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    Conference-race simulations: Part III

    by Ken Pomeroy on Thursday, January 2, 2014


    This is the third and final part of my look at every conference race using a Monte Carlo and my current ratings for each team. The listed numbers are how many simulations each team won out of 10,000, so divide that number by 100 to get the percent chance I am giving each team of winning the one-seed for its conference tournament. (Note: not all teams listed are eligible for their conference tournament, so in some cases it’s a mythical one-seed.) If a team isn’t listed, I didn’t forget about them - they didn’t win a single simulation.

    Conferences are ordered from least to most competitive. These are the ten most-competitive conference races. The following results include all games played through yesterday.

    10. Sun Belt

    The pick: Louisiana Lafayette. Bob Marlin’s team has looked very good aside from a 39-point drubbing to Louisville. Point guard Elfrid Payton is putting up Marcus Smart-type numbers. He’s not a great perimeter shooter, but he gets to the free-throw line so much that he’s a major problem for opposing defenses.

    The contrarian pick: Georgia State. The Panthers have been exactly what you might have thought coming into the season. A great offensive team led by R.J. Hunter and Ryan Harrow, with a little bit of Manny Atkins thrown in. They’re the contrarian pick because I’m not sure how many people know they are in the Sun Belt this season.

    Louisiana Lafayette    4056
    Georgia St.            3178
    South Alabama           864
    Western Kentucky        763
    UT Arlington            677
    Arkansas St.            339
    Louisiana Monroe         91
    Arkansas Little Rock     18
    Texas St.                10
    Troy                      4
    
    

    9. Conference USA

    The pick: Louisiana Tech. The Bulldogs were picked second by an esteemed panel of experts and they haven’t disappointed, what with recently winning at Oklahoma. Michale Kyser is one of the best shot-blockers in the country and leads a defense that will give some problems to the rest of C-USA.

    The contrarian pick: UTEP. Since Southern Miss was picked to win the league by that same esteemed panel of experts, the contrarian pick has to be a team that lost at home to New Orleans.

    Louisiana Tech         4045
    Southern Miss          3026
    UTEP                    978
    UAB                     839
    Charlotte               666
    Middle Tennessee        157
    Tulsa                    94
    East Carolina            90
    North Texas              47
    Marshall                 18
    FIU                      16
    Old Dominion             16
    Florida Atlantic          6
    Rice                      1
    
    

    8. ACC

    The pick: Syracuse. I’m not saying this was common thought, but if there was an idea that there’s some sort of adjustment period for a team playing in a new conference, I think Syracuse will be one of a few examples in 2014 of how that is a dumb idea.

    The contrarian pick: Pitt. The Panthers’ chances are overstated here because I suspect Duke’s chances are understated. Still, I think there’s a way they could go 13-5 in ACC play and spread out those losses in a way that would prevent them from being ranked by the AP. I’m really hoping for that, actually.

    Syracuse               4032
    Pittsburgh             2141
    Duke                   1727
    North Carolina         1085
    Florida St.             471
    Clemson                 250
    Virginia                165
    Notre Dame               80
    Maryland                 26
    North Carolina St.       12
    Wake Forest               6
    Virginia Tech             3
    Miami FL                  2
    
    

    7. OVC

    The pick: Belmont. You remember Belmont’s win at UNC, but overall it hasn’t a been a smooth journey through the non-conference slate for the Bruins. They’re the favorite to win the conference, but just barely.

    The contrarian pick: Eastern Kentucky. There are some teams lining up behind Belmont, but the Colonels once took VCU to overtime, so beware.

    Belmont                3939
    Eastern Kentucky       3307
    Morehead St.           1330
    Southeast Missouri St. 1155
    Murray St.              181
    Austin Peay              44
    Tennessee Tech           20
    Jacksonville St.          9
    Eastern Illinois          6
    Tennessee Martin          4
    Tennessee St.             4
    SIU Edwardsville          2
    
    

    6. Big Sky

    The pick: Montana. I’ve never the SOS imbalance that the Griz has going on right now. They’ve faced the seventh-best set of offenses and the 295th-best defenses. Thus, their raw offensive numbers look great and the defense looks poor. Hopefully, Wayne Tinkle understands that once conference play begins, those numbers are going to even out.

    The contrarian pick: Northern Colorado. The Bears won at Kansas State to start the season, which at the time was just an excuse for people to make Bruce Weber jokes. But hey, Kansas State’s actually decent, and so is UNC-Greeley.

    Montana                3849
    Northern Colorado      2646
    Weber St.              2635
    Eastern Washington      481
    Idaho St.               157
    North Dakota            133
    Northern Arizona         51
    Montana St.              25
    Portland St.             17
    Sacramento St.            7
    
    

    5. SEC

    The pick: Kentucky. It’s a close call between the Wildcats and Gators, but the edge at the moment goes to Kentucky. UK isn’t shooting the ball great, but they lead the nation in offensive rebounding percentage and free throw rate. Which means the eye test won’t give their offense as much credit as it deserves.

    The contrarian pick: LSU. The Tigers are the sleeper of all sleepers. They’re a two-point loss to UMass and seven-point loss to Memphis from being unbeaten and national darlings, and from people anointing Johnny Jones as the next Brad Stevens. OK, maybe that wouldn’t be happening yet, but if LSU contends for the SEC with a sub six-foot backcourt, Jones would start getting his due.

    Kentucky               3765
    Florida                3277
    Tennessee              1213
    LSU                     727
    Missouri                440
    Arkansas                404
    Alabama                  92
    Mississippi              55
    South Carolina           17
    Vanderbilt                7
    Georgia                   1
    
    

    4. A-10

    The pick: UMass. The Minutemen have played a hellacious schedule, with just four true home games and only one gimme game - a home contest against Northern Illinois. They’ve risked a loss 11 times and only have one defeat to show for it.

    The contrarian pick: Dayton. Saint Louis and VCU are still on the radar and got plenty of preseason ink, but Dayton’s 11-3 and been one of the unluckiest teams in the land so far.

    Massachusetts          3527
    Saint Louis            2921
    VCU                    1678
    Dayton                  927
    Richmond                297
    George Washington       282
    Saint Joseph's          218
    St. Bonaventure          69
    George Mason             44
    La Salle                 36
    Fordham                   2
    
    

    3. Big South

    The pick: Charleston Southern. Charleston Southern is a fun team. They’ve only beaten two D-I teams so far, but one of those was at a really good Delaware team and they’ve been competitive against some high-quality competition such as New Mexico, Baylor, and Florida State.

    The contrarian pick: Radford. The Highlanders last won the conference in 2009 when the great Artsiom Parakhouski patrolled the paint. He was 6-11, 240. The tallest player on this year’s edition is 6-8, 205 Jalen Carethers.

    Charleston Southern    3307
    UNC Asheville          1645
    Radford                1575
    Winthrop               1008
    Liberty                 656
    Gardner Webb            650
    VMI                     525
    Coastal Carolina        286
    High Point              266
    Campbell                 72
    Longwood                  9
    Presbyterian              1
    
    

    2. NEC

    The pick: Bryant. How can you not root for a team that has a player named Claybrin McMath on the roster?

    The contrarian pick: St. Francis Brooklyn. The Terriers have never appeared in the NCAA tournament. This could be the year.

    Bryant                 3236
    Robert Morris          2750
    St. Francis NY         1977
    Wagner                 1159
    Central Connecticut     297
    Mount St. Mary's        237
    LIU Brooklyn            185
    Sacred Heart            143
    Fairleigh Dickinson      14
    St. Francis PA            2
    
    

    1. Patriot League

    The pick: Boston U. The winner for least-predictable conference race goes to the Patriot League. This is a bit of an upset in itself because before the season, it seemed like BU was the obvious choice to win the league. Now, there’s about a 70% chance they won’t.

    The contrarian pick: You make the call. The bottom line is that there’s more parity at the top of the Patriot than any other conference. Bucknell, Holy Cross, Colgate, or Lehigh; even Lafayette and American, just go with whatever your gut tells you.

    Boston University      3018
    Holy Cross             2008
    Bucknell               1941
    Colgate                1303
    Lehigh                  749
    Lafayette               460
    American                441
    Loyola MD                56
    Army                     21
    Navy                      1