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Conference Tournaments 2020: What’s New

The Mountain West is playing earlier this year, but not the Pac-12 and WAC, while the MAAC’s tournament is later. More on those changes and others to this March’s conference tournament formats, sites, and TV streaming information is below.

NCAA Basketball: Pac-12 Conference Tournament-Colorado vs Washington Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

Visit Conference Tournament Central and the 2020 Conference Tournaments Hub for full Championship Fortnight coverage.

TV Changes

There aren’t quite as many broadcast and streaming changes as in 2019, as this will be the second season of ESPN+ dominating coverage of mid-major conference tournaments, not the first. But there are still a handful of changes to note.

  • There’s no longer a Raycom broadcast of the ACC Tournament, thanks to the launch of the ACC Network. That outlet will air Tuesday’s first round games, which appeared on ESPN and ESPNU in 2019, but no further action from Greensboro.
  • FloHoops.com, a subscription service, takes over coverage of the CAA Tournament’s first round and quarterfinals, from the conference’s free streaming service. The semifinals and championship game will again appear on CBSSN.
  • CBSSN will also air both MAC semifinals this year after airing only the first game in 2019. This is due to a scheduling change for 2020’s Mountain West event.
  • It’s an even-numbered year, so the Pac-12 Tournament’s fourth quarterfinal, second semifinal, and championship game will appear on FS1. These contests head back to ESPN in 2021.
  • The fact this year is divisible by two also means the Selection Show and Final Four will both be on TBS, with CBS getting them back in 2021. (Never mind on the Selection Show, it’s still on CBS per release.)

Schedule Changes

Two conferences changed their tournament windows this season—with one of those moves being a temporary one. That belongs to the Mountain West, whose playdowns are scheduled for the week before Selection Sunday this year because of the CONEXPO-CON/AGG International Construction Trade Show, which ends on Selection Eve, March 14th. Curiously, neither the Pac-12 and WAC, the other two conferences that will be in Las Vegas over Selection Weekend, adjusted their schedules. The Mountain West will return to a Selection Eve final in 2021, timing that’s guaranteed in the conference’s new media rights contract with CBS.

However, there will be 14 conference title games on Saturday, March 14th, as the MAAC moved its tournament to the second week of the Championship Fortnight. It will begin on Tuesday, March 10th with three first round games.

Your Net-Cutting Schedule

With that in mind, here’s the schedule of the tip times and TV outlets for all 32 men’s college basketball conference championship games. All times are Eastern.

  • Saturday, March 7 (2): Mountain West (5:30 p.m., CBS), OVC (8 p.m., ESPN2)
  • Sunday, March 8 (3): Big South (1 p.m., ESPN), MVC (2 p.m., CBS), ASUN (3 p.m., ESPN)
  • Monday, March 9 (1): SoCon (7 p.m., ESPN)
  • Tuesday, March 10 (5): Horizon (7 p.m., ESPN), NEC (7 p.m., ESPN2), CAA (7 p.m., CBSSN), WCC (9 p.m., ESPN), Summit (9 p.m., ESPN2)
  • Wednesday, March 11 (1): Patriot (7:30 p.m., CBSSN)
  • Thursday and Friday, March 12 and 13: None
  • Saturday, March 14 (14): America East (11 a.m., ESPN2), MEAC (1 p.m., ESPN2), MAAC (4 p.m., ESPNU), Big 12 (6 p.m., ESPN), SWAC (6 p.m., ESPNU), Big East (6:30 p.m., Fox), MAC (7:30 p.m., ESPN2), Big Sky (8 p.m., ESPNU), ACC (8:30 p.m., ESPN), C-USA (8:30 p.m., CBSSN), Southland (9:30 p.m., ESPN2), Pac-12 (10:30 p.m., FS1), WAC (11 p.m., ESPNU), Big West (11:30 p.m., ESPN2)
  • Selection Sunday, March 15 (6): Ivy (12 p.m., ESPN2), A 10 (1 p.m., CBS), SEC (1 p.m., ESPN), Sun Belt (2 p.m., ESPN2), American (3:15 p.m., ESPN), Big Ten (3:30 p.m., CBS)

A Couple Fun Conference Tournament Tools

If you’re wondering which seeds have done the best in each conference tournament over the past 12 years, friend of the blog Bob Vetrone Jr. has you covered.

If you want a graphical representation of the 32 conference tournaments by day, round, and streaming service, new blog friend Heat Check CBB has a colorful chart for you.

Format Changes

After one season of inviting only its top eight finishers, all eligible teams (more on this in a bit) will again participate in the Horizon League Tournament. However, the conference also changed its bracket format again. The top two teams earn byes all the way to the semifinals, with the No. 3 seed earning a bye to what will be a two-game quarterfinal round. Those contests, and the three first round contests featuring seeds four through nine, will be hosted by the higher-seeded teams. Only the four semifinalists will make it to the event’s new host city, Indianapolis.

The Sun Belt also changed its format to a stepladder bracket that will see just four teams make It to the semifinal site of New Orleans. Just the top 10 finishers out of the conference’s 12 teams will qualify. The top two teams earn byes to the semifinals, with the three and four seeds hosting the quarterfinals, seeds five and six hosting round two, with the 7 vs. 10 and 8 vs. 9 first round games set for the higher-seeded squads’ home floors.

The MEAC Tournament is down to 10 teams in 2020, thanks to realignment and NCAA penalties.

New Venues

The Horizon League, moving from Little Caesars Arena in Detroit to the Indiana Farmers Coliseum in Indianapolis, and Sun Belt, switching from Lakefront Arena on UNO’s campus to the Smoothie King Center, are just two of the conferences that made a venue change from 2019’s Championship Fortnight to 2020’s. Here are the others:

  • The American Athletic moves from the Memphis Tigers’ home floor at FedEx Forum to the new Dickies Arena in Fort Worth, Texas, in the SMU Mustangs’ backyard.
  • After two years in Brooklyn and one in Charlotte, the ACC returns to its most-typical North Carolina haunt, the Greensboro Coliseum.
  • The Big Ten will play in Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis this year and return to Chicago in 2021 (then it’s back to Indy in 2022).
  • Washington, D.C.’s Entertainment and Sports Arena, which seats 4,200, will be the new home for the CAA Tournament after three years at the North Charleston Coliseum.
  • The Ivy Madness rotation is in full effect, with the Harvard Crimson taking hosting duties from Yale Bulldogs for 2020.
  • The MAAC has left Albany, and the Siena Saints’ home floor at the Times Union Center, after a five-year stay, moving to Atlantic City’s Boardwalk Hall for three seasons.
  • The SWAC is playing in Birmingham for the second season in a row, but in a new venue, switching from Bill Harris Arena to Bartow Arena on UAB’s campus.

Who’s Ineligible

The WAC’s Cal Baptist Lancers and ASUN’s North Alabama Lions are both in the second year of their transitions into Division I, so neither team will be eligible for the 2020 NCAA Tournament. It’s a similar story for the NEC’s Merrimack Warriors, who are in their first transitional season. However, UNA will participate in the ASUN Tournament, as it did in 2019.

The Detroit Mercy Titans are ineligible for the postseason, which means the Horizon League Tournament will feature nine teams instead of 10. The ACC Tournament, however, was scheduled to featured all 15 teams, until the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets’ decided to drop the appeal of their postseason ban on Monday afternoon. So, the ACC Tournament will be a 14-team affair for the third time since 2014. Finally, the Florida A&M Rattlers will miss the MEAC Tournament due to NCAA sanctions that also led to a postseason ban. That means only 10 teams will play in Norfolk, Virginia.

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