BracketBot’s Conference Tournament Preview: Part 2

Welcome to Part 2 of the Conference Tournament Preview series! In case you missed it, here’s Part 1, covering the tournaments that started tonight as well as a few others from this week.

WEST COAST CONFERENCE
R1: Thursday 3/5
R2: Friday 3/6
QF: Saturday 3/7
SF: Monday 3/9
Final: Tuesday 3/10
All games at Las Vegas

The WCC has used the ladder format for a while, though it’s not really necessary when the top of the league is as good as it is this year. Gonzaga, BYU and St. Mary’s are all most likely going to be in the tournament, and together it’s about a 98% chance that one of them cuts down the nets in Vegas next week, according to BracketBot ratings.

SOUTHERN CONFERENCE
Friday 3/6 – Monday 3/9
All games at Asheville, NC

The SoCon race has been exciting this year. Overall, it’s not the best year for the conference but the top three teams have been stellar. If they were to lose the championship game, I think there might still be an at-large case for ETSU, but regardless of what happens, whoever comes out of this tournament is probably going to scare someone in the first round come NCAA time. If there is a contender outside of those three strong teams at the top, I like #5 Western Carolina, who are playing fairly close to home by having the tournament in Asheville.

COLONIAL
Saturday 3/7 – Tuesday 3/10
All games at Washington, DC

One of the most wide-open conference tournaments for sure. The top 6 seeds have first-round byes, and any of them could walk out with the tournament crown without really surprising people. The bottom half of the bracket looks especially wide open, with William & Mary, Towson and Northeastern all about equally likely to advance to the final. W&M is a sentimental favorite for many, having never made the NCAA tournament despite a long history of college basketball, and this really could be the year.

SUMMIT LEAGUE
QF: Saturday 3/7 – Sunday 3/8
SF: Monday 3/9
Final: Tuesday 3/10
All games at Sioux Falls, SD

The Summit was a three-horse race this season until a late-season fall off from South Dakota, and it now seems like it’ll be a good weekend for those who have “Dakota State” in their names. The conference race was effectively decided by NDSU’s home win over SDSU last Thursday, though the two teams did finish in a tie for the top spot. The Summit is a 9-team league, but last place Western Illinois did not qualify for this tourney.

AMERICA EAST
QF: Saturday 3/7
SF: Tuesday 3/10
Final: Saturday 3/14
All games at higher seed

Vermont absolutely blitzed through this league, losing only twice by a combined 4 points, in their home matchups with Stony Brook and UMBC, and went undefeated on the road. They won’t need any road magic in this tournament – the Catamounts will get everyone on their home floor as long as they keep winning, and could very easily have the opportunity to avenge both of those home losses. Anybody winning this except one of the top two seeds would be an enormous surprise.

SUN BELT
R1: Saturday 3/7
R2: Monday 3/9
QF: Wednesday 3/11
SF: Saturday 3/14
Final: Sunday 3/15
First three rounds at higher seeds, semifinals and final at New Orleans

I am jumping the gun slightly here, as the Sun Belt hasn’t released an official tournament bracket, but this is what it should look like based on their tiebreaking procedures. This promises to be a fascinating tournament, though, thanks to the close match between the top teams. Despite the ladder format, it’s interesting to see the highest seeded teams, Little Rock and South Alabama, having a lower win probability than the next two despite being granted an extraordinary triple bye, same as in the WCC. Five teams in this league are ranked between #100 and #140 in BracketBot’s power rating system, with two more above #170 (which is roughly D-I average). You can probably guess that Texas State and Georgia State rate the highest among Sun Belt teams, which is why I’d favor one of them to win this thing. Check out UT-Arlington if you want a real dark horse to watch early on in this slog – this system pegs them as the Sun Belt’s third best team, but they would have to win the full complement of five games to make the dance.

That’s all for this set – only 6 tournaments in this update, because the other conferences have yet to finish their regular seasons. I should be back with another set of conference tournament previews on Sunday, as we get into the leagues that hold their tournaments in the week leading up to Selection Sunday! See you soon!

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