phenomenal job with the Mocs this season. In his first season in Chattanooga, he lost his best player (Casey Jones) and not only won an outright SoCon regular season title, but he did it while beating Georgia, Illinois and Dayton in the process. If the Mocs can get through the SoCon tourney unscathed, they’re going to be a trendy upset pick when the brackets are released.

And if they lose?: East Tennessee State

Another head coach in his first season with a new program, former Wichita State assistant Steve Forbes brought in a boat load of transfers to build the Buccaneers into a contender. ETSU is the most talented team in the league, and while they did get swept by Chattanooga, the Bucs have won eight of their last nine games.

Other Contenders

  • Furman: Niko Medved has done a great job building on last year’s fluky run to the league title game, finishing tied for third in the league while getting carried by Stephen Croone to the league title game.
  • Wofford: The Terriers had a ton of turnover in the offseason, but they’ve been the most consistent program in the league for years.

SoCon Player of the Year: Ge’Lawn Guyn, ETSU

In his first season in the league, the Cincinnati transfer played like a high major prospect, averaging better than 18 points for the Buccaneers. Guyn played a major role in ETSU finishing second in the conference this season.

SoCon Coach of the Year: Matt McCall, Chattanooga

We touched on it earlier, but in his first season as a head coach, McCall won the conference outright and picked off three high-major teams — including Dayton at Dayton! — more or less without the Preseason SoCon Player of the Year. That’s damn impressive.

First-Team All-SoCon

  • Ge’Lawn Guyn, ETSU
  • Stephen Croone, Furman
  • Justin Tuoyo, Chattanooga
  • Tre’ McLean, Chattanooga
  • Spencer Collins, Wofford

CBT Prediction: Furman makes another run to the finals, picking off Chattanooga this season.

West Coast Conference Tournament Preview and Postseason Awards

Saint Mary's coach Randy Bennett argues a call, during the first half of the team's NCAA college basketball game against Gonzaga in Moraga, Calif., on Thursday, Jan. 21, 2016. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar)
AP Photo/Tony Avelar
Leave a comment

In recent years the regular season champion of the West Coast Conference would arrive in Las Vegas feeling secure about its chances of landing an NCAA tournament bid even if they didn’t managed to grab the league’s automatic bid. Things aren’t as comfortable this time around for either Saint Mary’s or Gonzaga, as their non-conference slates either lacked the challenging games (Saint Mary’s) or quality wins (Gonzaga) needed to provide some breathing room. That, along with the presence of BYU and Pepperdine, should make for an intense “long weekend” at the Orleans Arena, where the WCC will hope that this event can produce two NCAA tournament teams.

The Bracket 

wccbracket

When: March 4-8 (no games Sunday, March 6)

Where: Orleans Arena, Las Vegas

Final: March 8, 9:00 p.m. EST

Favorite: Saint Mary’s

The Gaels surprised many by winning a share of the regular season title, as they were picked to finish fourth in the preseason poll. They’ll be the top seed this week thanks to their season sweep of Gonzaga, and with guards Emmett Naar and WCC Newcomer of the Year Joe Rahon leading the way head coach Randy Bennett has the pieces needed to win the tournament. Forwards Calvin Hermansson and Dane Pineau shouldn’t be overlooked either, as they’re second and third on the team in scoring behind Naar and 6-foot-10 freshman center Evan Fitzner was productive in both wins over Gonzaga (16.5 ppg, 3.5 rpg).

And if they lose?: Gonzaga

Mark Few’s Bulldogs are led by one of the best front court tandems in the country in senior Kyle Wiltjer and sophomore Domantas Sabonis. Wiltjer’s a face-up four with range well beyond the three-point line, thus providing Sabonis with the room he needs to operate from 15 feet and in. The question mark throughout this season has been the development of their perimeter rotation, but there has been progress. Josh Perkins was named to the WCC’s all-freshman team, and Eric McClellan the conference’s best defender. How that group, which includes Silas Melson and Kyle Dranginis, performs will be key for Gonzaga as they look to win the WCC tournament for the fifth time in the last six years.

Other Contenders:

  • BYU: They’ve got the WCC Player of the Year in versatile guard Kyle Collinsworth, and fellow guards Chase Fischer and Nick Emery can fill it up scoring-wise. And even with their ability to put up points, BYU led the WCC in defensive efficiency in conference games per Ken Pomeroy’s numbers.
  • Pepperdine: The Waves can make a claim no other WCC team can make this season: they swept Saint Mary’s. Marty Wilson’s group, led by forward Stacy Davis and guard Jeremy Major, is capable of making a run in Vegas.

WCC Player of the Year: Kyle Collinsworth, BYU

The NCAA’s all-time leader in career triple-doubles (11), Collinsworth is the “straw that stirs the drink” for BYU. In WCC games he ranked in the top five in rebounds (third), assists (first) and steals (first), and at 15.6 points per game the senior ranked 13th in the conference in scoring. At 6-foot-6 he’s a tough matchup for opposing teams from a size standpoint, and his ability to find the likes of Chase Fischer and Nick Emery makes BYU a tough team to slow down offensively.

WCC Coach of the Year: Randy Bennett, Saint Mary’s

Saint Mary’s exceeded expectations this season, going from a team pegged by many as the one likely to fall out of a top three slot to one that grabbed the top seed in the conference tournament. For that Bennett should be praised, as the backcourt of Emmett Naar and Joe Rahon has meshed well and the front court has accounted for the graduation of Brad Waldow as well.

First-Team All-WCC:

  • Kyle Collinsworth, BYU
  • Emmett Naar, Saint Mary’s
  • Stacy Davis, Pepperdine
  • Kyle Wiltjer, Gonzaga
  • Domantas Sabonis, Gonzaga

CBT Prediction: Saint Mary’s beats Gonzaga in a thriller.

Big South Conference Tournament Preview and Postseason Awards

High Point v Ohio State
(Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
Leave a comment

Four solid teams head the Big South conference tournament this year with the top two seeds bringing some solid star power. The No. 1 seed, High Point, has — hopefully? — a two-time Player of the Year in senior forward John Brown while No. 2 seed Winthrop has the talented guard duo of Keon Johnson and Jimmy Gavin.

Coastal Carolina and UNC Asheville also had successful conference seasons are are no pushover in this tournament. The winner of this tournament is likely facing a No. 15 or No. 16 seed in the NCAA Tournament.

The Bracket 

bracket

When: March 3-6

Where: Campbell University’s Pope Center and Gore Arena in Buies Creek, N.C.

Final: March 6, 2:30 p.m. (ESPN2)

[   MORE: All of NBCSports.com’s conference tournament previews   ]

Favorite: High Point

Winners of six consecutive games, High Point also beat No. 2 seed Winthop in that span and the Panthers have the conference’s Player of the Year in John Brown. But Brown suffered a foot injury on Saturday, and his status for the Big South tournament is very much in the air. High Point is a team that shoots efficiently around 3-point range (39 percent) and they’ll need to have other options besides their star.

And if they lose?: Winthrop

The Eagles have been major contenders in the Big South this season in-part because they have two go-to scorers in Keon Johnson and Jimmy Gavin. With a good third scorer in Xavier Cooks, Winthrop can really put up points. Like High Point, Winthrop is efficient shooting the 3-pointer at 38.5 percent from distance.

Other Contenders:

  • Coastal Carolina: Elijah Wilson and Shivaughn Wiggins can both score and Jaylen Shaw and Badou Diagne aren’t bad options either.
  • UNC Asheville: The Bulldogs have five double-figure scorers and gave High Point and Winthop close games this season.

Big South Player of the Year: John Brown, High Point

The redshirt senior also earned the conference’s Defensive Player of the Year honors and was a four-time first-team all-conference selection during his time at High Point. Brown averaged 19.6 points, 7.1 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 1.8 blocks and 1.7 steals per game this season.

Big South Coach of the Year: Richie McKay, Liberty

Liberty was predicted to be last place in the league this preseason and ended up 10-8 and in fifth place in an 11-team league. McKay had only four letters winners and no returning starters to build a roster from and Liberty still had a winning conference season in his first year back as head coach.

First-Team All-Big South:

  • John Brown, High Point
  • Keon Johnson, Winthrop
  • Jimmy Gavin, Winthrop
  • DeShawn Murray, Presbyterian College
  • Lotanna Nwogbo, Longwood

CBT Prediction: Winthrop takes down High Point

Missouri Valley Conference Tournament Preview and Postseason Awards

Associated Press
AP
1 Comment

After being a multi-bid league in 2015, the Missouri Valley Conference could be a one-bid league once again if Wichita State wins the autobid in St. Louis. The Shockers won the conference’s regular season title by four games and the senior backcourt of Fred VanVleet and Ron Baker is as experienced as any in the country.

Evansville is the No. 2 seed with two first-team, all-conference players while Illinois State and Northern Iowa have both defeated Wichita State during the conference season. If one of those teams beats Wichita State and wins the autobid, the Missouri Valley Conference could be a two-bid league.

The Bracket 

MBB_Bracket

When: March 3-6

Where: Scottrade Center, St. Louis

Final: March 6, 1:00 p.m. (CBS)

[   MORE: All of NBCSports.com’s conference tournament previews   ]

Favorite: Wichita State

The Shockers only lost two conference games all season and boast the nation’s most experienced backcourt in Fred VanVleet and Ron Baker. Wichita State had some early bumps in the road when VanVleet was hurt, but they’ve been soundly beating most opponents in conference play and look like a potentially dangerous team this March.

And if they lose?: Evansville

The Purple Aces have the No. 2 seed and the league’s best inside/outside combination in senior guard D.J. Balentine and center Egidijus Mockevicius, the nation’s leading rebounder this season. Evansville has yet to beat Wichita State this season but has the talent to do so.

Other Contenders:

  • Illinois State: Good enough to beat any team in the league, Illinois State is a very dangerous matchup in Arch Madness, led by senior DeVaughn Akoon-Purcell.
  • Northern Iowa: The Panthers already beat Wichita State on the road and would matchup well with them in the semifinals.

Missouri Valley Conference Player of the Year: Fred VanVleet, Wichita State

We saw how important the senior point guard was to the Shockers when they went 0-3 without him against Division I opponents earlier this season. VanVleet was tremendous in conference play, leading the Valley in assists and steals and having a great 4.0 assist/turnover ratio. He was also top-ten in conference play in free-throw percentage and 3-point percentage and was the most important player on the best team.

Missouri Valley Conference Coach of the Year: Gregg Marshall, Wichita State

After the Shockers got off to a sluggish start thanks to injuries, they turned things around when they got healthy and ran away with the league’s regular season title, winning by four games. Almost all of Wichita State’s wins came by double digits this season and they’re blowing out most opponents.

First-Team All-Missouri Valley League:

  • Egidijus Mockevicius, Evansville
  • D.J. Balentine, Evansville
  • Fred VanVleet, Wichita State
  • Ron Baker, Wichita State
  • Anthony Beane, Southern Illinois

CBT Prediction: Wichita State over Illinois State

Ohio Valley Conference Tournament Preview and Postseason Awards

Belmont's Evan Bradds tries to shoot with Marquette's Luke Fischer defending during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Friday, Nov. 13, 2015, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)
(AP Photo/Morry Gash)
Leave a comment

The Ohio Valley was one of the most competitive conferences in the country this season, as six teams finished with double-figure league victories, all of whom were within just two games of first place. Parity always leads to a wild tournament.

Right?

Right.

The Bracket 

2016 OVC Men's Basketball Tournament Bracket

When: March 2, 3, 4 and 5

Where: Municipal Auditorium, Nashville

Final: March 5th, 5:00 p.m.

Favorite: Belmont

Not only did the Bruins win the league, but they’ll be playing the OVC tournament in their own backyard in Nashville. And if head coach Rick Byrd has taught us anything about his tenure with the Bruins, it’s that we probably should not be betting against him winning. This year’s squad is typical Belmont: a star guard (Craig Bradshaw) flanked by a myriad of shooters to surround an uber-efficient post presence in Evan Bradds. The Bruins, if they get to the tournament, will even be a threat to win a game there. They have the best offense in the league and own wins at Murray State and over Valparaiso in Nashville.

And if they lose?: Morehead State

The Eagles do three things well that will make them dangerous in tournament situations: they force a lot of turnovers, they get a lot of offensive rebounds and they shoot the three ball well. Extra possessions in a one-and-done tournament setting are huge, especially when a team is playing well and hitting shot from the perimeter. Should I mention that the Eagles won in a row to close out the regular season?

Other Contenders

  • Murray State: There are a lot of new faces on the Racers this season, but there is a reason that this program has had such a sustained run of success.
  • Tennessee State: Dana Ford’s club was the best defensive team in the league and has one of the best 1-2 punches in Keron DeShields and Tahjere McCall.
  • UT-Martin: Winning their division was monumental, as they get a bye to the semifinals.

OVC Player of the Year: Evan Bradds, Belmont

Bradds is one of the most efficient players in college basketball, consistently finishing among the leaders nationally in field goal percentage. He shot better than 70 percent from the floor every year since he arrived at Belmont. His ability as a low-post scorer forces opponents to decide whether they want to double him to get the ball out of his hands, opening up the shooters on Belmont’s perimeter, or let him go one-on-one in the post, where he’s near-unstoppable.

OVC Coach of the Year: Dana Ford, Tennessee State

All due respect to the rest of the conference, there wasn’t much competition for Ford here. The Tigers won five games all season long in 2014-15. This year, Ford brought in a slew of new pieces, turned TSU into the best defensive team in the conference and finished tied for second in the conference standing, a game behind Belmont.

First-Team All-OVC:

  • Evan Bradds, Belmont
  • Chris Horton, Austin Peay
  • Twymond Howard, Tennessee-Martin
  • Craig Bradshaw, Belmont
  • Torrance Rowe, Tennessee Tech

CBT Prediction: Belmont is heading back to the dance.