Hottest Conferences Approaching March Madness

Seth Tuttle
Auburn, AL

The 15 hottest conferences in the new Value Add Rankings are led by the Missouri Valley (N. Iowa’s Seth Tuttle makes case for Player of the Year by crushing Wichita State), Sun Belt (top-100 players face off in battle of Georgia schools today), Atlantic 10 (heartbreak injury of VCU All-American opens door), and the Big East and Big 12 (a majority of teams in both have a top 100 player). The Ivy League and American Athletic are both skidding with only one top 100 player each.

The ratings of all 4,120 college players are updated at

Kevin Pangos (Gonzaga, 9th), Seth Tuttle (Northern Iowa, T-25th) and TJ McConnell (Arizona, 56th) are three of the 16 players to ever be rated in the top 4% of all players (top 160) all four seasons in the All-Time Value Add Database.

MISSOURI VALLEY. Tuttle was the 8thranked freshman at Value Add in 2012, and last week led Northern Iowa to a 70-54 shocker of the Shockers of Wichita State to catch them at 10-1 in the Missouri Valley. Tuttle’s 29 points on 13 shots in that game led NBC Sports guru Rob Dauster to named him player of the week, he moved into the top 10 at, and moved up to a tie for 25th in Value Add and within two spots of Wichita State’s Fred VanVleet for conference player of the year (POY). The conference will be well represented in March with two high seeds in the NCAA.

SUN BELT. Georgia State travels to Statesboro to face Georgia Southern in a battle of the two best teams and the two best players in the Sun Belt in 13th-ranked Jelani Hewitt of Southern and pre-season Value Add All-American and 84th-ranked RJ Hunter of Georgia State. The game may tell us which team in most likely to represent the conference in March.

ATLANTIC 10 endured the heartbreak of the year when Value Add All-American Briante Weber suffered a season-ending injury. He left the court just a few steals short of the all-time national record. VCU appeared to be picking up steam toward another March run with 12 straight games before Weber tore his ligament and the team lost to Richmond. Value Add indicates VCU would have gone just 7-5 during the 12-game winning streak without Weber’s 32nd-best 7.45 Value Add (Northern Iowa, Davidson, Rhode Island, Duquesne, and St. Louis wins were all by less than the seven points Weber is worth a game). The injury gives a half-dozen teams a chance to win the conference, including newcomer Davidson which boasts the No. 1 offense in the conference and the 1st (Tyler Kalinoski) and 4th (Jack Gibbs) players in the conference with Weber out.

BIG 12 and BIG EAST are ranked as the top two conferences. Phil Forte of Oklahoma State is the best in either conference at 19th, but the balance is so good that 6 of 10 teams in each conference have at least one player in the top 100. Villanova and Kansas have the inside track, but the POY and conference pecking order are wide open in both.

PAC-12 is the only conference to boast two first team Value Add All-Americans and four teams with two players each in the top 3% of all players. Despite each having an off offensive game in the past week, the defense of Utah’s Delon Wright (still ranked 1st after 0.60 points per trip allowed against USC with 3 steals, block and 4 defensive rebounds) and Gary Payton (stays ranked 4th after 0.97 per trip allowed by Arizona squad averaging 1.15 – and “the Glove’s” son had 3 steals, 2 blocks and 2 defensive rebounds) kept them in line for 1st Team Value Add All-American status. Utah (Wright 1st, Brandon Taylor 47th), Stanford (Chasson Randle 49th, Anthony Brown 83rd), Arizona (Stanley Johnson 69th, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson 109th and TJ McConnell), and UCLA (Kevon Looney 77th and Norman Powell 119th) are the four high powered duos.

WEST COAST. Gonzaga’s Big Man Kyle Wiltjer (43rd) and point guard Pangos give the West Coast Conference their best shot at a national title. They are only a 3-point overtime loss at Arizona from being undefeated and are ranked 2nd both Value Add and the polls. They still have to travel to St. Mary’s at the end of the year, and BYUs top 100 duo of Tyler Haws (46th) and Kyle Collinsworth (90th) get one more shot at them – but Gonzaga looks all of a No. 1 seed.

BIG TEN. Wisconsin is a national contender with the No. 1 offensive player and No. 1 offense, but a real story is Ohio State’s D’Angelo Russell who is ranked as the top freshman in the country at No. 7 overall. He has been averaging an incredible 22 points and 6 assists in Big Ten play to give them a shot at the wide open race for 2nd despite the two point loss to Purdue Wednesday.

ACC. Pomeroy has three Virginia players in the top 10 in the country. We do not have any of them in the national top 10, but have them matching up very even with the Duke team that beat them with three top 10 players in the conference. However, the Value Add numbers indicate to us that Jerian Grant of Notre Dame – not Duke’s Jahlil Okafor – should be the conference POY. Okafor is 4th in the conference and joined by Tyus Jones (6th) and Quinn Cook (10th) to offset Virginia’s Justin Anderson (3rd in the conference), Malcolm Brogdon (7th) and Anthony Gill (8th).

Many observers believe OKAFOR is the best player in the country, and he appears the most unstoppable and is ranked No. 4 by Pomeroy. However, he has slipped a little in Value Add to 17th in Value Add behind two other freshmen in Russell and Kentucky’s Karl-Anthony Towns (8th overall) by making some typical freshman mistakes the last four games. In those four games he has had 16 turnovers, and gone 9 of 22 from the line and Pomeroy actually rates him as a below average offensive player in those four games (99 ORtg) despite his otherwise strong 16 point, 11 rebound average.

BIG WEST/CAA. Michael Caffey (Long Beach State, 11th), Corey Hawkins (UC Davis, 18th), Damion Lee (Drexel, 15th) and Terry Tarpey (William & Mary, 20th) give the Big West and Colonial Athletic both two of the top 20 players in the country. UC Irvine and Long Beach State are tied with UC Irvine (all 6-1) atop the Big West, while Williams & Mary is atop the CAA.

SEC. Levi Randolph (25th overall, 5th in SEC) and JJ Frazier (31st, 6th) keep Kentucky from having the top five players in the SEC.

SOUTHLAND is the most exciting conference with three of the top 31 offenses in the land in Northwestern State, Incarnate Word, and an undefeated Stephen F. Austin ranked as the 36th best team in the country at It should be a shootout Monday when four of the five Value Add All-Conference players are on the same court when Stephen F. Austin’s incredible duo of Jacob Parker (68th) and Thomas Walkup (165th) visits Northwestern State’s Zikiteran Woodley (70th) and Jalan West (98th and pre-season Value Add All-American). Only McNeese State’s Desharick Guidry (61st) is rated higher than those four.

OHIO VALLEY. Murray State is heading back toward their glory years a few years ago with an incredible duo of Cameron Payne (29th) and Jarvis Williams (110th) leading them to an undefeated record in the Ohio Valley so far. However, it is Eastern Kentucky’s Corey Walden who is in line for Value Add All-American as one of the top few shooters and steals players in the country.

ATLANTIC SUN champion will be one of the first to receive an automatic bid March 8, and the last two years the champion has upset Duke, Georgetown, and San Diego State. Mercer has left for the Southern Conference, but Florida Gulf Coast and North Florida are tied at 6-1 in first. Ty Green is by far the conference’s best player at 55th nationally, and could rain on the parade of both. He scored 26 to almost upset Florida Gulf Coast, and then poured in 39 to help South Carolina Upstate stun North Florida on Saturday.

IVY LEAGUE/AMERICAN. The two conferences that are skidding are the Ivy League and American Athletic. The Ivy League had moved up to Mid-Major status and Wesley Saunders actually reached No. 1 briefly before Virginia shut him down. He is still the top player in the League but that is only at 8th overall. The American Athletic appears to be the better of the two conferences coming out of the Big East split last year with UConn’s national title, but this year they have only one top 100 player in Ryan Boatright at 47th and has fallen to 9th in the conference ratings by Pomeroy while their old foes in the Big East are ranked second.

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