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Our favorites, sleepers, and dark horses in the 2021 Conference USA Conference basketball tournament

We take a look at one favorite, one sleeper and one dark horse candidate to win it all in the 2021 Conference USA Conference mens’ basketball tournament.

Western Kentucky Hilltoppers center Charles Bassey steals the ball from St. Mary’s Gaels center Jordan Hunter during a college basketball game between the St’ Mary’s Gaels and the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers on December 22, 2018 at E. A. Diddle Arena in Bowling Green, KY. Photo by Steve Roberts/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Conference USA Tournament is set to kick off on Tuesday. Fourteen teams will be competing for an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. There are seven teams in the East and seven teams in the west, but only one will move on to the big stage.

We’ll be taking a look at some of the best teams in each conference and providing picks and predictions for each conference tournament. Plenty of favorites will win, but we’ve got some sleepers to consider that might be able to pull off a big upset on the way to the NCAA Tournament.

Here’s the bracket for the Conference USA Tournament with TV listings, dates, and times.

Favorite: Western Kentucky

The Hilltoppers are 86th in the NET rankings and trail a few other Conference USA teams. They boasted the best winning percentage (75%) in conference play during the regular season, and might have the best player in the entire conference in Charles Bassey. Bassey is considered a legitimate blue-chip talent. The 6’11” center is a top-five NBA prospect at his position and won Defensive Player of the Year as a freshman. The double-double machine works efficiently with the well-rounded talent around him. Not many Conference USA players can match him physically, and that could help Western Kentucky climb right to the top as a No. 1 seed.

Sleeper: North Texas

Quite a few bracketologists had North Texas penciled into the NCAA tournament in late February, but the Mean Green slid after dropping their final three regular-season games. Those losses made North Texas’ road to the tournament a little harder, but it proved that it could be competitive for most of the regular season. The Mean Green are still a No. 3 seed and have a chance to gain confidence ahead of the final stage.

Dark Horse: Marshall

Marshall is another No. 3 seed and is riding a three-game winning streak following a narrow loss to North Texas. Only three Conference USA teams have a better overall winning percentage (71.4%) than the Thundering Herd. An early tune-up game could give them all the momentum they need to make a big run.