The Pi-Rate Ratings

January 27, 2012

PiRate Ratings NCAA Basketball Report for January 28, 2012

Welcome back to College Basketball PiRate style.  We have a unique way of looking at the NCAA Tournament, and as March approaches, we will review what we call Bracketnomics.  Until then, we will concentrate on focusing in on the teams that are in contention for an NCAA berth.


In this week’s preview, we will focus on the low-major conferences.  In most years, these leagues would have no shot at sending multiple teams to the Big Dance.  However, that is not an impossible task this year.


Before we get to each of the 16 low-major conferences, let’s take a look at which low and mid-major teams appear in the top 50 in the RPI rankings (as of Friday, January 27, 2012).


There are 14 teams on the list.  Creighton, Southern Mississippi, and Gonzaga all appear in the second ten, and these teams would appear to be safe at-large teams if they do not win automatic bids.


San Diego State, Wichita State, Murray State, and St. Mary’s all have RPIs in the 20’s.  If these four teams continue to play at the same pace, they should have no trouble getting at-large bids as well.


Long Beach State, Oral Roberts, Davidson, Middle Tennessee, Harvard, Northern Iowa, and Iona have RPIs in the 40’s.  They need to improve on their resumes in order to be under consideration for at-large bids.


Here is our look at the bottom 16 conferences.


America East (definite 1-bid conference)

Stony Brook 8-1  13-7

Boston U. 7-2  11-12

Vermont 6-2  12-10


Stony Brook defeated Boston last night to take a one game lead over the Terriers.  BU had defeated Stony Brook two weeks earlier in the first contest.


Stony Brook is led by blue-collar worker Tommy Brenton.  He does all the dirty work—gets rebounds, makes great passes, and plays excellent defense.


Boston U has a big scorer in Darryl Partin, who averages 20 points per game.  D. J. Irving sets him up with crisp passes.  Irving scores 12 points per game and dishes out 5.5 assists per contest.


Atlantic Sun (definite 1-bid conference)

Belmont 7-2  14-7

Mercer 7-2  15-7

USC Upstate 7-3  13-9


Belmont defeated Mercer earlier this year, so the Bruins technically are in first place.  This Belmont team is not as good as last year’s 30-win squad, but they cannot be overlooked.  Belmont lost by one at Duke.


Seven teams are within two games of first in this league, so the conference tournament should be quite interesting. 


Big Sky (definite 1-bid conference)

Weber State 8-0  16-3

Montana 7-1  14-6

Montana St. 6-2  11-8


Weber State wins games at the free throw line.  The Wildcats lead the nation in free throw percentage at better than 80%, and they have a chance to break the all-time single season mark.  Two Wildcats, Damian Lillard and Scott Bamforth, average better than 90% from the line.  Lillard leads the Big Sky in scoring at 25 points per game.


The Wildcats have won 10 games in a row, outscoring opponents by an average of 80.1 to 62.5.


Big South (definite 1-bid conference)

UNC-Asheville 10-1  15-7

Coastal Carolina 8-2  15-5

Campbell 8-3  14-9

Charleston Southern 7-3  13-7

V M I 6-5  11-10


UNCA is a scoring machine.  The Bulldogs average 83 points per game and shoot close to 50% per game.  They have a great two-man tandem in Matt Dickey and J. P. Primm.  Both average 16 points per game and make it tough for opposing backcourts to matchup.


Coastal Carolina has a better inside game and could be the better NCAA Tournament team if they can get there.  CCU owns wins over LSU and Clemson.


Big West (possible 2-bid conference)

Long Beach St. 8-0  15-6


The 49ers have a 2 ½-game lead over Cal State Fullerton and UCSB.  LBSU defeated Pitt and Xavier and lost close games to San Diego State, Louisville, North Carolina, and Kansas.  The 49ers have three star players capable of starting in big conferences.  T. J. Robinson averages a double-double.  Casper Ware and Larry Anderson make the league’s best guard tandem.  Should LBSU win the regular season title with no or just one conference loss, the 49ers could still get into the Big Dance if they lost in the finals of the Big West Tournament.


Ivy League (possible 2-bid conference)

Harvard 3-0  17-2

Penn 2-0  10-9

Yale 2-1  12-5

Princeton 1-1  10-8


Harvard trounced Yale last night in New Haven by 30 points.  The Crimson have an RPI rating in the 40’s, and they might have a shot at an at-large bid if they finished tied for first in the Ivy at 13-1 and lost in a conference playoff. 


Penn and Princeton are always threats to run off a string of conference victories, but we believe that this is Tommy Amaker’s year in Boston.  Harvard has a win over Florida State.


M A A C (possible 2-bid conference)

Iona 8-2  16-5

Loyola (MD) 8-2  15-5

Manhattan 8-2  15-7


All three co-leaders won last night.  Iona has the best resume to date, and with an RPI in the high 40’s, the Gaels are on the cusp of at-large status.  They lead the nation in assists per game with 20, and they shoot almost 50% from the field.  They own a 26-point win over Maryland, and they lost by one to Purdue.


M E A C (definite 1-bid conference)

Norfolk State  7-0  15-6

Bethune-Cookman 6-1  9-12

Savannah St. 5-2  10-10


Norfolk State may be the best MEAC team in the last five years.  They lost by just two points to Marquette earlier this year, and at 15-6, they have a good shot at winning 20 regular season games.  The Spartans must play at Bethune-Cookman in the only meeting of the top two teams.


Kyle O’Quinn averages 16 points and 10 rebounds per game, and he shoots 59% from the field.  O’Quinn stands a great chance of winning league MVP honors.


N E C (definite 1-bid conference)

Long Island 8-1  14-7

Wagner 7-2  16-4

Robert Morris 7-2  16-6

St. Francis NY 7-2  10-10


Long Island is not as good this year as last, but the Blackbirds are still the class of the league.  LIU swept Wagner already, so the Blackbirds would have to lose twice for Wagner to have any chance to win the regular season title.


LIU still has three top notch stars.  Julian Boyd and Jamal Olasewere team for 33 points and 17 boards per game, while Jason Brickman averages six assists per game.


Wagner defeated Pittsburgh, Penn, and Princeton this year, so the Seahawks might be a better matchup for a major conference opponent in the NCAA Tournament.


Ohio Valley (possible 2-bid league)

Murray State 8-0  20-0


The Racers have moved up to number nine in the nation, the first OVC team to crack the Top 10 since Western Kentucky was a member in the early 1970’s.  The last undefeated team in the nation has a small chance of running the table in the regular season.


The Racers are winning games with excellent outside shooting, where they average 42% from behind the arc.  Isaiah Canaan is the best of those outside shooters, hitting 47% three pointers and 18.7 points per game.


Patriot League (definite 1-bid league)

Bucknell 6-0  16-6

Lehigh 4-2  16-6


Bucknell may not be strong enough to pull off an epic upset in the first round of the Big Dance, but the Bison will be a tough out in the first round.  They lost by 12 to both Minnesota and Vanderbilt and lost by 19 to Syracuse.  The Bison have won eight games in a row.


Southern (possible 2-bid league)


Elon 5-3  10-9

UNC-Greensboro 5-4  7-14



Davidson 9-0  15-4


Davidson could possibly earn an at-large bid if the Wildcats failed to earn an automatic bid.  The Wildcats won at Kansas.


Southland (definite 1-bid league)


Northwestern State 4-2  11-9

McNeese State 4-2  8-10



UT-Arlington 6-0  14-5

UT-San Antonio 5-1  13-7


UT-Arlington has won 10 games in a row after beginning the season at 4-5.  They lost to Baylor by 10 points.  UTA has excellent depth for a low-major team.


S W A C (definite 1-bid league)

Mississippi Valley State 7-0  8-11

Southern 6-2  10-11

Texas Southern 5-2  6-13


No team in this league has a winning record, so it is a strong chance the winner of the SWAC Tournament will be making a quick trip to Dayton for the play-in round.


Mississippi Valley has won seven games in a row after beginning the season 1-11.  Among the teams that beat them are Notre Dame, North Carolina, Florida, Wisconsin, Arkansas, and Ole Miss.


Summit League (possible 2-bid league)

Oral Roberts 11-0  19-4

South Dakota State 8-2  16-6


Oral Roberts has reeled off 12 straight victories and moved up to the mid 40’s in the RPI rating.  ORU owns a 22-point win over Xavier.  Two of their four losses came at the hands of Gonzaga by six and West Virginia by seven.


Sunbelt (possible 2-bid league)


Middle Tennessee 9-0  20-2



Denver 6-2  16-5


This could be Middle Tennessee’s best ever team.  The Blue Raiders have made waves in the NCAA Tournament in the past, knocking off Kentucky in 1982.


This Middle Tennessee team won by 20 points at UCLA, and if they can knock off Vanderbilt today, the Blue Raiders could move into the Top 25.  They have excellent depth and can go 10 or 11 deep.  Laron Dendy is the leader of the team.

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