Busting Brackets

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
3 of 15

Big Sky

Dates: March 9th-13th
Location: Idaho Central Arena in Boise, ID
Top Seed: Eastern Washington Eagles
Winner: Montana Grizzlies

The winner of this league tournament could be any of the 10 teams in the league. The Big Sky usually has some chaos when it comes to their league tournament because the league is highly competitive in the season. Eastern Washington ran the table the whole season but is starting to show some chinks in the armor as the season goes on and my trust level with them has shrunk. The team that usually wins these tournaments is the team who is hot heading into March.

That team is the Montana Grizzlies the Grizzlies are currently on a three-game winning streak and present a matchup problem for a lot of teams in the league. Montana shoots a lot of threes, and they make them at about 37% in the league. Montana shoots over 80% from the free throw line and is extremely efficient on the offensive end, not just from deep. The other thing the Grizzlies have that may set them apart is a set of fantastic guards who can all impact a game in many ways. Brandon Whitney is the starting point guard who averages over 5 assists per game and rarely turns the ball over. He also shoots 60% from the floor. They have a great chance to return to the NCAA tournament.

Sleeper: Northern Arizona Lumberjacks

The sleeper in the Big Sky could be anyone but I went with the Lumberjacks here because of their success in the tournament in years past. Northern Arizona made the finals of the Big Sky last year before losing to Montana State. Northern Arizona doesn’t defend much, and they are not a great offensive team, but head coach Shane Burcar knows how to win in this tournament. Will Northern Arizona win the tournament?  They have an uphill climb because they are going to have to win 4 games in 4 days, but the Big Sky tournament gets crazy, and anyone can win especially when you have a player like guard Trenton McLaughlin who can get really hot and carry this team.