The Pi-Rate Ratings

March 1, 2021

PiRate Ratings Conference Tournament Preview

Some conference tournaments are already in progress, but no multi-bid conference tournaments have tipped off yet.  In the past, we tried to show you where to watch the conference tournaments, but it is quite easy to find that information on the Internet.  Starting this season, we will tell you the things you won’t easily find until the tournaments actually commence.  This year, not all conferences are holding their usual formats.  Some leagues are going with fewer teams and fewer days.  

We will tell you when and where each tournament will be played along with a bracket if the tournament is set.  Then, we will tell you the better “Bracketnomics” data.  We will explain our 2021 Bracketnomics criteria just before the NCAA Tournament begins play in a couple weeks. So without further adieu, let’s start the previews.

American Athletic Conference

Dates: March 11-14

Site: Fort Worth, TX

Teams participating: 11 in a regular format where 6 plays 11, 7 plays 10, and 8 plays 9 in the first round and then the three winners play the top 3 seeds in the quarterfinals (3 vs. 6 or 11, 2 vs. 7 or 10, and 1 vs. 8 or 9).

Houston is the only team guaranteed a spot in the field, but Wichita St. has been moving up on the better side of the Bubble in recent weeks.  Memphis is making a late charge to get into consideration, but the Tigers don’t have enough games to impress the Selection Committee.

Favorable Bracketnomics: Houston has  many of the basic data needed to advance to the Elite 8.  Their schedule is a tad weak, so calling the Cougars a Final Four contender is a bit hard.  Maybe their schedule strength will improve enough if they can beat Wichita St. in the AAC Tournament and then beat a couple of tough teams in the Big Dance.

Atlantic Coast Conference

Dates: March 9-13

Site: Greensboro, NC

Teams participating: All 15 in a regular format with teams 10-15 playing in the opening round (10-15, 11-14, 12-13), and teams 5 through 9 plus the three winners in round one playing in the second round, while teams 1-4 receive double byes.

A four game winning streak has moved Georgia Tech up onto the good side of the Bubble, while a tough overtime loss to Louisville, has moved Duke down into a situation Mike Krzyzewski has not dealt with before–looking at the Dance from outside the ballroom window.  A late surge by North Carolina St. has given Kevin Keatts’ Wolf Pack a puncher’s chance if they can win their final three games against beatable opposition.

Favorable Bracketnomics: Believe it or not, but as of today, no ACC teams have bracketnomic criteria tailor-made to advance to the Final  4.  Florida St. has a great offense but not great defense.  Virginia is very good offensively and good defensively but not exactly good enough at either.  Virginia Tech looks like a team that will not get to the Sweet 16.  Louisville and Clemson lack the offensive firepower.  North Carolina’s offense is better than UL and CU, but not Final 4 worthy.  Duke isn’t playing defense this year.

America East Conference

Dates: February 27 – March 13

Site: Higher Seed for remainder of tournament

Teams participating: There are 4 teams left.  UMass Lowell has eliminated Stony Brook and New Hampshire to advance to the semifinals as the #7 seed.  They now face #1 seed UMBC in Baltimore this Saturday.  On the other side of the bracket, #4-seed Hartford topped Binghamton and Albany and will venture to Vermont on Saturday.

Favorable Bracketnomics: Vermont has much better credentials than UMBC, but the Catamounts are not talented enough to make it to the Sweet 16.  One win would still be remarkable.

Atlantic 10 Conference

Dates: March 3-6, 14

Site: Richmond, VA with championship game in Dayton, OH

Teams participating: All 14 teams will play in a regularly-seeded tournament with the 11 & 14 and 12 & 13 seeds playing in the first round, and seeds 5-10 plus the two first round winners playing in the second round, while seeds 1-4 receive double byes.

Both Richmond and VCU will be hosting the early rounds, and each will play on the other’s home court.  Because there are games tonight just 48 hours before the A-10 Tourney tips off, the brackets are still not set.  

Favorable Bracketnomics: St. Bonaventure, Richmond,  and Saint Louis have stats typical of teams that can win an opening round and possible second game.  Schedule strength is weak for both teams, but this is a weird year with Covid, so schedule strength may be out of whack until the Sweet 16.

Atlantic Sun Conference

Dates: March 3-7

Site: Jacksonville (at North Florida and Jacksonville)

Teams participating: 9 in a regular seeding with #8 & 9 playing to get to the quarterfinals.  Bellarmine, not eligible for the NCAA Tournament as a first-year Division 1 team, is eligible for the A-Sun Tournament, and they might be considered the co-favorite with Liberty.  LU has about a 90% chance of getting the league’s automatic bid.

Favorable Bracketnomics:  None this year.  This is not a strong enough Liberty team to compete for an opening round upset.  Bellarmine might have had a slightly better chance had they been eligible.

Big 12 Conference

Dates: March 10-13

Site: Kansas City

Teams participating: 10 in a regular format with teams 7-10 playing in the first round and teams 1-6 receiving byes to the semifinals.

Favorable Bracketnomics: First, and most importantly, Baylor does not have a grand resume of bracketnomically-favorable data.  The Bears give up points in the paint too easily, and their long layoff has removed a lot of the polish from this team.  Unless something changes between today and Selection Sunday, we will be looking at other teams that can knock out BU as early as the Round of 32 or Sweet 16.

West Virginia, Texas Tech, and Texas have resumes that shout Sweet 16 with a chance to make it to the Elite 8 and even sneak into the Final 4, but none of the three have championship resumes as of today.  Oklahoma and Oklahoma St. are a tad weaker in criteria.

As for Kansas, watch out!  The Jayhawks’ offense is inconsistent.  If the wrong offense shows up, the Jayhawks could be upset early in the tournament.  The win over Baylor shows the nation that this team has talent enough to beat anybody at the Phog, but away from home like in the blowout loss to Tennessee, KU may be more chalk than rock.

Big East

Dates: March 10-13

Site: New York City (Madison Square Garden)

Teams participating: 11 teams in a regular format where 6 plays 11, 7 plays 10, and 8 plays 9 in the first round and then the three winners play the top 3 seeds in the quarterfinals (3 vs. 6 or 11, 2 vs. 7 or 10, and 1 vs. 8 or 9).

Villanova, Creighton, and Seton Hall have seen their best games appear farther and farther away from the present.  UConn is looking better and better as each week passes.  Xavier is on the Bubble and may have a chance to earn a spot in the Dance after other bubblers have lost recently.

Favorable Bracketnomics: Villanova’s offense is stellar, but they play matador defense a bit too much.  Rarely does a team with their defensive efficiency make it to the Final 4, and it is less than 50-50 that playing the same way will get the Wildcats past the Sweet 16.

Creighton doesn’t have enough muscle inside to advance past the Sweet 16.  They give up too many easy inside baskets and cannot rebound well enough to compete against power opposition like what is played in the Big Ten and Big 12.

UConn doesn’t have a terrific resume either, but the Huskies can score cheap baskets in low possession games.

Big Sky Conference

Dates: March 10-13

Site: Boise, ID

Teams participating: 11 teams in a regular bracket with teams 1-5 receiving byes to the quarterfinals and teams 6-11 playing in an opening round.

Eastern Washington, Southern Utah, and Weber St. have been dominating the rest of the league in the last five weeks.  One of these three should win the automatic bid in Boise.  None of the three have enough defensive mite to win a game in the Big Dance.

Favorable Bracketnomics: None

Big South Conference

Dates: February 27-March 7

Sites: Higher seed home courts

Teams participating: This tournament has already begun, and they are down to 8.  The top 8 seeds remain with Hampton and High Point winning opening round games.  Top seed Winthrop is a prohibitive favorite.  4-seed UNC-Asheville is the team that beat Winthrop this year, but we don’t see a semifinal repeat if the two meet.

Favorable Bracketnomics: Winthrop could be a 13-seed in the NCAA Tournament, but their criteria is hard to judge  as their only quality wins came against UNC-Greensboro and Furman, neither of which can be confused for Virginia or Florida.  The Eagles could actually be an easy win for a 4-seed opponent.

Big Ten Conference

Dates: March 10-14

Site: Indianapolis

Teams participating: 14 in a regular format with #11 & #14 and #12 & #13 playing in the opening round, seeds 5-10 plus the two opening round winners playing in the second round, and then the top 4 seeds receiving double byes.

Michigan, Illinois, Iowa, Purdue, Ohio St., Wisconsin, and Maryland have made it to the safe status for the Big Dance.  Rutgers is close to earning its way in.  Indiana and Minnesota have fallen off the dance floor; both could be looking for new coaches in March.  Michigan St. has work to do to get in after falling to Maryland yesterday.

Favorable Bracketnomics: Michigan has a close to perfect resume as of today.  If the tournament began today, the Wolverines would be our favorite to win the National Championship.  In fact, looking at their data, it resembles that of past champions like North Carolina, Duke, and UCLA.

Illinois also has a Final 4 worthy resume as of today.  Purdue and Maryland have resumes that look like potential Elite 8 teams.  On the other hand, Iowa, Ohio St., and Wisconsin have chinks in their armors and are upset prone prior to the Elite 8 as of today.

Big West Conference

Dates: March 9-13

Site: Las Vegas

Teams participating: 10 in a regular format with #7 & 10 and #8 & 9 playing in the opening round, while teams 1-6 receive byes in one of 5 tournaments to be held in Vegas.

In the past, this has been the UC-Irvine Invitational, but this tournament is open for new championship blood this year.  UCSB was cruising along with a long winning streak until UC-Riverside broke it with a win Saturday after almost doing the trick the night before.  UC-Davis is the hot team at this point, but the Aggies lost almost as many games to Covid as they played.

Favorable Bracketnomics: UCSB actually has decent enough data to contend for a first round upset bid against the right #2 or #3 seed.

Colonial Athletic Association

Dates: March 6-9

Site: Harrisonburg, VA (James Madison)

Teams participating: 10 in a regular format.  This tournament is now set.  In round 1, #7 William & Mary faces #10 UNC-Wilmington, and #8 Elon faces #9 Towson.  The 7-10 winner will play #2 Northeastern and the 8-9 winner will play top-seed and host James Madison in the quarterfinals.

Favorable Bracketnomics: #6 Drexel is our dark horse to sneak into the CAA Finals against JMU, but nobody has a worthy set of statistical data to win a game in the Big Dance.

Conference USA

Dates: March 10-13

Site: Frisco, TX (Cowboys’ practice field with two adjacent gyms)

Teams participating: 14 divided into two divisions.  The opening round will see seeds 6 & 7 from the same divisions playing each other.  The winners will play the #3 seeds from the opposite divisions.  4 N will play 5 S with the winner playing 1 S, and 4 S will play 5 N with the winner playing 1 N.  2 S will play 3 N and 2 N will play 3 S.

This is a wide open tournament.  In the North Division, Western Kentucky and Old Dominion are 1 & 2 with back to back games still to be played at Western.  Louisiana Tech, North Texas, and UAB are alive for the top South Division seed.  Marshall is #3 in the North, but the Thundering Herd are a force to be reckoned with and could sneak into the CUSA Championship Game.

Favorable Bracketnomics: North Texas and La. Tech have talented defenses.  Marshall has a fantastic offense.  Western Kentucky is solid but not spectacular on both sides of the court.  The league champion could foreseeably win one game in the Big Dance, but this isn’t a Sweet 16 year for this league.

Horizon League

Dates: February 25-March 9

Sites: Quarterfinals at Higher Seeds Then Indianapolis

Teams Participating: This tournament began last Thursday with Detroit beating Robert Morris, Youngstown St. beating Illinois-Chicago, Purdue Fort Wayne beating Green Bay, and Milwaukee beating IUPUI. 

The quarterfinals commence tomorrow with #1 Cleveland St. hosting Purdue Fort Wayne. #2 Wright St. hosting Milwaukee, #3 Oakland hosting Youngstown St., and #4 Northern Kentucky hosting Detroit.

Favorable Bracketnomics: Wright St. has the clear-cut best potential data for the NCAA Tournament, but the Raiders will not get an at-large bid if they don’t win the Horizon Tournament.  Cleveland St. and Detroit have just enough talent to upset the Raiders in this tournament, but neither has the criteria to make any damage in the Big Dance.  Wright St. just barely qualifies as a potential first round upset winner.

Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference

Dates: March 8-13

Site: Atlantic City, NJ

Teams participating: 11 teams in a regular seeding with the top 5 seeds receiving byes and teams 6-11 playing in an opening round.

Siena, Iona, and Monmouth have been pacing this race for most of the year, but there is no clear-cut favorite in this tournament.  Rick Pitino’s Iona Gaels might have the best chance of pulling off a first round upset in the Big Dance, but the MAAC is not likely to produce a winner in the Round of 64.

Favorable Bracketnomics: None

Mid-American Conference

Dates: March 11-13

Site: Cleveland

Teams participating: The top 8 in a regular seed format.

Toledo, Akron, Kent St., Buffalo, Ohio, Bowling Green, Miami (O), and Ball St. will be the 8 teams getting into the tournament, and probably 6 of the 8 could win this tournament.

Favorable Bracketnomics: Toledo has a potent offense, but their defense isn’t quite tournament tough.  The Rockets might be a 12-seed and no worse than a 13-seed, and they would be a scary first round opponent for a 4 or 5.

Buffalo can get the ball up the court and score quickly, and their defense is better overall than Toledo.  The Bulls are not as potent overall, but if they were to get in as a probable 13 or 14 seed, they could give the favored opponent a good game in the Round of 64.

Mideastern Athletic Conference

Dates: March 7-13

Site: Norfolk, VA (round 1 at higher seed)

Teams participating: The MEAC Tournament has been modified with three teams not playing due to Covid opt-outs.  The MEAC split into North and South Divisions to minimize travel, and the tournament will keep the divisional seeding.  The first round game, to be played at the higher-seed’s home court will pit the #4 South seed playing the #3 South seed.  In the quarterfinals, 3N plays 2S, and 1N plays the winner of the first round game.  In the semifinals, 1 N plays the winner of the 3N/2S game, while 1S plays the winner of the other quarterfinal (2N, 3S, or 4N).

While North Carolina A&T has had the best overall record all year, Norfolk St. is the host team for this tournament, and the Spartans will be the team to beat.  Morgan St. may be the best overall team, but unless the Bears can move up to the North 1-seed, they will have to win an extra game that the top two seeds won’t in order to get the automatic bid.

Favorable Bracketnomics: There is no such thing as a favorable bracketnomic for this conference, as the best this league can hope for is an avoidance of the dreaded 16-seed play-in game.  Norfolk St. and Morgan St., in theory, have slim chances to avoid the bottom four seeds and become a regular 16-seed or even 15-seed, if they win out in the regular season and take the automatic bid at the conference tournament.  They would then need help from other low-major conferences with tournament winners from back in the pack.

Missouri Valley Conference

Dates: March 4-7

Site: Saint Louis (Arch Madness)

Teams participating: 10 in a regular format with 7 & 10 and 8 & 9 playing in the first round, while the top 6 receive byes to the quarterfinals.

This is an important tournament.  The Valley currently has two teams that look like near safe locks to get into the Big Dance.  Loyola of Chicago and Drake both have the needed resumes to receive at-large bids.  In recent years, a regular season also-ran has pulled off the upset in Saint Louis, and if one of the co-favorites fails to make the Championship Game, while an also-ran wins the automatic bid, that upset loser will be in jeopardy of missing out on getting into the field.

3-seed Missouri St. looks like the team with the best chance to sneak into the finals, but the Bears would have to beat a 24-3 Drake team to do it.  If you are looking for a surprise team, then take a gander at 8-seed Bradley.  The Braves would have to win four games in four days to pull off the trick, and it would include a quarterfinal upset of Loyola.

Favorable Bracketnomics: Loyola has the most efficient defense in college basketball this year, and their offense is strong but not strong enough to be considered a real contender for the Final 4.  However, their criteria at the moment is better than the criteria of their actual Final 4 surprise team of a few years back.

That said, Drake has a much better offense than Loyola, while their defense is a tad suspect.  The Bulldogs don’t look like a Final 4 team either, but in the early rounds, the strong offense tends to top a team with a strong defense, if the weak defense matches up against a weak offense.

Mountain West Conference

Dates: March 10-13

Site: Las Vegas

Teams participating: 11 teams in a standard format with the top five seeds receiving first round byes, while the 6-11 seeds play (6-11, 7-10, 8-9)

Brian Dutcher deserves some national coach of the year votes this year, after losing the best players off last year’s team and then after starting slowly, coming on strong with a 10-game winning streak that propelled the Aztecs from middle of the pack to the top of the MWC.  SDSU will be a tough out in the NCAA Tournament.

How many teams get in the Big Dance from this league is a mystery.  Colorado St. and Boise St. are deserving.  On paper, Utah St. looks to be a tad better overall than CSU and BSU, but their overall resume isn’t as impressive.  The Aggies have work to do in this tournament in order to impress the Selection Committee, and at a minimum, USU may need to make it to the Championship Game and definitely must win its final two regular season games.

Favorable Bracketnomics: All four of the top teams have the bracketnomic criteria to advance to the Sweet 16 under the right circumstances, but none of the four have strong enough offenses to advance past that round.  Additionally, SDSU, CSU, and BSU lack the inside muscle to win against power conference teams that get to the Sweet 16.  Utah St. actually has the best Bracketnomic resume today, and they may not even get an invitation.

Northeast Conference

Dates: March 6 & 9

Sites: Higher seed

Teams participating: just the top 4 this year.  The NEC greatly truncated their conference tournament, limiting it to the top four seeds.  Bryant had clinched a top 2 seed and home game in the semifinals, but the Bulldogs’ season is now in jeopardy after positive Covid tests.  Wagner, Mount St. Mary’s, and Sacred Heart have clinched spots in the tournament, so the league must now make a determination on whether its best team can participate.

Favorable Bracketnomics: While no team comes close to having the right stuff to advance in the Dance, Bryant’s fast pace could have made an opening round game interesting and given the Bulldogs the favorite status if forced to play in the 16-seed play-in game.  Without Bryant, the automatic qualified can almost be guaranteed a spot in that play-in game as the underdog.

Ohio Valley Conference

Dates: March 3-6

Site: Evansville, IN

Teams participating: The top 8 only in a standard format with 1-8, 4-5, 3-6, and 2-7 in the quarterfinals.

Belmont looked like the sure winner and possible #12 seed in the Field of 68 until closing with a lost weekend in the Kentucky mountains, as top contenders Eastern Kentucky and Morehead St. trounced the Bruins.

For years, this tournament was held in Nashville, where the hometown Bruins had the edge.  Now, that it has moved to Evansville, the Kentucky teams have had the edge, but obviously this year it will be purely neutral.

Favorable Bracketnomics:  Belmont does not have the criteria to pull off an upset in the NCAA Tournament.  Morehead St. has slightly better criteria at the moment, while Eastern Kentucky is the potentially most dangerous team in a round of 64 game thanks to their unorthodox style of play.  However, Jacksonville St. and Murray St. cannot be counted out to pull off an upset or two and make it to the finals of the OVC Tournament.  This tournament should be one of the most exciting to watch, but it doesn’t look like the year that an OVC team advances to the Round of 32.

Pacific 12 Conference

Dates: March 10-13

Site: Las Vegas

Teams participating: 11 (Arizona ineligible) in a regular format with the top five teams receiving first round byes, while the 6-11 seeds play an opening round game (6-11. 7-10, 8-9)

The Pac-12 has been down for a generation, mostly because UCLA is no longer the UCLA of the 20th Century.  Oregon is the only league team to advance to the Final four in a dozen years.

UCLA, Oregon, and USC are still contending for the regular season title, while Colorado is mathematically alive.  Stanford has lost three games in a row to fall off the Bubble and will now have to earn the automatic bid to make the Field.

Favorable Bracketnomics: UCLA, USC, Oregon, and Colorado all have criteria favorable of making the Sweet 16, but none of the quartet looks like a Final 4 team.  UCLA, Colorado, and Oregon are too generous in the paint, while USC has begun to swoon at the wrong time.

Patriot League

Dates: March 3-6-10-14

Sites: Higher Seed Home Floors

Teams participating: 10 teams in a regular format where the top 6 receive byes to the quarterfinals while 7 plays 10 and 8 plays 9 in the first round.

What are we to make of Colgate?  The Raiders, winners of 10 consecutive games and mostly by lopsided scores, are in the top 10 of the very important Net Ratings, made more important this year with the limited interconference play.  On Net Ratings alone, Colgate would be deserving of the highest seed ever given to a Patriot League team, maybe a 6 or 7 seed!  There is no way the Committee can do this, considering that the Raiders have played no non-conference games, and the Patriot isn’t the Big Ten.  Navy has a win over Georgetown, but beating GU doesn’t move the needle much these days.  Army pinned the only league losses on the Raiders and Midshipmen, and the Black Knights would be the serious spoiler in the conference tournament.

Favorable Bracketnomics:  Not a chance to make the Sweet 16.  If Colgate wins the bid, the Raiders might have a good showing and keep an opening round game close enough to pull out an upset, but they won’t be in the Sweet 16.  Nobody else in this league can win anything more than a possible play-in game, but the Patriot League should avoid the 16-seed line, unless a bottom-seed like Lehigh or Holy Cross pulls off a huge upset.

Southeastern Conference

Dates: March 10-14

Site: Nashville

Teams participating: 13 (Auburn ineligible) in a regular format where #12 & 13 play on opening night, with the winner facing #5 the next day, while 6 plays 11, 7 plays 10, and 8 plays 9.  The top 4 seeds receive double byes.

Alabama clinched the top seed, but the Crimson Tide are starting to look like a somewhat fatigued team.  Arkansas and Florida are close to securing double byes, while the last double bye is still up for grabs between LSU, Tennessee, Ole Miss, and Missouri.

You haven’t seen Kentucky in this group, and the Wildcats will have to win four games in four days to earn an automatic bid.  This team lacks the consistency to do this, and the Blue Mist will have to wait a year to make its next appearance in the NCAA Tournament.

Tennessee and Missouri, two teams that looked like locks in early February, now find themselves needing to do a little work to guarantee dance tickets.  Ole Miss took a crucial bad loss over the weekend and will have to win their final two regular season games and then make it to the SEC Tournament finals to have a chance at an at-large bid.

Favorable Bracketnomics: When Alabama’s three-point shots are falling, they can play Michigan and Gonzaga to a close and competitive game.  When their shots aren’t falling, they can lose at home to Vanderbilt.  Don’t expect the Tide’s shots to fall for four games in a row against NCAA-level defenses.  Additionally, Alabama gives up too much inside defensively, and they cannot rebound well enough to make up for poor shooting games.  Count the Tide out at the Sweet 16.

Arkansas has what Alabama lacks, but Arkansas lacks what Alabama has.  The Razorbacks could also make it to the Sweet 16 this year, but that’s as far as we can see them progressing.

Florida is on the periphery in a lot of criteria, but the Gators come up short in most of them.  A big stretch finish with a conference tournament win could move the Gators’ data into the Elite 8 status, but as of now, we don’t even show them as a strong Sweet 16 candidate.

LSU and Tennessee have been much too inconsistent, and both teams are below .500 in recent weeks.  This looks like a wait-until-next-year scenario for this league.

Southern Conference

Dates: March 5-8

Site: Asheville, NC

Teams participating: 10 in a regular format with teams 1-6 receiving byes to the quarterfinals and teams 7-10 playing a first round.

This race was nip and tuck for weeks with multiple teams holding the top spot at times. UNCG finally won the regular conference championship in the final weekend, while Wofford came on strong to sneak into the number two slot.  UNCG definitely has the easier pass to the title game than Furman and Wofford.

Favorable Bracketnomics: Not this year.  None of the teams in the SoCon have favorable resumes at this time.  It’s not likely the league will produce a tournament win.

Southland Conference

Dates: March 10-14

Site: Katy, TX  (greater Houston)

Teams participating: The top 8 (Stephen F. Austin ineligible) in a ladder system, where the #5 & 8 and the #6 & 7 play in the opening round; the #5/8 winner faces #4 and the #6/7 winner plays #3 in the next round, and the #1 and 2 teams receive byes to the semifinals.

With Stephen F. Austin becoming ineligible 10 days ago, it threw a giant wrench into the workings of the potentially best conference tournament.  Four teams clearly separated from the pack, and a final four of SFA, Abilene Christian, Sam Houston, and Nicholls would have been the best this tournament has ever seen.  

Favorable Bracketnomics: Abilene Christian’s defense is no piece of cake to attack, but the Wildcats lack the offensive firepower to be anything more than a game first round loser.  Sam Houston and Nicholls most likely would go down much easier in a Round of 64 game.

Southwestern Athletic Conference

Dates: March 10-13

Site: Birmingham

Teams participating: The top 8 seeds in a standard 1-8, 4-5, 3-6, 2-7 format

Covid may turn out to help the SWAC, because there is a chance that two league teams will finish conference play undefeated.  If Prairie View and Jackson St. keep winning, and the two teams meet for the automatic bid, there’s even a chance that the winner could become the first SWAC team in years to avoid that play-in game.

Favorable Bracketnomics: The bad news is that not playing in a play-in game would eliminate this league’s chances to at least see their representative win a tournament game.  The two top contenders are fairly adequate defensively, but neither has the offensive efficiency to score 65 points against a 1-seed much less compete.

Summit League

Dates: March 6-9

Site: Sioux Falls, SD

Teams participating: 8 in a regular 1-8, 4-5, 3-6, 2-7 format

South Dakota St. won its final two regular season games to sneak past #2 South Dakota and #3 North Dakota St.  Oral Roberts had a strong final close to earn the #4 seed.  One of these four teams should cut the nets at the Falls.

Favorable Bracketnomics: South Dakota St. and Oral Roberts have just enough offensive efficiency to make an opening round game as a #14 seed interesting versus a #3 seed.  Neither look strong enough to pull off the upset, but a respectable 10-15 point loss wouldn’t be out of the question.

Sun Belt Conference

Dates: March 5-8

Site: Pensacola, FL

Teams participating: 12 in a divisional setting.  Games will be played in two arenas.  The top two teams in both divisions receive first round byes.  In the opening round, 4W Arkansas St. plays 5E Georgia Southern, with the winner playing 1E Georgia St.  4E Appalachian St. plays 5W Little Rock with the winner playing 1W Texas St.  3E South Alabama plays 6W UL-Monroe, with the winner playing 2W Louisiana, and 3W UT-Arlington plays 6E Troy with the winner playing 2E Coastal Carolina.

Favorable Bracketnomics: The only favorable possibility here is avoiding a 16-seed, especially a play-in game.  Texas St. and Coastal Carolina have the most favorable data, but neither can challenge a Michigan, Gonzaga, Baylor, Ohio St., Illinois, or Iowa.

West Coast Conference

Dates: March 4-9

Site: Las Vegas

Teams participating: 10 but seeded totally different from any other conference tournament ever.  The league is going to seed its teams in the order that basketball analytics’ Einstein Ken Pomeroy rates them by adjusted win percentage.  It doesn’t take an Einstein to know that Gonzaga and BYU will be the top two seeds.

Favorable Bracketnomics:  It is no surprise that Gonzaga has one of the three best overall bracketnomics criteria today.  They have the look of an all-time great team not much different than the 1991 UNLV team that ran the table to the Final 4 before losing to eventual champion Duke in a major upset.

BYU also has a favorable criteria.  The Cougars are not Final 4 worthy, but they have a Sweet 16 criteria and even a potential Elite 8 set of data.

Western Athletic Conference

Dates: March 10-13

Site: Las Vegas

Teams participating: 6 (all that are eligible)  The number 3 team will play the number 6 team, with the winner advancing to play the number 2 team.  The number 4 team will play the number 5 team, with the winner facing the number 1 team.

This league has been hit hard by Covid cancellations, and multiple teams are not yet eligible to go to the NCAA Tournament, so this once proud league that had the likes of Arizona, Arizona St, Utah, and BYU has been reduced to Grand Canyon, Utah Valley, California Baptist, and UT Rio Grande Valley.  Still, there are two schools with Final Four banners in their gyms in Seattle and New Mexico St.

Favorable Bracketnomics: Nobody this year has a resume anything close to what New Mexico St. had last year when the tournament was cancelled.  The Aggies had a Sweet 16 resume in 2020, but they will have to come up with a monumental performance from one of the bottom four seeds to win the WAC Tournament.  If anybody other than GCU wins the tournament, they are looking at a 16-seed play-in game.

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