The Pi-Rate Ratings

August 16, 2017

2017 Conference USA Preview

It’s day two of our annual college football conference previews.  Conference USA featured a lot of wide open, pass-it-all-over-the-field football last year, and in some weeks, perusing the league’s results left you wondering if this was football or basketball.  As an example, take the two division winners from 2016.  Western Kentucky and Louisiana Tech met in the regular season, and then they had a rematch in the CUSA Championship Game.  The first time around Tech beat Western 56-52.  In the rematch, Western won the league title with a 58-44 victory.

Western Kentucky lost their offensive mastermind, when former coach Jeff Brohm took the Purdue job.  Will new Hilltopper head man Mike Sanford be able to keep the Toppers scoring 40 points per game?  The former Notre Dame offensive coordinator may be a tad more conservative in his play-calling, so we expect WKU will score less often this year.

However, the arrival of two new big-name coaches could add some points and excitement on the scoreboard in the Sunshine State.  Butch Davis is the new leader at Florida International, and Lane Kiffin takes over at Florida Atlantic.  A former CUSA coach returns to the league after a two-year hiatus without ever changing schools.  Welcome back UAB to college football.  Coach Bill Clark stayed loyal to the Blazers, and when UAB returns to the field on September 2 against Alabama A&M, the Blazers will have the same coach that guided the team to a very respectable 6-6 record in 2014.

Here is how the CUSA  media voted in the preseason poll.

CUSA-East  
# Team 1st Pl.
1 Western Kentucky 20
2 Middle Tennessee 4
3 Old Dominion 3
4 Marshall 1
5 Florida Atlantic 0
6 Florida Int’l 0
7 Charlotte 0
     
CUSA-West  
# Team 1st Pl.
1 Louisiana Tech 20
2 UTSA 7
3 Southern Miss. 1
4 North Texas 0
5 Rice 0
6 UTEP 0
7 UAB 0
Total Votes Not Released

The preseason PiRate, Mean, and Bias ratings believe the CUSA race will be exciting and closer than last year.

Conference USA
East Division        
Team PiRate Mean Bias Average
W. Kentucky 99.8 97.3 101.6 99.6
Old Dominion 90.9 93.9 91.4 92.1
Middle Tennessee 90.5 91.6 91.4 91.2
Florida Int’l. 84.0 83.9 85.2 84.4
Florida Atlantic 82.5 86.1 83.6 84.1
Marshall 81.9 83.8 82.7 82.8
Charlotte 74.4 77.6 74.9 75.6
         
West Division        
Team PiRate Mean Bias Average
U T S A 91.3 93.1 93.5 92.6
Louisiana Tech 90.2 92.0 91.1 91.1
Southern Miss. 84.3 86.1 84.2 84.8
N. Texas 80.5 82.1 80.4 81.0
Rice 80.1 81.0 80.8 80.6
U T E P 74.8 79.3 76.1 76.8
UAB 63.7 69.2 65.9 66.3
         
CUSA Averages 89.9 92.1 91.0 91.0

Here are our not-so-scientific predictions for the league races, and the bowl projections.

Conference USA Projected Standings
Team Conference Overall Bowl
East Division      
Old Dominion 7-1 10-3 Bahamas
W. Kentucky 6-2 9-3 St. Petersburg
Middle Tennessee 6-2 7-5 New Orleans
Florida Atlantic 5-3 6-6 [Armed Forces]
Florida Int’l. 3-5 4-8  
Marshall 2-6 3-9  
Charlotte 1-7 2-10  
       
Team Conference Overall  Bowl
West Division      
Louisiana Tech 7-1 9-4 Boca Raton
U T S A 7-1 9-3 Heart of Dallas
Southern Miss. 6-2 8-4 New Mexico
N. Texas 2-6 3-9  
U T E P 2-6 2-10  
UAB 1-7 2-10  
Rice 1-7 1-11  
 
Old Dominion to win CUSA Championship Game
Fla. Atlantic’s bid to the Armed Forces is an at-large bid

Coming tomorrow: The Mountain West Conference–Will Boise St. return to the top, or will the Broncos look up at last year’s surprise winner Wyoming or Colorado St.?  Can San Diego St. continue to dominate in the West Division, or will an up and comer like Hawaii knock the Aztecs off their throne?

 

 

 

 

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August 14, 2017

2017 College Football Season Previews Premiere Tuesday, August 15

Ahoy, Mateys!  Come aboard the PiRate Ship for the 2017-18 College Football Season.  The PiRates have set sail for the season, and we hope we sail on smooth waters all year.

Beginning, Tuesday, August 15, 2017, in the afternoon in the Eastern Daylight Time Zone (after 18 Hours GMT), we will commence with the first of our conference previews for the season, previewing one new conference per day.  As usual, we will begin with the lowest rated conference and continue until we conclude the previews with the top-rated conference.  You may or may not be surprised this year, but there are some changes in the lower end and the upper end of the conference ratings.  For the first time since its inception, the Sun Belt Conference does not tally the lowest overall score.  This year, that dubious distinction befalls Conference USA, and it is CUSA that will be our first preview. EDIT: Our Apologies to CUSA.  It is the Mid-American Conference that came up with the lowest league average, so look for the MAC Preview on Tuesday.

Here is a proposed schedule for our website for the 2017-18 sports season 

Tuesdays: Updated Retrodictive and Predictive Ratings & Spreads for the upcoming College Week

Wednesdays: Updated NFL Ratings and Spreads for the upcoming NFL Week.

Thursdays: Our infamous Money Line Parlay Selections (JUST FOR FUN).

Fridays: Tentatively, we are hoping to bring back our historic Pro Football Simulations this season.  We are looking at simulating an NFL Season using the best teams for 14 franchises between 1950 and 1975.  The 14 NFL teams in existence in 1965 will be used, and we will use the rules from that season, culminating with the NFL Championship Game (and maybe the Playoff Bowl).

Check back Tuesday afternoon (EDT) for the first preview of the PiRate Season.

As usual, our ratings will be part of the Prediction Tracker and the Massey Football Ranking Composite

http://thepredictiontracker.com/

http://www.masseyratings.com/cf/compare.htm

October 6, 2015

41st FBS Bowl Now Official

Since we last posted our college preview for the week, it has come to our attention that the on-again, off-again Arizona Bowl is now on-again.  Nova Home Loans has signed on as the title game sponsor, and the game is set for December 29 at 5:30 PM Mountain Standard Time.  While the television particulars are still being worked out, this game will be the first bowl game to be streamed live at Campus Insider.

The Bowl will feature teams from the Mountain West Conference and Conference USA, and the Sun Belt will be the first alternate should either the MWC or CUSA not have enough eligible teams to meet their bowl obligations.

Beginning next week, we will add the Arizona Bowl to our Bowl Projections.  As of this week, we would speculate that Conference USA would not have enough teams available, and a team like Texas State from the SBC would be the fill-in replacement.  The MWC could have a tough time coming up with another bowl eligible team, and if Boise State somehow winds up in a New Year’s Six Bowl, the MWC definitely will not have enough bowl eligible teams.

There now must be 80 bowl eligible teams out of 128 FBS teams in total.  There is a chance that there will not be 80 bowl eligible teams.  The Mid-American Conference is likely to have that 80th bowl eligible team if 80 make it, so a Ball State, Buffalo, or Central Michigan at 6-6 might be headed to the desert in December.

August 11, 2015

2015 Conference USA Preview

In today’s second conference preview, we take a look at Conference USA.  Last year, Marshall was oh so close to earning the league’s first ever major bowl bid, but the Thundering Herd dropped a heartbreaker in their final regular season game to Western Kentucky in a game that looked more like basketball on turf.  WKU won that contest 67-66, as both teams topped 700 total yards.

This year, Western Kentucky figures to be the hunted, while Marshall is the hunter.  The two rivals square off in Bowling Green, KY, on the Friday after Thanksgiving, and the winner should represent the East Division in the CUSA Championship Game.

Middle Tennessee has never won the conference title or even the East Division title, but the Blue Raiders have consistently stayed in the upper tier of teams every season.  2015 should be no different: look for MT to become bowl eligible but not compete for the division title.

Coach Ron Turner took over a Florida International program that had fallen on hard times, and he guided the Panthers to a 1-11 finish in his first season.  Last year, FIU improved by three games and suffered four close losses.  Look for the Panthers to win more of those close games this year, and FIU could be the surprise contender in the East.  We expect Turner’s crew to compete for bowl eligibility.

Old Dominion eeked out a .500 record last year by winning its final three games by the narrowest of margins.  Gone is the school’s all-time leading passer and all-time leading receiver, but the Monarchs have enough returning talent and a favorable enough schedule to repeat their 6-6 record.

Florida Atlantic will avoid the cellar this year because there is a new team in the FBS, but the Owls are clearly a bottom feeder this season.  Coach Charlie Partridge did a fine job in year one with very little depth, but he guided the Owls to an upset over WKU and had the Owls at 3-4 before the team collapsed in the final month due to fatigue.  It will be another long year in Boca Raton, but Partridge will eventually turn things around.

Welcome the Charlotte 49ers to the world of FBS football.  Unlike a lot of schools that have a long history at lower classifications, Charlotte is only in its third year of football history.  The 49ers finished 5-6 in both of the two prior seasons, but those five wins came against the likes of Johnson C. Smith, Wesley, Chowan, and Campbell.  The 2015 schedule sees 11 FBS schools including a road trip to Kentucky.  It will be a long season for Coach Brad Lambert’s club, as the 49ers will have to play above their talent level to win more than one game.

In the West Division, Louisiana Tech is the clear-cut favorite, but the Bulldogs are not infallible.  Former Florida quarterback Jeff Driskel will try to be an excellent game-manager for Coach Skip Holtz, but he has an excellent group of receivers and pass-catching backs, so look for his passing statistics to improve.

Rice has been to bowl games for three consecutive seasons, and the Owls should make it four in a row in 2015.  Coach David Bailiff has to rebuild his defense with the loss of seven of his top nine tacklers, but his offense will control the ball and keep the young defense off the field.

Our surprise sleeper team in the West is Southern Miss.  The Golden Eagles tanked when former coach Larry Fedora left for North Carolina, winning just four games in the last three years.  Third year coach Todd Monken’s offense should begin to look more like the Oklahoma State offense where he coached under Mike Gundy.  USM should score more than 25 points per game for the first time since 2011, and the record should be above .500 in the league.  A tough non-conference schedule which includes games against Mississippi State and Nebraska is the only thing that will prevent the Eagles from topping .500 overall.  Still, we see this team breaking even and earning a bowl bid this year.

Sean Kugler’s UTEP Miners were the big surprise in the league last year, going 7-5 in the regular season and earning a trip to the New Mexico Bowl.  This year, UTEP has too many holes to fill on both sides of the ball to repeat their success.  Look for the Miners to see a record reversal.

North Texas has suffered through nine losing seasons in the last 10 years.  Coach Dan McCarney is considered one of the more competent head coaches in the game, but even the most competent coaches cannot win without the horses.  The Mean Green have ponies, especially on the defensive side of the ball, so it will be another long year in Denton.

UT-San Antonio was supposed to contend for the 2014 CUSA West Division Title and the overall league title, and the Roadrunners began the season by trouncing Houston by 20 points.  Then, the season turned sour in San Antonio, as the Roadrunners walked home to a 4-8 record.  The bulk of the experienced roster is now gone, and this team looks like a threat to wear the collar in league play.

Here is how the media voted at the CUSA media days earlier this summer.

Conference USA Media Poll
Pos. Team
East Division
1 Western Kentucky
2 Marshall
3 Middle Tennessee
4 Florida Atlantic
5 Florida Int’l
6 Old Dominion
7 Charlotte
West Division
1 Louisiana Tech
2 Rice
3 UTEP
4 Southern Miss
5 North Texas
6 UTSA

Here is the media’s preseason all-CUSA team.

Conference USA Preseason All-Conference Team
Offense Player School
Quarterback Brandon Doughty Western Kentucky
Running Back Leon Allen Western Kentucky
Running Back Kenneth Dixon Louisiana Tech
Running Back Devon Johnson Marshall
Running Back Aaron Jones UTEP
Wide Receiver Jared Dangerfield Western Kentucky
Wide Receiver Carlos Harris North Texas
Wide Receiver Zach Pascal Old Dominion
Wide Receiver Trent Taylor Louisiana Tech
Tight End Jonnu Smith Florida Int’l
Offensive Line Jordan Budwig Florida Int’l
Offensive Line Darius Johnson Middle Tennessee
Offensive Line Kaydon Kirby North Texas
Offensive Line Andrew Reue Rice
Offensive Line Clint Van Horn Marshall
Defense Player School
Defensive Line Vernon Butler Louisiana Tech
Defensive Line Jason Neill UTSA
Defensive Line Jarquez Samuel Marshall
Defensive Line Michael Smith Southern Miss
Defensive Line Michael Wakefield Florida Int’l
Linebacker T. T. Barber Middle Tennessee
Linebacker Drew Douglas UTSA
Linebacker D. J. Hunter Marshall
Defensive Back Kevin Byard Middle Tennessee
Defensive Back Crevon LeBlanc Florida Atlantic
Defensive Back Richard Leonard Florida Int’l
Defensive Back Bennett Okotcha UTSA
Defensive Back Wonderful Terry Western Kentucky
Defensive Back Xavier Woods Louisiana Tech
Special Teams Player School
Kicker Trevor Moore North Texas
Punter Tyler Williams Marshall
Kick Returner Autrey Golden UTEP
Punt Returner Richard Leonard Florida Int’l
Long Snapper Matt Cincotta Marshall

Here are our three computer ratings and average for each of the teams.

Conference USA
East Division
Team PiRate Mean Bias Average
Western Kentucky 100.6 98.6 101.7 100.3
Marshall 97.1 96.6 98.0 97.2
Middle Tennessee 93.1 92.6 92.5 92.7
Florida International 88.5 90.6 90.1 89.7
Old Dominion 82.3 89.6 81.5 84.5
Florida Atlantic 82.4 86.6 83.1 84.0
Charlotte 68.7 71.6 68.4 69.6
West Division        
Team PiRate Mean Bias Average
Louisiana Tech 98.9 96.6 99.7 98.4
Rice 86.0 90.6 86.2 87.6
UTEP 84.5 89.2 84.6 86.1
Southern Mississippi 85.0 84.8 83.3 84.4
North Texas 81.4 88.6 82.7 84.2
UT-San Antonio 72.5 80.6 72.6 75.2
CUSA Averages 86.2 89.0 86.5 87.2

And, here are the PiRate Ratings won-loss predictions and bowl projections.

PiRate Ratings Predicted Records
Pos Team Conf. Overall Bowl
East Division
1 Western Kentucky 7-1 10-3 * Bahamas
2 Marshall 7-1 11-1 St. Petersburg
3 Middle Tennessee 5-3 6-6 New Orleans
4 Florida Int’l 5-3 6-6 Arizona %
5 Old Dominion 4-4 6-6 At-Large
6 Florida Atlantic 1-7 2-10 None
7 Charlotte 0-8 1-11 None
West Division
1 Louisiana Tech 7-1 9-4 ^ Boca Raton
2 Rice 5-3 7-5 New Mexico
3 Southern Miss 5-3 6-6 Heart of Dallas
4 UTEP 3-5 5-7 None
5 North Texas 2-6 3-9 None
6 UTSA 1-7 1-11 None
* Wins Title Game
^ Loses Title Game
% The Arizona Bowl has no sponsor and may not be played in 2015

Coming Next: The Mid-American Conference

 

 

August 16, 2013

2013 Conference USA Preview

 

Conference USA takes a major hit across its bough with the defections of four schools, three of which have been to multiple bowls in recent seasons.  In their place, three teams from the Sunbelt and one team from the football defunct WAC take their place.

 

In past seasons, this league has been in contention for a BCS at-large bowl bid, as well as a major challenge to the Mountain West for top non-automatic qualifying conference.  In the new alignment, CUSA falls to just above the Sunbelt.

 

New Teams: Florida Atlantic, Florida International, Louisiana Tech, Middle Tennessee, North Texas, Texas-San Antonio

Departed Teams: Central Florida, Houston, Memphis, S M U

 

2014 Additions: Western Kentucky arrives from the Sunbelt Conference and Old Dominion moves from FCS.  Charlotte will become a member in 2015.

 

2014 Departures: The league loses much of its prestige with Tulsa and East Carolina as well as Tulane to the AAC.

 

Pre-season PiRate Ratings

Conference USA

East Division

Team

Conf.

Overall

PiRate

Mean

Bias

East Carolina

0-0

0-0

98.6

101.7

100.1

Marshall

0-0

0-0

92.8

99.8

94.3

U A B

0-0

0-0

87.6

94.4

87.9

Middle Tennessee

0-0

0-0

86.4

88.1

86.0

Southern Miss.

0-0

0-0

83.0

90.4

83.6

Florida Atlantic

0-0

0-0

82.0

81.6

80.8

Florida Int’l

0-0

0-0

74.7

79.4

74.5

     

 

 

 

West Division

Team

Conf.

Overall

PiRate

Mean

Bias

Tulsa

0-0

0-0

98.1

100.8

99.4

Rice

0-0

0-0

97.0

101.6

98.5

North Texas

0-0

0-0

90.8

89.5

90.6

Louisiana Tech

0-0

0-0

87.0

90.1

86.9

U T S A

0-0

0-0

86.4

86.1

85.1

U T E P

0-0

0-0

85.1

92.1

85.6

Tulane

0-0

0-0

84.2

93.8

84.0

     

 

 

 

League Averages    

88.1

92.1

88.4

 

 

Official Pre-season Media Poll

       

East Division

Pos.

Team

Pts

1st Place

1

East Carolina

95

11

2

Marshall

82

2

3

Middle Tennessee

70

1

4

U A B

54

0

5

Southern Miss

40

0

6

Florida Atlantic

28

0

7

Florida Int’l

23

0

       

West Division

Pos.

Team

Pts

1st Place

1

Tulsa

98

14

2

Rice

76

0

3

Louisiana Tech

72

0

4

U T E P

46

0

5

North Texas

39

0

6

Tulane

31

0

7

Texas-San Antonio

30

0

 

 

Official Pre-season All-CUSA Team

 

OFFENSE

QB     Rakeem Cato, Jr., Marshall

RB     Vintavious Cooper, Sr., East Carolina

RB     Darrin Reaves, Jr., UAB

OL     Jake Alexander, Jr., Tulsa

OL     Stetson Burnett, Sr., Tulsa

OL     Scott Inskeep, Jr., UTSA

OL     Nate Richards, Sr., Rice

OL     Matt Shepperd, Jr., Louisiana Tech

OL     Will Simmons, Sr., East Carolina

WR    Justin Hardy, Jr., East Carolina

WR    Ryan Grant, Sr., Tulane

WR    Tommy Shuler, Jr., Marshall

TE      Gator Hoskins, Sr., Marshall

 

DEFENSE

DL     Christian Covington, So., Rice

DL     Justin Ellis, Sr., Louisiana Tech

DL     Greg Hickman, Sr., FIU

DL     Rakeem Nunez-Roches, DL, Southern Miss

LB      Shawn Jackson, Sr., Tulsa

LB      Derrell Johnson, Sr., East Carolina

LB      Andre Kirk, Jr., Florida Atlantic

DB     Kevin Byard, So., Middle Tennessee

DB     Lorenzo Doss, So., Tulane

DB     Phillip Gaines, Sr., Rice

DB     Marco Nelson, Sr., Tulsa

 

SPECIAL TEAMS

K       Cairo Santos, Sr., Tulane

P       Tyler Williams, So., Marshall

KR     Reggie Whatley, Jr., Middle Tennessee

PR     Trey Watts, Sr., Tulsa

 

 

PiRate Ratings Summary

 

About Grades

93-100         A+

86-92           A

79-85           A-

72-78           B+

65-71           B

58-64           B-

51-57           C+

44-50           C

37-43           C-

30-36           D

0-29             F

 

About Predictions

Predictions are based on the PiRate Ratings with home field advantage factored in.  The PiRate Ratings use different home field advantages for every game, since the opponent factors into the equation.

 

EAST DIVISION

 

Team

East Carolina Pirates

               
Head Coach

Ruffin McNeill

               
Colors

Purple and Gold

               
City

Greenville, NC

               
2012 Record              
Conference

7-1

Overall

8-5

               
Grades              
Run Offense

52

Pass Offense

81

Run Defense

69

Pass Defense

51

               
Ratings              
PiRate

98.6

Mean

101.7

Bias

100.1

               
Rankings              
PiRate

64

Mean

52

Bias

56

               
Prediction              
Conference

7-1

Overall

8-4

 

 

Team

Marshall Thundering Herd

               
Head Coach

Doc Holliday

               
Colors

Kelly Green and White

               
City

Huntington, WV

               
2012 Record              
Conference

4-4

Overall

5-7

               
Grades              
Run Offense

63

Pass Offense

73

Run Defense

48

Pass Defense

46

               
Ratings              
PiRate

92.8

Mean

99.8

Bias

94.3

               
Rankings              
PiRate

86

Mean

62

Bias

80

               
Prediction              
Conference

7-1

Overall

9-4 (lose CUSA title game)

 

 

Team

U A B Blazers

               
Head Coach

Garrick McGee

               
Colors

Forest Green and Old Gold

               
City

Birmingham, AL

               
2012 Record              
Conference

2-6

Overall

3-9

               
Grades              
Run Offense

57

Pass Offense

69

Run Defense

39

Pass Defense

43

               
Ratings              
PiRate

87.6

Mean

94.4

Bias

87.9

               
Rankings              
PiRate

99

Mean

85

Bias

97

               
Prediction              
Conference

4-4

Overall

6-6

 

 

Team

Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders

               
Head Coach

Rick Stockstill

               
Colors

Blue and White

               
City

Murfreesboro, TN

               
2012 Record              
Conference

6-2 (Sunbelt Conf.)

Overall

8-4

               
Grades              
Run Offense

62

Pass Offense

59

Run Defense

47

Pass Defense

39

               
Ratings              
PiRate

86.4

Mean

88.1

Bias

86.0

               
Rankings              
PiRate

101

Mean

105

Bias

104

               
Prediction              
Conference

3-5

Overall

5-7

 

 

Team

Southern Miss Golden Eagles

               
Head Coach

Todd Monken

               
Colors

Black and Gold

               
City

Hattiesburg, MS

               
2012 Record              
Conference

0-8

Overall

0-12

               
Grades              
Run Offense

42

Pass Offense

51

Run Defense

42

Pass Defense

54

               
Ratings              
PiRate

83.0

Mean

90.4

Bias

83.6

               
Rankings              
PiRate

112

Mean

100

Bias

111

               
Prediction              
Conference

3-5

Overall

4-8

 

 

Team

Florida Atlantic Owls

               
Head Coach

Carl Pelini

               
Colors

Blue, Red, and Silver

               
City

Boca Raton, FL

               
2012 Record              
Conference

2-6 (Sunbelt Conf.)

Overall

3-9

               
Grades              
Run Offense

38

Pass Offense

60

Run Defense

40

Pass Defense

46

               
Ratings              
PiRate

82.0

Mean

81.6

Bias

80.8

               
Rankings              
PiRate

113

Mean

121

Bias

115

               
Prediction              
Conference

2-6

Overall

3-9

 

 

Team

Florida Int’l Golden Panthers

               
Head Coach

Ron Turner

               
Colors

Blue and Gold

               
City

Miami

               
2012 Record              
Conference

2-6 (Sunbelt Conf.)

Overall

3-9

               
Grades              
Run Offense

41

Pass Offense

55

Run Defense

31

Pass Defense

30

               
Ratings              
PiRate

74.7

Mean

79.4

Bias

74.5

               
Rankings              
PiRate

122

Mean

124

Bias

122

               
Prediction              
Conference

0-8

Overall

1-11

 

 

WEST DIVISION

 

Team

Tulsa Golden Hurricane

               
Head Coach

Bill Blankenship

               
Colors

Royal Blue and Old Gold

               
City

Tulsa, OK

               
2012 Record              
Conference

7-1

Overall

11-3

               
Grades              
Run Offense

68

Pass Offense

63

Run Defense

65

Pass Defense

58

               
Ratings              
PiRate

98.1

Mean

100.8

Bias

99.4

               
Rankings              
PiRate

69

Mean

60

Bias

62

               
Prediction              
Conference

7-1

Overall

10-3 (win CUSA title game)

 

 

Team

Rice Owls

               
Head Coach

David Bailiff

               
Colors

Blue and Gray

               
City

Houston

               
2012 Record              
Conference

4-4

Overall

7-6

               
Grades              
Run Offense

57

Pass Offense

67

Run Defense

63

Pass Defense

60

               
Ratings              
PiRate

97.0

Mean

101.6

Bias

98.5

               
Rankings              
PiRate

74

Mean

54

Bias

67

               
Prediction              
Conference

7-1

Overall

10-2

 

 

Team

North Texas Mean Green

               
Head Coach

Dan McCarney

               
Colors

Green and White

               
City

Denton, TX

               
2012 Record              
Conference

3-5

Overall

4-8

               
Grades              
Run Offense

47

Pass Offense

66

Run Defense

52

Pass Defense

55

               
Ratings              
PiRate

90.8

Mean

89.5

Bias

90.6

               
Rankings              
PiRate

90

Mean

103

Bias

92

               
Prediction              
Conference

5-3

Overall

6-6

 

 

Team

Louisiana Tech Bulldogs

               
Head Coach

Skip Holtz

               
Colors

Reflex Blue and Red

               
City

Ruston, LA

               
2012 Record              
Conference

4-2 (WAC)

Overall

9-3

               
Grades              
Run Offense

43

Pass Offense

78

Run Defense

45

Pass Defense

38

               
Ratings              
PiRate

87.0

Mean

90.1

Bias

86.9

               
Rankings              
PiRate

100

Mean

101

Bias

100

               
Prediction              
Conference

4-4

Overall

6-6

 

 

Team

Texas-San Antonio Roadrunners

               
Head Coach

Larry Coker

               
Colors

Navy Blue and Orange

               
City

San Antonio

               
2012 Record              
Conference

3-3 (WAC)

Overall

8-4

               
Grades              
Run Offense

42

Pass Offense

64

Run Defense

55

Pass Defense

43

               
Ratings              
PiRate

86.4

Mean

86.1

Bias

85.1

               
Rankings              
PiRate

102

Mean

112

Bias

108

               
Prediction              
Conference

3-5

Overall

4-8

 

 

Team

U T E P Miners

               
Head Coach

Sean Kugler

               
Colors

Dark Navy and Orange

               
City

El Paso, TX

               
2012 Record              
Conference

2-6

Overall

3-9

               
Grades              
Run Offense

51

Pass Offense

71

Run Defense

39

Pass Defense

37

               
Ratings              
PiRate

85.1

Mean

92.1

Bias

85.6

               
Rankings              
PiRate

108

Mean

94

Bias

107

               
Prediction              
Conference

3-5

Overall

5-7

 

 

Team

Tulane Green Wavy

               
Head Coach

Curtis Johnson

               
Colors

Olive Green and Sky Blue

               
City

New Orleans

               
2012 Record              
Conference

2-6

Overall

2-10

               
Grades              
Run Offense

44

Pass Offense

71

Run Defense

39

Pass Defense

39

               
Ratings              
PiRate

84.2

Mean

93.8

Bias

84.0

               
Rankings              
PiRate

110

Mean

87

Bias

110

               
Prediction              
Conference

1-7

Overall

3-9

 

August 17, 2011

2011 Conference USA Preview

Filed under: College Football — Tags: , , , , , , , , — piratings @ 10:40 am

2011 Conference USA Preview

 

The Mountain West and Western Athletic Conferences have placed teams in BCS bowls and had teams ranked in the top three.  Conference USA has not been able to break through, but at least their champion finally won a bowl game over an SEC team, when Central Florida beat Georgia last year.

 

2011 should be an interesting year in CUSA, especially in the West Division.  Three teams should contend for the division flag.  In the East Division, we see two teams contending.  Two teams have a chance to run the table thanks to avoiding any powerhouse non-conference opponents.

 

East

Southern Mississippi has consistently fielded good but not great teams in the 21st Century, but the Golden Eagles have not won the conference title since 1999.  Fourth year coach Larry Fedora has his best team yet, and 2011 could find USM playing in the CUSA Championship Game for just the second time.

 

Austin Davis returns at quarterback, and the senior should become the all-time leading passer in Hattiesburg as early as the opening game of the season.  Davis completed 63% of his passes for 3,100+ yards and a terrific 20/6 TD/Int ratio last year.  Davis rushed for 452 and 10 big scores to give him a total of 30 accounted for.

 

Davis’s top pass catcher, Kelvin Bolden, returns to the fold this season after grabbing 46 passes for 722 yards and six scores.  Quentin Pierce should top 50 receptions after finishing with 38 in an injury-plagued season.

 

The Golden Eagles have a two-headed monster at running back.  Starter Kendrick Hardy and key backup Desmond Johnson combined for more than 1,500 rushing yards and 15 touchdowns in 2010.

 

The offensive line returns three starters, none of whom are big stars.  USM surrendered just 17 sacks last year, but a lot of that had to do with Davis’s mobility. 

 

The Golden Eagles scored 37 points per game last year, and there is no reason to think they cannot approach or top 40 points per game this season.

 

Southern Miss lost five games in 2010 because their defense could not match their offense’s production.  The Golden Eagles gave up 30 points per game.  The run defense was not all that bad; in fact, it was quite good, giving up just 113 rushing yards per game.  Five of the front six starters return this year, including linebacker Korey Williams, who recorded 14 ½ stops behind the line last year.  End Cordarro Law led USM with six sacks, and he added four QB hurries.

 

The secondary has room for improvement after giving up 243 yards through the air last year.  Three of last year’s five starters will not be around this year, so this unit could even take a minor step backwards.

 

The Golden Eagles have a big weapon in placekicker Danny Hrapmann.  Hrapmann was a finalist for the Lou Groza Award after connecting on all 55 of his extra point attempts and 26 of 31 field goal attempts with a long of 54 yards.

 

While this team may be no more talented than any of the previous 10 Golden Eagle squads, the schedule could not be any more beneficial.  The toughest non-conference game is at Virginia, and the toughest two conference games are at home.  If USM can win at Virginia and at Navy, they have a chance to run the table in the regular season.

 

Trivia question: Who is the only team to make it to a bowl game after giving up 44 points and more than 475 total yards per game?  Do you think this is a trick question and that no team has ever done that?  Think again.  East Carolina gave up those numbers and still went to the Military Bowl in 2010. 

 

The Pirates won because they outscored opponents last year.  They beat Tulsa 51-49; Southern Miss 44-43; and UAB 54-42.  They also lost to Navy 76-35 and Maryland 51-20.

 

In the second year of the Air Raid offense, look for ECU’s already scary offensive numbers to get even scarier.  Quarterback Dominique Davis just missed the 4,000-yard passing mark, and he tossed 37 touchdown passes last year.  He will certainly miss Dwayne Harris and his 101 receptions from last year, but he welcomes the return of Lance Lewis, who caught 89 passes for 1,116 yards and 14 touchdowns (tied for the lead in the conference).

 

The running game loses its top two rushers from last season, but welcomes junior college transfer Reggie Bullock and freshman Alex Owah.  The success of the running game has more to do with forcing defenses into using five and even six defensive backs.

 

The offensive line is a bit of a concern with the loss of three starters, including two that made All-CUSA teams last year.  Look for the number of sacks to go up from last year’s ultra-low of 15 out of 647 possibilities.

 

ECU will score a ton of points this season, but the offense may not be as consistent as 2010.  We believe the Pirates can be as successful as last season thanks to a big improvement on the other side of the ball.

 

Where is there to go but up for this defense?  ECU gave up 227 rushing and 252 passing yards per game.  That put them in a two-team league with New Mexico!

 

The Pirates will use a 3-4 defense this season.  Coach Ruffin McNeill will blitz his linebackers much more this season in an attempt to put more pressure on the quarterbacks.  The Pirates only recorded 15 sacks and very few hurries. 

 

Up front, the new three-man line is stocked with veterans, but nose guard Michael Brooks is a bit undersized for a 3-4 scheme.  ECU may be vulnerable to runs between the tackles and quick traps.

 

The secondary will be the strength of the defense. Emanuel Davis and Derek Blacknall are decent cover corners, while Bradley Jacobs plugs the deep half as good as any safety in the league.  Davis will miss the first game against South Carolina due to a suspension for public drunkenness and resisting arrest (Wide receiver Michael Bowman also was suspended).

 

ECU’s schedule is difficult, and the Pirates will have a difficult time improving upon last year’s 6-6 regular season record.  After a probable 0-2 start, the home game with UAB on September 24 will be a must-win game.  After that game, there are only three cupcakes on the schedule.

 

Central Florida won the conference championship and then upset Georgia in the Liberty Bowl to finish 11-3 last year.  Coach George O’Leary can put that on his resume.  He may not want to include this season’s results though, because his excellent defense was decimated by graduation.  Gone are seven starters and several key reserves from a team that gave up just 17 points and 315 yards per game.  To make matters worse, defensive coordinator Dave Huxtable replaced Dave Doeren as Wisconsin’s DC.

 

All is not lost on the defensive side of the ball.  The secondary should be fine with cornerback Josh Robinson being one of the four returning starters.  Robinson was a 1st team all-conference player last year after intercepting a couple of passes and batting away a baker’s dozen passes.  Free safety Kemal Ishmael led the Knights in tackles.

 

At linebacker, Josh Linam is strong against the run and the pass, but the two teammates lining up with him in the second line of defense are raw and inexperienced.  Up front, only one starter returns, and that is tackle Victor Gray.  However, Darius Nall returns after serving as the designated pass rusher.  Coming in on passing situations, Nall led the team with 8 ½ sacks and another 14 QB hurries.  Look for Nall and end Troy Davis to team for 15-20 sacks this year.

 

The UCF offense gained less than 375 yards per game but still topped 32 points per game, thanks to a great field position advantage given to it by the defense.  Expect the offensive production to suffer some this year due to the weaker defense.

 

Quarterback Jeff Godfrey will not be confused for Case Keenum, but the sophomore signal caller should top 2,500 yards through the air this year and make few mistakes.  He also can run the ball, as his  nearly 700 rushing yards (factoring out sacks) proves.  Godfrey will have an entirely new set of receivers after the top three from last year are gone.  With the return of all the key running backs, UCF will run to set up the pass.  With running backs Latavius Murray and Ronnie Weaver, the Knights have three players (Godfrey included) capable of topping 100 rushing yards in a game.

 

The offensive line lost its top blocker in tackle Jah Reid, but with three starters back, it should be in decent shape.

 

UCF has a tougher schedule than Southern Miss, and that could prevent the Knights from challenging for the division title.

 

U A B was so close last year.  What turned out to be a 4-8 season could have been 8-4, but the Blazers lost a lot of close games.  They came up short four times, losing to Florida Atlantic by a point, Tennessee by a field goal in double overtime, Mississippi State by five, and Rice by five.

 

This could be the year the Blazers break through and challenge for a bowl bid, but the schedule maker did the team no favors with three tough non-conference games.

 

Quarterback Bryan Ellis almost made UAB fans forget Joe Webb last year.  Ellis threw 25 touchdown passes while completing 56+% of his passes for 2,940 yards.  He was not the runner Webb was.

 

Two of Ellis’s favorite receiver targets return this season.  Patrick Hearn finished second on the team with 536 receiving yards and four touchdowns, while Jackie Williams caught 30 balls.  Running back Pat Shed is a great dual threat.  Aside from his 847 rushing yards, he came out of the backfield to grab a team-leading 47 catches.

 

The offensive line will be the strength of the offense this season.  Four starters return from last year, and all of them should contend for all-league honors.  The fifth offensive linemen has seen considerable action and has started in the past, so this unit will be top notch.

 

UAB averaged better than 26 points per game and almost 425 yards per game, but the Blazers could have averaged more than 30 if they had been able to hang onto the ball better.  We think they will this year and will average at least 28 points per game.

 

As good as the offense should be, the defense should improve even more.  The front four needs to be rebuilt, but the back seven are experienced, talented, and deep. 

 

In the trenches, tackle Elliott Henigan is the leader of the unit.  Henigan led UAB with 15 ½ total tackles for loss.  At 6-4, he was able to get his hands up and knock away five passes last year.

 

Marvin Burdette could become a 1st team All-CUSA player this year.  He led the Blazers with 114 tackles with three sacks.  In the secondary, safety Jamie Bender will try to earn a second 1st team All-CUSA award.

 

This is not a great defense, but it will be better than last year and surrender less than 30 points per game for the first time in five years.  UAB has a chance to get to six wins, but it will not be easy with out-of-conference games at Florida and Troy as well as a home game with Mississippi State.

 

Marshall is another team that narrowly missed bowl eligibility in 2010.  The Thundering Herd came up one win short for first year coach Doc Holliday.  An overtime loss to in-state rival West Virginia was the difference.

 

2011 does not look like the year Marshall will return to greatness.  Chad Pennington and Byron Leftwich are not eligible.  Instead, a true freshman could end up starting at quarterback.  Rakeem Cato will battle sophomore A. J. Graham for the starting nod.  Whoever starts will have one of the best receivers in the league running underneath those passes.  Aaron Dobson is as quick as a hiccup, and he can take a five yard slant pass and turn it into a 75-yard touchdown.  Dobson averaged almost 16 yards per reception last year.  Look for Troy Evans to contribute more this year.

 

Marshall could not run the ball last year, finishing with less than 100 yards in eight games.  Another true freshman, Travon Van, could step in and start from day one.  Martin Ward and Essray Taliafero are sure to see playing time at back as well.

 

The offensive line will need to be rebuilt after three starters departed.  Two of the returnees, tackle Ryan Tillman and guard C. J. Wood could contend for all-conference accolades.

 

Marshall averaged less than 21 points per game and only 314 yards per game, and it could be hard to improve on those numbers with a tough non-conference slate of opponents (West Virginia, Virginia Tech, Louisville, and Ohio).

 

Defensively, the Herd is in better shape.  It all starts up front, where Marshall has the best defensive end in the league.  Vinny Curry introduced his body to enemy quarterbacks a dozen times last year, while forcing them to hurry throws another 16 times.  He added six other tackles behind the line.  Curry should be an early draft choice in the 2012 NFL draft.

 

Three experienced veterans will line up at linebacker.  Kellen Harris, Tyson Gale, and Devin Arrington will not appear on the all-conference 1st team, but the trio is more than capable.

 

Things are not so optimistic in the secondary.  What was going to be a major asset has turned into a minor liability due to a situation at the safety positions.  2010 starter Donald Brown was dismissed and then projected starter D. J. Hunter suffered a knee injury and may not be ready to plug the strong safety position.  When Marshall conducted its first scrimmage, former wide receiver Raheem Waiters was running with the first team.  Five other safeties are ailing, and it is unsure who will start at the free safety position against West Virginia on September 4.

 

Too many freshmen and sophomores having to play do not bode well for the Thundering Herd.  This team will be exciting to watch, but they will experience growing pains.  Holliday’s recruiting efforts will begin to pay off, but not this season.  Marshall may take a small step backwards in 2011 before challenging for a bowl berth next year.

 

Memphis has fallen on hard times.  The Tigers finished 2-10 in 2009 and 1-11 last year.  Prospects are not bright for 2011, and second year coach Larry Porter could very well see his career record move to 2-22.

 

The offense never got in a groove at any point last year.  The Tigers averaged just 14 points and 285 yards per game.  The offensive line could not protect inexperienced quarterbacks that could not read defenses fast enough.  None of the backs reminded anybody of DeAngelo Williams.  To make matters worse, the one of the two real stars on last year’s offense, wideout Jermaine McKenzie, has used up his eligibility.

 

At least the other big play receiver returns, and that is where Memphis will try to revive its offense.  Marcus Rucker will see a lot of double teams this year after catching 41 passes and averaging 17.2 yards and scoring eight times (Memphis only scored 19 touchdowns).  Former Alabama wideout Keiwone Malone is trying to gain immediate elibility due to family health issues, but the NCAA will probably not rule before the end of August.  If he is eligible, the receiving corps could become an asset.

 

Quarterback was a major problem last year, as it has been for several years.  Memphis seems to have a jinx here with frequent injuries at this spot.  Andy Summerlin, a juco transfer appears to have the edge over former Wake Forest QB Skylar Jones and true freshman Taylor Reed, but if fate holds out, all three may have to see the field this year.  None of the trio is going to star, because the offensive line will still be a major liability. 

 

Jerrell Rhodes could be a diamond in the rough at running back.  He rushed for 469 yards last year, and he could be ready to break out and have a big year.  But, he will need help, and the holes just may not open for him. 

 

Only one starting lineman returns this season, but at least he was the best of the quintet last year.  The Tigers will rebuild around tackle Ronald Leary.

 

The defense was equally to blame for Memphis’s 1-11 record.  Opponents scored 40 points per game and gained 461 yards per game.  Six starters return, but eight reserves that saw considerable playing time return as well.

 

The defensive line could develop into something memorable.  Tackles Frank Trotter and Dontari Poe could be the best tandem at this position.  They teamed for 23 total tackles for loss last year.

 

Troubles begin once you get past the front four.  Memphis will have trouble stopping the excellent bevy of CUSA quarterbacks this year.  Last year. the Tigers gave up 289 passing yards per game and allowed enemy passers to complete better than 65% of their passes.  To make matters worse, the best pass defender has used up his eligibility, and the second best transferred after Spring practice.

 

The schedule gives Memphis a chance to win at least one game.  A September home game against FCS school Austin Peay should be a nice win.  Memphis does not play UTEP from the West, and we do not see the Tigers winning in league play this year.

 

West

Tulsa might have been our choice to break through and become the first CUSA team to make it to a BCS bowl game this year, but two factors prevented us from going out on that limb.  First, former coach Todd Graham left for Pittsburgh, leaving a rookie, Bill Blankenship, as the new coach.  More importantly, the Golden Hurricane open the season at Oklahoma and then host Oklahoma State two weeks later.  They then make a trip to the field of blue to play Boise State; no CUSA team will play in a BCS Bowl with a 10-3 record, even if the three losses are to top 10 teams.

 

Tulsa returns 10 starters from the fifth best offense in the nation.  TU averaged 41 points and more than 500 yards per game last year, and there is no reason to expect much drop-off this year.  It all starts at quarterback in the spread formation, and G. J. Kinne is a magician.  The former Texas QB passed for 3,650 yards and 31 touchdowns in 2010, and he led the team with 561 rushing yards (more than 750 when factoring out sacks). 

 

As good as Kinne is, his offensive line is the real strength of this team.  All five of these prized possessions return for an encore, and three could earn 1st Team All-CUSA honors.  Center Trent Dupy, guard Clint Anderson, and Tackle Tyler Homes will all be watched by NFL scouts this year.

 

It is rare when a wide receiver becomes a team’s big play man in the running game, but Damaris Johnson was that man.  He averaged more than 10 yards per rush and ran the ball 55 more than four times per game.  When he wasn’t sprinting wide with the ball, he found time to lead the team with 57 pass receptions good for 872 yards.  In his spare time, he returned a punt and a kickoff for a touchdown.  We haven’t heard yet whether he sells programs before the games or marches in the band at halftime.

 

Willie Carter and Ricky Johnson teamed up for just 41 receptions last year, but they both averaged 16 yards per catch.  They will team with Mr. Everything to make a dangerous group.

 

Tulsa’s Achilles heel last year was its defense.  The Golden Hurricane surrendered more than 30 points and 450 yards per game last year.  New defensive coordinator Brent Guy moves TU from a 3-3-5 to a 4-3 defense.  Expect middle linebacker Curnelius Arnick to become an even bigger playmaker in this alignment after he led the team with 115 tackles in 2010.  Shawn Jackson and DeAundre Brown team with Arnick to form one of the top linebacker trios in the league.  If Brown can return to his pre-injury 2009 form, this will be the best unit.  Jackson led TU with 15 ½ stops for loss, including 8 ½ sacks.

 

Safeties Dexter McCoil and Marco Nelson form an excellent tandem of ball hawks.  Both players intercepted six passes last year.

 

Up front, end Tyrunn Walker is the top holdover, earning 2nd Team All-CUSA honors last year.  He recorded 12 tackles for loss.

 

Tulsa hosts Houston in the season finale, and that game should determine the West Division representative in the conference title game.  If Tulsa can stay healthy against this demanding schedule, we believe the Golden Hurricane is the favorite for that spot.

 

S M U returns most of their key players from a team that won the West Division last year, but the Mustangs are the third choice to start 2011.  Coach June Jones’ team finished just 7-7 overall due to 1-3 non-conference record and losses to UCF in the Championship Game and Army in the bowl.  Another tough non-conference schedule will prevent the Mustangs from making any major leap forward.

 

Kyle Padron returns at quarterback after throwing for 3,828 yards and 31 touchdowns.  Five of his top six receivers return, including Cole Beasley, who caught 87 passes for 1,060 yards.  However, the one receiver lost was an NFL draft choice.  Aldrick Robinson caught 65 passes and averaged 20 yards per catch with 14 touchdowns.  With the breakaway threat gone, the other receivers will find the going a little tougher, and SMU will pass for less yards this season.

 

Taking up the slack in the yardage department will be an excellent running game.  Zach Line rushed for almost 1,500 yards last year and averaged more than six yards per carry. 

 

Up front, SMU’s offensive line is almost as talented as Tulsa’s.  All five starters return as well as the five second teamers.  Tackle Kelvin Beachum earned 1st team all-conference honors last year and could contend for Honorable Mention All-American honors this year.

 

SMU gained more than 5,800 total yards last year but only scored 360 points.  That averages out to more than 16 yards per point.  The average effective offense scores a point for about 13 yards of offense, meaning SMU should have scored close to 450 points last year.  The Mustangs could gain fewer yards and score more points this season, but only if the backs can hold onto the ball, and Padron can keep his interceptions down.

 

SMU’s defense has improved for three consecutive seasons, and it could be more of the same in season four of the Jones era.  Eight different defensive players made an all-conference team last year, and six of them return, two each in the three different units.  Ends Margus Hunt and Taylor Thompson were two of those award winners.  The duo teamed up for 7 ½ sacks. 

 

In the second line of defense, linebackers Taylor Reed and Ja’Gared Davis combined for 235 tackles.  Both could earn 1st Team All-CUSA accolades this year.

 

Cornerback Richard Crawford and safety Chris Banjo are the stars of the secondary.  Crawford recorded 12 passes defended with four interceptions, while Banjo proved to be strong against both the run and the pass.

 

September will bring an almost assured 3-2 start for SMU.  Road games against Texas A&M and TCU bookmark games with UTEP, Northwestern State, and Memphis.  After a week off, the Mustangs host Central Florida in a game that will decide if either team will contend in their respective division.

 

Houston has the schedule Tulsa needs to become a BCS Bowl participant.  The Cougars are not that far behind Tulsa in talent, and if Coach Kevin Sumlin can plug a couple of holes on both sides of the ball, we would not be surprised to see Houston visiting Tulsa with a perfect won-loss record on the line.

 

All this optimism hinges on the 100% return of Heisman Trophy candidate Case Keenum.  The Cougars have had some outstanding quarterbacks, including a Heisman Trophy winner in Andre Ware and current Arizona Cardinals’ QB Kevin Kolb.  However, Keenum may be better than both.  When he was healthy in 2009, he completed 70% of his passes for 5,671 yards and 44 touchdowns.  If he replicates those numbers this year, all other marbles should fall in place.  Backup David Piland threw for 2,641 yards and 24 touchdowns as Keenum’s fill-in, so there is excellent depth.

 

Keenum will hook up frequently with Patrick Edwards.  Edwards led the Cougars with 71 receptions, 13 touchdowns and 1,100 yards.  Houston will have to break in two new receivers, but they have some real sprinters ready to go in 2011. 

 

Houston has not been a running back factory since the old veer offense days of the 1960’s and 1970’s; more recently, they have produced one productive back at a time.  This year, the Cougars have three great running backs.  Bryce Beall and Michael Hayes teamed for almost 1,500 rushing yards and 20 touchdowns last year, while former co-regular Charles Sims returns after missing last season.  The trio should team up for about 175 rushing yards per game this season; considering that Houston passes the ball about 60% of the time, this is a scary statistic.  It will give Keenum more open looks when defenses have to remain honest.

 

The one question mark to the 2011 offense is a rebuilding offensive line.  Keenum was not sacked in the two plus games that he played before his ACL injury.  Piland only went down 12 times after that.  Expect the sack total to go up by at least 50% this year due to some inexperience in the blocking corps.  Center Chris Thompson is one of the best at his position in the conference, and Keenum should feel comfortable with him.

 

Houston averaged more than 40 points per game with Keenum directing the offense in 2008 and 2009.  They scored 122 points in the first two games last year before he went down for the count and averaged “just” 33 points per game without him.  We believe he will regain his old form, and the Cougars will move north of the 40-point mark again this year.

 

Whether 40 points per game will be enough to win all the games on the schedule is an unknown at this point.  Houston’s defense will not be championship material this year.  The Cougars gave up more than 32 points and 430 yards per game, and there may be no improvement and even a small deterioration in the numbers this year.

 

The secondary is a major concern.  Just one starter returns from a unit that gave up about 225 passing yards at a 60% completion rate.  As of this writing, Sumlin has not yet decided on his starting four nor has he even decided where to play some of his players.  Expected starting cornerback Chevy Bennett was playing safety in the early scrimmage.

 

As raw as the secondary will be, the linebackers will be grey beards.  Seniors Sammy Brown and Marcus McGraw could both earn all-league honors, and Brown could contend for defensive player of the year.  He recorded 20 tackles for loss with 7 ½ sacks in 2010.  Junior Phillip Steward is an excellent pass defender from his strong side spot.

 

Up front, the three-man line had a tough time stopping the run last year.  UH gave up more than 200 rushing yards as close to a five yard per carry rate.  Ends David Hunter and Kelvin King return, but the Cougars will have a new nose guard as Matangi Tonga graduated.

 

Houston has a couple of special teams weapons as well.  When not catching passes, Edwards is one of the best punt returners in the nation.  Tyron Carrier is an asset in the kick return game.

 

Houston has a slim chance of running the table this year, but with too many questions on the defensive side, we tend to believe they will fall once or twice.

 

Last year, Rice began to recover some from its slide from 10 wins in 2008 to 10 losses in 2009.  The Owls won four games and blew out East Carolina 62-38, so Coach David Bailiff has enough talent to get back above the .500 mark.

 

Injuries ruined any chance for the Owls to contend for a bowl bid last year.  Quarterback Taylor McHargue played sparingly due to injuries last year.  In his time under center, he completed 57% of his passes at 8.5 yards per attempt. 

 

Former quarterback 6-07 Taylor Cook moves to wide receiver and will team with tight end 6-05 Luke Wilson and wideout 6-05 Vance McDonald to make one of the tallest receiver units in college football history.  While there isn’t a trailblazer in this group, there will be a lot of 3rd down passing plays converted to first downs.

 

Sam McGuffie is a dual threat back.  He led the Owls with 883 rushing yards while catching 39 passes.  That earned him 2nd team all-league honors.

 

The offensive line returns four starters, but they are mediocre at best.  Guard Davon Allen and tackle Jake Hicks are the two quality players in the blocking corps.

 

Rice should exceed last season’s production of 29 points and 375 yards.  Look for more than 30 points and 400 yards this season.

 

In Bailiff’s four seasons in Houston, Rice has given up 43, 33, 43, and 39 points per game.  They won 10 games when they gave up 33 points, so it will not take much for a record reversal.  Unfortunately, with the tough out-of-conference schedule and road games against Southern Miss, Houston, and SMU, it does not look like the Owls can chop much off last season’s numbers.

 

The biggest problem with the Rice defense is the secondary.  The Owls gave up 304 passing yards per game last year and intercepted just six passes.  Of course, a better pass rush would have helped, as enemy quarterbacks hit the turf just 14 times.  Four of the five starters return from a year ago, and unfortunately three of them were the top three tacklers on the team.  That can never be a good sign.

 

There is some good news at linebacker.  Kyle Prater takes over in the middle after transferring from LSU two years ago.  There’s more good news in the trenches with the return from injury of end Scott Solomon.  However, that is not enough good news to turn Rice’s fortunes around.

 

The schedule makers did the Owls no favors this year.  Rice plays at Texas, Northwestern, and Baylor and hosts Purdue out of the league, and that could very well equate to an 0-4 mark.  The three conference road games listed above are basically unwinnable, so even if the Owls win the other five games, they will finish with a losing record.  They must sweep the five easier teams and then pick up a big upset somewhere along the line.  We do not see it happening this season.

 

Tulane has not enjoyed a winning season since 2002, when Mewelde Moore was running loose.  The Green Wave always seem to be good for one upset, but they cannot get over the hill.  This could be Coach Bob Toledo’s last attempt to reverse the poor fortunes in the Crescent City.

 

The offense will revolve around running back Orleans Darkwa.  As a freshman, Darkwa rushed for 925 and 11 touchdowns, earning 1st team All-CUSA awards.  Look for Darkwa to run the ball more than the 15 times he averaged last year.  He should carry the ball 25 times for about 125 yards per game.

 

Junior quarterback Ryan Griffin was adequate but not exceptional last year.  He completed 60% of his passes for 2,371 yards and 14 touchdowns in 2010, but he played part of the season with a lame shoulder.  He should have more zip on the ball this year, and his numbers will improve.

 

Only one real threat returns to the receiver corps.  Ryan Grant grabbed 33 passes and blazed for almost 16 yards per catch. 

 

The offensive line could be a liability this year.  Three starters return and three second teamers are back, but we do not see any stars in this group.

 

Tulane averaged 25 points and 373 yards per game last year.  We expect those numbers to improve some this year, but we do not see a 30-point, 400-yard production.  That’s what the Green Wave offense will need to get to seven wins.

 

Defensively, TU gave up more than 37 points per game in 2010.  Six times, they surrendered 42 or more points.  No unit stands out as a strength this year, and we expect the Green Wave to give up more than five touchdowns per game for the third consecutive season.  Tulane’s biggest problem is an inability to stop the run.  Opponents averaged five yards per carry, and you must realize that their schedule found them facing a majority of opponents that preferred to pass rather than run.

 

Up front, end Dezman Moses was the one bright spot.  Moses recorded six sacks and forced seven QB hurries after transferring from Iowa.  In the second line of defense, Trent Mackey made the 1st Team All-CUSA roster after he led TU with 124 tackles.

 

The secondary looked better than it was, because teams found the going so easy running the ball against the Green Wave.  Yet, TU did surrender just 53.9% in completion percentage. 

 

Unlike Rice, Tulane’s schedule is manageable.  Outside of league play, TU should beat Southeast Louisiana.  They should compete against Duke and Army, and Syracuse comes to the Superdome in what looks like a big upset chance for TU.  Remember, they always come up with one upset.  In conference play, home games with UTEP and Memphis will give the Green Wave an excellent chance to pick up two league wins.  There is an outside chance Tulane could be 6-6 and playing for bowl eligibility when they head to Hawaii for the season finale.  This team is not as good as Rice, but the schedule gives them the chance that Rice will not receive.

 

U T E P used to be referred to as the University of Texas at intercepted passo by one a pollster that used to rank the Bottom 10 every year.  Then, the Miners started to get better earning three bowls in six years.  After four sub-.500 seasons, UTEP recovered to break even in the regular season in 2010.  A bowl loss sent their final record back under .500 again.  It looks like 2011 could find the Miners resembling their old moniker once again. 

 

Only one starter returns to an offense that was just pedestrian in CUSA standards last year.  Running back Joe Banyard may wish he wasn’t the lone returnee.  He led TEP with 623 rushing yards last year, but with no starters returning at QB, wide receiver, and offensive line, he will probably not match that number this season.

 

At quarterback, Nick Lamaison has been named the starter.  He completed 60% of his passes for almost 4,000 yards and 30 touchdowns as a sophomore at junior college. 

 

Donovan Kemp is the only receiver left on the roster that caught more than 10 passes and gained more than 100 yards.  He is coming off an ACL injury, so he may not be 100% at the beginning of the season.

 

With no returning regulars to the front five, Coach Mike Price had to recruit multiple juco players to fill the spots.  Center Eloy Anderson has one career start.

 

UTEP has averaged no less than 26 points per game for the last seven years.  2011 may find them averaging less than they did in 2003 (22.2).

 

The Miners have almost the exact opposite situation on the other side of the ball.  15 of the top 19 tacklers from 2010 are back this year.  Of course, those players contributed to a defense that gave up 28 points and more than 400 yards per game, so there may be little or no improvement.  If the offense struggles and the time of possession suffers, UTEP could even fare worse defensively in 2011.

 

The secondary is the strongest unit on the stop side.  Safety Travaun Nixon was voted to the All-CUSA 2nd team after he defended 12 passes with four interceptions.  Fellow safety DeShawn Grayson earned honorable mention all-conference honors.

 

At linebacker, all three starters are back for more.  Royzell Smith, Jamie Irving, and Isaiah Carter combined for 226 tackles, each recording more than 70.  Up front, three starters return, but this group lacks a star. 

 

UTEP will start the season 1-0 thanks to a cupcake game with Stony Brook.  After that game, a road trip to Las Cruces to play New Mexico State is their best shot at picking up a second win.

 

Conference USA Preseason Media Poll

 

C-USA EAST

1st Place Votes

Total Votes

Central Florida

20

139

Southern Miss

4

122

East Carolina

 

93

Marshall

 

65

U A B

 

61

Memphis

 

24

     
C-USA WEST

1st Place Votes

Total Votes

Houston

12

127

Tulsa

8

117

S M U

4

116

Rice

 

60

Tulane (tied)

 

42

U T E P (tied)

 

42

 

Conference USA PiRate Ratings

C-USA EAST

PiRate #

Prediction

Southern Miss

97.0

7-1/10-3

East Carolina

94.8

6-2/6-6

Central Florida

91.9

5-3/7-5

U A B

89.1

3-5/3-9

Marshall

85.8

3-5/3-9

Memphis

72.0

0-8/2-10

 

 

 

C-USA WEST

PiRate #

Prediction

Tulsa

103.6

7-1/9-4 *

S M U

102.0

5-3/6-6

Houston

96.7

7-1/10-2

Rice

89.7

3-5/3-9

Tulane

80.9

2-6/4-9

U T E P

76.0

0-8/1-11

 

 

 

* Tulsa picked to beat Southern Miss in the Championship Game

 

Next: The Western Athletic Conference preview—Thursday, August 18

 

August 3, 2011

The PiRates Have Returned To Dry Land Ready For Football

When we last spoke with you, it was undecided whether we would present football ratings for 2011-12.  At the time, there was no end in sight for the NFL lockout, and we were head strong in support of boycotting the college football season as a show of opposition to the post-season bowls.

 

In July, as our gardens became tumbleweeds in the oppressive heat, we had some extra time on our hands to discuss just what we would do this year.  Upon further review, we have decided to issue our college ratings as usual, but only after we make a special post concerning the bowl games.  That will come next week. 

 

As for the NFL, it will be at least three to three and a half weeks before we can update the ratings due to the tight window of wheeling and dealing.  We will not be able to offer an in-depth preview of each NFL division like in past years—it will just be ratings and a brief synopsis of how we see the races and playoffs.  We will offer a brain-teasing trivia quiz dedicated to those 50 and over who remember the NFL/AFL at its best—in the 1950’s and 1960’s.  For those not gifted with gray hair or hairlessness yet, you just might learn some very interesting facts that you can spring on your friends at your local watering hole.  Some will be very tricky indeed.

 

Beginning August 15, we will begin previewing the college conferences.  Here is the schedule for those conference previews:

 

Monday, August 15:SunbeltConference

Tuesday, August 16: Mid-American Conference

Wednesday, August 17: ConferenceUSA

Thursday, August 18: Western Athletic Conference

Friday, August 19: Independents

Monday, August 22: Mountain West Conference

Tuesday, August 23: Big East Conference

Wednesday, August 24:AtlanticCoastConference

Thursday, August 25: Pacific 12 Conference

Friday, August 26: Big 12 Conference

Monday, August 29: Southeastern Conference

Tuesday, August 30: Big Ten Conference

 

We realize that about 15% of you reading this are fans ofVanderbiltUniversitydown inNashville, who followed our founder when he wrote for Vanderbilt Athletics.  We also realize that about 35% of you reading this are residents of the great state ofWisconsinor Badger fans living in the hinterlands.  Thus, on August 29, there will be expanded coverage of the Vanderbilt Commodores, and on August 30, there will be expanded coverage on the Wisconsin Badgers, as they compete for the first Leaders Division title and another conference championship in the exciting, expanded Big Ten.

 

Check back next week for an all-inclusive post about how you can boycott the bowl sponsors and help bring about a post-season playoff.  We have a fresh way of satisfying both the bowls and a playoff at the same time.  To those that have heard our proposal, we have received 100% approval of our idea.  Check back next week for that idea.

March 4, 2011

This Week’s Bracketological Look At The NCAA Basketball Conference Races

Very Few Bubble Spots Left

 

With conference tournament play underway, not much has changed yet in the NCAA Tournament picture.  At least two dozen teams remain on a bubble that may have room to admit nine of those teams at the most.  With every multiple bid conference tournament that produces an upset winner, one more bubble will burst.

 

As we see it today, 16 conferences will definitely send just one team to the NCAA Tournament.  Six other leagues have a chance to send two teams, but they could send just one team if the favorite wins their tournament or loses in an early round and gets eliminated.  That brings the subtotal to 22 definite bids.

 

We believe 37 teams have already met the minimum requirement to receive a bid to the tournament no matter how they perform in their conference tournament.  The subtotal now numbers 59.

 

That leaves just nine spots left, and up to six of those could go to those leagues mentioned above that could send a second team.  The bubble has a very thin skin.

 

Let’s take a conference-by-conference look at the prospects and suspects.

 

Definite One Bid Leagues

These leagues will send only their automatic qualifier to the Big Dance.  The team we list here have not earned a spot, since no conference tournament championships have been played.  That will change in 24 hours.

 

America East

Vermont 22-7

 

Atlantic Sun

Belmont 28-4

 

Big Sky

Northern Colorado 19-10

 

Big South

Coastal Carolina 28-4

 

Big West

Long Beach State 20-10

 

M A A C

Fairfield 23-6

 

M A C

Kent State 20-10

 

M E A C

Hampton 21-8

 

Northeast

Long Island 25-5

 

Ohio Valley

Murray State 23-7

 

Patriot League

Bucknell 23-8

 

Southern

College of Charleston 22-9

 

Southland

Stephen F. Austin 18-9

 

S W A C

Texas Southern 17-11

 

Summit

Oakland 22-9

 

Sunbelt

Florida Atlantic 21-9

 

Possible Two Bid Leagues If Favorite Loses In Final Round

These conferences have a chance to send a second team if the favorite is upset in the championship game.  If the favorite wins the automatic bid, that conference will send just one team.

 

Conference USA

U A B  21-7

 

UTEP 22-8, Southern Miss. 21-8, and Memphis 21-9 probably do not have the resumes to earn an at-large bid, but if any of these win the tournament, UAB could and probably will earn an at-large spot.  We will place allot one bubble spot for these three teams, because two will not get a spot.

 

Horizon League

Butler 21-9

 

Cleveland State 25-7 is close to becoming a bubble team, but we believe the Vikings must win the tournament.  Butler has the credentials to get in if they lose in the finals or to CSU in the semifinals, but the Bulldogs better plan on winning the league tournament, because they are vulnerable if there are two or three upsets in other tournaments.

 

Ivy League

Regular Season Champion

 

Either Harvard 21-5 or Princeton 22-5 will win the Ivy this year.  Currently, Princeton leads Harvard by half a game (10-1 to 10-2).  Princeton finishes out the season with three road games.  The Tigers play at Dartmouth tonight and at Harvard tomorrow night.  They finish at Penn on Tuesday.  Harvard hosts Penn tonight and Princeton tomorrow night.  There is a good chance that both contenders will finish 12-2, forcing a playoff game later in the week.  If Harvard loses a playoff, they would be 23-6.  Princeton would be 24-6 if they lost the playoff.  Both teams have RPIs in the 40’s, so there is a small chance that both teams could receive bids.

 

Missouri Valley

Missouri State 23-7

 

Wichita State 23-7 had a chance to wrap up a safe position, but the Shockers lost in the Bracketbuster.  This league laid an egg in the Bracketbuster and watched the Colonial take over the title of best mid-major.  Still, if somebody other than Missouri State wins the tournament, the Valley could send a second team.

 

West Coast

St. Mary’s 23-7

 

Gonzaga 22-9 has played a relatively tough schedule and owns wins over a couple of top 50 teams, but we do not believe the Bulldogs are in line for an at-large bid.  We will anoint them as conference tournament favorites, and if the Zags beat SMU in the championship game, the Gaels should be in decent shape for an at-large bid.

 

W A C

Utah State 27-3 is ranked in the Top 25 and has an RPI of 18.  The Aggies are going dancing even if they lose in the WAC Tournament.  

 

Teams That Are Locks

These teams are going to the Big Dance even if they lose the rest of their regular season games.

 

A C C

Duke 27-3

North Carolina 23-6

Florida State 20-9

 

Atlantic 10

Xavier 23-6

Temple 23-6

Richmond 23-7

 

Big East

Pittsburgh 26-4

Notre Dame 24-5

Louisville 23-7

Syracuse 24-6

St. John’s 19-10

West Virginia 19-10

Cincinnati 23-7

Georgetown 21-8

Connecticut 21-8

Villanova 21-9

 

Big Ten

Ohio State 28-2

Purdue 25-5

Wisconsin 23-6

 

Big 12

Kansas 28-2

Texas 24-6

Texas A&M 22-7

Kansas State 21-9

Missouri 22-8

 

Colonial

George Mason 25-5

Old Dominion 24-6

 

Mountain West

B Y U 27-3

San Diego State 28-2

U N L V 22-7

 

Pac-10

Arizona 24-6

U C L A 21-9

Washington 20-9

 

S E C

Florida 23-6

Kentucky 21-8

Vanderbilt 21-8

Georgia 20-9

Tennessee 18-12

 

Das Bubble

If a team has an asterisk (*) after its name, then we feel they are on the top side of the bubble.  If a team has an “x” after its name, then we feel they are on the bottom of the bubble and need to win some big games to have any chance.

 

As of today, as many as nine bubble teams could earn a bid.

 

A C C

Virginia Tech 19-9

Clemson 19-10 *

Boston College 18-11 *

 

Clemson takes on Virginia Tech Saturday, and the winner will enter the ACC Tournament as a definite high bubble team.  We believe two of these three teams will get a bid.

 

Atlantic 10

Duquesne 18-10 x (100 RPI)

Dayton 19-11 x (81 RPI)

 

These teams have played themselves out of serious contention for an at-large bid.  If either gets hot and wins their season finale and then loses in the conference championship game, then that team could be back on the bubble.  Duquesne closes at Richmond, and a win there would mean a lot.  Dayton finishes at George Washington, which would be a quality win but not as impressive as a DU win at Richmond.

 

Big East

Marquette 18-12 *

 

Marquette may be at the top of the bubble.  The Big East Tournament will be stronger than some of the NCAA regionals, and it may only take one tournament win to get them in the field.

 

Big Ten

Michigan State 17-12

Illinois 18-12

Michigan 18-12

 

The Spartans venture to Ann Arbor to take on the Wolverines Saturday, and the winner will enter the Big Ten tournament near the top of the bubble.

 

Illinois hosts Indiana tomorrow, and this is a must-win game for the Illini.  We believe they will have to make it to the semifinal round in the conference tournament to be on the good side of the bubble.

 

Big 12

Baylor 18-11

Nebraska 19-10 x

Colorado 18-12

 

Baylor, 6-8 since starting 12-3, hosts Texas tomorrow, and the Bears must win that one and then at least two in the Big 12 Tournament.  If they lose to the Longhorns, then BU will have to win the automatic bid.

 

Nebraska plays at Colorado tomorrow.  Even if the Cornhuskers win to sweep the Buffalos, they may have to win the conference tournament to get into the NCAA Tournament.

 

Colorado is 4-8 in their last 12 after starting 14-4.  They will have to beat Nebraska and then win at least three in the conference tournament to have any chance at an at-large bid.  

 

Colonial

Drexel 20-9 x  61 RPI

Virginia Commonwealth 21-10 x  62 RPI

Hofstra 20-10 x  78 RPI

 

Conference USA

U T E P  22-8 x

Memphis 21-9 *

Southern Miss 21-8 *

 

We believe that one of these three teams will play their way into an at-large bid if they do not win the automatic bid.  

 

Horizon

Cleveland State 25-7

 

As we mentioned above, Cleveland State is on the bubble and could possibly receive an at-large bid if they upset Butler in the conference tournament semifinals but fail to win the championship.

 

Ivy League

Runner-up

 

If Harvard and Princeton both finish 12-2 in the league and face off in a playoff for the Ivy League championship, we believe the loser will still have an outside shot at receiving an at-large bid.

 

Pac-10

Washington State 19-10

The Cougars have a shot at grabbing an at-large bid if they beat UCLA to end the regular season and win a game in the conference tournament.  Two wins in the Pac-10 tourney would move them to the plus side of the bubble.

 

S E C

Alabama 19-10

 

The Crimson Tide must beat Georgia tomorrow and then get to the Final round of the SEC Tournament to have a shot at an at-large bid.

 

Visit this site after Midnight Eastern Time Friday, March 4/Saturday March 5 for an update on the conference tournaments and a preview of two more tournaments commencing on Satuday.

February 25, 2011

This Week’s Bracketological Look At The NCAA Basketball Conference Races

80 Teams Vying For 68 Spots Before Conference Upsets Upset The Apple Cart

 

As we approach the eve of the first conference tournaments, we here at the PiRate Ratings have crunched the numbers and come to a consensus on 80 total teams that are either locks to get into the Big Dance, just one or two wins away, on the bubble, or in the conversation for a possible at-large bid from a smaller conference.

 

Of course, there will be some conference tournament upsets, and with each upset, one bubble will burst.

 

Today, as we break down each category, we will focus on the bubble teams plus three special cases from smaller conferences.  Unlike other sites, we factor in what we perceive to be back-room politics into our equation.  A team like Kentucky in an off-year will still always receive preferential treatment over a team like Cleveland State or Southern Mississippi, and the committee can always reverse engineer enough data to support their decision.

 

Absolute Locks—These 25 Teams Are In The Dance

Figures shown are conference and overall record, RPI, and strength of schedule

When two teams have the same RPI, they are tied

TEAM                         Record                      RPI      SOS

Duke                           12-1/26-2                       5        33

North Carolina            11-2/21-6                     12        15

Xavier                         12-1/21-6                     24        47

Temple                        11-2/21-6                     32        79

Pittsburgh                    13-2/25-3                       6        25

Notre Dame                11-4/22-5                     10        31

Louisville                    10-5/21-7                     23        23

St. John’s                    10-5/18-9                     15          4

Syracuse                      10-6/23-6                     17        24

Georgetown                10-6/21-7                       7          2

Villanova                       9-6/21-7                     27        35

Connecticut                   8-7/20-7                     19        12

Ohio State                   13-2/26-2                       2        26

Purdue                         12-3/23-5                     23        18

Wisconsin                    11-4/21-6                     13        29

Texas                           12-1/24-4                       9        20

Kansas                         11-2/26-2                       1        13

Texas A&M                  9-4/22-5                     29        53

Missouri                        8-5/22-6                     30        68

San Diego State          12-1/27-1                       4        38

B Y U                         12-1/26-2                       3        22

Arizona                       12-3/23-5                     14        48

Florida                         11-2/22-5                     11          9

Kentucky                      7-6/19-8                     16        17

Vanderbilt                     8-5/20-7                     22        19

 

Near Locks—These 12 Teams Need One Or Two More Wins To Be In The Dance

TEAM                         Record                       RPI      SOS

Florida State               9-4/22-5                       51        100

Cincinnati                    9-6/22-6                       35          88

West Virginia              8-7/17-10                     20           3

Kansas State               7-6/19-9                       28            7

Michigan State            8-7/16-11                     37            5

Missouri State             14-3/22-7                     46        138

Wichita State              14-3/23-6                     47        108

U N L V                      9-5/21-7                       25          28

Washington                 10-5/19-8                     36          63

U C L A                      11-4/20-8                     38          50

Tennessee                    7-6/17-11                     31            1

Utah State                   12-1/25-3                     18        111

 

3 Teams That Could Get In The Conversation From A Non-Power Conference

(If they win out in the regular season and then lose in their conference tournament finals)

 

TEAM                         Record                       RPI      SOS

Belmont                      18-1/26-4                     50        237

Oakland                      16-1/21-9                     58        132

Ivy League 2nd Place

   Harvard                    9-1/20-4                       42        176

   Princeton                  8-1/20-5                       55        195

 

14 Conferences That Will Send Only Their Automatic Bid Champion

Conference                              Top Team                    Won-Loss

America East                           Vermont                        13-2/22-6                  

Big Sky                                   Montana                        12-3/20-8

Big South                                Coastal Carolina            15-2/25-4

Big West                                 Long Beach State       12-2/18-10

M A A C                                 Fairfield                        14-2/22-5

M A C                                     Kent State                     10-3/19-9

Northeast                                Long Island                   15-2/23-5

Ohio Valley                             Murray State                 13-4/22-7

Patriot                                     Bucknell                        12-1/21-8

Southern                                  College of Charleston   14-3/22-8

Southland                                McNeese State                9-4/17-9

S W A C                                 Texas Southern           13-1/15-10 

Sunbelt                                    Florida Atlantic             12-3/20-9

 

26  Teams On The Bubble (absolutely must win the big games and not be upset)

TEAM                         Record                        RPI      SOS

Virginia Tech              8-5/18-8                       63        109                                         

Clemson                      7-6/18-9                       65          84

Maryland                     7-6/18-10                     80          75

Boston College           6-7/16-11                     49          16

Miami (Fla)                 5-8/17-11                     67          46

Richmond                   10-3/21-7                     62        130

Marquette                    8-7/17-11                     51          27

Baylor                         6-7/17-10                     87          64

Nebraska                     6-7/18-9                       77          74

Colorado                     6-7/17-11                     84          81

Illinois                         7-8/17-11                     39          11

Minnesota                   6-9/17-10                     48          32

Penn State                   8-8/15-12                     53            6

Michigan                     7-9/17-12                     66          21

V C U                         12-5/21-9                     53        115

Drexel                         10-7/19-9                     60        110

U A B                         9-4/19-7                       34          52

Memphis                     9-4/21-7                       33          40

Southern Miss.            9-4/21-6                       41          99

Butler                          12-5/20-9                     45          80

Cleveland St.              12-5/23-7                     42        107

Colorado St.                8-5/18-9                       44          37

Georgia                       7-6/18-9                       40          29

Alabama                      11-2/19-8                     74        139

Gonzaga                      10-3/20-9                     64          78

St. Mary’s                   10-3/22-7                     56        121

 

As we see it, there are 51 spots basically secured at this point.  14 will go to low-major conference automatic qualifiers.  37 will go to teams that have basically already stamped their dance ticket. 

 

17 spots are still up for grabs.  The current bubble plus the three low-major teams that could earn an at-large bid totals to 29 teams.  For each conference tournament in which there is an upset champion that would not have been an at-large candidate, one more bubble will burst.

 

Conference tournament play begins next week, and we will be here to cover it in depth.  Check back daily once the first tournaments are set to begin.  We will have the schedules for all the games and relay the results.

 

This all leads up to our most read story of every year.  On the Monday following Selection Sunday, we will preview the First Four games at Dayton.  On the Wednesday prior to the first regional games, we will preview all 64 remaining teams and show you our fantastic formula for picking the real contenders while dismissing the pretenders.  Our PiRate Ratings Bracketology Formula has been very successful since it was implemented five years ago.

 

PiRate Ratings This Week

Let us look PiRate Rating Style at eight of the top teams this week.  For those of you that have not discovered our rating criteria, you can read all about it in our past college basketball stories.

 

Team Pts. Margin FG Margin Rb Margin TO Margin
Duke 19.0 8.1 3.6 3.6
Florida 9.2 3.8 6.4 0.6
Xavier 8.0 6.3 3.8 0.6
Pittsburgh 14.2 7.4 11.2 0.3
Ohio State 17.6 6.3 4.3 5.7
Kansas 12.6 12.6 7.4 1.6
S. D. State 13.8 7.8 6.8 2.3
Utah State 13.8 8.5 8.7 0.0

 

Team Stl R+T SOS Road W-L PiRate #
Duke 7.8 10.3 .5696 10-2 22
Florida 6.3 7.3 .5944 9-2 14
Xavier 5.5 4.6 .5577 8-5 8
Pittsburgh 5.0 11.6 .5798 9-2 20
Ohio State 7.7 14.8 .5786 8-2 21
Kansas 8.6 10.7 .5917 11-1 26
S. D. State 5.9 10.1 .5667 14-1 22
Utah State 4.6 9.6 .5245 9-3 14

 

Any team with a PiRate Criteria number above 20 must be considered a legitimate candidate for the Elite 8.  A score between 10 and 20 is usually good enough to make it to the Sweet 16, depending on their opposition’s score.  Xavier’s current score of 8 is really only good enough for Two and Out.  The Musketeers are not currently considered to be the Butler of 2011.

 

Florida’s score of 14 indicates the Gators could be gone after two games if they draw a tough opponent.  The SEC does not currently have a legitimate Elite 8 team and in an at-worst scenario, all teams could be gone before the Sweet 16.

 

Utah State is in the same boat with Florida.  The Aggies look good enough to contend for a deep run in the tournament, but it would require them to play pretenders.  At 14, they should be considered at best a Sweet 16 participant and possibly a Two and Out team.

 

San Diego State’s score indicates that the Aztecs are a force to be reckoned with.  If they draw a #1 or #2 seed, they could be in line for a run to the Final Four if their schedule does not find them playing a Kansas in the Elite 8.

February 18, 2011

Bracketbuster Preview and Conference Races

It’s Bracket Buster Weekend, and the folks at ESPN have an interesting slate of televised games.  Since the televised schedule for these games was released in late January, some of the teams involved have gone in the tank.  So, some of the games will not really matter.  However, there are a couple of really good games, and we believe in at least one and maybe two cases, both teams could earn at-large bids if they do not gain automatic bids.   

 

Today, we here at the PiRate Ratings will give you a preview of each televised game.  Following the preview, we will take our weekly look at each conference’s NCAA Tournament contenders and then present to you five bubble teams for comparison.

 

Last week we concentrated on the leagues that will send only their automatic bid winner to the Dance.  We reintroduced the PiRate Criteria formula, but we forgot one component.  So, here in a nutshell is the formula again.

 

1. Scoring Margin

Award 5 points for every team with a scoring margin difference of 10 or more

Award 3 points for every team with a scoring margin difference of 8.0-9.9

Award 1 point for every team with a scoring margin difference of 5.0-7.9

Award 0 points for every team with a scoring margin difference of 0-4.9

Award -3 points for every team with a negative scoring margin

 

2. Field Goal % Margin

Award 5 points for every team with a FG% margin difference of 10% or more

Award 3 points for every team with a FG% margin difference of 7.5 to 9.9

Award 1 point for every team with a FG% margin difference of 5.0-7.4

Award 0 points for every team with a FG% margin difference of 0.0-4.9

Award -3 points for every team with a FG% margin difference below 0

 

3. Rebound Margin

Award 3 points for every team with a Rebound margin difference of 5 or more

Award 1 point for every team with a Rebound margin difference of 3.0-4.9

Award 0 points for every team with a Rebound margin difference of 0-2.9

Award -2 points for every team with a Rebound margin difference below 0

 

4. Turnover Margin

Award 3 points for every team with a Turnover margin difference of 3 or more

Award 1 point for every team with a Turnover margin difference of 1.5-2.9

Award 0 points for every team with a Turnover margin difference of 0-1.4

Award -2 points for every team with a Turnover margin below 0

 

5. PiRate R+T Formula

Once again, the formula for R+T is [R + ({.2*S}*{1.2*T})], Where R is rebounding margin, S is avg. steals per game, and T is turnover margin.

If Turnover margin is 0 or negative, then change the formula a little to this: [R + ({.2*S} + {1.2*T})] 

This is done so as not to penalize a team with negative turnover margin but a lot of steals per game.

 

Award 5 points for every team with an R+T of 10 or more

Award 3 points for every team with an R+T of 7.5-9.9

Award 1 point for every team with an R+T of 5-7.4

Award 0 points for every team with an R+T of 0-4.9

*** Completely eliminate *** from consideration all teams with a negative R+T

 

6. Schedule Strength

Use this to compare when looking at team vs. team.  Take the difference in the Strength of Schedule as given by cbs.sportsline.com and multiple it by 100.  For example, Team A with an SOS of .5252 has a schedule 7 points weaker than Team B with an SOS of .5921 ([(.5921-.5252)*100]=6.69 rounds to 7).

The Average SOS for teams in the top 40 is about .5880.  When you factor in the automatic bids from teams outside of the top 40, that number is about .5500.  So, take each teams SOS rating and take 100 times the difference from .5500 as the number for this item.

 

Example: if State U has a SOS of .5743, the difference is .0243; multiply by 100, and the result is 2.43 which rounds to 2.  If Tech has a SOS of .4878, the difference is -.0622; multiple by 100, and the result is -6.22 which rounds to -6.

 

7. Record Away From Home (road + neutral)

3 points for 75%+ winning percentage

2 points for 60-74% winning percentage

1 point for 51-59% winning percentage

0 points for 50% winning percentage

-2 points for less than 50% winning percentage

 

 

Let us take a look at the Bracket Buster. 

 

Friday, Feb. 18 (all times Eastern)
7 p.m. (ESPN2) – VCU (12-4/20-8) at Wichita State (13-3/22-5)

 

Team Virginia Commonwealth Wichita State
W-L 12-4/20-8 13-3/22-5
RPI 64 48
PPG Margin 4.7 12.2
FG% Margin -1.6 6.9
Reb Margin -3.5 9.3
TO Margin 3.9 -0.8
Stl/G 9.0 5.4
R+T 6.4 9.4
SOS .5124 .5215
Road W-L 9-6 8-4
PiRate # -3 9

Big Wins: VCU—UCLA       Wichita State—Virginia

 

VCU has lost three of their last five games, putting the Rams on the bad side of the bubble.

 

Wichita State lost narrowly to Connecticut and also lost to San Diego State and Missouri State.  The Shockers are on the middle of the bubble.  Their PiRate score of 9 shows they have a legitimate chance of advancing to the Sweet 16.

 

 

9 p.m. (ESPNU)—Kent State (8-3/17-8) at Drexel (9-7/17-9)

Team Kent State Drexel
W-L 8-3/17-8 9-7/17-9
RPI 94 81
PPG Margin 4.8 4.2
FG% Margin 2.9 1.6
Reb Margin 0.5 9.4
TO Margin 1.1 -1.8
Stl/G 8.1 4.0
R+T 2.6 8.0
SOS .4957 .5105
Road W-L 6-7 7-7
PiRate # -7 0

 

Big Wins: Kent—None          Drexel—Louisville, Old Dominion

 

Kent State’s best win was over #109 Iona.  We do not see any at-large bids going to team that have no top 100 wins.  Losses to Florida, UAB, and Cleveland State will not be good enough, and a road win in this game will do little to help.  Kent State must gain an automatic bid.  Their PiRate score of -7 puts them squarely within the parameters of the lesser post-season tournaments (NIT, College Insider Tournament {CIT}, or College Basketball Invitational {CBI}) .

 

Drexel is on the outside of the bubble, but they can work their way into the low rung by winning out.  The Dragons lost to Syracuse and George Mason.  Drexel shoots a poor 31.1% from behind the arc, but opponents shoot only 28%.  As you may know, we do not factor three-point percentage in the PiRate formula, as it has shown no positive relationship to advancing deep into the NCAA Tournament.

 
Saturday, Feb. 19
11 a.m. (ESPNU)—Hofstra (12-4/18-9) at Wright State (10-7/17-12) 

Team Hofstra Wright State
W-L 12-4/18-9 10-7/17-12
RPI 87 115
PPG Margin 1.2 2.7
FG% Margin 0.6 -3.0
Reb Margin -4.7 -3.8
TO Margin 2.2 3.9
Stl/G 6.7 6.3
R+T -1.2 [ELIMINATE] 2.1
SOS .5134 .5173
Road W-L 9-6 5-10
PiRate # -4 ELIMINATE -8

 

Big Wins: Hofstra—Drexel, George Mason               Wright State—Oakland, Butler

 

Hofstra has a negative R+T rating, so they would be considered easy first-round cannon fodder in the NCAA Tournament.  Of course, the PiRate Rating does not apply to regular season games, so they could easily beat Wright State tomorrow.

 

Wright State is not under consideration for an at-large bid, so this game is a dud.  It may be interesting, but both will have to win an automatic bid to get into the Dance.

 

1 p.m. (ESPNU)—Austin Peay (11-5/17-11) at Fairfield (14-2/21-5) 

Team Austin Peay Fairfield
W-L 11-5/17-11 14-2/21-5
RPI 132 101
PPG Margin 7.6 7.8
FG% Margin 3.6 4.2
Reb Margin 0.1 3.5
TO Margin 3.7 1.5
Stl/G 8.9 7.3
R+T 8.0 6.1
SOS .4821 .4465
Road W-L 9-8 11-3
PiRate # 1 -3

 

Big Wins: APSU—Morehead State               Fairfield—Vermont

 

Austin Peay was cruising at the first of conference play, but they have split their last 10 games.  They have no chance at garnering an at-large invitation, but they have a positive PiRate number.  Should they win the automatic bid, they could make their first round game very interesting.

 

Fairfield started 1-3 and has gone 20-2 since.  Their schedule is one of the weakest in the nation, and their gaudy numbers must be severely discounted.  The Stags are overwhelming favorites to win the MAAC Tournament and gain the automatic bid, but should they end up in the NIT, they have a chance to get to MSG.

 

3 p.m. (ESPNU)—Iona (11-5/17-10) at Liberty (13-3/19-9) 

Team Iona Liberty
W-L 11-5/17-10 13-3/19-9
RPI 112 131
PPG Margin 8.7 3.7
FG% Margin 2.5 0.4
Reb Margin 0.6 6.8
TO Margin 3.0 -0.9
Stl/G 7.5 7.0
R+T 6.0 7.1
SOS .4938 .4685
Road W-L 9-8 7-7
PiRate # 2 -6

 

Big Wins: Iona—Richmond               Liberty—None

 

Here are two more teams going nowhere unless they earn automatic bids.  Iona lost by six to Syracuse, so if the Gaels upset Fairfield to win the MAAC automatic bid, with their positive PiRate number, they could cause trouble for a higher-seeded opponent.

 

Liberty’s best win came against #170 UNC-Asheville.  They lost to Notre Dame by 21 and to George Mason by 30.  They will not be on the NIT’s radar if they fail to win the Big South’s automatic bid.

 

5 p.m. (ESPN2)—Missouri State (13-3/21-6) at Valparaiso (11-4/19-8)

Team Missouri State Valparaiso
W-L 13-3/21-6 11-4/19-8
RPI 49 54
PPG Margin 7.9 6.5
FG% Margin 2.5 6.3
Reb Margin 3.3 0.8
TO Margin 0.5 1.4
Stl/G 4.7 8.3
R+T 3.9 3.6
SOS .5121 .5308
Road W-L 7-5 9-6
PiRate # -1 2

 

Big Wins: MSU—Northern Iowa, Wichita State       Valpo—Oakland, Cleveland State, and Butler

 

This will be an interesting game.  Both teams are squarely on the bubble, and the winner should move up enough to be considered on the good side of the bubble. 

 

Missouri State plays smart basketball.  Their two best shooters take 23% of their shots.  A relatively low R+T rating and lower than average SOS give them a negative PiRate Rating.  Their only chance to advance to the weekend in the NCAA Tournament is a first round game with an opponent with a negative R+T rating.

 

Valparaiso goes nine-deep, and seven of the nine are competent rebounders.  They could scare a higher-seeded team in the opening round and possibly have a chance at an upset.  However, they don’t have a good enough rating to advance to the Sweet 16.  They still have work to do before they are guaranteed an at-large bid.

 

5 p.m. (ESPNU)—Vermont (13-2/22-5) at Charleston (12-2/19-7) 

Team Vermont College of Charleston
W-L 13-2/22-5 13-2/20-7
RPI 74 77
PPG Margin 7.6 7.8
FG% Margin 6.8 3.6
Reb Margin 6.2 -0.4
TO Margin 0.9 0.9
Stl/G 5.4 6.4
R+T 7.4 1.0
SOS .4693 .4885
Road W-L 10-4 10-6
PiRate # 0 -5

 

Big Wins: Vermont—Iona                  C of C—Coastal Carolina, Tennessee

 

This is the best Vermont team since the Catamounts upset Syracuse in the opening round of the 2005 tourney.  Still, with a PiRate rating of 0, they would have to face a higher-seeded team with a negative R+T Rating to have a shot at an upset this year.  Additionally, they are far back on the bubble and will most likely need to earn the automatic bid to get there.

 

College of Charleston is much in the same boat as Vermont, but whereas the Catamounts are the prohibitive favorite to secure the America East’s automatic bid, C of C is not even a small favorite to win the Southern Conference’s bid because North Division co-leader Chattanooga is hosting the SoCon Tournament.

 

7 p.m. (ESPN2)—George Mason (14-2/22-5) at Northern Iowa (10-6/19-9)

Team George Mason Northern Iowa
W-L 14-2/22-5 10-6/19-9
RPI 20 79
PPG Margin 13.0 4.0
FG% Margin 7.7 -1.2
Reb Margin 3.0 -0.3
TO Margin 2.6 2.3
Stl/G 6.9 4.8
R+T 7.3 2.3
SOS .5470 .5146
Road W-L 9-5 7-7
PiRate # 13 -8

 

Big Wins: GMU—Harvard, Duquesne, Drexel, James Madison, Hofstra, Old Dominion, and Virginia Commonwealth                                   Northern Iowa—New Mexico, Wichita State, and Missouri State

 

Could George Mason do it again?  The Patriots made a surprise run to the 2006 Final Four by upsetting Michigan State, North Carolina, Wichita State, and Connecticut.  This year’s team could be better than that team.  With a 13 PiRate Rating, they have the numbers to get to the Sweet 16 and have a shot at the Elite Eight, and even another Final Four possibility.

 

Northern Iowa is not the team they were a year ago when they upset Kansas in the NCAA Tournament.  This team is likely not to earn an at-large bid and will be third choice at best to win the Missouri Valley Tournament in St. Louis.

 

9 p.m. (ESPN2)—Utah State (12-1/24-3) at Saint Mary’s (10-2/22-5)

Team Utah State Saint Mary’s
W-L 12-1/24-3 10-2/22-5
RPI 25 39
PPG Margin 13.9 15.3
FG% Margin 8.4 6.2
Reb Margin 8.9 5.6
TO Margin 2.0 2.2
Stl/G 4.5 7.0
R+T 11.1 9.3
SOS .5075 .5086
Road W-L 8-3 9-5
PiRate # 15 11

 

Big Wins: USU—Long Beach State              SMU—St. John’s, Long Beach State, and Gonzaga.

 

If you only plan on watching one Bracketbuster game, this is the one to watch.  Both teams are above the bubble; they are both close to lock status.  This game will be all about seeding.  The winner should find themselves a favorite in the opening round of the Big Dance.

 

Utah State lost at BYU by six and lost at Georgetown.  They don’t really have a big signature win this year, and this game gives them that opportunity.  The Aggies have balanced scoring with seven different players capable of leading the way.  Their 15 PiRate Rating indicate they are a strong contender for the Sweet 16 and even beyond.

 

Saint Mary’s was not too far from doing what Butler did last year.  This team was not supposed to be nearly as good as that one, but the Gaels find themselves in control in the WCC.  They rarely have an off-night shooting, and they can light up the scoreboard.    Their 11 PiRate Rating gives them a shot at returning to the Sweet 16.

 

11 p.m. (ESPN2)—Montana (11-3/19-7) at Long Beach State (11-2/16-10)

Team Montana Long Beach State
W-L 11-3/19-7 11-2/16-10
RPI 109 100
PPG Margin 8.5 9.0
FG% Margin 7.9 0.4
Reb Margin 2.3 2.9
TO Margin 1.1 -1.6
Stl/G 6.7 6.1
R+T 4.1 2.2
SOS .4635 .5109
Road W-L 6-6 8-8
PiRate # -3 -3

 

Big Wins: Montana—UCLA              LBSU—None

 

This is another game where neither team has any chance of earning an at-large bid, while both teams are the favorites to win their respective league’s post-season tournament and automatic bid.

 

Montana has come from behind to race past Northern Colorado and Weber State to take command in the Big Sky Conference race.  Their schedule is exceptionally weak.  Ten of the Grizzlies’ wins have come against teams ranked #250 or worse in the RPI.

 

Long Beach State has five double figure scorers.  Five of their 10 losses came to teams that could be in the Big Dance (San Diego State, Washington, Utah State, North Carolina, and Saint Mary’s).  With a negative PiRate Rating, their only shot at playing two games in the NCAA Tournament would be to face an opening round opponent with a negative R+T Rating.

 

Sunday, Feb. 20
1 p.m. (ESPN2)—Cleveland State (12-4/23-5) at Old Dominion (12-4/21-6)

 

Team Cleveland State Old Dominion
W-L 12-4/23-5 12-4/21-6
RPI 34 31
PPG Margin 9.3 6.7
FG% Margin 3.4 2.4
Reb Margin 0.9 11.1
TO Margin 2.7 -0.7
Stl/G 7.5 7.0
R+T 5.8 11.7
SOS .5165 .5460
Road W-L 9-4 9-4
PiRate # 4 9

 

Big Wins: CSU—Kent State, Valparaiso                   ODU—Clemson, Xavier, Richmond, Dayton, George Mason, Hofstra, James Madison, and VCU

 

Here we have two teams that appear to be in great shape for an at-large bid should they fail to win the automatic bid from their conference.

 

You will want to watch this Sunday game, because Cleveland State plays a pressure-type game similar to Marquette when Al McGuire was head coach.  The Vikings’ star is Norris Cole, who can shoot, drive, pass, and play defense better than most others.

 

Old Dominion has played the equivalent schedule of a major conference team.  Short of a major collapse, the Monarchs are close to a lock for an at-large bid.  Their only liability is weak outside shooting.  However, they are among the best rebounding teams in the nation, and they don’t allow many open shots.  Expect a low-scoring, but high-action game.

 

The Who’s In Game

 

America East:  (1)—The conference tournament champion will get the lone bid.  Vermont is too far down the list to steal an at-large bid from a major conference.  However, the Catamounts should win this automatic bid.

BUBBLE—None

 

Atlantic 10: (2 or 3)—Xavier and Temple should get bids, and if another team wins the league tournament, three invitations could be extended. 

BUBBLE—Dayton and Richmond

 

Atlantic Coast: (3-6)—Duke and North Carolina are sure things, but after that there is a logjam.  At least one other ACC team will get a bid, and Boston College is the leader of the pack.  For this week’s story, we will consider the Eagles in and not on the bubble.

BUBBLE—Florida State, Virginia Tech, and Miami

 

Atlantic Sun: (1)—There is a remote possibility that Belmont could enter the conversation for an at-large bid should the Bruins win out but come up a game short in the conference tournament, but for now, we believe only one team will represent the A-Sun.  If Belmont does not win the automatic bid, it will be a major upset.

BUBBLE—None

 

Big 12: (5-7)—The top two teams have been dominating, while the rest of the pack has been beating each other up.  Kansas, Texas, and Texas A&M are locks, while Missouri and Kansas State are in good shape.

BUBBLE—Oklahoma State and Baylor

 

Big East: (9-11)—The Big East Conference Tournament at Madison Square Garden could actually be more potent than one or two of the NCAA Regionals.  At least nine teams must be considered realistic contenders for a Final Four spot.  Those nine shoo-ins for a bid are: Georgetown, Pittsburgh, Notre Dame, Connecticut, St. John’s, Syracuse, Villanova, West Virginia, and Louisville. 

BUBBLE—Cincinnati and Marquette

 

Big Sky: (1)—There is no chance for an at-large invitation from this conference.  Montana is the top team in the league, but the Grizzlies are not strong favorites.

 

Big South: (1)—Coastal Carolina is a bit too far back in the RPI ratings to move onto the bubble, but the Chanticleers are overwhelming favorites to win the automatic bid.

 

Big Ten: (4-8)—The second most powerful conference to the Big East, this conference could land as many as eight teams in the NCAA Tournament.  Ohio State, Purdue, Wisconsin, and Illinois are in as of today.  The four bubble teams’ schedules are among the strongest of all bubble teams.

BUBBLE—Minnesota, Michigan State, Penn State, and Michigan

 

 Big West: (1)—Long Beach State is too far back to make up enough ground; their bubble will burst if the 49ers do not win the conference tournament in nearby Anaheim.

 

Colonial: (2 or 3)—George Mason and Old Dominion are both near-locks, and we have them in the field.  If another team pulls off the upset in the conference tournament, this league will have three representatives.  Virginia Commonwealth has a chance to move onto the bubble, especially if they win at Wichita State tonight.

 

Conference USA: (2-5)—UAB and Memphis have earned a spot in the Dance if they continue to play at their same pace.  Three other teams are on the bubble with legitimate shots at playing their way into the at-large group.

BUBBLE—Southern Mississippi, UTEP, and Marshall

 

Horizon: (1-3)—We are rather confident that at least two teams will earn bids from the Horizon League, but we have two of them listed as bubble teams for now.  Cleveland State is ranked high enough to be ahead of the bubble for now.

BUBBLE—Butler and Valparaiso

 

IVY: (1 or 2)The Ivy League has never sent two teams to the NCAA Tournament, but there is a very outside chance that it could happen this year.  There is no conference tournament, so the regular season champion gets the automatic bid.  Princeton (9-0) leads Harvard (9-1) and Yale (5-3).  The Tigers play at Yale and Brown, while Harvard plays at Cornell and Columbia this weekend.  Yale hosts Penn tomorrow night after facing Princeton tonight.  The number two team needs to be at least 11-3 to be a serious contender for an at-large bid.

BUBBLE—Harvard/Princeton whichever finishes second

 

MAAC:(1)—Fairfield is not in contention for an at-large bid, so the Stags will have to win the conference tournament to get into the Dance.

 

MAC: (1)—This once proud conference has joined the field of also-rans.  No MAC team ranks in the top 90 in the RPI ratings.  Miami (Ohio), Kent State, and Buffalo are the top three contenders for the automatic bid.

 

MEAC: (1)—Morgan State is not a sure thing this year, not even the top favorite.  Hampton is playing well enough to avoid a First Four game.

 

Missouri Valley: (1 or 2)—The MVC is a tad bit down this season.  The conference tournament champion could be the only team to emerge with a bid, if it is the regular season champion and if the numbers two and three teams lose before reaching the championship round.  Wichita State appears to be the favorite for now, but that could change.

BUBBLE—Missouri State and Northern Iowa

 

Mountain West: (3-5)—Not only could the MWC earn five bids, two teams could be number one or two seeds!  BYU and San Diego State have proven themselves this season.  They are currently number two and three respectively in the RPI Ratings.  UNLV is maybe the lowest-ranked team in the near-lock range.  The bubble aligns just behind the Rebels.

BUBBLE—Colorado State and New Mexico

 

Northeast: (1)—Long Island is ranked #98 in the RPI, but that is too low to qualify for bubble status.  The Blackbirds will only go dancing if they win the conference tournament.

 

Ohio Valley: (1)—Murray State and Morehead State are tied at 12-4.  Morehead has won eight games in a row, including an impressive win at rival Eastern Kentucky.  The Eagles’ big man, Kenneth Faried, averages 17.5 points and 14.3 rebounds per game.

 

Pac-10: (2-4)—Arizona is the only sure thing, but for this week’s list, we will include UCLA as well.  This league still has a long way to go to regain its lost prestige.

BUBBLE—Washington and Washington State

 

Patriot: (1)—Bucknell is the favorite over American, but it is not by much. 

 

Southeastern: (4-6)—There is no dominant team in the SEC this year, and the conference tournament should be almost as entertaining as the Big East Tournament.  Florida, Vanderbilt, Kentucky, and Tennessee are in.  One or two more could work their way in.

BUBBLE—Georgia, Alabama, and Ole Miss

 

Southern: (1)—There is no Stephen Curry-led Davidson teams in the league this year.  Chattanooga must be considered the slight favorite, because the Mocs host the SoCon Tournament.  Western Carolina, College of Charleston, Wofford, and Furman are the top contenders.

 

Southland: (1)—This is the most open race for the lone automatic bid.  The SLC sends the top eight teams to its conference tournament, and there is not much difference in the top eight.  Draw one out of a hat.

 

SWAC: (1)—This league has become a regular in the play-in round, and with it now expanded to the First Four, you can expect to see the SWAC representative in Dayton again this season.  Texas Southern and Jackson State are the only two teams with won-loss records above .500.

 

Summit: (1)—Oakland is the highest-rated team not on our bubble.  At #73, we just do not believe the Golden Grizzlies can lose another game and have a shot at an at-large bid.

 

Sunbelt: (1)—Florida Atlantic represents the SBC’s only chance to avoid a #15 or #16 seed.  This league is suffering through an off year.

 

West Coast: (1 or 2)—Saint Mary’s is a lock for an at-large bid.  If they should happen to lose in the WCC Tournament, this league will send two teams. 

BUBBLE—Gonzaga

 

WAC: (1 or 2)—Utah State is in the same boat as Saint Mary’s, but it will be a much bigger upset if the Aggies do not waltz through their conference tournament and earn the automatic bid.

 

According to our math, we have 57 spots going to automatic bids and locks for at-large bids.  That leaves 11 spots for upset conference tournament winners and the bubble.

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