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    Conference title predictions

    by Ken Pomeroy on Tuesday, January 1, 2013


    With the calendar turning over, it’s time to forecast the regular season champs for each of the 32 conferences. As a reminder, here are the assumptions…

    Using the offensive and defensive ratings through 12/31, 10,000 simulations of the rest of the season were run. I dumbed down the pythagorean exponent a bit for this exercise since there’s slightly more uncertainty in predicting things in the more distant future than with tomorrow’s games.

    Listed next to each team is the number of times it won the conference in the 10,000 simulations. Divide by 100 to get the chance in percent of a team winning the regular season race. If a team is not listed, they didn’t win or tie a single simulation. Better luck next season.

    I’m not exactly predicting conference champs here, but the team that would get the one-seed in their conference tournament. Thus, in the case where multiple teams tie with conference’s best record, fractional credit is given to the tied teams. This fraction is rounded in the final total. I don’t spend any time applying conference tiebreakers.

    Teams listed with a * were involved in a single multi-team tie.

    In conferences with divisions (which I hate), I am forecasting the team that has the best conference record.

    What follows is the breakdown for each conference in ascending order of suspense. Expert commentary injected where appropriate.

    Sun Belt
    Middle Tennessee  9487
    Western Kentucky   411
    Arkansas St.        50
    South Alabama       36
    Louisiana Lafayette  7
    North Texas          6
    Fla. International   2
    Ark.-Little Rock     *
    
    

    Many conferences have started conference play. Middle Tennessee has played 3 of its 20 conference games. Western Kentucky is 4-0, but the Blue Raiders are so far ahead of them in the ratings, they are the closest to being a sure thing when it comes to winning a conference title. North Texas, at 0-3 already, has been a big disappointment. Thought to be competitive with Middle Tennessee before the season started, they’re now a tremendous longshot.

    ACC
    Duke              8797
    Virginia           476
    North Carolina St. 235
    Miami FL           226
    North Carolina     143
    Maryland            59
    Georgia Tech        43
    Florida St.         14
    Clemson              8
    
    

    This exercise gives you some insight into schedule difficulty in conferences that no longer play double round-robins (which is almost all of them). I don’t doubt I have UVa overrated, but they only have to play Duke, N.C. State, and Miami once each while UNC’s single-game opponents are the four-lowest rated teams in the conference: Clemson, Va. Tech, Boston College, and Wake Forest. That kind of stuff matters.

    Big 12
    Kansas            8079
    Oklahoma St.      1187
    Baylor             308
    Iowa St.           177
    Kansas St.         119
    Oklahoma            67
    Texas               63
    West Virginia        1
    
    WCC
    Gonzaga           8058
    St. Mary's        1102
    Brigham Young      577
    Santa Clara        243
    San Francisco       13
    Loyola Marymount     4
    San Diego            2
    
    Summit League
    North Dakota St.  7737
    Western Illinois  1429
    South Dakota St.   558
    Oakland            270
    South Dakota         4
    IPFW                 2
    IUPUI                *
    
    Big Sky
    Weber St.         7481
    Montana           2380
    Northern Colorado   51
    Sacramento St.      48
    Portland St.        31
    Eastern Washington   4
    Montana St.          1
    Northern Arizona     1 
    North Dakota         *
    Southern Utah        *
    
    

    Montana has played most of the season thus far without its stud point guard Will Cherry, so their chances might be underestimated.

    Ohio Valley
    Belmont           7286
    Murray St.        2586
    Jacksonville St.    48
    Eastern Kentucky    40
    SE Missouri St.     31
    Tennessee St.        6
    Morehead St.         3
    SIU Edwardsville     1
    Tennessee Tech       *
    
    

    The OVC is the closest thing in the nation to a two-team race. However, Belmont and Murray State are in different divisions so it’s not really a race at all. (I hate divisions in part because it deprives us of such drama.)

    SEC
    Florida           7223
    Kentucky          1955
    Mississippi        410
    Missouri           353
    Tennessee           26
    Alabama             23
    Arkansas             7
    Louisiana St.        1
    Texas A&M            1
    Georgia              *
    
    

    In addition to Ole Miss being a bit better than most thought, they only get Florida and Kentucky once each so they may well be a factor in the SEC race.

    Pac-12
    Arizona           7045
    Oregon             921
    UCLA               765
    Colorado           699
    Stanford           320
    California         199
    Washington St.      38
    Washington           7
    Oregon St.           5
    Arizona St.          2
    USC                  1
    
    

    Likewise, Oregon only plays UCLA and Arizona once each and therefore has a slightly better shot at a Pac-12 title than you might think.

    Patriot League
    Bucknell          6677
    Lehigh            3149
    Holy Cross          94
    Army                73
    Navy                 4
    American             3
    Colgate              *
    
    Atlantic 10
    VCU               6364
    St. Louis         1263
    Butler             775
    Saint Joseph's     565
    La Salle           381
    Temple             267
    Dayton             171
    Xavier              94
    Richmond            43
    St. Bonaventure     33
    Charlotte           15
    Massachusetts       15
    George Washington   13
    
    

    St. Louis was the computers’ preseason favorite while Saint Joe’s was the media pick. VCU is the best team in the conference now, and they get some help because SLU and Butler have to play each other twice in what is otherwise a single round-robin schedule.

    Southland
    Stephen F. Austin 6268
    Oral Roberts      2593
    Northwestern St.   952
    McNeese St.        103
    Sam Houston St.     60
    Central Arkansas    21
    Nicholls St.         2
    
    Missouri Valley
    Creighton         6179
    Wichita St.       3247
    Illinois St.       453
    Indiana St.         55
    Northern Iowa       29
    Bradley             28
    Evansville           7
    Drake                2
    
    SoCon
    Davidson          6038
    Charleston        2650
    Elon               687
    Wofford            414
    Western Carolina   189
    NC Greensboro       18
    Chattanooga          2
    Appalachian St.      1
    Samford              1
    
    MAC
    Akron             5988
    Ohio              3148
    Kent St.           296
    Western Michigan   217
    Toledo             180
    Buffalo            115
    Bowling Green       28
    Central Michigan    17
    Ball St.             5
    Miami OH             4
    Eastern Michigan     2
    
    

    Akron seven-footer Zeke Marshall has been pretty absurd so far in his senior season. 66% on twos and he’s fifth in the nation in drawing fouls where he’s made an outstanding (for a big) 73% of his tries. Not to mention fifth in block rate to go with career-best rebound numbers at both ends.

    Big East
    Louisville        5785
    Syracuse          2021
    Pittsburgh        1124
    Cincinnati         923
    Notre Dame         101
    Georgetown          25
    Connecticut         11
    Marquette            5
    Providence           4
    Rutgers              2
    Seton Hall           *
    
    Big Ten
    Indiana           5489
    Ohio St.          1630
    Minnesota         1275
    Michigan          1065
    Wisconsin          434
    Michigan St.        82
    Iowa                14
    Illinois            10
    Purdue               *
    
    SWAC
    Southern          5389
    Texas Southern    4105
    Jackson St.        207
    Prairie View A&M   158
    Alcorn St.         100
    Alabama A&M         18
    Miss. Valley St.    14
    Alabama St.          7
    Arkansas-Pine Bluff  2
    
    NEC
    Robert Morris     5322
    Wagner            2199
    Quinnipiac         762
    Long Island        728
    Central Conn.      426
    St. Francis NY     299
    Bryant             234
    Mount St. Mary's    22
    Sacred Heart         6
    Monmouth             2
    Fairleigh Dickinson  *
    
    CAA
    George Mason      5082
    Delaware          1521
    Drexel            1431
    William & Mary    1017
    James Madison      415
    Northeastern       380
    Georgia St.         89
    Old Dominion        45
    Towson              11
    UNC Wilmington       9
    
    

    William & Mary qualifies as a surprise. The Tribe have been to the postseason twice (both times, the NIT) and here they have a one-in-ten shot of a regular season title.

    Conference USA
    Memphis           4925
    Southern Miss     2751
    Tulane            1185
    Central Florida    515
    UTEP               249
    East Carolina      148
    UAB                 88
    Tulsa               61
    Southern Methodist  32
    Marshall            24
    Houston             21
    
    

    Southern Miss was picked fifth in the only pre-season conference poll available but on this day are the most likely team to prevent Memphis from repeating. Marshall, consensus second or third-best team before the season started, is nowhere to be found.

    WAC
    Denver            4892
    Louisiana Tech    2813
    Utah St.          1440
    Texas Arlington    320
    New Mexico St.     213
    Idaho              190
    San Jose St.       132
    Seattle              1
    
    Ivy
    Harvard           4758
    Princeton         4056
    Columbia          1125
    Cornell             20
    Yale                20
    Pennsylvania        16
    Brown                5
    Dartmouth            1
    
    MEAC
    N.C. Central      4589
    Norfolk St.       2216
    Morgan St.        1141
    Savannah St.       926
    Hampton            383
    N.C. A&T           244
    Delaware St.       171
    Coppin St.         163
    Bethune Cookman    138
    Howard              16
    Florida A&M         12
    
    Atlantic Sun
    Fla. Gulf Coast   4499
    Mercer            2486
    USC Upstate       1611
    North Florida     1292
    Lipscomb            54
    Stetson             29
    Northern Kentucky   26
    Jacksonville         2
    East Tennessee St.   1
    
    America East
    Stony Brook       4443
    Boston U.         4141
    Albany             639
    Vermont            564
    Hartford           165
    New Hampshire       38
    Maine                8
    UMBC                 *
    
    Great West
    NJIT              4440
    Utah Valley       2933
    UTPA              1252
    Chicago St.        982
    Houston Baptist    393
    
    MAAC
    Canisius          3932
    Iona              3707
    Fairfield         1351
    Loyola MD          498
    Niagara            445
    Rider               46
    St. Peter's         15
    Manhattan            4
    Marist               1
    
    

    Canisius is the legit Surprise of the Year thus far. I had ‘em last in the MAAC in the preseason and the official conference preseason poll had them eighth (out of ten). But here they are, favorites to win the conference now.

    Big South
    NC Asheville      3830
    Char. Southern    2471
    Gardner Webb      2309
    Coastal Carolina   486
    Winthrop           274
    Radford            265
    VMI                132
    High Point         129
    Campbell            91
    Liberty             13
    
    Horizon League
    Valparaiso        3773
    Detroit           2679
    Youngstown St.    1128
    Illinois Chicago   758
    Wright St.         637
    Green Bay          509
    Loyola Chicago     400
    Cleveland St.      116
    
    Big West
    UC Irvine         3675
    Cal St. Fullerton 1952
    Long Beach St.    1126
    Pacific            848
    Cal St. Northridge 689
    UC Santa Barbara   654
    Cal Poly           506
    Hawaii             369
    UC Davis           181
    
    

    The Big West has the most parity from top to (almost) bottom. Before conference season started, every team but UC Riverside was projected for between 7 and 11 wins.

    Mountain West
    San Diego St.     2701
    UNLV              2692
    Colorado St.      1847
    Wyoming           1617
    New Mexico         853
    Boise St.          279
    Air Force            9
    Fresno St.           1
    Nevada               1
    
    

    The winner for least-predictable champ is the Mountain West. UNLV is actually rated slightly higher than the Aztecs, and the order here is just a quirk in this particular set of simulations. New Mexico drops to fifth after the stealthy New Year’s Eve loss at Saint Louis.