by Ken Pomeroy on Sunday, March 8, 2015
The favorite in Conference USA is Old Dominion, where Jeff Jones is trying to guide the Monarchs to the tournament just two years after a 5-25 season. But the more interesting story to me is Charlotte. With a 2% chance of winning the title, the 49ers check in as the double-digit seed most likely to win its tournament.
Davidson rolls into the Barclays Center having won nine in a row, earning sole possession of the regular-season crown in one of the biggest surprises this season. They were picked to finish 12th in the league in the preseason. In their first year in the Atlantic 10, the Wildcats were expected to struggle, but maybe the idea needs to die that there’s some additional challenge of moving to a better conference.
Single-elimination basketball is always a fun time, but there’s not much at stake in the ACC tourney. There’s some NCAA seed jockeying possible, but at this point in the season, only so much movement is possible. If N.C. State loses to Pitt in the quarterfinals, the Wolfpack will have some anxious moments on Selection Sunday, but the consensus indicates they’re pretty safe.
For the fifth consecutive season, the SWAC is rated as the worst conference in the land. The conference’s top seed is Texas Southern, who you may remember from such upsets as Michigan State and Kansas State in December. The Tigers also took Auburn and New Mexico State to the wire. But even though they went 16-2 in the SWAC, it wasn’t easy. Three of those wins were in overtime and the gap between TSU and second-seeded Alabama State is small.
by Ken Pomeroy on Saturday, March 7, 2015
Welcome to the MAC tournament, home of the triple-bye. If you’re one of the top two seeds, you get a free pass to the semi-finals. And if you’re not in the top four, you have to win five games to secure the automatic bid. This the fourth year of the format and the three previous events have produced a championship matchup of 1 vs. 2, 1 vs. 2, and 1 vs. 3. The only team outside the top four to make it to the semifinals was last season when sixth-seeded Eastern Michigan made it.
by Ken Pomeroy on Friday, March 6, 2015
North Carolina Central was one of three conference unbeatens this season, finishing league play at 16-0. But no team in the country can match Central’s overall winning streak against conference foes, which is an incredible 34 dating back to last year’s season-opening loss to Florida A&M. The Eagles come into the tourney with eight consecutive double-digit wins, but they’re not an overwhelming favorite. For one thing, that season-ending streak is deceptive because they played lowly Florida A&M, Bethune-Cookman, and North Carolina A&T twice. In fact, they avoided any of the other top six teams in the league during that stretch.
South Dakota State dominated the Summit League in tempo-free terms, easily leading the conference in both offensive and defensive efficiency, but they only have a 12-4 record to show for it. The Jackrabbits actually were tied for the regular season crown by North Dakota State but won the tiebreaker by virtue of sweeping third-seeded Oral Roberts, and they are the clear favorite in this event. South Dakota State won nine conference games by double-digits, while North Dakota State won only one by at least ten, including three in overtime.
This is the fourth season in a row that the top three seeds in the WCC have been Gonzaga, BYU, and Saint Mary’s in some order. (Actually, San Francisco was the 3-seed last season. Thanks, @DonsCentral.)The only reason the streak doesn’t extend farther is that BYU joined the conference then. Gonzaga and Saint Mary’s were the top two seeds for four years running before that. So while the back end of the conference has improved to the point where the WCC is as strong as it’s ever been from top to bottom, until a team crashes the party at the top of the conference table, it’s a tough sell to the rest of the world that there is much more parity in the league than there used to be.
I must say that this week hasn’t been too exciting in the log5 department. With smaller conferences making a better effort to engineer their brackets to give their best teams the best chance at the automatic bid, there haven’t been any bonafide sleepers in most conferences. The CAA gives us a breath of fresh air by playing the tournament at a neutral site and providing us with a four-way tie atop the conference standings.
No conference has more contrast between its fastest team and slowest team than does the SoCon. In conference play, VMI was about 16 possessions per 40 minutes faster than The Citadel. And they had to play each other twice which artificially constrains the relationship between the two. VMI gave up 6.4 more points per game in conference play than The Citadel but easily has the better defense. In fact, The Citadel rates out as the worst defense nationally. Tip to future coaches: If your defense is going to suck, play at the nation’s fifth-slowest pace. You might fly under the radar a bit.