As each conference gets started with games by Saturday, it’s a good time to look at who is likely to win each of the 32 D-I leagues. I’ve run the season 10,000 times using the current ratings and then recorded how many times each team finished at the top of its conference. If teams shared the top spot, I gave them the appropriate fraction for that trial. (Because of these fractions and the rounding I do at the end, totals for each conference may not add up to exactly 10,000. Also, some teams can be listed as having zero titles because they were involved in a single multi-team tie for the top spot.)

The count listed for the favorite is going to be somewhat inflated since it assumes that the team’s current rating will remain constant for the remainder of the season. But everyone’s level of play is going to change, and it’s more likely that one of the three or four contenders in each conference will improve than it is for the favorite itself to improve.

What follows is the list of teams that won at least one simulation for each conference season. This is presented in order of least to most competitive races. This is Part 1. Part 2 will contain the more interesting races.

32. ACC

Duke                   9381 
North Carolina          288
Florida St.             147
Maryland                 96
Virginia Tech            54
Boston College           23
Clemson                   8
Miami FL                  4

No surprise here, as Duke has basically lived up to early expectations and whoever was going to challenge Duke hasn’t.

31. Pac 10

Washington             9122
Arizona                 672
Washington St.           90
Southern California      82 
UCLA                     30
Stanford                  2
California                1
Oregon St.                0

Washington appears to be the best team in the league, and by virtue of escaping the SoCal road trip with a 2-0 record the Huskies significantly increased their chances of winning the conference. Then Arizona went and lost at Oregon State, nearly clinching it for the Huskies.

30. WAC

Utah St.               9052 
Boise St.               901
New Mexico St.           32
Nevada                   12
Idaho                     2
Fresno St.                0

I have to admit that I’ve been thinking Boise State had a legit chance to steal the top seed in the WAC. Utah State has looked sluggish in winning its two WAC home games to start conference play. But apparently, it’s a little early for Bronco fans to dream big.

29. Atlantic Sun

Belmont                9019
Lipscomb                468
Jacksonville            330
East Tennessee St.      163
Campbell                 19

Belmont’s three losses have included competitive defeats at Tennessee (twice) and at Vanderbilt. They’ve mostly taken care of business in other games against weaker competition and sport a healthy 9% chance to run the A-Sun table, which is impressive considering it’s a 20 game slate.

28. Big Ten

Ohio St.               8791 
Purdue                  943
Illinois                 98
Michigan St.             94
Wisconsin                74 
Northwestern              0

While the Big Ten is more top-heavy that people give it credit for (at least, relative to the Big East), it is *really* top-heavy at the very top.

27. Big 12

Kansas                 8352
Texas                   554
Baylor                  416
Missouri                342
Texas A&M               240
Kansas St.               53
Nebraska                 24
Iowa St.                 14
Oklahoma St.              5
Colorado                  0

Somewhat surprisingly, Nebraska has the seventh-best chance of gaining the top seed. The Huskers have yet to play a true road game, which in today’s world is enough for analysts to disregard them. But you heard it here first – Nebraska will apply a “bad loss” to at least one team in the Big 12 hierarchy.

26. Summit League

Oakland                8247
South Dakota St.        811
IUPU Fort Wayne         416
IUPUI                   251
Oral Roberts            217
North Dakota St.         58

Most teams in the Summit have played four of their 18 conference games already. Oakland played a famously difficult non-conference schedule to start the season – it ranked 5th hardest in my system – but has had no problem starting 4-0 in conference.

25. Southland

Stephen F. Austin      8165
Sam Houston St.         989
Nicholls St.            731
McNeese St.              78
Texas San Antonio        20
Lamar                     6
Texas St.                 4 
Northwestern St.          3
Texas Arlington           2
Southeastern Louisiana    2
Texas A&M Corpus Chris    1

The Southland has yet to play a conference game and so all kinds of possibilities exist. Most of them involve SFA and its nation-leading defensive turnover percentage winning the league.

24. Big Sky

Montana                7951 
Northern Colorado       871
Northern Arizona        810
Montana St.             249
Weber St.               115
Portland St.              4
Eastern Washington        0

The Griz have the road win over UCLA which was widely assumed to be evidence that UCLA is no good this season. However, the Bruins have not been a pushover at home when healthy, so maybe we should give Montana a bit more respect.

23. Horizon

Butler                 7861
Cleveland St.          2085
Valparaiso               32
Wright St.               18
Loyola Chicago            2
Detroit                   1

This is the closest thing to a two-team race in the nation – only 53 simulations have a team other than Butler or Cleveland State winning the title and receiving the honor of hosting the conference tourney. Even with Cleveland State already having two more wins than Butler, the Dawgs are still a substantial favorite.

22. Great West

South Dakota           7808 
Utah Valley            1691 
Texas Pan American      394
North Dakota             73
Houston Baptist          18
NJ Inst of Technology    16

The GWC tournament is essentially meaningless since there is no auto-bid to the NCAA tournament on the line. But the regular-season champ does get a bid to the CIT.

21. Big West

Long Beach St.         7308
UC Santa Barbara       1596
Pacific                 970
UC Davis                 55
UC Irvine                51
Cal St. Northridge        8
Cal St. Fullerton         7
Cal Poly                  5

Long Beach State has already beaten UCSB on the road. Thus, they’ve assumed the clear favorite role.

20. Big South

Coastal Carolina       7165 
Charleston Southern     872
Virginia Military Inst  663 
Liberty                 654
Winthrop                473
Presbyterian            138
NC Asheville             33
High Point                1
Gardner Webb              0

If Coastal stumbles, the conference is up for grabs. (Seriously, this is the only interesting thing I can say about the Big South.)

19. SEC

Kentucky               6348 
Vanderbilt             2750

Florida                 563
Mississippi             128
Alabama                 109
Tennessee                62
Arkansas                 38
Georgia                   2
South Carolina            0

This analysis assumes the best record gets the one-seed, even though the divisional structure essentially produces co-one seeds. Vandy has put itself in the position of being a plausible contrarian pick heading into conference play.

18. Patriot

Bucknell               6328

American               2433
Lehigh                 1076
Holy Cross               88
Lafayette                51
Army                     22
Navy                      2

Bucknell boosted its profile nicely by beating Richmond on the road yesterday.

17. WCC

St. Mary's             6099

Gonzaga                3655
Portland                234
Santa Clara              11
Loyola Marymount          1

I’m not going to say I believe SMC should be the favorite to win the league, but pre-season hype aside, the Gaels have looked very good. Had this coin flip gone the other way, a lot more people would be considering their chances to end Gonzaga’s eight-year streak of winning the WCC outright.