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Let the Conference Tournaments Roll….

With the calendar flipping to March, it’s about time for flip flops to come back into circulation, and postseason basketball to take center stage. To give us an appetizer before the big dance, many of the smaller conferences in Division I have already begun, or will soon start, their conference tournaments, providing a glorious under card before we really start to lose our minds in bracket hysteria come March 19th. While some scoff at small conference tournaments that may or may be hosted in a convention center, it is an ideal time to finally watch some lesser known college players who will one day be dropping 25 points on you in a YMCA rec game. Here’s a look at the first of many conference championships that will be decided over the next few weeks.

A year after being the top dog in the Ohio Valley Conference, Isaiah Canaan and Murray State will have to upend a few teams to get back to the big dance.

Ohio Valley Conference (Nashville, Tennessee)

Finals: Saturday, March 9th

This conference always has some local flair to it, and this year is no exception. Belmont, who was 14-2 in their first year in the conference, shares the title of favorite and host after coming over from the Atlantic Sun. After owning the OVC last year to the tune of a 15-1 record, Murray State dropped to 10-6 in league play this year, but hopes to parlay last year’s tourney berth into a surprise run in Music City. Also in the top half of the bracket from Bluegrass Country is the Eastern Kentucky Colonels, who put up 23 wins in their best season since Travis Ford was at the helm.

Atlantic Sun Conference (Macon, Georgia)

Finals: Saturday, March 9th

After back-to-back titles, A-Sun teams were probably happy to see Belmont jump to the OVC this season. Another conference favorite with the perks of hosting their conference tourney will be the Mercer Bears, who beat Florida State and Alabama this year en route to their second straight 20-win season. Mercer hasn’t been to the tournament since 1984, but will be hotly contested for a potential 16-seed by the likes of Florida-Gulf Coast and Stetson.

Doug McDermott of Creighton may look like a creep who would follow a woman home, but he’s a heck of a player.

Missouri Valley Conference Tournament (St. Louis, Missouri)

Finals: Sunday, March 10th

Don’t let the marginally athletic white shooters of ‘The Valley’ fool you, it is a league that has consistently knocked off big time schools over the past decade. Creighton and Wichita State, the two teams that made the big dance last season, are again atop the league standings, but this year’s conference tourney should be a dogfight, as all 10 teams in the league won at least six games.

Big South Conference Tournament (Conway, South Carolina)

Finals: Sunday, March 10th

Two-time defending champ NC-Asheville has already been knocked out of this tournament after getting upset in the opening round, leaving the door open for favorites Charleston Southern and High Point. Yes, Charleston Southern and High Point are accredited colleges. Need another reason to watch this final? The Big South has mascots by the name of Camels, Blue Hose, and Highlanders. Well played, small colleges, well played.

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