The Pi-Rate Ratings

February 26, 2021

PiRate Ratings Bracketology

2/26/2021

SeedTeamTeamTeamTeamTeamTeam
1GonzagaBaylorMichiganOhio St.
2IllinoisAlabamaVillanovaIowa
3West VirginiaHoustonFlorida St.Oklahoma
4KansasCreightonTexasUSC
5VirginiaTennesseeWisconsinArkansas
6Texas TechPurdueColoradoClemson
7Oklahoma St.FloridaMissouriBYU
8RutgersVirginia TechLSULoyola (Chi.)
9UCLASan Diego St.OregonMaryland
10North CarolinaBoise St.LouisvilleDrake
11VCUSt. BonaventureColorado St.Connecticut
12ToledoWestern Ky.Seton HallXavierIndianaGeorgia Tech
13BelmontColgateWinthropUCSB
14Wright St.LibertyFurmanAbilene Christian
15IonaVermontE. WashingtonGrand Canyon
16James MadisonS. Dakota St.Texas St.Prairie ViewWagnerN.C. A&T

First 8 Out

69Michigan St.
70Wichita St.
71Stanford
72Duke
73Richmond
74Utah St.
75Minnesota
76Ole Miss

Conference Tournaments underway!

With March getting ready to come in like a lion, here’s a look at each of the conferences heading into conference tournament play.

One-Bid Leagues

America East: Maryland-Baltimore Co. & Vermont are tied at 10-4 in the league. The teams split a weekend series in Maryland. Vermont is the team more likely to contend in a #15 vs. #2 seed game in the NCAA Tournament.

Atlantic Sun: Liberty is 10-2 in the league but not as strong as last year’s team. Bellarmine is not eligible for the NCAA Tournament but will play in the A-Sun tournament. If they win, then Liberty gets the automatic bid. Lipscomb is 9-5 in the league and the hottest team of the contenders.

Big Sky: There will be many mid-major and low-major tournaments this year that should be wide open. This is one. Eastern Washington at 11-2 in conference play currently leads for the top seed, with Southern Utah (9-2) and Weber St. (10-3) vying for second place. Weber St. is probably the best of the three, but we wouldn’t be shocked if Montana (just 6-9 in the league) sneaks into the semifinals with a chance to win it from well back in the field.

Big South: Winthrop ran way with the league title and has lapped the field. At 17-1/20-1, the Eagles are contending for a #12 seed. If anybody else wins, it’s 16-seed almost for sure. Winthrop will be the biggest favorite to win their conference tournament, even more than Gonzaga.

Big West: UCSB will end UC-Irvine’s reign as regular season champions. The Gauchos (12-2/16-3) will still likely have to face either UCI (9-4/12-8) or UC Riverside (7-4/10-6) in the Big West Championship Game.

Colonial: It’s a down year in the CAA. In past years, four or five teams had the talent to do damage in a Round of 64 game. This year, we don’t see a win in the cards for this league. James Madison (8-1/13-5) and Northeastern (8-2/9-8) are the leading contenders for the automatic bid.

Conference USA: This is a conference with at least five teams talented enough to upset a higher seeded team in the Big Dance. Western Kentucky (8-2/15-5) has been at the top of the league all year. North Texas (8-2/12-6) and UAB (10-4/18-5) have been right there with the Hilltoppers. Louisiana Tech (10-4/17-6) and Marshall (6-4/12-5) are the hot contenders late in the season. Marshall may be the best of the bunch.

Horizon: This has been a two-team race like Easy Goer and Sunday Silence in past Triple Crown horse racing. Wright St. and Cleveland St. share the conference lead at 16-4. The only other team in the picture is Detroit at 10-6. WSU or CSU could win an opening round game in the Dance.

Metro Atlantic: This looks like a three-team race for the MAAC automatic bid. Siena (9-3) has led the league most of the season, with Monmouth (10-6) trailing. But, Iona (6-3) has started playing again after a long Covid layoff. They have an experienced tournament coach in New Rochelle; if you didn’t know, Rick Pitino is in charge, and the Gaels are the team to beat in our opinion. For declaration purposes, Monmouth coach King Rice is a friend of the PiRate Captain, and he’s rooting for the Hawks to fly high.

Mid-American: Of all the conference tournaments, this one historically has been the most exciting, because rarely has there been a clear-cut favorite. More teams from back in the pack have won this tourney in our memories than any other league. Toledo (13-3/18-6) has led the West all year with no competition, but the East looks like the 1967 American League pennant race. Akron (12-4/14-5) leads Ohio (9-3/13-6) only because of more games played. Kent St. (11-5/14-6) and Buffalo (9-5/11-7) are right there. Any of these five could win the lone bid, and then again, someone from back in the pack could do it again. Toledo could be a #12 seed if they win out.

Mideastern: This league has been really hit by Covid issues, with two teams choosing not to play and a third opting out in mid-season. North Carolina A&T (6-1) has been in first place all year. Norfolk St. (8-4) may be a little better come March. But, Morgan St. (6-4) is coming on strong and might be the true favorite to take the MEAC Tournament. The winner is looking squarely at a 16-seed play-in game.

Northeast: The NEC usually places their automatic qualifier in the Dayton play-in game for a 16-seed. The only difference this year, is the game will be played in the Hoosier State. Wagner (11-4) leads Bryant (9-4) with the rest of the field out of the race. Bryant might be the better team.

Ohio Valley: Belmont looked unbeatable in this league, until the Bruins went up to Eastern Kentucky and found out how tough the Colonels are on their home, even with no fans. Belmont (18-1/24-2) now must face an even tougher Morehead St. team (16-3 in the OViC) tomorrow. This league tournament is no longer just a rubber stamp for Belmont. The Morehead/EKU winner in a likely semifinal game will have a 40% chance of knocking out the Bruins.

Patriot: Colgate is in the top 20 of the NET ratings, the one data point that the NCAA Selection Committee places as the primary seeding factor. At 11-1 overall, all their games were played in the league. Four of those games came against Army, where the Raiders won three but lost once at home to the Black Knights. Colgate is an enigma. We don’t understand why they are rated so highly with no non-conference games, because the Patriot League is not highly-rated. Navy at 10-1/13-2 looks like a better team, and Army 6-6/10-7 already knows they can beat the heavy favorite. Colgate could be a 12-seed if they win out, and in this case, their 5-seed opponent will not be on upset alert.

Southern: This league has produced multiple bids in the past, but it won’t happen this year. There are five good but not great teams in contention, and the eventual winner will not be highly regarded as an upset special possibility. Furman (10-4/16-7) is methodically better than average but not flashy. They stay on an even keel with talent not quite as deep as the other contenders, but with more consistency. UNCG (12-5/17-8) plays a style of play that opponents don’t like to face, but when a team is solid handling the ball, the Spartans are not that hard to beat. Wofford (11-5/14-8) has been a snake in the tall grass, sneaking into the top of the league. East Tennessee St. (8-6/12-10) is a mere shell of its former self left by Steve Forbes, while Chattanooga (9-7/18-7) has been a major underperformer since New Year’s Day.

Southland: The potential seeding of this league took a big turn last week, when Stephen F. Austin decided to become ineligible this year rather than next year. What would have been an incredible 4-team scramble has lost one of its scramblers. Abilene Christian (11-1/19-3) is a team no Power Conference opponent wants to see in their bracket. The Wildcats are really tough on the defensive side of the ball, and a poor passing team can turn ACU into an efficient offensive puncher, because the Wildcats can intercept passes like the 1963 Chicago Bears! Sam Houston (11-2/17-7) and Nicholls (11-2/14-6) are the top contenders without SFA.

Summit: This should be another wide open conference tournament with four co-favorites. South Dakota (10-3/12-9), North Dakota St. (10-4/12-10), South Dakota St. (7-3/13-6) and Oral Roberts (8-5/11-10) are on close to equal terms at the end of February. We think SDSU is the favorite to win the tournament.

Sun Belt: This league is slowly falling in overall strength, and it is in danger of joining the NEC, MEAC, and SWAC in the annual play-in round for a 16-seed. Texas St. (10-3/16-6) has held the SBC lead for several weeks, but South Alabama (10-5/16-8), Louisiana (9-6/15-7), and Georgia St. (6-4/12-5) are lurking close behind. We like GSU from this group to win the conference tournament.

Southwestern: Covid may have helped this league a tad. The co-leaders, Prairie View (9-0/10-4) and Jackson St. (7-0/7-5) don’t play each other in the regular season. It could lead to a SWAC title game between two undefeated teams in conference play, making it one of the most exciting of the postseason. Texas Southern (6-3/9-8) is the dark horse.

Western: After the MEAC, the WAC has been next most affected by Covid issues. Technically, UT Rio Grande Valley leads the league today at 2-0 in the WAC and 9-4 overall. But, Grand Canyon (7-1/13-4) is two games ahead in the won-loss, even if UTRGV is 1.000 in percentage. Utah Valley is third at 6-3 in the WAC, but we wouldn’t rule out New Mexico St. (3-5/6-6). The Aggies not only couldn’t play home games, they couldn’t even return home during the shutdown of the Land of Enchantment. Chris Jans is the type of coach that can motivate and use the right strategy to win this tournament.

Multi-Bid Leagues

American: Houston is a lock, but the Cougars are in second place in the AAC to a Wichita St. team that beat them. WSU is likely to earn the top seed in the AAC Tournament, and the Shockers are on the Bubble and need a little more to add to their resume. Memphis has more than enough talent to win the tournament, but the Tigers don’t play cohesively.

Atlantic Coast: In the past, any team with a winning record in conference play was close to assured of earning a bid. Syracuse went 10-8 in 2017 and didn’t get a bid. This year, Florida St., Virginia, Virginia Tech, North Carolina, Louisville, and Clemson are Dancing. Duke, Georgia Tech, and North Carolina St., in that order, are still in contention. We think the Seminoles are strong enough to advance past the Sweet 16.

Atlantic 10: St. Bonaventure and VCU share the lead at 10-3, and the Bonnies and Rams are close to becoming locks for the Big Dance. Richmond, at 6-3, has been on the Bubble for most of the season. Saint Louis (4-4) has suffered the same fate as New Mexico State, missing weeks of scheduled games. The Billikens may be the best team in the league if they have completely dusted off the cobwebs in March.

Big 12: Undefeated Baylor probably won’t enter the Big 12 Tournament without a blemish. The Bears could even have two league losses. BU is still rusty from a long layoff, and they must play at Kansas, at West Virginia, and at home against Oklahoma St. and Texas Tech. This league is probably set in tournament teams. Baylor, Kansas, West Virginia, Texas, Oklahoma, Texas Tech, and Oklahoma St. should be in the field. TCU is too far back to sneak into the field without earning the automatic bid.

Big East: Villanova and Creighton are locks, while Seton Hall, Connecticut, and Xavier still have work to do before they are safely in the field. Xavier faces a must-win game at home against Creighton tomorrow.

Big Ten: This league is still in a state of flux. The teams that were close to being safe at the back of the field have done everything they could to play themselves out, while Michigan St., once given up for dead, has done everything to play themselves in.

As of today, Michigan, Illinois, Ohio St., Iowa, Wisconsin, and Purdue are locks. The Big Ten will probably get nine teams in the field. Rutgers, Maryland, Michigan St., Indiana, and Minnesota are competing for three bids. If Indiana or Minnesota fall short, there could be a coaching availability or two in the Big Ten in March.

Missouri Valley: With Wichita State relocated to the AAC, one would think the days of the venerable Valley earning multiple bids was over. Guess again. Drake and Loyola are close to sure things before Arch Madness starts in Saint Louis. There is even a scenario where if one of the two co-leaders loses in the semifinals of the conference tournament, and the other loses in the finals, that three teams could earn spots in the Field of 68.

Mountain West: How about four MWC teams in the Big Dance? San Diego St. is one of the hottest teams in the nation at the end of February. They’ve made a move like Whirlaway, swatting their long tail at the rest of the field as the Aztecs head to the finish line gaining distance from the place and show teams.

Boise St. and Colorado St. have tournament-worthy resumes, while Utah St. is now well back on the bad side of the Bubble. The Aggies need to win the conference tournament. Watch out for Steve Alford’s Nevada Wolfpack! Nevada has won four consecutive ga,es to move into fifth place.

Pac-12: What looked like a five-bid league has lessened to four bids and a prayer. USC, UCLA, Oregon, and Colorado have done enough to win bids. Stanford has lost five of nine games, including two in a row to teams they needed to beat. The Cardinal need to win at USC next Wednesday, or they may be forced to win the Pac-12 Tournament to get in.

Southeastern: Don’t count out Kentucky just yet! The Wildcats (7-7/8-13) look like the team they were supposed to be. UK cannot earn an at-large bid with just three regular season games remaining, but once they get to Nashville, The Music City turns into the Bluegrass City. Calipari’s Cats can win four games in four days.

Alabama, Arkansas, LSU, Florida, and Tennessee are in the field. Missouri was in for sure, but losses in four of their last five has created a shadow of doubt. Ole Miss has moved a half-game ahead of Mizzou in the league. The Tigers must close with Florida and LSU, while Ole Miss gets two games against last place Vanderbilt and a home game with Kentucky.

If there is a dark horse possibility in the SEC, then Georgia and Mississippi St. can stake claims to it. If Ole Miss and Missouri falter at the finish, the two Bulldogs can get into contention by winning out headed to Nashville.

West Coast: Gonzaga has yet to face any real competition. The Bulldogs look like the 1991 UNLV team that ran the table to the Final Four without opposition. Then, the Runnin’ Rebels ran into a Duke team that had not forgotten the 30+-point loss dealt to them in 1990’s Championship. The Bulldogs look like a potential run-the-table team, more like John Wooden’s UCLA teams than the 1991 UNLV team. Outside of the WCC, Gonzaga easily dismissed Kansas, West Virginia, Iowa, and Virginia. Normally, this would have been enough to show the nation that the Zags were without a doubt the best team in the nation. Had Baylor not cancelled their scheduled game, Gonzaga might be sitting with the appropriate strength of schedule typical of a national champion in our Bracketnomics criteria.

BYU is the other team with an NCAA Tournament guarantee. The Cougars have been distant number two to Gonzaga, but at 9-3/18-5, BYU has a win at San Diego St.

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: