Thomas: NCAAB power-6 conference tournament picks
Aidan Thomas | Tuesday, March 7, 2023
With the start the women’s basketball conference tournaments last weekend, March Madness entered full swing. Prior to spring break, it’s time for my Annual Extremely Accurate Definitely Won’t Be Wrong March Madness Predictions (trademark pending). Let’s start with a look at the Power-6 conference tournament brackets, where teams seek conference glory, higher seeds or even NCAA Tournament bids, depending on their bubble status.
I’m picking only a couple of very ‘minor’ upsets in the early going, with 13th-seeded Georgia Tech beating 12th-seeded Florida State in the opening round. In the pre-quarterfinals, I have the ninth seed, Wake Forest, advancing past Syracuse. However, beyond that, it’ll be a lot of chalk, ending seasons for many teams that needed significant tournament runs to challenge the bubble.
My lone quarterfinal upset belongs to N.C. State who secure their spot in the Round of 64 by toppling third-seeded Clemson. Miami, Virginia and Duke hold serve as the higher seeds and advance to the semifinals. From there, Virginia will handle the Wolfpack and advance to the ACC Championship. They’ll meet Miami, the ACC’s top seed, in the championship after the Hurricanes edge out a Duke team that’s peaking at the right time. The Cavaliers, a top 10 team for portions of the season, will return to form in time to claim the ACC Championship.
My pick: Virginia over Miami
Other Semifinalists: NC State, Duke
Big 12 Tournament
The Big 12 features a whole bunch of NCAA Tournament-caliber teams, and it should be a very entertaining week. That being said, while I anticipate a lot of interesting games, I’m not picking much in the way of upsets. I believe Kansas is the best team, albeit narrowly, in the conference, and that’ll make itself apparent over three tournament victories. My biggest “upset” is Kansas State narrowly edging out Texas in the semifinals. The Wildcats have been one of my preferred underdog teams all year to make a run in March, and I think they’ll set up an entertaining in-state Big 12 championship clash.
My pick: Kansas over Kansas State
Other Semifinalists: Texas, Baylor
When Northwestern played Rutgers to end the regular season, the Wildcats secured the second seed with a win. With a loss, they would have fallen to the ninth seed. That epitomizes the parity on display in the Big Ten Tournament this week. I think we’ll see some chalk in the preliminary rounds, pushing the best teams forward into the quarterfinals. There, I’ve got some upsets (based on seed) Sharpied in on my bracket. That starts with seventh-seeded Illinois pushing forward into the semifinals over Northwestern, and sixth-seeded Maryland triumphing over Indiana in the quarterfinals. Purdue and Michigan State hold, serve and move into the semifinals over Michigan and Iowa, respectively.
In the semifinals, Maryland beats Illinois to get to the championship round, and Purdue cruises past Michigan State. Indiana is Purdue’s true kryptonite in the conference, and with the Hoosiers gone, the Boilermakers triumph in the championship game.
My pick: Purdue over Maryland
Other Semifinalists: Michigan State, Illinois
The Big East features some very bad Power-6 teams, and as such, I see most of the top seeds cruising into the semifinals. The UConn-Providence quarterfinal is an interesting game, but I think the Huskies advance, putting all top four seeds into the semis. From there, I’ll take UConn to advance over top-seeded Marquette. The Huskies have won nine of 11 games, with the two losses by a combined six points. They’re very dangerous and will advance to the championship to meet second-seeded Xavier. The Huskies, who sat second in the AP Poll earlier this season, will beat the Musketeers in the championship.
My pick: UConn over Xavier
Other Semifinalists: Marquette, Creighton
This is going to be my most boring pick. I haven’t filled out my March Madness bracket yet (obviously), but UCLA is definitely in the camp of my favorite national title picks. Arizona is the only other team I see being close to Final Four quality. As such I see those two meeting in the championship with not too much craziness happening in the middle. Give me straight chalk in the semifinals and championship, and I’ll let a mediocre conference with one or two elite teams prove me wrong.
My pick: UCLA over Arizona
Other Semifinalists: USC, Oregon
I don’t think Alabama has the ability to go all the way in March. However, I think they’ll be dangerous in the SEC Tournament and take home a conference title before faltering in the NCAA Tournament. I’ll take some small upsets in the early going, including 10th-seeded Arkansas making it to the quarterfinals.
However, ultimately the Crimson Tide will topple fifth-seeded Tennessee in the semifinals, and they will then avenge a regular season loss to Texas A&M in the SEC Championship. Kentucky is the other semifinalist, drawing a Vanderbilt team that is far worse than their sixth seed in the quarterfinals.
My pick: Alabama over Texas A&M
Other Semifinalists: Kentucky, Tennessee