The month of March is in full swing as college basketball conference tournaments have arrived, and Selection Sunday is just around the corner. Can you feel the madness?

Which teams need to make a deep run? Which teams will steal bids? Which teams will cut down the nets while being crowned conference champions?

We called upon our college basketball experts, John Fanta and Michael Cohen, to answer those questions and break down the Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12, ACC and SEC Tournaments.


Which team most needs to make a run?

John Fanta: The winner of the game between Iowa and Ohio State, because if either could knock off 2-seed Illinois, that team would be deserving of hearing its name called on Selection Sunday. I just can’t see Michigan State missing the tournament and a win over Minnesota would lock up the bid, but Iowa and OSU are literally fighting for their lives. 

Michael Cohen: Michigan State. The Spartans suffered a crushing defeat at Indiana on Sunday to sink to 18-13 overall and 10-10 in the league. They’ve lost four of their last five games and are in real danger of missing the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1997.

Is there a potential bid stealer?

Michael: Could Iowa play its way into the NCAA Tournament? The Hawkeyes are 18-13 overall and 10-10 in the Big Ten but haven’t scored a marquee win all season. They are 60th in the NCAA NET Rankings and 15-5 against Quad 2, Quad 3 and Quad 4 opponents combined.  

John: Ohio State. The Buckeyes have won four in a row and are playing more to the preseason potential we gave them. 

Who will be the tournament champion?

John: It’s just really difficult to fathom anybody outside of Purdue as the Big Ten champion. If I had to choose between the Boilermakers and the field, I’m not going against five-time Big Ten Coach of the Year Matt Painter. 

Michael: This should be the Purdue Invitational for the second year running. It’s hard to imagine anyone other than Illinois giving the Boilermakers a challenge in what has been a very disappointing season for some of the league’s biggest brands. Purdue cuts down the nets for the first of what it hopes will be three occasions this season.

Fletcher Loyer hits a 3-pointer, plus a foul to extend Purdue’s lead vs. Wisconsin.


Which team most needs to make a run?

Michael: Villanova. The Wildcats probably need to win multiple games at Madison Square Garden to avoid missing the NCAA Tournament for a second consecutive season. A team that entered the year with so much promise — and so much NIL money — lost nine of its last 15 games to finish sixth in the Big East standings. 

John: The fun thing about this question is that there are multiple teams that fit into the column. I’ll be different from Michael and say Providence, who enters as the 7-seed and must beat Georgetown to stay alive. A win over 2-seed Creighton would get the Friars into the field of 68. Can Devin Carter will the Friars? 

Is there a potential bid stealer?

John: Well, Providence fits the mold and there are so many teams on the bubble, it’s hard to think there’s a real “bid stealer.” The only way we see it is if Xavier or Butler knocks off UConn, and I just don’t trust either of those teams enough defensively. 

Michael: It will be interesting to see how the selection committee views Providence if the Friars can win a game or two in New York. The season-ending injury to Bryce Hopkins changed everything for head coach Kim English, and the Friars did a nice job to stay afloat for the remainder of the season. They’re 19-12 overall, 10-10 in the Big East and have notable wins over Marquette and Creighton. 

Who will be the tournament champion?

Michael: After suffering a heartbreaking loss to Marquette in one of last year’s semifinals, UConn made it a goal to emerge victorious in this year’s Big East Tournament. And given how well the Huskies are playing — one loss since Dec. 20 — it seems unlikely anyone will stop them. Connecticut gets it done. 

John: This is UConn’s time. It’s the Huskies’ moment. They’re the best team in the country and will win their first Big East crown since 2011. 

No. 2 UConn Huskies vs. Providence Friars highlights


Which team most needs to make a run?

John: The answer is Kansas, but the sixth-seeded Jayhawks won’t have Hunter Dickinson or Kevin McCullar Jr. 

After Kansas, I’d say TCU, based on the fact its strength of schedule is very soft, and the Horned Frogs are 4-10 against Quad 1. But at the end of the day, meeting Houston in a quarterfinal sounds like a recipe for disaster. How about Baylor? Can the Bears be a legit Final Four dark horse? A run this week would help that argument quite a bit. 

Michael: TCU. The Horned Frogs might still make the NCAA Tournament regardless of what happens this week, but one win in Kansas City should be enough to solidify their place. Head coach Jamie Dixon’s team is 40th in the NCAA NET Rankings and 33rd on KenPom, but dropping four of the last six games didn’t help. A win over No. 1 Houston in January sits atop the résumé.

Is there a potential bid stealer?

Michael: Oklahoma is a team worth watching. The Sooners finished below .500 in the league with an 8-10 conference record, but they’re 16-0 against opponents from Quad 2, Quad 3 and Quad 4. They’re 43rd in the NCAA NET Rankings and 40th on KenPom. A big week in Kansas City might nudge Oklahoma into the field. 

John: No, because the Big 12 has nine projected teams in. Oklahoma is firmly in Mike DeCourcy’s NCAA Tournament projections.

Who will be the tournament champion?

John: I’ll go out on a limb and say … Baylor! RayJ Dennis and Ja’Kobe Walter are one of the best 1-2 punches in the country and I think a second meeting with Houston in the final would be fascinating because of how close the Bears came the first time around, losing narrowly in OT, 82-76. 

Michael: Houston should roll through the tournament the same way it rolled through the league schedule with a 15-3 record in the sport’s toughest conference. The Cougars rank among the top 11 in the country for both offensive and defensive efficiency, and they’re No. 1 in the NCAA NET Rankings. Cutting down the nets in Kansas City should get them the top overall seed in the Big Dance.


Which team most needs to make a run?

Michael: Oregon. At first glance, the Ducks’ 20-11 record and 12-8 mark in the Pac-12 seems like a relatively solid campaign. But a peek under the hood reveals just how much work Oregon still has to do. Head coach Dana Altman’s team finished 6-10 against Quad 1 and Quad 2 opponents with damaging losses to California, Santa Clara and Syracuse. The Ducks have won consecutive games just once since mid-January.

John: Colorado. Why? The Buffaloes are in Mike DeCourcy’s Last Four In, and their at-large bid really is reliant upon having to play 6-seed Utah potentially in the quarterfinals in a game they will really need to win. To their credit, Colorado has won six in a row. The metrics like Tad Boyle’s team, currently having them at 27. But a loss to the Utes could leave them sweating if there are bid stealers on Selection Sunday. The 2-7 record against Quad 1 is tough to stomach. 

Is there a potential bid stealer?

John: I wanted to roll with USC, but I hate the fact that the Trojans are on the same side of the bracket as Arizona, who just lost to them this past weekend and will be ready for revenge. What about Oregon? The Ducks have to win this tournament to get the bid to the Big Dance. They do have the type of top-60ish offense that can rely on Jerome Couisnard, N’Faly Dante or freshman Jackson Shelstad to lead them in scoring, with Dante being a double-double machine with three straight. Dana Altman stole a bid in 2019. Can he do it again? 

Michael: How about Utah? The Utes are 18-13 overall and 9-11 in the Pac-12, but they have a nice non-conference win over Saint Mary’s and only two defeats against Quad 3 and Quad 4 opponents combined. A couple of wins in Las Vegas could push Utah toward the right side of the NCAA Tournament bubble.

Who will be the tournament champion?

Michael: Despite a stunning road loss at lowly USC to end the regular season, Arizona should be the pick to win the Pac-12 Tournament. The Wildcats still have a chance to earn a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament if they can emerge from the desert with a trophy in hand, and that should be more than enough motivation to get it done against a lackluster collection of opponents. 

John: Arizona has won back-to-back Pac-12 championships. I don’t think Colorado or Oregon can match up with them defensively. But you know who can? Kyle Smith and Washington State. The Cougars are my pick to win it and I believe a loss to Washington is a good way for this team to refocus heading into this week.

No. 21 Washington State Cougars vs. No. 4 Arizona Wildcats highlights


Which team most needs to make a run?

John: Wake Forest. That being said, I think Michael and I are going to be on one side or the other for the 4-5 quarterfinal game in this tournament because both the Demon Deacons and Panthers are hovering right around the cut line. But, Wake is currently in DeCourcy’s Last Four In. Their KPI sits at 51 and the NET ranking is at 38, with Steve Forbes’ team owning a Quad 3 loss, a 2-5 record against Q1 and a 6-6 mark against Q2. That means in the second quadrant, it’s essentially a wash, and outside of a win over Duke, there’s not a ton that’s impressive on this résumé. Wake MUST beat Pitt. I would also argue Virginia needs to win a game in this tournament, or else it could be in jeopardy on Selection Sunday. 

Michael: Pittsburgh could use a résumé boost. The Panthers roared through the finish line by winning nine of their last 11 games to finish 21-10 overall and 12-8 in the league. But just one of those nine victories came against a team ranked among the top 50 on KenPom in a down year for the ACC. There might still be work to do for head coach Jeff Capel III.

Is there a potential bid stealer?

Michael: Wake Forest. With a 19-12 record and an 11-9 mark in the ACC, there’s a chance the Demon Deacons will make it anyway. They have notable wins over Virginia, Duke and Clemson — but they also lost five of their last eight to end the season. A win or two in the conference tournament might be enough to solidify their case. 

John: Maybe, just maybe, it could be Syracuse. The Orange have 20 wins but just two of them have come in Quad 1. That being said, they’re capable of hanging with Duke in a potential quarterfinal and can certainly beat Virginia. They enter having won four of their last five and scoring isn’t the question for this team with Judah Mintz, JJ Starling and Chris Bell. Can they put stops together? That said, I’d rather pick a good offensive team as my dark horse because, at some point, your defense will show vulnerabilities when you’re playing every day. 

Who will be the tournament champion?

John: They say it’s hard to beat a team three times, and I actually subscribe to that thought. Jeremy Roach, Tyrese Proctor and Jared McCain put on a show and the Blue Devils shock UNC in the title game to win a second straight ACC Tournament crown. 

Michael: North Carolina is another team that enters the week firmly in contention for a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. The Tar Heels took down Duke over the weekend to complete a season sweep over their archrival, and there’s a decent chance they’ll have another opportunity to dispose of the Blue Devils in the ACC title game. Beating Duke a third time could be exactly what North Carolina needs to secure the fourth No. 1 seed in the Big Dance. 

Duke’s Jared McCain is John Fanta’s guard of the week


Which team most needs to make a run?

Michael: Mississippi State. The Bulldogs were positioned well to earn an NCAA Tournament berth three weeks ago when their record stood at 19-8 overall and 8-6 in the SEC. But four consecutive losses to end the regular season sullied the résumé a bit, even if three of those losses were against high-level competition in Kentucky, Auburn and South Carolina. One or two wins this week should be enough.

John: Texas A&M is in Mike Decourcy’s Last Four In, so I’m absolutely rolling with the Aggies here. They helped their cause this past weekend with an 86-60 rout over Ole Miss, and at the end of the day, veteran guards Wade Taylor IV and Tyrece Radford were always thought to be a guard duo that could rise to the occasion during this time of year. Could they find a way to outlast Kentucky’s freshmen in a quarterfinal? They beat the Wildcats in the lone meeting this season. A&M absolutely cannot lose in the rematch versus Ole Miss. 

Is there a potential bid stealer?

John: If there is one that exists, it’s Arkansas because they do have the talent to come out of the back end of the bracket and go on an improbable run. Khalif Battle comes into the tournament scalding hot. The senior guard is averaging 32.6 PPG over the last five contests. If he, Trevon Brazile and Tramon Mark could ever capture lightning in a bottle in Nashville, you never know. For me, though, the SEC isn’t as strong as I once thought after the top six in the league. That being said, the top six is really, really strong. 

Michael: Texas A&M might be the only candidate here given the lack of depth near the bottom of the league. The Aggies dropped five in a row from Feb. 13-28 before bouncing back with three consecutive wins to close the regular season. They’re 18-13 overall and 9-9 in the SEC with an NCAA NET Ranking of 46 and a KenPom ranking of 48. 

Who will be the tournament champion?

Michael: Kentucky is the hottest team in the league after winning five straight ahead of the conference tournament and averaging 99.4 points per game during that stretch. Few teams in the country, if any, can score with the Wildcats on their best day. Head coach John Calipari’s team could make some serious noise in the SEC Tournament and beyond. 

John: I’m rooting for a final between Tennessee and Kentucky because it would be a phenomenal conference final and a perfect rubber match after each road team won in the regular season. Alabama does not defend well enough for me to say they win this, and I have trust issues with Auburn’s defense. I’ll go with Dalton Knecht and the Volunteers outlasting UK. 

John Fanta is a national college basketball broadcaster and writer for FOX Sports. He covers the sport in a variety of capacities, from calling games on FS1 to serving as lead host on the BIG EAST Digital Network to providing commentary on The Field of 68 Media Network. Follow him on X at @John_Fanta.

Michael Cohen covers college football and basketball for FOX Sports with an emphasis on the Big Ten. Follow him on Twitter at @Michael_Cohen13.

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