Big Ten Conference (conference rank: 4th)
March 8-12
All games at Washington, D.C.
kPOY: Caleb Swanigan, Purdue
Regular season champ: Purdue (preseason #15 / 4th Big Ten, current #13)
Overachiever: Minnesota (preseason #71, current #32)
Underachiever: Ohio State (preseason #13, current #69)

The Big Ten tournament moves to the Verizon Center in Washington this season and the conference appears to have seven safe bids. The most likely possibility for an eighth bid appears to be Indiana who has about a 1-in-30 chance of winning the four games necessary to claim the automatic bid. Who wouldn’t enjoy the bracketing chaos that would ensue with a bid thief minutes before the selection show? (more…)

Pac 12 Conference (conference rank: 6th)
March 8-11
All games at Las Vegas
kPOY: Lonzo Ball, UCLA.
Regular season champ: Oregon (preseason #6 / 1st Pac 12, current #17) and Arizona (preseason #10 / 2nd Pac 12, current #21)
Overachiever: UCLA (preseason #21, current #16)
Underachiever: Oregon State (preseason #81, current #272)

While the Pac 12 had multiple teams in the AP top 10 for nearly the entire season, in some ways it was disappointing. Just four of the 12 teams improved on their preseason rating and four teams currently sit outside the top 100, with Stanford in danger of becoming a fifth with a bad opening-game performance. And there are conceivable ways in which the conference gets just three bids to the NCAA tournament.

But the high ranking in human polls of UCLA, Oregon, and Arizona has generally saved the conference’s reputation. However, predictive ratings are quite a bit more pessimistic about these teams than most humans are, in part due to the relatively soft nature of the rest of the league. So we await the NCAA tournament to resolve this conflict to whatever extent it can.

Some of the difference might be resolved in Vegas this week, too. The highly-ranked trio has about an 85% chance to take the title according to my ratings. Whichever team does so will surely be a popular human choice to win it all. But there’s also a small but realistic chance that Utah, USC, Cal, or Colorado goes all the way.

                   Qtrs Semis Final Champ
 1 Oregon           100  87.6  62.7  34.2
 3 UCLA             100  82.2  50.1  29.9
 2 Arizona          100  78.9  39.2  21.1
 4 Utah             100  58.5  20.6   7.0
 5 California      89.6  40.8  13.0   3.9
 6 USC             79.5  16.9   5.9   2.0
 7 Colorado        77.2  19.2   4.5   1.3
 9 Stanford        60.1   8.8   2.9   0.5
 8 Arizona St.     39.9   3.6   0.8   0.1
11 Washington      20.5   0.9   0.1   0.01
10 Washington St.  22.8   1.9   0.1   0.009
12 Oregon St.      10.4   0.7   0.03  0.003

Big East Conference (conference rank: 3rd)
March 8-11
All games at Madison Square Garden
kPOY: Josh Hart, Villanova.
Regular season champ: Villanova (preseason #2 / 1st Big East, current #2)
Overachiever: Marquette (preseason #47, current #28)
Underachiever: Xavier (preseason #11, current #43)

You still hear people use the term “Power 5” to describe the best basketball conferences, but it is dying. It should have never been around to begin with, of course, as over the past three seasons, the Big East has proven to be better than multiple conferences referenced with the football-centric term. (more…)

Mountain West Conference (conference rank: 9th)
March 8-11
All games at UNLV.
kPOY: Chandler Hutchinson, Boise State
Regular season champ: Nevada (preseason #114 / 3rd MW, current #57)
Overachiever: Nevada
Underachiever: UNLV (preseason #179, current #251)

For the second consecutive season, the Mountain West will be a one-bid league so these teams are playing for all the marbles. Nevada is the favorite here and won the regular-season title by a game over Colorado State. The Rams closed strong, winning seven in a row before losing the season-finale at Nevada which decided the regular-season crown. (more…)

Atlantic Coast Conference (conference rank: 2nd)
March 7-11
All games at Brooklyn, N.Y.
kPOY: John Collins, Wake Forest
Regular season champ: North Carolina (preseason #5 / 1st ACC, current #4)
Overachiever: Wake Forest (preseason #76, current #30)
Underachiever: N.C. State (preseason #35, current #100)

The ACC makes its debut in Brooklyn this week. It appears that eight teams have at-large bids lined up with Wake Forest and Syracuse needing to do a little work to feel safe when the bracket is leaked on Sunday. (more…)

Sun Belt Conference (conference rank: 15th)
March 8-11
All games at New Orleans.
kPOY: Kevin Hervey, UT Arlington.
Regular season champ: UT Arlington (preseason #67 / 1st Sun Belt, current #72)
Overachiever: Arkansas State (preseason #281, current #119)
Underachiever: Little Rock (preseason #139, current #241)

Last season, UT Arlington was flirting with the top 50, having beaten Memphis and Ohio State on the road and pushing Texas to overtime in Austin. But the Mavericks couldn’t overcome a season-ending injury to Kevin Hervey in mid-January and tumbled out of the top 100 by season’s end. (more…)

Southland Conference (conference rank: 27th)
March 8-11
All games at Katy, Texas.
kPOY: Rashawn Thomas, Texas A&M Corpus Christi.
Regular season champ: New Orleans (preseason #297 / 7th Southland, current #179)
Overachiever: New Orleans
Underachiever: Stephen F. Austin (preseason #124, current #232)

There couldn’t have many regular-season champions more surprising than New Orleans this season. (more…)

Big Sky Conference (conference rank: 26th)
March 7, 9-11
All games at Reno.
kPOY: Jacob Wiley, Eastern Washington.
Regular season champ: North Dakota (preseason #146 / 1st Big Sky, current #184)
Overachiever: Eastern Washington (preseason #250, current #186)
Underachiever: Idaho State (preseason #238, current #329)

Weber State, North Dakota, and Eastern Washington are ranked 183, 184, and 186, respectively, at press time. And fifth-seeded Montana is ranked 194th. So practically speaking, there are four identical teams in Reno which makes predicting an outcome difficult. North Dakota won the NIT auto-bid by finishing 14-4 in league play, but Eastern Washington led the league in efficiency margin during conference play. (more…)

Conference USA (conference rank: 20th)
March 8-11
All games at Birmingham, Ala.
kPOY: Jacorey Williams, Middle Tennessee.
Regular season champ: Middle Tennessee (preseason #121 / 2nd CUSA, current #52)
Overachiever: Middle Tennessee
Underachiever: UAB (preseason #89, current #195)

Many coaches and like-minded folks in the media like to criticize transfers as low-character people that can’t handle adversity. Of course, almost all of the critics have at some point changed jobs or schools or something in their life to try and improve their situation. (more…)

Southwestern Athletic Conference (conference rank: 32nd)
March 7, 10-11
First round at higher seed, remaining rounds at Houston.
kPOY: Zach Lofton, Texas Southern.
Regular season champ: Texas Southern (preseason #248 / 1st SWAC, current #202)
Overachiever: Alcorn State (preseason #338, current #287)
Underachiever: Alabama A&M (preseason #347, current #351)

Of all 32 conferences, the SWAC needs a tournament the least. For the 21st consecutive season, the regular-season title was won outright. For the third straight season, the winner was Texas Southern. (more…)