Top Teams in Need of a Conference Championship Run
During Championship Week the main focus is on eight to ten teams that are fighting to get into the NCAA tournament and what those teams need to do to clinch a bid to the big dance. At the opposite end of the spectrum sits a group of potential one through three seeds. A deep conference tournament run or even championship could be equally important to some of these teams as those fighting to get a bid. Here are five that need a conference championship appearance and maybe even a title to be set up well for a deep run in the NCAA tournament.
Syracuse (27-4, 14-4 ACC)
No high seed needs a deep conference tournament run more than the Orange. After starting 21-0, the Orange have dropped four of their last six games including losses to Boston College and Georgia Tech at home. An ACC tourney title run would likely mean wins over Duke and Virginia or North Carolina, if the ACC bracket plays out in favor of high seeds. Two wins over other ranked teams and a conference title could push Syracuse back to being a No. 2 seed, where they would sit much more comfortably. On the other side, another cough up like the ones to Boston College and Georgia Tech, to a team such as NC State, could force the Orange to be a three or most surprising a four seed in the big dance.
Kansas (23-8, 14-4 Big 12)
With Joel Embiid out, the importance of the Big 12 tournament for the Jayhawks skyrockets in terms of their NCAA tournament seeding. Should the Jayhawks find a way to win the conference tournament without the potential top pick in this spring’s NBA draft, they will be a certain No. 2 seed. Where it gets tricky is how the committee will assess the Kansas seeding knowing Embiid may miss the first weekend of the tournament, which makes the Big 12 tourney even more dire. If Kansas is the victim of an early round upset in Kansas City, they could be dropped from a two-seed and become a three, which would make it more difficult to escape the first weekend, especially without Embiid. Kansas could run into trouble with many teams in this conference because of how deep it is. The bracket brings a possible matchup against an NCAA tournament team in each round, add those to a resume with a top-five RPI and Kansas may hop back up to a No. 1 seed.
San Diego State (27-3, 16-2 MWC)
San Diego State is a non-traditional power conference team that could be looking at a two-seed on selection Sunday if the top teams from the power conferences falter during championship week. San Diego State has flown well under the radar this season with senior Xavier Thames and sophomore Winston Shepard leading the way. The Aztecs boast two very important non-conference wins over Kansas and Creighton. The only game that is holding them back is an unexpected loss to a now 18-13 Wyoming team on the road. The Aztecs are currently a four seed namely because of that dropped decision to Wyoming, however, another win over New Mexico and a conference tournament title could boost San Diego State easily to the three line, and with some help maybe a sneaky two seed placement. Being a two-seed and having favorable matchups through the first weekend would aid Steve Fisher’s relatively young squad as opposed to a potential second round matchup with a higher seeded team.
Creighton (24-6, 14-4 Big East)
The Doug McDermott led Blue Jays are much like San Diego State. However, the major difference is that Creighton lacks the non-conference wins that San Diego State has. Its biggest non-conference win is either Nebraska or California, which doesn’t match up to many other teams in the two or three seed running. However, two convincing wins over possible number one seed Villanova in Big East play keep the Blue Jays on the three line comfortably. A third win over Villanova in what would be the Big East title game would be hard to pass up as a two seed if a team like Michigan, San Diego State or Wisconsin slips up in their respective conference tournaments.
Michigan (23-7, 15-3 Big Ten)
You may think the Wolverines are sitting pretty, which they are, but John Beilein would be much more relaxed after the brackets are revealed Sunday if his team is a No. 2 seed and not a No. 3. Simply, Michigan needs to avoid a quarterfinal upset to Indiana and they would be in position for a No. 2 seed. However, a loss to Indiana or Illinois could push Michigan to a lower three seed or maybe even a four depending on how other conference tournaments play out. While the Wolverines may be riding high, an early exit in the conference tournament could position them to a tougher No. 13 or 14 seed and be on upset alert again, as they were against Ohio in 2012 where the Wolverines fell in the second round of the big dance. A Big Ten outright regular season championship and postseason championship with possible wins over Nebraska/Ohio State and Wisconsin/Michigan State based on potential matchups would set the Wolverines up nicely. Add those wins, in tournament play, with regular season victories over Wisconsin, Ohio State, Iowa as well as two over in-state rival Michigan State, and Michigan has a strong argument to be a No. 1 seed.
Mike Esse is a junior majoring in broadcast journalism and is a ComRadio Sports Director. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
About the Contributors
Senior / Broadcast Journalism
Mike Esse is a senior from Grosse Pointe, Mich., majoring in broadcast journalism with a minor in business. He is a reporter for the Centre County report with a primary focus in sports. Additionally, he serves as the Student General Manager for ComRadio as well as being a producer, talk show personality and play-by-play voice.
Mike also is a staff writer for gopsusports.com where he covers Penn State women’s basketball and baseball and works for Penn State Athletics in video production. He has completed internships with MLB Advanced Media in Summer 2014 and Westwood One Sports in summer 2013.