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
9 of 15

Ohio Valley

Dates: March 6th-9th
Location: Ford Center in Evansville, IN
Top Seed: Little Rock Trojans
Winner: Tennessee-Martin Skyhawks

The Skyhawks are loaded and have two of the best players in the league who have been dominating opponents for the last month of the season. UT Martin is a lot of fun to watch. They tend to light up the scoreboard because they shoot the ball well from deep, play at a fast pace, and have two guys who score 20 points a night. UT Martin does have a flaw though that could lead to their downfall, they do not like to play much defense and love games to be high scoring. There are many times in the past when that has proved to be the downfall of an offensive-minded team.

UT Martin can outscore you and likely will, but can they get enough stops? UT Martin is one of the best rebounding teams in the nation as well and that helps because when they do get stops, they get out quickly in transition for easy buckets. UT Martin is hard to prepare for and hard to play when they are making shots. If they do that, and their stars continue to do what they do the Skyhawks will be just fine.

Sleeper: Western Illinois Leathernecks

Another team who has never made the NCAA tournament and who is a team that you should keep a very close eye on in the Ohio Valley. Western Illinois is in their first season in the league after playing in the Summit League for a long time and not having much success. The move to the Ohio Valley saw the Leathernecks win their first 5 games in the league and 6 out of their first 7. They have beaten UT Martin this year and would be in one of the top spots in the league if they didn’t lose both games to Morehead State.

Western Illinois plays relentless defense they rarely allow three-point shots, are the fifth-best rebounding team in the country, and protect the rim. The defense leads to a clunky offense that gets the job done. Western Illinois will go as far as their defense takes them and given how physical they are it could take them a long way.