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March 6, 2008
Conference Tournament Previews
The MVC, NEC, CAA, and SoCon

by Ken Pomeroy

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Two tournaments tip off tonight, and Iím throwing in two more that start early Friday. All figures listed are the chances of a team getting to a particular round, based on the log5 formula and my adjusted Pythagorean winning percentages, with the rightmost column indicating its chances of winning the tournament.

Missouri Valley

                     Qtrs Semis Final Champ
1  Drake              100  86.6  61.7  40.2
2  Illinois St.       100  70.3  41.2  19.9
3  Southern Illinois  100  75.3  39.7  18.3
4  Creighton          100  57.9  21.6  10.1
5  Bradley            100  42.1  13.0   5.1
7  Missouri St.      85.6  28.6  12.1   4.0
6  Northern Iowa      100  24.7   6.8   1.6
8  Indiana St.       56.6   8.3   2.5   0.6
9  Wichita St.       43.4   5.1   1.3   0.3
10 Evansville        14.4   1.1   0.1   0.01 

Format: All games at the Scottrade Center, St. Louis, March 6-9.
Most likely championship matchup: Drake vs. Illinois St. (25%)

There will be talk of curses if Drake cannot win as the top seed, but itís merely the reality of playing in a league that never has a dominant team. Despite the Bulldogs' clinching the top seed weeks ago, there are three other teams with legitimate title hopes, which is to say that outsiders hoping for a one-bid Valley will probably be disappointed.

One other note on the Valley: are there any skeptics out there as to whether Drake point guard Adam Emmenecker was anywhere close to the MVP in the conference? I know he did the little things that donít show up in the box score and he has a "high basketball IQ," but he better be in the hoops version of Mensa because his stats donít indicate an MVP-type player. To review, Emmenecker averaged fewer than eight points per game while not making a three-pointer all season. While he was very good at setting up his teammates, he also had the most turnovers per minute played of any starting point guard in the conference while playing on a very slow paced team. I know stats arenít everything, but I canít help but think that if Emmenecker was the same player, yet from Chicago with a 40-inch vertical, folks wouldnít be obsessed with the little things he does and would instead be rightly focusing on the production of Josh Young and Leonard Houston, Drakeís real MVPís.

Northeast Conference

                    Semis Final Champ
1 Robert Morris      95.5  77.3  66.1
2 Wagner             60.0  34.3   7.5
3 Sacred Heart       61.9  31.9   8.3
4 Mount St. Mary's   78.5  17.5   9.3
5 Quinnipiac         21.5   4.6   1.6
6 Central Conn.      38.1  21.0   4.7
7 Long Island        40.0  12.8   2.4
8 Monmouth            4.5   0.5   0.1 

Format: All games at higher seeds, March 6, 9, and 12.
Most likely championship matchup: Wagner at Robert Morris (27%)

Robert Morris dominated the NEC with a 16-2 record by forcing steals in mass quantities. It is expected to do the same in the NEC Tourney. Wagner is the two seed and has benefited from an unbelievable amount of good fortune this season, lapping the field in my luck rating. The Seahawks' 22-7 record should be 15-14 based on their distribution of game scores.

Colonial

                     Qtrs Semis Final Champ
1  VCU                100  90.7  67.1  46.9
3  George Mason       100  78.3  62.8  29.6
4  Old Dominion       100  81.6  28.2  14.5
2  UNC Wilmington     100  69.1  20.2   4.6
6  Northeastern      67.8  17.2  10.0   2.5
7  Delaware          62.0  21.6   4.0   0.6
8  Hofstra           64.2   7.0   2.0   0.5
5  William & Mary    62.9  13.3   1.9   0.5
11 James Madison     32.2   4.5   1.8   0.3
10 Drexel            38.0   9.4   1.2   0.1
12 Georgia St.       37.1   5.1   0.5   0.1
9  Towson            35.8   2.3   0.4   0.1 

Format: All games at Richmond (Va.) Coliseum, March 7-10.
Most likely championship matchup: VCU vs. George Mason (42%)

Popular opinion had the Patriots and Rams as the top two teams in the CAA back in October, and thatís exactly what the data tells us in March. VCU won the 18-game regular season slate by three over both GMU and UNC Wilmington and should be feeling pretty good about defending its Jamminí on the James title. (OK, so the CAA doesnít call its postseason shindig that anymore. I still like it.)

Southern

                     Qtrs Semis Final Champ
1  Davidson           100  95.4  80.2  71.2
3  Georgia Southern   100  65.1  42.2   8.8
5  NC Greensboro      100  63.3  13.6   8.8
2  Chattanooga        100  73.1  32.6   5.1
4  Appalachian St.    100  36.7   5.3   2.7
6  Charleston        92.0  34.5  18.3   2.6
7  Elon              73.8  23.2   6.3   0.5
8  Wofford           55.2   2.8   0.6   0.2
9  Western Carolina  44.8   1.9   0.4   0.1
10 Furman            26.2   3.7   0.4   0.01
11 The Citadel        8.0   0.4   0.0   0.0007 

Format: All games at North Charleston (S.C.) Coliseum, March 7-10.
Most likely championship matchup: Davidson vs. Georgia Southern (34%)

The Citadel, with a roster of almost exclusively freshmen, is the biggest longshot weíve seen yet, with approximately a 1 in 150,000 chance of winning four in a row here. It won just one of 20 conference games, so you can get an idea of how the math works out.

All eyes will be on Davidson to see if it can avoid going into the at-large pool. The numbers show itís far from a done deal. Because of that, I should respond to a question from reader Stan the other day...

What were the odds of Davidson going undefeated in conference play? I keep hearing it was very easy to do, so I was curious.

I donít so much care about what the odds were for Davidson, since it's already done it. But using the log5 analysis, the odds of a present-day bubble team like Syracuse doing it are about 20%, and itíd be expected to lose two games along the way. So, no, it wasnít easy.

There are two extremes when it comes to comments on Davidsonís at-large chances. One camp says: "They went 20-0 in conference play, and it doesnít matter who you play, if you go 20-0 in a conference, you deserve a bid." Well, no, I donít agree that just going 20-0 against any group of teams means that you deserve anything.

Then the other camp says: "Davidson hasnít beaten any top 100 teams and if a team in a big conference did that, it wouldnít be considered for an at-large." True, but teams in the big conferences play upwards of 20 games against top 100 competition. Itís one thing to go 0-20 against that group and itís another to go 0-6 against it, especially when three of the Lís were against top five teams. Look, Iím not excusing the losses to Western Michigan or N.C. State. They need to be considered, but so does the 20-0 conference run. The case regarding Davidson is not cut-and-dried either way.

Tomorrow: America East, Summit League, the West Coast Conference, and the Big Sky.

Ken Pomeroy is an author of Basketball Prospectus. You can contact Ken by clicking here or click here to see Ken's other articles.

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