Predicting Mid-Majors (03/04/16)

By John Ewing Director of Research and Analytics @johnewing
Predicting the mid-major conference tournaments.

Conference tournaments are the unofficial start of March Madness. The NCAA awards 32 automatic bids to the Big Dance and 31 of those (the Ivy League does not hold a tournament) will be determined through each conference's tournament.

With automatic bids at stake, we have simulated each conference tournament using our Bracket Simulator to predict which teams will punch their ticket to March Madness. The Bracket Simulator is a free tool that gives you the power to simulate the postseason for any sport. Create your own bracket now! has been very profitable in conference tournaments. All-time on the site, "normal" or better conference tournament picks are 113-84-1 (57% ATS and O/U), through 2015. For access to conference tournament picks, click here.

Colonial Athletic Association

When: March 4-7

Where: Baltimore, MD

The automatic bid goes to: Hofstra (27.6%)

Hofstra earned the top seed in the CAA tournament via tiebreaker. The Pride are sharing the regular season title with UNC-Wilmington after the two teams split their head-to-head matchups (both games were decided by three points or less). Hofstra has five players averaging double-digit points. The Pride hasn't been dancing since 2001.

And if they lose: UNC-Wilmington (22.9%)

Wilmington only lost four conference games all season and has beat every team in the tournament at least once. The Seahawks had an 11 game winning streak in Colonial play at one point in the season. UNCW is better defensively than Hofstra and that could prove the difference in the most likely title game.
Odds to win the Colonial Tournament (based on 50,000 simulations of the conference tournament)

Seed Team Tournament Win%
1 Hofstra 27.6
2 UNC-Wilmington 22.9
4 James Madison 17.6
5 William & Mary 14.2
7 Charleston 6.1
3 Towson 5.6
6 Northeastern 3.8
8 Elon 2.3
9 Drexel 0.0
10 Delaware 0.0

Horizon League

When: March 5-8

Where: Detroit, MI

The automatic bid goes to: Valparaiso (59.9%)

Valpo is already listed as a 12-seed in Joe Lunardi's most recent version of Bracketology. The Crusaders could improve that positioning with a strong showing in the conference tournament. Bryce Drew has a top 35 squad that is 6th in defensive efficiency. Valpo could be in line for another Cinderella run through the Big Dance.

And if they lose: Oakland (26.5%)

The Grizzlies can score. Led by Kay Felder, Oakland is averaging 87.3 points per game, tops in the nation. Valpo won both regular season meetings but the Griz kept it close in the last meeting losing by just two points. Offense vs. defense would make for a terrific championship game.
Odds to win the Horizon League Tournament (based on 50,000 simulations of the conference tournament)

Seed Team Tournament Win%
1 Valparaiso 59.9
2 Oakland 26.5
5 Milwaukee 5.3
4 Green Bay 2.9
3 Wright St. 2.9
6 Detroit 2.3
7 Youngstown St. 0.2
8 N. Kentucky 0.0
9 Cleveland St. 0.0
10 Ill.-Chicago 0.0

Southern Conference

When: March 4-7

Where: Asheville, NC

The automatic bid goes to: Chattanooga (38.0%)

The Mocs won the SoCon regular-season title and have an impressive resume for a mid-major having beat Dayton, Georgia and Illinois in nonconference play. Lunardi has Chattanooga penciled in as a 14-seed but they still need to take care of business in the conference tournament to guarantee a bid.

And if they lose: East Tennessee State (16.5%)

­ETSU owns a five game winning streak but lost both regular season clashes to Chattanooga. Not much separates the Bucs from Furman, Western Carolina or UNC-Greensboro – other potential bid thief's.

Odds to win the Southern Tournament (based on 50,000 simulations of the conference tournament)

Seed Team Tournament Win%
1 Chattanooga 38.0
2 ETSU 16.5
3 Furman 10.4
5 W. Carolina 8.9
6 UNC-Greensboro 8.9
7 Mercer 7.5
4 Wofford 4.9
9 Samford 2.9
8 VMI 1.9
10 Citadel 0.1

Summit League

When: March 5-8

Where: Sioux Falls, SD

The automatic bid goes to: South Dakota State (44.2%)

The Jackrabbits earned a share of the Summit League regular season title. South Dakota State has won four of their last five games and went 5-1 in the regular season against teams on their side of the bracket. The Jackrabbits are the most balanced team in the conference from an efficiency standpoint.

And if they lose: IPFW (18.7%)

IPFW is having a dream season. The Mastodons won a share of their first regular season title since joining Division I back in 2001. IPFW is 26th in offensive efficiency but can they score enough (or play decent enough defense) to upend the Jackrabbits?

Odds to win the Summit Tournament (based on 50,000 simulations of the conference tournament)

Seed Team Tournament Win%
2 South Dakota St. 44.2
1 IPFW 18.7
3 Nebraska Omaha 11.3
5 North Dakota St. 7.1
7 Oral Roberts 7.0
6 Denver 5.0
4 IUPUI 3.9
8 South Dakota 2.8

West Coast Conference

When: March 4-8

Where: Las Vegas, NV

The automatic bid goes to: St. Mary's (50.6%)

The Gaels are the best team in the conference and are top 25 in our Power Rankings. St. Mary's and Gonzaga have faced each other in the finals seven times with the Bulldogs holding a 5-2 edge. The Gaels took both regular season meetings and would be the favorites in the title game.

And if they lose: Gonzaga (34.9%)

Zags are on the bubble as part of the First Four Out. The Bulldogs have reached the WCC championship game 18 straight times and will likely need to once again just to have a chance of extending its 17-year NCAA tournament streak.

Odds to win the West Coast Tournament (based on 50,000 simulations of the conference tournament)

Seed Team Tournament Win%
1 St. Mary's 50.6
2 Gonzaga 34.9
3 BYU 11.4
4 Pepperdine 1.9
5 San Francisco 0.6
7 Portland 0.3
8 Loyola-Mary. 0.2
6 Santa Clara 0.1
9 San Diego 0.0