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March 2, 2010

The real "March Madness" -- the conference tournaments -- is under way.

The Ivy League is the only one of the 31 conferences that doesn't have a tournament.

Here's a look at each conference tournament, including TV information for the championship game, and we'll continue to add more preview information as each tourney is set to begin.

CURRENT TOURNAMENTS
America East
WHEN: March 6-7, 13
Where: Hartford, Conn., in the first two rounds; best remaining seed hosts the final.
TV for final: noon, ESPN2
Regular-season champ: Stony Brook
Format: Binghamton removed itself from the tourney, so the eight remaining teams qualified.
Projected NCAA bids: 1
The buzz: Stony Brook, which never has been to the NCAA tournament, won the regular-season title by a game over Vermont; the Seawolves swept the season series from Vermont. Stony Brook lost its final regular-season game, at sixth-seeded New Hampshire, and that snapped a 10-game winning streak. None of the teams that beat the Seawolves in conference play are in the same bracket with Stony Brook. Vermont has won eight of its past nine, with the only loss in that stretch to Stony Brook. A dark-horse is fourth-seeded Boston University; the Terriers come in having won six of seven, with the only loss by one to Vermont. BU could play Stony Brook in the second round, and the Seawolves won their two games over the Terriers this season by a combined 25 points.
The pick: Stony Brook
Atlantic 10
When: March 9, 12-14
Where: Atlantic City, N.J., with first-round games at campus sites.
TV for final: 1 p.m., CBS
Regular-season champ: Temple
Format: The top 12 teams qualify. The top four seeds get byes into second round.
Projected NCAA bids: 3-5
The buzz: Temple and Xavier tied for the regular-season title, but the Owls won the tiebreaker and are the No. 1 seed. Those teams are NCAA locks, as is third-seeded Richmond. The league could get as many as two more bids, but it could get just three total. Fifth-seeded Charlotte, sixth-seeded Rhode Island and seventh-seeded Dayton faded down the stretch. Charlotte comes in having lost three in a row and six of seven. Still, the 49ers have a shot at an at-large bid if they make it to the tournament final; that would entail beating Richmond in a quarterfinal and either Dayton or Xavier in a semifinal. Rhode Island, which has lost five of its past seven, has just one top-50 win this season. The Rams also likely have to get to the final to have an at-large shot -- as long as Temple is the opponent in the semifinals. No one else the Rams would play in this tournament would give their resume a boost. As for Dayton, the preseason league favorite, it comes in having lost four of five and five of seven. The Flyers have just one top-100 win away from home, so they will have an opportunity to improve on that mark. They, too, could feel good about an at-large bid should they get to the final; that would entail beating Xavier in the second round (the teams split their regular-season meetings) and either Charlotte or Richmond in the semis. Temple, Xavier and Richmond are playing for NCAA seeding. The Owls are in line for a No. 3 seed if things break right for them.
The pick: Temple
Atlantic Coast
When: March 11-14
Where: Greensboro, N.C.
TV for final: 1 p.m., ACC syndication/ESPN
Regular-season champ: TBD
Format: All league teams qualify. The top four seeds get byes into second round.
Projected NCAA bids: 5-7
The buzz: Duke and Maryland tied for the regular-season title, but Duke is the No. 1 seed by virtue of a tiebreaker. There is some intrigue with this tournament. Duke, Maryland, Clemson, Florida State and Wake Forest are NCAA locks. But Virginia Tech and especially Georgia Tech might be biting their fingernails Sunday. The Hokies played a pitiful non-conference schedule, have just three RPI top-50 wins overall and just one top-100 road win. Yet they finished tied for third in the league and probably are safe; still, they might want to win their first tourney game, which would be a quarterfinal matchup (probably against Wake), to truly feel good about their chances. As for Georgia Tech, the underachieving Yellow Jackets finished 7-9 in league play - in a down season for the ACC - and come in having lost five of seven. They have struggled away from home, but they do have four top-50 wins and seven top-100 wins. They play 10th-seeded North Carolina in the first round, and winning that might be enough for the Jackets. They would play Maryland in the quarterfinals, and a win in that one would lock up a bid for the Yellow Jackets. Duke, Maryland, FSU, Clemson and Wake are playing for seeding. Duke has a shot at a No. 1 seed, and Maryland could be as high as a No. 4. The others would seem to be in line for a No. 7 seed, at best.
The pick: Duke
Big 12
WHEN: March 10-13
Where: Kansas City, Mo.
TV for final: 6 p.m., ESPN
Regular-season champ: Kansas
Format: All league teams qualified. The top four seeds get byes into the second round.
Projected NCAA bids: 7
The buzz: Kansas won the regular-season title by four games, and there isn't much mystery to this tourney. Kansas, Kansas State, Baylor, Texas A&M, Missouri, Texas and Oklahoma State - the teams seeded first through seventh, respectively - are NCAA locks, and the only way anyone else will make the NCAA field is to pull a shocker and win this tournament. Kansas is playing to be the overall No. 1 seed, and the other six NCAA locks are playing for seeding. Texas could use a nice run to erase the memory of its late-season swoon.
The pick: Kansas
Big East
When: March 9-13
Where: New York
TV for final: 9 p.m., ESPN
Regular-season champ: Syracuse
Format: All league teams qualify. The top four seeds get a bye into the quarterfinals; seeds five through eight get a first-round bye.
Projected NCAA bids: 8-9
The buzz: Eight league teams have to feel good about getting at-large bids -- Syracuse, Pittsburgh, West Virginia, Villanova, Marquette, Louisville, Notre Dame and Georgetown, the teams seeded first through eighth, respectively. The Irish are the most iffy of that group. Tenth-seeded Seton Hall and 12th-seeded Connecticut have an at-large pulse, with Seton Hall's stronger than UConn's. Seton Hall has three RPI top-50 wins, but the Pirates (18-11) are just 11-11 against RPI top-200 teams. They play 15th-seeded Providence in the first round and would play Notre Dame in the second round. To lock up a bid, they might have to beat Pitt in a quarterfinal. Seton Hall split with Pitt during the regular season and beat Notre Dame in their only meeting. That means the Pirates could go 2-0 against the Irish, meaning it might be difficult for the selection committee to pick the Irish over the Pirates. UConn (17-14) probably has to get to the semis to have an at-large shot, which would entail beating St. John's, Marquette and Villanova in three days. No team has been selected as an at-large entrant with more than 14 losses. Syracuse looks good for a No. 1 seed, and the Orange are in the mix to be the overall No. 1. Pitt, Villanova and West Virginia are aiming for No. 2 seeds; each could be a No. 3, though.
The pick: Syracuse
Big Ten
When: March 11-14
Where: Indianapolis
TV for final: 3:30 p.m., CBS
Regular-season champ: Ohio State
Format: All league teams qualify. The top five seeds get byes into second round.
Projected NCAA bids: 4-5
The buzz: Michigan State, Ohio State and Purdue tied for the regular-season crown, but the Buckeyes won the tiebreaker and are the No. 1 seed. That trio plus Wisconsin are NCAA-bound for sure, and they're playing for seeding. Illinois is the team that can play itself into the NCAA field. While the Illini have four top-50 wins, they also are under .500 against teams in the RPI top 200 and have 13 losses overall. Illinois has a first-round bye and plays Wisconsin in its first tourney game, in the quarterfinals. Illinois split with the Badgers during the regular season, and another win over Wisconsin likely would be enough to get the Illini into the field of 65. If Illinois can get to the tourney final, it would be an NCAA lock. If the Illini get an at-large bid with 14 losses, they would be just the seventh team with that many losses to make the field since it expanded to 64 teams in 1985. Minnesota can play its way into the at-large discussion if it gets to the final.
The pick: Ohio State
Big West
WHEN: March 10-13
Where: Anaheim, Calif.
TV for final: 8 p.m., ESPN2
Regular-season champ: UC Santa Barbara
Format: The top eight teams qualified. The No. 1 and 2 seeds get byes into the semifinals. The No. 3 and 4 seeds get byes into the second round. The No. 5 seed plays the No. 8 and the No. 6 plays the No. 7 in the first round.
Projected NCAA bids: 1
The buzz: UCSB and Pacific tied for the regular-season title, but UCSB is the No. 1 seed by virtue of sweeping the Tigers by a combined 14 points, including a 13-point road win. UCSB comes in having won seven of eight, but the Gauchos suffered some disturbing league losses this season; they lost four league games, including setbacks against the Nos. 6, 7 and 8 seeds. Pacific wins with defense; the Tigers allowed at least 65 points just twice in 16 conference games and held foes to 52 or fewer points seven times. Seventh-seeded UC Irvine could be the dark horse; the Anteaters have won four of six, including a three-point setback at UCSB in a rematch of a game UCI won at home. If it wins in its opener, UCI would get third-seeded Long Beach State in a quarterfinal, and the teams split this season.
The pick: UC Santa Barbara
Conference USA
WHEN: March 10-13
Where: Tulsa, Okla.
TV for final: 11:30 a.m., CBS
Regular-season champ: UTEP
Format: All league teams qualified. The top four seeds get byes into the second round.
Projected NCAA bids: 1-2
The buzz: UTEP won the regular-season crown by two games over Memphis, with UAB and Marshall tied for third another two games back. UTEP enters the tourney on a 14-game winning streak and is in excellent shape for an at-large as long as it doesn't lose its quarterfinal game. The Miners played a weak non-conference schedule - 18 of their 29 games have come against teams ranked worse than 100th in the RPI, including nine against teams ranked 200th or worse - but they have been good away from home and finished the season on a roll. Memphis, which lost its only regular-season meeting with UTEP, has won seven of its past eight, and the hot streak as put the Tigers firmly in the discussion about an at-large bid. But they have just two RPI top-50 wins - and both are over UAB. Memphis also has three bad losses (to teams ranked 159th or worse in the RPI), so it would behoove the Tigers to make it to the tourney final if they want to have a legit shot at an at-large berth. UAB started hot but faded late. The Blazers beat Butler, but that's there only top-50 win and they're under .500 against the RPI top 100. Getting to the final would give them an at-large pulse, but unless a lot of other bubble teams implode - which is possible - it's hard to see the Blazers getting in the field of 65 unless they win this tourney.
The pick: UTEP
Mid-American
WHEN: March 7, 11-13
Where: Cleveland, with first-round games at campus sites.
TV for final: 6 p.m., ESPN2
Regular-season champ: Kent State
Format: All league teams qualify. The division winners are the top two seeds. The rest of the teams are seeded by conference record, regardless of division. The first four seeds get byes into second round.
Projected NCAA bids: 1-2
The buzz: Kent State won the regular-season title Friday night by beating host Akron in a showdown of the league's top two teams. Both are in the East Division. West Division champ Central Michigan, which is the No. 2 seed, finished four games behind Kent in the overall league race and three behind Akron. It would be a surprise if anyone other than Kent or Akron won the conference tournament. Kent State comes in having won five in a row and 13 of its past 14. The Golden Flashes won both their matchups with Akron, by a combined 30 points. Kent State played a good non-conference schedule and has a good RPI (41st), but it's hard to see the Golden Flashes getting an at-large bid should they falter in this tournament. They'd have to get to the final to have even an at-large pulse because they have just one RPI top-50 win. Fifth-seeded Buffalo, which has won six of its past eight, is the sleeper here. The Bulls handed Kent State one of its three league losses.
The pick: Kent State
Mid-Eastern Athletic
When: March 9-13
Where: Raleigh, N.C.
TV for final: 2 p.m., ESPN2
Regular-season champ: Morgan State
Format: All league teams qualify. The top five seeds get byes into second round.
Projected NCAA bids: 1
The buzz: Morgan State went 15-1 in the league and won the regular-season title by four games over Delaware State. Morgan State, which made its first NCAA appearance last season, played 21 of its 33 games away from home. Morgan State swept the league's postseason awards -- player of year, coach of year, defensive player of year and freshman of year. Fourth-seeded Delaware State is a sleeper here. The Hornets have won six of their past seven, and their losses to Morgan State came in overtime and double-overtime. The only league team to beat Morgan State is third-seeded South Carolina State, but the Bulldogs come in having lost four of six and five of eight.
The pick: Morgan State
Mountain West
WHEN: March 10-13
Where: Las Vegas
TV for final: 7 p.m., Versus
Regular-season champ: New Mexico
Format: All league teams qualified. The Nos. 8 and 9 seeds meet in a sort of play-in game.
Projected NCAA bids: 2-4
The buzz: New Mexico won the regular-season title by a game over BYU ; both are NCAA locks and playing for seeding. Third-seeded UNLV, which is the tourney host, and fourth-seeded San Diego State, have a chance to play their ways into the NCAA field. UNLV struggled some at home this season, losing three times, including twice in league play. One of those league losses was to sixth-seeded Utah, which swept UNLV this season - and is the Runnin' Rebels' opponent in the quarterfinals. San Diego State is in the same bracket with New Mexico, but the Aztecs played well against the Lobos this season, winning by 10 at home and losing by two in overtime in Albuquerque. Another win over New Mexico would get SDSU into the field of 65. To feel comfortable about a bid, UNLV needs to reach the final. That almost certainly would mean beating BYU in a semifinal; the teams split during the regular season.
The pick: UNLV
Pacific-10
WHEN: March 10-13
Where: Los Angeles
TV for final: 6 p.m., CBS
Regular-season champ: California
Format: USC is ineligible for the tourney. The other nine teams qualify for the tournament, with the Nos. 8 and 9 seeds meeting in a sort of play-in game.
Projected NCAA bids: 1-2
The buzz: This should be one of the most intriguing tourneys of them all. Will the league really get just one bid to the NCAA tourney? We don't think so - but we seem to be in the minority. Cal won the regular-season title by a game over Arizona State, thanks to a season sweep of the Sun Devils. Cal's RPI is 20th and the Golden Bears played the 11th-toughest non-conference schedule in the nation; alas, there is just one RPI top-50 win, over No. 49 Washington. Still, as long as Cal gets to the tourney final, you have to think it will get an at-large bid; after all, the Golden Bears did win a Big Six league, and if there is any season in which a regular-season title in a Big Six league carries more cachet than usual, it's this one, when the bubble teams nationally are so underwhelming. Second-seeded Arizona State and third-seeded Washington are the other teams with an at-large opportunity; they are scheduled to meet in a tourney semifinal, and it could be a play-in game for the NCAA tourney.
The pick: Washington
Patriot
When: March 3, 7, 12
Where: Campus sites
TV for final: 4:45 p.m., ESPN2
Regular-season champ: Lehigh
Format: All league teams qualify. The "better" seed hosts in each round.
Projected NCAA bids: 1
The buzz: Lehigh won the regular-season title by one game over Bucknell, and the Mountain Hawks come into the tournament having won four of five. Bucknell has won five of six and split with Lehigh this season, with each team winning on its home court. Lehigh beat the Bison by 22 on Feb. 24. It would be a surprise if anybody else won, but keep an eye on fourth-seeded Navy. The offense-minded Midshipmen swept their season series with Lehigh and could meet the Mountain Hawks in the second round. The problem for Navy is that it meets fifth-seeded American in the first round, and American swept the Midshipmen. The tourney champ looks like a good bet to participate in the NCAA tournament play-in game.
The pick: Lehigh
Southeastern
When: March 11-14.
Where: Nashville, Tenn.
TV for final: 1 p.m., ABC
Regular-season champ: TBD
Format: All league teams qualify. The Nos. 1 and 2 seeds from each division get byes into second round.
Projected NCAA bids: 3-5
The buzz: Kentucky won the regular-season title by two games over Vanderbilt. Those two and Tennessee are NCAA locks, while Florida and Ole Miss have at-large hopes. Florida is 3-8 against RPI top-50 teams and has just two road wins over teams in the top 100, but victories over Michigan State, Tennessee and Florida State could be enough to get the Gators in the field, assuming they beat Auburn in a first-round game in this tourney. Following that up with a second-round win over Mississippi State would lock up a bid for the Gators. Ole Miss has a first-round bye, and for the Rebels to stay in the at-large discussion, they need Tennessee to beat LSU in the first round, then they need to beat the Vols in the quarterfinals. In that scenario, Ole Miss would at least have a chance at a bid. If Ole Miss loses in the quarterfinals, its at-large hopes disappear. Beating Tennessee in the quarterfinals and Kentucky in the semifinals would nail down a bid for the Rebels. Mississippi State, which tied Ole Miss for the SEC West title, almost certainly needs to win this tourney to get into the field of 65.
The pick: Kentucky
Southland
WHEN: March 10-11, 13
Where: Katy, Texas
TV for final: 4 p.m., ESPN2
Regular-season champ: Sam Houston State
Format: The top eight teams regardless of division qualified. Central Arkansas is ineligible for the tourney.
Projected NCAA bids: 1
The buzz: Sam Houston State won the regular-season title by three games over Stephen F. Austin. Sam Houston started 11-0 in conference play before losing two of its final five league games, both on the road, by a total of five points. But each of the Bearkats' final five league wins came by a double-digit margin. Sixth-seeded Texas-San Antonio, one of two league teams to beat Sam Houston, is a dark horse to watch; UTSA has won six of seven and included in those wins were road victories at second-seeded SFA and third-seeded Texas A&M-Corpus Christi. UTSA also beat fourth-seeded Southeastern Louisiana in the teams' only meeting.
The pick: Sam Houston State
Southwestern Athletic
WHEN: March 10-13
Where: Shreveport, La.
TV for final: 8:30 p.m., ESPNU
Regular-season champ: Jackson State
Format: The top eight teams qualified.
Projected NCAA bids: 1
The buzz: Jackson State won the regular-season title by three games over Arkansas-Pine Bluff, and the Tigers enter the conference tourney on a 13-game winning streak. Jackson State swept UAPB this season, by a combined eight points. UAPB has won nine of its past 11, with both losses to Jackson State. The only other team that looks to have a legit shot at the tourney title is third-seeded Alabama State, which split its season series with UAPB and has won six of its past seven; the loss was by one to Jackson State.
The pick: Jackson State
Western Athletic
When: March 11-13
Where: Reno, Nev.
TV for final: 10 p.m., ESPN2
Regular-season champ: Utah State
Format: The top eight teams qualify.
Projected NCAA bids: 1-2
The buzz: Utah State won the regular-season title by three games over Nevada and New Mexico State, and enters the league tourney having won 15 games in a row. Utah State started 0-2 in the WAC but finished 14-2; 11 of the 14 wins came by a double-digit margin. Utah State would have a faint at-large chance if it lost in the tourney final, but it would depend a lot on what other bubble teams do in their tourneys. While they dominated their league in the regular season, the Aggies have just two top-50 wins and only played three top-50 opponents. Thing is, Utah State could win a game or two in the NCAA tourney with the right draw - but the Aggies have to get there first. Second-seeded Nevada, which is the tourney host, has won six of its past eight, and the Wolf Pack are 13-1 at home this season. The only home loss? To Utah State in overtime.
The pick: Utah State
COMPLETED TOURNAMENTS
Atlantic Sun
When: March 3-6
Where: Macon, Ga.
Regular-season champ: Lipscomb
Tournament champ: East Tennessee
Big Sky
WHEN: March 6, 9-10
Where: Campus sites in the first round. Weber State, the regular-season champ, hosts the semifinals and final.
Regular-season champ: Weber State
Tournament champ: Montana
Big South
When: March 2, 4, 6
Where: Campus sites in the first round. Coastal Carolina, the regular-season winner, hosts the semifinals. The best remaining seed hosts the final.
Regular-season champ: Coastal Carolina
Tournament champ: Winthrop
Colonial
When: March 5-8
Where: Richmond, Va.
TV for final: 7 p.m., ESPN
Regular-season champ: Old Dominion
Tournament champ: Old Dominion
Horizon
When: March 2, 5-6, 9
Where: First round is at campus sites. Butler, the regular-season champ, hosts the quarterfinals and semifinals. The best remaining seed hosts the championship.
Regular-season champ: Butler
Tournament champ: Butler
Metro Atlantic Athletic
When: March 5-8
Where: Albany, N.Y.
Regular-season champ: Siena
Tournament champ: Siena
Missouri Valley
When: March 4-7
Where: St. Louis
Regular-season champ: Northern Iowa
Tournament champ: Northern Iowa
Northeast
When: March March 4, 7, 10
Where: Campus sites
Regular-season champ: Quinnipiac
Tournament champ: Robert Morris
Ohio Valley
When: March 2, 5-6
Where: Nashville, Tenn., with first-round games at campus sites.
Regular-season champ: Murray State
Tournament champ: Murray State
Southern
When: March 5-8
Where: Charlotte, N.C.
Regular-season champ: Wofford
Tournament champ: Wofford
Summit
WHEN: March 6-9
Where: Sioux Falls, S.D.
Regular-season champ: Oakland
Tournament CHAMP: Oakland
Sun Belt
WHEN: March 6-9
Where: Hot Springs, Ark.
Regular-season champ: Troy
Tournament CHAMP: North Texas
West Coast
When: March 5-8
Where: Las Vegas
Regular-season champ: Gonzaga
Tournament champ: St. Mary's

Mike Huguenin is the college sports editor for Rivals.com. He can be reached at mhuguenin@rivals.com.

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