The college basketball season follows an escalating pattern that begins with traditionally lopsided non-conference games, transitions to conference play at the beginning of the new year, feeds into conference tournaments, and culminates in what’s affectionately known as March Madness. This year is no different. As we enter 2016 conference play, here are five fast facts you need to know.
1. Teams Predicted to Win Major Conferences
Preseason media predictions aren’t always the best indicators of who will be successful in a given season, but it’s at least interesting to take a look at which teams are expected to do well.
If you take a look at the CBS Sports conference championship predictions for the major conferences, there are very few discrepancies. In fact the American Athletic Conference is probably the biggest tossup, with votes going to UConn, Cincinnati, and SMU.
In the ACC, five of six experts predict UNC will win. Villanova, Kansas, Maryland, and Kentucky are unanimously predicted to be champions in their respective conferences. California and Arizona split the votes in the Pac-12, while other heavily favored conference champions include Gonzaga, Belmont, and Wichita State.
2. Dates and Venues for Conference Tournaments
This year, the first set of conference championships tip off on March 1, followed by the bigger conference tournaments the next weekend. While you can find the entire schedule by checking out this guide, here are the details for the major conferences:
- Atlantic Coast Conference. The ACC tournament will be held in Washington, D.C. from March 8-12. Notre Dame was the 2015 champion.
- American Athletic Conference. The AAC tournament will be held in Orlando from March 10-13. SMU was the 2015 champion.
- Big 12 Conference. The Big 12 tournament will be held in Kansas City from March 9-12. Iowa State was the 2015 champion.
- Big East Conference. The Big East tournament will be held in New York City from March 9-12. Villanova was the 2015 champion.
- Big 10 Conference. The Big 10 tournament will be held in Indianapolis from March 9-13. Wisconsin was the 2015 champion.
- Pac-12 Conference. The Pac-12 tournament will be held in Las Vegas from March 9-12. Arizona was the 2015 champion.
- Southeastern Conference. The SEC tournament will be held in Nashville from March 9-13. Kentucky was the 2015 champion.
3. Sports Betting and Conference Play
With so much quality basketball happening at one time, you can probably guess that TV numbers and sports betting volume picks increase during March and early April. While many bettors have already secured early odds based on who they think will win conference championships in March, others choose to place smaller bets on a nightly basis using expert analytics and insights.
4. Top Players in Each Conference
So, we’ve told you about which teams are expected to win their respective conferences, but which players do you need to keep an eye out for? Well, if you put stock in what NBA draft analysts think, this year’s top players will include Ben Simmons from LSU, Skai Labissiere and Jamal Murray from Kentucky, Brandon Ingram from Duke, Jaylen Brown from California, Henry Ellenson from Providence, and Jakob Poeltl from Utah.
5. How the Selection Committee Views Conference Strength
In addition to using the Rating Percentage Index (RPI), the NCAA sports committee uses a number of criteria to select and seed teams in the NCAA tournament each year. Conference champions automatically earn bids, whereas every other team is subjectively viewed and granted or denied an “at-large” bid, based on these metrics.
Time for Some Hoops
While the college basketball season has been underway for a number of weeks now, you could argue that the season really doesn’t begin until the New Year kicks off. That’s when conference play starts and teams really start pleading their cases for the tournament. Now that you know what’s happening, enjoy the games.