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Conference Tournament Basics 2023

Many of this season’s conference tourney innovations are realignment-driven, and more will surely be in the pipeline as expansion continues over the next few seasons.

The 2023 Conference Tournament championship games presented in serpentine order.
Graphic by Chris Dobbertean using logos from

To start, let’s take a look at when each of the 32 automatic bids to the 2023 NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament will be awarded. Note that a few more titles be decided earlier in Selection Week than in recent seasons.

Winning Times

All times are p.m. Eastern unless noted.

Saturday, March 4 (1): OVC (8, ESPN2)

Sunday, March 5 (3): Big South (1, ESPN2), MVC (2, CBS), ASUN (3, ESPN2)

Monday, March 6 (2): SoCon (7, ESPN), Sun Belt (7, ESPN2)

Tuesday, March 7 (5): CAA (7, CBSSN), Horizon (7, ESPN), NEC (7, ESPN2), Summit (9, ESPN2), WCC (9, ESPN)

Wednesday, March 8 (3): Southland (5, ESPN2), Patriot (7:30, CBSSN), Big Sky (11:30, ESPN2)

Saturday, March 11 (13): America East (11 a.m., ESPN2), MEAC (1, ESPN2), SWAC (5:30, ESPNU), Big 12 (6, ESPN), MW (6, CBS), Big East (6:30, Fox), MAAC (7:30, ESPNU), MAC (7:30, ESPN2), ACC (8:30, ESPN), C-USA (8:30, CBSSN), Big West (9:30, ESPN2), Pac-12 (10:30, ESPN), WAC (11:30, ESPN2)

Sunday, March 12 (5): Ivy (12, ESPN2), Atlantic 10 (1, CBS), SEC (1, ESPN), American Athletic (3:15, ESPN), Big Ten (3:30, CBS)

Newly-Eligible Teams

While there will be numerous reclassifying teams participating in conference tournament play this season, only the ASUN’s North Alabama and WAC’s Cal Baptist will be eligible for an NCAA or NIT appearance for the first time.

Participating While Reclassifying

Of the 11 teams currently in the process of reclassifying to Division I, nine of them will participate in conference tournament play this season.

  • ASUN: Bellarmine (defending champion, NCAA eligible in 2025) and Queens (N.C.) (2027)
  • NEC: Merrimack (No. 1 seed, 2024)
  • OVC: Lindenwood and Southern Indiana (both 2027)
  • Southland: Texas A&M-Commerce (2027)
  • Summit: St. Thomas (Minn.) (2027)
  • WAC: Tarleton State and Utah Tech (formerly Dixie State) (2025)

In the event of a reclassifying team winning the tournament, ASUN, Southland, Summit League, and WAC will award the auto bid to the No. 1 seed, the NEC will give the losing finalist the nod, and the OVC will give either the losing finalist or the No. 1 seed (if two reclassifying teams reach the final) the bid.

Not Participating While Reclassifying

The remaining two reclassifying schools will be shut out this year. Note that the Stonehill Skyhawks managed to finish second in the NEC’s regular season.

  • Big West: UC San Diego (2025)
  • NEC: Stonehill (2027)

Eliminated Before Tip-Off

Several conferences limit their fields, which typically helps to set up more convenient brackets.

  • America East: 9th place (either Albany or NJIT)
  • ASUN: 11th through 14th places (Jacksonville, Jacksonville State, Central Arkansas, and Austin Peay)
    2022 regular-season champ and NCAA rep Jacksonville State failed to qualify and is headed to Conference USA for the 2023-24 season.
  • Ivy: 5th through 8th places (Harvard, Dartmouth, Columbia, and either Brown or Cornell)
  • OVC: 9th and 10th places (Little Rock and Eastern Illinois)
  • Southland: 9th and 10th places
  • SWAC: 9th through 12th places
  • WAC: New Mexico State will not participate after suspending the remainder of its season due to hazing allegations. The Aggies, the defending WAC champions, are headed to C-USA for 2023-24.

New Scheduling

Both the Big Sky and Southland moved their conference tournaments so they are earlier in Selection Week. Both join the Patriot League with having finals on Wednesday, March 8. These will be the last championship games until Selection Eve.

New Formats

  • In 2022, all 12 ASUN members played in the conference tournament. This season, however, only the top 10 of 14 were invited. Additionally, the bottom four seeds will play their first-round games on Monday night before Tuesday’s quarterfinals. The 9 and 10 seeds, Queens and FGCU, will play on Kennesaw State’s home floor, while the 7 and 8 seeds, North Florida and 2023 champ Bellarmine, will meet at Liberty.
  • The Big Sky joins the MAAC, MEAC, Summit League, and SWAC in spreading the quarterfinal round over two days, with the top two seeds playing the day before the third and fourth seeds.
  • The CAA expanded to 13 this year, resulting in revamped first and second rounds. Friday’s first round sees the 12 and 13 seeds, Hampton and Monmouth, meeting for the right to play the fifth-seeded Drexel in Saturday’s second round. With Campbell joining from the Big South in 2024, next season’s tournament will see an 11 vs. 14 game added for the right to play the 6 seed.
  • Conference USA has a simplified format this year, thanks to shrinking from 14 to 11. There will only be three first-round games on Wednesday night to fill Thursday’s quarterfinal round.
  • Arch Madness will be a bit bigger from now on, as the MVC expanded from 10 to 12. So, there are now afternoon and evening doubleheaders for first round Thursday.
  • With all 10 teams traveling to Sioux Falls, the Summit League tournament will now feature a Friday first round, with the winners advancing to meet the top two seeds, Oral Roberts and South Dakota State, in Saturday’s first quarterfinal doubleheader. Seeds 3 through 6 will still play in Sunday’s twin bill.
  • Like the CAA, the Sun Belt will now have two rounds before the quarterfinals, thanks to its expansion to 14. The tournament will also be spread out to accommodate the women’s event held in the same window in Pensacola with the first, second, and quarterfinal rounds held Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday before the semifinals and final on Sunday and Monday.
  • In 2022, the WAC used a stepladder format for its 10-team event. The conference returns to a traditional bracket for 2023’s 12-team tournament. Note that for the second year in a row, the first round of the tournament will be played at the Michelob Ultra Arena at Mandalay Bay, since the WCC Tournament finals are set for the Orleans Arena—the venue for the rest of the tournament.


There are a few site changes, most of which see conferences returning to their typical tournament sites.

The Atlantic 10 returns to Brooklyn after playing in Washington, D.C. in 2022 and on campus in Richmond and Dayton in 2021. The ACC heads back to Greensboro, N.C. after borrowing the Barclays Center from the A 10 for a year.

The Big Ten continues to alternate sites with Chicago taking the honors from Indianapolis this season.

Meanwhile, the SEC will resume its residency in Nashville after a year away in Tampa.

The biggest change, however, belongs to the Southland, which will play in the Legacy Center on McNeese State’s campus in Lake Charles, Louisiana, ending the tenure of Katy, Texas, which began in 2008.

TV Switch

Conference tournament media rights are currently remarkably stable. The only change to note is the Pac-12’s usual even-year change that sees ESPN carry one quarterfinal, one semifinal, and the championship game instead of FS1/Fox.