With conference play heating up this week, it’s time for Monte Carlo simulations. For the noobs, this is where I run each conference’s schedule 10,000 times on my computer using the current ratings. (To the nerds: I dumb down the exponent used to account for the inherent uncertainty in the current ratings.)
What’s recorded below is the number of cases in which each team earned its conference’s one-seed in the conference tournament. Divide these numbers by 100 to get the chance in percent of a team winning its conference. For conferences with divisions, I am using the team with best conference record. If your team is not listed, they did not win a single simulation. Values listed may add up to something other than 10,000 due to ties, which I split among the tying teams.
I am splitting this series into three parts. I will be counting down the conference from most to least competitive. Today we will look at conferences 32 to 22. I am providing “the pick” which is the team favored to win the conference and the “the contrarian pick” which is some other team I feel like isn’t getting enough attention and not necessarily the second-best team. It’s basically a crutch to write about some other aspect of the conference, so don’t get all huffy about me disrespecting your team.
Sometime in March, I’ll try to look back and see how well these did. It’s go time.
The pick: New Mexico State. Nothing to see here. In October, if you had to pick a team to run its conference table, the Aggies were a solid choice and they remain that way.
The contrarian pick: None. The Aggies are Southern and everyone else is Champion Baptist.
New Mexico St. 8955 Seattle 408 Cal St. Bakersfield 269 Idaho 198 Utah Valley 119 UMKC 29 Grand Canyon 18 Chicago St. 4
The pick: Wichita State. Nothing really surprising here, either. The Shockers have dominated the non-conference schedule. It’s a good time to mention that they are getting far less credit for road wins against Saint Louis and Alabama than they deserve.
The contrarian pick: Wichita State to go undefeated. I don’t get why national talking heads increasing play down the undefeated angle. At some point as a youngster Seth Davis told someone he was going to be the nation’s voice of college basketball. People laughed at him for his dreams. It was way more of a longshot than Wichita State going unbeaten, but Seth made it happen. Now he’s the one laughing at the dreamers.
Wichita St. 8527 Indiana St. 898 Drake 319 Northern Iowa 167 Missouri St. 48 Illinois St. 30 Evansville 8 Southern Illinois 2
30. Atlantic Sun
The pick: Mercer. Last year was supposed to be the season that Mercer would be good enough to scare somebody in the NCAA tournament. That didn’t work out, but they’ve repeatedly been competitive with lower-end power-conference teams so far this season.
The contrarian pick: USC Upstate. The tenants of the smallest home gym in D-I have done themselves proud in getting wins at South Carolina and Virginia Tech, relegating Florida Gulf Coast to the the third option from the A-Sun.
Mercer 7436 USC Upstate 1836 Florida Gulf Coast 434 East Tennessee St. 142 Lipscomb 76 North Florida 72 Stetson 3 Northern Kentucky 2
The pick: Louisville. I’m not sure how much Chane Behanan’s dismissal affects these numbers. He was effective when he played, but he wasn’t playing as much as last season. Pitino has rarely played small this season, so it figures that Mangok Mathiang will be asked to do more. Draw your own conclusions.
The contrarian pick: Memphis. It’s either the Tigers or UConn for this honor, and the computer says Memphis is looking more like the second-best team, which I’m not sure agrees with the general consensus. I’m never good about gauging that kind of thing.
Louisville 7239 Memphis 1474 Connecticut 579 Cincinnati 467 SMU 227 Temple 12 UCF 1
The pick: Harvard. Despite being at less than full strength, Harvard has been Harvard, getting to 11-1 by winning games with mostly comfortable margins. The problem is the rest of the Ivy has been significantly more difficult than most anticipated.
The contrarian pick: Princeton. The Tigers ridiculously-prolific three-point attack has produced a bunch of wins over teams in the 100-200 range and a close road loss to Butler.
Harvard 7198 Princeton 2049 Columbia 410 Brown 151 Yale 90 Dartmouth 89 Penn 12
The pick: North Carolina-Central. Central has had some good fortune, winning all three of its overtime games, but one of those was at N.C. State, so this is a decent team. The Eagles are the second-most experienced team in the country and the second-most experienced team in the MEAC.
The contrarian pick: Norfolk State. The most-experienced team in the land may not be as good as Central (then again, it’s a bit early to make a definitive statement on these types of things) but the only meeting between the two is in Norfolk, and it’s the last game of the season. And the Spartans will have stud big-man RaShid Gaston back soon.
North Carolina Central 6942 Norfolk St. 1638 Hampton 822 Morgan St. 319 Coppin St. 164 North Carolina A&T 90 Florida A&M 12 Savannah St. 10 South Carolina St. 4
The pick: Gonzaga. The Zags haven’t exactly impressed, but no contender has emerged from the rest of the league. Gary Bell’s out for a month, but it may not matter
The contrarian pick: Saint Mary’s. The Gaels went 0-3 in Hawaii and are thought to be worse than St. Katherine at this point. But they got a win at Pacific last night and they play their first three conference games on the road. If they can get through that stretch at 2-1, they’ll have a real shot to win the league.
Gonzaga 6459 Saint Mary's 3035 BYU 284 Loyola Marymount 106 Pacific 45 Santa Clara 28 Pepperdine 25 San Francisco 12 San Diego 4 Portland 3
The pick: Manhattan. The Jaspers are 7-0 in true road games and 1-2 at Draddy Gym. Play the entire conference slate on the road, Steve Masiello, I dare you!
The contrarian pick: Iona. The Gaels have lost four straight, but they won their first two MAAC games and the non-conference schedule was pretty brutal. Don’t count them out.
Manhattan 6161 Iona 2114 Canisius 847 Rider 426 Quinnipiac 400 Siena 36 Niagara 7 Fairfield 5 Marist 2 Saint Peter's 2 Monmouth 1
24. America East
The pick: Stony Brook. The Seawolves have lost to the three best teams on their schedule and have been a slight disappointment, but they’ve been competitive in each of those games and stil appear to be the best team in the conference.
The contrarian pick: Vermont. The Catamounts are 5-8. They have just three wins over D-I teams. That is not the resume of a conference champ, lacking confidence and all. But Brian Voelkel and co. actually have a decent shot.
Stony Brook 6072 Vermont 2053 Albany 1423 Hartford 428 UMBC 21 Maine 2 New Hampshire 1
The pick: Arizona. The computer doesn’t like Arizona as much as everyone else. At least in the sense that they’re not obviously the best team in the country. The computer also doesn’t think as much of the conference as most do, so the Wildcats are the clear favorite.
The contrarian pick: Colorado. The Buffs have the best home-court advantage in the league between the altitude and a packed house every night. If they can get something done away from Boulder, they’re a good sleeper pick.
Arizona 5986 Oregon 1389 Colorado 976 UCLA 769 Arizona St. 349 Stanford 326 California 133 Utah 64 USC 3 Washington St. 3 Oregon St. 2
22. Summit League
The pick: North Dakota State. The Bison feature (Marshall) Bjorklund, the Norse god of field goal percentage. He made 67 percent of his shots last season, and is sitting at 69 percent this season. He will smite and/or smote you if you get between him and a Summit League title.
The contrarian pick: Omaha. The Mavs are in the D-I reclassification process so they will not be participating in the Summit League tournament. That’s a shame, because they’re good enough to win it. This team was preseason #307, but the system didn’t know that Devin Patterson would be the best point guard in the conference.
North Dakota St. 5982 Denver 1659 Nebraska Omaha 1286 South Dakota St. 694 IPFW 299 South Dakota 38 Western Illinois 33 IUPUI 9
Coming tomorrow: conferences 21 through 11.