Predicting Mid-Majors: Part II (03/07/16)

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

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.

Conference USA

When: March 8-12

Where: Birmingham, AL

The automatic bid goes to: UAB (21.1%)

The Blazers are looking to make a return trip to the Big Dance. UAB went 16-2 in conference play and won the league by three games. Despite being the best team in the conference, it won't be a cakewalk to the automatic bid.

And if they lose: Middle Tennessee State (18.1%)

The Blue Raiders are the second most likely team to win the tournament, but a case could be made for Marshall 16.6%, Louisiana Tech 14.8% and Old Dominion 14.3%. This is one of the hardest conference tournaments to predict.

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

Seed Team Tournament Win%
1 UAB Blazers 21.1
2 Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders 18.1
3 Marshall Thundering Herd 16.6
4 Louisiana Tech Bulldogs 14.8
5 Old Dominion Monarchs 14.3
8 Western Kentucky Hilltoppers 7.2
7 Charlotte 49ers 4.9
6 UTEP Miners 1.7
11 FIU Golden Panthers 1.0
10 Rice Owls 0.2
13 UTSA Roadrunners 0.0
12 Florida Atlantic Owls 0.0
9 North Texas Mean Green 0.0


When: March 7-12

Where: Norfolk, VA

The automatic bid goes to: Hampton (26.7%)

Hampton is looking to repeat as tournament champions. The Pirates went 13-3 in conference play to capture the league title and the top seed. Hampton can reach the championship game but might not like the opponent they face.

And if they lose: Norfolk State (21.1%)

The Spartans walloped Hampton in the regular season finale winning by 20 points at home. Norfolk State is the second most likely champion, due to seed and path to the title game. However, the Spartans top the Pirates in our Power Rankings.

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

Seed Team Tournament Win%
1 Hampton Pirates 26.7
2 Norfolk State Spartans 21.1
4 Bethune-Cookman Wildcats 15.3
3 South Carolina State Bulldogs 14.9
7 North Carolina Central Eagles 8.4
9 Morgan State Bears 5.1
5 Savannah State Tigers 3.8
8 Maryland Eastern Shore Hawks 1.7
10 Howard Bison 1.1
11 Coppin State Eagles 0.9
6 North Carolina A&T Aggies 0.8
12 Delaware State Hornets 0.2


When: March 7, 10-12

Where: Cleveland, OH

The automatic bid goes to: Akron (44.8%)

The Zips took the regular season crown by averaging 77.8 points per game (30th in offensive efficiency). Four players average double figures for the top team in the MAC. Joe Lunardi has Akron penciled in as 13-seed.

And if they lose: Ohio (15.2%)

Ohio has been playing very good basketball of late winning nine of their last 12 games. Unfortunately, two of the losses in that run have come against Akron and neither game was close.

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

Seed Team Tournament Win%
1 Akron Zips 44.8
2 Ohio Bobcats 15.2
4 Central Michigan Chippewas 10.5
6 Ball State Cardinals 8.9
5 Kent State Golden Flashes 5.9
9 Toledo Rockets 3.6
7 Northern Illinois Huskies 3.4
3 Buffalo Bulls 3.1
8 Eastern Michigan Eagles 2.2
10 Western Michigan Broncos 1.1
11 Miami (OH) RedHawks 1.1
12 Bowling Green Falcons 0.3

Southland Conference

When: March 8-12

Where: Katy, TX

The automatic bid goes to: Stephen F. Austin (78.4%)

SFA has been dominating the Southland for the last few years. The Lumberjacks have lost one regular season conference game in three seasons. Brad Underwood's team won back-to-back Southland tournament championships and is a huge favorite to three-peat.

And if they lose: Texas A&M-Corpus Christi (16.3%)

The Islanders have won eight of their last nine games and went 15-1 against teams not named Stephen F. Austin. If it's not the Lumberjacks, it will be the Islanders.

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

Seed Team Tournament Win%
1 Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks 78.4
2 Texas A&M-Corpus Christi Islanders 16.3
3 Sam Houston State Bearkats 4.9
4 Houston Baptist Huskies 0.5
5 Southeastern Louisiana Lions 0.0
6 McNeese State Cowboys 0.0
7 Nicholls Colonels 0.0
8 New Orleans Privateers 0.0

SWAC Conference

When: March 8-12

Where: Houston, TX

The automatic bid goes to: Texas Southern (57.5%)

The Tigers easily won the SWAC regular season with five players averaging at least 9.8 points per game in conference play. Mike Davis' team is the most balanced offensively and defensively in the league and is a big favorite to win the tournament, which would be the first for the school since 2010 (a title they later vacated).

And if they lose: Jackson State (18.3%)

JSU has the best defense in the SWAC. The Tigers led the conference in defensive field goal percentage and steals.

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

Seed Team Tournament Win%
2 Texas Southern Tigers 57.5
3 Jackson State Tigers 18.3
4 Southern University Jaguars 10.5
5 Alabama State Hornets 10.2
6 Prairie View A&M Panthers 2.3
8 Alabama A&M Bulldogs 0.6
9 UAPB Golden Lions 0.5
7 Mississippi Valley State Delta Devils 0.1
1 Alcorn State Braves 0.0
10 Grambling State Tigers 0.0