A change in the Champ Week schedule brings us an early gift this March: a potential multi-bid conference is beginning its tournament on the second day of college basketball’s postseason.
The Mountain West Conference Championship tips off on Wednesday in Las Vegas with a trio of First Round games. No, you won’t get to see potential NCAA Tournament 1 seed San Diego State quite yet, but there’s still plenty of intrigue.
Here’s how to watch and what to watch for in the Mountain West, as well as the other tournaments getting underway on Wednesday:
The Mountain West will hold three opening round games at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas on Wednesday. Each game can be streamed via the Mountain West Network. All times Pacific.
No. 8 Fresno State vs. No. 9 Air Force, Noon
No. 7 New Mexico vs. No. 10 San Jose State, 2:30 p.m.
No. 6 Colorado State vs. No. 11 Wyoming, 5 p.m.
The eventual Mountain West champion isn’t likely to be playing on Wednesday, but there are two things to watch for if you aren’t familiar with the conference:
First, few teams in mid-major basketball have been quite as enigmatic as New Mexico this season. The Lobos started the year 15-3 with two wins over New Mexico State and one over Wisconsin. Since then, disaster. They enter the postseason at 18-13 and 7-11 in conference. JaQuan Lyle has been back for a while now after serving a suspension, but he’s been inconsistent. Big man Carlton Bragg was kicked off the team in January. Yet somehow, the Lobos knocked off Utah State to end the season behind 17 points from Vance Jackson. Go figure.
The final game of the day, between Colorado State and Wyoming, won’t move the national meter much either, but it’s a chance for you to watch Nico Carvacho, the 6’11 double-double machine (12.6 PPG, 10.6 RPG) who shoots 56 percent from the field. If you prefer electric guards, give league freshman of the year Isaiah Stevens a shot. The Rams’ rookie led the team in scoring (13.0) and assists (4.5) per game, while shooting 38 percent from three.
The OVC’s ridiculous ladder bracket begins with its first-round games on Wednesday from Evansville, Indiana. Both contests will be available on ESPN+. If you don’t have ESPN+, be sure to sign up right here. All times Central.
No. 5 Tennessee State vs. No. 8 Morehead State, 6:30 p.m.
No. 6 Eastern Illinois vs. No. 7 Jacksonville State, 8:30 p.m.
These are the bottom four teams participating in the tournament, and in a way to protect the league’s best teams, the OVC has given top two seeds, Belmont and Murray State, byes to the semifinals. None of these four teams has beaten the Bruins or Racers this season, and Tennessee State is the only team that has defeated one of the top four seeds. In other words, watch because it’s postseason basketball and postseason basketball is cool, but don’t expect any of these teams to dance.
The NEC’s four quarterfinal games will all play out on campus sites. Robert Morris, which tied with St. Francis PA for second place in the regular season, will serve as the 1 seed with league champion Merrimack ineligible. The tournament will re-seed after each round. All four games will stream on NEC Front Row and will tip off at 7 p.m. ET.
No. 8 St. Francis Brooklyn at No. 1 Robert Morris
No. 7 Bryant at No. 2 St. Francis PA
No. 6 Mount St. Mary’s at No. 3 Sacred Heart
No. 5 Fairleigh Dickinson at No. 4 LIU
It’s too bad every quarterfinal game starts (and will probably end) around the same time because this tournament tends to get weird. If you want to know which game to watch, you could go with the 4-5 game — a safe bet to be close — or you could watch the conference player of the year in Isaiah Blackmon (St. Francis PA) face freshman of the year Michael Green III. We imagine as the night wears on you’ll just go to whichever games are running down to the wire.