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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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Northeast

Dates: March 6th-12th
Location: Campus Sites
Top Seed: Central Connecticut State Blue Devils
Winner: Central Connecticut State Blue Devils

The Blue Devils were the team I picked to win it at the start of the year, and they are the team I am going to roll with now. Central Connecticut has done nothing to see my confidence waiver. They are deep and they are the most explosive and most athletic team in the league. The Blue Devils are led by a trio of guys who do most of the scoring. Allan Jeanne-Rose is the big man and leading scorer, and he is paired with my preseason NEC Player of the Year in Kellan Amos. Amos does his work inside while Jeanne-Rose and guard Jordan Jones do the heavy lifting from deep.

Central Connecticut is a tough matchup for most of the teams in the league because of their athletes on the floor. They can get to the rim easily for easy transition baskets. The Blue Devils rebound well and protect the rim and they are a tough out because they are extremely physical on the defensive side of the ball. This is the year for the Blue Devils

Sleeper: Wagner Seahawks

Everyone knows the adage is "defense wins championships" and if that is true then Wagner should be a team that everyone pays attention to come NEC tournament time. The Seahawks force teams to play very slow and deliberate on the defensive end of the floor; they contest everything and don’t allow many points. The Seahawks are very comfortable playing games in the high 50’s and low 60’s.

So then why are they one of the lower seeds in the conference tournament?  The offense for Wagner is one of the worst offenses in the country, they shoot under 40% from the floor and don’t take great shots. If Wagner can get their defense dialed in and make enough shots, they are going to be in every game but nothing to suggest the offense wakes up this late in the season if it has already been this bad all year.