The Road to the Final Four starts Tuesday evening, as four leagues begin their conference tournaments. 32 conferences will help set the field for the NCAA Tournament with the bracket finalized on March 15th during Selection Sunday.
We’ll take a look at the matchup and spreads for each game tonight, and give you a bit of context for each game. We’ll be eliminating teams each day for the next week, so join us!
The good games
West Coast Conference Championship
No. 3 Saint Mary’s Gaels vs. No. 1 Gonzaga Bulldogs
Spread: Gonzaga -13
Time: 9:00 p.m. ET
The ‘Zags are a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament no matter what happens tonight, but this is a rematch of the 2019 WCC final, and Gonzaga seeks revenge. There might be a rust concern as they haven’t played in nine days thanks to the double-bye format of the WCC Tournament, as well as an added off day for the women’s tournament on the same floor, but it shouldn’t be much of an issue for a team that lost this event in the final last year.
Both these teams should be in safely, with the Gaels on a 7-line or so after last night’s win over BYU.
Colonial Athletic Association Championship
No. 6 Northeastern Huskies vs. No. 1 Hofstra Pride
Spread: Hofstra -2
Time: 9:00 p.m. ET
It’s been a terrific run to the final for the Huskies, who knocked off No. 3 seed Towson before handling Elon last night. The parity in this league has been high this season, with Hofstra beating Northeastern twice by a combined total of six points. Bolden Brace will need to be huge for Northeastern if they’re going to pull the upset. Hofstra did beat UCLA this season, but are an NIT team with a loss here.
Northeast Conference Championship
No. 2 Saint Francis (PA) Red Flash vs. No. 1 Robert Morris Colonials
Spread: Saint Francis -1.5
Time: 7:00 p.m. ET
These teams are both pretty good, and were in the hunt for some Q1 wins this year before falling short. Isaiah Blackmon for SFU was the league MVP this season, while the Colonials didn’t even place a player first-team all conference. The talent gap is why the higher-seeded team is still a favorite on the road.
These teams split and each won by double digits at home during the regular season, and only Michigan State registers an assist on a greater percentage of their field goals than “Bobby Mo,” who are by far the most interesting team from Pittsburgh playing in a tournament game tonight.
The Sleeper Games
Summit League Final
No. 6 North Dakota Fighting Hawks vs. No. 1 North Dakota State Bison
Spread: North Dakota State -6
Time: 9:00 p.m. ET
If this was a hockey, you’d pick the team formerly known as the Sioux. If it was football, of course you’d take the team that’s dominated FCS this decade in the Bison. But in basketball, yellow and gold will be favored, but the rivalry is closer.
Tyson Ward and Vinnie Shahid will need to be big for NDSU tonight, and they’ll want to get Tyree Eady back as well who didn’t play last night. The Hawks had lost three of four entering the tournament, but stunned No. 3 seed and de facto home team South Dakota in the quarters before beating fellow underdog IPFW in the semis.
If you’re not from a Dakota, you might not understand the enmity between these two teams. It’s pure hatred, and there will be a lot of folks from Grand Forks and Fargo coming down I-29 to watch it if they don’t run each other off the road first.
Horizon League Final
No. 4 UIC Flames vs. No. 2 Northern Kentucky Colonels
Spread: Northern Kentucky -4.5
Time: 7:00 p.m. ET
Beware the double-bye, as No. 1 seed Wright State hadn’t played a game since February 28 until last night, when UIC ran them off the floor 73-56. Northern Kentucky hung on to beat No. 3 Green Bay last night, but the double-bye means UIC has had to win three games to get here, to just one for NKU.
Neither of these teams put a player on an all-conference team, but are playing for the NCAA Tournament tonight anyway. Jalen Tate of the Colonels is the best defender in the league, who are elite at stopping perimeter teams but can struggle on the post. The Flames might want a heavy dose of Braelen Bridges inside.
The Rest of The Slate
Viewers Guide March 10
|Pittsburgh vs. Wake Forest ACC Opening Round||Wake -1||136||4:30 pm ACC Network||Greensboro, NC Greensboro Coliseum|
|Manhattan vs. Fairfield MAAC Opening||5:00 PM||Atlantic City, NJ Boardwalk Hall|
|Maryland Eastern Shore vs. Delaware St. MEAC Opening||Del. State -1||144||6:00 PM||Norfolk, VA Norfolk Scope Arena|
|Alabama A&M at Prairie View A&M SWAC Quarterfinal||Prairie View -13||132||6:30 PM||Prairie View, TX William Nicks Center|
|North Carolina vs. Virginia Tech ACC Opening||North Carolina -3.5||142||7:00 pm ACC Network||Greensboro, NC Greensboro Coliseum|
|Northeastern vs. Hofstra CAA Final||7:00 pm CBS Sports Network||Washington, DC Entertainment & Sports Arena|
|St. Francis PA at Robert Morris NEC Final||Saint Francis PA -1.5||144.5||7:00 pm ESPN2||Moon Township, PA UPMC Events Center|
|Illinois Chicago vs. Northern Kentucky Horizon Final||7:00 pm ESPN||Indianapolis, IN Indiana Farmers Coliseum|
|Hartford at Stony Brook AE Semifinal||Stony Brook -7.5||132.5||7:00 PM||Stony Brook, NY Island Federal Credit Union Ar|
|Canisius vs. Iona MAAC Opening||7:00 PM||Atlantic City, NJ Boardwalk Hall|
|UMBC at Vermont AE Semifinal||Vermont -16||130||7:00 pm ESPN Plus||Burlington, VT Roy L Patrick Gymnasium|
|Howard vs. South Carolina St. MEAC Opening||South Carolina St. -6||146||8:00 PM||Norfolk, VA Norfolk Scope Arena|
|Alabama St. at Southern SWAC Quarterfinal||Southern -9.5||130||8:30 PM||Baton Rouge, LA F.G. Clark Center|
|Grambling St. at Texas Southern SWAC-T||Texas Southern -4||147||8:30 PM||Houston, TX Health & PE Center|
|Marist vs. Niagara MAAC Opening||9:00 PM||Atlantic City, NJ Boardwalk Hall|
|Alcorn St. at Jackson St. SWAC Quarterfinal||Jackson State -6.5||140||9:00 PM||Jackson, MS Williams Center|
|North Dakota vs. North Dakota St. Summit Final||9:00 pm ESPN2||Sioux Falls, SD Denny Sanford PREMIER Center|
|Saint Mary's vs. Gonzaga WCC Final||9:00 pm ESPN||Las Vegas, NV Orleans Arena|
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