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There are a handful of teams that would have no shot at making the NCAA Tournament if it wasn’t for the automatic bid that teams are awarded for winning their conference. These smaller conference tournaments commonly take place for the bigger ones but provide arguably more excitement due to the winner making the NCAA Tournament while winners from other conferences likely would have been in regardless.

March Madness truly begins with these conference tournaments as teams punch their ticket to the tournament by winning the conference championship game.

Coastal Athletic Association Tournament (March 8th)

The College of Charleston Cougars were a No. 12 seed in last year’s NCAA Tournament. They won 31 games in the regular season before meeting San Diego State in the first round by just six points. San Diego State went on to make it all the way to the championship game.

This season, Charleston expects to win the Coastal Athletic Association tournament again. They will face some competition in the tournament however, as they have dropped two games this year to UNC Willmington who they may face again in a tournament elimination game.

Overall, the CAA is a deep conference. There are 14 teams that make it up and eight of them have conference winning records. Look for an entertaining tournament with all eyes on the College of Charleston.

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America East Tournament (March 9th)

For the past two seasons the Vermont Catamounts have won the America East Tournament to earn their automatic bid in the NCAA Tournament. Again this year they are expected to defend their crown and make it to the big dance. Vermont has 24 wins so far this season and is 14-1 in conference play.

Another contender to win the tournament will be the Massachusetts-Lowell River Hawks who have been a division one basketball team since just 2013. They’ve never made the tournament but won 26 games last season and have 20 wins this year. The River Hawks took down ACC opponent Georgia Tech earlier this season.

Besides those two schools, the Bryant Bulldogs are a third team to look out for in the America East. They were 10-5 in conference play and defeated No. 10 FAU early in the season.

Big Sky Tournament (March 9th)

For the past two seasons Montana State has represented the Big Sky in the NCAA Tournament. They won 25 and 27 games the last two years. This year they will have a tougher path to get there as they have won just 14 games but still managed to make the conference tournament.

The favorite to get the automatic bid out of the Big Sky is Eastern Washington who has won 21 games this year and 15 of them in conference play.

It’s a tight conference at the top however, Northern Colorado, Weber State, Montana, and Eastern Washington have all won 11 or more conference games. Montana State won’t lay down either in this tournament as they look for their third bid in as many seasons.

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