Previewing this week’s men’s college basketball conference tournaments

Gonzaga cheerleaders run on the court with flags spelling the school name before an NCAA college basketball game between Gonzaga and Saint Mary's in Spokane, Wash., Saturday, Feb. 29, 2020. (AP Photo/Young Kwak)
young kawk/AP
Gonzaga not only will be favored in the West Coast Conference but should contend for the national title.

Colgate’s victory over Boston University Feb. 10 pretty much decided the Patriot League regular-season title, but BU coach Joe Jones was upbeat in his postgame news conference.

“A lot to learn from this,’’ he said. “We want to put ourselves in a position to play them again if we can do it. We’ve got to learn from this.

“This is a game that can really help you take a step that you’re trying to take, both as a staff and our players, just have that growth mind-set, learning.


“We’re good enough to win this, we know that, but we’ve got to learn, we’ve got to keep getting better. I think, right now, Colgate is the best team, but in another month, I think we’ve got a chance.’’

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Here we are. BU could get its shot at Colgate in the Patriot League tournament, which began Tuesday night. First, the Terriers will have to win two games, starting with Navy at Case Gym Thursday night.

Here’s a preview of the conference tournaments that start this week:

Patriot League

March 3-11, at higher seed

Favorite: Colgate. The Raiders have the home-court advantage and a well-balanced lineup, with five players averaging double figures. They’re going to be difficult to dislodge.

Contenders: BU, American, Lafayette. BU has to play with intensity on defense and rebound to pull off the upset.


Long shot: Loyola of Maryland. The return from injury of freshman big man Santi Aldama has made a big difference.

Prediction: Colgate. The home court will be the difference.


March 7-10, at Washington

Favorite: Hofstra. Great guard play, especially from Desure Buie and Eli Pemberton, coupled with decent big man Isaac Kante makes the Dutchmen a well-balanced threat.

Contenders: William & Mary, Delaware, Towson. W&M has never been to the NCAAs, one of four schools that have failed to do so despite being eligible for every one.

Long shot: Northeastern. The Huskies will need Jordan Roland to go on a three-day scoring binge.


Prediction: William & Mary. The league’s best player, Nathan Knight, can carry the Tribe to the title.

America East

March 7-14, at higher seed

Favorite: Vermont. Three losses at home make the Catamounts seem more vulnerable than usual, even though they easily won the regular-season title.

Contenders: Stony Brook, Hartford. The Brook was one of the three teams that won in Burlington.

Long shot: UMBC. The Retrievers, forever known as the only 16 seed to win an NCAA men’s tournament game, have also won in Burlington this season.

Prediction: Vermont. Anthony Lamb is too good a player, and he has a good supporting cast.

Northeast Conf.

March 4-10, at higher seed

Favorite: Robert Morris. The Colonials have a tough inside/outside combo in Josh Williams and A.J. Bramah.

Contenders: Saint Francis of Pennsylvania, Sacred Heart. No team in the NEC really has an answer for Heart’s 6-foot-7-inch big man E.J. Anosike (15.6 ppg, 11.3 rpg).

Long shot: FDU. The Knights finished strongly, including two victories over Robert Morris.

Prediction: Merrimack . . . I’m kidding. The Warriors, who won the regular-season title, are ineligible for the tournament this season. Saint Francis. The Frankies’ senior guard tandem of Keith Braxton and Isaiah Blackmon is the best in the league.

Atlantic Sun

March 3-10, at higher seed

Favorite: Liberty. The Flames got some Top 25 votes after winning 19 of their first 20. This team is not exciting to watch; defense is what matters.

Contenders: North Florida, Stetson. North Florida is a well-balanced team with five double-figure scorers.

Long shot: Lipscomb. It has been a down year (14-15), but the Bisons just upset Liberty Saturday.

Prediction: North Florida. The Ospreys have been toughened by a nonconference schedule that included road games at Iowa, Creighton, Florida State, Syracuse, and Dayton.

Big South

March 3-9

First round at higher seed

Quarterfinals, semifinals at No. 1 seed

Final at higher seed

Favorite: Radford. This is the school where Javonte Green of the Celtics played. The Highlanders have finished strong, winning 10 of their last 11.

Contenders: Winthrop, Gardner-Webb, Hampton. Winthrop had a landmark victory at Saint Mary’s.

Long shot: Charleston Southern. Maybe junior guard Phlandrous Fleming can carry the Buccaneers.

Prediction: Radford. This is a veteran team, with seniors who are the winningest class in school history.

Horizon League

March 3-10

First, second round at higher seed

Semifinals, final at Indianapolis

Favorite: Wright State. With a name like a rock star, Loudon Love is a 6-8, 260-pound center who can dominate games scoring, rebounding, and passing.

Contenders: Northern Kentucky, Green Bay. NoK played Wright State tough, dropping a 2-point decision in the final regular-season game.

Long shot: Oakland. The Grizz can’t be counted out with coach Greg Kampe on the bench.

Also, he’s great on Twitter @kampeOU.

Prediction: Wright State. Love is not a one-man team; outside gunner Billy Wampler is a serious threat.


March 9-14

First round at higher seed

Quarterfinals, semifinals, final at Cleveland

Favorite: Akron. The Zips are a veteran team that relies on tough defense to win.

Contenders: Bowling Green, Northern Illinois, Buffalo. Bowling Green has been excellent at times but inconsistent. If the good Falcons show up, they can win.

Long shot: Kent State. Julian Edelman’s school slumped at the end of the season, but the Flashes are capable, especially when Booman Williams gets going.

Prediction: Akron. The NCAA Tournament needs the Zips’ electrifying 5-8 guard, Loren Christian Jackson.

Missouri Valley

March 5-8, at St. Louis

Favorite: Northern Iowa. The Panthers (25-5) could have been nationally ranked except for a couple of tough road losses.

Contenders: Loyola of Chicago, Indiana State, Bradley. Loyola has the best old-time style player in college basketball in center Cameron Krutwig.

Long shot: Drake. The Bulldogs’ 7-0 center, Liam Robbins, is capable of dominating games.

Prediction: Northern Iowa. Panthers guard A.J. Green is All-American-caliber. He might be the most underrated player in the country.

Mountain West

March 4-7, at Las Vegas

Favorite: San Diego State. A combination of transfers and great defense has made this a historic season for the Aztecs.

Contenders: Utah State, Nevada. Utah State guard Sam Merrill is the best unknown player in the country.

Long shot: UNLV. The Rebels have the home-court advantage, have won their last five, plus hold a win over San Diego State.

Prediction: Utah State. If Aggies center Neemias Queta is fully healthy, they could be the best team.

Ohio Valley

March 4-7, at Evansville, Ind.

Favorite: Belmont. When the Bruins came to Boston in November and walloped BC, you could easily envision them as an NCAA Tournament team.

Contenders: Murray State, Austin Peay. Murray’s Tevin Brown may not be as good as Ja Morant, but he’s an outstanding guard.

Long shot: Eastern Illinois. I like coach Jay Spoonhour a lot, and his team rallied from 27 points down to beat Murray.

Prediction: Belmont. The Bruins have lots of offensive options, including BU transfer Tyler Scanlon — too many for everyone else.

Southern Conference

March 6-9, at Asheville, N.C.

Favorite: East Tennessee State. The strangely nicknamed Buccaneers are a veteran unit with good size and good shooting eyes who set a school record with 27 victories and won at LSU.

Contenders: Furman, UNC Greensboro. Furman’s Jordan Lyons is built like an NFL defensive back, and plays that way too.

Long shot: Wofford. The Terriers still have some excellent shooters left from last season’s NCAA team.

Prediction: Furman. This really should be a two-bid league. Better to have both Furman and East Tennessee in the NCAA field than some sixth-place team from the Pathetic 12.

Summit League

March 7-10, at Sioux Falls, S.D.

Favorite: North Dakota State. The Bison, known more as a football school, are sparked by a small guard, Vinnie Shahid. They have a sneaky-good nonconference win over East Tennessee.

Contenders: South Dakota State, South Dakota. S.D. State has had a surprising good season under first-year coach Eric Henderson.

Long shot: Oral Roberts. The Golden Eagles have been hardened by a tough nonleague schedule.

Prediction: South Dakota State. The Jackrabbits no longer have the legendary Mike Daum, but junior forward Douglas Wilson is decent, leading the team in scoring and rebounding.

Sun Belt

March 7-15

First three rounds at higher seed

Semifinals, final at New Orleans

Favorite: Little Rock. Picked 11th in the preseason poll, the Trojans have overachieved under coach Darrell Walker, who played 10 years in the NBA and is the former head coach of the Toronto Raptors and Washington Wizards.

Contenders: Texas State, Georgia State, South Alabama, Georgia Southern. GaState’s first-year coach Rob Lanier has done a good job on continuing the school’s recent success.

Long shot: Coastal Carolina. The Chanticleers need to revert to their form of November, when they beat Utah and played decently against Baylor.

Prediction: South Alabama. The Jaguars have finished strongly and beat Little Rock on its home court.

West Coast Conference

March 5-10, at Las Vegas

Favorite: Gonzaga. The Zags have exceeded expectations with one of the top offenses in the country, with seven players averaging double figures.

Contenders: BYU, Saint Mary’s. These are two of the best shooting teams in the country. If either one gets hot, they can win it.

Long shot: San Francisco. The Dons have been in and out but are talented. They need to put together several excellent games.

Prediction: Gonzaga. This is a national championship contender.

Joe Sullivan can be reached at