This college basketball piece was written by @thesteelersnat who does write a Steelers blog but don't hold that against him. Enjoy!!
As the calendar turns to March, we are bombarded with a plethora of conference tournaments and big games. Over the next week, 31 teams will punch their ticket to the 68-team field to vie for the National Championship. Obviously, some of these teams will have a better shot than others at advancing deep into March, but if you've ever watched a small conference championship, it's sometimes the best basketball of the week because you have two teams in a win-or-go-home scenario that are playing their hearts out. Today, three conferences will crown their champions.
Big South Championship
12:00 noon, ESPN2
UNC-Asheville (23-9, 16-2) vs VMI (17-15, 8-10)
If you like offense, you're going to love this game. Both of these teams average over 80 points per game and are in the top 6 in the nation in scoring offense. VMI is the #6 seed but has used a hot shooting performance to run their way to the title game. Asheville is the defending champion and has run their way to the title game on the strength of two 25+ point victories. They'll get a challenge from VMI who can also get out and run and shoot the lights out. Asheville won both meetings between the two teams this year, but by close margins of 94-85 and 89-86. This game honestly might be a race to 90. If you're looking for a back-and-forth game to watch in the early afternoon, this is your show. Neither team has any bubble hopes and the winner will likely be a 16-seed in the NCAA Tournament. Since the Big South is a small conference, the higher seeded team hosts the game, so Asheville gets the championship game on their home court where they are 14-2 this year.
Ohio Valley Championship
Murray State (29-1, 15-1) vs Tennessee State (20-11, 11-5)
Murray State was the last remaining undefeated team in the nation this year, until Tennessee State came into their building in February and beat the Racers on the backs of a strong inside performance. Murray State is a guard-driven lineup led by junior Isaiah Canaan (19.4 PPG, 3.8 APG) who shoots an insane 48% from beyond the arc. Canaan is one of the most high-energy players you'll see - he can get out and run the court, be a distributor in transition, and is great moving without the ball to get open and hit his shot. In two games against Tennessee State this year, Canaan has 31 and 24 points, going 12 for 17 from downtown in the two meetings. Murray State got their revenge on the Tigers last week, running them off the floor by nearly 20 points. Today is the rubber match with the winner going to the NCAA Tournament. At 29-1 and a 3-0 record against the Top 50, Murray State is just about a lock for an At Large bid if they don't win today. If you're a fan of a bubble team, you should be rooting for the Racers to take care of business today so that they don't steal a bid and make the Ohio Valley Conference a two-bid league.
Atlantic Sun Championship
Belmont (26-7, 16-2) vs Florida Gulf Coast (15-16, 8-10)
Top-seeded Belmont caught a huge break when Florida Gulf Coast upset #2 seed Mercer in the semi-finals. Belmont's two matchups with Mercer were decided by a grand total of 5 points. By contrast, the Bruins beat FGCU 95-53 and 86-63 in their two meetings this year. Belmont is 4th in the nation in scoring, averaging 81.5 points per game and have 4 players averaging over 10 points per game. They are one of the best shooting teams in the nation, averaging 48.4% from the field. Belmont might be best known for taking Duke all the way to the wire as a 15-seed a few years ago. This is a talented, guard-driven team that could cause problems for someone in the tournament. Florida Gulf Coast was the 6th seed in the Atlantic Sun Tournament and has won two close games to get to the championship.