Submitted by Jim Hurley on Wednesday, February 29, 2012 at 1:17 AM
Normally there’s not much excitement about the West Coast and Ohio Valley Conference Tournaments across the national landscape. But, this year, we’re looking at FOUR teams from these two leagues who could make headlines in the Big Dance. St. Mary’s, Gonzaga, and BYU all looked locked in at the moment from the West Coast…and all of those guys know how to play. Murray State of the OVC has been in the national rankings all year, and Joe Lunardi’s Bracketology stunningly has them as a 6th seed in the most recent report. That would mean they were in the Dance even if they DON’T win this tournament.
If you watched the recent Bracket Busters, you know that Murray State proved itself Dance-worthy with a big home win over St. Mary’s. Maybe that was a sign that the West Coast Conference is being overrated (again!). We’ll know more once the Dance gets rolling. For now, we know that the West Coast powers aren’t being overrated within their conference…because they’ve been dominating their conference!
Let’s crunch our standard numbers for the two events that begin Friday Night. We’ll be following this general format as best as possible for all postseason college tournaments.
WEST COAST BRACKETOLOGY
St. Mary’s: 7th seed
Gonzaga: 7th seed
BYU: 12th seed
Joe Lunardi currently has BYU safely in by a few spots. They would probably have to blow a first round game to fall back onto the bubble. And, finishing up a week earlier than the other bubble teams could be a big help because so many bubble teams get embarrassed by quality in their conference tournaments. We won’t say, today, that the West Coast is a lock to get all three teams in. It’s pretty close to being a lock. In terms of the Dance itself, we haven’t been impressed in recent years by Gonzaga or St. Mary’s in postseason action. We’ll talk more about that once the brackets are announced. For now, we think Lunardi has the top two overseeded. They’ll strike the naked eye more like 10th or 11th seeds come Dance time in our view.
WEST COAST STANDINGS
St. Mary’s 14-2
Loyola Marymount 11-5
San Francisco 8-8
San Diego 7-9
Santa Clara 0-16
The middle of the pack was reasonably competitive this year…but the conference as a whole still lags the field nationally. Swiping BYU from the Mountain West certainly strengthened things up. The standings would suggest that one of those middle three teams could get hot in a neutral site game and spring an upset. Let’s see what the computer rankings of Ken Pomeroy and Jeff Sagarin have to say about that.
Gonzaga (33 in Pomeroy, 31 in Sagarin)
BYU (38 in Pomeroy, 35 in Sagarin)
St. Mary’s (41 in Pomeroy, 36 in Sagarin)
Loyola Marymount (142 in Pomeroy, 138 in Sagarin)
San Francisco (152 in Pomeroy, 155 in Sagarin)
San Diego (226 in Pomeroy, 233 in Sagarin)
Santa Clara (262 in Pomeroy, 269 in Sagarin)
Portland (276 in Pomeroy, 273 in Sagarin)
Pepperdine (282 in Pomeroy, 267 in Sagarin)
It’s a bit harder to get excited about upsets from the middle of the pack given those rankings. Loyola or San Francisco has a chance to get h ot. San Diego has the computer ranking of a patsy rather than a mid-level threat. Note here that the computers are in agreement that St. Mary’s is the THIRD best team in the conference rather than the best. It’s a bit unfortunate for Gonzaga and BYU that they have to run into each other in the semifinals barring upsets. All three teams are basically 8-9-10 seeds according to the computers.
Now let’s move to the conference tournament. Note that all games in the event will be played at the Orleans Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.
WEDNESDAY’S FIRST ROUND (efficiency rankings)
Santa Clara (9) (167 on offense, 325 on defense)
Portland (8) (259 on offense, 274 on defense)
BYES INTO THURSDAY’S SECOND ROUND
San Francisco (5) (81 on offense, 233 on defense) (plays SC/Portland winner)
San Diego (6) (202 on offense, 253 on defense)
Pepperdine (7) (300 on offense, 223 on defense)
BYES INTO FRIDAY’S QUARTERFINALS
BYU (3) (77 on offense, 23 on defense) (plays 6-7 winner)
Loyola, Marymount (4) (153 on offense, 141 on defense) (plays 5-8-9 winner)
BYES INTO SATURDAY’S SEMIFINALS
St. Mary’s (1) (28 on offense, 89 on defense) (plays 4-5-8-9 winner)
Gonzaga (2) (43 on offense, 36 on defense) (plays 3-6-7 winner)
There are a lot of horrible defenses in this conference, which is one of the things that helps the top three powers look better than they really are. BYU and Gonzaga grade out best defensively, which will have us looking at that winner against St. Mary’s in the finals at a value price most likely. Pomeroy’s efficiency numbers are adjusted for strength of opponent. We believe he often fails to adjust enough. We don’t really think St. Mary’s is a top 30 offense, or that Gonzaga would strike you as a top 50 offense if they played in a better conference.
We can’t go into game specifics in our tournament previews because we want to project that information for our paying clients. We’re generally bearish on St. Mary’s vs. quality opposition, and may end up being bearish on the whole conference come Dance time. We’ll see if this tournament changes our mind.
Moving to Ohio Valley breakdown…
OHIO VALLEY STANDINGS
Murray State 15-1
Tennessee State 11-5
Morehead State 10-6
Tennessee Tech 9-7
Southeast Missouri 9-7
Jacksonville State 8-8
Austin Peay 8-8
Eastern Kentucky 7-9
Eastern Illinois 5-11
Tennessee Martin 0-16
Murray State was the class of the field by a mile. They did stub their toe once…but that’s understandable because it’s impossible to NEVER be flat! The Racers are heavy favorites to win this tournament, and saying much more than that would be fluff and filler.
Murray State (48 in Pomeroy, 43 in Sagarin)
Tennessee State (182 in Pomeroy, 179 in Sagarin)
Tennessee Tech (186 in Pomeroy, 186 in Sagarin)
Jacksonville State (188 in Pomeroy, 215 in Sagarin)
Morehead State (201 in Pomeroy, 206 in Sagarin)
Austin Peay (212 in Pomeroy, 211 in Sagarin)
Southeast Missouri (234 in Pomeroy, 242 in Sagarin)
Eastern Kentucky (270 in Pomeroy, 256 in Sagarin)
Eastern Illinois (302 in Pomeroy, 297 in Sagarin)
SIU-Edwardsville (307 in Pomeroy, 308 in Sagarin)
Tennessee Martin (334 in Pomeroy, 334 in Sagarin)
This makes it more obvious while Murray is such a big favorite. Nobody else grades out in the top 175 in the country according to the computers! This is a very weak conference outside of Murray State. That means you have to bring some skepticism into their Dance hopes. Beating St. Mary’s was a good result. That came at home against a team we’re not that high on. Be careful getting delusions of grandeur about this team in the first round of the NCAA’s if they match up against a major conference opponent.
Here in the OVC, there are no delusions of grandeur. Murray State is much grander than everyone else! Note that all Ohio Valley Conference tournament games will be played at the Municipal Auditorium in Nashville, Tennessee.
WEDNESDAY’S FIRST ROUND (efficiency rankings)
SEMO (8) (141 on offense, 308 on defense)
E. Kentucky (5) (211 on offense, 295 on defense)
Austin Peay (7) (201 on offense, 229 on defense)
Jacksonville St. (6) (242 on offense, 135 on defense)
BYES INTO THURSDAY’S QUARTERFINALS
Morehead State (3) (219 on offense, 191 on defense) (plays 6-7 winner)
Tennessee Tech (4) (148 on offense, 237 on defense) (plays 5-8 winner)
BYES INTO FRIDAY’S SEMIFINALS
Murray State (1) (53 on offense, 66 on defense) (plays 4-5-8 winner)
Tennessee State (2) (192 on offense, 174 on defense) (plays 3-6-7 winner)
We hope looking at the offensive and defensive rankings will help you do-it-yourselfers make good decisions if you’re handicapping these events. At the very least, they’ll help set the stage for you next week when better teams with better skill sets are taking the floor. And, we’re pretty sure you’re going to be handicapping NCAA Tournament games involving Murray State, St. Mary’s, Gonzaga, and BYU. Murray State may be matched up in a first round 8-9 game against any of those three (though hopefully not in a regular season rematch with St. Mary’s).
We may or may not be stepping out big in these events this week. But, WE WILL BE STEPPING OUT BIG with BASKETBALL BOMBSHELLS this week in college and pro basketball. You can purchase our daily picks right here at the website with your credit card. Or, call us in the office at 1-800-323-4453 to get on board for the rest of the season (through the Big Dance, or through the NBA Playoffs).
Back with you Thursday to preview the Missouri Valley tournament. Wichita State is definitely a team to watch this year based on their dominant play of late. The work you do this week is going to pay off now AND throughout the month!