March Madness: Tickets to the Big Dance start getting punched this weekend


Written by Nate Roys, Publications Chief

March Madness. It is every basketball fan’s favorite time of year. The first weekend of games, March 19-22 this year, is always electric. With 48 total games over those first four days of the tournament, any basketball junkie is more than satisfied. Of course, this comes after the first four play-in games on Tuesday, March 17 and Wednesday, March 18.

However, leading up to everyone’s favorite tournament, are the conference tournaments that allow teams to automatically qualify for the Big Dance. 12 of these automatically-qualifying teams will be crowned as conference champions between Saturday, March 7 and Wednesday, March 11. The rest of the conference champions will be crowned next weekend on either Saturday, March 14 or Sunday, March 15.

This is what college basketball is all about. Seeing the different playing styles of each team, the matchups between freshman sensations and seasoned seniors and coaching legends strategizing to win is something that is truly unique to Division I college basketball. 

Unlike college football, college basketball is all lumped together at the Division I level. This makes for interesting games as we get into the tournament. These student-athletes are put on the national stage for perhaps the only time in their college careers during their conference tourneys, and if they are lucky enough to make it, the national tournament. 

No one is watching regular season Atlantic Sun basketball over the same type of games in the SEC, ACC or Big 12. However, when the conference tournaments roll around, many viewers who want to get up to speed on potential bracket busters or Cinderella teams will watch these smaller conference championships. The smaller conference tournaments this weekend will rival the final regular season weekend in the larger conferences.

The most intriguing conference brackets this weekend are the Mountain West and West Coast tournaments. Projected No. 1 seeds San Diego State and Gonzaga are the top seeds in their respective conferences. Many people have not gotten to see these teams play this season, because they are not traditional college basketball powerhouses that play in a Power Five conference like UCLA, Duke or Kentucky. 

SDSU has only one loss this season, while Gonzaga has two. These are undoubtedly two of the best teams in the country that do not receive much national recognition because of the lack of media coverage they receive. Each team is capable of winning it all this year if they are able to put it all together later this month. 

This weekend, watch these smaller conference tournaments. Seeing these student-athletes celebrate after punching their ticket to the Big Dance is priceless, and watching these potential bracket busters could help you when filling out your bracket.

To view the schedule and brackets for all of the conference tournaments over the next two weekends, click here.

Featured photo caption: San Diego State’s Matt Mitchell grabs a rebound as teammate Aguek Arop looks on while Air Force’s Ryan Swan approaches during the quarterfinals of the Mountain West Conference Tournament in Las Vegas, Nevada. PHOTO / K.C. Alfred/ TNS