NCAA tournament 2011: Ranking the conference tournaments
Here's my list of the most intriguing conference tournaments. I rank all of 'em.
1) Big East: Yes, it's longer than Ken Burns' Baseball. But you've got teams contending for No. 1 seeds, No. 2 seeds, No. 3 seeds and No. 12 seeds. Eleven teams with NCAA hopes.
2) Mountain West: Two top 10 teams plus national player of the year favorite Jimmer Fredette equals a can't-miss event.
3) Big 10: This has been a league with great coaches in recent years. I'm also attracted to compelling story lines at Purdue and Michigan State. Also, watch for Michigan and Penn State as potential sleepers.
4) SEC: I admit I have a perverse fascination with the SEC West. Alabama's turnaround has made it interesting. There is no telling what Renardo Sidney will do or say. In the East, you've got Calipari and Pearl. Donovan's team: the Cardiac Kids.
5) Big 12: Upstarts Nebraska and Colorado could spoil some hope for bubble teams. But the real reason to watch is a Kansas-Texas rematch --- finally.
6) ACC: I have been down on this tourney all season because the league is down. But UNC has found life, and a number of teams --- FSU, VT, BC, Maryland, Clemson - all will be desperate to find wins.
7) CAA: The league can get three teams in if someone other than George Mason or ODU wins it. Overall, you've got star power in the league and the nation's hottest team in Mason.
8) WCC: You never want to count out Gonzaga in this. It looks like a one-bid league with a very competitive final.
9) Horizon: Can Butler get back to the NCAAs? Valpo and Cleveland State are worth watching. Norris Cole of CSU is worth checking out.
10) MAC: Want parity? Seven of the 12 teams are within two games of the best league mark (9-3).
11) Pac-10: From top to bottom, this tourney just doesn't do it for me this season. Washington is fun to watch whether they want to play D or not. Derrick Williams is even more fun to watch. But not much more than that in my view.
12) Conference USA: The best thing about this league is that no one wants to win it. The worst thing is that someone will win it and that it will send at least one - maybe two or three - teams to the NCAAs. Lots of mediocrity.
13) Atlantic 10: It's okay. Richmond likely will need a win (or more). Xavier and Temple are good teams, not much more. Duquesne is a good story. I'll pass on most else here.
14) Missouri Valley: The MVC has seen better days. This will be a competitive tournament. The winner will go to the NCAAs and that's it.
15) WAC: Utah State has lost to Idaho, so anything is possible. Just tune in late at night to check out if Utah State is in a close game.
16) OVC: You could have a great final between Murray State and Morehead State. But get a look at Kenneth Faried, the rebounding machine, from Morehead.
17) Big South: Coastal Carolina was once the hottest thing going. It has now lost two of three games, bringing more intrigue to this thing.
18) Southern: College of Charleston's Andrew Goudelock can play with any guard around.
19) Summit: Get a good look at Oakland and NBA prospect Keith Benson and consider picking them for a first-round NCAA tourney upset.
20) Southland: This is a bit ridiculous. Ten of the 12 teams are within two games of the best league record. McNeese State is the favorite, but don't bet on it.
21) America East: It should be all about Vermont and Boston U.
22) Patriot: Bucknell is the favorite, but American has been lurking all season.
23) Big Sky: This league has had entertaining finals in the past.
24) Atlantic Sun: Belmont should emerge, and the Bruins are a real threat to win a game in the NCAAs.
25) MEAC: An underrated tournament with a nice atmosphere.
26) Metro Atlantic: Fairfield is the favorite, but three others are prime contenders.
27) Big West: Dan Monson's '49ers have throttled opponents the past five games.
28) Northeast: Long Island is the favorite. Wake me up when it's over.
29) Sun Belt: There are better things to do in early March than watch this. Go do them.
30) SWAC: Always wanted to go just to get a hat or T-shirt.
| February 23, 2011; 8:45 AM ET
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