Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Is Dick Bennett Back

Michigan State and Maryland 17-14 at half.  12 of them scored in the last 3 minutes of the half.  13-7 at the 17 minute mark.

Poke my eyes out now.


Don't put a lot of stick in this first one; it's mostly based on RPI and unbalanced records.  Got to start somewhere though!

1 seed vs 16 seed
Kentucky (SEC) vs G.Canyon(WAC)/T.Southern(SWAC)
Duke (ACC) vs Chattanoa(SoCon)/SDState(Summit)
Wisconsin (B1G) vs Florida Gulf Coast (Asun)
Virginia vs Canisius (MAAC)
2 seed vs 15 seed
Arizona (P12) vs Stony Brook (Aeast)
Villanova (Beast) vs Belmont (OVC)
Gonzaga (WCC) vs UC-Davis (Bwest)
Louisville vs Northeastern (Colonial)
3 seed vs 14 seed
Kansas (B12) vs NC-Central (MEAC)
Wichita State (Valley) vs St.Francis-PA (NEC)
Texas vs Gardner Webb (Bsouth)
Utah vs Lafayette (Pat)
4 seed vs 13 seed
VCU (A10) vs E.Washington (Bsky)
North Carolina vs Harvard (Ivy)
West Virginia vs Incarnate Word (Sland)
Iowa State vs Georgia St (Sbelt)
5 seed vs 12 seed
St. Johns vs Buffalo (MAC)
Arkansas vs TCU/NC State
Northern Iowa vs Green Bay (Horizon)
Colorado St (Mwest) vs Boise State/Illinois
6 seed vs 11 seed
Maryland vs Temple (AAC)
Baylor vs Michigan State
San Diego State vs Syracuse
George Washington vs Minnesota
7 seed vs 10 seed
Dayton vs Notre Dame
Oklahoma vs Butler
Washington vs Providence
Old Dominion (Cusa) vs Stanford
8 seed vs 9 seed
Seton Hall vs UNLV
Penn State vs Georgia
Georgetown vs SMU
LSU vs Ohio State

First Four Out
Next Four Out
Oklahoma State
Rhode Island
Also Considered
Illinois State
Ole Miss
St. Mary's
South Carolina
Georgia Tech
Oklahoma State
Texas A&M

Monday, December 29, 2014

The Changing Landscape Needs More Change

My first bracketology of the year will be out sometime in the next 48 hours and it got me thinking about how much the landscape of College Basketball has changed over the past 20 years.  

Right around 1995 we had the 6 power conferences and a bunch of mid-majors.  Sure, it was a nice story when there was a first round upset but none of those Mid-Majors really did anything.  Then along came Gonzaga, who not only won a couple games but became mainstay’s in the top 25 and the tournament.  With this, the term Low-Major sprung out of the Mid-Major teams.  It was easy to distinguish teams now.  The Power conferences were the big 6, the conferences that could possibly send 2 teams and maybe win a game or two became the Mid-Majors, and everybody else was a Low-Major.  The Mid-Majors were still thought of as a secondary conference and really only consisted of the Atlantic 10, the Missouri Valley, Conference USA, and at the time the WAC (And later the Mountain West).  Everybody else was a Low -Major.  Ah, but then came the glory years of the Colonial Conference who broke through that Low-Major ceiling by sending George Mason and then VCU all the way to the Final Four.  And what about Butler reaching the finals two years in a row?  What to do with them?  We can’t have 6,7,8 or more Mid-Majors running around?  A solution was upon us quickly.  These new conferences that were making waves, the Coloinials, WCC’s, and Horizon’s would become the new Mid Major’s and the old Mid Major’s would become the High Majors.  Now the NCAA was back in business with your easy 4 division breakdown, the Power Conferences (who were about to shrink from 6 to 5), the High Majors, the Mid Majors, and the Low Majors.  They had their hierarchy and the Internet, specifically ESPN, was ready to lay it all out for people accordingly.  Big Monday?  Gone, nobody wants to see the Big West.  Let’s show them Power team after Power team.  Super Tuesday, ACC Wednesday, and Super Crappy SEC Thursday.  It was all right there labeled for every Tom, Dick, and Harry.  You don’t want to see any of these other 300 teams.  Let Fox Sports 1 show these unwatchable teams.

But, a revolution is starting.  Real fans don’t see Gonzaga and say Mid Major.  Nobody looks at Wichita State as a cute little abnormality.  The A-10?  Sending more teams then the SEC to the tournament.  Does any true College Basketball fan really look at Dayton, Butler, San Diego State, BYU, and VCU and say it’s surprising when they do well?  And are those same fans labeling Northwestern, Rutgers, Wake Forest, and Virginia Tech “Power” teams?  The landscape is changing and the constant realignment isn’t covering up the gaping holes at the bottom of these top conferences.  It’s time the NCAA, and the talking heads on ESPN quit trying to bury these “smaller” schools and embrace what each team brings to the overall table.  Sure, the Blue Bloods, Duke, Kentucky, UCLA, Kansas, and UNC will always be there but the future after that are the Gonzaga's, the VCU's, and the Butler's...not TCU, Nebraska, Auburn, and Northwestern.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

A-10 Struggling

Earlier this week, George Washington defeated Wichita State to win the Diamond Head Classic. At this moment, that could be the best win for the A-10 this year in non-conference play. Multiple bid league? Probably, but hardly a lock.

The top 5 teams in the league by record are Davidson (9-1), Dayton (9-2), VCU (9-3), George Washington (9-3) & Rhode Island (7-3). Davidson doesn't have any good wins though they get a crack at Virginia on Tuesday. That's an unlikely win but Davidson probably chose the correct road in scheduling in their first season in the A-10. there is a good sized difference playing in the SoCon vs. the A-10. I wouldn't expect them to be a team in consideration for a bid, though.

Dayton has wins over Texas A&M and Boston College but neither of those teams will be playing in the big dance. They lost by 14 at Arkansas and lost by 11 on a neutral court to UConn. The Flyers should be finish in the top 3 but probably don't have much wiggle room come March. The road has been made tougher with the dismissal of starting C Devon Scott and backup F Jalen Robinson. The Flyers currently have 8 scholarship players and none taller than 6'6".

VCU was the pre-season pick and will be the favorite going into conference play. VCU has two good wins the last two Saturdays, outlasting Northern Iowa in double ovt. two weeks ago and defeating a Mick Cronin-less Cincinnati team last Saturday. What hurts VCU is a loss to a good Old Dominion team and two blowout losses to Virginia and Villanova. Given a chance to make a statement, VCU laid an egg on both occasions.

GW had a good week. In addition to the win over Wichita State, they also beat Colorado in Hawaii. Those wins help offset losses to Seton Hall, Virginia & Penn State. Look for GW to be the biggest threat to VCU in conference play.

Rhode Island was my team to watch and at 7-3, they're still in the discussion but don't have a good win. they won at Nebraska but everyone is winning at Nebraska. They lost to a mediocre Georgia Tech team and at Providence. The Rams get home games against GW and VCU while avoiding them on the road. Win those, and they'll put themselves into consideration. They need to avoid bad conference losses, though.

It's possible a Richmond or St. Bonaventure makes a move in conference as well. UMass needs to make a move struggling to a 6-6 start, going 3-6 in their last 9. Overall, the A-10 has been a bit of a disappointment thus far. Conference play should be a battle with little room for error.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

The Time Changes Over

The time changes every year right at this point.  Focus turns from the day to day NFL events and Fantasy Football to the ever changing landscape of College Basketball.  Sure there is still one week of the regular season left and playoffs, and let's not forget about those bowl games, but really as teams start to play conference games in basketball the tide changes.  Every year I say I'm going to get into the blog earlier but I get lost in Fantasy Football playoffs and such.  But, now, Now! it's on.

The first thing I'd like to get into this season is the top seeds.  Preseason I had Arizona, Kentucky, Wisconsin, and Duke as my 1 seeds.  Gonzaga, Texas, Villanova, and Kansas were my 2 seeds.  Looking through what's happened so far those 8 aren't that far off.  Kansas's loss to Temple drops them out and Louisville and or Virginia certainly should be considered but I'm not sure if there are any other teams worthy of a top 2 seed.  Louisville will be tested on Saturday against Kentucky but unless it's a blowout they both stay up here.

This season looks top heavy at this point.  The top 6-7 teams look heads and shoulders above the next 10-15 teams.  We will see what conference season brings but right now I'm predicting a chalking March Madness.

As promised, this blog is kicking into gear....Merry Christmas All!

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Maize and Very Blue

Though they're my football team, the Michigan hoops team has always been more of a secondary follow. I wrote at length a few years ago about the renaissance they have had under John Beilein. It's pretty remarkable how low they had sunk and then risen with the arrival of Beilein.

It's been my belief, John Beilein is the best coach in the B1G. That probably goes against conventional wisdom but no one can argue how players have developed under him and how successful the team has been on the court. Trey Burke and GRIII weren't viewed as NBA type players before they got to Ann Arbor.  That's where both now reside. He helped make Nik Stauskas a lottery pick in two years. Guy has done wonders.

The one problem with the recent success, has been the defection of the aforementioned players. None of those guys were five star prospects and none of the current players are either. Unlike Kentucky, Beilein hasn't replaced McDonald's All-American's with similar players.

If we look at the roster, we see a team with lots of talent. Zak Irvin, Kam Chatman, Derrick Walton & Mark Donnal are all consensus 4* guys. They're all underclassmen, though and unlike Burke and company, they haven't come in and become instantly reliable. They still have to develop. Coupled with the losses of a Mitch McGary and big men Jordan Morgan and Jon Horford, Michigan has some growing up to do.

The two upperclassmen expected to be the leaders are former unheralded recruits, Caris LeVert & Spike Albrect. Neither was heavily recruited out of high school. Albrecht is struggling with an injury. LeVert is the go-to-guy and is being billed as a likely 1st round pick. At this point, though, LeVert has not had anyone step up and loosen the load. Zak Irvin in particular has had a rough season thus far. Without an inside presence, teams have suffocated the outside shooting.

The numbers aren't pretty. Defensively, the Wolverines are 286th in defensive effective fg%. They sit 86th in defensive efficiency. Under Beilein, the offense has been pretty good. This year, while sitting 46th in adjustedO, they have not been very good. They can't get to the free throw line at all and the offesne has been a one trick pony, relying almost exclusively on the 3 ball. That can be fine but the inability to score in the paint os going to be an issue all season.

Michigan has a lot of good players. They've just lost a lot of good players the last two years to early entry. Unlike Kentucky, they haven't replaced them with the five star types. In a lot of ways, they resemble Wisconsin in how the team is made up. Unlike Wisconsin, they've suffered from early defections. 

Losing Mitch McGary was tough. Without the NCAA suspension, it's possible he'd be back and the team would be more balanced on offense. From early appearances, LeVert will be the only defection from this squad. This season could be tough but the future is fine. Donnal, Doyle and Chatman can be good college players. It just won't be this year

Monday, December 8, 2014

Early December Musings

- While the Big East continues to ascend, the American Athletic Conference continues to underwhelm. Defending national champ UConn just lost at home to Yale. SMU toughened up their schedule and promptly lost to SMU, Arkansas & Indiana. They did beat a good Wyoming team this weekend. I bought high on Memphis and they paid it off by losing to Wichita State, Baylor and at home to Stephen F. Austin. Tough start. Oh yeah, the Big XII will almost certainly be poaching somebody soon (I'm looking at you Cincinnati & Memphis).

- Ken Pomeroy did a piece with Deadspin last week saying we'll probably have the slowest pace of play season ever. Yay!

This weekend we had the following results:  

Yale 45 UConn 44
Wisconsin 49 Marquette 38
Washington 49 San Diego State 36

That's some ugly hoops

- Pleasant Surprises

Pretty much the whole Big East, even DePaul.

Northern Iowa has entered the top 25 with early season wins over VPI, Northwestern and Stephen F. Austin. Looks like the Valley has another team to matchup with the Shockers.

- Biggest Disappointments

The ACC other than the top 3 looks pretty mediocre. On Saturday, VPI lost to Radford and Georgia Tech lost to USC-Upstate. Miami lost at home to UWGB by 13. The same Phoenix team that got run off the court by Georgia State earlier in the week. Syracuse followed a loss to Michigan with a loss to St. John's.

VCU opened the season in the top 25 and proceeded to get waxed by Villanova, lose to Old Dominion and Virginia. 

Michigan lost Saturday to NJIT. At home. 

Sunday, November 30, 2014


Do not be surprised if Providence pushes Kentucky to the limit today.  

Sluggish start by Duke but they're starting to pull away from army.

Kansas and Michigan State look good so far.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Big East November

The overriding story of the early season has been the "rebirth" of the Big East, put to rest by ESPN last March. Entering play yesterday, no other conference had been more impressive. Yesterday was less kind as St. John's, Creighton, Xavier & Marquette all lost. That's probably closer to reality but the early season success will help the league come March.

Entering the season, I thought Villanova, Xavier & Georgetown would be tourney bound. I liked Providence more than most and was high on Seton Hall. The pleasant surprise thus far has been Butler & Creighton. I shouldn't have been surprised by Butler. The Bulldogs showed flashes last year but were beat down by the end of the season. Getting Roosevelt Jones back puts them firmly in the discussion as a potential tournament team.

St. John's again has plenty of talent and gave Gonzaga some fits at moments last night but got themselves into foul trouble. What it also tells me is, the teams after Villanova between 2-8 are going to battle nightly and no game is going to be a sure thing in conference play. The Big East conference play will be fun and fascinating. The 8th place team will be a very good team.

DePaul and Marquette are bringing up the rear. Both have bad losses. DePaul lost to Lehigh and Marquette lost to Nebraska-Omaha. Between the two, I'd look for Marquette to steal a few league games. Despite the sluggish start to the season, you've seen improvement and adjustments. Matt Carlino will probably steal a game or two himself.

The league has been better than expected but will probably regress towards the mean. That's not a terrible thing. the November success helps immensely in March. It should be a great conference season and hopefully will pay dividends on the recruiting trail.

Monday, November 24, 2014

10 Days Into the Season

Eric summarizes it pretty well.  Kentucky, Duke, Wisconsin, and Gonzaga all look great.  Were those his original Final Four…no he had Arizona instead of Wisconsin?  Those were my original Final Four until I took out Gonzaga and replaced them with Texas.  Guess who else looks good…Texas!

The Maui Invitational starts today and there’s going to be a great game later with BYU playing San Diego State.  It’s a classic case of a great offense against a great defense.  Whoever dictates their will on the other team will win.  I look forward to the winner of this game against Arizona in the Championship.    I suggest watching BYU-SDst instead of the Saints-Ravens game.

Also on the docket is VCU versus Villanova.  Nova struggled a bit against Bucknell but I still think they are a potential 2-3 seed come March.  This would be a huge win for VCU for their NCSOS and resume early in the season.

PS: Marquette looks to bounce back from the Nebraska-Omaha loss against NJIT.  This non-conference schedule reeks of Buzz Williams or Jim Boeheim.

Friday, November 21, 2014


Duke, Kentucky, Wisconsin and Gonzaga are good.


Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Our First Bracketology

Turns out that I missed 1 team through my breakdowns' so I'm adding in Memphis since Kurlinski was on board with them.

1 seed vs 16 seed
Kentucky (SEC) vs Hartford(Aeast)/NWst(Sland)
Arizona (P12) vs Hampton(MEAC)/AlabamaST (SWAC)
Wisconsin (B1G) vs High Point (Bsouth)
Duke (ACC) vs C.Connecticut St (NEC)
2 seed vs 15 seed
Gonzaga (WCC) vs American (Pat)
Villanova (Beast) vs E.Washington (Bsky)
Texas (B12) vs Wofford (Socon)
Kansas vs Florida GC (Asun)
3 seed vs 14 seed
Virginia vs Oral Roberts (Summit)
Florida vs William&Mary (Colonial)
North Carolina vs Murray St (OVC)
Wichita St (Mvalley) vs Cleveland State (Horizon)
4 seed vs 13 seed
Michigan State vs UC-Irvine (Bwest)
Nebraska vs New Mexico St (WAC)
Louisville vs Western Michigan (MAC)
Iowa State vs Iona (MAAC)
5 seed vs 12 seed
Colorado vs Georgia State (Sbelt)
Ohio State vs Georgia/Illinois
VCU (A10) vs Miami/Northern Iowa
San Diego St (Mwest) vs Rhode Island
6 seed vs 11 seed
Pittsburgh vs UTEP
Stanford vs Boise State
Oklahoma vs Utah
SMU (AAC) vs Memphis
7 seed vs 10 seed
Georgetown vs Arkansas
Michigan vs Cincinnati
UCLA vs Minnesota
Dayton vs Louisiana Tech (Cusa)
8 seed vs 9 seed
Connecticut vs BYU
Harvard (Ivy) vs Xavier
Syracuse vs George Washington
Kansas State vs Iowa

Monday, November 10, 2014

More Preseason Predictions

Final Four:

Kentucky over Arizona

Michigan State

Iowa State
North Carolina

Player of the Year:
Montrezl Harrell, Louisville

Freshman of the Year:
Jahil Okafor, Duke

Preseason Predictions

Final Four:







Kentucky over Wisconsin










Ohio State





Montrezl Harrell


Freshman of the Year

Myles Turner

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Marquette: I Don't Know, A Season Preview

Marquette plays a scrimmage today against Wisconsin Lutheran. The starting lineup is Juan Anderson, Steve Taylor, Derrick Wilson, Matt Carlino & Sandy Cohen. I imagine the starting lineup will change a lot early in the season, similar to what our local NBA team has done. It's going to be a season of transition, discovery, tough times and hopefully by the end of the season, some promise.

The three seniors on the team are PG Derrick Wilson, SF Juan Anderson and transfer guard Matt Carlino. Wilson was a bit of a lighting rod for Marquette fans last year. A good defender, Wilson was a non-factor on offense as teams didn't have to respect him as a scoring option. He reportedly worked hard on his shot in the off-season but he'll have to prove he's a legit threat.

Carlino will be a high volume shooter and can run the offense if necessary. Carlino comes from BYU where his game was inconsistent. A highly touted recruit, he finishes his career at his 3rd school. Anderson is a good rebounder who will have his hands full being one of Marquette's big men.

Joining Anderson in the front court will be Steve Taylor, Jr., the junior from Chicago. More than anyone, Taylor needed a fresh start from the previous regime. Early reports indicate he looks real good. A favorite of the Marquette fans blogosphere, we should see what Taylor can do.

All four of last year's freshmen are back, including redshirt Duane Wilson. Wilson will play either guard spot. Swing JaJuan Johnson will see a lot more time. A touted recruit, he could benefit as much as anyone under the new coach. John Dawson returns to provide depth but my feeling is, he'll be the odd man out.

The best of the sophomores is Deonte Burton. Burton is an offensive weapon who needs to play stronger on the defensive end. He'll be a stat sheet stuffer and highlight machine. If he's not starting, he'll be one of the first off the bench. He'll have to play some inside given the lack of size on the team and foul trouble will be a concern.

The other newcomers besides Carlino  are sophomore transfer Luke Fischer and freshman Sandy Cohen. Cohen has been good in practice from reports. Lack of bulk will limit him but the future is bright. Fischer will be a much needed big man who will be eligible in late December.  

Of course, the biggest change is on the sideline. Steve Wojociehowski takes over and will play a style that might include an emphasis on scoring. In interviews, Wojo has hinted the team will pressure full court to help offset the height handicap the team has. They'll also look to run when given the opportunity. Of all of Coach K's former assistants, no one has been more touted than Wojo.

Expectations should be this could be the "worst" season in some year's record wise. Lack of height is a concern but so will sloppy play early, given the lack of experience.

I expect Matt Carlino to be a gunner and the lead scorer but what Marquette fans should focus on is how the sophomores do. Most importantly, do they improve as the season continues? If they do, it'll be a successful transition season.

If Taylor shows some Jae Crowder, Carlino channels an inner Bryce Cotton and Fischer can give them solid minutes once he's eligible, they could get themselves on the bubble. Most likely, a .500 season is the ceiling. But like I said, if we see growth from the youngsters like I suspect, then fans should be excited for next year.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Conference Preview #1

With 1 week to the season kicking off we hit the top conference the Bigger East than the Old Big East, the ACC. I fully expect the ACC to lead the college basketball world in bids and have a chance at 3-4 to be top 3 seeds. The bottom quarter of the league is beyond bad but outside of Boston College, they are looking up. I do hope Buzz Williams fails at Virginia Tech but am very interested in what Danny Manning at Wake Forest can do. They are trending upwards with that hire.

League Champion: Duke Is this the year they finally have a one and done player and do something? Jabari Parker, Kyrie Irving, and Austin Rivers weren’t able to do it but Jahlil Okafor is a different type of player. Parker was a stud but Okafor is being looked at to not only take over his scoring but also lock down the inside on defense. That’s something that’s been lacking since, gulp, Zoubek patrolled the interior. I do expect good things this year from Duke but I’m curious to see Quinn Cook. He’s the lone senior and has been prone to mental mistakes and poor shot selection. If he loses playing time to the other Freshman how will he handle it? That’s a big question

At-Large: Virginia Yep, I have them ahead of North Carolina. I know they lost Jon Harris but they have plenty of players to fill his shoes. Besides, the Cavaliers are not able the players, they are all about the system. There’s the Tony Bennett way, or no way. As long as these kids buy in this is a top tier team.

At-Large: North Carolina On paper they have more talent than Virginia and possible as more than Duke but it’s all in how they mesh as a team. With all the turmoil going on in the Athletic Department are they able to be focused on the season at hand? I have my questions with this group

At-Large: Louisville Russ Smith is gone but Montrezl Harrell is back and he will give Paige and Okafor a run for their money as player of the year. Pitino always works wonders and this year in the ACC will be no different. A solid 4-5 seed no problem.

At-Large: Pittsburgh Here’s where the break off occurs. The top 4 are in a group by themselves; the next 4 are more likely 9-11 seeds. Pittsburgh always seems to do it with smoke and mirrors. This year will be no different. They will grind out some wins with ugly old Big Ten like basketball. Jamie Dixon will be proud of himself.

At-Large: Syracuse The Orangemen had a tough time scoring last year and they lose their top 3 scorers. I expect more of the same but their zone defense will give the bottom half fits and they will have enough non-conference wins over Liberty, North Carolina A&T, and Maine to get in.

At-Large: Florida State Dominated by Juniors and Seniors this Florida State team has the means to creep up on some people. Leonard Hamilton has done a great job at FSU and I think he’ll be able to squeeze another bid out of this team. They are a little “short” at guard but can boast 3 Seven Footers in the middle

At-Large: Miami Jim Larrinaga does it again. I’m picking them to be the last team in the bracket. Transfers Sheldon McClellan and Angel Rodriguez help rebuild Miami from the Shane Larkin years and Miami gets back in .

Also Considered: North Carolina State, Clemson, Notre Dame

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Piling on Tom Crean

Shockingly, Brian didn't include Indiana in his B1G preview. They're not very good and on top of that, off court incidents have plagued the Hooisers for the past year.

The common refrain from Crean apologists is simple, if Indiana was winning, these issue wouldn't be so magnified. That's probably true. Unfortunately, stories are starting to come out that there are "coach issues" as well. That's not good. Those of us in SE Wisconsin know Crean can be a bit "intense".

I wondered at the beginning  of 2011 how much rope he had. I didn't fully grasp what a mess Kelvin Sampson had left. To Crean's credit, he rebuilt based on developing a sound foundation and didn't pursue a quick fix.

But like he said about taking the job, "This is Indiana." The off court stuff is unfortunate and worrisome but sometimes, this happens with college kids. It isn't good or excusable but it doesn't mean it can't be cleaned up. What is real, is the on-court struggles. It seemed Indiana was back two season ago, reaching number one and earning a 1-seed. Two years later, the Hooisers are projected behind Nebraska.

In his defense, Tom Crean's Marquette career saw a similar trajectory. They built towards a Final 4 and took a step back before becoming a tournament regular upon joining the Big East, a move many thought would be a struggle. But, "This is Indiana". Being a tournament regular should be the minimum.

The drumbeats have begun for his removal. The truth is, his contract is pretty cumbersome to simply fire him. It'll cost Indiana a lot of money and that might but Tom Crean some time. But, "This is Indiana". There's no reason for them not to be a Big Ten contender every season. How does he react and how does his team react? Both will go a long way in determining the future of Indiana basketball.

Conference Preview #2

Now we get to the nitty gritty. To be honest as I started researching the Big 10 I wondered if #2 was too high for them. They have a legitimate National Champion contender in Wisconsin but so many other teams lost so much that in might be a down year. Michigan, Michigan State, and Ohio State have lost so much I’ve seen one magazine list Nebraska as the #2 team in the conference. I’m not willing to go that far but I think the gap between 2 and 5 is small.

League Champion: Wisconsin Oh so close to a sealing that victory from Kentucky but it just wasn’t enough. Perhaps this is the year. The Badgers return all but Ben Brust from last year and boast not 1 but 2 potential players of the year in Sam Dekker and Frank “the Tank” Kaminsky. There is no doubt this team will go as far as these two take them but I’m interested in seeing how Nigel Hayes plays with Dekker and Kaminsky getting all the attention. I think he can shine out there. Don’t sleep on Duje Dukan either. There’s a ton of talent; they could be my pick for National Champion.

At-Large: Michigan State They lost 3 of their top players but Tom Izzo always finds a way to piece together a winner. It’ll be a little bit of a struggle this year but he’s got enough left in the cupboard to finish in the top 3 in the B1G.

At-Large: Nebraska If there is a player who can win Big Ten player of the year not from Wisconsin it will be Nebraska’s Terran Petteway. This guy (I sound like Jon Gruden now) is a transfer from Texas Tech that averaged more than 18 points a game and led the Cornhuskers to the dance last year. Tim Miles is an underrated coach and this is his breakout year

At-Large: Ohio State Basically see Michigan State but without the Coaching comments. Instead they will rely on a transfer from Temple, Anthony Lee. He’s really good and should keep Ohio State on the plus side of .500

At-Large: Michigan Even more losses than OSU and MSU but they still have John Beilien. The Wolverines are very young this year and will struggle defending the middle with their lack of size. I expect this team to look a lot like Bielien’s teams from West Virginia back in the day. .500 is a solid goal in the conference.

At-Large: Iowa Iowa losses Roy Marble but return most else. Their up-tempo style fits the team well and gives the bad teams in this conference fits. They should be able to feast on the lower half (hey, look Rutgers is in the Big Ten) but get out coached by the top half. Fran McCaffrey is a nut job.

At-Large: Minnesota Richard Pitino is about 2 years from being a contender in the Big Ten. For now he’ll wade around the middle are winning just enough to get a double digit seed in the big dance. His star is on the rise and this is just a stepping stone for better things.

At-Large: Illinois Welcome to Dayton and the First Four. Illinois return their top 2 players but need to mix in a bunch of transfers to fill out the roster. A very average group that gets just enough big wins to get in.

Also Considered: Maryland (but not really)

Monday, November 3, 2014

Is It Arizona's Time?

Brian noted Sean Miller is probably regarded as the dreaded "Best Coach Without a Final 4". A mere basket away a year ago, the Wildcats are loaded again despite the losses of Aaron Gordon and Nick Johnson.

It's not a stretch to call Arizona the nation's top defensive team. By AdjustedD, they were the best in 2014 and should be as good this year. They were efficient on offense last year, ranking 20th best. They play a pretty slow tempo, 283rd last year, 64 possessions a game.  They certainly have the horses to play a little quicker, though.

I'd like to see Arizona play a little more up-tempo this season. They were slightly above average at getting to the line and causing turnovers last season. There are a minimum 4 NBA players on the roster. Sean Miller prides his teams unselfishness but to get over that last hump, a little individual sizzle could go a long way.

Keep an eye on Kadeem Allen, a juco transfer who has the game Arizona could use.

Arizona is and should be a favorite to make it to Indy next Spring. Should they come up short, Coach Sean Miller will have a lot of pressure added to crack the Final 4 code given the talent he has at his disposal this year.

Conference Preview #3

We start out our top 3 with the Pac-12. Right off the bat we get a heavy hitter in Arizona, a team most have picked to make the Final Four. Sean Miller has been called the best coach to never make the Final Four, so this could be a big moment for the Wildcats as they long for the Lute (and Bobbie) Olson years. From a talent perspective they are heads and shoulders above the rest of the league but there are some legitimate contenders out there. Colorado, Stanford, UCLA, and even Utah could push for a top 5-6 seed when all is said and done.

League Champion: Arizona As mentioned they are a trendy Final Four pick for most. However, most prognosticators have them losing in that round to the likes of Kentucky, Wisconsin, or Duke. I love their talent and although they lost their best player they bring in a stud recruiting class. The problem with Arizona this year though is the same problem they had last year, a lack of depth. One big injury (again) or an off shooting night and they could be done. Ultimately I think they do nail down a 1 seed but I’m going to have a hard time picking them all the way.

At-Large: Colorado Tad Boyle has this program on the up and up and even without Spencer Dinwiddle they should take another step forward. 4 returning starters give them a leg up on the rest of the conference minus Arizona. I might have higher expectations than most but I think they end up in the 3-4 seed range

At-Large: UCLA They lost a ton in the off-season but bring in a stellar recruiting class including Milwaukee’s own Kevon Looney. The biggest question will be point guard which will be handled by the coach’s son. If he can keep his composure under pressure there is enough talent to be a top 25 team all year long

At-Large: Stanford They lose their heart and soul, Dwight Powell, but have a lot of pieces to step in and help close that void. Johnny Dawkins is off the hot seat for now after a big run last year including a huge upset over Kansas. He needs to follow it up with another bid to keep that seat cold

At-Large: Utah Talk about a team on the rise. At times last year they looked like a potential At-Large team but their Non-Conference Strength of Schedule was abysmal. This year should be different and will a talented roster coming back Larry K could have the Ute’s back in the tournament for the first time in a while. In might be in Dayton on Tuesday but a bid is a bid.

Also Considered: California

Thursday, October 30, 2014

A Case for the Big XII

It wasn't an unrealistic argument last year to claim the Big XII was the best conference in the nation. Then the tournament happened.  Fair or not, perceptions are made in March.

As we turn towards this season, KenPom released his pre-season rankings and the Big XII placed 5 teams in his top 25.  Kansas at 4, Texas at 19, OSU at 21, Baylor at 24 and Iowa State at 25. The B1G has 4 teams in the top 15 and 10! in the top 40. OU shows up at 28, so the Big XII does have 1/5 the top 30. KState is at 31, too.

West Virginia figures to linger on the bubble. Texas Tech and TCU bring up the rear. The B1G is better but they're closer than people think. 

Ultimately, a big March would help the conference. That said, it should be wildly competetive with high level hoops

Conference Preview #4

Now we get to the meat of the Tournament. Coming in at 4th is the Big 12. Conference bids are escalating and there’s some heft to them. No top 3 seed and a bunch of 9-12 seeds. The Big 12 is looking solid with at least 4 single digit seeds and 1 or 2 on the fence. I like the look of one team this year to make some big noise out of this conference and it’s not the team that you are accustom to seeing.

League Champion: Texas Myles Turner is a stud. Read that again. STUD. Everybody is talking about Jahlil Okafor at Duke and he will be special but in my mind he’s 1B to Turner’s 1A when it comes to Freshmen. Texas returns most of its roster from last year’s turnaround and I think they take the next step this year. I’m picking them to win the Big 12 and nail down a top 2 seed

At-Large: Kansas Out goes 1 great recruiting class, in comes the next. 3 big time players leave but each has a compliment coming in to replace them. This team will be led however by Perry Ellis and Wayne Seldon. If they can provide leadership and motivation to the next group Kansas will be right on Texas’s heels. I see a 3 seed coming their way.

At-Large: Iowa State Take what I said about Kansas’s recruiting class and replace it with transfers and you have Iowa State’s method for success. Georges Niang returns and will be an All American. If the transfers mesh well this could be a top seed team as well.

At-Large: Oklahoma Another team that returns most of its lineup from last year’s run and gun team. They will go as far as Buddy Hield and their defense allow. A few tweaks here and there and they have a potential to solidify a top 6 seed and avenge last year’s upset to North Dakota State

At-Large: Kansas State Bruce Weber has done a terrific job at K-State and although I don’t think they have the talent to compliment the top 4 in the conference I do think they have enough to beat on the TCU’s and Texas Tech’s to get enough wins to grab a 10 or 11 seed.

Also Considered: Oklahoma State

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

SEC Rising

The SEC has arguably the nation's best team in Kentucky and a Final 4 sleeper in Florida (stay eligible, Chris Walker). The rest is pretty blah to use a scientific term. But the future is bright.

In the last two years, teams in the SEC have hired some top notch coaches. On top of that, the league has seen very solid recruiting at LSU and Texas A&M. 

When I looked at coaching hires last spring, I thought the SEC did a great job. Donnie Tyndall at Tennessee, Kim Anderson at Missouri and Bruce Pearl at Auburn are all guys that can succeed at those spots.

Johnny Jones has LSU pointed in the right direction and has been doing a great job in recruiting. Same with Billy Kennedy at Texas A&M whose hire of Rick Stansbury as an assistant is already paying off. Even Vandy, off two down  seasons should be better and have been doing solid work in recruiting.

It won't be this year, but in a year or two, the SEC can be the deepest league in the nation

Conference Preview #5

Coming in 5th place is the very confusing SEC. They want you to believe they aren’t just a football conference but results prove otherwise. Yes, last year they had two Final Four participants, but it looks like those are the only locks this year as well. It’s very top heavy and not much separates teams 3 through 8. It’s going to be a strange year again for the SEC.

League Champion: Kentucky I’m not going into detail on this team. On paper they have the best roster in college. The only question is how they mesh and how they split up the minutes. I’m considering taking them as my preseason #1 but too many egos can ruin a team.

At-Large: Florida Yes, they lost 4 starters from last year’s Final Four run but they still return the best 3 point shooter in the land and a bunch of valuable reserves. I look for Chris Walker to have a huge year. Watch out for Duke transfer, Alex Murphy (Erik’s younger brother) as well.

At-Large: Arkansas Here’s where the SEC falls apart. The Hogs have some talent, but not a ton. They need to feast on the bottom half of this league and bulk up their wins because Kentucky is going undefeated in the SEC. It’s going to have to be a gaudy record or bust for them.

At-Large: Georgia Basically see Arkansas. If they both make it they will be double digit seeds.

Also Considered: LSU

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Conference Preview #6

The 6th ranked conference is the now depleted Big East. I don’t imagine many teams making noise this year in the tournament and it wouldn’t surprise me if they only get 2-3 bids. However, I see Villanova as a dark horse top 5 team this year. For only losing one player from a 29 win team not many people are talking them up this fall. Before I post my preseason predictions I’m going to take a long hard look at this team as a possible Final Four team. Jay Wright has struggled a bit lately but I do think he’s a good coach. This could be a big year for them. As I look at the rest of the conference I see a big jumbled mess of average teams. It’s going to be a struggle to differentiate between team 2 and team 6.

League Champion: Villanova AS mentioned above, good coaching, a lot of returning players, and a week conference. They could challenge for a 1 seed at the end of it.

At-Large: Georgetown It’s been a long couple years for the Hoyas and I don’t see it turning around this year. Enough to get in but not enough to make any noise.

At-Large: Xavier A shade below Georgetown. I’m thinking of an 11 seed and an early round exist.

Also Considered: Providence, Butler, St. John’s

Monday, October 27, 2014


I agree with Brian on his A-10 preview. VCU, Dayton & George Washington are the class of the conference with the rest fighting for a possible 4th or 5th spot in the tournament. We'll get to Rhode Island in a bit.  I think St. Joe's, Richmond & La Salle are teams that could sneak in but if it'll be anyone, it'll be UMass.

UMass was an easy pick last year with Chaz Williams. It's not easy to replace a guy who did it all but it is possible the team could be more balanced without him. Jr. Trey Davis becomes the leader at point and on offense and he'll have big man Cody LaLanne to help.  LaLanne had a chance to be a double-double guy this year.

UMass brings in West Virginia transfer Jabarie Hinds to augment the backcourt along with Derrick Gordon, a solid defender. Keep an eye on Maxie Esho at forward. Like LaLanne, he could put up some positive numbers in the paint.

UMass jumps out of the gate with 3 tough games, playing Siena, BC, Manhattan, Notre Dame & Florida State at home or on neutral courts.  They also travel to Providence, LSU, BYU & Harvard before opening A-10 play. Shouldn't take long to figure out how good this team is and how much work they'll have to do in conference play.

As for Rhode Island, if you don't know the name E.C. Matthews, learn it. He'll be a big reason if Rhode Island gets back into dance consideration.

Conference Preview #7

Now we are starting to get into big boy territory. The Atlantic 10 sent 6 teams to the tournament last year and was able to get Dayton all the way to the Elite Eight (as I predicted). I think 6 bids will be a reach this year but 4 is not out of the question. St. Louis lost a lot of players while UMass lost their heart and soul in Chaz Williams. St. Joseph’s seems to be a question mark but I think everybody else from last year returns. The one team I’m watching out for this year is Rhode Island. They haven’t been to the tournament since the Lamar Odom years…I wonder what he’s up to? Dan Hurley has them pointed up but will he have enough this year?

League Champion: VCU It’s the same old story for VCU this year. They lose a couple players but recruit like a solid high major. Their defense will be tough and force a lot of turnovers but can they score enough to be a factor come March? The A-10 is strong enough that the league champion should still get a 5 or 6 seed. If that happens you can bet you’ll see VCU against the best low major as a 5-12 game. The committee will make sure of that.

At-Large: Dayton Just like last year I love this team. Archie Miller is a great coach and I’m guessing his time here is short. They will press VCU for the #1 seed in the A-10 tournament. I see a 6 or 7 seed for them

At-Large: George Washington They lost their leader, Maurice Creek, but return most everything else. Coach Mike Lonergan had success at Vermont and is now seeing the turnaround at George Washington. Expect to see him somewhere else in 2-3 years as well. Perhaps Boston College?

At-Large: Rhode Island I know Kurlinski is going to love this pick. They are a darkhorse that’s going to make a big turnaround this year. Dan Hurley is doing a masterful job and is years ahead of brother Bobby at Buffalo. I don’t see them having a lock of a at-large type of year but this team looks to be one of the play in game teams. Another coach who looks to be gone in a couple years. Seton Hall anybody?

Also Considered: St. Joseph’s

Friday, October 24, 2014

Conference Preview #8

The next conference on board is the Missouri Valley. The Valley has been a curious case of the past 12 or so years going from multiple bid league to just 1 and now to just 1 with that team being a major league power. This year looks to be a mixed bag between those categories.

League Champion: Wichita State The Shockers lose Cleanthoney Early but return most everything else. They should run away with the conference led by their guards but I don’t envision a top 5 team like last year. 35-0 to start the season was awesome but I’m thinking they come back to earth with the target on their back. There’s no doubt they will receive a bid this year with or without winning Arch Madness. I’m thinking a 4-5 seed in the end.

At-Large: Northern Iowa NIU returns most of their team from last year and closed nicely. They have enough to hang around all year in a competitive league. I can see a split between Wichita and NIU with them meeting a third time at Arch Madness. In the end this team has the look of a First Four Out/Last Four In group.

Also Considered: Missouri State

Conference Preview #9

As we continue through the top 10 conferences it gets a little murky. What determines a better conference? A league with one top 3 seed team and an at large or a conference with 3-4 bids all in the 6-11 range? With that question being asked I decided to go with the WCC. I think what we are looking at here is a top team, Gonzaga, in the 3-4 seed range and 1 for sure at-large. I do think a third will be in the conversation late February but ultimately I think it’s a two bid conference.

League Champion: Gonzaga It’s the same old thing in the WCC. There is Gonzaga and then there’s everybody else. They have the two best guards in the conference, perhaps on the West Coast in general. The game changer this year is going to be Kentucky transfer Kyle Wiltjer. He’s going to be able to pull bigs out to respect his outside shot and create driving lanes for Bell and Pangos. Gonzaga has had bigger named players (Adam Morrison) and higher expectations but I think they are a dark horse Final Four candidate this year.

At-Large: BYU They lose Erik Mika to a Mormon Mission and Matt Carlito to Marquette but they retain Tyler Haws who is a poor man’s Jimmer Fredette. Expect him to average 25+ this year. If Kyle Collinsworth can come back from his torn ACL by midseason they can do some damage. There’s not much defense but they should be fun to watch running and gunning all game.

Also Considered: St. Mary’s

Thursday, October 23, 2014

What About Memphis?

In Brian's preview, I think he looked past Memphis. I believe the Tigers will easily make the tournament. They're talented enough to win the whole league. They won't, probably and the Josh Pastner can't coach talk will continue but I digress.

The Tigers will be stacked on the interior, led by Jr. Shaq Goodwin and So. Austin Nichols. Both are league first team types. They also add Southern transfer Calvin Godfrey, a potential double double player. Godfrey was at Iowa State before being dismissed for"being a college kid with weed". Two other guys to watch are Kuran Iverson and Nick King. Both could be valuable players in the Tigers rotation.

The Tigers got a huge break when the NCAA cleared G Kedren Johnson, a Vandy transfer. Johnson will provide a steady presence in what would have been a green back court. They were looking at playing two guys who saw no court time last year, So. Pookie Powell and frosh, Dominic McGee. Johnson can fill the bucket and run the offense. This is a huge coup for Memphis who also added JuCo 3 point sniper Avery Woodson.

Like I said, this team has a lot of talent and with the addition of Johnson, what was a potential trouble spot has been shored up nicely. Josh Pastner is at the point in his career where his teams need to start winning league titles. SMU and UConn will be tough, but Memphis has the horses to win this league.

One last note about the "American". The league has the defending national champ and one of the top 5 programs in the nation in UConn. SMU has become a factor with Larry Brown and the school appears willing to spend on being competetive in all sports (They're allegedly willing to pay Mack Brown $4 million a year and have an eye towards the Big XII). Houston and South Florida made big boy hires and should be factors in short order. Temple has a proud tradition and is probably a year from contending again. I see a lot of Big East fans take shots at this "football" league. Truth is, if the league maintains it current membership and coaches, it can be a real good basketball league long term.

Conference Preview #10

The AAC, not to be confused with the awesome ACC, is up next. This one seems to have the makings of a solid top race for the conference title. Most prognosticators have pegged last year’s National Champion, Connecticut as the front runners with Emmanuel Mudiay departure from SMU to play overseas. I’m not so sure that’s the right call as Uconn has had its share of departures as well. Also, don’t sleep on Cincinnati either. Although I see the AAC getting 2-3 bids make no mistake this is a weak conference. I don’t see a sweet repeat for the Huskies

League Champion: SMU Sure they lost out on Mudiay, who would have put them in the top 20, but there’s still a lot to be excited about here. They didn’t make the tournament last year but they were probably team number 69. It’s not that they weren’t good enough either; it was their weak non-conference schedule. That has been somewhat addressed this year. I expect a tight battle down the stretch with UConn but ultimately the Mustangs will prevail.

At-Large: Connecticut A surprise National Championship last year usually brings a hangover the following year. Shabazz Napier is gone and this team is not belongs to Ryan Boatright. He’s good, but not Shabazz good. Kevin Ollie will still get the most of his players but I’m thinking something in the 9-10 seed range this year \

At-Large: Cincinnati This team is going to be hard to figure out. Can they bruise out some tough wins on the road in the AAC? I’m thinking they just get enough to be one of the last 4 in. They’ll be a draw in Dayton come Tuesday of March Madness.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Mountain West Mystery: UNLV

Two years ago, I looked at UNLV and saw a team I thought was a dark horse Final 4 team. Instead, they were a wildly inconsistent team that flamed out as a 5 seed upset special to California in Round 2 of the tournament. A year ago, they seemed loaded with talent but were once again an inconsistent bunch who didn't play anywhere in March. As Brian notes, they're a completely made over team with only one nominal starter returning, Kendall Smith who made 13 starts a year ago but only averaged about 13 minutes per game.

UNLV Coach Dave Rice didn't let the disapointments of the last two seasons slow him down on the recruiting trail. Rice landed a top-5 class. The names to know are G Rashad Vaughn, a top-10 recruit, SF Dwayne Morgan, a top-15 recruit and big man Goodluck Okonoboh, a top-35 recruit. All 3 are expected to provide big minutes this year.

The Rebs also add San Francisco transfer, Cody Doolin who should start at PG. Doolin has the skill to be a 1st team Mountain West type player. The aforementioned Kendall Smith will likely be his backup. Returning players G Jelan Kendrick and big man Christian Wood should see much more court time this season. The Rebels lost Daquan Cook to a knee injury this summer and Rutgers transfer Jerome Seagers will not be granted a wavier to play this season.

UNLV will be tested heading into conference play. They have Stanford and Duke or Temple in the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic. UNLV also plays Arizona at home and travel to Arizona State and Kansas. We could know early what kind of team this might be. We won't read too much into it given the inexperience on the roster but the kids will be tested.

Given the last two frustrating seasons, Dave Rice has a little heat despite getting a contract extension. It isn't unfair to ask if he's a recruiter and not a strong player development type coach. The talent is there, but it's green. It's also strong enough this team should make a strong case for a spot in the tournament. A middling season and the questions on Rice as a coach will be amplified.

Conference Preview #11

The Mountain West has slowly fallen the last couple years from routinely having 3-4 bids to a potential of only 1 or 2 this year. The top team is still strong but those mid-tier teams have suffered from graduation and immature players. It looks to be a done year out west.

League Champion: San Diego State
Yes, they lose the top player in Xavier Thames but they still return more than any other team in the conference. I don’t see the path to a conference title being as easy as it looks but I do think they are a solid 2-3 games better than the next group of teams.

At-Large: Boise State
The Broncos return their two leading scorers and it’s more about how bad the bottom of the conference is than it is about how good they are. If they can avoid any bad losses to the San Jose’s of the league they should be able to string enough wins to garnish At-Large support

Also Considered:
UNLV – Who will be better based on cutting dead weight
Colorado State – Larry Eustacy can do wonders with any roster
Wyoming – If Larry Nance Jr is healthy he can carry a team. If not, this team is toast.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Conference Preview #12

Our next conference to spotlight is Conference USA. Boy has this conference fallen. Back in the day it used to be a solid 7th or 8th best league but now it looks like a glorified Sun Belt/WAC mess.

League Champion: Louisiana Tech
They probably should have got a longer look at an at-large bid last year but the Bulldogs return most of their team from last year and managed to keep their head coach from bolting to Tennessee. 29 wins again and I think they get in comfortably.

At-Large: UTEP
Tim Floyd has done a good job recruiting and UTEP is back to being a player at least in a conference like this. They return most of the team like the Bulldogs but Tim Floyd usually does something stupid to fail in the end. I still think he can put up gaudy numbers this year and with a solid non-conference schedule they should be able to have a decent RPI.

Also Considered: Old Dominion, Western Kentucky

Monday, October 20, 2014

Conference Preview #13

Our first potential two bid conference from the “Mid-major” category is the MAC. The days of multiple bids have been long gone from late 90’s but the ghost of Antonio Gates still lives on running post routes for the Chargers. This year looks again like there will only one bid but I’m thinking at least one team hangs around in the Also Considered bunch late into the season.

League Champion: Western Michigan
It was a tossup between Toledo and Western Michigan, both of whom return enough from last year to continue to lead the conference. The Broncos kind of snuck in last year but they will have a target on their back come November. I think they have just enough firepower to squeak past Toledo and a solid Akron team. Down the road Ohio will be the team to watch as Saul Phillips, late of North Dakota State, begins his rebuilding projection there. Look for the Bobcats in two years to be a front runner.

Also Considered: Toledo

Friday, October 17, 2014

More Previews

As our preview continues we round out the last for sure one low-major leagues.

Horizon – Cleveland State: I love their Snork Court.  Nuff said

Ivy – Harvard:  I think they sweep the league and end the season in the top 20.  They might have enough to get an at large if needed

MAAC – Iona:   Kurlinski’s already broke down the MAAC conference.  Ultimately I think it comes down to Iona and Siena with Iona getting the slight nod.  I don’t see two bids coming out here.

Big West – UC Irvine:  Could this be the replacement for my lost love, the Colonial?  I like what I see out in Cali.  The Anteaters are solid but Northridge, UCSB, and Long Beach State could all give them a run.  I’m suspecting solid RPI numbers out of this conference.  Two bids perhaps?


Thursday, October 16, 2014

Conferences Continued

Big Sky – Eastern Washington:  The home of the red football field looks to get their name on the basketball map.  Weber State looks like the only team that may put up a fight.

Atlantic Sun – Florida Gulf Coast:  They have the name value but still the talent.  Comer is a senior, it’s their last hurrah.

Ohio Valley – Murray State:  Popeye Jones watches you while you sleep

Colonial – William and Mary:  It still brings a tear to my eye thinking about what this conference used to be.  ODU, VCU, George Mason…multiple bids.  Sigh, this is the year I cut the cord and find a new conference to love.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

More on Georgia State

Brian picks Georgia State to win the Sun Belt and they are the overwhelming favorite. If they're a 14 seed, you will not want to be the 3 seed that draws them. This team has a lot of talent on it.

I wonder if they can't get higher than a 14 seed, though. The schedule affords them an opportunity to make themselves known. They travel to Iowa State and Colorado State in November. The Cyclones are a Top-10 type team and Colorado State is probably a long shot NCAA team but have some good players capable of keeping them on the bubble. The Panthers also have a home-and-home scheduled with UWGB. The conference is okay, too, probably better than the Colonial. Ul-Lafayette and UALR will be good teams.

Helping Georgia State is they have a potential NBA player in RJ Hunter. Hunter is the prohibitive favorite to be the conference player of the year. They also have familiar names in Ryan Harrow, the former Kentucky guard who scored 17ppg last season. He'll need to improve his 29% from deep. They also add Kevin Ware, late of Louisville. Ware should help on the defensive end where Georgia State was weakest last year. State was also weak on the defensive glass, so they have flaws.

I've seen Georgia State pegged between 12-14 on pre-season brackets. They're an early bracket buster pick and worth a look when they play in Ames on November 17th.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Conference Previews Continued

On to our next batch of conference previews.  We are still in solid 1 bid territory.

America East – Hartford:  The home school of the Great Buck, Vin Baker.

Northeast – Central Connecticut State: This year is wide open in the NEC but I expect the baby Blue Devils to squeak out a bid

SoCon – Wofford:  With Davidson no longer patrolling the league it’s the Terriers to lose

Big South – High Point:  The “Little” South is wide open. I could see any of about 5 teams grabbing this 16 seed.

Summit – Oral Roberts:  Oral Bob returns to the Summit and picks right back up where they left off; on top.

Sun Belt – Georgia State: I liked them better in the Colonial but Georgia State has the talent to be able to win a game in the tourney from a 14 seed.

WAC – New Mexico State:  The Aggies continue their strangle hold on the conference.  Lose one 7 foot Bueller, get another 7 foot Bueller.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Conference Previews Begin

As we get to within 1 month of the College Basketball season starting it’s time to break down the conferences and their preseason favorites.  Today we begin with a couple of the 1 bid leagues.


SWACAlabama State: definitely a play in game team


SouthlandNorthwestern State:  The Demons are one of the fastest playing teams this year; they could be an interesting 15 seed to watch.


Patriot – American:  The Patriot league is wide open but we’ll go with last year’s representative who got slaughtered by Wisconsin in round 1, 75-35.  Looking like a 15-16 seed


MEAC – Hampton:  A solid team from last year brings in couple D1 transfers.  They need to hold off North Carolina Central.  Potential Play In Game team

Thursday, October 9, 2014

The Demise of the Big East? Not So Fast

For the Big East to remain relavent, the two most important things for them are to have big time coaches and top level recruits. Since it's "re-branding", the conference has lost Brad Stevens and Buzz Williams. Xavier coach Chris Mack nearly bolted his alma mater and the momentum Steve Lavin was building at St. John's has seemingly stopped. JT III and Georgetown have been spinning their wheels, losing in to double digit seeds in their last 4 NCAA Tournament appearances.

You would think the the naysayers were right. The conference just can't compete with football schools. Well, let's take a look at that.

Coming into this season, most services and publications that track such things, had 4 of the 10 Big East schools in the 25 classes for 2014-15. Those schools were Georgetown, Seton Hall, Xavier & Providence.

The one thing lacking from those classes was a bona fide lottery pick type player. Isaiah Whitehead certainly has the chance to become that player. The conference loaded up on players that will be top college players but may not excel or play at the next level.

The same thing will not be said about this year's crop of Big East incoming freshmen. A few weeks back, Villanova landed a committment from top-3 PG, Jalen Brunson who chose the Wildcats over Illinois. And today, Marquette landed in-state big man Henry Ellenson who some would argue is the best prospect the state has ever produced. As of today, Ellenson is projected by top scouting services as a lottery pick as soon as 2016. Marquette adds Ellenson to top-100 recruits, PG Nick Noskowiak and SG Haanif Cheatham from Florida.

St. John's is in the mix for a few top-10 recruits this year as well but seem like long shots at this point.

Whether people want to admit it or not, recruiting is the life blood of any program and by extension, any conference. Getting top players matter. Having top coaches help. Will Wojo be that guy? He's off to a great start. JTIII and Jay Wright have done great work recently. Ed Cooley has been fantastic at Providence.

It may not show again in 2014-15, but the Big East is about to show it can thrive, much less just survive.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Mid-Major Conference to Watch: MAAC

With conference realignment, some of our favorite conferences have watched themselves get picked apart, most notably, the Colonial.One conference worth following this season, will be the Metro Atlantic Athletic Confrence. Most likely a one-bid league with a soft bottom, the top teams will battle it out in what ought to be some great basketball, with an outside chance of stealing a bid next March.

The favorite will be a familiar name to many college basketball fans, he Siena Saints. Siena won the CBI Tournament last season and return all 5 starters. They are coached by Jimmy Patsos, a long-time Maryland assistant who had some success at Loyola(MD) before replacing Mitch Buonaguro. The Saints star player is G Rob Poole. Siene doesn't have a lot on the schedule but a win at UMass would be a nice get.

Expect Iona and Manhattan to contend again. Both are coached by two ofthe rising stars in the profession. Manhattan returns Steve Masiello who took the USF job before descrepancies showed up on his resume. He loses 3 key starters so they could be slow starters this year. Keep an eye on FROSH big man Jermaine Lawrence. Lawrence was a 4* who originally signed with Cincinnati.

Iona coach Tim Cluess is one of the better respected coaches in the game and his Gaels have been contenders since he took over in 2010. The Gaels are lead by G AJ English who is the conference pre-season player of the year. Iona can do it on both sides of the court and will definitely be there at the end of conference play.

St. Peter's is expected to be a contender this year as well. The Peacocks return 4 starters, including last year's leading scorers Marvin Dominique and Desi Washington. With their depth and experience, they should be in the mix.

It'll take a big in-conference season from someone for the MAAC to steal a bid. The top looks tough, so that seems unlikely but it's a really good conference that deserves some attention.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

On Board: Gonzaga

Two years ago, Gonzaga went into the NCAA Tournament as a 1-seed, only to be upset by Wichita State in a 3rd round game. It continued a March trend for the Bulldogs who haven't made it to the second weekend since 2009. Since their 3 year run from 1999-2001, Gonzaga has made only two Sweet 16's. This isn't a dismissal of an incredible run by Mark Few and his team. But it begs the question, is Gonzaga capable of more?

As good as the Bulldogs roster was two years ago, this team might be even better. The West Coast Conference should be better this year with St. Mary's improved. BYU still looks to be Gonzaga's biggest threat to a conference title. Prior to conference play, the Bulldogs will play a solid non-conference schedule.

The 'Zags challenge themselves right off the bat with November home games against St. Joe's & SMU. They also play in the pre-season NIT which has a guaranteed game against Georgia and then will play either St. John's or Minnesota. After that, Gonzaga will head to Arizona in a game against possible top 10 teams on December 6th. A week later, they travel to UCLA to take on the Bruins.

Mark few returns arguably the nations best back court. Seniors Kevin Pangos and Gary Bell, Jr. return after injury plagued seasons. Gonzaga also brings in USC transfer, Byron Wesley. Wesley scored 17.8ppg at USC last year. The 'Zags will also have the services of highly ranked recruit, Josh Perkins. Perkins plays the point.

As good as the back court is, the front court isn't too shabby, either. Big man Przemek Karnowski returns and will man the pivot. Karnowski really came into his own at the end of last season. Wouldn't be surprised if he has a huge season. Gonzaga also adds Kentucky transfer, Kyle Wiltjer. Wiltjer at this point is more of an outside threat as an ofefnsive player. Gonzaga also adds Domantas Sabonis, the son of Arvydas Sabonis. Big things are expected of this kid.

The NCAA Tournament is tough. Bad matchups, bad luck, etc. often determine your fate. Once destiny's darlings, Gonzaga has risen above just another "mid-major" but recent history has been tougher. The pieces are in place for a special season in Spokane. I'm on board with Gonzaga heading into the season and will not be shocked if they break all the way through to the Final 4. They have the talent and they have the depth.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Marquette the Moribund

Did you know Marquette is a moribund program? For the 1st time since the 2005 season, Marquette failed to qualify for the NCAA tournament. Two years removed from an Elite 8, Seth Davis of SI.Com has declared Marquette a moribund program. For those unsure what moribund means, Merriam-Webster defines it as: "no longer active or effective; close to failure; very sick; close to death."

Yes, Marquette is basically DePaul.

Let's FJM some key passages from Seth's piece:

This program is on shaky footing, which is largely why Williams left for Blacksburg. Last season, the Golden Eagles finished sixth in the Big East with a 9-9 record (17-15 overall) and failed to qualify for the NCAA tournament for the first time in nine years.

No, Buzz left because he created expectations he didn't feel he could continually match. The going got tough, so Buzz got going.

And let's talk about why the program is "on shaky footing." The recruiting classes Buzz assembled in 2011 and 2012 have been pedestrian at best. PG Derrick Wilson and F Juan Anderson have been quality role players at Marquette. Both can serve a role on a good team but neither has shown the capabiliy to be All-Conference type players. The other member of that class was the maddening Todd Mayo who left the program this summer to pursue a pro career. The only player left from 2012 is Steve Taylor, Jr. who almost certainly would have transfered had Buzz stayed. The 2013 class only saw limited minutes for JaJuan Johnson, a top-50 recruit, PG John Dawson and F Deonte Burton, who Buzz wouldn't trust on defense. Duane Wilson had a medical redshirt and JUCO Jameel McKay transfered shortly before the season. Things would probably be less "shaky" had the previous coach developed his freshmen and not lost yet another player in McKay transfer.

The task of replenishing those losses was made more difficult when two of the school’s recruits were released from their commitments so they could follow Williams to Virgina Tech, while a third backed out and signed with Kansas State.

Really? The coach who left a program on shaky footing, totally justifying a move, I guess, took 2 recruits with him? As for Malek Harris, who signed with Kansas State, he never signed his LOI. Had he enrolled, Buzz would have had to lose a scholarship player. All signs pointed to JaJuan Johnson and Steve Taylor moving on had Buzz stayed. Mayo was probably gone, too. Wojo did a damn good job keeping everyone sans Mayo aboard. As for the lost recruits of 2014, the players Buzz was bringing in never would have fit the style of play Wojo will try and implement. I'd argue keeping Sandy Cohen was far more important, as was adding BYU transfer Matt Carlino.

Ellenson averaged 8.7 points and 5.7 rebounds in just 12 minutes while playing for the USA Basketball squad that just captured the gold medal at the Under-17 championships in Dubai. He’s big, he’s skilled – and he’s local. He is exactly the kind of breakthrough recruit who could jumpstart a moribund program.

Rice Lake is closer to Minnesota than to Madison or Milwaukee.

Landing Ellenson is pivotal, but Wojciechowski has done well to lock up verbal commitments from two of the top high school seniors in Wisconsin: 6-2 point guard Nick Noskowiak and Matt Heldt, a 6-10 center. “We can recruit nationally, but we need to have a base in the Midwest,” he said. “Fortunately, there are a lot of players there.”

Seth conveniently fails to mention both players are Top-100 players nationally. For a program in such rough shape, seems shocking they'd choose a school like that.

So yes, Marquette will probably lose its share of games next season. You might think that will be hard on Wojciechowski because he came from a championship-level program, but he reminded me that when he was a freshman at Duke in 1994-95, the Blue Devils won just two ACC games because Krzyzewski missed most of the season while recovering from back surgery. “We went 31-31 my first two years,” he said. “For us to make the NCAA tournament my sophomore year was incredible."

Yes, the program is near death like Duke in 1995. And they somehow overcame near death to make the NCAA Tournament a year later! 

Thus, the territory he now travels is not as unfamiliar as it may seem. For Marquette and its rookie head coach, the season will present an opportunity for a fresh start, as well as a new attitude. In case you haven’t noticed, Steve Wojciechowski is not a boy anymore. He wants his guys to man up. “There’s some uncertainty and not a lot of proven commodities, but if the players and staff embrace it the right way, it can really be an important year in the history of the program,” Wojciechowski said. “Our fan base and our program have a lot of pride. They tend to remember things. Our players have a chance to be remembered.”

Sounds awful, doesn't it.

As for the narrative, Buzz is what made Maqruette go, well, Matt Norlander of CBS pushes that narrative along with this article today. The man who built it, lessened it and left instead of trying to live up to "expectations" and rebuild after his first rough patch. Fascinating how the national media sees Marquette and the coach who "built the program".

Friday, June 20, 2014

The Curious Case of Buzz Williams

If there's one thing we should know by now as sports fans, the teams we follow are populated with people we don't know.  We know their faces, names, accomplishments, etc.  But in very few cases, we don't know them.

This is the one thing I try to impart on people when they talk about sports figures.  Don't put them on a pedestal, don't bury them because we don't know them as people.  So and so appears "classy" and then we find out he's a raging a-hole and so on.  I cheered for Brett Favre and he was/ is one of the bigger d-bags to ever play in Green Bay.  Knew it, didn't care.  My QB, won games and wasn't Randy Wright on the field.

That brings us to Buzz Williams.  Buzz abruptly left Marquette for Virginia Tech last March.  Gary Parrish of CBS tackled the question of why, yesterday http://mweb.cbssports.com/ncaab/eye-on-college-basketball/24592329/new-faces-new-places-why-did-buzz-williams-leave-marquette-for-vtu.  

Paint Touches responded to the Parrish piece today http://painttouches.com/2014/06/20/buzz-offers-his-explanation-for-mu-departure/.  It asks the questions Parrish either didn't ask or get answered and paints Buzz in a bad light.

I don't know if I really believed Marquette was better off moving on after he left.  I'd convinced myself they were because that's what fans do.  Now, I'm pretty sure of it.  Buzz is a strange dude who did good things in Milwaukee.  Yet, it's clear he never invested himself into 2013-14 and while a man of many words and slogans, far too often, they were just cliches to him.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Big East-B1G Challenge

It was announced today that the Big East and B1G will begin a season-opening "challenge" beginning with the 2015-16 season. It will be known as the "Gavitt Tipoff Games", named after Big East founder, Dave Gavitt. The games will be played over 4 nights of the opening week beginning on Tuesday, ending on Friday with two games per night. Games will be played at home campuses or arenas. The contract runs through 2022 and guarantees each B1G team will play at least 4 times during this stretch and Big East teams will play at least 6 times.

The B1G will also continue with its annual ACC-B1G challenge, which is aired exclusively on ESPN family of networks. This new series will have TV controlled by the home schools. The Big East will certainly put the games on FoxSports1. Fox owns 51% of the B1G TV Network, so it's likely they will air home games from B1G schools on the B1G Network.

The TV part of this is interesting from the standpoint B1G TV rights are up for grabs in a few years. ESPN is favored to retain those rights but expect Fox to make a serious run at them to fill air time and help legitimize the network as a major player in sports programming.

This series will not include annual match ups between Marquette-Wisonsin, Creighton-Nebraska and Seton Hall-Rutgers (snickers). Also, the games will not be scheduled based on geography but similar to the ACC-B1G Challenge where similarly competitive teams play. Next year's games would probably look something like this:

Villanova vs. Wisconsin
Creighton vs. Michigan
Providence vs. Iowa
Xavier vs. Michigan State
St. John's vs. Nebraska
Georgetown vs. Ohio State
Marquette vs. Maryland
Seton Hall vs. Minnesota

Certainly, at this moment, it helps the Big East more in adding another quality opponent. Either way, it's a fun concept to open the season for both leagues. College basketball has never done opening week well. Things like this should help. Sounds like a Big XII-SEC Challenge will be announced at some point, too.

These things are silly from the standpoint nothing is "settled" but give fans something to look forward to and are better than opening the season against Alcorn State