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(03/01)

March 1, 2010
March at Last
Conference Tournament Projections

by Ken Pomeroy

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Itís March, ladies and gents, and that means weíve entered the time of year when anything is possible. And thatís how weíll choose to look at things here from this point on. Nothing is absolutely certain--thereís always a chance of the unexpected happening. (Well, not if youíre Marist. Sorry, Red Foxes.) Thatís what makes this time of year special.

Most of you all know whatís coming next, but for those who donít, hereís a brief explanation. My ratings produce a number that actually means something--itís the chance of beating an average D-I team on a neutral floor. For instance, Michiganís current rating of .8006 means that the Wolverines would win 8 out of 10 games against the average D-I team. Every March, I borrow Bill Jamesí log5 formula to take these ratings and compute probabilities for each team to win its conference tournament.

Iím not sure how the log5 formula got its name, but itís fairly intuitive. Think of a coin with one side labeled ďwinĒ and the other side labeled ďloss.Ē The chance of the coin landing on ďwinĒ is the teamís rating. Log5 is derived from the probability that a teamís coin will land on win and its opponentís coin will land on loss. (If they land on the same side, you re-flip.)

As usual, Ken Pomeroy, the human being, does not endorse every single number that will be produced in these projections. However, I believe most of them are in the ball park. Today, we start with the one-bid leagues that have established their tournament brackets. All values here are the percent chance of advancing to a particular round.

America East: March 4, 6, 7 & 13, all games at Hartford

Seed              Qtrs    Semis    Final    Champ
  2 Vermont        100     90.4     63.7     34.8
  4 Boston U.      100     82.5     52.2     30.9
  1 Stony Brook    100     87.4     42.0     21.1
  3 Maine          100     80.3     29.2     10.8
  6 Hartford       100     19.7      4.3      1.0
  5 Binghamton     100     17.5      3.9      0.7
  7 New Hampshire  100      9.6      2.7      0.4
  9 Albany        66.0      9.8      1.6      0.2
  8 UMBC          34.0      2.8      0.3      0.02

The most likely title game in America East is the two-seed facing the four-seed. However, Stony Brook tanked their regular season finale having wrapped up the top seed, so their chances may be a bit understated. Hartford went 3-5 in AE home games this season, so the non-neutral site is not much of an issue.

Atlantic Sun: March 3-6, all games at Mercer

Seed                Semis    Final    Champ
  3 Belmont          72.5     42.2     25.5
  2 Jacksonville     91.3     42.7     23.5
  1 Lipscomb         90.0     41.1     17.0
  5 E. Tennessee St. 50.4     29.0     13.4
  4 Campbell         49.6     28.4     12.9
  6 Mercer           27.5     13.9      7.2
  7 North Florida     8.7      1.2      0.2
  8 Kennesaw St.     10.0      1.5      0.2

If youíre in the greater Macon area, stop by University Center, because this is one of the more wide-open events of the next two weeks. There are five teams with legitimate aspirations of winning, and home-court advantage gives Mercer an outside shot as well. Of note: the first round covers two days, but the A-Sun calls day two the second round. Interesting. Also interesting: This chart of the A-Sun's membership over the years. Does anyone want to be in this league?

Big Sky: March 6, 9-10, first round on-campus, semifinals & finals at Weber State

Seed                   Semis   Final    Champ
  1 Weber St.           100     78.0     57.7
  2 Northern Colorado   100     60.1     19.2
  4 Montana             89.9    35.0     17.4
  3 Montana St.         65.3    20.9      4.2
  6 Portland St.        34.7     4.4      1.1
  5 Northern Arizona    10.1     1.6      0.4

With just six teams invited to its postseason event, the Big Sky is the closest thing to the Ivy League in all of D-I. I donít like the idea of an exclusive tourney to this degree, but to the conferenceís credi, they re-seed for the semis which is normally a fairer way to run things. However, because seeds three through six donít match the respective teamsí performance, the effect of re-seeding actually hurts Weber State slightly.

Big South: March 2, 4, 6, first round on-campus, semifinals at Coastal Carolina, finals at higher seed

Seed                Semis    Final    Champ
  1 Coastal Carolina 96.8     91.1     78.8
  2 Radford          87.4     54.1     12.0 
  3 Winthrop         80.9     36.6      6.6
  4 UNC Asheville    59.4      4.3      0.8
  5 High Point       40.6      3.6      0.8
  6 Liberty          19.1      5.3      0.5
  7 Charleston S.    12.6      3.9      0.3
  8 VMI               3.2      1.1      0.1

Coastal Carolina has quietly dominated the Big South with 12 double-digit wins included in their 15-3 record. Home-court advantage makes them an overwhelming favorite to win the conferenceís bid.

MAAC: March 5-8, all games at Siena

Seed              Qtrs   Semis   Final   Champ
  1  Siena         100    94.1    85.9    73.1
  2  Fairfield     100    73.1    36.7     8.4
  3  Iona          100    56.6    32.9     8.0
  6  Niagara       100    43.4    22.6     4.6
  4  St. Peter's   100    64.9     8.6     3.4
  7  Canisius     91.9    26.6     7.8     0.9
  5  Rider         100    35.1     3.1     0.9
  9  Manhattan    54.3     3.5     1.5     0.4
  8  Loyola MD    45.7     2.5     1.0     0.2
  10 Marist        8.1     0.3     0.01    0.0002

The MAAC produces the biggest Championship Week long shot in Marist, who has a 1-in-6500 chance to leave Albany with an NCAA bid in hand. They were able to lead Siena for 17 minutes on Sunday, so maybe thereís hope. Siena is easily the best team in the conference and gets to play at home but, even so, they have a 1-in-4 chance of being disappointed.

Northeast Conference: March 4, 7, 10, on-campus

Seed                   Semis    Final    Champ
  1 Quinnipiac          91.9     80.0     52.5
  2 Robert Morris       90.6     51.8     21.4
  3 Mount St. Mary's    94.3     46.7     23.3
  4 Long Island         81.8     15.1      2.2
  5 Fairleigh Dickinson 18.2      2.6      0.2
  8 Monmouth             8.1      2.3      0.2
  7 Central Connecticut  9.4      0.8      0.09
  6 St. Francis PA       5.7      0.8      0.09

The NEC re-seeds for the semis. and I have not included that twist in the calculations. However, it appears to provide limited benefits for the higher seeds since the top four seeds are big favorites to win their first-round games. The Mount has the best rating in the NEC, and has won their last ten after starting NEC play 2-6 with a slew of close losses.

Ohio Valley: March 2, 5-6, first round on-campus, semifinals & finals in Nashville

Seed                   Semis    Final    Champ
  1 Murray St.          96.7     85.1     66.2
  2 Morehead St.        92.3     70.4     24.0
  3 Austin Peay         79.3     23.3      4.0
  5 Eastern Kentucky    45.5      7.5      3.0
  4 Eastern Illinois    54.5      6.3      1.9
  6 Tenn. Tech          20.7      3.7      0.3
  7 Jacksonville St.     7.7      2.6      0.2
  8 Tennessee St.        3.3      1.1      0.2

The OVC has improved remarkably the past two seasons. They were approaching D-I doormat status in í08. This seasonís Tennessee State team that barely qualified for the conference tourney would have been a contender back then. Should Murray State escape, they could make a first-round opponent sweat in a couple weeks, much like they did Cal in the season opener.

Patriot League: March 3, 7, 12, on-campus

Seed            Semis    Final    Champ
  1 Lehigh       80.7     66.8     51.7
  2 Bucknell     65.1     45.4     18.7
  3 Lafayette    75.8     32.8     13.0
  4 American     69.9     16.5      5.2
  7 Holy Cross   34.9     13.9      4.8
  8 Army         19.3      8.3      2.5
  5 Navy         30.1      8.3      2.1
  6 Colgate      24.2      7.9      2.1

Lehigh is the odds-on favorite, aided by a weak 4/5 matchup on their side of the bracket. This assumes they get by Army in the first round, which is far from a sure thing.

Summit League: March 6-9, all games in Sioux Falls, SD

Seed                  Semis    Final    Champ
  2 IUPUI              90.5     58.2     42.3
  3 Oral Roberts       81.1     36.6     23.8
  1 Oakland            86.6     59.6     23.3
  4 South Dakota St.   57.0     22.5      5.7
  5 IPFW               43.0     14.5      3.0
  6 North Dakota St.   18.9      3.5      1.1
  7 Western Illinois    9.5      1.7      0.4
  8 UMKC               13.4      3.4      0.3

Somehow, Oakland racked up a 17-1 record with only two wins by more than 14 points. They went 3-1 against IUPUI and Oral Roberts while getting outscored by 16 points in those games. Itís the Jaguars that are the team to watch in Sioux Falls.

Sun Belt: March 6-9, all games in Hot Springs, AR

Seed                    Qtrs    Semis    Final    Champ
  4  Western Kentucky   94.0     70.7     51.3     33.8
  3  Middle Tennessee    100     68.9     43.1     22.3
  2  North Texas         100     65.9     30.9     13.6
  1  Troy                100     61.6     23.4     10.8
  5  Arkansas St.       78.2     25.3     13.1      5.8
  6  Denver             80.0     28.7     13.9      5.3
  8  Florida Atlantic   67.7     29.7      9.7      3.9
  7  La. Lafayette      74.4     29.4     10.9      3.7
  9  South Alabama      32.3      8.8      1.7      0.4
  10 La. Monroe         25.6      4.7      0.8      0.1
  12 Ark. Little Rock   21.8      2.9      0.7      0.1
  11 Florida Int'l      20.0      2.4      0.5      0.07
  13 New Orleans         6.0      1.1      0.2      0.02

The Sun Belt brings all 13 teams to Hot Springs, and with that many participants anything is possible. Troy is the top-seed, but only has a 1-in-10 chance to win the Sun Belt lottery. Western Kentucky has won seven of its last eight in conference, and is the favorite despite not earning a first-round bye.

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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