Conference Tournament Preview, Part IV

Hey all, this is the final installment of BracketBot’s conference tournament preview series! We’re taking a look at all 32 conference tournaments, talking who’s most likely to win, which low-seeded teams have a good chance of advancing, and more! You can find the entire series here:

Part I: Atlantic Sun, Big South, Horizon, Missouri Valley, Northeast, Ohio Valley, Patriot League, West Coast
Part II: America East, Colonial, MAAC, SoCon, Summit League
Part III: A-10, ACC, Big Sky, Conference USA, MAC, MEAC, Mountain West, Southland, Sun Belt, SWAC
– And Part IV will have the remaining conferences: the American, Big East, Big Ten, Big West, Big XII, Ivy League, Pac-12, SEC, and WAC! On with the show!

AMERICAN
All games in Memphis, TN
R1: Thursday 3/14
QF: Friday 3/15
SF: Saturday 3/16
Final: Sunday 3/17

Standings:

Houston is a sneaky national championship contender, but the rest of the top of this conference is nothing to sneeze at. Memphis also gets a bump from getting to play this tournament at home, though it’s just as much a bump for them as it is a bad break for UCF, their would-be quarterfinal opponent. Houston, Cincinnati and UCF will all be tournament teams, so the team to watch out for is Temple, who could really stand to improve their chances. Beating Cincinnati en route to the final would probably cinch up their bid.

BIG EAST
All games in New York
R1: Wednesday 3/13
QF: Thursday 3/14
SF: Friday 3/15
Final: Saturday 3/16

Standings:

A really interesting tournament, since there really aren’t any bad teams in this year’s Big East. Even DePaul, normally a doormat, is much better than usual: though their streak of coming in last place continued, it was very unlucky that they did so since they were a respectable 7-11. Villanova and Marquette are a step above everyone else, but the combined probability of one of the other eight teams winning this tournament is more than a third.

BIG TEN
All games in Chicago
R1: Wednesday 3/13
R2: Thursday 3/14
QF: Friday 3/15
SF: Saturday 3/16
Final: Sunday 3/17

Standings:

Both Michigan State and Michigan are still angling for a potential 1-seed, though either would probably need to win this tournament to get it barring some unlikely upsets in the ACC or SEC tournaments. There’s about a 1-in-3 chance of the two of them meeting in the final, which would be nice for Michigan; they’d get a third crack at beating the Spartans.

BIG WEST
All games in Anaheim, CA
QF: Thursday 3/14
SF: Friday 3/15
Final: Saturday 3/16

Standings:

There are a few tournaments out there that re-seed after each round, giving their top teams the most favorable possible matchups, but not many that do so at a single-site three-day tournament. That’s where we find ourselves for the Big West tournament in Anaheim, where the top 8 teams (sorry, Cal Poly) will play for the league’s automatic bid. It’s an interesting choice, given the possibility for a team like Hawaii or LBSU to potentially play the last game on Thursday and have to come back for the first game Friday, but maybe it’ll all work out fine. The format does give a boost to runaway conference leaders UC-Irvine, who would come out with a 59% chance of winning the tournament under a conventional format compared to the 62% seen here.

BIG XII
All games in Kansas City
R1: Wednesday 3/13
QF: Thursday 3/14
SF: Friday 3/15
Final: Saturday 3/16

Standings:

This is going to be a fun tournament from the quarterfinals onwards. The Big XII is still rated as the #1 overall conference by BracketBot mostly because it’s so deep! All of the top 8 are likely tournament teams (though there is some doubt for Texas and TCU), and any of them have a not-insignificant chance of winning this thing. That said, I was surprised at the degree to which Texas Tech is favored, with nearly triple the chances of anyone else, including #1 seed and co-champions Kansas State.

IVY LEAGUE
All games in New Haven, CT
SF: Saturday 3/16
Final: Sunday 3/17

Standings:

A huge boost for Yale to be able to play these games at home. They would be heavy favorites anyway, but having these games in their home arena boosts their overall chances from 45% to nearly 59%. This is, of course, just the third year of the Ivy League even having a tournament. Under the previous system, we’d be headed for a single winner-take-all tiebreaker game between Harvard and Yale to decide the champion. Then this system, obviously, is a big boost for the chances of Princeton and Penn, especially Penn, who have the fortune to win the tiebreaker in the first place to make the top 4 (their sweep of Brown won them the head-to-head tiebreaker), and also the fortune to draw a weaker Harvard team instead of the much stronger Yale team.

PAC-12
All games in Las Vegas, NV
R1: Wednesday 3/13
QF: Thursday 3/14
SF: Friday 3/15
Final: Saturday 3/16

Standings:

It’s been a highly-publicized down year for the Pac-12, but that doesn’t mean the tournament won’t be interesting – in fact, this tournament has a unique circumstance in that the 6th-seeded team is the second-most likely to win it. That’d be Oregon, who have the good luck to fall in a weak part of the bracket (Washington State won’t pose too much a threat, and Utah is the weakest of the top four seeds by far), and also have the second-best efficiency numbers, per BracketBot (51st-best nationally, compared to 54th for Arizona State).

SEC
All games in Nashville, TN
R1: Wednesday 3/13
R2: Thursday 3/14
QF: Friday 3/15
SF: Saturday 3/16
Final: Sunday 3/17

Standings:

It was a strange year in the SEC. South Carolina finished 4-8 against non-conference D-I opponents, and lost all four games they played against the likes of LSU, Kentucky and Tennessee, but went 11-3 in their other conference games and finished fourth. Their reward is likely to be Auburn, who underachieved in conference play after being very highly touted throughout the non-conference schedule. On top of that, we have the surprise champions LSU, who were thought to be good preseason, but not quite this good – a 2-seed is still in play for them. And a 1-seed is still in play for Kentucky and possibly for Tennessee, depending on how things go this week. If they do meet in Saturday’s second semifinal (seems pretty likely), then that rematch will go a long way to determining their fates – both games between Kentucky and Tennessee this season were blowouts for the home team, so I’d like to see it on a (somewhat) neutral court.

WAC
All games in Las Vegas, NV
QF: Thursday 3/14
SF: Friday 3/15
Final: Saturday 3/16

Standings:

This has seemingly always been New Mexico State’s conference to lose, at least this WAC in its current form, and this year seems no different. Their one loss in conference play came in the first game, to Cal Baptist, with fifteen straight WAC wins rolled off since then. That team, Cal Baptist, is in their first year of D-I basketball, so they’re ineligible for the tournament for the time being. They’ll sit this one out, so NMSU actually went undefeated against the teams that are in this tournament. While they’re close to the at-large line according to BracketBot, they can’t afford to lose any of these games anyway, so it’s going to be auto-bid or bust.

Alright, that’s it! Hope you enjoy conference tournament week to the fullest! Selection Sunday is this week, so I’ll be back with another preview post on Monday, doing the same thing we did here but for the NCAA tournament as a whole. In the meantime, stick around for bracket updates every day through Sunday for BracketBot’s final predictions of what our bracket will be.

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