It’s almost February, and for most of us, we can spend our days looking forward to March Madness, with its theatrics and Cinderellas. Those whose team will not be participants in March will usually have at least one fellow conference member to cheer on (or root against). However, there are some fans who have suffered enough in the regular season, the likelihood of their conference champion even putting up a fight seems slim.
These are the fans who deserve the most credit.
Every year, a Cinderella team will make a late run into the NCAA tournament. Most belong to the group affectionately labelled “Mid-Majors.” We saw Butler make a couple of deep runs, causing them to even lose the “Cinderella” title after making a second straight National Championship Game. George Mason and VCU are a couple of other names to add to the list. For fans of these Mid-Majors, the top team is generally fairly qualified, despite the label. However, due to the NCAA tournament format, there are always a handful of teams that have absolutely no shot at advancing.
Let’s take a look at the current leaders for “Bet the house against these future 16 seeds.” And rather than worry about which team will win their conference, let’s just look at the four worst conferences from top to bottom, or rather, bottom to absolute-scraping-the-bottom-of-the-well-bottom.
The MEAC is luckily blessed with North Carolina Central, a team that features in the AMSTS Computer Rankings at 110, but the talent in the conference drops off precipitously after that. For the other 12 teams in the conference, only one (Norfolk State at 11-10) has a winning record. Beyond that, there is only one team close to breaking .500 (Hampton, most famous for their 15 seed win against Iowa State, is 9-10). The rest of the conference (Morgan State, Coppin State, Florida A&M, NC A&T, Savannah State, Delaware State, South Carolina State, Howard, Bethune-Cookman, and Maryland-Eastern Shore, in case you forgot) are all 5 or greater losses below .500. In fact, eight of the thirteen teams in the MEAC fall below #300 in the AMSTS Computer Rankings. While the record disparity largely benefits North Carolina Central, I wouldn’t expect to see them much higher than a 14 seed in the best scenario, and that assumes some major conference tournament upsets in some other conferences.
3. Big South Conference
The Big South is perhaps the most impressive top to bottom conference of the worst 4, though that doesn’t say a whole lot. With one third of the conference having winning records (Coastal Carolina, Winthrop, Radford, and VMI), it is a 9-10 Charleston Southern team that leads the rankings at #190. However, the top heavy nature of this conference may lead to one of the more exciting conference tournaments, if you don’t mind the lower overall quality of play. Added bonus, I hear that Conway, South Carolina is nice that time of year. That is, if it’s ever “nice,” I suppose.
2. Southern Conference
The Southern Conference is chock full of cupcakes, with only Chattanooga above .500, though their best win was only over #204 Elon last week. Western Carolina also has a weak 12-10 record, accounting for the only other above-.500 team within the conference. The conference has five teams with fewer than 10 wins, all of which (Georgia Southern, Samford, Appalachian State, Furman and The Citadel) fall below 300 in the rankings.
The SWAC is, in no uncertain terms, absolutely wretched. It’s best team, Southern, has gained fame this year for beating an unaccredited Bible College by 104 points. On the surface that may sound impressive, but considering that the Jaguars are otherwise 9-10, yet still miles ahead of #2 Alabama State (The only team with a winning record in the conference at 11-6) should indicate how terrible the conference lies. Luckily for Southern, primary rival Grambling continues it’s two year run at futility, still winless against all of Division 1, checking off its last win at the D-1 level in March of 2012. For anyone out of the SWAC to get a 15 seed would be a gift to the 2 seed in that particular region. Of course, the likelihood of that is extremely small.
Now, if you are a fan of any of the bottom four conferences, here’s to you for sticking through the rough patch, though I suspect for some of these four, the rough patch has been more of the “normal times.” One can only hope that perhaps next year might just be your conference’s time to shine.
But it probably won’t be.