March 3, 2024
March Madness 2023: College basketball conference tournament predictions, picks, odds, sleepers

It is less than a week before Selection Sunday and that also means college basketball’s top conferences are gearing-up for their tournaments. The days ahead are going to be filled with all-day action featuring teams fighting for their spots in the NCAA Tournament and bragging rights after the grind of regular-season play.

A year ago, this week brought us surprises, such as No. 7 seed Virginia Tech winning the ACC Tournament and No. 5 seed Iowa winning the Big Ten Tournament. It also brought some heartbreak as No. 8 seed Texas A&M won three games in three days to reach the SEC Tournament final, only to lose in the title game and narrowly miss out on an at-large NCAA Tournament bid.

Some teams will exit early from their conference tournaments, put it behind them and regroup for the NCAA Tournament. But others don’t have that luxury and will be playing for their lives. From an NCAA Tournament bubble standpoint every major conference except the Big East has at least one team on the bubble in Jerry Palm’s Bracketology, and some conferences have multiple bubble squads. So what’s in store for the action?

Our experts have combed through the conference tournament brackets of the sport’s top leagues and have come up with championship predictions and sleeper picks from each bracket. Odds courtesy of Caesars Sportsbook

American Athletic Conference Tournament

Breakdown: No. 1 seed Houston is the team to beat in the AAC as the Cougars gear up for their final league tournament before joining the Big 12 next season. The only other AAC squad with an at-large case for the NCAA Tournament is No. 2 seed Memphis, but there is a solid, upset-minded chase pack behind those two. Watch out for No. 3 seed Tulane, which beat Memphis twice, and don’t sleep on No. 5 seed Temple, which beat Houston on the road. Ultimately, the Cougars are the clear favorite as they try and win a third straight AAC Tournament on their way out of the league.

AAC Tournament schedule, pairings

Odds to win American Athletic Conference Tournament

ACC Tournament

Breakdown: The ACC has been the target of criticism for its overall struggles this season, but the league’s regular season title race was the most dramatic of any power conference. Now comes the five-day melee to decide a tournament champion. If there is one thing the ACC has on other leagues this season, it’s parity, and the number of viable candidates to cut down nets on Saturday is vast. Squads like No. 3 seed Clemson and No. 7 seed North Carolina are also fighting to build their NCAA Tournament resumes, which adds another layer of intrigue. Though it’s been a down year for the likes of Duke, North Carolina, Louisville and Syracuse by their historical standards, the wide-open nature of the ACC should make for a great tournament.

ACC Tournament schedule, pairings

Odds to win ACC Tournament

Big East Tournament

Breakdown: There is a clear delineation among Big East teams as the top-five seeds — all of whom get byes — are the league’s clear-cut NCAA Tournament teams. After that group, the best chance for a surprise run could be No. 6 seed Villanova as the Wildcats look to continue a late-season surge under first-year coach Kyle Neptune. No. 1 seed Marquette won the regular season title after being picked to finish eighth, marking the third time the program has claimed a Big East title. But the Golden Eagles have never won the Big East Tournament since joining the league for the 2005-06 season. If they get it done, it would just add more solidification to coach Shaka Smart’s national coach of the year case..

Big East Tournament schedule, pairings

Odds to win Big East Tournament

Big Ten Tournament

Breakdown: The Big Ten Tournament will likely have a greater impact on deciding what the NCAA Tournament field looks like than any other league tournament. Entering the week, CBS Sports Bracketology Expert Jerry Palm had four teams from the conference considered as bubble squads. Among them are Penn State and Michigan, who are slotted among the “Last Four In” while Wisconsin is among the “First Four Out.” Rutgers will also need to make some noise after losing six of its final eight regular season games. Though No. 1 seed Purdue won the league by three games, the Boilermakers have looked shaky in recent weeks and will be fending off a huge chase pack in what may be the sport’s deepest league.  

Big Ten Tournament schedule, pairings

Odds to win Big Ten Tournament

Big 12 Tournament

Breakdown: The Big 12 features four teams projected as No. 3 seeds or better for the NCAA Tournament in Palm’s Bracketology. Seven of the league’s 10 teams are in Palm’s projected field, and Oklahoma State has a shot at making the field as well. This league is stacked, and the tournament should be wide open. While No. 1 seed Kansas won the league outright, the Jayhawks got smacked at Texas in the regular season finale and could face a semifinal matchup against No. 4 seed Baylor after they split during the regular season. On the bracket’s other side, a quarterfinal matchup between No. 3 seed Kansas State and No. 6 seed TCU could be fun after they split in the regular season with each team winning a lopsided game on their home floor.

Big 12 Tournament schedule, pairings

Odds to win Big 12 Tournament

Pac-12 Tournament

Breakdown: It hasn’t been a great season for the Pac-12 as No. 1 seed UCLA and No. 2 seed Arizona are the league’s only NCAA Tournament locks entering the week. But No. 3 seed USC is on the right side of Palm’s bubble and No. 6 Arizona is among the “First Four Out.” Outside of those four, the team to watch is No. 5 seed Washington State. The Cougars have won six in a row since a 5-9 start to league play and could be dangerous. After all, it was just two years ago that Oregon State made a surprise Pac-12 Tournament title run and then progressed all the way to the Elite Eight. This tournament could determine whether just two Pac-12 teams make the Big Dance or if perhaps as many as four can sneak in

Pac-12 Tournament schedule, pairings

Odds to win Pac-12 Tournament

SEC Tournament

Breakdown: Top-seeded Alabama won the SEC outright, but the Crimson Tide are entering the postseason fresh off a loss at Texas A&M and are grappling with off-court distractions surrounding star freshman Brandon Miller. With the No. 2 seed Aggies hot and No. 3 seed Kentucky rounding into form, this tournament could be wide open. No. 9 seed Mississippi State arguably has the most at stake as the Bulldogs enter as one of Palm’s “Last Four in” but No. 7 seed Auburn and No. 6 seed Vanderbilt are technically bubble teams as well. The Commodores face an uphill battle to at-large status following an injury to star center Liam Robbins but could turn some heads with a win over No. 3 seed Kentucky in a potential quarterfinal matchup.

SEC Tournament schedule, pairings

Odds to win SEC Tournament

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