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February 29, 2016

America’s Most Accurate Bracketology Composite–February 29, 2016

The finish line is in sight.  Championship Week I is here.  Conference tournament action tips off Tuesday night and by Friday night, 10 Conference Tournaments will be underway.

Let’s take a look at our weekly Bracketology composite first.  At this point in the season, we have shrunk “The Bubble” down to just the last 12 teams in and the first four teams out.  Once teams start pulling off upsets in conference tournament action, there will be fewer spots here as we must pop a Bubble for each automatic bid awarded to a team not currently under consideration.

This does not apply to the low and mid-major conferences other than maybe the Missouri Valley Conference and maybe the West Coast Conference.  If a team pulls off a monumental upset in, say, the Big Sky Conference Tournament, such as Idaho State upsetting Weber State, there will still be just one Big Sky team in the Dance.  However, if Mississippi State were to win the SEC Tournament, the Bulldogs would pop a bubble for some other major conference team, like Butler.

The 32 Bracket Einstein’s see it this way this week:

Seed Team Auto. Bid
1 Virginia ACC
1 Kansas Big 12
1 Villanova Big East
1 Xavier at-large
2 Michigan St. Big Ten
2 Oklahoma at-large
2 North Carolina at-large
2 Miami (Fla.) at-large
3 Oregon Pac-12
3 West Virginia at-large
3 Utah at-large
3 Maryland at-large
4 Duke at-large
4 Kentucky SEC
4 Iowa at-large
4 Indiana at-large
5 Iowa St. at-large
5 Texas at-large
5 Purdue at-large
5 Texas A&M at-large
6 California at-large
6 Baylor at-large
6 Wisconsin at-large
6 Arizona at-large
7 Seton Hall at-large
7 St. Joseph’s Atlantic 10
7 Notre Dame at-large
7 Dayton at-large
8 Texas Tech at-large
8 Colorado at-large
8 Pittsburgh at-large
8 Wichita St. MVC
9 South Carolina at-large
9 Providence at-large
9 Vanderbilt at-large
9 Cincinnati American
10 Oregon St. at-large
10 Syracuse at-large
10 Connecticut at-large
10 St. Mary’s WCC
11 USC at-large
11 VCU at-large
11 Valparaiso Horizon
11 UALR SunBelt
12 Michigan at-large
12 Florida at-large
12 Temple at-large
12 Butler at-large
12 San Diego St. MWC
12 Monmouth MAAC
13 Akron MAC
13 Hofstra Colonial
13 Yale Ivy
13 Chattanooga Southern
14 Stony Brook AmEast
14 Hawaii Big West
14 UAB CUSA
14 South Dakota St. Summit
15 Stephen F. Austin SLC
15 Belmont OVC
15 New Mexico St. WAC
15 Weber St. Big Sky
16 Winthrop Big South
16 North Florida A-Sun
16 Hampton MEAC
16 Wagner Northeast
16 Bucknell Patriot
16 Texas Southern SWAC
Last 4 Byes
VCU
USC
Connecticut
Syracuse
 
Last 4 In
Butler
Temple
Florida
Michigan
 
1st 4 Out
Alabama
Tulsa
St. Bonaventure
George Wash.

 

Conference Tournaments Beginning This Week

American East Conference Tournament
Site: Campus Sites @ Higher Seeds
Quarterfinal Round
Wednesday, March 2
#8 UMBC (7-24) @ #1 Stony Brook (23-6)
#7 Hartford (9-22) @ #2 Albany (24-7)
#6 Maine (8-21) @ #3 Vermont (19-12)
#5 Binghamton (8-21) @ #4 New Hampshire (18-11)
Semifinal Round
Monday, March 7
Lowest Remaining Seed @ Highest Remaining Seed
2nd Lowest Remaining Seed @ 2nd Highest Remaining Seed
Championship
Saturday, March 12
11:00 AM EST on ESPN2

Albany has won four straight games and 9 of 10, but Vermont has won 5 games in a row, including a 14-point shocker at Stony Brook.

Albany went 14-0 at home and is guaranteed at least 2 home games if they keep winning.  Stony Brook went 12-1 at home.

Vermont has the best shooting team in the league, while Stony Brook has the best defense.

 

Atlantic Sun Conference Tournament
Site: Campus Sites @ Higher Seeds
Quarterfinal Round
Tuesday, March 1
G1: #8 USC-Upstate (10-21) @ #1 North Florida (21-10)
G2: #5 Kennesaw St. (11-19) @ #4 Florida Gulf Coast (17-13)
G3: #7 Stetson (10-21) @ #2 NJIT (17-13)
G4: #6 Lipscomb (11-20) @ #3 Jacksonville (16-15)
Semifinal Round
Thursday, March 3
G1 winner vs. G2 winner at higher seed
G3 winner vs. G4 winner at higher seed
Championship
Sunday, March 6
12:30 PM on ESPN2

North Florida won its final three games to earn the top seed.  The Ospreys own a 13-1 home record and have the best offense and shooting in the league by a large margin.

Jacksonville lost its last two games of the regular season when the Dolphins had a chance to earn the top seed.

Florida Gulf Coast and NJIT have the top defenses in the league, with FGCU being best against opponent shooting accuracy, and NJIT being the best at forcing turnovers.

Note: Stetson is ineligible for the postseason, but the Hatters will play in the conference tournament.  Should they win, then regular season champion North Florida will receive the automatic bid.

 

Big South Conference Tournament
Site: Buies Creek, NC (Campbell)
 
1st Round
Thursday, March 3
G1: #8 Longwood (9-22) vs. #9 Charleston Southern (9-20)
G2: #7 Radford (16-14) vs. #10 Presbyterian (10-19)
G3: #6 Gardner-Webb (15-15) vs. #11 Campbell (12-17)
Quarterfinal Round
Friday, March 4
G4: #1 High Poiint (20-9) vs. G1 Winner
G5: #4 UNC-Asheville (19-11) vs. #5 Liberty (13-18)
G6: #2 Winthrop (21-8) vs. G2 Winner
G7: #3 Coastal Carolina (18-10) vs. G3 Winner
Semifinal Round
Saturday, March 5
G4 Winner vs. G5 Winner
G6 Winner vs. G7 Winner
Championship
Sunday, March 6
2:30 PM on ESPN2

High Point ended the season on a 6-game winning streak, while Winthrop went 8-2 in their last 10 games.  Former league leader UNC-Asheville faltered down the stretch, finishing 2-3 to drop to fourth place.

High Point won games down the stretch by not committing turnovers, shooting intelligent shots, and forcing turnovers on their opposition.

Coastal Carolina was the clear-cut leader in total defense during the season, while Radford is the league’s top rebounding team with nobody challenging in this department.

 

Colonial Athletic Association Tournament
Site: Baltimore
 
1st Round
Friday, March 4
G1: #8 Elon (16-15) vs. #9 Drexel (5-24)
G2: #7 Charleston (16-13) vs. #10 Delaware (7-22)
Quarterfinal Round
Saturday, March 5
G3: #1 Hofstra (22-8) vs. G1 Winner
G4: #4 James Madison (21-10) vs. #5 William & Mary (19-10)
G5: #2 UNC-Wilmington (22-7) vs. G2 Winner
G6: #3 Towson (20-11) vs. #6 Northeastern (17-14)
Semifinal Round
Sunday, March 6
G3 Winner vs. G4 Winner
G5 Winner vs. G6 Winner
Championship
Monday, March 7
7:00 PM on NBC Sports Network

Hofstra could have been renamed Hotstra down the stretch, as they won their last six games to take the top seed in the conference tournament.  They have an incredible inside-outside tandem in guard Juan’ya Green (17.7 ppg, 7.2 apg) and forward Rokas Gustys (12.7 rebounds/game).

UNC-Wilmington won games by committing fewer turnovers than average and forcing a lot more turnovers than average and then capitalizing with fast break points.

 

Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Tournament
Site: Albany (Siena)
 
1st Round
Thursday, March 3
G1: #8 Rider (12-19) vs. #9 Quinnipiac (9-20)
G2: #7 Canisius (13-18) vs. #10 Niagara (7-24)
G3: #6 Manhattan (12-17) vs. #11 Marist (7-22)
Quarterfinal Round
Friday, March 4
G4: #1 Monmouth (25-6) vs. G1 Winner
G5: #4 Saint Peter’s (14-15) vs. #5 Fairfield (18-12)
Saturday, March 5
G6: #2 Iona (19-10) vs. G2 Winner
G7: #3 Siena (20-11) vs. G3 Winner
Semifinal Round
Sunday, March 6
G4 Winner vs. G5 Winner
G6 Winner vs. G7 Winner
Championship Round
Monday, March 7
7:00 PM on ESPN

Monmouth is in that gray area, where if the Hawks lose in the Championship Round, they will have a legitimate case to make for an at-large bid thanks to a difficult non-conference schedule that included some impressive wins.  Monmouth hit a little blip earlier in the month, but they righted the ship with three closing victories.

Iona is the hot team entering tournament play.  The Gaels won their last five games, including one over Monmouth.

Siena is the host team, and the Saints went 12-2 at home this year.  However, the two losses came to Monmouth and Iona.

The top three seeds have some stars that you will want to watch and thus follow this tournament.  Monmouth has guard Justin Robinson, who scores better than 20 points per game and is like a Willie Mays of basketball.  He can drill the three, take it to the hoop, dish for lots of assists, pick your pockets clean, and then ice the game at the foul line.

Iona’s A.J. English tops Robinson in scoring at 22.3 per game and assists at 6.1 per game and is the league’s best NBA prospect.  Siena’s power forward Brett Bisping is dominant inside, where he averages 15.8 points and 10.4 rebounds per game.

 

Missouri Valley Conference Tournament
Site: St. Louis
 
1st Round
Thursday, March 3
G1: #8 Loyola (Chi.) (14-16) vs. #9 Bradley (5-26)
G2: #7 MIssouri St. (12-18) vs. #10 Drake (7-23)
Quarterfinal Round
Friday, March 4
G3: #1 Wichita St. (23-7) vs. G1 Winner
G4: #4 Northern Iowa (19-12) vs. #5 Southern Illinois (22-9)
G5: #2 Evansville (23-8) vs. G2 Winner
G6: #3 Illinois St. (18-13) vs. #6 Indiana St. (14-16)
Semifinal Round
Saturday, March 5
G3 Winner vs. G4 Winner
G5 Winner vs. G6 Winner
Championship Game
Sunday, March 6
2:00 PM on CBS

Arch Madness promises to be exciting this year.  Don’t automatically give this tournament to Wichita State, although the Shockers are definitely the favorites.  They will face a very difficult semifinal match if Northern Iowa advances past the quarterfinal round against Southern Illinois.

In Wichita’s favor, they ended the season by winning their last five games and 18 of 20 after they were 100% healthy.  After being upset at home by UNI, the Shockers won their last five by an average of 26.4 points per game.  In Ron Baker and Fred VanVleet, they have the best backcourt in all of mid-Major basketball and almost the equal of Kentucky’s fine duo.

Why is UNI a threat to this resume?  To start, they beat North Carolina and Iowa State earlier this year.  To continue, they finished the season winning nine of their final ten, including stopping Wichita’s multi-year home winning streak.  To conclude, the Panthers play patiently, don’t make many mistakes, do not foul much, and in late games, they are tough in the clutch, shooting close to 80% at the foul line.

Keep an eye on Evansville, as the Purple Aces shoot the ball better than any MVC team and are second to Wichita in field goal defense.  The Aces have their own dynamic duo in D.J. Balentine (20.7 ppg, 4.4 apg) and Egidijus Mockevicius (16.6 ppg, 14.0 reb, 2.8 blk).

Northeast Conference
Site: Campus Sites @ Higher Seeds
 
Quarterfinal Round
Wednesday, March 2
G1: #8 Robert Morris (10-21) @ #1 Wagner (20-9)
G2: #5 Mount St. Mary’s (13-18) @ #4 St. Francis (Bklyn) (15-16)
G3: #7 St. Francis (Pa.) (13-16) @ #2 Fairleigh Dickinson (15-14)
G4: #6 Long Island (15-14) @ #3 Sacred Heart (12-17)
Semifinal Round
Saturday, March 5
G1 Winner vs. G2 Winner @ Higher Seed
G3 Winner vs. G4 Winner @ Higher Seed
Championship
Tuesday, March 8
7:00 PM on ESPN or ESPN2

This league probably will send its champion to Dayton for a First Four game as a 16-seed waiting to take on a Virginia, Kansas, or Villanova if they win in Dayton.

Wagner finished 8-2 to run away with the regular season championship, as multiple teams could not hold onto close leads in key games.  In league play, the Seahawks forced opponents into bad shots and then controlled the boards to limit them to one shot on most possessions.

St. Francis of Brooklyn is the other hot team entering the tournament, coming in with a four-game streak.  The Terriers are the second best defensive team in the league, but they lack offensive stars.

Sacred Heart has the dominant offensive player in the league.  Cane Broome leads the loop with a 23-point average.

 

Ohio Valley Conference Tournament
Site: Nashville
 
1st Round
Wednesday, March 2
G1: #5 Tennessee Tech (19-10) vs. #8 Austin Peay (14-17)
G2: #6 Murray St. (16-13) vs. #7 Eastern Illinois (13-16)
Quarterfinal Round
Thursday, March 3
G3: #4 Tennessee St. (20-9) vs. G1 Winner
G4: #3 Morehead St. (18-11) G2 Winner
Semifinal Round
Friday, March 4
G5: #1 Belmont (20-10) vs. G3 Winner
G6: #2 UT-Martin (18-13) vs. G4 Winner
Championship
Saturday, March 5
6:00 PM on ESPN2

The top two seeds get byes to the semifinals, and that could be just what Belmont needs the most.  The Bruins limped home to a 4-4 finish to just barely escape with the regular season title, but they look more like the third or fourth best team in the tournament today.

Look out for Morehead State.  We began isolating on the Eagles a few weeks ago, when Coach Sean Woods had this team looking somewhat like the Kentucky teams he played on when he was in college.  Morehead State won their final six games, and more impressively half of those wins came against Belmont, Tennessee State, and on the road at Tennessee Tech, where the Golden Eagles lost just that one time.

In tournament play, a team that can consistently shut an opponent down for four or five minute stretches and enjoy scoring runs, is going to advance, and the Eagles get to start as the #3 seed.  Their road to the championship avoids both Tennessee State and Belmont until the finals, and they get a weaker #2 seed in UT-Martin, who won the West Division with a weaker conference record than the Eagles, who played in the much tougher East Division.

Tennessee State is the other hot team entering conference tournament play.  The Tigers pasted Belmont yesterday and will have to beat the Bruins again in the semifinals to get to the Championship Game.

Tennessee Tech is a monster at home and mouse on the road.  The Golden Eagles will have to win 4 times in 4 days to get to the Dance, and we do not see it possible.

 

Southern Conference
Site: Asheville, NC
 
1st Round
Friday, March 4
G1: #8 or 9 Samford (13-18) vs. #9 or 8 VMI (9-19) *
G2: #7 Mercer (18-13) vs. #10 Citadel (10-21)
Quarterfinal Round
Saturday, March 5
G3: #1 Chattanooga (25-5) * vs. G1 Winner
G4: #4 Wofford (15-16) vs. #5 Western Carolina (15-16)
G5: #2 East Tennessee (21-10) VS. G2 Winner
G6: #3 Furman (17-14) vs. #6 UNC-Greensboro (14-17)
Semifinal Round
Sunday, March 6
G3 Winner vs. G4 Winner
G5 Winner vs. G6 Winner
Championship
Monday, March 7
9:00 PM on ESPN2

This tournament should be quite interesting.  Chattanooga dominated the league until the final weeks when the Mocs began to show signs of fatigue, which could be expected after losing their star guard Casey Jones earlier in the season.  Still, Chattanooga is the slight favorite to take three games and represent the SoCon in the NCAA Tournament.  The Mocs shoot competently, defend capably, and force a lot of turnovers on the enemy.

East Tennessee is hot as conference tournament action commences.  The Bucs won their final five games.  Guards Ge’Lawn Guyn and T.J. Cromer paced the team, combining for 33.2 points per game.

UNC-Greensboro is the dark horse team that is hard to figure out.  The Spartans lost four of five games including a terrible double-digit defeat to a weak VMI team.  Then, UNCG won their last five games including a blowout of Chattanooga in Choo-Choo town.  In those final 5 contests, the Spartans shot over 50% from the field and 40% from behind the arc, while holding opponents to less than 35% from the field and 27% from behind the arc.

Note: Chattanooga plays VMI tonight in a game that will not affect the pairings in the conference tournament.  The Mocs will be #1, and VMI will finish either 8th or 9th, meaning the Keydets will play Samford no matter what.  The only difference is which color jersey they wear in that game.

 

West Coast Conference Tournament
Site: Las Vegas
 
1st Round
Friday, March 4
G1: #8 Loyola Marymount (13-16) vs. #9 San Diego (9-20)
Quarterfinal Round
Saturday, March 5
G2: #3 BYU (22-9) vs. #6 Santa Clara (11-19)
G3: #4 Pepperdine (17-12) vs. #5 San Francisco (15-14)
G4: #1 Saint Mary’s (24-4) vs. G1 Winner
G5: #2 Gonzaga (23-7) vs. #7 Portland (12-19)
Semifinal Round
Monday, March 7
G3 Winner vs. G4 Winner
G2 Winner vs. G5 Winner
Championship
Tuesday, March 8
9:00 PM on ESPN

It’s not a gamble to say that Las Vegas is the place to be for the next fortnight if you are a college basketball junkie.  Four leagues will play their tournament in the desert oasis.  The WCC promises to be interesting this year, because it looks like only the tournament champion will be wearing dancing shoes.

Saint Mary’s deserves an at-large bid if they make it to the finals and lose, but it is not a guarantee, especially if some of the power conferences have upset victors.  The Gaels did not play a tough enough non-conference slate to merit a lot of at-large consideration.

Gonzaga played a difficult enough non-conference schedule, but the Bulldogs couldn’t beat anybody, as Washington was their best win, but the Huskies keep losing down the stretch to make that win more and more meaningless.

BYU cannot be discounted in this tournament.  The Cougars are a decent shooting team, decent defensive team, decent rebounding team, and decent at forcing turnovers and not committing a lot of them.  They just aren’t outstanding at anything, but it only takes one or two players to play his best ball of the season, and the Cougars could shock the two league powers.  With Chase Fischer, Nick Emery, and Kyle Collinsworth on the floor, BYU could light it up for three days and steal the bid.

 

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