We are now fully in the midst of mid major conference tournament season. The first championship game takes place tomorrow in the Ohio Valley, with more coming the rest of the week. Most of these tournaments are 1-bid leagues, meaning that the only team representing the conference in the NCAA tournament will be the one that receives that automatic bid for winning the 2014 conference tournament.
Starting today and tomorrow, though, a few teams with actual at large hopes will begin their conference tourney runs. The Missouri Valley conference bracket includes one of those teams, Wichita State, who is a lock to make the NCAA bracket. Consequently, the MVC is a 1-bid league if Wichita State wins the conference tourney and a 2-bid league if not.
This leaves an opportunity for a potential “bid thief,” a team that makes the bubble even smaller for teams looking for an at-large NCAA bid, by unexpectedly winning a conference tournament.
Here’s a look at the three most realistic bid thieves set to play either today or tomorrow:
Here’s a look at how last night’s games impacted our 2014 bracket predictions:
Saint Louis drops third straight; NCAA tournament run gets less likely
After losing just two of their first 27 games, Saint Louis has now lost three in a row. Even more surprising, two of those games have been at home. Saint Louis is now ranked just 40th in our New Predictive Ratings, which power our bracketology simulations. This recent stretch of losses not only hurts Saint Louis’ seeding, but also raises significant questions for how SLU will perform in the NCAA tournament.
Just last week, Saint Louis had a 29.5% chance of making the Sweet 16 according to our algorithms. Now the combination of seeding and poor play have decreased Saint Louis’ chances of a Sweet 16 run to just 20.3%.
Here’s a look ahead at two games tonight bound to impact the 2014 NCAA bracket prediction landscape:
St. Joseph’s vs. George Washington: Improbable roads to the NCAA tournament
According to our 2014 NCAA bracketology trends, no one has done more for their tournament hopes over the last three weeks than St. Joe’s. Over that time period, the Hawks have gone undefeated with wins against VCU and Dayton. St. Joe’s now has a 91% chance of dancing heading into tonight’s game at George Washington.
George Washington is another Atlantic-10 school likely to hear their name called on Selection Sunday; specifically, our NCAA bracket projections currently have their tournament bid odds at 72%. However, GW has had a much different road to the postseason than St. Joe’s. The Colonials were an early season surprise, getting off to an 11-1 start including a neutral court win versus Creighton.
The focus on Pittsburgh for much of this season has been their lack of quality wins. In short, Pitt had beaten the teams they were supposed to beat and lost to the teams they were supposed to lose to. If every team did that, college basketball would bore you to death.
Now with Pittsburgh’s 74-67 home loss to North Carolina State yesterday, the Panthers are on the bubble. According to our NCAA tournament bracketology projections, Pittsburgh entered yesterday’s game with an 82.7% chance of making the tourney. Those odds now have plummeted to just above a coin flip, at 56.1%.
Does Pitt deserve to make the NCAA tournament?
There’s no arguing that Pitt’s lack of quality wins makes them far from a lock to make the 2014 NCAA tournament. However, determining Pitt’s actual team quality isn’t quite so simple.
Although they didn’t beat any great teams in non-conference play, the Panthers were impressive. Pittsburgh finished non-conference play with 12 blowout wins and a one-point loss to Cincinnati at Madison Square Garden.
Is the Big 12 the best conference in NCAA basketball?
It’s always a challenge to determine the best overall conference in the country. Once conference play starts, for every conference win, another team in that conference is picking up a loss. Still, at some point in conference play this year i’it became trendy to say the Big 12 is the best conference in the country.
While Big Ten favorites like Wisconsin and Ohio State were getting off to extremely shaky starts in conference, the Big 12 was consistently producing high-entertainment televised games. Games like Iowa State knocking off Oklahoma State 98-97 in triple OT were awesome to watch, but viewer appeal alone doesn’t win basketball games.
The answer, of course, depends on how you define best conference.
Here’s a look at how some of yesterday’s games impacted the 2014 NCAA bracket prediction landscape:
Xavier builds bracket resume with victory over Creighton
Back in January, the Big East looked like a three team race. After going undefeated in December, Xavier opened Big East play at 5-1 — then preceded to drop five out of their next eight games, landing themselves a spot on the NCAA bracket bubble. Just last week, we gave Xavier a 43% chance to make the tournament.
However, Xavier delivered when needed, capping off an impressive week with a win against Doug McDermott and Creighton yesterday. Today, our 2014 bracketology projections not only have the Musketeers as nearly a lock to make the NCAA tournament (84.6%), but just under a 60% chance of getting an eight seed or better.
As we come down the stretch of the college basketball regular season, eight teams remain in the running for 1-seeds:
- Arizona, Florida, Wichita State, and Syracuse all appear in position to control their own destiny
- Wisconsin, Villanova, Kansas, and Creighton could still move up to the top line
Wisconsin’s Bracket Seed Projection: A Wild Ride
Today’s algorithmic bracketology projections currently give all eight of the teams listed above at least a 1 in 4 chance of landing a 1-seed this year. Arizona tops the list at 86%, while Creighton sits at the bottom right at 25%. These teams have all taken different roads to move into their current positions.
Here’s a look at how last night’s games impacted the 2014 bracket prediction landscape:
1. Arkansas breaks through on the road vs. Kentucky
There’s not a team in the country that doesn’t prefer playing at home, but Arkansas and Kentucky are both teams with unique home/road splits in recent years. Entering last night’s game, Kentucky was 38-2 in SEC home games under John Calipari. On the other hand, Arkansas entered just 4-20 in SEC road games under Mike Anderson.
Monday afternoon we published our initial 2013-2014 college basketball preseason ratings, which we finalized this morning after a few crowd-sourced adjustments (thanks, everyone!). We’ve now got full preseason projections for all teams, including:
- College Basketball Projected Conference Standings … projected conference records and full regular season records, plus win odds for both the conference regular season title and the postseason tournament
- Bracketology Projections … odds to make the NCAA tournament, plus projected seeding, and lots more details. (One of our faves is the Bracketology By Conference page.)
- NCAA Tournament Bracket Predictions … round by round advancement odds, including probability of a team making the Sweet 16, making the Final Four, or winning the championship
This is all data-driven, and automated, so it will update every day throughout the season.
NCAA hoops starts in 4 days, which means we’re in the final stages of setting up our college basketball section for the upcoming season. Rosters have been loaded on our test server, and we’re making some final checks and tweaks before releasing everything to the wild. So, we won’t have official record projections and conference standings predictions posted until tonight or tomorrow, but we’ve got our preseason ratings prepped and ready to share.
These ratings are completely data-driven, with no manual fudges (except for the four new Division I teams, for whom we estimated ratings based on research into past results and current rosters). As with last year, the main inputs to our system are past team ratings, current rosters, player stats from the past few seasons, and recruiting info.