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.