NCAA Mens Basketball

Conference Tournament Preview, March 7: OVC and Mountain West champions will be crowned

Enough speculation. Today, we’re finally getting some answers as to which teams will be taking the court in the 2020 NCAA Tournament.

By the end of the night, trophies will be handed out to the winners of the OVC and Mountain West Conference tournaments while plenty of other teams will find their seasons unceremoniously concluded.

Here’s everything you need to look forward to during this fully-booked Saturday slate. All times Eastern.

America East

No. 5 New Hampshire vs. No. 4 UMBC, 1 p.m.

No. 6 UMass Lowell vs. No. 3 Hartford, 5 p.m.

No. 7 Albany vs. No. 2 Stony Brook, 7 p.m.

No. 8 Maine vs. No. 1 Vermont, 7 p.m.

Stranger things have happened before in the America East (see: 2018), but Vermont is widely expected to continue their bout of AE dominance once more. Indeed, Bart Torvik gives the Catamounts an 80% chance of punching their ticket to the Big Dance.

While this conference tournament might not bring scores of excitement, it’ll be worth watching just to see every last game of Anthony Lamb’s senior season. Having just won AE Player of the Year for the second consecutive season, you won’t want to miss any of this star’s final few appearances.

Colonial

No. 9 UNCW vs. No. 8 Drexel, 4 p.m.

No. 10 James Madison vs. No. 7 Elon, 6:30 p.m.

While the CAA Tournament title is pretty much within reason for five or six teams, the four teams playing today are not included in that bunch. If you want to skip these in favor of the other major action going on today, you’ll be forgiven (just so long as you remember to watch once Hofstra, William & Mary, Towson, et. al finally take the court).

Missouri Valley Conference

No. 8 Drake vs. No. 4 Bradley, 3:35 p.m.

No. 7 Valparaiso vs. No. 6 Missouri State, 6:05 p.m.

Yesterday’s Arch Madness schedule lived up to its name, as the three top seeds in the conference—Northern Iowa, Loyola Chicago, and Indiana State—all fell in shocking fashion. While the odds of Bradley making a return trip to the NCAA Tournament continue getting rosier, nothing is a given right now.

You’re going to watch these games anyway because you’re smart (we know because you’re here reading this), but if it’s your first time tuning into any of these teams, make sure to keep an eye on Drake’s Liam Robbins, a shot-blocking fiend, and Valpo’s Javon Freeman-Liberty, who hasn’t met a shot he doesn’t like.

Mountain West Conference

No. 2 Utah State vs. No. 1 San Diego State, 5 p.m.

Yes, Wyoming’s Cinderella run is over. You might be feeling dejected. And that’s OKAY. But it’s time to get over it because someone’s ticket is getting punched today. The ramifications of this game will be massive, as San Diego State is still fighting to put its name on the 1 line, while Utah State is dead-set on making sure it’s not left in suspense on Selection Sunday.

Who takes the crown today is anyone’s guess: SDSU won both regular season matchups against the Aggies, but both teams have looked shaky throughout the MWC Tournament. However, Utah State fans can take solace in the conclusion to last night’s victory over the Cowboys, as Queta let nothing by him at the rim and Sam Merrill went unconscious from long range.

NEC

No. 3 Sacred Heart vs. No. 2 Saint Francis (PA), 12 p.m.

No. 4 LIU vs. No. 1 Robert Morris, 2 p.m.

It’s all chalk in the NEC Tournament, but the money is on a Saint Francis-Robert Morris championship game. These will be some of the better games on early in the day, and if you’re a fan of the Never Made the Tournament Club, you will do your duty and watch the Pioneers to see if they can break free from that self-explanatory group.

Ohio Valley Conference

No. 2 Murray State vs. No. 1 Belmont, 8 p.m.

Was there ever any doubt that it’d be these two again? For the third time this season, Belmont and Murray State will face off. However, unlike last year’s OVC Championship, there will be no bid available for the loser of this one. The intensity in Evansville is going to be electric, as Racer fans will no doubt make the two-hour drive to pack most of the Ford Center, but Belmont is no stranger to that kind of environment.

Southern Conference

No. 9 VMI vs. No. 1 East Tennessee State, 12 p.m.

No. 5 Western Carolina vs. No. 4 Mercer, 2:30 p.m.

No. 7 Wofford vs. No. 2 Furman, 6 p.m.

No. 6 Chattanooga vs. No. 3 UNC Greensboro, 8:30 p.m.

This conference still has potential to be a two-bid league, but that’s assuming that East Tennessee State loses in the conference title game. A loss to a team like VMI today—as unlikely as it is—would certainly do some damage to an ETSU resume that is leaning heavily on a road win over LSU.

One matchup to certainly keep an eye on later tonight is Chattanooga vs. UNCG. The Spartans have been somewhat overlooked in the SoCon thanks to Furman and ETSU’s success, but they limped along the finish line, losing two straight games entering tonight. They even ended the year with a brutal loss to the Mocs. Wes Miller likely won’t let his team’s year end with two straight losses to Chattanooga.

Summit League

No. 8 Denver vs. No. 1 North Dakota State, 7 p.m.

No. 7 Purdue Fort Wayne vs. No. 2 South Dakota State, 9:30 p.m.

It’s sort of weird how the two top seeds take the court in the Summit League on the first day, but whatever, run your tournament how you want.

North Dakota State and South Dakota State both finished the season at 13-3 in the Summit League, but their overtime battle to conclude the year gave the Bison the top seed. Yet, Bart Torvik still gives the Jackrabbits the slight edge to win the whole thing, which would be a surprising result after SDSU lost both Mike Daum and head coach TJ Otzelberger after last season.

Sun Belt

No. 9 Arkansas State vs. No. 8 Louisiana, 12 p.m.

No. 10 Coastal Carolina vs. No. 7 UT Arlington, 3 p.m.

Much like the CAA, this is a conference where about four different teams have the potential to take home the hardware. Of all the teams playing today, UT Arlington has the best chance of crashing the Sun Belt party, thanks largely to their world class defense that can suffocate even the hottest shooting teams.

West Coast Conference

No. 5 San Francisco vs. No. 4 Pacific, 10 p.m.

No. 6 Pepperdine vs. No. 3 Saint Mary’s, 11:59 p.m.

Okay yeah Gonzaga’s probably going to win the whole thing again, but the WCC might actually give us some fun games to watch tonight! The Pacific Tigers have been the league’s most surprising team, jumping into the 4 seed in Damon Stoudamire’s fourth year in Stockton (a feat which earned Stoudamire the WCC Coach of the Year award).

If you forget to take your melatonin tonight, be sure to tune in to Pepperdine vs. Saint Mary’s, which promises to be an ultimate clash of styles that could see the Gaels get bounced early on in the tournament. SMC has shown that when they can’t control the pace, they’re very prone to coming out on the losing end of games, something that is a real possibility thanks to the Waves’ breakneck pace.

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