Having trouble deciding which conference tournaments to watch? We ranked each of the 32 tournaments by their overall intrigue to help.
Champ Week is here, and we have already been treated to two excellent games so far. With over 300 conference games over the next two weeks, it may be a challenge to decide which games to watch.
Do you want to see tournament locks duke it out in a heavyweight battle? Maybe you want to scout some potential Cinderellas as they work through their respective conference tournaments. Perhaps, you want to see a legendary college player one final time before moving on to start their professional careers.
No matter your interests, Champ Week has something for you. This is an annual attempt to rank all 32 conference tournaments by their overall intrigue. Bubble implications, Final Four contenders, star power, competitiveness and unpredictability are all taken into account.
Let’s take a look at the 2023 conference tournament intrigue rankings.
32. Patriot League
March 2-8 | Campus Sites
There isn’t much going for the Patriot League tournament this season. Colgate was second-half collapse away from being undefeated in conference, and should be the overwhelming pick to win the bid. The conference as a whole is slow and inefficient, which is not a good recipe for exciting games. And there isn’t an overwhelming star player that is must-watch TV. All in all, this is a tournament that you shouldn’t feel too terrible about skipping.
March 1-7 | Campus Sites
This is the worst conference in college basketball, and the only conference without a single top 300 team on KenPom. Fairleigh Dickinson is the only team with a winning record against Division I competition, and Merrimack is the only team that ranks in the top 150 in either AdjO or AdjD, per KenPom. All of this leads to the conclusion that no matter who wins this tournament, they are likely to suffer a painful defeat as soon as the First Four game is played in Dayton. The only reason that this tournament is not ranked last is because there are at least a few legitimate contenders for the auto-bid.
March 8-11 | Bartow Arena, Birmingham, AL
The SWAC tournament once again finds itself in the bottom three of the annual tournament intrigue rankings. The reason it isn’t even lower is that the potential for a Grambling State vs. Alcorn State championship game as well as some of the early round matchups could be entertaining. Plus, there is something cathartic about about watching some of the incredibly inefficient games that the SWAC tournament tends to host.
29. America East
March 4-11 | Campus Sites
Vermont has won all but one conference home games by double digits. The Catamounts will have home court advantage throughout the entire tournament. You can see where this is going, right? The team riding the nation’s third longest winning streak is likely to keep that going for the final regular season game, as well as the three games it will inevitably play in the America East Tournament. Crazy things have happened before in this tournament, but this probably isn’t the year to expect much madness after the first round.
28. Ivy League
March 11-12 | Jadwin Gymnasium, Princeton, NJ
Full disclosure: I dislike everything about the Ivy League tournament. I dislike that the league ended its run as the only conference to give the auto-bid to the regular season champion. I dislike that only half the league makes the tournament. I dislike that the tournament is constantly rotating locations. There is, however, a three-way tie for first place in the Ivy League, and the 1-seed has never won the Ivy League Tournament, so that has to count for something. Not a lot. But something.
March 3-7 | Denny Sanford Premier Center, Sioux Falls, SD
Sure, Oral Roberts might be the safest conference tournament champion pick in the country after going undefeated in conference play. However, that doesn’t mean there isn’t at least a tiny bit of intrigue for the Summit League tournament. First off, any excuse to watch the 6-0 Max Abmas and 7-5 Connor Vanover play basketball is a good one. Second, while South Dakota State and North Dakota State may not be real threats to Oral Roberts’ title, they could still provide some great games earlier in the bracket. At the end of the day, however, watching the Summit League tournament is purely a scouting activity for filling out brackets.
March 5-8 | The Legacy Center, Lake Charles, LA
There is that pesky bracket structure again — rewarding regular seasons by lessoning the chances at the improbable runs that fans love. The Southland is one spot behind the OVC on KenPom so it is only fair that they are one spot behind the other conference on this list as well. The second-seeded Northwestern State Demons own the conference’s only two top-100 KenPom wins, including a miraculous road victory over TCU. Texas A&M Corpus Christi is also capable of winning the inevitable game in Dayton if they get the auto-bid, but that is about as deep as the conference goes.
March 1-4 | Ford Center, Evansville, IN
The OVC is a perfect example of why the tournament setup that gives a bye to the semifinals for the top seeds is great for one-bid leagues. Since moving to that format in 2012 — the conference used a traditional format in 2021 — the 1- or 2-seed has made the championship in every season. This, however, does not mean that the top two seeds always win. In fact, only half of the conference tournaments decided in this way were won by one of the top-two seeds. This season, with Belmont and Murray State gone, every team in the OVC is outside of the top 240, per KenPom. This hit to the conference’s overall caliber of play is only somewhat saved by its second-ranked tempo on KenPom.
24. Big South
March 1-5 | Bojangles Coliseum, Charlotte, SC
Another conference with an overwhelming favorite, the Big South has a few teams that could upset UNC Asheville, but it would take some luck. The Bulldogs are fifth in the nation in 3-point percentage against Division I competition and have been on a warpath through the Big South to end the season. Longwood and Radford, the next two teams in the standings, have both slowed down over the past few weeks, leaving the door open for early upsets that could work to Asheville’s benefit later in the conference tournament.
March 7-11 | Jim Whelan Boardwalk Hall, Atlantic City, NJ
The MAAC tournament is treading a fine line between having some real intrigue (i.e. Saint Peter’s) and becoming the “watch Iona make the NCAA Tournament before Rick Pitino leaves for another job” tournament. Iona has the most talented roster, they are nearly 100 spots higher on KenPom than the next highest team, and they are currently on a nine-game win streak. Maybe Siena, Rider, or Quinnipiac can beat the Gaels, but Pitino’s squad looks like a team on a mission. They will be fun to consider as a potential upset pick, so watching them in the MAAC tournament could come in handy.
22. Big Sky
March 4-8 | Idaho Central Arena, Boise, ID
I wish I could say that the Big Sky having the highest rate of close games — those ending regulation with a margin of four points or less — would make it more intriguing. However, the style of play is slow, there aren’t many “must-watch” players, and only Eastern Washington and Montana State really stand out as legitimate auto-bid contenders. If Eastern Washington hadn’t lost its last two games, and instead entered the tournament on a 20-game win streak, maybe it would be different. But as it stands, this is a conference that could use an improbable dark horse run to spice things up.
March 8-11 | Norfolk Scope, Norfolk, VA
If Norfolk State’s 29-point comeback Monday night to force overtime against NC Central is any indicator, next week’s MEAC Tournament is shaping up to be a hidden gem. The MEAC might not be the most efficient conference, but it does lead the country in three categories, per KenPom: tempo, offensive rebounds and steals. This leads to a lot of games being played in the 80s and 90s, which is perfect for a conference that needs something to make its tournament stand out against the likes of the Big 12 and SEC. The inevitable First Four game awaiting the conference winner shouldn’t take away from the general intrigue of this tournament.
February 27 – March 5 | Campus Sites
The ASUN tournament tipped off Monday and has already provided us with a pair of great games, capped by a game-winner in the final second of Bellarmine’s victory over North Florida. Maybe I should drop the conference a few more spots for its ridiculous 9-vs.-10 and 7-vs.-8 bracketing setup, but the rest of the tournament should continue to be fun. Kennesaw State may be the 1-seed, but a lot of people will be watching for Liberty’s Darius McGhee to return to the NCAA Tournament for one final dance. Watch out for Stetson as well, which boasts a top 40 offense, per KenPom, and could win high-scoring games if it gets hot.
March 9-12 | Dickies Arena, Fort Worth, TX
The AAC power dynamic works against itself when it comes to the intrigue of its conference tournament. Top-ranked Houston will be the overwhelming favorite, with only a bubble team in Memphis appearing as a legitimate threat to the auto-bid. After those two teams, there is a pair of bid-steal candidates in Cincinnati and Tulane, but that is not likely to come to fruition. This is the first conference on the list where fans can be reasonably confident in picking the favorite, and diminishes any intrigue. The only thing preventing the AAC from being lower on the list is that it plays a comparatively high level of basketball.
March 3-7 | Entertainment and Sports Arena, Washington, D.C.
While the tournament format is more traditional, the conference pecking order of the CAA is very similar to the WCC — there are two clear favorited to meet in the championship game and a relatively competitive group of teams behind them. What makes this tournament intriguing is the fact that Charleston spent the first two months being touted as the best team from a one-bid league, only has three losses all year, and is the CAA’s 2-seed, likely needing to win the auto-bid to get into the Big Dance.
March 3-6 | Harrah’s Cherokee Center, Asheville, NC
Defense doesn’t matter in the SoCon, unless you are UNC Greensboro, and that should lead to plenty of offensive showcases. Furman is the best team in the conference, but the Paladins have shown the vulnerability that prevents them from being an overwhelming favorite heading into the conference tournament. Both Samford and UNC Greensboro shoot the 3-point shot extremely well, and one of them will likely meet the Paladins in the conference championship. Chattanooga is also a dark horse team with fifth-year transfer Jake Stephens leading an offense that could explode if it gets hot from deep.
March 2-7 | Orleans Arena, Paradise, NV
While the format of the WCC tournament is perfect for leagues that want to preserve their top teams’ resume, it does create two mini-sized tournaments separated by Sunday’s rest day. The “first tournament” should be a ton of fun, but won’t feature any teams with any realistic shot at making the Big Dance. The semifinals will pit Saint Mary’s and Gonzaga against the survivors of the Saturday games as a virtual warmup for what has become a near annual clash between the two schools in the championship. That is the must watch event: the rubber match between two Top 25 schools looking to go on deep runs in the NCAA Tournament.
15. Horizon League
February 22 – March 7 | Campus Sites (First Round/Quarterfinals) / Indiana Farmers Coliseum, Indianapolis, IN
This might be the first tournament on the list that is worth the time purely to watch two great offensive players go to work one final time. Detroit’s Antoine Davis and Youngstown State’s Dwayne Cahill are both fifth-year seniors who are putting together fantastic individual seasons so far. Cohill’s Penguins are the 4th-highest scoring team in the country, and could give a 2-seed some issues in the Big Dance. Antoine Davis, on the other hand, doesn’t need to win the auto-bid to gather an audience. The senior guard is just 63 points away from breaking Pete Maravich’s scoring record, and a win at home against Fort Wayne would put him in prime position to break it in the quarterfinals.
March 8-11 | T-Mobile Arena, Paradise, NV
The Pac-12 falling this far down the list may seem odd, but it is completely justified by the fact that a conference of this caliber has just two locks and two bubble teams. UCLA walked away with the conference regular-season title comfortably despite Arizona’s hot start, while USC and Arizona State both find themselves squarely in the mix for one of the last bids. That’s it. That is the scenario. Sure, Oregon, Utah, Washington State and Colorado are fine, but their shot at winning the auto-bid is highly unlikely.
March 9-11 | Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse, Cleveland, OH
Closing out the first stretch of one-bid leagues, the Mid-American conference might not have the deepest list of title contenders, but it does have two teams that could be tempting 12- or 13-seed upset picks: Toledo and Kent State. Both teams have played tough all year, with Toledo owning a top-15 offense and Kent State having a top-30 defense, per KenPom. But those two winning the tournament shouldn’t be taken for granted. Ohio and Ball State both rank in the top 35 in 3-point percentage, and Akron’s duo of Xavier Castaneda and Enrique Freeman may be the best 1-2 punch in the conference.
12. Conference USA
March 8-11 | Ford Center at The Star, Frisco, TX
The C-USA tournament is the only mid-major event — WCC, MWC and AAC don’t count— with the potential to produce multiple bids. Florida Atlantic is a near lock to make the Big Dance, and currently sits as a 9-seed according to our Lukas Harkins. North Texas and UAB are the two teams that pose the biggest threat to FAU’s run at the title, and if they beat the Owls in the Championship, they could be a popular pick to upset their first-round opponent. This might also be the last opportunity for fans to watch Jordan “Jelly” Walker play college basketball, so they should cherish it.
March 7-11 | Michelob Ultra Arena (First Round); Orleans Arena, Paradise, NV
Once fans get over the use of KenPom’s analytics to influence the seeding of the WAC bracket, they will be treated to another fantastic single-bid affair competing with the high-majors for attention. This is a conference that likes to play fast— the conference has the sixth highest tempo in the country, per KenPom — and loose with the ball — the conference has the third highest turnover percentage. This all leads to plenty of frenetic affairs that may be tough on the eyes at times but entertaining nonetheless. Despite all of this, or because of it, the WAC tournament is almost guaranteed to produce some unpredictable results.
10. Missouri Valley
March 2-5 | Enterprise Center, St. Louis, MO
Don’t let the MVC’s worst KenPom ranking in the metrics’ history fool you, Arch Madness will always be one of the premier conference tournaments of the first weekend. Bradley enters the tournament riding the nation’s fifth-longest winning streak, Drake’s defense has manufactured a 13-2 close to the year, Indiana State has the nation’s top 2-point percentage, and newcomer Bradley has the conference’s top offense and one of the best 3-point percentages in the country — go figure. It seems unlikely that the league will become a consistent multi-bid threat again soon, but that just makes Arch Madness even more intriguing.
9. Sun Belt
February 28 – March 6 | Pensacola Bay Center, Pensacola, FL
Like the Big West, the Sun Belt is a top-15 conference, per KenPom, with multiple top-100 teams, and just one bid to hand out. Unlike the Big West, the Sun Belt doesn’t have to compete with the high-major tournaments, making it the most intriguing conference tournament of the first week of Champ Week. The “Fun Belt” is also stacked with teams that play solid defense, with all but four teams holding opponents under 70 points per game. The conference might not have the at-large team Heat Check CBB writer Brian Rauf predicted in the preseason, but the fight for the auto-bid will be fierce.
8. Big West
March 7-11 | Dollar Loan Center, Henderson, NV
Not traditionally viewed as a home for must-watch basketball, this season’s Big West has been one of the more exciting iterations the conference has seen. Not only is the race for the regular season title extremely tight — one game separates the top five teams, with three games between first and eighth — It is also high-caliber basketball. The Big West has four 20-win teams for the first time since 2008, and any of them could give a high-major team a solid run in the NCAA Tournament. It’s just a shame that only one team will make it out of the California bus league (plus Hawaii).
7. Atlantic 10
March 7-12 | Barclays Center, Brooklyn. NY
It’s safe to say that the A10 has been one of the most disappointing conferences this season. Its 12th place ranking in KenPom is the conference’s worst since 2007, the regular-season champ received a single vote in the latest AP Poll, and the A10 looks like a one-bid league for the first time since 2005. All of this, however, may make the conference tournament that much more intriguing. The conference has two or three teams that could pull a first-round upset in the Big Dance, and with only three regular-season champions winning the auto-bid since 2005, the conference has become well known for defying logic.
6. Mountain West
March 8-11 | Thomas & Mack Center, Paradise, NV
The MWC might be behind the ACC in these rankings, but they are still ahead in KenPom’s conference rankings. What the Mountain West lacks in Final Four contenders, it makes up for in bubble implications. There are still regular season games to be played, but in his latest bracketology run, Lukas Harkins had San Diego State, Nevada, Boise State and Utah State all in the mix for a tournament bid. However, Nevada’s loss to Wyoming could put them dangerously close to the cut line as well, especially if they don’t make a deep run, and Utah State is already on the outside looking in. This tournament could very well help to clarify how large or small the bubble is on Selection Sunday.
March 7-11 | Greensboro Coliseum, Greensboro, NC
This is a good year for the ACC tournament, if only because the event will be held in North Carolina instead of the out-of-place Barclays Center. To cap a topsy-turvy season for the conference, this year’s tournament may be the first time in years where there is no team that fans will feel good about picking to win the auto-bid. The ACC may not be as bad as people believe, but their lack of a clear juggernaut actually makes this year’s tournament the most underrated it has been in some time. The conference may be poised for a challenging NCAA Tournament, so this is time for teams to gain some postseason momentum.
March 8-12 | Bridgestone Arena, Nashville TN
The SEC has plenty of major storylines heading into a must-watch tournament. Obviously, Tennessee and Alabama have been playing some of the best basketball from start to finish this season, but Kentucky and Texas A&M have also worked their way into the back end of the Top 25. Mississippi State may be the only team with huge NCAA Tournament implications, as one of Lukas Harkins’ last four byes, but fans will still want to watch what is certain to be an incredible event.
3. Big Ten
March 8-12 | United Center, Chicago, IL
It could be argued that the Big Ten Tournament is more wide open than the Big East, with just three games currently separating the second- through 12th-place teams. There are also several ways that this single tournament could impact the NCAA Tournament landscape. Wisconsin’s and Michigan’s games carry obvious title implications — in his latest bracketology, Lukas Harkins had Wisconsin as his last team in and Michigan in the first four out. Purdue’s success, or recent lack thereof, could also have a significant impact on the 1-seed conversation. Three of the past five Big Ten Tournament titles have been awarded to a 5-seed or worse.
2. Big East
March 8-11 | Madison Square Garden, New York, NY
With five teams all ranked between No. 10 and No. 20 in the AP Poll, the Big East might have the tightest race at the top in the eyes of the media. Add that to the mystique of playing in MSG and the tournament’s history as a heavyweight affair, and this year’s edition is bound to be must-watch TV. Any of the top five teams could run to the championship, but fans may want to pay attention early to see if Villanova can pull off the miraculous run, having found their footing over the last few weeks.
1. Big 12
March 8-11 | T-Mobile Center, Kansas City, MO
There shouldn’t be any doubt about why the Big 12 tournament is at the top of this list. Not only does the conference have the near-unanimous recognition as the nation’s top conference, it has also played host to the past two national champions. The conference has six Top 25 teams, nine teams with a legitimate shot to make the dance, and all 10 teams inside the KenPom top 60. Because Kansas, Baylor and Texas are all national championship contenders, and Oklahoma State, West Virginia and Texas Tech all need wins to get a bid off the bubble, this tournament is the one you have to watch during Champ Week.