Another conference that believes in the regular season meaning something is the Patriot (also I love the Patriot for using RPI as their tiebreaker!). Tonight is the first round matchups on higher seed home courts for the Patriot conference tournament; #8 Lafayette vs. #1 American, #7 Bucknell vs. #2 Holy Cross, #6 Colgate vs. #3 Navy, and #5 Lehigh vs. #4 Army.
The championship is at the highest remaining seed's home court. I like the Eagles of American, winners of their last ten games, and sixteen of their last seventeen to win the Patriot. Their only loss in their last seventeen games was at Holy Cross, their only loss in conference. American also made the dance last year losing to Tennessee in the first round.
The Sun Belt starts tonight too. Three teams had byes #1 Western Kentucky, #2 UALR and #3 Troy. Five first round games start tonight on higher seed's home courts with the rest of the tournament starting March 8 in Hot Springs, Arkansas (advantage UALR). The games tonight are as follows; #9 FIU vs. #8 Louisiana Lafayette, #13 Florida Atlantic vs. #4 North Texas, #12 Arkansas State vs. #5 Middle Tennessee State, #11 New Orleans vs. #6 South Alabama and #10 Louisiana Monroe vs. #7 Denver.
UALR is the best defensive team in the Sun Belt (first in FG percentage defense, first in three point FG percentage defense and second in scoring defense) and that along with some home tournament cooking should propel them past most likely Denver in the second round. However, Troy won their only matchup against ULR and have the best assists to turnover ratio and turnover margin in the Sun Belt. With all those factors I like the Trojans to face the Hilltoppers in the final. The Hilltoppers should have no problem with Louisiana Lafayette and have beaten most likely semifinal opponent #5 Middle Tennessee State twice (and they beat #4 North Texas in their only meeting. The final should be a good one but I like Western Kentucky to beat Troy in the rubber match of their season and the Hilltoppers again go to the dance.