It’s February, which means we’re getting very close to the conference tournament season. As most leagues are past the halfway point of conference play, teams are starting to seriously battle for a league title or for seeding in the conference tournament. There are some huge games in terms of conference races this weekend, which we highlighted below.
Before that, here is our Mid-Major Top 25 from Monday:
2. Saint Mary’s
3. Illinois State
4. Wichita State
5. Middle Tennessee
6. UNC Wilmington
7. New Mexico State
13. UT Arlington
17. Georgia Southern
18. Arkansas State
19. Louisiana Tech
21. Florida Gulf Coast
22. North Dakota State
23. Fort Wayne
Conferences we do not consider mid-majors are the P6, A-10, American and Mountain West (although they have performed like one lately).
Saint Peter’s at Monmouth
Why You Should Care: Monmouth, who is in first place in the MAAC at 10-2, has won 8 in a row since dropping two straight conference games. One of the teams that took them down was Saint Peter’s, who is tied with Iona for second place, two games back of the Hawks. A win for St Pete will put them in serious contention for the league title, but a loss will all but end their championship hopes.
Yale at Columbia
Why You a Should Care: Both teams enter Friday night sitting at 3-1 in Ivy League play. In a league where only the top four make the conference tournament, every game matters.
Akron at Ohio
Why You Should Care: Ohio was our pre-season pick to win the MAC, but they haven’t been the same since they lost leading scorer Antonio Campbell for the season. That has opened the door for Akron to run away with the MAC. At 9-0, the Zips have a 4 game lead in their division and a 3 game lead overall. Going to Ohio (5-4) and winning won’t be an easy task if they want to stay unbeaten in conference play, though.
Valparaiso at Green Bay
Why You Should Care: Alec Peters and Valpo enter this one at 9-1 in the Horizon League, holding a 1.5 game lead over Green Bay. Valpo cruises to a 24 point victory in the team’s first meetings, but we’re going to assume it won’t be that easy on the road.
Southern Illinois at Loyola-Chicago
Why You Should Care: While Illinois State and Wichita State battle for league supremacy, there is a tight battle for third in the MVC happening behind them. Both these squads are tied for third at 6-4 right now, along with Missouri State.
South Dakota at North Dakota State
Fort Wayne at Denver
Why You Should Care: These two games on Saturday will determine a lot in the title race in the Summit. North Dakota State currently owns a 1.5 game lead over South Dakota and Denver, with a full two games separating them from Fort Wayne. A win and the Bison will be well on their way to a league title this season. A loss, though, and this league becomes absolutely wide open, as it will open the door for the three teams chasing NDSU.
NC Central at Morgan State
Why You Should Care: The two top teams in the MEAC standings go head to head as 7-1 Morgan State hosts 6-1 NC Central. Pay attention to Phillip Carr for Morgan State, who is averaging 19.2 PPG and 9.6 RPG.
Elon at Charleston
Why You Should Care: Charleston picked up a thrilling one point win at UNCW on Thursday, putting them in a tie for first with the Seahawks. They don’t get much time to celebrate that win, though, as Elon, who is in third place of the CAA, comes to town. Charleston will need to play well in order in to stay atop the league standings.
UNC Asheville at High Point
Why You Should Care: UNC Asheville is a part of a three way tie for first in the Big South, along with Winthrop and Liberty. They have the toughest test of the three this weekend as they take on High Point, who is the fourth place team and in the league and has won 6 straight. With a matchup with Winthrop looming, this a potential trap game for UNCA.
Princeton at Harvard
Why You Should Care: Princeton is 3-0 and probably the most talented team in the Ivy League, while Harvard sits a half game back at 3-1 as of Friday. Both teams play Friday night as well.
Illinois State at Wichita State
Why You Should Care: The main event in mid-major basketball this weekend is round two of Illinois State-Wichita State. The Redbirds are 11-0 in MVC play, while Wichita State is right behind them at 10-1. The first meeting resulted in a 76-62 home win for Illinois State, but they’ll be without arguably their best player in MiKyle McIntosh, who underwent surgery on a torn meniscus this week. Even without him, this should be a great game with ginormous implications on the league race and postseason fate for both teams.