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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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Horizon League

Dates: March 5th-12th
Location: Campus Sites and Indiana Farmer’s Coliseum
Top Seed: Oakland Golden Grizzlies
Winner: Youngstown State Penguins

The Penguins have been trending up for a while under current head coach Jarrod Calhoun and this may finally be the year that the Penguins get the monkey off their back as far as the NCAA tournament goes. Youngstown State has never made the NCAA tournament, but this does seem to be the year. The Penguins average 81 points per game and do it predominantly with their great frontcourt. They are going to win almost every matchup in the paint against everyone they play in the Horizon League.

Youngstown State may also have the best player in the league over the last month of the season in big man DJ Burns when he goes, the offense goes. The exceptional frontcourt also makes it very hard for opponents to score points and games can get rather lopsided for the opponents. Youngstown State finally dances.

Sleeper: Milwaukee Panthers

What does every sleeper need to pull off the run to get them into the NCAA tournament?  A star that can carry an offense with his ability to make shots. The Panthers have that in guard BJ Freeman he is a player who can go off for 30 points at any time and carry the Panthers. Milwaukee doesn’t play great defense but the offense in addition to Freeman has the potential to be lethal.

The Horizon League tournament always provides for some drama with a lower-seeded team making a run. The Panthers are well-coached and were one of the better teams in the Horizon League last year. Freeman is going to have to get hot, but I liked this Milwaukee roster a lot in the preseason and they have a chance now to make up for a disappointing season and find their way into the NCAA tournament.