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NCAA Basketball: Picking winners of first 15 conference tournaments of 2023-24 season

Championship Week part 1 is here and I have taken my best shot at trying to pick which teams will win their leagues and get their automatic bids into the NCAA tournament.

Jan 6, 2024; Hattiesburg, Mississippi, USA; James Madison Dukes head coach Mark Byington, right, and
Jan 6, 2024; Hattiesburg, Mississippi, USA; James Madison Dukes head coach Mark Byington, right, and / Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports
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Championship week is here at least the first week of it. That means that in two short weeks everyone will know who the automatic qualifiers are into the NCAA tournament. In past seasons the winners of the conference regular seasons were given an automatic bid into the NIT if they did not qualify for the NCAA tournament. That luxury is gone now, and it is an NCAA tournament or bust for many of the one bid leagues into the NCAA tournament. Over the next two weeks I am going to try and give you a comprehensive guide to who I believe will win the conference tournaments.

In previous years I have done all the conference tournament predictions in one article. Frankly, I have found that it is cumbersome to read, and I was way off on my top seeds as a lot of the power conference leagues still have multiple games left to determine seeding. This will be done in two parts this year. The first part will encompass all the tournaments that start on March 4th-March 10th. The second part will be everyone else. There are 15 tournaments set to start in that timeframe. None of them are power conferences but there should still be wonderful Basketball played during the first week of championship week. I am going to give you a winner of each league tournament and a sleeper in each league tournament. The sleeper is someone outside of the top 3 seeds who I believe can win the league.

Atlantic Sun

Dates: March 4th-10th
Location: Campus Sites
Top Seed: Eastern Kentucky
Prediction: Eastern Kentucky Colonels

Eastern Kentucky entered the season as the favorite in the Atlantic Sun but did not have a great non-conference schedule and looked like a team that might struggle in the league. Once league play started that flipped and the Colonels have dominated most nights in the league. Eastern Kentucky plays at the fastest pace in the Atlantic Sun, scores the most points, rebounds well, and protects the rim. They are very hard to beat when the shots are going in.

Isaiah Cozart is the best player for an Eastern Kentucky squad that has a lot of talent. Cozart is also an easy choice for the Atlantic Sun Player of the Year and the Defensive Player of the Year. The Colonels have not lost at home in the league, and they are going to host the entire tournament on their home floor. They will be a 16 seed, but it will be the first tournament for the Colonels since 2014.

Sleeper: Florida Gulf Coast Eagles

The Eagles have been a frustrating team this year. They have plenty of talent and should have been one of the top teams in the league this year. Florida Gulf Coast played Indiana and Pittsburgh tough and then they went to the Paradise Jam and lost to some teams they should have beat. It looked like everything was going to turn the corner when the Eagles were able to beat Florida Atlantic on their home floor. The facts are the offense has not been good all season long for Florida Gulf Coast and the defense in league play has been less than stellar. I do believe that the Eagles have enough talent to make a run in the league tournament, but will they remain to be seen?