Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The College Basketball Blog: NCAA Tournament Predictions

Let the Courtship Commence!

The start to the tournament is less than 40 hours away. Forgive me if I refuse to act as if the tournament begins with the “play-in game” on Tuesday night. The tournament does not start with the tip-off of that travesty. Rather, the bracket is finally set when that monstrosity ends and one of those teams becomes the other #16 seed. Nobody even counts the play-in game in the brackets of their office pool, and if you don’t matter in the brackets, you’re not part of the tournament. It’s a joke. How the NCAA can justify cheating some poor team out of the true March Madness experience that they earned is beyond me. They need to get rid of the play-in game right now. It’s a friggin joke.

Speaking of jokes, how gad awful is the SEC? The SEC is now officially worse at basketball this season than any BCS conference has ever been at football. Only 3 teams got into the field of 65 from the SEC, and it would have been just 2 if the league wasn’t so crappy that Mississippi State was able to win the conference tournament. Then the NIT began tonight with more embarrassment for the SEC. South Carolina--perhaps the SEC’s main bubble team heading into the conference tournament—hosted over-hyped media darling Davidson in the first round of the NIT. At least they were supposed to host Davidson, and the game was played in the Gamecocks’ home gym, but it sounded a whole lot more like a Davidson home game. Making matters worse, Davidson—a middling team that would have received no attention this year were it not for Stephon Curry, his hot mom, and the run they made in last year’s tournament—led South Carolina throughout and pulled away in the end for an easy win. The SEC is a joke when it comes to basketball right now and so are SEC basketball fan bases. I seriously think Memphis would have gone undefeated in the SEC this season, and I don’t think a single SEC team would have finished in the top 10 of the Big East. Pathetic. SEC teams schedule nobody in non-conference play and that used to be okay because the league had enough credit that the teams that played well in the conference season would make the NCAA Tournament. Even last year when the SEC was weaker than it had been in more than a decade, the league still got its usual number of teams into the field of 65. But this season the play in the league was so bad that only 2 teams were even in the argument for an at-large bid on Selection Sunday. And when your regular season conference champ is an 8 seed and your conference tournament champ is a 13 seed, and the only other team you get in is an 8 seed, then you’re pretty much not a major conference anymore.

Now, back to the tournament. I realize that this has been a crazy year in which no teams have really distinguished themselves as being elite and it seems like anybody could lose at any time. Everybody is saying that the tournament is going to be as wacky as the regular season and the conference tournaments were. They may be right; I really don’t have any idea what’s going to happen either. I agree that things could get crazy, and maybe we’re going to have one of those years were the higher seeds fall fast and hard and throughout the tourney. Maybe we’re about to start a tournament that will remind us of why this thing is called March Madness in the first place (or at least CBS can call it March Madness; it’s illegal for anyone else to utter those two words in succession unless it’s done in reference to CBS’ exclusive coverage of the event). People are saying that this is as wide open as things have ever been in college basketball and that we might see more stunners than ever this tournament. They might just be right. But you know what? People say the same exact thing every season. And the fact is, March Madness hasn’t been all that mad for a while. In fact, the last 2 NCAA Tournaments have been decidedly sane. I have been of the opinion that the lessening of the madness was more than just a 1 or 2 year occurrence and would end up being a trend that would continue in the years to come. And as wild and unpredictable as this year has been, I still think this year’s tournament will be a lot more like the previous 2 tournaments than the more upside down tournaments of the past.

When George Mason went to the Final Four in 2006 there were some who thought it would signal a new day of college basketball, when the “little guys” would not only compete with each other for the chance to play spoiler early in the tournament, but would be able to match-up against the top teams in the country and would have almost as much of a chance at making a Final Four or even winning a National Title as any team from a major conference. Looking back, I believe we will come to see the 2006 tournament instead as the last truly “mad” March. That year the 1st round featured a stunning 8 victories by double digit seeds (2 #10’s; 2 #11’s; 2 #12’s; a #13, and a #14). A #11 seed and a #13 seed made the Sweet Sixteen, as did #7 Wichita State. #11 George Mason reached the Elite Eight and then did the unthinkable, upsetting #1 Connecticut in the Regional Final to reach the Final Four. Finally they lost in the semifinals but they were the 1st double digit seed to make the Final Four since LSU made it as a #11 in 1986, and just the 2nd ever. For the 1st time since 1980 and just the 2nd time in history there were no #1 seeds in the Final Four (The Final Four was made up of a #2, a #3, a #4, and a #11). Only 2 of the 4 Final Four teams were among the top 12 seeds in the tournament. This year came on the heels of a fairly “mad” 2005 tournament and a lot of people were saying that the playing field had been leveled to the point that this was now going to be the norm. Many said the gap between the bigs, the mids, and the littles had been shortened to the point that conference affiliation wasn’t really an issue anymore because there was not much reason to believe that a team in the middle of the pack in the Missouri Valley was any less capable than a team in a similar position in the ACC. This was the heyday of the mid-major. Parity had arrived and was here to stay.

Parity is a part of college basketball just as it is a part of every major sport in today’s world. But instead of the madness of ’05 and ’06 leading to the gap being shortened even more, things have swung way back into place hard. In 2007, no team seeded #13 or higher won a game in the tournament for just the 4th time since the field was expanded to 64 teams in 1985. Just 2 double digit seeds won in the opening round (both #11 seeds) and no double digit seed made the Sweet 16. 10 of the top 12 seeds made the Sweet 16; 7 of the top 8 seeds made the Elite Eight (the other team was a #3 seed); and for the 1st time since 1993 and just the 2nd time ever, no team seeded #3 or higher made the Final Four. Amazingly, 2007 was close to the polar opposite of 2006. It was the year of chalk. The CBS crew had a hard time dealing with the lack of madness. Although it was an excellent tournament, many people around the country whined about the lack of upsets. Last year the early tournament upsets came back. There were 6 double digit seed winners in the first round (a #10; a #11; 2 #12’s; and 2 #13’s); 2 teams seeded #13 or higher won a game in the first round; and there were 3 double digit seeds in the Sweet 16. Davidson made the Elite Eight as a #10 seed. Still, 10 of the top 12 seeds made the Sweet 16 for the 2nd year in a row, and Davidson was the only team seeded higher than #3 to make the Elite Eight. And one of the more well known March Madness facts became obsolete, as all 4 #1 seeds reached the Final Four for the 1st time in tournament history.

You could make the case that the 2007 and 2008 tournaments were just evening things out after the 2005 and 2006 tournaments, and that now it’s time for another “mad” March. You could argue that in the previous 2 seasons there was a large group of elite teams that were clearly better than the rest of basketball, and that this year the top teams are not strong by comparison. I think there’s some truth to that but I also think that the teams that would be spoilers or upsetters are not strong this year either. It’s not so much that I think the top 12 or so teams are all that special, it’s more that I’m not impressed by the next 40 teams.

In the past few years I’ve figured out which teams I really liked at some point during the year and stuck with those teams come tournament time. With the exception of Tennessee queefing in the regional semifinals last season, this strategy has served me well. This year no team totally convinced me but when all was said and done I realized that nothing had really happened to change my mind from what I thought at the beginning of the year (again with the exception of Tennessee not being very good; and also UCLA falling off more than I expected). I still think the top 12 or so teams are on a different level than the rest and I still think the Big East teams, Carolina, Oklahoma, and Memphis are the best teams out there. So my strategy in picking this year’s bracket leaned towards the upsets coming early rather than late. Since I just didn’t have a good feel for over half of the teams in the tournament this year, I tried to use historical trends to help my judgment. To begin with, there’s really no reason to pick a #1 seed to lose prior to the regional semi’s. If you have a #1 seed going out in the Sweet 16 and they go out in the 2nd round, you’re still going to benefit from them going out even though you didn’t pick it exactly right. On the other hand, if you have a #1 seed going out that early and you are wrong it can come back to hurt badly. Essentially it’s just not worth the risk. The same thing applies to #2 seeds in the first round. 92 of the 96 #2 seeds have made the 2nd round of the tournament since the field expanded to 64 teams in 1985. Even if you really think a #2 seed is in grave danger of going down to a #15, it’s just not worth the risk. And if they end up going out in the 1st round and you have them going out in the 2nd round you will still benefit. Although the chances of a #3 seed losing in the 1st round are much better, I still think the rule applies here as well. 15 #3 seeds have lost in the opening round (as opposed to 4 #2 seeds) but only 2 in the last 9 years. We know that the chances are good that a team seeded #13 or worse will win a 1st round game. At least 1 such team has made the 2nd round in 20 of the 24 years since the field expanded to 64 in 1985. It’s been a little less frequent recently but it’s still happened in 7 of the last 10 tournaments. In fact, 2 teams seeded #13 or higher have won an opening round game in 3 of the last 4 years, so it makes sense to try and find at least 1 #13 seed who could pull off an upset. However, there’s no reason to pick a #13 or higher seed to reach the Sweet 16 because it almost never happens. You know that it’s also very likely a few teams seeded #10-#12 are going to win so you have to look for a few of those. However, even in the “maddest” of Marches, only 2 or 3 double digit seeds usually make it past the 2nd round, so you don’t want to go crazy picking teams to pull off consecutive upsets. Another thing I looked at was the fact that #3 seeds have been as likely or more likely to make the Sweet 16 as #2 seeds. Other things I paid attention to were possible location advantages and also to teams from major conferences going up against better seeded teams from smaller conferences. One thing that people often do is look for the teams that come into the tournament on a roll and stay away from teams who stumble into the tournament. In my experience, this strategy does not work as well as one would expect. It seems like there is always at least 1 team who comes into the tournament as one of the hottest teams in the country and is a popular pick to make a deep run and then goes out early. Contrary wise, it seems like there is always at least 1 team that limps into the tournament and has people saying they don’t belong and then ends up winning a game or 2. With these things in mind, here are my predictions.


First Round

#1 Louisville over #16 Morehead State
#2 Michigan State over #15 Robert Morris
#3 Kansas over #14 North Dakota State
#13 Cleveland State over #4 Wake Forrest
#12 Arizona over #5 Utah
#6 West Virginia over #11 Dayton
#10 USC over #7 Boston College
#8 Ohio State over #9 Sienna

Second Round

#1 Louisville over #8 Ohio State
#2 Michigan State over #10 USC
#6 West Virginia over #3 Kansas
#12 Arizona over #13 Cleveland State

Regional Semifinals

#1 Louisville over #12 Arizona
#2 Michigan State over #6 West Virginia

Regional Final

#1 Louisville over #2 Michigan State

For the record, I had Alabama State beating Morehead State in the play-in game. There is so much that is right about the tournament that I hate to complain but I continue to have concerns over the committee’s recent attempts to keep teams close to home. It’s not the keeping teams close to home aspect that I have a problem with, it’s the lack of consistency with which teams are given favorable locations. One of the bigger examples of this in this bracket is in the Midwest where the #8 vs. #9 game between Ohio State and Sienna takes place in Dayton, Ohio. Now the difference between an #8 and a #9 seed is essentially nil. In reality, there is no higher seed in the #8 vs. #9 games, and yet here we have a case where it seems certain that the #8 seed is going to get a bit of a crowd advantage. The entire state of Ohio is Buckeye country and at 9:40 on Friday night that place is going to be packed with Ohio State people. Not only do I think things like this have the potential to make the tournament less “tournament” like, I also have a problem with the idea that a #8 seed just randomly gets this advantage because the committee was able to set it up that way. As we all know, one of the main things that makes the tournament a true test of a team is that that the element of home court advantage is taken away. In this case, however, it would appear that Sienna will be playing at a least somewhat of a disadvantage. I have a little bit of an easier time dealing with a #1 or #2 seed staying close to home because that rewards them for a great regular season and anything to add importance to the regular season is a good thing in my opinion. But this doesn’t apply in the case of an #8 seed. Anyway, I probably would have gone with Siena if this game was not in the heart of Buckeye country. Moving on, this was the side of the bracket where I went with the most upsets. The Arizona-Utah game stood out because it was a team from a BCS conference going up against a higher seeded team from a non-BCS conference. Arizona has been the team that people have pointed to the most as a team that should not have gotten into the tournament. I don’t think that they are undeserving, I was just surprised when they made it because I didn’t think they were going to get in. They’ve lost a lot of games but they’re talented and they’re playing with a lot to prove against a team that is not a scary matchup for them. In fact, Arizona is a slight favorite over the Utes. And whenever everybody picks against a team, I start to think it might be best to go in the opposite direction. I decided to go with Cleveland State as my 1 #13 seed to win in the 1st round. I’ve been unimpressed with Wake Forrest in the last month plus and I saw Cleveland State beat Butler at Heinkle Field House in the Horizon League Championship Game. Wake is a 7.5 point favorite in the game but that’s really not all that bad. Plus, if I’m wrong, I really don’t expect Wake to get any farther than the Sweet 16. I thought Arizona was a good double digit seed to pick to get into the Sweet 16 because they fit the mold of the higher seeded team from a power conference that sometimes make it to the 2nd weekend. And I wasn’t going to pick Cleveland State to win 2 games so I had to go with Arizona. USC is coming off a run to the Pac-10 Tournament Title and I’m not a big believer in BC. I truly think Kansas could be in trouble against North Dakota State but it’s just not worth it to pick a #3 to lose in the 1st round. Kansas is inexperienced, overachieved this year, and coming off a loss to Baylor in their 1st game in the Big XII tournament. And this is another case of the location very likely having an effect on the game, and this one makes even less sense than the Ohio State-Siena game. North Dakota should get a big benefit from playing in Minnesota and they are a capable team. I don’t have a lot of confidence in Michigan State but I don’t have any reason to pick them to be upset by just anybody and I there’s nobody on their side of the region that I think should be favored over them. So I ended up with Louisville and Michigan State in the regional final and there’s nothing not to like about Louisville.


First Round

#1 Connecticut over #16 Chattanooga
#2 Memphis over #15 Cal State Northridge
#3 Missouri over #14 Cornell
#4 Washington over #13 Mississippi State
#5 Purdue over #12 Northern Iowa
#6 Marquette over #11 Utah State
#7 Cal over #10 Maryland
#8 BYU over #9 Texas A&M

Second Round

#1 Connecticut over #8 BYU
#2 Memphis over #7 Cal
#3 Missouri over #6 Marquette
#5 Purdue over #4 Washington

Regional Semifinals

#1 Connecticut over #5 Purdue
#2 Memphis over #3 Missouri

Regional Finals

#1 Connecticut over #2 Memphis

This bracket included another puzzling location issue. Washington is playing in Portland and this kept me from taking Mississippi State to upset them as a #13 seed in the first round. But this makes some sense because Washington is a #4 seed. However, #6 Marquette has to go to Boise to play #11 Utah State. I don’t get it. That’s a very dangerous game, as Utah State is good and they’ll have the a location advantage, plus Marquette has been much less of a team (naturally) since the loss of Dominic James. However, I just have a feeling that Marquette will win a game in the tournament. That’s all I can say about that one. The only team I actively pull for other than the Dawgs is Memphis and Cal scares me because they are the best 3-point shooting team in the land. Also, I don’t care what anyone says, there’s a much better chance of losing early as a #2 than there is as a #1, and the numbers back that up. However, I think Memphis will end up making the Elite Eight without much trouble. I will admit that despite having watched Missouri play 5 or 6 times this year I still don’t know much about them, but I think Memphis will handle them. The important issue with Purdue is whether or not they are healthy. When Robbie Hummel is at full strength they are great and I like them beat Washington. Everybody is down on UConn and I know they aren’t the same team that they were with Jerome Dyson but they’re still better than almost anybody out there. I believe the Connecticut-Memphis matchup that everyone is speculating over will take place. At this time last week I probably would have gone with Memphis to beat Connecticut but as the week went on something strange happened. Suddenly, everybody started to jump on the Memphis bandwagon. There are still detractors and they didn’t get the #1 seed, but they have gotten a lot of praise in the last few days. This may be idiotic but I just get swayed sometimes when everybody starts to go one way or another. Last year I picked Memphis to win the title and they nearly did but this year I think it’s a risk to take them to make the Final Four because they aren’t a #1 seed, and as great as they have been over the last few months, they aren’t the superstar team that they were last season. So in the end I decided to go with UConn to beat Memphis in the regional final.


First Round

#1 Pittsburgh over #16 East Tennessee State
#2 Duke over #15 Binghamton
#3 Villanova over #14 American
#4 Xavier over #13 Portland State
#5 Florida State over #12 Wisconsin
#11 VCU over #6 UCLA
#7 Texas over #10 Minnesota
#9 Tennessee over #8 Oklahoma State

Second Round

#1 Pittsburgh over #9 Tennessee
#2 Duke over #7 Texas
#3 Villanova over #11 VCU
#4 Xavier over #5 Florida State

Regional Semifinals

#1 Pittsburgh over #4 Xavier
#3 Villanova over #2 Duke

Regional Final

#1 Pittsburgh over #3 Villanova

Oklahoma is the “hot” team that I think will lose this year and Tennessee is actually a 2 point favorite. In another strange location issue, Xavier has to go to Boise to play Portland State, but I think Xavier is good enough to overcome the disadvantage. I feel like FSU has overachieved and they’re new at this tourney thing, where as Xavier knows this routine well. The VCU-UCLA game jumped off the screen at me as a possible upset because I thought it was a really tough draw for the Bruins. They have to go to Philly to play a dangerous VCU team but I’m a little worried about this game because UCLA is favored by 7. Also, I think UCLA could get to the Elite Eight if they end up playing Duke in the Sweet 16. However, to get there they would likely have to beat Villanova in Philly and I don’t see that happening. If Duke would have been going up against Cal in a possible 2-7 matchup I probably would have taken them to lose in the 2nd round. There was a time this season when I thought Duke was back but not anymore. I think they’ll get back to the Sweet 16—something that was once a mortal lock—because Texas has been so up and down. But I like Villanova to beat Duke and I like Pitt to win a tough game against Xavier. I’ll take Pitt over Villanova in an all Big East regional final.


First Round

#1 North Carolina over #16 Radford
#2 Oklahoma over #15 Morgan State
#3 Syracuse over #14 Stephen F. Austin
#4 Gonzaga over #13 Akron
#12 Western Kentucky over #5 Illinois
#6 Arizona State over #11 Temple
#7 Clemson over #10 Michigan
#8 LSU over #9 Butler

Second Round

#1 North Carolina over #8 LSU
#2 Oklahoma over #7 Clemson
#3 Syracuse over #6 Arizona State
#4 Gonzaga over #12 Western Kentucky

Regional Semifinals

#1 North Carolina over #4 Gonzaga
#2 Oklahoma over #3 Syracuse

Regional Finals

#1 North Carolina over #2 Oklahoma

This was a tough bracket for me. Butler always plays well in the tournament but I was unimpressed by their performance late in the season and in the Horizon Conference Tournament. I think they’ll be at a disadvantage athletically against LSU and I just have a feeling that there will not be a run for Butler this time. Western Kentucky was a knee jerk reaction because of their run last year but I’ve never been impressed by Illinois and they will not be at full strength for this game. Plus I didn’t think WK was a big risk because whoever wins that game will lose to Gonzaga in Portland in my opinion. I think this Gonzaga team is the best (or at least best equipped to make a run in the tournament) they’ve ever had but I just can’t pick them over UNC. The ASU-Temple game scares me because Temple comes in hot but I’ve believed in ASU all year so I’m going to stick with them. Either way I think the Cuse will win the 2nd round game. I don’t like the way Clemson finished the season. It took longer this time but eventually they faded just as they always do. I think Oklahoma will face Syracuse in the Sweet 16. This was a hard one to pick because I think Syracuse is capable of winning it all and Oklahoma has been struggling ever since Griffin’s concussions came on. However, this just seems like a trap. I’m sticking with Oklahoma and ultimately I’m sticking with North Carolina as well. Ty Lawson will play when the time comes.

National Semifinals

#1 Connecticut over #1 Louisville
#1 North Carolina over #1 Pittsburgh

National Championship

#1 North Carolina over #1 Connecticut

In the end I just decided to stick with what I felt going into the year: Carolina was the best, the Big East would get 3 in the Final Four, and Connecticut was the 2nd best. And there’s really no reason to be afraid of picking all #1 seeds.

Monday, March 16, 2009

The College Basketball Blog: Non-BCS Bowl--er, I Mean NIT, CBI, and CIT Predictions

Postseason Tourney's Gone Wild!!!

You may not know it but the NCAA Tournament isn't the only postseason tournament going on this March. As always, the National Invitational Tournament, commonly referred to as the NIT (or the "Not in the Tournament" tournament) will be taking place at around the same time as the big tournament, its games taking places during the March’s quiet days, Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. But the NIT is not the only “consolation tournament” being played in March these days. Last year the College Basketball Invitational or CBI was created as a 3rd postseason tournament. It was the first time a tournament other than the NCAA and NIT was played since the Collegiate Commissioners Association Tournament in 1975. This year yet another postseason tournament has been formed, this one’s title has a December Bowl feel to it. The Tournament or CIT will compete with the NIT and the CBI for the dead air in March. There are a lot of teams out there in Division I and a whole bunch of them are still playing. Indeed, there are enough teams involved in postseason play this season for us to have a pair of 64-team tournaments if we wanted.

It’s getting silly. I mean both of the major college sports in this country—basketball and football—are played within idiotic systems. People spend all winter complaining about how there is no playoff in college football, all the while not paying any attention to anything going on in the sport of college basketball. Unless you are a serious college basketball fan or are a fan of a “basketball school” (UNC, Duke, Kansas, Kentucky, Syracuse, etc.) the college basketball season really doesn’t even begin until some time in mid to late February. So much emphasis is put on how a team finishes that it barley matters what a team does during the winter. I know the committee tried hard to convince us otherwise this year but honestly, how much would I really have missed out on this season if I slept through the month of December? The places that this is the worst are in the mid major and small major conferences. In the vast majority of these conferences a team will not receive an at-large bid to the tournament and therefore must win their conference tournament. True, this does bring relevance to the America East Conference Tournament Final during Championship Week, but also seems to render the previous 8 weeks irrelevant. Yes, the teams are playing the conference season for pride and they care whether they win or lose just as I cared about 7th grade football when there were only 3 teams on my schedule and there were no playoffs. But the rest of us don’t have any reason to care. And a lot of the time the best team from a certain conference doesn’t end up representing that conference in the Big Dance. I’m not really saying there’s a way to fix all of this because clearly taking away the automatic bids awarded to tournament champions would erase 2 weeks of drama. I’m just saying it’s kind of silly, the same way the BCS standings are silly, and yet if you took them away the talk radio air waves would go silent on a Tuesday in November.

And college basketball heads can’t rip on football anymore for having meaningless postseason games, not unless they want to rip on basketball as well. Say what you will about Northern Illinois vs. Louisiana Tech in the Independence Bowl. That’s still way more compelling than Rider @ Liberty in the opening “round” of the “tournament.” And just as you can eliminate every non-BCS school from the College Football National Championship race before the start of every season, you can eliminate all but the teams from 7 or 8 conferences in the race for the College Basketball National Championship. Even if one of the “little guys” does get to the tournament they have no shot to win it all. I’ll admit that a #13 seed from the Sun Belt Conference knocking off UCONN in the first round of the tournament is a lot more meaningful than Troy beating Minnesota in a bowl game, but even those moments are getting fewer and farther between. The “madness” has been missing from March recently and in my opinion that trend will continue. This isn’t really a bad thing in my mind. The tournament is just as entertaining. Every game is do or die and you know a third of the games are going to go down to the wire. Plus, less random upsets make for better games later on. And when upsets become the norm, are they really upsets anymore?

Anyway, before we get to the main event, let’s look at the 3 events on the undercard, just for the hell of it.

The National Invitational Tournament

The NIT actually predates the NCAA Tournament by 1 year and has been played every year since 1938. It was once considered the equal to the Big Dance and was even the preferred choice by teams at times. The reason for this can be found in the tournament’s title: the “Invitational.” During the early years, the NCAA Tournament was one made up exclusively of conference winners. Thus, teams who were not members of conferences or did not win their conference were not included in the Big Dance. The NIT “invited” the best of these teams to compete in their tournament. As you might imagine, because only 1 team from each of the conferences made the NCAA’s, the NIT field was often stronger. The other reason that the NIT was special back in the day was its location at “The Basketball Mecca” of Madison Square Garden in New York City. In the beginning the entire tournament was played out at the Garden and this gave schools and players a chance to perform in front of a national stage. It was a very big deal at that time. Back then the winner of the NIT was actually crowned national champion and that title was not looked on as significantly less valid than the title of NCAA Champion. In 1950, City College of New York won both the NIT and NCAA Tournaments. But in the years to come the NCAA became the premier tournament. This occurred because the NCAA Tournament expanded to include more tournament champions, and more importantly, began the practice of awarding “at-large’ bids to prominent teams. The NCAA Tournament was run by the NCAA obviously; while the NIT was run by something called the Metropolitan Intercollegiate Basketball Association. As you would guess, the NCAA eventually overshadowed the indepent tournament and eventually purchased the rights. But for most of the last 60 years the NIT has been a consolation bracket or, in a more cynical view, a “loser’s bracket.”

The tournament’s tradition of playing at Madison Square Garden is about the only charm left about the NIT and even that is eroded by the fact that only the semi-finals and finals are actually played in the Big Apple. 32 teams are selected and seeded and then divided into 4 separate “regions” but the first and second rounds and the quarter finals are played at the higher seeded teams’ home sites. That takes a lot of the “tournament” feel out of the NIT. It’s still a playoff but normally a tournament consists of a bunch of teams playing at one site or a few sites over the course of a number of days. When you have a team playing in Albequerque in front of the same crowd that would have been there during the regular season, and then playing in New Orleans in an empty gym a few nights later, it just doesn’t seem like a tournament.

In recent times one thing that has improved has been the makeup of the field and the way it has been seeded. A committee now sets the field rather than the network covering the tournament hand picking teams that would draw more viewers. And teams from small conferences are able to host games even if it means that the crowds will be smaller. Also, teams do look at the NIT in a slightly better light than in the past. It can be seen as a chance for up and coming teams to improve and get a jump start on next year. Teams can end the season on a good note rather than a disapointing one. A rule was implemented a few years ago both helped bring some motivated teams into the tournament and helped deal with the problem of teams that are at the top of their conference all season long but miss out on the NCAA Tournament because of one loss in their conference tournament. Any team that wins its conference’s regular season championship but does not win their conference tournament and doesn’t receive an at-large big to the Big Dance is automatically reserved a spot in the NIT. So they threw a bone to the little guys here and that actually makes it more interesting because these teams actually feel like they can prove something in the NIT, where as most of the major programs are playing for confidence and momentum, but also realize that even winning the whole thing isn’t going to earn them respect or acclaim. By the way, at least in college football teams are forced to finish the season at .500 or better in order to play in a bowl game. This is actually not a requirement for a team to play in the NCAA, NIT, CBI, or CIT.

The biggest problem with the NIT is that it’s really hard to know what to make of the results. The most interesting thing about the NIT is that many if not most of the teams in the field are ones which had an argument to be in the NCAA Tournament. You can look at a team like St. Mary’s this season and you want to see if they can make the Selection Committee look bad by doing something in the NIT. However, most of the time you don’t end up getting much evidence either way because the first 3 rounds are played on the higher seeded team’s home court. Home court advantage is a bigger deal in college basketball than any other sport and it is perhaps the biggest factor in determining the outcome of any game. A bubble team that just misses the NCAA Tournament is most likely 15-3 or something like it at home, so what more will we learn about that team if they win 2 or even 3 more games at home against other close but not quite tournament teams in the NIT? If the entire tournament was played at a neutral site then a team would be able to separate themselves from the rest of the teams deemed to be close to their level. But with all but the semi-finals and finals played with one team holding a homecourt edge, we are unlikely to learn much of anything new. More than likely, the higher rated seeds are going to win at home and only when we get to the “final four” will the tournament really start.

Actually that isn’t the biggest problem. The biggest problem is that there’s no way of fixing it. Apparently it’s just not feeasable to have most of the tournament played in New York. The cost of travel for teams and trouble selling tickets have to be the biggest issues. The higher seeded teams are able to reap the benefits of another home game and that means ticket sales and consessions. I’m not sure but I think teams would probably lose money by playing in the NIT if the entire thing was played at Madison Square. The only way I could see it working would be to cut the field in half to 16. You seed the teams 1 through 16 and play only the first round at home sites of the higher seeded teams on Tuesday and Wednesday. Then after the first weekend of the “Big Tournament” is over, the 8 remaining NIT teams take the stage at Madison Square Garden. You play the 4 quarterfinal games on Monday; the 2 semi-final games on Tuesday; and the final on Wednesday. There would be no game during the week leading up to the Final Four but I still think this would be the best way.

While we might expect slighted mid-majors to do some damage in the NIT, that has not been the case at all in modern times. The NIT has been controlled by teams from the 10 major basketball conferences (the 6 BCS conferences plus the A-10, C-USA, the WAC, and the Moutain West) in the last 25 years. Bradley won the NIT in 1982 but in the 26 NIT’s since then no team not currently in one of the 10 major conferences has even made the NIT Final, much less won the title. Last year, all 4 of the #1 seeds in the NIT reached the quarterfinals along with 3 of the #2 seeds and a #3 seed. However, Ohio State was the only #1 seed to win their quarterfinal matchup, beating Dayton to make the “final four.” The other 3 teams to make it to New York were all #2 seeds, as UMASS upset Syracuse, Florida knocked off Arizona State, and Ole Miss beat Virginia Tech. In semi-finals at Madison Square, UMASS defeated Florida and Ohio State beat Mississippi to set up a Buckeye-Minnute Man final. #1 Ohio State defeated #2 UMASS, 72-65, in the championship to win the 2008 NIT.

A week ago I thought this year’s NIT had a chance to be the most highpowered field ever. Looking around at the state of braketotlogy, it seemed likely to me that the NIT field of 32 would include a huge number of big names and talented teams: Georgetown, Notredame, Providence, Cincinnati, Michigan, Penn State, Northwestern, Florida, Kentucky, Auburn, Mississippi State, Vanderbilt, Miami, Maryland, Nebraska, Baylor, Arizona, USC, Stanford, Washington State, UAB, Houston, Davidson, Creighton, Temple, St. Joe’s, George Mason and more. I mean, that’s almost the entire field of 32 right there just made up of marquee teams. However, a was off on a couple of counts. Number 1: I forget that all teams that won their conference regular season title and then lost their conference tournament would get automatic bids. Number 2: The landscape of bracketology changed, and Michigan, Miss State, Maryland, Arizona, USC, and Temple all made it to the field of 65. Still, this year’s field is pretty solid. Without question, as far as consolation tournaments go, the NIT is the cream of the crop. Snubbed bubble teams San Deigo State, St. Mary’s, Creighton, and Penn State are included in the field, as well as teams like Florida, Kentucky, Providence, Miami, Kansas State, Georgetown, Baylor, Notre Dame, Davidson, and UNLV. Before I get to my prediction there is one more important note: although Miami is a #4 seed they will be playing at #5 Providence in the first round of the NIT because of scheduling issues. Here are my picks.

2009 NIT Predictions

First Round
#1 San Diego State over #8 Webber State
#2 St. Mary’s over #7 Washington State
#3 South Carolina over #6 Davidson
#4 Kansas State over #5 Illinois State
#1 Auburn over #8 UT-Martin
#7 Duquesne over #2 Virginia Tech
#3 Baylor over #6 Georgetown
#4 Tulsa over #5 Northwestern
#1 Creighton over #8 Bowling Green
#2 Notre Dame over #7 UAB
#3 New Mexico over #6 Nebraska
#5 UNLV over #4 Kentucky
#1 Florida over #8 Jacksonville
#2 Penn State over #7 George Mason
#6 Rhode Island over #3 Niagara
#5 Providence over #4 Miami

Second Round
#1 San Diego State over #4 Kansas State
#2 St. Mary’s over #3 South Carolina
#1 Auburn over #4 Tulsa
#3 Baylor over #7 Duquesne
#1 Creighton over #5 UNLV
#2 Notre Dame over #3 New Mexico
#1 Florida over #5 Providence
#6 Rhode Island over #2 Penn State

Regional Finals
#1 San Diego State over #2 St. Mary’s
#1 Auburn over #3 Baylor
#1 Creighton over #2 Notre Dame
#1 Florida over #6 Rhode Island

#1 San Diego State over #1 Auburn
#1 Creighton over #1 Florida

#1 Creighton over #1 San Diego State

The College Basketball Invitational Tournament

When the NIT reduced its field from 40 to 32 teams in 2007, a group of basketball people known as the Gazelle Group got together to form a 3rd postseason tournament which they named the College Basketball Invitational or CBI. Fox College Sports signed on to cover the games. A field of 16 teams would be selected by a committee and divided into 4 separate 4-team regions and then seeded. All games would be played at the home sites of the higher seeded teams. After the first two rounds, the winners of the 4 regions would be re-seeded and then the semi-finals would take place, again with the higher seeded teams hosting. The signature aspect of the CBI (or its gimmick) was that the finals would be a best of 3 series, with game 1 being at the higher seeded team’s site, game 2 being at the other team’s site, and if necessary, game 3 being at the higher seeded team’s site. While it might seem a little silly, I actually appreciate that they made an honest attempt to help solve the home court advantage issue. And it was something unique to the CBI, the way the NIT is unique for having the semi’s played at Madison Square. The 16-team field for the inaugural CBI was actually pretty solid, with UTEP, Bradley, Virginia, Houston, Nevada, and Utah making the field. Surprisingly, 2 of the 4 #1 seeds lost at home in the opening round, as UTEP fell to Utah and Washington went down to Valparaiso. #2 Tulsa beat Utah and #3 Houston beat Valpo to reach the semi’s, as did #1 seeds Bradley and UVA. After re-seeding, Tulsa beat Houston and Bradley knocked off Virginia to set up a Bradley-Houston final “series.” Tulsa had the higher seed and they won the opener but Bradley won game 2 to force a rubber match. Tulsa won on their home court to take the series, 2-1, and win the inaugural CBI title.

Unfortunately, this year’s addition of the CBI has a far less promising field of 16. UTEP, Houston, and Nevada are back and Stanford is included in this year’s field, but 1 of the #1 seeds is Oregon State which finished 13-17 on the season. Also in the field is St. John’s who ended up 16-17, as well as Wichita State who ended up 16-16. Here are my picks, and remember, I have to make a guess as to how the final 4 teams would be “re-seeded” before the semi-finals.

2009 CBI Tournament Predictions

Opening Round
#1 Stanford over #4 Boise State
#2 Wichita State over #3 Buffalo
#1 Nevada over #4 UTEP
#2 Wyoming over #3 Northeastern
#4 Houston over #1 Oregon State
#2 Wisconsin-Green Bay over #3 Vermont
#1 Richmond over #4 St. John’s
#3 College of Charleston over #2 Troy

Regional Finals
#1 Stanford over #2 Wichita State
#1 Nevada over #2 Wyoming
#2 Wisconsin-Green Bay over #4 Houston
#3 College of Charleston over #1 Richmond

#1 Nevada over #4 College of Charleston
#2 Stanford over #3 Wisconsin-Green Bay

#1 Nevada over #2 Stanford, 2-1

The Tournament

Clearly there was a need for even more postseason play. With that goal in mind, the folks at got together and formed the aptly named, “ Tournament.” Like the CBI, the CIT is made up of a field of 16-teams selected by a committee, seeded, and with all games played at the home site of the higher seeded teams. However, there are a number of key differences, some of them good, some of them not so good. Starting with the good, one of the CIT’s guidelines is that all 16 teams in the field must have a winning record (not just .500). Another positive aspect is that the CIT selection committee gives higher priority to teams from conferences that have less than 50% of its teams participating in the NCAA and NIT tournaments. Now on to the bad. The biggest problem with the CIT is that they have decided to go with a format once used by the NIT, in which a team’s future opponent will only be determined after the completion of each round. In other words, the teams are going to be re-seeded not only before the semi’s, but also before the quarterfinals. Essentially there is no bracket. And as strange as it seemed for the CBI to place Oregon State as a #1 seed, at least the rest of that tournament’s seeding made sense. The CIT’s opening round match-ups and locations appear to have been made with almost no rhyme or reason. Actually that is not entirely true but the fact of the matter is that the teams’ records and resumes are all pretty close and so it’s hard to figure who is seeded what. This is not a star studded event; it’s not even star bedazzled (Cheap Seats Season I, Episode “NFL/MLB Arm Wrestling”) but Vegas is still setting lines so what they hey. It’s tough to know how things will pan out after each round but I decided to give it my best shot anyway. Here are my picks.

2009 Tournament Predictions

First Round

#1 Old Dominion over #4 Citadel
#2 Liberty over #3 Rider

#4 Mount St. Mary’s over #1 James Madison
#2 Oakland over #3 Kent State

#1 Bradley over #4 Austin Peay
#3 Belmont over #2 Evansville

#1 Pacific over #4 Portland
#2 Idaho over #3 Drake

#1 Old Dominion over #8 Mount St. Mary’s
#2 Bradley over #7 Belmont
#3 Oakland over #6 Liberty
#4 Pacific over #5 Idaho

#1 Old Dominion over #4 Pacific
#2 Bradley over #3 Oakland

#1 Old Dominion over #2 Bradley

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The College Basketball Blog: Conference Tourney Predictions

Thank Darwin it's March!!!

There's no better time for a sports fan than March into April. Baseball is around the corner; the NBA season which is twice as long as it needs to be is finally turning the corner and heading down the stretch; Golf is back; NFL free agency is fast and furious and there's endless draft speculation; and most of all, the College Basketball regular season is winding down, which actually means that College Basketball is about to begin. The final key regular season games; the conference tournaments; selection Sunday; 3 days of filling out the brackets. And then finally, the best 4-day stretch of the year, the annual reward for being a sports fan, the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament. And then of course the 2nd weekend of the tournament is the 2nd best 4-day stretch of the year. And it leads to the Final Four and the Championship Game. I can't wait to start seeing Greg Gumble's fat face 18 hours a day.

I'll be posting a lot of updates in the near future. For now, here are my Conference Tournament predictions. Obviously some have already begun or been completed but I didn't bother to post until all the fields were set.

2009 NCAA Conference Tournament Predictions

America East Conference
First Round
#8 Maine over #9 Hartford
#1 Binghamton over #8 Maine
#2 Vermont over #7 Albany
#3 Boston over #6 UMBC
#4 New Hampshire over #5 Stony Brook
#1 Binghamton over #4 New Hampshire
#2 Vermont over #3 Boston
#1 Binghamton over #2 Vermont

First Round
#5 Clemson over #12 Georgia Tech
#6 Boston College over #11 Virginia
#7 Maryland over #10 NC State
#9 Miami over #8 Virginia Tech
#1 UNC over #9 Miami
#2 Wake Forrest over #7 Maryland
#6 Boston College over #3 Duke
#4 Florida State over #5 Clemson
#1 UNC over #4 Florida State
#2 Wake Forrest over #6 Boston College
#1 UNC over #2 Wake Forrest

Atlantic Sun
First Round
#2 ETSU over #7 Stetson
#3 Belmont over #6 Mercer
#4 Lipscomb over #5 Campbell
#1 Jacksonville over #4 Lipscomb
#2 ETSU over #3 Belmont
#1 Jacksonville over #2 ETSU

Atlantic Ten Conference
First Round
#5 St. Joseph’s over #12 Charlotte
#6 Richmond over #11 St. Bonaventure
#7 Duquesne over #10 UMass
#8 LaSalle over #9 St. Louis
#1 Xavier over #8 LaSalle
#2 Rhode Island over #7 Duquesne
#3 Dayton over #6 Richmond
#4 Temple over #5 St. Joseph’s
#1 Xavier over #4 Temple
#3 Dayton over #2 Rhode Island
#1 Xavier over #3 Dayton

Big East Conference
First Round
#9 Cincinnati over #16 DePaul
#10 Notre Dame over #15 Rutgers
#11 Seton Hall over #14 South Florida
#12 Georgetown over #13 St. John’s
Second Round
#5 Marquette over #12 Georgetown
#6 Syracuse over #11 Seton Hall
#7 West Virginia over #10 Notre Dame
#8 Providence over #9 Cincinnati
#1 Louisville over #8 Providence
#2 Pittsburgh over #7 West Virginia
#3 UConn over #6 Syracuse
#4 Villanova over #5 Marquette
#1 Louisville over #4 Villanova
#2 Pittsburgh over #3 UConn
#2 Pittsburgh over #1 Louisville

Big Sky Conference
First Round
#3 Montana over #6 Montana State
#4 Idaho State over #5 Northern Colorado
#1 Weber State over #4 Idaho State
#2 Portland State over #3 Montana
#1 Weber State over #2 Portland State

Big South
#1 Radford over #8 Highpoint
#2 VMI over #7 Costal Carolina
#3 Liberty over #6 Gardner-Webb
#4 UNC-Ashville over #5 Winthrop
#1 Radford over #4 UNC-Ashville
#2 VMI over #3 Liberty
#1 Radford over #2 VMI

Big Ten Conference
First Round
#6 Penn State over #11 Indiana
#7 Michigan over #10 Iowa
#8 Minnesota over #9 Northwestern
#1 Michigan State over #8 Minnesota
#2 Illinois over #7 Michigan
#3 Purdue over #6 Penn State
#4 Wisconsin over #5 Ohio State
#1 Michigan State over #4 Wisconsin
#2 Illinois over #3 Purdue
#1 Michigan State over #2 Illinois

Big XII Conference
First Round
#5 Texas over #12 Colorado
#6 Texas A&M over #11 Texas Tech
#7 Oklahoma State over #10 Iowa State
#8 Nebraska over #9 Baylor
#1 Kansas over #8 Nebraska
#2 Oklahoma over #7 Oklahoma State
#3 Missouri over #6 Texas A&M
#4 Kansas State over #5 Texas
#1 Kansas over #4 Kansas State
#2 Oklahoma over #3 Missouri
#2 Oklahoma over #1 Kansas

Big West Conference
First Round
#8 UC Davis over #5 UC Irvine
#6 UC Riverside over #7 Cal State Fullerton
Second Round
#3 Pacific over #8 UC Davis
#4 UC Santa Barbara over #6 UC Riverside
#1 Cal State Northridge over #4 UC Santa Barbara
#2 Long Beach State over #3 Pacific
#1 Cal State Northridge over #2 Long Beach State

Colonial Athletic Association
First Round
#5 Hofstra over #12 UNC-Wilmington
#6 Drexel over #11 Towson
#7 James Madison over #10 William and Mary
#8 Georgia State over #9 Delaware
#1 VCU over #8 Georgia State
#2 George Mason over #7 James Madison
#3 Northeastern over #6 Drexel
#4 Old Dominion over #5 Hofstra
#1 VCU over #4 Old Dominion
#2 George Mason over #3 Northeastern
#1 VCU over #2 George Mason

Conference USA
First Round
#5 Houston over #12 SMU
#6 Central Florida over #11 Southern Miss
#7 Marshall over #10 Rice
#8 Tulane over #9 East Carolina
#1 Memphis over #8 Tulane
#2 Tulsa over #7 Marshall
#3 UAB over #6 Central Florida
#4 UTEP over #5 Houston
#1 Memphis over #4 UTEP
#3 UAB over #2 Tulsa
#1 Memphis over #3 UAB

Horizon League
First Round
#3 Cleveland State over #10 Detroit
#4 Wright State over #9 Valparaiso
#5 Wisconsin-Milwaukee over #8 Loyola-Illinois
#6 Youngstown State over #7 Illinois-Chicago
Second Round
#3 Cleveland State over #6 Youngstown State
#4 Wright State over #5 Wisconsin-Milwaukee
#1 Butler over #4 Wright State
#2 Wisconsin-Green Bay over #3 Cleveland State
#1 Butler over #2 Wisconsin-Green Bay

First Round
#7 Iona over #10 Marist
#8 Loyola-MD over #9 Canisius
#1 Sienna over #8 Loyola-MD
#2 Niagara over #7 Iona
#3 Rider over #6 St. Peter’s
#4 Manhattan over #5 Fairfield
#1 Sienna over #4 Manhattan
#2 Niagara over #3 Rider
#1 Sienna over #2 Niagara

First Round
#5 Akron over #12 Toledo
#6 Kent State over #11 Northern Illinois
#10 Eastern Michigan over #7 Central Michigan
#8 Western Michigan over #9 Ohio
#1 Bowling Green over #8 Western Michigan
#10 Eastern Michigan over #2 Ball State
#6 Kent State over #3 Buffalo
#5 Akron over #4 Miami (OH)
#1 Bowling Green over #5 Akron
#6 Kent State over #10 Eastern Michigan
#6 Kent State over #1 Bowling Green

First Round
#6 Bethune-Cookman over #11 Maryland-East Shore
#7 Hampton over #10 Delaware State
#9 Howard over #8 Florida A&M
#1 Morgan State over #9 Howard
#7 Hampton over #2 South Carolina State
#6 Bethune-Cookman over #3 Norfolk State
#4 North Carolina A&T over #5 Coppin State
#1 Morgan State over #7 Hampton
#4 North Carolina A&T over #6 Bethune-Cookman
#1 Morgan State over #4 North Carolina A&T

Missouri Valley Conference
First Round
#7 Wichita State over #10 Missouri State
#8 Drake over #9 Indiana State
#1 Northern Iowa over #8 Drake
#2 Creighton over #7 Wichita State
#3 Illinois State over #6 Evansville
#4 Bradley over #5 Southern Illinois
#1 Northern Iowa over #4 Bradley
#2 Creighton over #3 Illinois State
#1 Northern Iowa over #2 Creighton

Mountain West Conference
First Round
#8 Colorado State over #9 Air Force
#1 BYU over #8 Colorado State
#2 Utah over #7 TCU
#3 New Mexico over #6 Wyoming
#4 San Diego State over #5 UNLV
#1 BYU over #4 San Diego State
#3 New Mexico over #2 Utah
#1 BYU over #3 New Mexico

#1 Robert Morris over #8 St. Francis
#2 Mount St. Mary’s over #7 Wagner
#3 Sacred Heart over #6 Central Connecticut State
#4 Long Island over #5 Quinnipiac
#1 Robert Morris over #4 Long Island
#2 Mount St. Mary’s over #3 Sacred Heart
#1 Robert Morris over #2 Mount St. Mary’s

Ohio Valley Conference
#1 UT-Martin over #8 Tennessee Tech
#2 Austin Peay over #7 Eastern Illinois
#3 Murray State over #6 Tennessee State
#4 Morehead State over #5 Eastern Kentucky
#1 UT-Martin over #4 Morehead State
#2 Austin Peay over #3 Murray State
#1 UT-Martin over #2 Austin Peay

Pac Ten Conference
First Round
#7 Washington State over #10 Oregon
#8 Oregon State over #9 Stanford
#1 Washington over #8 Oregon State
#2 UCLA over #7 Washington State
#6 USC over #3 Cal
#4 Arizona State over #5 Arizona
#1 Washington over #4 Arizona State
#2 UCLA over #6 USC
#2 UCLA over #1 Washington

Patriot League
#1 American over #8 Lafayette
#2 Holy Cross over #7 Bucknell
#3 Navy over #6 Colgate
#4 Army over #5 Leigh
#1 American over #4 Army
#2 Holy Cross over #3 Navy
#1 American over #2 Holy Cross

First Round
#3W Mississippi State over #6E UGA
#3E Florida over #6W Arkansas
#4W Alabama over #5E Vanderbilt
#4E Kentucky over #5W Mississippi
#1W LSU over #4E Kentucky
#1E Tennessee over #4W Alabama
#2W Auburn over #3E Florida
#2E South Carolina over #3W Mississippi State
#1W LSU over #2E South Carolina
#1E Tennessee over #2W Auburn
#1W LSU over #1E Tennessee

Southern Conference
First Round
#3 Samford over #6 Furman
#3 College of Charleston over #6 UNC-Greensboro
#4 Appalachian State over #5 Georgia Southern
#4 Wofford over #5 Elon
#1 Davidson over #4 Appalachian State
#1 UT-Chattanooga over #4 Wofford
#2 Western Carolina over #3 College of Charleston
#2 The Citadel over #3 Samford
#1 Davidson over #2 Western Carolina
#1 UT-Chattanooga over #2 The Citadel
#1 Davidson over #1 UT-Chattanooga

Southland Conference
#1 Stephen F. Austin over #8 Southeast Louisiana State
#2 Nicholls State over #7 Texas State
#3 Sam Houston over #6 UT-San Antonio
#4 Texas A&M-Corpus Christi over #5 UT-Arlington
#1 Stephen F. Austin over #4 Texas A&M-Corpus Christi
#2 Nicholls State over #3 Sam Houston
#1 Stephen F. Austin over #2 Nicholls State

#1 Alabama State over #8 Alabama A&M
#2 Jackson State over #7 Texas Southern
#3 Prairie View over #6 Mississippi Valley State
#5 Southern over #4 Arkansas-Pine Bluff
#1 Alabama State over #5 Southern
#3 Prairie View over #2 Jackson State
#1 Alabama State over #3 Prairie View

Summit League
#1 North Dakota State over #8 Centenary
#2 Oral Roberts over #7 South Dakota State
#3 Oakland over #6 IPFW
#4 IUPUI over #5 Southern Utah
#1 North Dakota State over #4 IUPUI
#2 Oral Roberts over #3 Oakland
#1 North Dakota State over #2 Oral Roberts

Sun Belt Conference
First Round
#4 North Texas over #13 FAU
#5 Middle Tennessee State over #12 Arkansas State
#6 South Alabama over #11 New Orleans
#7 Denver over #10 ULM
#8 ULL over #9 FIU
#1 Western Kentucky over #8 ULL
#2 Arkansas-Little Rock over #7 Denver
#3 Troy over #6 South Alabama
#4 North Texas over #5 Middle Tennessee State
#1 Western Kentucky over #4 North Texas
#2 Arkansas-Little Rock over #3 Troy
#1 Western Kentucky over #2 Arkansas-Little Rock

West Coast Conference
First Round
#5 San Diego over #8 Loyola-Marymount
#6 Pepperdine over #7 San Francisco
Second Round
#3 Portland over #6 Pepperdine
#4 Santa Clara over #5 San Diego
#1 Gonzaga over #4 Santa Clara
#2 St. Mary’s over #3 Portland
#1 Gonzaga over #2 St. Mary’s

First Round
#8 Hawaii over #9 Fresno State
#1 Utah State over #8 Hawaii
#2 Nevada over #7 San Jose State
#3 Idaho over #6 Louisiana Tech
#4 Boise State over #5 New Mexico State
#1 Utah State over #4 Boise State
#2 Nevada over #3 Idaho
#2 Nevada over #1 Utah State