The Pi-Rate Ratings

February 17, 2020

PiRate Ratings Bracketology for February 17, 2020














San Diego St.





Florida St.


Seton Hall

Penn St.







West Virginia





Michigan St.



Ohio St.







Texas Tech









Saint Mary’s



Rhode Island


Arizona St.



Wichita St.


Northern Iowa

East Tennessee St.


Stephen F. Austin





Utah St.




North Texas

New Mexico St.




Wright St.



Little Rock



Murray St.


South Dakota St.


Prairie View

St. Peter’s

Robert Morris

Norfolk St.


The Rest of the Bubble








Mississippi St.


North Carolina St.




South Carolina












A Look At The One-Bid Leagues & Their Conference Tournaments


America East: 8 teams with superior seed hosting every game

Vermont (11-1/21-6) has a 2 1/2 game lead over Stony Brook (8-3/17-9), and it would be a major upset if any team other than the Catamounts won this tournament. The race for third place between Albany (7-4/14-12) and Hartford (7-5/14-13) is important, because the 3rd place finisher would get to avoid Vermont until the Championship Game. Of course, second place is still up for grabs, and in the semifinals, the second place team would host the third place team if they both won their quarterfinal round games.

Atlantic Sun: 8 teams with superior seed hosting every game (North Alabama not eligible)

What looked like a cake walk to the conference championship in December has turned into anything but. Liberty (10-2/24-3) was coming off a season in which the Flames won a game in the NCAA Tournament and returned a ton of talent. But, the Flames are not currently in first place in the A-Sun. North Florida (11-2/18-10) not only has a one half game lead over LU, they beat the Flames earlier this year. The rematch is this Thursday at Liberty.

Don’t rule out the third and fourth teams in this league. Stetson (9-3/15-12) has never been to the Division 1 NCAA Tournament, but the Hatters have been in contention in recent years. Lipscomb (7-6/12-14) is the hottest team in the league, having won five of six including a 12-point victory over UNF. The Bisons still have games remaining with the top two teams before tournament play begins.


Big Sky: 11 teams in regular bracket at Boise, ID

There is no dominant team inside the league this year. Defending champion Montana (12-3/16-10) was supposed to have a rebuilding season after losing five of the top seven players from consecutive conference championship teams. Give Travis Decuire a lot of credit for his ability to recruit to Missoula and then teach his players to play as a team. The whole is much better than the sum of the parts, and Decuire rates high on our coaches ready to move on to Power Conference schools list, as he is close to leading the Grizzlies to their fourth conference championship in his six years at the school.

Eastern Washington (10-4/17-8) and Northern Colorado (10-4/17-8) are the next two in line in the Big Sky, but EWU has already been swept by Montana, while UNC is one of the three league teams to pin a loss on the Grizzlies. Keep an eye on 6th place Southern Utah (7-7/14-11). The Thunderbirds have been in a bit of a tailspin in the last month, but if they can pull out of it and play like they did in December, they could be a tough out for any of the top five in the league.

Big South: 11 teams. The first round is played at the home court of the higher-seeded team. The quarterfinal and semifinal rounds are then played at the #1 seed’s home floor. The Championship Game is then played on the higher-seeded team’s home floor.

With first place vital in this conference, Winthrop (13-2/19-9) and Radford (12-2/17-9) have separated themselves from the pack and will most likely share the regular season title with identical 16-2 conference records. Since they split their season series with both teams winning on the road against each other, the #1 seed would be settled in a tiebreaker by looking at how these two co-champs fared against the next team in the standings and so forth until the tie is broken. Winthrop’s other conference loss was to 7-6 Gardner-Webb, while Radford’s loss was to 6-8 UNC Asheville. Radford has the advantage here, but remember that Winthrop won at Radford in the regular season, and the Eagles have the superior inside game, which tends to play more of a factor in March.

Big West: 8 teams in regular bracket. All games in Anaheim

UC-Irvine (9-2/17-10) lost some big-time talent off a team that won a game last year’s Big Dance and took Oregon to the final minutes in the Round of 32, but Coach Russ Turner has his Anteaters in first place again this year, and UCI is running away with the regular season race.

The real race is between the second through eighth place teams. First, the ninth place team does not qualify for the tournament, and at the moment, just two games separate second from ninth. Any of the eight teams other than UCI could miss out, while any of the other eight teams could end up with the number two seed. UCSB (5-5/16-9) matches up well with UCI and has a victory over the Anteaters, but they have been swept by Cal St. Northridge (6-5/11-16) and handily defeated by UC-Davis (6-5/12-15). UC-Riverside (4-7/14-13) is a team to watch if they don’t miss out and finish in ninth place. The Highlanders have a very tall lineup that can control the boards and get inside shots when they can control the pace of their games. They are capable of winning three times in three days at the Honda Center.

Colonial Athletic: 10 teams in regular bracket. All games in Washington, D.C.

This is a somewhat down year for the CAA as there are no teams that look capable of winning a second round NCAA Tournament game. The conference race is an interesting one with seven better than average teams.

Joe Mihalich led Niagara to four conference championships and two NCAA Tournament appearances before coming to Hofstra (11-3/20-7). This is his seventh season in Hempstead, and he’s won two CAA Championships thus far, inlcuding last season. This Gaels team is in line to make it number three, but Hofstra has yet to win the CAA Tournament in this time. This teams isn’t as good as last year’s, so it’s hard to say that the Gaels are big favorites to make it to the Dance for the first time since Jay Wright was coaching there in 2001.

Willliam & Mary (10-5/18-10), Delaware (9-5/19-8), and Towson (9-5/16-11) are next in line, but the potentially more dangerous teams are behind them. Charleston (9-6/15-12) and defending Conference Tournament champion Northeastern (7-7/13-13) are talented enough to steal the bid from Hofstra yet again. Charleston is probably the team to watch in the CAA Tournament.

Conference USA: 12 teams in regular bracket. All games in Frisco, TX.

This is a really unique way to host a conference tournament in the Dallas Cowboys practice facility. The league places two playing floors separated by a curtain, and it is possible to sit in such a way that you can see two games at once.

There is quite an advantage here, as the tournament takes place in the backyard of North Texas (12-2/18-9), the current league leader. The Mean Green are undefeated in conference play on their home floor, and they would have to be considered the prohibitive favorite to claim the automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.

Western Kentucky (11-3/18-8) defeated UNT in Bowling Green earlier this year, but the Hilltoppers suffered a crippling blow when sure NBA Draft choice big man Charles Bassey’s season ended with a leg injury.

Louisiana Tech (10-4/19-7) plays tough defense, handles the ball well, and they frequently get extra scoring opportunities, so the Bulldogs are a top contender in the conference tournament. If any other team should sneak through and cut the nets at Jerryworld Headquarters, they would most likely be looking at a 16-seed and possible trip to Dayton.

Horizon: 10 teams. The first two rounds are played at the higher-seeded teams’ home courts. Also, after every round, this league re-seeds its remaining teams like the NFL Playoffs. The final two rounds will then be played in Indianapolis, and the top two teams receive byes to the semifinal round, so finishing first or second is extremely important.

Like they have in recent years, this has been a two-team race, and it’s almost a sure thing that Wright St. (13-2/23-5) and Northern Kentucky (11-4/19-8) will be the top two teams. Wright St. is enjoying its best season in their 14-year run as the class of the Horizon League. However, the Raiders did not have a strong out-of-conference schedule, and we would be shocked if they were to win a game in the NCAA Tournament.

Northern Kentucky is transitioning with a new coach, and the Norse are not as strong as they were under former coach John Brannen, who took NKU to two NCAA Tournaments in his final three years.

Ivy: 4 teams in regular bracket. Games will be played at Harvard.

The Ivy League probably has the correct format for a smaller conference. Only the top four teams qualify for the conference tournament, meaning the champion is at least one of the league’s deserving teams.

As of today, the interesting part of this league is that five teams are competing for four spots. All tied for third with 5-3 conference records and six games to go are Harvard (16-7), Penn (13-8), and Brown (12-9).

Yale (6-2/18-6) and Princeton (6-2/11-10) are only a game ahead of the other three, and both teams must finish their regular season playing four road games and two home games. So, one of the co-leaders could easily fall to 8-6 or 7-7 in league play and finish fifth.

Harvard hosts the tournament, and the Crimson have four home games and just two road games remaining. But, those four home games are versus the other four contenders.

Dartmouth (2-6/9-14) is three games behind the contenders, but the Mean Green have the perfect remaining schedule with four home games, while their two road games are against the two weakest teams in the league. It isn’t impossible for Dartmouth to finish 7-7, and then hope that two of those 5-3 teams come back to the pack.

Metro Atlantic: 11 teams in regular bracket. Games will be played in Atlantic City, NJ

What we have here is an almost sure trip to Dayton for the Conference Tournament champion. The MAAC is quite weak this year, and the automatic bid will go to a team that will immediately become an underdog in a first round play-in game unless some 20-loss team pulls off a conference tournament upset.

Saint Peter’s (10-5/13-11) has gone 8-2 in their last ten games. Former Seton Hall star Shaheen Holloway is in his second year with the Peacocks, and his team is the best in the league in defense and rebounding. As hot as the Peacocks have been, there is one team even hotter. Siena (9-5/13-10) has won six of their last seven games, and the six wins were by an average of more than 16 points per game. The Saints have been on a three-point shooting tear in this winning streak, hitting 40 of 103 from behind the arc, while limiting opponents to just 29-106.

Mid-American: 12 teams in regular bracket. First round games at higher-seeded teams. Remaining rounds in Cleveland.

This is not a particularly strong year for some Maction. This is a definite one-bid league, while in past years multiple teams have made the Field.
This is also the only league that continues to divide its teams into divisions. At the present time, the East is a bit stronger than the West, as it has the top four teams in the league. Bowling Green (10-3/19-7) has a slim half-game edge over Akron (9-3/19-6), while Kent St. (7-5/17-8) and defending MAC Champ Buffalo (7-5/15-9) are right behind.

In the West, Northern Illinois (8-5/15-11) leads Ball St. (7-5/14-11) by a half-game with Central Michigan (6-5/13-11) another half-game back, with all three teams tied in the loss column.

Akron and Kent St. have played stronger schedules than the rest of these teams, but neither has pulled off a big win. The Zips probably give this league its best chance to compete as a double-digit seed in the second round of the Dance.

Mideastern Athletic: 10 teams in regular bracket. All games will be played in Norfolk, VA

North Carolina Central (8-2/12-12) and Nofolk St. (8-2/12-13) hold slim leads over North Carolina A&T (8-3/12-14) and Florida A&M (8-4/10-13), but FAMU is not eligible this year. This is a league where past history showing the #1 seed winning the conference tournament over half the time, and teams finishing fourth or fifth tending to win most of the other times.

There are three teams in contention for fifth place where a 9-7 conference mark should be sufficient to qualify as that dark horse contender. They are: Morgan St. (7-5/13-14), Bethune-Cookman (6-5/12-13), and South Carolina St, (6-5/11-12).
Should either of the top three teams run the table in the league and the conference tournament, there is a chance they could avoid a play-in game in Dayton.

Missouri Valley: 10 teams in regular bracket. All games will be played in St. Louis (Arch Madness)

This is one of two leagues where the regular season champion could still get an at-large bid if it loses in the conference tournament. Northern Iowa (11-3/22-4) has worked its way up the ladder where if they win out, the Panthers could earn a single-digit seed in the Field of 68. If UNI were to lose in the Valley Championship Game and finish the regular season at 28-5, they will probably steal an at-large bid away from a big league like the Big Ten, ACC, SEC, or Big 12.

Loyola of Chicago (10-4/18-9) isn’t nearly as strong as they were two years ago when they surprised the nation with a Final Four run, but the Ramblers are good enough to beat UNI in the Conference Tournament if they handle the ball well and play tough defense. Both of their regular season games with the Panthers went to overtime, with the teams splitting the two games.

Bradley (9-5/18-9) did not match up well with the two teams above the Braves in the MVC standings, while Southern Illinois (9-5/15-12) lacks the offensive firepower to win three games in three days in March.

Keep an eye on a team coming from off the pace to challenge UNI in the MVC Tournament. Drake, Indiana State, Valparaiso, and Missouri State are all tied at 7-7 in the league. It might be advantageous to finish 6th and avoid UNI until a potential championship game. While Arch Madness is usually won by one of the top two seeds, it has been won from the middle of the pack before.

Northeast: 8 teams in regular bracket. All games will be played at higher-seeds’ home courts. Merrimack is ineligible during their transition to D1, while the bottom two teams of the remaining 10 will be eliminated from the tournament.

The rule forcing transitioning teams to be ineligible for the NCAA Tournament is just plain stupid. The NEC has a dominating team in Merrimack (12-2/18-9), who should at least get a chance to prove themselves with an NIT bid. If a team is good enough to win their conference championship and conference tournament, why punish the team and their league? Merrimack doesn’t have an advantage moving up in classification. It’s understandable that a team moving down might should be punished with ineligibility until all of its former Division 1 players have graduated, but this is a team moving up to D1.

The eventual tournament champion is a sure bet for banishment to Dayton and the play-in game. The contenders are all quite weak and none of these teams should be expected to compete against more athletic play-in opponents. The best of the rest include Robert Morris (11-3/15-12), Saint Francis (PA) (10-4/17-8), and Sacred Heart (9-5/16-11). With a five-game winning streak and the best offense in the league, SFPA should be considered the team to beat.

Ohio Valley: 8 teams playing in a special format in Evansville, IN. The OVC brackets their tournament in a method similar to the finals of the Professional Bowlers Association. First, only the top eight of the 12 league teams qualify for the tournament. In the first round, teams 5-8 play, with the two winners advancing to the quarterfinals to play teams 3-4. The two teams that win this round then advance to the semfinals to play teams 1 and 2, so finishing in the top two gets you a two-round bye to the semifinals.

There are four teams in contention for those two double byes, and this league is strong at the top, but not strong enough to sneak a second team into the field like last year.

Murray St. (12-2/19-7) and Austin Peay (12-2/18-9) have been tough rivals for years in the OVC and have enjoyed their share of success in the NCAA Tournament. Belmont (11-3/20-7) beat Temple in the NCAA Tournament last year, but the Bruins have nearly beaten top-rated teams in the NCAA Tournament before, like when a last second shot nearly missed that would have knocked out Duke. Fourth place Eastern Kentucky (10-4/13-14) has averaged 83.5 points per game in their last nine games, using a pressure defense to come up with a lot of steals and fast break points. The Colonels don’t have the same talent as the other three contenders, but they are likely to come with a reckless abandon attitude, while the others might be a bit tight.

If a team from the back of the pack has a chance, it might be Tennessee State (8-6/16-11). The Tigers have the talent to put it together and as a 5-seed, beat the numbers 8, 4, and 1-seed to get to the Championship Game.

Patriot: 8 teams playing in a regular bracket with the higher seeds hosting all games.

Colgate (11-3/20-7) looked like the class of the field until yesterday, when the Raiders fell second division Loyola of Maryland (5-9/13-14). Colgate also lost twice to Lafayette (8-6/16-9). Second place Boston U (10-4/16-11) has won six of seven, but the Terriers lost twice to Colgate. American (9-5/13-12) is in third, while the aforementioned Lafayette rests in fourth place, which probably irritates Colgate, because that would put the Leopards and Raiders on the same side of the Conference Tournament bracket.

Southern: 10 teams playing in a regular bracket with all games played in Asheville, NC.

This is the other league besides the Missouri Valley where a second team could earn an at-large bid. This league is dangerously good at the top of the standings. East Tennessee (12-2/23-4) won at LSU by double digits. Furman (12-2/22-5) lost in overtime at Auburn. UNC Greensboro (11-3/21-6) has road wins against Georgetown and Vermont as well as a close loss at Kansas. Plus, UNCG plays a very unorthodox defense that is difficult to face the first time. Additionally, the fourth through seventh place teams, all with records of 8-6 or 7-7 in league play (Western Carolina, Wofford, Chattanooga, and Mercer) are strong enough to probably win other Mid-Major leagues like the NEC, Patriot, and Big Sky).

If the two championship game participants include ETSU and either Furman or UNCG, the loser of this game deserves an at-large bid, especially if it is at the expense of a power conference team with a losing conference record.

Southland: 8 teams playing in a regular bracket with all games played in Katy, TX, and the bottom five teams in the standings eliminated from the tournament.

Stephen F. Austin (13-1/22-3) will not get an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament if they do not win the automatic bid, even though the Lumberjacks won at Duke. The rest of their schedule has not been strong enough to allow them this pass. Should they lose in the SLC Tournament, SFA will actually be a team capable of winning the NIT,but that’s not what they want.

Who could possibly upset SFA in the Conference Tournament? The team to watch would be Nicholls State (11-4/17-9). The Colonels full court press the entire game, and nobody wants to face that pressure in pressure-packed games. At 10 steals per game out of 73 possessions, it leaves little room for error for the team that commits a few too many additional turnovers. Opponents turn the ball over better than one out of every four possessions.

Southwest Athletic: 8 teams playing in a regular bracket with first round games at the higher seeded teams’ home courts and all the final two rounds in Birmingham, AL.

If you follow this incredible conference steeped in great history, you are in for quite a treat at this year’s SWAC Tournament, because as many as seven teams have the ability to come through and get the automatic bid. This might be the most exciting tournament from game one to the Championship Game!

Prairie View (9-2/13-11) and Texas Southern (8-3/11-13) lead the pack at the present time. Both teams have played some very good games on the road against heavy favorites, and both have won games that prove they could contend and maybe scare a heavily-ranked team if one of these teams could sneak into a 15-seed.

After the top two, there are five teams tied for third at 7-5 (Grambling, Alcorn St., Jackson St., Southern, and Alabama St.). We believe that Texas Southern gives the SWAC its best chance to win a play-in game as a 16-seed, while Prairie View is the only team capable of sneaking up to a 15-seed.

Summit: 9 teams playing in a regular bracket with all games played in Sioux Falls, SD.

When your conference tournament is played inside the state where two of your league’s top three teams play, the odds are stacked in the favor of the two in-state teams. South Dakota St. (11-2/20-8) has basically become the Kentucky of the Summit League. The Championship comes through Brookings and then Sioux Falls becomes Frost Arena II, where the Jackrabbits have won five of the last eight Summit League Tournaments.

North Dakota State (10-2/19-7) finished behind SDSU last year in the Summit League race, but then the Bison won the Summit Championship, then won their play-in game in the NCAA First Round, and then stayed within single digits of Duke for 30 minutes in the Second Round.

Don’t forget South Dakota (9-4/19-9) or Oral Roberts (7-6/14-12). Both teams can score a lot of points, and a hot streak by either team could see them cutting down the nets.

Sun Belt: 10 teams playing in a special bracket. The first three rounds will be played at the higher-seeded teams’ home courts, while the semifinals and finals will be played in New Orleans. Teams 7-10 only will play in the first round. The two winners will then play at seeds 5-6 in the second round, and the two winners in that round will play at seeds 3-4 in the third round. The top two seeds get byes to the semifinals in New Orleans, so the regular season conference race will be a mad dash to the finish.

The SBC plays a 20-game conference schedule, and with four games to go, Little Rock (12-4/18-9) holds a slim lead over (Georgia St. (11-5/18-9). Texas St. (10-6/17-10) and Georgia Southern (10-6/17-11). Two other teams, South Alabama and Appalachian St., are 9-7 in the league and still in the race for second place.

All these teams have had nights where they played a good Power Conference team close in a loss, but none of these teams have a big win this year. The champion of this league is likely looking at a quick second round exit as a 15-seed.

Western Athletic: 8 teams playing in regular bracket with all games played in Las Vegas. California Baptist is ineligible.

New Mexico State (12-0/21-6) is such a heavy favorite that it would be a bigger upset if they lost in the WAC Tournament than if the New York Knicks won this year’s NBA Championship. The Aggies have won this league three years in a row and seven times in the last eight seasons.

With second place Cal Baptist (7-3/18-7) not eligible, the next best team is Grand Canyon (7-4/12-13) with Texas Rio Grande Valley next at (7-5/11-14).

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