The season has reached the home stretch! The major conference tournaments get going Tuesday when the ACC Tournament begins before the rest of the leagues get underway Wednesday and Thursday. Conference tournament games are no more important to the selection committee than regular season games with two exceptions. First, the committee needs to know which team is the automatic qualifier, which is decided by the conference tournaments. The other thing is that games are typically played on neutral courts and the committee values quality wins away from home. The conference tournaments are the last chance to stack wins of that nature.
For teams on the bubble, these games can be vital. For others, it is all about seeding or trying to win to get in.
Here is a conference by conference breakdown of each tournament from a Bracketology perspective.
NCAA Tournament locks: Virginia, Miami, Duke
Probable NCAA Tournament teams: Pitt, NC State
On the bubble for NCAA Tournament: North Carolina, Clemson
It is another down year for the ACC, although it is a little better than last year. In 2022, as you may recall, Duke as a No. 2 seed was the only team seeded above a No. 8 seed. UNC had to get hot just to get in at a No. 8 seed. Miami was a No. 10 seed, Notre Dame was the last team in the field and Virginia Tech won its way in.
This year, there figures to be at least three top half of the bracket teams, so that's already an improvement even if none of them get as high as a No. 2 seed.
However, North Carolina is squarely on the bubble. It is the only team anyone wants to talk about. The Tar Heels have struggled against better competition, posting a 1-9 record in Quad 1 games. They also have a win over fellow bubbler Michigan, which could come in handy.
Clemson is struggling to recover from four bad losses, including one at Louisville, arguably the worst major conference team in decades, although Cal is making a strong case for that as well this season.
The Tigers have done well in the league, but the ACC has not been strong enough to boost them into solid contention for a spot in the field. They have miserable strength of schedule numbers. Clemson's nonconference SOS ranks 336th and overall it's 107th. That is going to be very hard to overcome.
Clemson and North Carolina would meet in a semifinal if both get that far.
Bracketology top seeds
Check out Palm's latest bracket, full field of 68 and all the teams on the bubble on the Bracketology hub.
American Athletic Conference Tournament
NCAA Tournament locks: Houston
Probable NCAA Tournament teams: none
On the bubble for NCAA Tournament: Memphis
Houston is a favorite of the selection committee, which they indicated by making them the No. 2 overall seed during the bracket reveal show on Feb. 18. They have not lost since and defeated Memphis twice, so you would have to think they are in strong contention for the overall No. 1 on Selection Sunday.
Memphis missed out on a great chance to beat the Cougars on Sunday, but lost at the buzzer. I think the Tigers can still be an at-large team thanks to wins over Texas A&M and Auburn, but that could change if they lose to someone besides Houston in the conference tournament. A win over the Cougars would give Memphis the AQ.
Big 12 Tournament
NCAA Tournament locks: Baylor, Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State, TCU, Texas
Probable NCAA Tournament: none
On the bubble for NCAA Tournament: Oklahoma State, West Virginia
It has been a tremendous year for this league. Only Texas Tech and Oklahoma are not in the top 50 of the NET, but they are no worse than 65th. Almost every time teams take the floor, it's an opportunity for a Quad 1 win.
Kansas is the league champ again and should be the overall No. 1 seed if the Jayhawks win the conference tournament. However, like I said above, the selection committee really likes Houston.
Texas, Baylor and Kansas State are in play for No. 2 seeds and I would not entirely rule out the Longhorns as a possible No. 1.
West Virginia is in the better shape of the bubble teams. The Mountaineers are 18-13 overall with all but one of their losses in Quad 1.
Oklahoma State is just 17-14 and will need at least one win in the conference tournament to ensure having a good enough record for consideration. Even with the schedules teams in this league have played, 17-15 with a loss to Oklahoma in the first round would likely send them to the NIT.
Big East Tournament
NCAA Tournament locks: Creighton, Marquette, UConn, Xavier
Probable NCAA Tournament teams: Providence
On the bubble for NCAA Tournament: none
It has been a great year for the top of the Big East. All four locks are in position to be seeded in the top five of a region. Preseason favorite Creighton struggled early due in part to injury problems, but righted the ship. Marquette was the surprise conference winner and could get seeded as high as a No. 2 should the Golden Eagles win the conference tournament.
Providence has struggled of late, losing three of its last four. I do not think the Friars would be in danger of missing the tournament if they lose to UConn in the quarterfinal, but they probably will not like their seed.
Big Ten Tournament
NCAA Tournament locks: Indiana, Iowa, Michigan State, Northwestern, Purdue
Probable NCAA Tournament teams: Illinois, Maryland
On the bubble for NCAA Tournament: Michigan, Penn State, Rutgers, Wisconsin
The conference race was Purdue and an 11-car pileup behind them. The Boilermakers will likely be a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament if it wins the conference tournament. Otherwise, it will depend on what other teams do.
The rest of the conference figures to own the middle of the bracket and the bottom of it. Indiana, Northwestern and Michigan State will probably do better than No. 8 seeds, but that's it.
Michigan, Penn State, Rutgers and Wisconsin are all fighting for spots in the field. The Nittany Lions are the hottest of that bunch at the moment, but heat is always fleeting for these teams. Wisconsin has the weirdest tournament résumé, which has six home losses. The Badgers are the No. 12 seed in the Big Ten Tournament, meaning the longest path to a championship. Michigan and Rutgers play each other on Thursday in what is surely an elimination game for making the NCAA Tournament.
NCAA Tournament locks: Arizona, UCLA
Probable NCAA Tournament teams: none
On the bubble for NCAA Tournament: Arizona State, Oregon, USC
UCLA is in pursuit of a No. 1 seed, but lacks the high end quality wins that the teams the Bruins are pursuing have. They beat Arizona to end the regular season for their best win by far. Still, it may be hard to deny them a spot on the top line if they win the Pac-12 Tournament and beat Arizona again to do so.
The bubble has three teams from the Pac-12. USC and Arizona State could play each other in a quarterfinal. The Sun Devils need that game more than USC does in part because they have already lost twice to the Trojans.
Oregon is a fringe bubble team and will not likely get serious consideration unless the Ducks beat UCLA in the semifinals. Even then, they may just have to win the whole thing.
NCAA Tournament locks: Alabama, Kentucky, Missouri, Tennessee, Texas A&M
Probable NCAA Tournament teams: Arkansas, Auburn
On the bubble for NCAA Tournament: Mississippi State, Vanderbilt
Alabama was the overall No. 1 seed in the committee's eyes on Feb. 18 and have only lost one time since. The differentiator then was the win at Houston. That may still be the case. Regardless, the Crimson Tide will very likely be a No. 1 seed on selection Sunday.
Tennessee, Texas A&M and Missouri are more likely in the 4-6 range. Kentucky is not there yet, but could join them with a good run in the conference tournament.
Mississippi State and Vanderbilt are each on the bubble but at opposite ends. The Bulldogs do not have a favorable draw in terms of realistically being able to help themselves. They start with Florida in an 8-9 game, but the Gators are not a tournament team. After that, they would face Alabama. Obviously a win there would be a huge help, but it is also a huge ask.
Vanderbilt needs a deep run. It is only 4-9 vs. Quad 1 teams and are trying to make up for three bad losses. The Commodores have a good draw though. They would face Kentucky, which they just beat at Rupp Arena, in the quarterfinals and would likely get a shot at Texas A&M in the semifinals. That still might not be enough, but it would at least get them serious consideration.