Championship Week 2019 is here, which means there's plenty of hardware and NCAA tournament automatic bids to be earned ahead of the 2019 bracket reveal on Selection Sunday. Will there be any surprises among the power conferences this year, or will the favorites prevail? Can Michigan win a third straight Big Ten tournament title, and will anyone in the Pac-12 steal a March Madness bid? We asked our writers to predict their winner for each of the eight major conference tournaments (AAC, A-10, ACC, Big 12, Big East, Big Ten, Pac-12 and SEC), which one person per league giving their justification for their pick.
Who will win a conference tournament title? Our picks are below:
Jeremy Woo Picks Houston: They’ve been the most dominant team in the conference, just handled Cincinnati on the road, and there’s no reason to overthink this. The Cougars are deep, have a potent scorer in Corey Davis Jr., and should be in good shape this week.
Atlantic 10 Tournament
Molly Geary Picks VCU: Defense travels, and VCU has one of the best defenses in the entire country, let alone the A-10. The Rams run opponents off the three-point line while also making things tough in the paint, where they hold teams to the eight-lowest percentage at the rim. It's helped them win 12 straight, including recently dismantling fifth-place George Mason 71–36. Davidson should be a worthy challenger if the two meet in the championship game, but I'll take the side that makes its living on defense to win out.
Emily Caron Picks Virginia: It’s hard to beat a team three times. That’s why Virginia will take the ACC tournament title for the second consecutive year. Duke and UNC will have to face one another before either ever sees the Cavaliers on the court and—because it’s hard to take three wins against any team in a season, nonetheless a really good rival team—I say Duke makes it out of the semifinals alive over Carolina. It’s not quite as clear who Virginia will face in the semifinals—likely its own rival Virginia Tech or Florida State— regardless, neither of the conference’s powerhouses have an easy road to the championship game, but they’ll get there. By the same reasoning, and the fact that the ‘Hoos have found a way to take down every single other team already this season outside of the Blue Devils, I say Tony Bennett’s Cavaliers win round three against Duke in Saturday's title game.
Big 12 Tournament
Michael Shapiro Picks Kansas: The Jayhawks ceded the Big 12 regular-season title for the first time since 2004 this season, but don’t be surprised if Bill Self’s squad lifts the conference championship trophy on March 16. Kansas City is a second home to the Jayhawks, and their home-court advantage should be significant. Kansas went 10–0 at home in Big 12 play in 2018–19, ending its conference-title streak with a 3–6 road conference record. Expect to Jayhawks to find their groove in the friendly confines of the Sprint Center, even if Texas Tech is a better bet for the Final Four in April.
Big East Tournament
Dan Greene Picks Villanova: As much as the Big East wound up a two-horse race between Villanova and Marquette, neither seems like very confident bets: the Wildcats have shown they can lose to just about anyone, and the Golden Eagles spent the last couple weeks in a tailspin. Still, 'Nova feels like the smartest choice among many even less-certain options, given the title-winning experience of its top two players and strength of its offense. But this tourney is a candidate to get weird quick.
Big Ten Tournament
Michael Beller Picks Michigan: Part of this pick is based on draw. Michigan isn’t losing to Iowa or whoever wins the Northwestern-Illinois game in the Big Ten’s first round. Michigan State, Purdue and Wisconsin could all go down in the quarterfinals. Michigan won’t. But, more importantly, this is a team that is built to thrive in a tournament setting. The Wolverines never beat themselves, their defense travels everywhere and they have multiple offensive creators. Plus, John Beilein is the coach in this conference I most want designing a game plan with 24 hours to prepare for an opponent. Charles Matthews should be back by time the Wolverines play their first game Friday. Give me Michigan over Wisconsin in the championship.
Max Meyer Picks Oregon: The Pac-12 is a bizarre conference, so let’s get weird by going with a No. 6 seed to win it all in Vegas and steal a bid. The Ducks are coming into this one on a four-game winning streak, including a 28-point drubbing against Arizona State and an eight-point road victory at Washington. Dana Altman is the best coach in the conference, and the Ducks’ resurgence on defense has been keyed by his tricky match-up zone. With veteran floor general in Payton Pritchard, talented freshman scorer Louis King, versatile forward Paul White and bouncy shot-blocking machine Kenny Wooten, Oregon certainly has the pieces to make the deep run here.
Eric Single Picks Kentucky: I have seen the Kentucky-peaking-in-early-March movie too many times to pick regular season SEC champion LSU or midseason SEC frontrunner Tennessee to prevail in Nashville, a tournament site that Big Blue Nation has historically flooded with fans even when the Vols are contenders themselves. The Wildcats are the third youngest team in the country, and sophomore PJ Washington's emergence as one of the best players in the league has provided cover for some first-years to grow away from the main spotlight—to the extent that any player can avoid the spotlight in Lexington. Now it's time for guards Ashton Hagans and Keldon Johnson to step foreword as difference-makers and neutralize the more experienced backcourts standing in Kentucky's way.