American Athletic Conference (conference rank: 7th)
March 9-12
All games at Connecticut.
kPOY: Semi Ojeleye, SMU.
Regular season champ: SMU (preseason #49 / 3rd American, current #12)
Overachiever: SMU
Underachiever: Connecticut (preseason #41, current #88)

The American wasn’t a very entertaining conference. It ranked dead last among conferences in both effective field goal percentage and tempo in conference games. Between elite defenses in SMU, Cincinnati, and UCF and the putrid offenses of East Carolina, UCF, and South Florida, there were plenty of opportunities for low-scoring games. (more…)

Big 12 Conference (conference rank: 1st)
March 8-11
All games at Kansas City, Mo.
kPOY: Johnathan Motley, Baylor
Regular season champ: Kansas (preseason #3 / 1st Big 12, current #9)
Overachiever: Oklahoma State (preseason #60, current #19)
Underachiever: Texas (preseason #45, current #76)

One of the main arguments about conference superiority is that the ACC is going to get the most tournament bids. Obviously, the Big 12, or Big East for that matter, is unable to realistically compete with any conference that gets nine (or even eight) or more bids. That approach is unfair to smaller leagues. (more…)

Southeastern Conference (conference rank: 5th)
March 8-12
All games at Nashville, Tenn.
kPOY: Sindarius Thornwell, South Carolina.
Regular season champ: Kentucky (preseason #4 / 1st SEC, current #7)
Overachiever: Florida (preseason #17, current #6)
Underachiever: LSU (preseason #101, current #159)

Kentucky is on an eight-game winning yet their AdjEM rating (and ranking) has dropped slightly over that time. A seven-point home win to LSU is partly responsible for that and that’s a good example of the measurement error of margin-of-victory. (more…)

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…)