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.