Joe Sullivan

A wide-open ACC highlights this week’s conference tournaments

North Carolina head coach Roy Williams reacts during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Duke in Chapel Hill, N.C., Saturday, March 4, 2017. North Carolina won 90-83. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
Coach Roy Williams and North Carolina are 26-6 following a win over Duke Saturday.

The ACC men’s basketball tournament, unquestionably the best postseason conference tournament in history, is coming north this year. You might have forgotten, but it will be played in Brooklyn at the Barclays Center both this year and next.

BC fans take note; it might be like the old Big East days, sort of.

The Big East tournament is still at Madison Square Garden, so if you know the New York subway system well or know a former NASCAR driver who works for Uber, you could catch games in both tournaments. That would be a challenge worth taking.


It might easier to see multiple games in Las Vegas, where the Pac 12, Mountain West, and WAC are all taking place.

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Anyway, a look at this week’s conference tournaments:

American Athletic Conference


At Hartford

Favorite: SMU. The Mustangs, led by Duke transfer Semi Ojeleye, have won 12 in a row.

Contenders: Cincinnati, Houston, Central Florida. Central Florida has a possible game changer in 7-foot-6-inch Tacko Fall.

Long shot: UConn. The inconsistent Huskies would have to get it together on their home floor.


Prediction: Cincinnati. The Bearcats are tenacious and will not be denied.



At Brooklyn

Favorite: North Carolina. The Tar Heels are deep and have a great mix of perimeter and inside players.

Contenders: Florida State, Duke, Virginia, Notre Dame, Louisville. You can find reasons why all these teams can and can’t win the tournament. Incredibly wide open.

Long shot: Wake Forest. Big man John Collins would have to carry the Deacons home.

Prediction: North Carolina.

Atlantic 10


At Pittsburgh


Favorite: Dayton. The Flyers aren’t supremely talented, but they play hard and together, and are really well-coached by Archie Miller.

Contenders: VCU, Saint Bonaventure, Rhode Island, Richmond. It’s a wide-open field. As good as Dayton is, the Flyers are not a lock.

Long shot: George Mason. Guard Marquise Moore is one of the most unusual players in the country. At 6-2, he leads the team in scoring and rebounding.

Prediction: George Mason.

Big East


At Madison Square Garden

Favorite: Villanova. The Wildcats may have won the national championship, but they didn’t win the Big East tournament last season.

Contenders: Butler, Creighton, Seton Hall. Winning a couple of games in this tournament will be important to the Hall.

Long shot: Providence. The Friars need an MVP performance from Rodney Bullock.

Prediction: Villanova. This season, the Wildcats win it, but the real goal is another national title.

Big Sky

(Tuesday, Thursday-Saturday)

At Reno, Nev.

Favorite: North Dakota. A pair of Minnesota guards, Quinton Hooker and Geno Crandell, is the reason NorthDak won the regular season.

Contenders: Eastern Washington, Idaho, Weber State, Montana State. Eastern Washington played North Dakota only once and would like another shot on a neutral court.

Long shot: Sacramento State. The ultra-patient Hornets just beat North Dakota in Grand Forks last Thursday.

Prediction: Eastern Washington.

Big Ten


At Washington, D.C.

Favorite: Purdue. Caleb Swanigan has put together an All-American season. He’s 6-9, 250, but somehow isn’t targeted to be in the NBA lottery.

Contenders: Wisconsin, Maryland, Minnesota. Minny coach Richard Pitino has made his daddy proud: The Gophers are a tough unit.

Long shot: Michigan State. Injuries have ruined Sparty’s season, but they could wake up and win it all.

Prediction: Minnesota.

Big 12


At Kansas City, Mo.

Favorite: Kansas. The top team in the country with the national player of the year, guard Frank Mason.

Contenders: Iowa State, Baylor, West Virginia. West Virginia’s tenacious, full-court press causes problems for every team.

Long shot: Texas Tech. The Red Raiders have had a series of tough games; suddenly, it could go their way.

Prediction: Kansas. On to the national championship.

Big West


At Anaheim, Calif.

Favorite: UC Irvine. The Anteaters rely on defense; they’re sixth in the country in field goal percentage defense.

Contenders: UC Davis, Fullerton State. Fullerton has a recent victory over Irvine.

Long shot: Long Beach State. The 49ers have had a down year, but they’re still capable.

Prediction: Fullerton State.

Conference USA


At Birmingham, Ala.

Favorite: Middle Tennessee. Guard Giddy Potts & Co. should be in the NCAA Tournament field no matter what. The Blue Raiders beat Michigan State in the first round last season and will be dangerous again.

Contenders: Louisiana Tech, Rice, Old Dominion, UTEP. UTEP lost 12 in a row this season but has recovered.

Long shot: UAB. The hometown advantage might make a difference.

Prediction: Middle Tennessee.

Ivy League


At Philadelphia

Favorite: Princeton. The Tigers were undefeated in the league, but did have to survive some close calls.

Contenders: Harvard, Yale. The Crimson have come so close against Princeton. I expect them to win a third meeting.

Long shot: Penn. The Quakers are playing on their home court.

Prediction: Harvard. The young Crimson just need to put two games together.



At Cleveland

Favorite: Akron. The Zips have had a great season (24-7) but have slipped near the end (a weird loss to Miami of Ohio). They need to be focused.

Contenders: Ohio, Kent State, Buffalo, Ball State, Western Michigan. It’s so wide open; anyone can win this if the Zips slip.

Long shot: Central Michigan. If the nation’s leading scorer, Marcus Keene (29.4), just goes berserk.

Prediction: Akron.



At Norfolk, Va.

Favorite: North Carolina Central. The Eagles can’t afford to play like they did last week in losing to last-place North Carolina A&T.

Contenders: Norfolk State, Morgan State, Hampton. Hampton won eight of its last 10.

Long shot: Delaware State. The Hornets managed to upset Central this season.

Prediction: Hampton.

Mountain West


At Las Vegas

Favorite: Nevada. The Wolfpack are coached by former NBA head man Eric Musselman, who had molded the team into a championship unit in his second season.

Contenders: Colorado State, Boise State, Fresno. Fresno finished with a five-game winning streak.

Long shot: San Diego State. It’s been a down year for the Aztecs, but they are still a stout defensive team.

Prediction: Nevada

Pacific 12


At Las Vegas

Favorite: UCLA. The Bruins actually finished third in the standings, but I maintain they are the best team.

Contenders: Oregon, Arizona. The Ducks finished with the best record in school history at 27-4. Hard not to make them the favorite. UCLA-Oregon would be a great final.

Long shot: Southern Cal. I can’t forget USC’s dominating victory over UCLA in January.

Prediction: UCLA. Lonzo Ball will be the MVP.



At Nashville

Favorite: Kentucky. The Playaz have dominated all season long.

Contenders: Florida, South Carolina, Arkansas. Canyon Barry, son of Hall of Famer Rick Barry, is a nice versatile player for Florida.

Long shot: Georgia. The Bulldogs have had some tough losses, but if they can get Yante Maten back from injury, they can put a run together.

Prediction: Kentucky. Not Coach Cal’s best team, but still good enough to win this.



At Katy, Texas

Favorite: New Orleans. The Privateers won the regular season, but this league has no true favorite.

Contenders: Texas A&M Corpus Christi, Houston Baptist, Stephen F. Austin. Baptist has an eight-game winning streak.

Long shot: Nicholls State. Remember, the Colonels beat Boston College back in November.

Prediction: Houston Baptist.

Sun Belt

(Wednesday, Friday-Sunday)

At New Orleans

Favorite: Texas Arlington. The Mavericks won 12 of their last 13.

Contenders: Arkansas State, Georgia State, Georgia Southern. Arkie State does have a win over Georgetown.

Long shot: Louisiana. The Cajuns finished with a five-game winning streak.

Prediction: Texas Arlington. The Mavs are a veteran unit that shouldn’t crack under tournament pressure.


(Tuesday at high-seeded team; Friday-Saturday)

At Houston

Favorite: Texas Southern. Former Indiana coach Mike Davis has created a SWAC powerhouse.

Contenders: Alcorn State and Southern. Alcorn won 10 of its last 11.

Long shot: Jackson State. JaxState had two nice nonconference wins over Southern Mississippi and Drake.

Prediction: Texas Southern.



At Las Vegas

Favorite: UC Bakersfield. The Roadrunners were once a Division 2 power.

Contenders: New Mexico State, Grand Canyon. It would be a landmark moment for former Phoenix Suns guard Dan Majerle if he could get GC to the tournament.

Long shot: Utah Valley. The Wolverines just beat New Mexico State in Las Cruces.

Prediction: Grand Canyon.

Joe Sullivan can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @GlobeSullivan