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March 10, 2008
Conference Tournament Previews
MEAC, MAC, WAC, Big West, SWAC, Southland

by Ken Pomeroy

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There are 15 conference tournaments that will tip off this week. Let's get the one-bidders out of the way today, with more log5 analysis on each team's chances of advancing through its conference tournament. All figures listed are the chances of a team getting to a particular round, with the rightmost column indicating its chances of winning the tournament.

Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference

                     Qtrs Semis Final Champ
1  Morgan St.         100  90.6  75.9  56.4
2  Hampton            100  82.0  62.0  26.5
4  Delaware St.       100  65.7  15.6   6.7
3  Norfolk St.        100  52.4  15.5   3.3
6  Florida A&M       87.4  45.9  14.5   3.3
5  NC A&T             100  34.3   5.2   1.5
7  Coppin St.        79.6  16.7   7.6   1.4
8  S. Carolina St.   53.1   5.2   1.9   0.5
9  Bethune Cookman   46.9   4.1   1.4   0.3
10 Howard            20.4   1.3   0.2   0.02
11 UMES              12.6   1.7   0.1   0.006

Format: All games at the RBC Center, Raleigh, N.C., March 11-15.
Most likely championship matchup: Morgan State vs. Hampton (47%)

I've had a vision in which Morgan State wins this event and then takes on a particularly undisciplined #1 seed that depends to a certain extent on a very good three-point shooter, which results in a stunning and historic victory for the Bears. My man Todd Bozeman has taken Morgan State from one of the worst teams in D-I to the top of the MEAC, and it would be a great story if he did just a little bit more with this team. However, the odds against all of that occurring are overwhelming. Chances of getting a 16 seed are fairly good, though. However, the Bears may get challenges in the second round from Delaware State and in the finals from Hampton.

Mid-American Conference

                     Qtrs Semis Final Champ
1  Kent St.           100  90.4  55.1  32.8
3  Akron              100  84.2  50.0  24.7
2  Western Michigan   100  82.9  42.5  19.3
5  Miami OH          81.6  46.0  21.9  11.6
4  Ohio               100  49.9  20.8   9.8
6  Central Michigan  69.6  13.1   3.6   0.7
7  Eastern Michigan  62.2  12.2   2.8   0.5
9  Bowling Green     58.0   6.2   1.0   0.2
12 Buffalo           18.4   4.1   0.8   0.2
10 Ball St.          37.8   4.9   0.8   0.09
8  Toledo            42.0   3.4   0.4   0.05
11 Northern Illinois 30.4   2.8   0.4   0.04

Format: All games at Quicken Loans Arena, Cleveland, Ohio, March 12-15.
Most likely championship matchup: Kent State vs. Akron (28%)

For the first time since 1999, the MAC may not be a one-bid league. It should be noted that based on the data gathered by The Bracket Project, Kent State looks very good to get in right now. Add another MAC loss, though, and a bid won't be a sure thing, especially if some other bubble teams rise up from the ashes this week. It's interesting how Kent gets a lot of credit for winning their Bracket Buster at Saint Mary's despite Gaels' center Omar Samhan getting injured early in the game. Gonzaga's Jeremy Pargo won WCC Player of the Year, but I'd argue it should have been Samhan. Kent is far from a sure thing to take the title in Cleveland, so it will be interesting to see if this piece of information comes into play when bids are handed out.

Western Athletic Conference

                     Qtrs Semis Final Champ
3 New Mexico St.      100  97.0  74.5  58.9
1 Utah St.            100  89.2  58.4  17.2
2 Nevada              100  75.8  22.1  14.1
4 Boise St.           100  75.2  33.6   8.0
7 Fresno St.          100  24.2   3.1   1.0
5 Hawaii              100  24.8   5.6   0.6
8 San Jose St.       75.9   9.7   2.3   0.2
6 Idaho               100   3.0   0.3   0.04
9 Louisiana Tech     24.1   1.1   0.1   0.002

Format: All games at New Mexico State, March 11, 13-15.
Most likely championship matchup: Utah State at New Mexico State (44%)

For the first time in a long time, the WAC Tournament has no at-large intrigue associated with it. This is all about the auto-bid, and it's heavily influenced by location and seeding. There was a four-way tie atop the standings, and even though they got the three-seed, New Mexico State drew the most favorable first-round matchup. Their opponent is the Idaho Vandals, a team that went 5-11 in conference, but two of those wins were in overtime and the other three were by a combined 18 points, while just three of their losses were by single digits. The favorable draw plus the home-court advantage means that the Aggies are one of just two three-seeds in the country to have the best chance of winning its conference tournament.

Big West Conference

                     Qtrs Semis Final Champ
3 Cal St. Fullerton   100  91.6  53.9  32.5
1 UC Santa Barbara    100   100  57.8  27.8
2 Cal St. Northridge  100   100  47.1  24.3
4 Pacific             100  59.3  26.1  11.0
5 UC Irvine          87.9  38.9  15.0   5.5
6 Cal Poly           60.7   6.6   0.9   0.1
7 UC Riverside       39.3   4.3   0.4   0.04
8 Long Beach St.     12.1   0.7   0.1   0.004

Format: All games at Anaheim (Ca.) Convention Center, March 12-15.
Most likely championship matchup: UC Santa Barbara vs. Cal St. Fullerton (31%)

The Big West employs the stepladder approach to its tournament, and also re-seeds with every round. In order to keep the computations simple, I've ignored the latter aspect of this equation. Because the bottom three teams are so much worse than the rest of the league, it wouldn't change the overall chances of a title by more than 1%. The top three teams tied for the regular-season title; Fullerton has been marginally better than the other two over the course of the season.

Southwestern Athletic Conference

                    Semis Final Champ
1 Alabama St.        90.8  74.2  61.0
2 Miss. Valley St.   75.5  41.2  11.8
3 Alabama A&M        66.8  38.2  11.2
4 Jackson St.        52.3  12.3   6.5
5 Southern           47.7  10.6   5.3
6 Ark. Pine Bluff    33.2  13.6   2.5
7 Grambling          24.5   7.0   0.9
8 Texas Southern      9.2   2.9   0.9

Format: All games at Fair Park Arena, Birmingham, Alabama, March 12-15.
Most likely championship matchup: Alabama State vs. Mississippi Valley State (31%)

One of the great injustices of our time is the play-in game in the NCAA Tournament. The winner of the SWAC tourney will likely be playing in it. Congratulations to the SWAC for providing us with one of two brackets (the WCC being the other) where the seeding reflects each team's chances of winning the title.

Southland Conference

                    Semis Final Champ
1 Stephen F. Austin  93.4  79.6  55.0
3 Sam Houston St.    84.0  54.4  24.5
2 Lamar              63.0  28.8  10.4
4 SE Louisiana       72.6  15.5   5.2
7 UT Arlington       37.0  12.6   3.3
6 McNeese St.        16.0   4.2   0.7
5 Northwestern St.   27.4   2.9   0.5
8 UT San Antonio      6.6   2.0   0.3

Format: All games at the Merrell Center, Katy, Texas, March 13, 14, 16.
Most likely championship matchup: Stephen F. Austin vs. Sam Houston State (43%)

The Southland leaves their worst three teams behind for this event. SFA won at Oklahoma earlier this season, and the Lumberjacks have just four losses overall, including one at Texas Tech, another by one point in overtime, and a third by two points. They're the best team in the Southland. On an unrelated note, one of Lamar's starters is actually named Lamar, which I found interesting.

Tomorrow: The biggest favorite and biggest longshot in the land, and the only conference in which no team claims a 30% chance of winning the league title.

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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From 341 to 65 (03/10)

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