College basketball tiers: Big 12, Big Ten headline best conference tournaments

Welcome to Champ Week!

Several conference tournaments got underway this week, with multiple-bid leagues starting over the weekend and into next week.

For this week’s tiers, I’m looking at the most important and competitive conference tournaments leading into the Big Dance.

Let’s get to it.

Tier 1: Top of the line

1. Big 12: Kansas is the favorite to win the Big 12 Tournament title. The winner will likely earn a No. 1 seed, assuming it’s Kansas, Baylor or Texas. There are also multiple teams from the conference on the bubble, including West Virginia and Oklahoma State. Both the Mountaineers and Cowboys need to do well in this tournament.

2. Big Ten: Purdue currently sits at 24-5 overall and needs to cement a No. 1 seed. Multiple Big Ten teams, led by Indiana, could be in line for a top-four seed. Meanwhile, three teams from the conference — Wisconsin, Michigan and Penn State — need to get wins to get in the NCAA Tournament field.

3. SEC: Alabama is 26-4 overall and vying for a No. 1 seed. Meanwhile, both Texas A&M and Tennessee are trying to get on the 4 or 5-line. Kentucky is on the rise, and there are several bubble teams, like Auburn and Mississippi State, that can’t flop in the conference tournament.

4. Big East: This year’s Big East regular season was wild. Expect the Big East Tournament to be the same with Marquette, Xavier, Creighton, Providence and UConn all having a shot to win. And don’t dismiss surging Villanova.

[Marquette, UConn and Providence highlight big weekend on FOX]

The Big 12 headlines the best conference tournaments in college basketball

The Big 12 headlines the best conference tournaments in college basketball

FOX Sports’ Andy Katz lists the most competitive conference tournaments in college basketball with March Madness around the corner.

Tier 2: Next up

1. ACC: Miami and Virginia remain the favorites to take home the tournament title, but Pitt has had a breakthrough season. And never forget about Duke and North Carolina, especially in Greensboro. Tracking their progress throughout the conference tournament will be must-see TV.

2. Pac-12: UCLA has been one of the hottest teams in the country and has a chance to secure a No. 1 seed. Arizona could still get on the 2-line or at least the 3-line. USC and Arizona State need to keep winning in order to secure a spot in the tourney. Oh, and don’t forget about Oregon, which is always a threat to win in Las Vegas.

3. MWC: San Diego State is the favorite to win the conference tournament, but Nevada, Boise State, Utah State and New Mexico have all had their moments, and all are viable winners. And don’t dismiss San Jose State as a spoiler in the MWC.

4. American: Houston is the favorite and trying to lock up a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. Memphis is squarely on the bubble and needs to get to the championship game. Losing early could severely damage the Tigers’ tournament hopes.

Tier 3: The sleepers

1. MVC: Bradley is the favorite to take home the tournament crown after winning the regular-season title for the first time in 27 years. However, Drake, Indiana State, Missouri State, Southern Illinois, Belmont and Northern Iowa are more than capable of pulling off an upset.

2. A10: The A10 is a one-bid league this season. VCU is the favorite to win the conference tournament, but hardly a lock. Dayton, Saint Louis and even Fordham could end up winning the title.

3. WCC: Gonzaga and Saint Mary’s are locks to make the NCAA Tournament. Both are vying for a spot on the 4-5 line. Look out for LMU or Santa Clara as teams that could earn the WCC a third bid with a title.

4. CAA: Hofstra won the regular-season title, finishing 16-2 in conference play. But Charleston, Towson and UNC Wilmington are just as viable to win the tournament championship and earn an automatic bid.

5. Conference USA: Florida Atlantic still needs to win the tournament title in order to safely get a bid. The Owls will get a strong push from both North Texas and UAB.

Andy Katz is a longtime college basketball writer, analyst and host. He can be seen on the Big Ten Network, as well as March Madness and, and he hosts the podcast “March Madness 365.” Katz worked at ESPN for nearly two decades and, prior to that, in newspapers for nine years.

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