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.

32. WAC

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

31. MVC

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

29. AAC

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

28. Ivy

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

27. MEAC

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

26. WCC

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

25. MAAC

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

23. Pac-12

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.