Men’s College Basketball Big 6 Conference Tournament Previews

Dylan Rosenkrantz, Staff Writer

ACC: March 8-12

The story of the ACC this year was the farewell tour for legendary coach Mike Krzyzewski. Arguably the greatest coach of all time coaching his final season, and coaching a Duke team that had big expectations and they delivered. The freshman duo of Paolo Banchero and AJ Griffin lead the team as both will likely be top 5 picks in this year’s NBA draft. Duke won the ACC regular season championship and are the favorites to win the ACC championship, but a loss to rivals North Carolina in Coach K’s last home game was not a good way to end the season. North Carolina, who just beat the Blue Devils, are the next favorites. Led by coach Hubert Davis, UNC finished the season with a 23-8 record (15-5 in conference), and split the season series with Duke 1-1, they will be Duke’s biggest threat to capturing the ACC title. The biggest sleeper in this tournament would be the Virginia Cavaliers. It has been a disappointing year for Virginia, but have won big games against Duke and Miami and played other top teams close. Coached by Tony Bennett, you can never count out the Cavaliers.

Big 12: March 9-12

The reigning National Champion Baylor Bears are the favorites to win the Big 12 championship. After losing Davion Mitchell and Jared Butler to the NBA draft, Baylor brought in freshman forwards Kendall Brown and Jeremy Sochan and are led by the backcourt duo of Adam Flagler and James Akinjo. Baylor shared the regular season Big 12 Championship with Kansas, both going 14-4. Kansas is led by senior Ochai Ogbaji, the Big 12 player of the year. Kansas was the preseason favorite to take home the Big 12, but it will be a tough road as Kansas and Baylor split the season series 1-1. The Big 12 does not have a standout sleeper as the top teams have taken care of business in conference play throughout the year but besides the two favorites, Texas Tech is a dangerous team in this tournament. They have a win over Kansas and swept Baylor, while also beating Texas and Oklahoma State. 

Big East: March 9-12

Providence is the story of the Big East this year. They had the sixth best odds preseason to win the Big East but ended up winning the regular season. Providence finished with a 24-4 record (14-3 in conference) but fans were not as impressed as you would think, many believe Providence has been very “lucky” this season and aren’t as good as their record. They also had 2 road games against Creighton and Seton Hall not rescheduled as well as a home game against UConn. One of the teams expected to challenge them is Villanova. Villanova, who just beat Providence twice in the last month, have the experience and coaching needed to win the Big East and with a 23-7 record (15-4 in conference), The University of Connecticut is the other top team in the conference, 22-8 record (13-6 in conference), and they’ve won 6 of their last 7 including a win against Villanova. Finally the sleeper of the conference is Seton Hall, a team that has dealt with injuries throughout the year most notably Bryce Aiken, are starting to get healthy and are on a 5 game win streak, teams can get hot at any moment and right now Seton Hall is that team, if they can keep it going they will be a tough out.

Big Ten: March 9-13

The Big Ten has been the most competitive conference this season with 4 20-win teams: Wisconsin, Illinois, Purdue, and Iowa. Wisconsin and Illinois will share the regular season championship, both going 15-5 in conference. Wisconsin has been the surprise of the conference after having a disappointing season last year, and losing 4 of their top 5 scorers, they didn’t have many expectations. However, projected lottery pick Johnny Davis changes that, winning Big Ten Player of the Year. Illinois on the other hand, had title aspirations. After winning the Big Ten last year, and being led by Kofi Cockburn, Illinois looks to repeat as champs. The dark horses of the Big Ten are the two teams out in Michigan. Michigan has been the disappointment of the Big Ten, but they have the talent to get hot, especially since they are coming off of a win against rivals Ohio State. Michigan State on the other hand is simply here due to one man, Tom Izzo. If we have learned one thing over the years, it is to never count out Tom Izzo.

Pac-12: March 9-13

The Arizona Wildcats under first-year head coach Tommy Lloyd are currently ranked #2 in the nation and are the clear favorites to win the Pac-12. Sophomore Bennedict Mathurin won the Pac-12 Player of the Year and is a finalist for the Wooden Award. UCLA, the preseason favorites to win the Pac-12 took second, the Bruins have had a very impressive season led by junior Johnny Juzang. With wins over Arizona, USC, and Villanova, among other good teams, UCLA are clearly the second favorite in the Pac-12. The sleeper for the Pac-12 has to be Oregon, the Ducks were the second favorite to win the Pac-12 preseason and while they are currently 5th in the conference, they are still very dangerous. Wins over Arizona and USC, as well as sweeping UCLA show they can compete with top teams and make an upset. Arizona State is another team to watch out for, finishing 14-16 (10-10 in conference), but they have won 4 in a row, and haven’t allowed over 65 points since Feb. 7.

SEC: March 9-13

Last year was a disappointing season for the Auburn Tigers, finishing 13-14 which had people skeptical about their chances this year, but the Tigers put all of that to rest. Auburn at one point was the #1 team in the country and while that fizzled out a bit over the last 2 weeks, they still won the SEC regular season championship. Freshman Jabari Smith, a projected top 3 pick in the NBA draft became Auburn’s first All-American in 23 years. Kentucky (led by SEC player of the year Oscar Tshiebwe), Tennessee, and Arkansas follow Auburn in the SEC and then the rest is tight with 5 teams tied at 9-9. The biggest sleeper for the SEC is the Alabama Crimson Tide. It was tough to find a sleeper for the SEC but Alabama has impressive wins over Baylor, Arkansas, Tennessee, and LSU but are coming in a 2 game losing streak. It will be a competitive battle in the SEC