Among the many beautiful things about March Madness is the notion that any team can make it. Every conference gets one automatic bid for the NCAA Tournament. Most automatic bids are awarded to the winner of each respective conference tournament. Each article will preview a different conference tournament with a full bracket breakdown.
6W Rice def. 7W Southern Mississippi
6E Middle Tennessee def. 7E Florida International**
4W UTSA def. 5E Charlotte
3E Marshall def. 6W Rice
5W UTEP def. 4E Florida Atlantic
3W North Texas def. 6E Middle Tennessee
1E Western Kentucky def. 4W UTSA
3E Marshall def. 2W UAB
5W UTEP def. 1W Louisiana Tech
3W North Texas def. 2E Old Dominion
1E Western Kentucky def. 3E Marshall
3W North Texas def. 5W UTEP
1E Western Kentucky def. 3W North Texas
** Florida International withdrew from the event due to COVID protocols and contact tracing
Format Note: Conference USA used a two-division split to play their season. Teams were apportioned in the conference tournament based on their finish in either the East or West division.
Only three active players in the NBA were selected from Conference USA schools and none were drafted in over 10 years. The Hilltoppers star player, junior center Charles Bassey, is on the latest Wooden Award watchlist and likely to be drafted in the next NBA draft. Their three conference losses were by a combined 11 points (one game went to overtime) and they have victories over strong non-conference teams in Memphis and Alabama. When it comes to two-way ball, Western Kentucky is the most balanced team in the conference. They are top three in points per game, three-point percentage, three-point percentage allowed, offensive and defensive rebounding, and blocked shots. Across the board, this is the top team in the conference. The Hilltoppers might not survive on the bubble so they need to play three games at a high level to make the Big Dance.
Though North Texas leads the conference in field goal percentage, they are really a stronger defensive team. The Mean Green rank highly in effective field goal percentage allowed and fewest three-pointers allowed per game. A tetrad of seniors all average double-digit points per game and lead the team in minutes plays. Reigning C-USA Player of the Year Javion Hamlet leads the way with 14.4 points per game and 4.1 assists. Due to cancellations, North Texas hasn’t faced too many teams that are in the bottom half of the draw. Of the few games that do match that description, North Texas is 3-1. The Mean Green are a strong team as far as mid-majors go and could make waves in this conference tournament.
Matchup to Watch
Louisiana Tech vs UTEP
The Bulldogs have been on a roll winning nine of their last ten games. They may be vulnerable as a top seed, however, with stats that profile like a lesser team. Louisiana Tech is middle of the pack in key stats like free throw percentage, three-point shooting, and turnover margin. The Miners, on the other hand, are what they seem. A scrappy team with good wins and bad losses. Since splitting a series with Louisiana Tech, UTEP has 5-4 including a stellar loss in a last-minute game against Kansas. The upset potential that exists here is high and should make for a compelling early-round match.
Featured Image courtesy of meangreensports.com
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