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Your guide to The Jerome XIX: the greatest college basketball picks tournament

Whether you’re old hat or a newbie to this event, we break down how to pick the conference tournament winners you’ll need to survive The Jerome for 2020

TBS broadcasters Bill Raftery, Grant Hill and Jim Nantz call the game between the Michigan Wolverines and the Loyola Ramblers in the semifinals of the 2018 men’s Final Four at Alamodome. Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

What is The Jerome? Only the best college basketball picks contest on the planet. It’s free to enter, it’s all run online, and it has nothing to do with the NCAA Tournament.

The Jerome focuses only on the winners of conference tournaments, with winners receiving points based on selecting one team in each conference. There’s also bonus points available if you select an underdog that cuts down the nets to earn that automatic bid to some other tournament that happens afterwards. But enough of that for now.

The rules

Anyone can enter, and it’s free. You should do it!

You will receive two points for your team reaching the conference tournament final. You will receive three additional points for your team winning that conference tournament. You can receive two bonus points for winning the conference tournament if you pick a team that meets BOTH of the following criteria: they’re seeded third or higher in that tournament, and they play no more than two games on their home floor.

Why is it called The Jerome?

After one of the greatest calls in college basketball legend Bill Raftery’s career: this dunk by Jerome Lane of Pitt in January of 1988 against Providence:

Got other questions? The Jerome keeps an active Twitter account or #TheJerome hashtag on Twitter should answer most of them. To the picks!

Ohio Valley

The double-bye format of this tournament given to the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds makes going down the board not as valuable. We’ll take the chalk here in No. 1 Belmont, who split with No. 2 Murray State during the regular season, but have also won 10 in a row.

Big South

The opportunities to pick a seven-point team are few and far between, but we’re shooting our shot here with Gardner-Webb. They just won at Radford, the No. 1 seed and host of the tournament, on Saturday to finish the regular season. You can still get two points here if they knock off Winthrop in the semifinals, but the chance to pick up seven here is too much. We’ll ride with the Runnin’ Bulldogs. If not, we’d take Radford at home and try for five points as they’ll have home court against Winthrop.

Atlantic Sun

No. 1 Liberty is head and shoulders better than everyone in this league, and it’s not close. If they had played basically anyone all year, they’d be in the mix for an at-large with their 27-4 record. They are 178 KenPom slots ahead of everyone in this league but No. 2 North Florida, of whom they are 83 spots in front.

If you want to gamble for seven points, Lipscomb did beat Liberty in Nashville to close the regular season — but that’s a big, big ask. Take the Flames and the five points in hand.

Missouri Valley

Another spot where the No. 1 is just too good to pass. Top-seed Northern Iowa is probably getting an at-large bid no matter what happens here, but it never hurts to be sure. They’re the only double-digit KenPom team in the league at 39th. Five points on offer in St. Louis: grab them.

SoCon

It’s a three-team league with No. 1 East Tennessee, No. 2 Furman, and No. 3 UNC-Greensboro in some order. It’s in Asheville, NC about an hour away from both ETSU and the Paladins, so there’s not a lot of home court advantage either way. The top two split the regular season on their home floors, but not having to battle either Furman or UNCG in a semifinal will make the path easier for the No. 1 seed. We’re going chalk here with the Buccaneers, but any of the top three are capable of winning.

Colonial

Another three-team spot, with No. 1 Hofstra and No. 2 William and Mary both capable of winning without much of an upset. But the hottest team might be No. 3 Towson, who just beat Hofstra last week on the road. They grind you out and slow it down, but that might be helpful in a spot where nerves will be frayed. And with the bonus points on offer here, we’ll take the Tigers and shoot for seven.

West Coast

Will Gonzaga’s flight get in on time? Didn’t they lose last year in the final to Saint Mary’s? Are they mad about it, and not wanting to jeopardize their No. 1 seed in the NCAA’s? Are they going to run through either BYU or Saint Mary’s in the final because of the double-bye format of this tournament where they only have to win two games?

Zags. Next.

Summit

One of the leagues with the most parity, and a tough choice here. No. 1 South Dakota State and No. 2 North Dakota State don’t like each other, and the tournament is in Sioux Falls. But No. 3 South Dakota, No. 4 Oral Roberts, and No. 5 Nebraska-Omaha are all in the mix for a potential win as well. But we’re going to go with the chalk here, who are 44th by adjusted offensive efficiency, and had won eight in a row before a two-point loss in OT at their rivals NDSU to close the regular season. Revenge sets up here almost too perfectly.

Horizon

Another league with plenty of parity, but a double-bye format that sends No. 1 Wright State and No. 2 Northern Kentucky right to the semifinals in Indianapolis after the quarters are on campus sites. Wright State is just a hair better here, and they swept Northern Kentucky during the regular season: a 32-point beating at home, and a two-point win to close the regular season on the road. If you believe in the “it’s hard to beat a team three times” theory, take Northern Kentucky. If not, go chalk with Wright State. No. 3 Wisconsin-Green Bay could surprise, but the risk isn’t worth the two bonus points especially with the extra game needing to be played.

Northeast

A truly wide-open tournament of bad basketball. Robert Morris is No. 1, but on tiebreaker to a No. 2 St. Francis PA team that the computers like a bit more. RMU won the head-to-head on Saturday to claim the top seed, but in a wide open race we’re going with No. 3 Sacred Heart.

This tournament re-seeds after every round, so the bonus points aren’t a lock for the Pioneers as an upset could see the Pioneers hosting enough games where they don’t play two on the road. But it’s worth the risk, especially when you’re getting the best combination of offense and defense in the league, and a team that’s won three straight.

And this is all stupid because Merrimack won the NEC regular season title, but can’t play in the postseason thanks to very dumb NCAA transition rules from D2 to D1. Shoutout to you Warriors, you should have gotten a chance to dance this year.

Patriot

Another league that re-seeds after each round, making bonus points dicey because it’s played on home courts. But the No. 1 Colgate Raiders should be the favorite, and they swept No. 2 American in winning by 14 at home and by 10 on the road. We’d take a flyer on No. 3 Boston, but they’re also 0-2 to the Raiders this season, losing by nine and 14.

America East

All on home courts, and Vermont wrapped up the No. 1 seed two weeks ago. They’re 104 KenPom spots clear of any other team in the league. Catamounts all day in the easiest pick outside of Liberty and Gonzaga.

Mountain West

The San Diego State Aztecs losing in this league twice. And even if they were, going with No. 2 Utah State doesn’t get you any bonus points, and No. 3 Nevada just isn’t good enough. Take the Aztecs, and realize they might make you sweat for a first half. They do tend to start a bit slow. But we’ll ride Malachi Flynn to five points here.