2014 College Basketball Conference Tournament Predictions: Big Sky, Big West, Sun Belt and Western Athletic Favorites:While most of the conference tournaments are wrapping up or at least underway, there are still a handful that have yet to begin, including four from smaller conferences. The Big Sky, Big West, Sun Belt and WAC tournaments will all begin Thursday, and considering all four conferences will be one-bid leagues, teams will literally be battling for their NCAA tournament lives every time they take the court. With that in mind, here is a look at the favorites for each conference tournament.
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Big Sky: Weber State Wildcats
The Wildcats won the regular season title, and as a result, they are the only team that will get a bye in the tournament. More importantly, they have the stingiest defense in a conference, giving them a balance that the rest of the teams just don’t have. Weber State also has a go-to scorer in point guard Davion Berry, who is averaging almost 20 points per game. Overall, the Wildcats rank 23rd in the country in field goal percentage, after finishing two games clear of the rest of the conference in the regular season, the same efficient offense and solid defense should carry the to the tournament title.
Big West: UC Santa Barba Gauchos
The Big West tournament title will likely come down to a battle between UC Santa Barbara and UC Irvine, and while the Anteaters took the regular season crown, the Gauchos should be able to turn the tables in the tournament. For one, they are a little more balanced on the offensive end thanks in large part to power forward Alan Williams. The junior is averaging 21.6 points, 11.6 rebounds and 2.4 blocks per game. The Gauchos also have an experienced point guard in Zalmico Harmon and plenty of perimeter firepower surrounding Williams. UC Irvine has a stout defense, but when the Gauchos are firing on all cylinders, they are the better team as evidenced by their 80-60 victory over the Anteaters on January 30.
Sun Belt: Georgia State Panthers
Upsets are always a possibility in conference tournaments, but the Panthers had the rest of the Sun Belt absolutely covered during the regular season. Georgia State went 17-1 in conference play, finishing five games ahead of second-place Western Kentucky. The Panthers have four players averaging more than 11 points per game, including leading-scorer R.J. Hunter. Georgia State has more balance on offense than any other team in the conference, and it definitely showed during the regular season. The Panthers have no excuse not to win the conference tournament.
Western Athletic (WAC): New Mexico State Aggies
A rubber match between the New Mexico State and Utah Valley seems inevitable, and although the Wolverines took the regular season crown by a single game, the Aggies are by far the more balanced team. In addition to having by far the best offense in the conference, they also have the second-best defense. Granted, they split with the Wolverines, but while the Aggies lost in overtime on the road, they crushed them at home. On a neutral court, New Mexico State’s offensive firepower should lead them to the tournament title.
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