Championship week: A guide to the first wave of conference tournaments
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College basketball's postseason is here.

Thirteen conference tournaments get started on Saturday, and the first automatic bids to the NCAA Tournament will be determined in the Ohio Valley and Mountain West conferences.

Which teams and players are worth watching during a full week of postseason games? Here's a primer.

America East

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When: March 7 (quarterfinals), March 10 (semifinals), March 14 (championship)
Where: All games at higher seed

Regular-season standings

Team Record Conference record Last 10
Vermont 23-7 13-2 9-1
Stony Brook 19-11 10-5 6-4
Hartford 16-14 9-6 6-4
New Hampshire 15-13 8-7 6-4
UMBC 14-16 7-8 6-4
Albany 14-16 7-8 3-7
UMass Lowell 12-18 6-9 4-6
Maine 8-21 4-11 2-8
Binghamton 10-19 4-12 2-8

Teams to watch

Vermont: The conference's standard-bearer, the Catamounts are 58-5 in the America East regular season over the last four campaigns. Their success this year is rooted in experience and defense, as Vermont is holding opponents to 42.1 percent on 2-pointers - the third-best mark in the country.

New Hampshire: While Stony Brook and Hartford are higher in the standings, UNH might be the team best suited to disrupt Vermont's roll to another title. New Hampshire has won four consecutive games entering its regular-season finale on Tuesday.

Players to watch

Anthony Lamb, Vermont: Lamb has been a key member of two NCAA Tournament teams, and he's once again the Catamounts' catalyst. The 6-foot-6 senior is averaging 16.6 points and 7.4 rebounds per game.

Elijah Olaniyi, Stony Brook: A junior guard, Olaniyi was averaging 18.9 and 6.6 rebounds per game when he suffered an ankle injury on Feb. 8. The Seawolves were 7-2 (and beat Vermont) with him, and are 3-3 without him.

Atlantic Sun

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When: March 3 (quarterfinals), March 5 (semifinals), March 8 (championship)
Where: All games at higher seed

Regular-season standings

Team Record Conference record Last 10
Liberty 27-4 13-3 8-2
North Florida 20-11 13-3 8-2
Lipscomb 14-15 9-7 7-3
Stetson 15-16 9-7 5-5
North Alabama 13-16 8-8 5-5
Florida Gulf Coast 10-21 7-9 4-6
Jacksonville 14-17 7-9 5-5
NJIT 9-20 6-10 3-7
Kennesaw State 1-28 0-16 0-10

Teams to watch

Liberty: You might remember the Flames from a year ago when they upset Mississippi State as a 12-seed in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Three conference losses likely thwart any chance of an at-large bid, but Liberty will be a threat in March again if it wins the Atlantic Sun Tournament. The inside-outside combination of Caleb Homesley and Scottie James combines for 26 points per game.

North Florida: The Ospreys, who split with Liberty in the regular season, are looking for their second NCAA Tournament bid in 15 campaigns as a Division-I program. They'll be fun to watch if they advance. North Florida takes 52.3% of its shot attempts from behind the 3-point line, more than any team in the nation. They make 38% of those shots, too, which ranks 13th in Division I. Their defense is another story.

Players to watch

Ivan Gandia-Rosa, North Florida: When he isn't shooting threes himself, Gandia-Rosa is often a distributor. The 6-foot-1 senior ranks 16th nationally while averaging 6.4 assists per game, and he enters the tournament after recording 33 assists in his last three contests.

Scottie James, Liberty: The 6-foot-8 senior thrives in March. He averaged 18.7 points and 7.3 rebounds per game in the Atlantic Sun tournament a year ago.

Big South

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When: March 3 (first round), March 5 (quarterfinals), March 6 (semifinals), March 8 (championship)
Where: First round and championship at higher seeds, quarters and semis at Radford

Regular-season standings

Team Record Conference record Last 10
Radford 20-10 15-3 9-1
Winthrop 21-10 15-3 7-3
Gardner-Webb 15-15 11-7 7-3
Longwood 14-17 9-9 7-3
Hampton 13-18 8-10 4-6
UNC Asheville 14-15 8-10 5-5
USC Upstate 12-19 7-11 4-6
Charleston Southern 13-17 7-11 2-8
Presbyterian 10-21 7-11 2-8
High Point 9-22 6-12 4-6
Campbell 15-15 6-12 4-6

Teams to watch

Radford: The Highlanders, who won the conference tournament two years ago, had a 10-game winning streak snapped on Saturday against Gardner-Webb. Still, with the benefit of home court, they're the favorite. One of the most experienced teams in the country, Radford scores efficiently and rarely gives up turnovers.

Winthrop: The Eagles led the conference for much of the regular season but stumbled late, losing three of their final six games. Winthrop relies on threes, but is also a top-50 rebounding team both offensively and defensively.

Gardner-Webb: The Runnin' Bulldogs could play spoiler. They won the Big South Tournament last year as a 4-seed - reaching their first NCAA Tournament - and enter the postseason hot after winning six of their last seven contests.

Players to watch

Carlik Jones, Radford: Two years ago, Jones' buzzer-beater sent Radford to the NCAA Tournament. As a junior, he's emerged as the Big South's best player, averaging 19.6 points, 5.5 assists, and five rebounds per game.

Benjamin Stanley, Hampton: Offense isn't the Pirates' problem. Jermaine Marrow (24.3 points per game) leads Hampton in scoring, but Stanley (22.5 points and 7.4 rebounds per contest) can dominate a game, too. He scored 31 points on 13-of-17 shooting in a win at Winthrop on Feb. 22.

Colonial Athletic

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When: March 7-10
Where: Washington, D.C.

Team Record Conference record Last 10
Hofstra 23-8 14-4 9-1
William & Mary 21-10 13-5 6-4
Towson 19-12 12-6 7-3
Charleston 17-13 11-7 5-5
Delaware 21-10 11-7 7-3
Northeastern 15-15 9-9 4-6
Elon 11-20 7-11 6-4
Drexel 13-18 6-12 1-9
UNC Wilmington 10-21 5-13 4-6
James Madison 9-20 2-16 1-9

Teams to watch

Hofstra: The Pride hasn't been to the NCAA Tournament since Jay Wright was its head coach in 2001. The school won during the regular season but lost in the conference tournament a year ago. This year's team is experienced and can score, but it struggles to defend the interior.

William & Mary: First-year head coach Dane Fischer's team is in contention to reach the NCAA Tournament for the first time in school history. Six-foot-10 senior Nathan Knight (20.6 points and 10.5 rebounds per game) is the type of player who can take over a tournament.

Northeastern: Does a string of bad luck end here? The Huskies - last year's conference tournament champions - are 3-10 in games decided by five points or less. Northeastern is the country's best free-throw shooting team, and at some point, that should come in handy in a tight finish.

Players to watch

Grant Riller, Charleston: Riller could be on an NBA roster at this time next season. A four-year starter, the 6-foot-3 senior averages 21.7 points and 5.2 rebounds per game while scoring at the line (82%), inside (55.2% on twos), and outside (36.6% on threes).

Jordan Roland, Northeastern: Roland has scored 25-plus points in 15 games this season, including 42 in a win over Harvard and 39 against Boston University.


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When: March 3 (first round), March 5 (quarterfinals), March 9-10 (semifinals and championship)

Where: First round and quarterfinals at campus sites, semifinals and championship in Indianapolis

Regular-season standings

Team Record Conference record Last 10
Wright State 25-6 15-3 8-2
Northern Kentucky 21-9 13-5 7-3
Green Bay 16-15 11-7 6-4
Illinois Chicago 15-16 10-8 6-4
Youngstown State 17-14 10-8 6-4
Oakland 13-18 8-10 6-4
Cleveland State 11-20 7-11 4-6
Milwaukee 12-18 7-11 2-8
Detroit 8-23 6-12 3-7
IUPUI 7-24 3-15 2-8

Teams to watch

Wright State: The regular-season champions didn't lose back-to-back games throughout the campaign. The Raiders were 2-0 against Northern Kentucky, winning by 32 in Dayton and by two on the road.

Northern Kentucky: Last year's champion, the Norse plays at the slowest tempo in the Horizon League. NKU doesn't use a player taller than 6-foot-8.

Illinois-Chicago: If there's an upstart team in the bracket, it might be the Flames. They hold the distinction of defeating Wright State (by four on Jan. 12) and Northern Kentucky (by 30 on Feb. 16) in the regular season.

Players to watch

Loudon Love, Wright State: The 6-foot-8 junior is tough to handle inside. He averaged 16.3 points and 9.7 rebounds per game in the regular season.

Darius Quisenberry, Youngstown State: Quisenberry scored 41 points in an 88-70 win over Wright State on Feb. 20, so he can carry the Penguins in a tournament setting.

Missouri Valley

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When: March 5-8
Where: St. Louis, Mo.

Regular-season standings

Team Record Conference record Last 10
Northern Iowa 25-5 14-4 8-2
Loyola Chicago 21-10 13-5 7-3
Indiana State 18-11 11-7 7-3
Bradley 20-11 11-7 6-4
Southern Illinois 16-15 10-8 5-5
Missouri State 15-16 9-9 5-5
Valparaiso 16-15 9-9 5-5
Drake 18-13 8-10 3-7
Illinois State 10-20 5-13 4-6
Evansville 9-22 0-18 0-10

Teams to watch

Northern Iowa: If the Panthers don't win the conference tourney, it'll be a painful week of waiting to find out if they did enough to earn an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament. Northern Iowa defeated Colorado in December, and it enters this week as the country's second-best 3-point shooting team (39.3%).

Loyola Chicago: The darling of the 2018 NCAA Tournament, the Ramblers split a pair of overtime games with UNI, but they landed a game behind the Panthers in the standings. Like the Final Four team two years ago, this squad prefers a slow pace and to win with defense while forcing turnovers on 23.8% of opponent's possessions.

Missouri State: Arch Madness could be chaotic this year. Indiana State, Bradley, and Southern Illinois have shown flashes of the ability it takes to win a conference tournament. So has Missouri State, which is peaking at the right time under second-year head coach Dana Ford. The Bears won four of their final six matchups, including a road victory at quarterfinal opponent Indiana State and a home win over second-seeded Loyola Chicago.

Players to watch

AJ Green, Northern Iowa: The 6-foot-4 sophomore is a terrific shooter, knocking down 44% of his threes in MVC play. His 19.7 points per game led the conference.

Cameron Krutwig, Loyola Chicago: A starter for every game of the team's Final Four run, Krutwig has produced a terrific junior season, averaging 15.3 points, eight rebounds, and 4.2 assists per game.

Mountain West

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When: March 4-7
Where: Las Vegas

Regular-season standings

Team Record Conference record Last 10
San Diego State 28-1 17-1 9-1
Utah State 23-8 12-6 8-2
Nevada 19-11 12-6 7-3
UNLV 17-14 12-6 6-4
Boise State 19-11 11-7 7-3
Colorado State 20-11 11-7 6-4
New Mexico 18-13 7-11 2-8
Fresno State 11-18 7-11 5-5
Air Force 11-19 5-13 2-8
San Jose State 7-23 3-15 1-9
Wyoming 7-23 2-16 2-8

Teams to watch

San Diego State: Do the Aztecs need to win the tournament to secure a No. 1 seed? It's possible, as Dayton is breathing down their neck with the postseason nearing. Still, it's worth a moment to appreciate SDSU's remarkable regular season after 25 of its 28 wins came by five-plus points.

Utah State: Do the Aggies need to take the Moutain West tourney to reach the NCAA Tournament? A loss to New Mexico in the final game of the regular season didn't help. Utah State would love a third shot at San Diego State after losing both regular-season meetings.

UNLV: For a league with a potential No. 1 seed, this conference tournament feels wide open. That's because of teams like the Runnin' Rebels, who caught fire late in the year. UNLV enters the tournament with five consecutive wins, including one over the Aztecs.

Players to watch

Malachi Flynn, San Diego State: A potential All-American, Flynn is SDSU's leader. The Washington State transfer averaged 17.6 points and 5.1 assists per game this season. He dropped 36 in the regular-season finale against Nevada.

Sam Merrill, Utah State: The best player in the Mountain West last season, Merrill still posted a solid 2019-20 while scoring 18.8 points per game. He notched 45 points combined in nonconference wins over Florida and LSU this year.


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When: March 4 (quarterfinals), March 7 (semifinals), March 10 (championship)
Where: All games at higher seed

Regular-season standings

Team Record Conference record Last 10
Merrimack* 20-11 14-4 7-3
Robert Morris 17-14 13-5 7-3
St. Francis (Pa.) 20-9 13-5 8-2
Sacred Heart 19-12 12-6 7-3
LIU 14-17 9-9 4-6
Fairleigh Dickinson 11-18 9-9 7-3
Mount St. Mary's 11-20 7-11 2-8
Bryant 15-16 7-11 5-5
St. Francis (N.Y.) 13-17 7-11 3-7
Wagner 8-21 5-13 3-7
Central Connecticut 4-27 3-15 3-7

*Merrimack isn't eligible for the conference tournament during its first season as a Division I program.

Teams to watch

St. Francis (Pa.): The Red Flash has made one NCAA Tournament (1991) and came close to another a year ago, losing to Fairleigh Dickinson in the conference championship. St. Francis plays in Loretto, Pennsylvania, which has a population of 1,302 - the smallest town with a Division I men's basketball program.

Robert Morris: The Colonials are more recently familiar with the NCAA Tournament, reaching it in 2009, 2010, and 2015. They defeated the Red Flash in the final game of the regular season, clinching home-court advantage throughout the tournament. RMU went 9-3 at home in the regular season.

Players to watch

E.J. Anosike, Sacred Heart: The 6-foot-6 junior is one of the country's top rebounders, averaging 11.6 per game to go along with 15.9 points. He even posted one 20-20 game (26 points and 22 rebounds) against Long Island this season.

Isaiah Blackmon, St. Francis (Pa.): The Red Flash guard averages 19.2 points per game and has made 43% of his 3-point attempts.

Ohio Valley

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When: March 4-7
Where: Evansville, Ind.

Regular-season standings

Team Record Conference record Last 10
Belmont 24-7 15-3 10-0
Murray State 22-8 15-3 7-3
Austin Peay 20-11 14-4 6-4
Eastern Kentucky 15-16 12-6 6-4
Tennessee State 17-14 9-9 5-5
Eastern Illinois 16-14 9-9 5-5
Jacksonville State 13-18 8-10 4-6
Morehead State 13-18 7-11 4-6
Tennessee Tech 9-22 6-12 4-6
SIU Edwardsville 8-23 5-13 3-7
Tennessee Martin 9-20 5-13 3-7
Southeast Missouri State 7-24 3-15 3-7

Teams to watch

Belmont: Longtime head coach Rick Byrd retired and star Dylan Windler moved on to the NBA following last season, but the Bruins still enter the conference tournament as one of the nation's hottest mid-majors. With former Lipscomb head coach Casey Alexander leading the way, Belmont has won 10 straight, including victories over fellow contenders Murray State and Austin Peay. A strong offensive team, Belmont scored 100 points in a November win over Boston College.

Murray State: No Ja Morant, but plenty of wins. Tevin Brown, the Racers' third-leading scorer from last season, leads the team while averaging 17.7 points per game. Murray State's strength is getting to the free-throw line, where it averages 22.4 attempts per contest.

Austin Peay: The surprise of the three contenders, the Governors began the season 10-0 in OVC play before a handful of late-season losses. Austin Peay relies heavily on its offense and ability to crash the boards. The Governors are just 326th in D-I defensive effective field-goal percentage.

Players to watch

Terry Taylor, Austin Peay: The 6-foot-5 junior is the OVC's star, averaging 21.4 points and 10.8 rebounds per game. He's recorded 16 double-doubles and has also posted double-digit rebounds in eight consecutive games.

Grayson Murphy, Belmont: A 6-foot-2 sophomore, Murphy is a true stat-stuffer. He averages 9.8 points, 7.5 rebounds, 6.3 assists, and 2.7 steals per game. In conference play, he's shooting 65.2% from 2-point range and 39.5% from beyond the arc.


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When: March 3 (first round), March 5 (quarterfinals), March 8 (semifinals), March 11 (championship)
Where: All games at higher seed

Regular-season standings

Team Record Conference record Last 10
Colgate 23-8 14-4 7-3
American 16-13 12-6 7-3
Boston U. 18-13 12-6 7-3
Army 15-14 10-8 6-4
Lafayette 18-11 10-8 6-4
Navy 14-15 8-10 3-7
Bucknell 12-19 8-10 3-7
Lehigh 10-20 7-11 5-5
Loyola (Md.) 15-16 7-11 6-4
Holy Cross 3-28 2-16 0-10

Teams to watch

Colgate: The Raiders made their first NCAA Tournament last year and put a first-round scare into Tennessee. They won at Cincinnati in December and lost only one home game this season - a positive sign for a team that will play each of its conference tournament games at home. Jordan Burns (15.6 points per game) leads the conference's best offensive squad.

American: The Eagles led the Patriot League in regular-season turnover rate, producing their best conference record since winning the league in 2014.

Boston University: The Terriers haven't reached the NCAA Tournament since moving to the Patriot League from the America East in 2014. They'll get a chance to advance this year on the shoulders of Max Mahoney, who enters the conference tournament with a streak of four consecutive double-doubles.

Players to watch

Max Mahoney, Boston University: Mahoney averaged 15.6 points and 8.5 rebounds per game this season. He finished second in the Patriot League in effective field-goal percentage and first in offensive and defensive rebounding rate, according to KenPom.

Sa'eed Nelson, American: The Patriot League Player of the Year, Nelson averaged 18.4 points, five rebounds, 4.8 assists, and 2.8 steals per game. No team in the conference relies on a player more.


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When: March 6-9
Where: Asheville, N.C.

Regular-season standings

Team Record Conference record Last 10
East Tennessee State 27-4 16-2 9-1
Furman 25-6 15-3 9-1
UNC Greensboro 23-8 13-5 7-3
Mercer 17-14 11-7 7-3
Western Carolina 18-11 10-8 5-5
Chattanooga 19-12 10-8 6-4
Wofford 16-15 8-10 3-7
Samford 10-22 4-14 2-8
VMI 8-23 3-15 2-8
The Citadel 6-23 0-18 0-10

Teams to watch

East Tennessee State: The Buccaneers are the SoCon's lone chance at an at-large bid if they don't win the conference tournament, and the team features a head coach (Steve Forbes) whose name should come up for high-major jobs this offseason. One of the more experienced teams in the country, ETSU won at LSU in December.

Furman: The Paladins haven't made an NCAA Tournament since 1980, but Bob Richey is 73-24 over three years in charge. Four Furman players have logged 100-plus 3-point attempts, and the school ranks 20th in the country in defensive turnover percentage.

UNC Greensboro: With former North Carolina guard Wes Miller coaching them, the Spartans reached the NCAA Tournament two years ago and gave Gonzaga a first-round scare. This year's team struggles offensively, but it's the SoCon's best defensively while forcing turnovers on nearly one-quarter of opponent's possessions.

Players to watch

Isaiah Miller, UNC Greensboro: The 6-foot guard isn't an outside shooter, but he still averages 17.8 points per game.

Mason Faulker, Western Carolina: Could Faulker lead the Catamounts on a surprise run? The do-it-all point guard averages 17.2 points, 6.1 assists, and 5.9 rebounds per game.


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When: March 7-10
Where: Sioux Falls, S.D.

Regular-season standings

Team Record Conference record Last 10
North Dakota State 22-8 13-3 9-1
South Dakota State 22-9 13-3 8-2
South Dakota 20-11 10-6 7-3
Oral Roberts 16-13 9-7 5-5
Omaha 16-15 9-7 5-5
North Dakota 13-17 7-9 5-5
Purdue Fort Wayne 13-18 6-10 4-6
Denver 7-23 3-13 2-8
Western Illinois 5-21 2-14 0-10

Teams to watch

South Dakota State: The Jackrabbits lost head coach T.J. Otzelberger to UNLV and stat-stuffer Mike Daum to graduation, but they didn't skip a beat this season. They make 57.4% of their 2-point attempts, the second-best mark in the country.

North Dakota State: The best team in the league late in the season, the Bison earned the No. 1 seed through an overtime win over the Jackrabbits on Feb. 27. They lead the nation in defensive rebounding percentage.

Players to watch

Douglas Wilson, South Dakota State: Wilson missed SDSU's late-season loss to NDSU because of an injury. If he's healthy, he'll make the Jackrabbits the favorites. Wilson averages 18.6 points and 6.4 rebounds per game.

Tyler Hagedorn, South Dakota: In a year when the 3-point line was moved back to international standards, Hagedorn improved drastically. He enters the tournament making 51.6% of his threes, up from 39.8% a year ago.

West Coast

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When: March 5-10
Where: Las Vegas

Regular-season standings

Team Record Conference record Last 10
Gonzaga 29-2 15-1 9-1
BYU 24-7 13-3 9-1
Saint Mary's 24-7 11-5 7-3
Pacific 23-9 11-5 8-2
San Francisco 20-11 9-7 6-4
Pepperdine 15-15 8-8 5-5
Santa Clara 19-12 6-10 3-7
Loyola Marymount 10-20 4-12 2-8
San Diego 9-22 2-14 1-9
Portland 9-22 1-15 0-10

Teams to watch

Gonzaga: Even in a tough year for the West Coast Conference, the Bulldogs dominated, losing only once. Gonzaga is a bona fide national-title contender once again, with an offense that ranks third in 2-point field-goal percentage (57.3) and fourth in 3-point percentage (39).

BYU: The Cougars head to Vegas as the league's hottest team. They've won nine straight, including a 91-78 victory over Gonzaga on Feb. 22. Yoeli Childs (three consecutive double-doubles) provides star power for a team that leads the country in 3-point shooting (42%).

Saint Mary's: Don't forget about the Gaels, who won the conference tournament a year ago and should receive an at-large bid to this year's Big Dance. Like the Zags and Cougars, Saint Mary's is deadly from 3-point range, making 39.2% of its attempts.

Players to watch

Filip Petrusev, Gonzaga: The 6-foot-11 sophomore was barely used in the NCAA Tournament last season, but he's a budding collegiate star. He's averaging 17.8 points and 7.8 rebounds per game.

Yoeli Childs, BYU: Speaking of stars, if you haven't seen Childs play yet, get on that. The 6-foot-8 senior averages 22.2 points per game and punctuated his regular season with a 38-point, 14-rebound masterpiece at Pepperdine.

Championship week: A guide to the first wave of conference tournaments
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