Dayton head coach Archie Miller reacts during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2016 in Dayton, Ohio. Dayton won, 76-74. (AP Photo/Tony Tribble)
(AP Photo/Tony Tribble)

Atlantic 10 Conference Tournament Preview and Postseason Awards

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The Atlantic 10 will be one of the most intriguing events to watch over the final few days before the NCAA tournament. Not only is the A-10 Tournament itself a wide-open field, filled with contenders who could win it all, but there are also four teams with NCAA tournament at-large concerns that could use some more wins before Selection Sunday. While Dayton looks to be comfortably in the field, VCU, St. Bonaventure, Saint Joseph’s and George Washington all find themselves on the bubble.

The conference tournament quarterfinals might feature a game that is essentially an NCAA tournament play-in game as No. 5 seed George Washington could face No. 4 seed Saint Joseph’s, as both teams could use another win for their profiles. Don’t be surprised if a lower-seeded team wins this event, either. The No. 4 or No. 5 seed has been the winner of the A-10 tournament in three of the last four years.

The Bracket 

2016_MBB_Bracket (1)

When: March 9-13

Where: Barclays Center, Brooklyn, New York

Final: Sunday, March 13, 12:30 p.m. (CBS)

Favorite: Dayton

The Flyers haven’t finished the regular season on the strongest of notes, but they’re still the No. 1 seed and the team with the best path to make the finals. With a balanced roster, the Flyers have a lot of experienced pieces who have been successful in March before as they’re led by Charles Cooke (15.8 ppg, 6.0 rpg), Dyshawn Pierre (12.6 ppg, 8.5 rpg) and Scoochie Smith (11.8 ppg, 4.1 apg). With a top-20 Kenpom defense, the Flyers can also be counted on to get consistent stops.

And if they lose?: VCU

Shaka Smart might be gone, but this is still a very talented Rams team that has a lot of experience. Senior Melvin Johnson (18.0 ppg) is one of the A-10’s best scorers while Korey Billbury (11.2 ppg, 5.1 rpg) and JeQuan Lewis (10.3 ppg, 4.9 apg) are also talented and experienced guards who can hit shots. Much like Dayton, VCU’s defense is rated in the top 20 on Kenpom and this group can really cause a lot of problems on that end of the floor.

Other Contenders:

  • St. Bonaventure: While Dayton and VCU can get stops, St. Bonaventure can really score. Marcus Posley, Jaylen Adams and Dion Wright are a tremendously potent trio on the offensive end.
  • Saint Joseph’s: The Hawks have dropped two straight heading into Barclays, but Isaiah Miles is tough to handle on the interior and DeAndre Bembry is one of the league’s best all-around players.

Sleeper: Davidson

With plenty of players who can put up points — including junior point guard Jack Gibbs, the nation’s third-leading scorer — the Wildcats are dangerous if they get hot. Besides Gibbs, Bob McKillop’s team has floor spacing and is one of the most efficient offenses in the conference.

The Bubble Dwellers:

  • Saint Joseph’s: Saint Joseph’s should be safe entering Atlantic 10 tournament week, but the Hawks only have two top-50 wins to their credit and they really need to avoid a bad loss to feel truly safe on Selection Sunday.
  • VCU: The Rams could have really helped their cause by beating Dayton in the final regular season game, but they lost in overtime. As long as VCU beats No. 7 seed Rhode Island or No. 10 seed UMass in the quarterfinals, they should feel safe. A second win wouldn’t hurt.
  • St. Bonaventure: The Bonnies have charged into the at-large conversation by going 10-2 in their final 12 games and a quarterfinal win should help their cause quite a bit. A quarterfinal loss would likely put St. Bonaventure in the NIT.
  • George Washington: Losing to Davidson to end the regular season was a huge loss for George Washington as they’ll likely need to win the Atlantic 10 tournament to make the field. The Colonials still have a prayer of an at-large chance if everything goes their way this week, but they would likely have to make the A-10 finals by beating Saint Joseph’s and Dayton and hope other results across college basketball go their way.

Atlantic 10 Player of the Year: DeAndre Bembry, Saint Joseph’s

The junior was remarkably consistent in stuffing the stat sheet once again for the Hawks as he averaged 17.0 points, 7.8 rebounds and 4.5 assists per game. Bembry has scored in double-figures in every game this season and been huge in moving the ball within the offense as well. The 6-foot-6 Bembry also shot 47 percent from the field and dropped his turnovers to 2.1 per game in 36.8 minutes per contest.

Atlantic 10 Coach of the Year: Mark Schmidt, St. Bonaventure

St. Bonaventure was picked to finish eighth in the Atlantic 10 preseason coaches’ poll and the Bonnies ended up as co-regular season champions of the league along with Dayton and VCU. Things didn’t look so positive for Schmidt’s team after a 4-3 start in conference play, but St. Bonaventure closed out the regular season strong and are in position to make the NCAA tournament as an at-large team if they take care of business in Brooklyn this week.

First-Team All-Atlantic 10:

  • DeAndre Bembry, Saint Joseph’s (POY)
  • Jaylen Adams, St. Bonaventure: Marcus Posley had some big scoring performances, but Adams, a sophomore guard, was tremendous in conference play.
  • Jack Gibbs, Davidson: Third in the country in scoring during his junior season, Gibbs averaged 24.8 points, 4.9 assists and 4.3 rebounds per game.
  • Charles Cooke, Dayton: After sitting out a transfer season, Cooke picked up where he left off, averaging 15.8 points, 6.0 rebounds, 1.2 blocks and 1.2 steals per game.
  • Tyler Cavanaugh, George Washington: Another talented transfer, Cavanaugh put up 16.6 points, 7.5 rebounds per game for the Colonials while also adding additional floor-spacing with his 39 percent 3-point range.

Second Team All-Atlantic 10:

  • T.J. Cline, Richmond
  • Melvin Johnson, VCU
  • Marcus Posley, St. Bonaventure
  • Patricio Garino, George Washington
  • Isaiah Miles, Saint Joseph’s

Defining moment of the season: Marcus Posley dropped a Division I-season-high 47 points on March 2 as St. Bonaventure picked up a critical at-large win over Saint Joseph’s.

CBT Prediction: VCU makes a run to the A-10 title, picking off Dayton along the way and ensuring that Will Wade’s statue will be built in Richmond before Shaka Smart’s.

Pac-12 Conference Tournament Preview and Postseason Awards

Oregon's Dwayne Benjamin celebrates after dunking the ball over Southern California's Chimezie Metu, not pictured, while Oregon's Kendall Small, right, also reacts during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Saturday, March 5, 2016, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Danny Moloshok)
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The expectation entering the season was that there were at least five teams capable of winning the Pac-12. Sure enough many of the expected contenders remained a factor for a significant portion of the season, with Oregon eventually rising as the class of the conference. Dana Altman’s Ducks went undefeated at home in Pac-12 play and finished above .500 on the road, which is generally a good formula to at the very least contend for a conference title. The play of Dillon Brooks, Elgin Cook and company may make Oregon the favorites in Las Vegas, but they’ll have plenty of challengers as well.

Utah has the conference’s Player of the Year in sophomore center Jakob Poeltl, Arizona and California both have talented rotations and teams such as Colorado, Oregon State, USC and Washington are all capable of making a run as well. As of right now the Pac-12 could be a seven-bid league depending upon not only what happens in Las Vegas but also in other conference tournaments across the country. This much is certain: given how balanced and talented the league is, whoever cuts down the nets Saturday night will have been pushed to their limit.

The Bracket

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When: March 9-12

Where: MGM Grand Garden Arena, Las Vegas

Final: March 12, 10:00 p.m. (FS1)

Favorite: Oregon

The Ducks may have just a seven-man rotation, but it’s the versatility within that group that makes them so difficult to deal with. Dillon Brooks, Elgin Cook and Dwayne Benjamin are three forwards who can play just about anywhere on the floor. Freshman Tyler Dorsey can play either guard spot, and big man Chris Boucher is a 6-foot-10 senior who can score in the paint and also on the perimeter.

Both Boucher and Jordan Bell run the floor like gazelles and are incredibly active defensively, and point guard Casey Benson’s improved throughout the course of the season. They’ll score points thanks to the talent and Dana Altman’s offensive schemes. But if Oregon can make things happen defensively and get out in transition, they’re an incredibly tough team to beat.

And if they lose?: Utah

Utah’s rise from team that appeared to be headed towards the NCAA tournament bubble to second place in the Pac-12 is due in large part to the development of their perimeter rotation. Brandon Taylor’s embraced the facilitator role down the stretch, and Lorenzo Bonam’s made strides as well. The Runnin’ Utes can surround elite big man Jakob Poeltl with shooters, thus keeping the spacing that ultimately produces quality shots on a regular basis. Utah ranked second in the conference in field goal percentage defense and fourth in three-point percentage defense, and even with the occasional offensive issues they’ve been solid defensively.

Other Contenders:

  • Arizona: The Wildcats are still formidable, even with the end of their streak of two straight Pac-12 regular season titles. Gabe York’s been on fire of late, and with Ryan Anderson and Allonzo Trier leading the way Sean Miller’s team doesn’t lack for talent either.
  • California: The Golden Bears were the team many were waiting for to get going, and down the stretch they did. The return of Tyrone Wallace helped, and they’ve got two of the nation’s top freshmen Jaylen Brown and Ivan Rabb. But they’ve had their issues away from Berkeley, so we’ll see what they can do in Las Vegas.

Sleeper: USC

The Trojans have struggled a bit down the stretch, losing six of their final eight games of the regular season. That being said, USC’s offensive balance and tempo could lend itself to a run in Las Vegas. Jordan McLaughlin and Julian Jacobs make up a very good point guard duo, and the Trojans have capable scoring options both in the front court and on the perimeter (six players averaging double figures). They’ll need to keep the turnovers to a minimum, but Andy Enfield’s team is one to keep an eye on.

The Bubble Dwellers:

  • Colorado: The Buffs are in the field. But a loss to a bad Washington State team could make the wait more nerve-wracking than it should be.
  • Oregon State: The Beavers may have been overlooked by some when it comes to their NCAA tournament hopes. Beat Arizona State, and that should be enough.
  • USC: The Trojans arrive in Las Vegas in solid shape to land a bid. Avoiding a bad loss against UCLA in their tournament opener should be enough to make them feel comfortable.

Pac-12 Player of the Year: Jakob Poeltl, Utah

Poeltl was the preseason pick for the award, and despite Utah’s occasional issues on the perimeter he’s been very consistent for Larry Krystkowiak’s team. In conference play Poeltl averaged 17.3 points and 8.7 rebounds per game, shooting a Pac-12 best 62.4 percent from the field.

Pac-12 Coach of the Year: Dana Altman, Oregon

Three times in the last four seasons Altman’s won this honor, with this most recent award being for leading the Ducks to a regular season Pac-12 title. Oregon navigated injuries early in the season, most notably the loss of the player expected to run the point in Dylan Ennis, and found their groove in conference play when all healthy pieces were back in the fold. And in a season in which road teams had an incredibly hard time picking up wins on a consistent basis, Oregon was one of two teams to sweep two Pac-12 road trips this season (Utah being the other).

First-Team All Pac-12:

  • Jakob Poeltl, Utah(POY)
  • Andrew Andrews, Washington: Andrews has been the unquestioned leader for a very young squad, and in conference games he averaged 22.3 points (first in Pac-12) and 5.1 assists (third) per game.
  • Gary Payton II, Oregon State: Payton’s was named the league’s best defender for a second straight year, and there’s also his versatility. The senior ranked in the top ten in the league in rebounding (ninth), assists (first), steals (first) and assist-to-turnover ratio (third), and 11th in scoring.
  • Dillon Brooks, Oregon: As good as Brooks was as a freshman, he was even better this season. Averaging 17.1 points per game in Pac-12 play, Brooks was a serious contender for Pac-12 Player of the Year.
  • Ryan Anderson, Arizona: In his lone season on the court for Arizona, the Boston College transfer averaged 16.0 points and 10.2 rebounds per contest. He was one of two Pac-12 players to average a double-double in conference play (Washington State’s Josh Hawkinson).

Second Team All Pac-12:

  • Jaylen Brown, California
  • Rosco Allen, Stanford
  • Dejounte Murray, Washington
  • Elgin Cook, Oregon
  • Josh Scott, Colorado

Defining moment of the season: Oregon ends Arizona’s 49-game home win streak

CBT Prediction: Oregon’s the pick here, but it would not be a surprise if any of the top four teams left Vegas with the crown.

Big Ten Conference Tournament Preview and Postseason Awards

Indiana guard Yogi Ferrell smiles at the crowd as part of senior night festivities after an NCAA college basketball game against Maryland  in Bloomington, Ind., Sunday, March 6, 2016. Indiana won 80-62. (AP Photo/AJ Mast)
(AP Photo/AJ Mast)
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The Big Ten enters conference tournament week with some intriguing storylines after an unbalanced league schedule and a lot of competitive teams towards the top of the standings. Indiana took home the conference’s regular-season title by two full games, but the Hoosiers played a much weaker schedule than many of their top Big Ten counterparts as this conference tournament should truly tell us where Indiana is at heading into the Big Dance.

Michigan State is also peaking at the right time as Denzel Valentine looks like a potential National Player of the Year and the Spartans look like a major national-title contender. Besides the top two seeds, Maryland, Purdue, Iowa and Wisconsin will all try to improve their NCAA tournament seeding with strong showings in Indianapolis while Michigan and Ohio State try to do everything they can to claw their way into the at-large discussion.

The Bracket 

2016mbbtournamentbracket

When: March 9-13

Where: Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Indianapolis, Indiana

Final: Sunday, March 13, 3:00 p.m. (CBS)

Favorite: Michigan State

Would you want to bet against Michigan State in March? Yeah, me neither. The Spartans have won six consecutive games entering the Big Ten Tournament (by an average of 21.1 points per game) as they’re playing perhaps their best ball of the season. Denzel Valentine is one of the best players in the country, Bryn Forbes is a great second option and one of the nation’s best shooters and the Spartans might have more talent on this roster than last year’s Final Four team.

And if they lose?: Indiana

The No. 1 seed in the Big Ten Tournament, the Hoosiers played an easier schedule than some in the conference this season, but they still deserve plenty of credit for winning the league by two full games. Winners of five consecutive games, Indiana has improved immensely on the defensive end since the start of the season and they feature one of the most potent offenses in the country. Although Indiana is the No. 1 seed, they’re 0-1 against No. 2 seed Michigan State this season, suffering an 88-69 loss in East Lansing on Feb. 14.

Other Contenders:

  • Maryland: The Terps are 2-4 in their last six games, but they have enough talent to compete with any team in the league if they come together.
  • Purdue: Purdue’s front-court depth makes them a tough out in a tournament setting, but the Boilers have to hit perimeter shots to beat the Big Ten’s elite teams.

Sleeper: Wisconsin

Entering as the No. 6 seed, it’s hard to call the Badgers a “sleeper” in this since they’re safely in the NCAA tournament field, but they do have the kind of team that can make a run in Indianapolis. If the Badgers get Maryland in the quarterfinals, they gave the Terps everything they could handle in splitting during the regular season. Wisconsin also owns a win over the conference’s top two seeds, Indiana and Michigan State, this season.

The Bubble Dwellers:

  • Michigan: The Wolverines have dropped four of their last five entering the Big Ten Tournament. Michigan has to beat Northwestern in its opener on Thursday and then follow that up by beating No. 1 seed Indiana on Friday. Even if Michigan wins those first two games, they probably wouldn’t truly feel safe unless they win another game to make the tournament title game.
  • Ohio State: Ohio State is doing everything they can to stay relevant on Selection Sunday, but they’re going to have to win multiple games to get in as an at-large team. The Buckeyes have to beat Penn State on Thursday and probably need another win against Michigan State after that to even be considered. Much like rival Michigan, Ohio State is going to need as many wins as possible next week to feel comfortable as a credible at-large threat.

Big Ten Player of the Year: Denzel Valentine, Michigan State

The runaway winner of this award is Valentine, who is also a strong contender for National Player of the Year. The 6-foot-5 senior was simply dominant whenever he took the floor this season, as Valentine averaged 19.6 points, 7.5 rebounds and 7.5 assists per game. While filling up the box score every night, Valentine was also ruthlessly efficient, as he improved all of his shooting splits from his junior season (47% FG, 84% FT, 45% 3PT). Besides putting up big numbers, Valentine is perhaps the country’s most important emotional leader, as he gives the Spartans the kind of attitude that makes them legitimate national title contenders when he’s on the floor.

Big Ten Coach of the Year: Greg Gard, Wisconsin

You could just as easily give this award to Indiana’s Tom Crean for the tremendous job he’s done this season, but Indiana was supposed to be good. Wisconsin was in shambles when Greg Gard took over for Bo Ryan on Dec. 15. It took awhile for the Badgers to adjust to the veteran assistant — and overcome the emotional departure of Ryan — but Gard has coached Wisconsin to the point of making a NCAA tournament at-large bid when they were only 9-9 on Jan. 12. That’s a remarkable turnaround, and now, the Badgers are a team that nobody wants to play in March again.

First-Team All-Big Ten:

  • Denzel Valentine, Michigan State (POY)
  • Jarrod Uthoff, Iowa: One of the nation’s most versatile forwards, the senior was top 15 in the Big Ten in scoring (second), rebounding (11th), free-throw percentage (ninth), 3-pointers made (13th) and blocked shots (first). Uthoff’s improvement made Iowa a legitimate threat in the Big Ten and he gave the Hawkeyes a rim protector that they needed.
  • A.J. Hammons, Purdue: Among Purdue’s loaded frontcourt, the senior was the toughest cover, as he averaged 15.8 points, 7.6 rebounds and 2.4 blocks per game in Big Ten play while shooting 57 percent from the floor. Hammons’ numbers are even more impressive when you consider the limited minutes that he played compared to many starting-caliber players in the Big Ten.
  • Yogi Ferrell, Indiana: Another senior to make the All-Big Ten first team, Ferrell was sensational as Indiana’s team leader and point guard. Ferrell continued to improve his all-around numbers while also stepping up as a better defender and team leader. During a season in which the pressure was on Ferrell to win, he guided Indiana to a Big Ten title.
  • Melo Trimble, Maryland: Although some of his numbers went down after a breakout freshman season, Trimble became more of a point guard in his second season in College Park. Trimble averaged 5.2 assists per game after only 3.0 per game as a freshman, as he had more weapons around him this season. Still one of the game’s great clutch players, Trimble has ice in his veins with the game on the line.

Second Team All-Big Ten:

  • Peter Jok, Iowa
  • Bryn Forbes, Michigan State
  • Malcolm Hill, Illinois
  • Nigel Hayes, Wisconsin
  • Matt Costello, Michigan State

Defining moment of the season: Indiana clinched the outright Big Ten title on Iowa’s home floor. It’s the second time in four years that Tom Crean has won an outright Big Ten regular season title.

CBT Prediction: Michigan State beats Indiana

Conference USA Tournament Preview and Postseason Awards

UAB head coach Jerod Haase celebrates a basket along with his bench during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against UTEP, Saturday, Jan. 9, 2016, in Birmingham, Ala. UAB won 87-80. (AP Photo/John Amis)
(AP Photo/John Amis)
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The Conference USA tournament will likely be UAB be and a host of other contenders looking to knock off the Blazers after they cleared the league by three games this season in their quest to secure a second-straight NCAA tournament berth. The Blazers might have separated themselves, but there is enough punching power in the rest of the league to make things interesting in Birmingham.

The Bracket

ChampionshipBracket

When: March 8-12

Where: Legacy Arena at BJCC, Birmingham, Ala.

Final: Saturday, March 12, 1:30 p.m. (FS1)

Favorite: UAB

The Blazers knocked off Iowa State in one of the biggest upsets of last year’s NCAA tournament and continued the momentum to the tune of a 16-2 conference record this season in which they went undefeated at home. UAB is a strong shooting team both inside and out, and the Blazers are one of the top shot-blocking teams in the country. They’ll be a tough out.

And if they lose?: Marshall

The Thundering Herd’s defense is porous, but their offense is the league’s best. And this isn’t a conference known for slowing people down. If they get hot, they might be able to ride their offense into the Big Dance.

Other Contenders:

  • Middle Tennessee: They looked like they might contend for the regular season crown in January, but two home losses in February kept them behind the Blazers.
  • Old Dominion: The Monarchs’ extreme slow-it-down style should keep them close in every contest.
  • Louisiana Tech: Alex Hamilton is a load offensively and could be the difference in at least one game.

CUSA Player of the Year: Trey Freeman, Old Dominion

Freeman carried a massive offensive burden for the Monarchs, but was still able to be efficient, especially during conference play, fueling Old Dominion’s offense through scoring, passing and ball-handling.

CUSA Coach of the Year: Jared Haase, UAB

The Blazers were the pick to win the league this season, but that doesn’t diminish what Haase and UAB accomplished with the rest of the league gunning to knock them off. Should UAB make another tournament, the former North Carolina assistant will no doubt be mentioned as a potential target for high major programs.

First-Team All-CUSA:

  • Trey Freeman, Old Dominion
  • Marcus Evans, Rice
  • James Kelly, Marshall
  • Alex Hamilton, Louisiana Tech
  • Robert Brown, UAB

CBT Prediction: UAB over Marshall

Big Sky Conference Tournament Preview and Postseason Awards

Weber State's Joel Bolomboy tries to get around Northern Colorado's Tanner Morgan during an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Jan. 9, 2016, in Ogden, Utah. Weber State defeated Northern Colorado 85-68. (Benjamin Zack/Standard-Examiner via AP)
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The Big Sky tournament underwent massive changes in advance of this season, as all 12 teams will get to participate and a neutral site will be used. Reno will be the site this year, which is a big difference from seasons past in which the top seed served as the host. As expected Weber State and Montana were the top two combatants for the regular season crown, with Randy Rahe’s Wildcats claiming the title despite losing league Player of the Year candidate Joel Bolomboy for two games due to injury. The Wildcats and Grizzlies will be the favorites in Reno, but getting to the title game will be a challenge for both.

The Bracket

bigsky

When: March 8, 10-12

Where: Reno Events Center, Reno, Nevada

Final: March 12, 8:45 p.m. (ESPNU)

Favorite: Weber State

Many of the players in Randy Rahe’s current rotation were members of the team that reached the NCAA tournament two seasons ago, which should help Weber State even with the changes to the format and location of the Big Sky tournament. Of course it also helps to have talent, and there’s no shortage of that in Ogden. It all starts with the Big Sky’s best big man in Joel Bolomboy, and guard Jeremy Senglin (17.2 ppg in Big Sky games) is a force to be reckoned with as well. And with nine players playing at least 15 minutes per game in conference play, the Wildcats have the depth needed to navigate three games in three days.

And if they lose?: Montana

The Griz missed out on a share of the Big Sky regular season title as they lost to Northern Colorado Saturday, but Travis DeCuire’s team won six of their final eight games with the other loss coming at the hands of Weber State. Martin Breunig has been one of the conference’s best players, and the play of guards Walter Wright and Michael Oguine has been key as expected starter Mario Dunn missed 12 games due to injury. Only Eastern Washington was better in conference play from an offensive efficiency standpoint, and defensively the Griz ranked first in the Big Sky in both defensive rebounding and three-point percentage and third in field goal percentage.

Other Contenders:

  • Idaho: The Vandals shot 38.2 percent from three in Big Sky play (Chad Sherwood shot 45.1 percent), and they were also the best team in the conference in offensive rebounding percentage. Defensively, only Weber State was better from an efficiency standpoint.
  • Idaho State: The Bengals have two guards who can put points on the board in Ethan Telfair and Geno Luzcando. But they’ll most likely have to figure out their matchup issues with No. 5 North Dakota if they’re to make a run.
  • North Dakota: Brian Jones’ team swept Idaho State during the regular season, and they also split the season series with Weber State. And with a player as gifted as guard Quinton Hooker, UND could very well get to the title game.

Big Sky Player of the Year: Joel Bolomboy, Weber State

Bolomboy was outstanding throughout for the regular season champions, averaging 18.2 points and 12.8 rebounds per game while also shooting 59.6 percent from the field. Bolomboy’s an incredibly tough matchup to deal with in the post, and when fouled he converted his free throws at a solid clip (73.8 percent in Big Sky games) as well.

Big Sky Coach of the Year: Bill Evans, Idaho State

Picked to finish dead last in the Big Sky preseason poll, Evans’ Bengals arrive in Reno as the four-seed. Idaho State won 11 conference games this season, with the perimeter tandem of Ethan Telfair and Geno Luzcando leading the way offensively. Those two combined to average 40.2 points and 4.6 steals per game in Big Sky play, and collectively the Bengals are a much-improved outfit from a season ago.

First-Team All-Big Sky:

  • Joel Bolomboy, Weber State (POY)
  • Ethan Telfair, Idaho State: One of the Big Sky’s most impactful newcomers, Telfair averaged 23.9 points and 5.7 assists per game in conference play (league leader in both categories).
  • Quinton Hooker, North Dakota: Hooker averaged 20.6 points per game on 52.3 percent shooting in Big Sky play, while also averaging four assists and two steals per contest.
  • Martin Breunig, Montana: The senior forward averaged 19.2 points and 9.4 rebounds per game, shooting 64.8 percent from the field.
  • Venky Jois, Eastern Washington: Averaging 18.0 points and 9.1 rebounds per contest in Big Sky play, Jois led the conference in field goal percentage (70.6).

Prediction: Weber State outlasts Montana to take the automatic bid.

Southland Conference Tournament Preview and Postseason Awards

Stephen F. Austin State's Thomas Walkup (0) drives the baseline with Texas A&M-Corpus Christi's Brandon Pye, left, and Kelani Currie defending during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Nacogdoches, Texas, Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016. (Victor Texcucano/The Daily Sentinel via AP)
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Does the Southland actually have a contender for Stephen F. Austin this season? The Lumberjacks have lorded over the conference for the last three seasons, getting to two NCAA tournaments and look like the overwhelming favorite to get back to a third this season. If anyone can pick them off, it’s probably Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, who could end up squaring off with SFA in the title game.

The Bracket

2016_MBB_Bracket

When: March 9-12

Where: Katy, Tx.

Final: March 12, 8:30 p.m. ESPN2

Favorite: Stephen F. Austin

Why wouldn’t the Lumberjacks be the favorite to win the league title? This is the third season that Brad Underwood has been the head coach in Nacogdoches, and he’s not only been to two NCAA tournaments — with a first round win over VCU in there — but he’s lost a single game to Southland foes. In three years. Put another way, SFA is 57-1 against Southland Conference teams in the last three years. That’s absurd. So yes, Stephen F. Austin is the favorite to win the league tournament.

And if they lose?: Texas A&M-Corpus Christi

The Islanders are the hottest team in the league not named SFA. They’ve won eight of their last nine games — the only loss coming to SFA in that stretch — and are 15-1 against non-Lumberjacks in Southland play, the only other team they lost to in league play is ineligible for the tournament. They’re athletic, Rashawn Thomas is a stud and they can force turnovers with the best of them. They should get a rematch with SFA in the final.

Other Contenders:

  • San Houston State: SHSU finished third in the conference, although they were 0-4 against the top two teams in the league.
  • Houston Baptist: The Huskies caught a break that Incarnate Word isn’t eligible for the tournament, as they sneak into the No. 4 seed and get a first round bye. They’ve lost eight of their last ten, however, and need to turn things around.

Southland Player of the Year: Thomas Walkup, SFA

The best player on the team that currently holds total dominance over the league is a pretty easy pick for Player of the Year, particularly when that player happens to be the reigning Southland Player of the Year.

Southland Coach of the Year: Brad Underwood, SFA

Coach of the Year is usually an award that’s given to the coach that outperforms expectations by the largest margin, which is a line of thinking that I’m not sure I totally subscribe to. It’s not totally foolish for the most part, but if you think that away about a coach that went undefeated through league play even if his team was predicted to win the league, you’re doing it wrong.

First-Team All-Southland:

  • Thomas Walkup, Stephen F. Austin
  • Rashawn Thomas, Texas A&M-CC
  • Anthony Odunsi, Houston Baptist
  • Aurimas Majauskas, Sam Houston State
  • Ty Charles, Stephen F. Austin

CBT Prediction: Are we really going to bet against SFA? No. No we’re not.