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5 conference tournament title games we need to see in college basketball

Give us another Gonzaga vs. BYU game right now.

NCAA Basketball: Gonzaga at Brigham Young Jeffrey Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

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5. Yale vs. Harvard (Ivy League)

Yale got the better of what seemed to be a stronger Harvard team last season perhaps partially because the championship game was played on the Bulldogs’ home floor. The roles are reversed this season, with Yale looking like the slightly stronger side, but Harvard having the benefit of playing host to the league tournament.

Get your smart kid/Good Will Hunting jokes ready to fire. The Ivy League title game is back in two weekends.

4. Winthrop vs. Radford (Big South)

Winthrop and Radford have virtually identical profiles, with both finishing the regular season at 15-3, four full games ahead of third-place Gardner-Webb. Both teams also head into the postseason with 10 overall losses, but Winthrop’s 21 total victories narrowly edge out Radford’s 20 W’s.

The two teams split their regular season series, with both winning on the other’s home floor. Winthrop won by five, Radford won by four.

If it happens, the rubber match will go down on Sunday, March 8 at 1 p.m. on ESPN.

3. Liberty vs. North Florida (Atlantic Sun)

The two teams are so clearly the class of the A-Sun, finishing league play with matching 13-3 records and sitting a full four games ahead of everyone else. Both regular season meetings between the pair were highly competitive, with the home team prevailing in each instance.

By virtue of having the better NET ranking, Liberty earned the No. 1 seed for this tournament. That’s no small thing when you consider that every postseason game in the A-Sun is played on the court of the better seed, and the Flames are a perfect 14-0 at home this season.

2. Murray State vs. Belmont (Ohio Valley)

It’s strange that a conference rivalry that is still so young can have this much venom, but here we are.

Belmont joined the Ohio Valley in 2012-13, and since then it has played Murray State for the conference’s auto-bid to the NCAA tournament four times, including each of the past two seasons. Belmont took the first two victories, both in extremely dramatic fashion, while the Racers have handled them with relative ease each of the last two years.

The two young rivals split their regular season series in 2019-20, and then finished tied atop the OVC standings with matching 15-3 records. Belmont earned the No. 1 seed for the league tournament by virtue of a tiebreaker rule that Murray State fans vehemently disagree with. The two fan bases have spent the past week arguing about the rule on social media, which has been ... well, it’s just been wonderful.

We all need this game to happen.

1. Gonzaga vs. BYU (West Coast)

Look I love the Gonzaga-Saint Mary’s rivalry as much as anyone else, and if the Zags and Gaels play for the WCC title for the fourth time in five years, awesome. I’ll definitely be watching.

Having said that, Gonzaga-BYU is the title game everyone without a rooting interest should be hoping to see.

BYU is absolutely lights out right now. They have the fourth-most efficient offense in the country according to Ken Pom, they enter the postseason having won their last nine games, and they thumped Gonzaga by 13 back on Feb. 22. If Yoeli Childs had been eligible for the Cougars from day one of the season (and never forget that he should have been), this could easily be a team that we’re talking about as a definite top-4 seed in the NCAA tournament. There’s still a chance that first year head coach Mark Pope’s team could get there, but it would probably take beating Saint Mary’s and Gonzaga on back-to-back nights in Vegas to get there.

For the Zags, what’s at stake is a bit more straightforward: They want to be a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament, they want revenge over the BYU team that humbled them a couple weeks ago, and they want to take back the tournament title they lost for the first time since 2012 last season.

It’s rare that a championship game on this list has the potential to be as good and as fun as Gonzaga vs. BYU could be.