Saturday, December 26, 2015

Big East Conference Play Preview

As of today, the Big East has three teams in the top 10 (Xavier, Butler & Providence) and a 4th in the top 20 with Villanova. Xavier and Butler were expected to be good, probably not this good, though. Providence continues to perform well under Ed Cooley and have a National POY candidate in Kris Dunn.

More important than the rankings, let's see where the league falls in KenPom.

7. Villanova (10th AdjO, 12th AdjD)
8. Xavier (21st AdjO, 4th AdjD)
20. Butler (7th AdjO, 99th AdjD)
38. Providence (47th AdjO, 53rd AdjD)
47. Seton Hall (76th AdjO, 44th AdjD)
64. Creighton (30th AdjO, 153rd AdjD)
74. Georgetown (63rd AdjO, 108th AdjD)
85. Marquette (143rd AdjO, 56th AdjD)

Providence isn't long for the Top 10 as they're projected as a .500 club in the Big East.

Georgetown has been the biggest disappointment. The return of D'Vauntes Smith Rivera had expectations high but barring a run through the Big East, any postseason talk is of the alphabet variety.

Xavier has been the most impressive. The Musketeers are deep and versatile. Senior big man James Farr has been a monster. Xavier is a legit Final 4 team, maybe the best option from the league.

The question to be answered is how many teams will make the tournament come March. Villanova, Xavier, Butler & Providence look like locks. Seton Hall & Marquette look like teams that could get in but both will probably need 10 wins in conference. Creighton and Georgetown need that and maybe more.

Villanova was a prohibitive favorite entering the season but it looks like a 3-team race. Every game will be important, even against DePaul and St. John's where a slip up can be fatal. The Big East will be a lot of fun in 2016.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Pop some corn, things about to get real!

Just going to leave this here.  A cursory Google search will help you with some leads if you're interested where this thing might be headed

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Bo Ryan: My Thoughts

I don't hide my disdain for Bo Ryan.  I think he whines too much (see last year's loss to Duke) and outside of the last two years his basketball teams are almost unwatchable.  I give him credit for opening it up in 2013 and 2014 but the talent almost forced his hand.
As for his quitting in the middle of the season nobody can convince me it wasn't just to screw over Barry Alvarez who wouldn't back his Greg Gard replacement move.  Now, I'm not saying Barry is right but to screw over your boss and your team just to make a point about who you feel should be replacing you is a d*ck move no matter how you paint it.  I've never had much respect for Bo Ryan but this cements my thoughts.
The thing being lost in the shuffle is that as much as Bo Ryan thinks he's getting his way with Gard finishing out the season he has not put more focus and pressure on him as he's under the microscope that will not only effect his standing with Wisconsin but any other head coaching job.  If Ryan would have finished the year Gard would have had a shot at many different jobs, even if it meant starting at a small school.  Now, if this doesn't go as planned he may have to settle for another assistant job.
I appreciate what Bo has done for the program but I won't miss his complaining and contempt for offense.

And don't bring Tony Bennett in either.  I want better basketball, not worse.

When the going gets tough...

The tough quit?

Bo Ryan has earned the right to retire however he sees fit, I suppose but the narratives being spun 90 miles west of us are pretty hilarious.  

Selfless, loyal, etc. Yes, Bo Ryan wants Greg Gard to take over "his" program. Gard has been a loyal assistant for years and is highly regarded within basketball circles. Bo says he wanted to quit after the Final Four. It would have been a grandiose send off. But there was one problem, Barry Alvarez wouldn't sign off on Greg Gard assuming the position.

Barry Alvarez isn't to be blamed. He circumvented state law by naming Bret Bielema his successor. Any position within state employment has to be posted, even head basketball coach. Also, Barry has national candidates he should inquire on. The lead name of course is Tony "Death to Basketball" Bennett. His new contract makes it unlikely. Given how cheap Barry is with football coaching hires, he isn't going to spend $3 million on Bennett's buyout.

There are other names to be considered. What about Wisconsin native Saul Phillips, now head man at Ohio?  Archie Miller? Ben Jacobsen? Just spitballing here. No, Uncle Barry should do his due diligence.

The one reality is this, it's almost certain we saw the greatest Wisconsin basketball team we'll ever see last season. Repeating that is going to be hard to achieve.

Finally, as for the debate between Al McGuire and Bo?  Please.  Al's run at Marquette was better than Bo's at UW. Both are great coaches but Al's 1970 NIT title, '74 runner-up and '77 title trump all. 

The media and fans make college coaches into these mythical, benevolent figures. Some are better than others. But when it comes to Bo, the story should include he left his team in the middle of a season when things were tough. Spin it however you want, but this was as much about Bo as it was about Wisconsin basketball and the "kids".

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Marquette 57 Wisconsin 55

Marquette had a 46-32 lead at one time but credit to the Badgers who fought back to tie it at 55 before a Luke Fischer tip-in gave Marquette a late lead that held up in the final :25.

Marquette missed a chance to ice it at the line but a huge offensive rebound all but sealed it. 

Wisconsin has lost 3 non-conference games at home for the first time since 1974-75. It's my suspicion their win over Syracuse won't look that impressive come March. They'll have work to do in the B1G. Bo Ryan needs to find depth fast.

Marquette moved to 67th in KenPom following the win which is only 8th best in the Big East. No, the Big East isn't the best conference but it'll be one of the toughest to navigate. The ten team round robin makes it that more compelling.

Let's finish with some words from Marquette's super frosh Henry Ellenson:

Thursday, December 3, 2015

The Curious Case of Tom Crean

It's all over in Bloomington for Tom Crean. Probably. There's a chance he gets his Hoosiers rolling and this post looks dumb in 5 months but I doubt it. Talented and experienced, this should be one of his better teams. Last nights game shows this team is the same team it was last year.  It'll score at times and defend at none.

Duke put up its most efficienct offensive performance of the KenPom era against the Hoosiers. Duke is wildly talented but no one thinks this team at this moment this team is that good.  Yet, there they were eviscerating a Hoosier team with a senior point guard. Big man frosh Thomas Bryant was expected to be the inside presence they needed to shore up the interior defense. Maybe he will be but at this moment he is struggling.

Crean inherited a mess at Indiana and did an admirable job rebuilding. He did likewise at Marquette. Truth is, he hasn't shown capable of taking a program to a championship level. He rode a once in a lifetime talent to a Final Four and hasn't sniffed one since.

Look at the coaches of the Big Ten. Izzo can win in a variety of ways. Build and grow a roster or win young. Bo Ryan wins with 3 and 4 stars. John Beilein wins the same way and can win with one and two year types. Same with Thad Matta. Indiana was arguably the most talented team in the B1G in 2012-13. Bo Ryan and Wisconsin schooled them in the B1G Tournament. John Beilein went to the Final 4 and Indiana lost in the Sweet 16 in embarrassing fashion to a dysfunctional Syracuse team.

Indiana has been wondering the wilderness for far too long. Indiana is still Indiana. They shouldn't settle for mediocrity and as long as they employ Tom Crean, that's what they are.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Big Ten - ACC Challenge

Yes, I know if officially started yesterday and it tied 1-1 but the big games are coming up tonight and tomorrow.  Here's a quick fact before looking at a couple games.  Did you know the ACC has not won the Challenge since 2008?  Its been a tie or B1G win every year since.

Tonight's slate:

NC State  vs  Michigan - Michigan should be able to pull this one out at home (B1G 2-1)

Virginia Tech  vs  Northwestern - Buzz Williams vs Chris Collins.  I hope Buzz's head pops (B1G 3-1)

#10 Virginia  vs  Ohio State - Should be terrible to watch.  OSU is having a down year.  (B1G 3-2)

#21 Miami  vs  Nebraska - Nebraska always seems ready to turn the corner but doesn't.  Miami is playing out of their minds (B1G 3-3)

Pittsburgh  vs  #11 Purdue - Purdue is even better than I thought.  (ACC 4-3)

#9 North Carolina vs #2 Maryland - the jewel of the night, perhaps of the entire challenge.  Paige is back but is he rusty?  Should be a great game but we'll give it to the home team.  (B1G 4-4)

Tomorrow's slate:

#24 Louisville  vs  #3 Michigan State - State looks good.  Even better than I thought.  (B1G 5-4)

#14 Syracuse  vs  Wisconsin - The Badgers are bad and Syracuse's wins aren't cupcakes like normal.   (B1G 5-5)

Boston College  vs  Penn State - The game only bettors care about.   (B1G 6-5)

#7 Duke  vs  Indiana - Indiana isn't ranked but has shown some light.  Duke's Bigs have been the difference maker this year.  Yes, Marshall Plumlee included.  (B1G 6-6)

Notre Dame  vs  Illinois  - Illinois have been up and down between games and halfs.   Notre Dame lost to Monmouth.    (B1G 7-6)

Florida State  vs  Iowa  - Iowa's had a tough schedule and split their 4 tough games.  Florida State is still trying to find themselves.    (B1G 8-6)

Another Big Ten Win

Sunday, November 29, 2015

The Return of Badger Basketball

After two great offensive seasons, have the Badgers returned? Let's go to the tale of the tape from today's loss at Oklahoma.

16-68 shooting overall (.235)

7-33 from 3 (.212)

That's not good.  16 made shots in 40 minutes 

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Northern Iowa beats UNC

Great game if you could find it as North Carolina went to Northern Iowa and lost by 4.

No reason for Carolina to hang their heads about this one. Incredibly tough atmosphere and a good UNI team. Ben Jacobsen is such a good coach.

I give Carolina credit for scheduling this, mostly as a gesture to Marcus Paige who is from Iowa. Unfortunately for him, he missed the game due to injury. 

Fun early season game for those who saw it 

Friday, November 20, 2015

Early Season Overreactions

The Good

1- Ben Simmons of LSU looks like the best freshman since Anthony Davis. The Nets could get the 1st pick but alas, the Celtics own that pick. That's Celtics fans cheering for each Nets loss.

2- George Washington downed Virginia and will be favorites in the rest of their games until they enter A-10 league play. Might be the A-10 favorite 

3- Indiana and Butler are representing the Hoosier state nicely to start the year. Indiana might have the most dynamic offense in the land and Butler looks like Villanova's top competition in the Big East

The Bad

1- Rhode Island saw their A-10 title hopes take a massive blow before the season really began with the loss of EC Matthews. The Rams were poised for a breakthrough but will be hard pressed to make that move now.

2- UCLA losing to Monmouth at home, Georgetown losing to Radford at home, FSU losing to Hofstra. Lots of bad losses early.

3- The state of Wisconsin's top two programs are off to poor starts. Wisconsin lost at home to Western Illinois and continue a recent trend of playing mediocre defense. Marquette needed overtime for their one win over IUPUI. They've been terrible on defense and offense so they've been consistent. 

One Week In - Let's Overreact!

So, what have we learned.


Yep, that's right, we haven;t learned a whole lot.  All these pundits want you to believe this team is overrated or that team doesn't have enough depth, or this team doesn't have a point guard.  Let me be the person to tell you none of it means anything for the first 3-4 weeks.  I'm not saying it's not true but this is what makes College Basketball better than College Football.  In College Football you are not allotted any time to experiment or work different rotations.  You are on your A game from the first kick off until bowl season or you end up in the Blue Bonnet Bowl.  In College Basketball you have the luxury of having a break in period.  Let me use a couple real world examples that are close to my heart.

1.  Duke can't win it all because they don't have a point guard or Duke can't win it all because Greyson Allen can only play against Siena/Bryant types.

Well it may end up being true that they are weak at point guard the real truth is that because Derrick Thornton reclassified he had to spend the summer catching up and wasn't able to participate as much as a normal recruit.  He's behind and you can see Coach K slowly bringing up to speed using Matt Jones and Allen at the point.  If he's not averaging 30 minutes by conference then we may still have a problem.  As for Allen, he just dominated a very good Wisconsin team to win a title.  He had a bad game against a very long and good Kentucky game.  Bad games happen.  This weekend's VCU and Wisky/G'Town tilt should shed more light on this myth

2.  Wisconsin is terrible as they lost to Western Illinois

Wisconsin had to replace there top 2 players and other bit players.  Everybody has to take on a new role and that doesn't happen overnight.  Wisconsin is not Duke or Kentucky bringing in players who can just step in.  Koening needs to be a leader, a distributor, and a scorer.  That's one extra burden on a player.  Hayes has to produce every night now.  That's pressure.  Vitto Brown basically has to fill Hayes spot from last year.  Don't focus on just one game.  As much as I dislike Bo Ryan, he'll have this team in the tournament come March

3.  Marquette needs better guard play and is very confusing to watch

Truth is they are confusing to watch.  Wojo has always been a great recruiter but now he has to coach a game with new players.  That takes time.  Personally I have them as a bubble team and they haven't looked that close but the season is young.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Jon Rothstein

Jon's been running with this one for two days. 

1. Belmont is a good team. Would have preferred opening with Western Illinois, but hey, part of a opening season tournament

2. Oh, yeah. It's a tournament, not a buy-in game.

3. It's March

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Our First Bracketology

1 seed vs 16 seed
North Carolina (ACC) vs AlaSt(SWAC)/Hampton(MEAC)
Kentucky (SEC) vs UMKC(WAC)/Lehigh(Pat)
Maryland (B1G) vs Bob Morris (NEC)
Villanova (Beast) vs Stony Brook (Aeast)
2 seed vs 15 seed
Duke vs Yale (Ivy)
Kansas vs N.Florida (Asun)
Gonzaga vs Weber St(Bsky)
California vs Furman (SoCon)
3 seed vs 14 seed
Oklahoma vs Louisiana (Sbelt)
Virginia vs S.Dakota St (Summit)
Iowa State vs High Point (Bsouth)
Michigan State vs Iona (MAAC)
4 seed vs 13 seed
Vanderbilt vs C.Michigan (MAC)
Wichita St (Mvalley) vs Belmont (OVC)
Arizona vs UC-Irvine (Bwest)
Florida State vs Valparasio (Horizon)
5 seed vs 12 seed
Cincinnati (AAC) vs Northeastern (Colonial)
Indiana vs SFA (Sland)
Xavier vs Iowa/North Carolina St
LSU vs Ohio State/Syracuse
6 seed vs 11 seed
Connecticut vs Miami
Wisconsin vs Oregon
Baylor vs UAB (Cusa)
Butler vs Tulsa
7 seed vs 10 seed
Georgetown vs San Diego St
Notre Dame vs VCU
Purdue vs Providence
Utah vs Rhode island (A10)
8 seed vs 9 seed
Louisville vs BYU
Michigan vs Boise State (Mwest)
Texas A&M vs Davidson
UCLA vs Dayton

First Four Out
Old Dominion
Next Four Out
West Virginia
Also Considered
George Washington

Monday, November 9, 2015

Marquette and the Bubble

Marquette takes to the court in a pre-season scrimmage tonight and begins the second season of the Wojo era.

A year ago, expectations were low. They had lost their best players and expectations were the most improved player would be Deonte Burton. By league play, Burton and John Dawson were gone and a team with little depth to begin with slogged through its worst season in decades.

There were signs of hope, though. Wojo had secured a commitment from 5-star F Henry Ellenson of Rice Lake over Michigan State and Kentucky. Along with Matt Heldt of Neenah, Wojo would also land Haanif Cheatham, Traci Carter & Sacar Anim. Marquette will also have Henry's brother Wally added to the mix.

Where does that leave us heading into 2015-16? For starters, the team should be vastly improved. KenPom has them 54th and Luke Winn and Dan Hanner have them as one of the Final 4 in. Brian has them on the outside looking in and they'll certainly be a bubble team all year. 

The roster should be more dynamic. The front court has the potential to be very good. Luke Fischer returns healthy after playing most of last season injured. Henry Ellenson is a projected lottery pick and will often be the best player on the court. Depth is an issue. Freshman Matt Heldt will see some minutes but any contribution will be a bonus. Early reports indicate freshman Sacar Anim may see time at the 4 and Sandy Cohen and Jajuan Johnson can play the 3. 

The back court will be all new. Matt Carlino and his barrage of 3's are gone and as is much maligned PG Derrick Wilson. Duane Wilson will play the 2. I wouldn't be surprised if he's the 2nd best player on the roster. From what I've read on Marquette, I really think he's being undervalued. Freshmen Traci Carter and Haanif Cheatham seem the most likely to run the point. That'll be a heavy burden for them. Carter's makeup and game remind me some of Trey Burke. That's big boy comparison at this level and probably wishful thinking but I think he'll be very good sooner than later.

The bench should be more productive. Wally Ellenson should be the energy guy. Sandy Cohen will likely come off the bench and he shot it well this summer. He's also an explosive player to the rim. He can be an offensive spark plug. By the end of the year, I suspect Anim and Heldt will have pretty limited minutes barring injury.

Marquette has an issue and it's the schedule. It's a pretty awful non-conference slate and will be an issue come March. They can't afford a bad loss during the stretch. Anything less than 10-8 in conference and they'll be hard pressed to return to the tournament.

This should be a really fun team to follow. At the beginning of last year, they were one of the worst defensive teams in America. This year, early models show them being much better defensively and much better offensively. Ellenson and Fischer will be loads in the paint and Ellenson can drag defenders out as he can shoot the rock. They have guys that can get to the rim. If Cohen and Wilson can shoot from deep consistently, they'll be dangerous working inside-out.

The guys that can take this team to a higher level will be Fischer, Johnson & Carter. We didn't see a healthy Fischer last year and he was pretty productive despite that and constant double teams. He shouldn't have that issue with Henry around. Jajuan Johnson was a top-50 recruit. Some project a bit of a breakout from him. If that's the case, that makes them more potent. That said, until we see it, counting on him to take a jump isn't a lock. Carter will have to protect the ball running the point. He turned it over too much during their summer tour of Europe and we shouldn't be surprised if he has bad games. The hope is, there are more good nights than bad.

I have them at 5th in the Big East. That spot is over Providence based on seemingly better depth. It'll take an effort to break the top-4. Fans will have to be patient. I can see some bad nights and unexpected losses in conference but with a young team, that'll be expected. With that, there will probably be some bonus wins in league, too. 

After a dip, the arrow is pointed up for Marquette

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Big East Predictions

1. Villanova - After his Final 4 appearance, Jay Wright sort of wondered the wilderness a few seasons but has got this program humming again. They'll be a bit undersized but ooze talent on the outside. They're a legit Final 4 contender and the clear favorite.

Tournament Bound

2. Butler - Chris Holtmann is a natural heir to the machine that is Butler coaching. After a blip in the radar in 13-14, Butler is back to being a very good basketball team. Good enough to make a trip to the Sweet 16. 

3. Georgetown - The Hoyas have a chance to be a very good team this year. With the return of D'Vauntes Smith Rivera and a talented front court, the Hoyas have a great opportunity to make it out of the first weekend. 

4. Xavier - Brian asked why doesn't Chris Mack get more love nationally and get linked to open jobs. Truth is, the Xavier alum does. He may leap someday but for now, he's doing a great job in Cincinnati. Look for big seasons from Jalen Reynolds and Trevon Blueitt.


5. Marquette - More to come

6. Providence - Kris Dunn is good enough to lead them to the tournament. The question is, who steps up to help. I like Ben Bentil and Rodney Bullock to help ease the loss of Ladontae Henton.

7. Creighton - The Bluejays are a bit of a mystery. Transfer Mo Watson joins a talented back court. Don't sleep on this team who after a down year look to be getting their Big East bearings. I love what McDermott has been doing in recruiting.


8. Seton Hall - Last year's most dysfunctional Big East team enters the season with low expectations but are a talented squad. They have a nice back court with Isaiah Whitehead and Khadeen Carrington and a solid big man in Angel Delgado. Pirates will be a pest in league play.

The Bottom

9. DePaul - DePaul has some nice players but are still way behind the rest of the league in talent. The Oliver Purnell years were a disaster and will take a few years to overcome. Dave Leitao needs to upgrade the talent.

10. St. John's - The Red Storm could go winless in league play. It's unlikely, but possible. They return no player who averaged 10 minutes a game last year. It'll be hard to judge Chris Mullin as a coach. He has a really good staff and great recruiters. They'll need to be to turn this around.

Player of the Year: Kris Dunn, Providence 

Newcomer of the Year: Henry Ellenson, Marquette

Coach of the Year: Chris Holtmann, Butler

All Big East Team
Kris Dunn, Providence
D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera, Georgetown
Kellen Dunham, Butler
Roosevelt Jones, Butler
Jalen Reynolds, Xavier

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Bolder Predictions

Player of the Year:
Buddy Hield, Oklahoma

Freshman of the Year:
Ben Simmons, LSU

Overrated Teams:
Iowa State

Underrated Teams:

Elite 8:
North Carolina

Final Four
Kansas over North Carolina
Duke over Villanova

National Champion:
Kansas over Duke

Bold Predictions

We are 1 week away from the season starting and it’s time for some bold, and not so bold predictions/

Player of the Year:
Perry Ellis – Kansas

Freshman of the Year:
Jaylen Brown – California

Overrated Teams:

Underrated Teams:

Elite Eight:
North Carolina

Final Four:
Kansas over Duke
Villanova over Kentucky

National Championship:
Kansas over Villanova

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Conference #2 - B1G Whoops!

Seems I skipped the Big Ten.  I had it written but just not saved.  I blame my secretary.

Conference Winner : Maryland

I still can’t get the Maryland in the Big 10 thing down.  I see Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, and Duke all in the top 5 and think Wow, the ACC is stacked. Ultimately it doesn’t matter much as Maryland would be the class of any conference.  There’s a nice blend of Upperclassmen, Jake Laymen, Super Sophs, Melo Trimble, and impact Freshman, Diamond Stone.  It’s not hard to see why this team is a lot people’s pick to not only win the Big Ten but the whole tournament as well

At-Large: Michigan State

It really doesn’t matter where you put them in the preseason rankings you know Tom Izzo will have them peaking come mid-march.  This team is the same thing.  I  have them second but can see them being a slow starter and finishing in the 3-5 spot in the Big Ten.  It won’t matter as this team will exceed expectations and probably finish in the Elite Eight

At-Large: Indiana

It pains me to put them this high but I’m going off of talent and they certainly have enough of that.  I’m exicited to see how Tom Crean ruins the teams and flames out as 4 seed to Stephen F. Austion.

At-Large: Wisconsin

To be honest it wasn’t as painful to watch Wisconsin basketball last year as Evil Bo Ryan decided that Dick Bennett “style” may not be right for Dekker, Kaminisky, and the group.  This year I can see them regressing and falling in to the bump and grind that makes me want to poke my eyes out.  Nigel Hayes is a star and his stock is sky high.  No matter what I think Ryan will have this team in the top 20 and ugly.

At-Large:  Purdue

The big news is that star freshman Caleb Swanigan is finally eligible.  His addition to the already huge Boilermakes make this team a force to deal with.  AJ Hammonds and Isaac Haas form a solid front court to go with him.  The big question again this year is point guard where they went the transfer route with Johnny Hill.  If he’s serviceable the ceiling is high.

At-Large: Michigan

Injuries decimated the Wolverines and this is a big bounce back opportunity.  As long as LeVert, Walton, and Irvin stay health there’s no doubt in my mind that John Beilein can’t coach this team to a top 25 finish

Possible At-Large:
Ohio State

The "Final 3"

My heart would say Evansville, Richmond & Old Dominion but if I follow what I believe, here's how Brian's list would look according to KenPom's pre-season.

34. Texas
36. Iowa
41. NC State
42. Ohio State
44. Florida
51. Northwestern
52. Georgia
54. Marquette
58. George Washington
64. Richmond
71. Memphis
73. Evansville
90. Pepperdine
102. Old Dominion
106. UNLV 

I actually think the top 3 choices are the top 3 in this list. All 3 strike me as bubble teams anyway. I'm not so certain this isn't the year Northwestern breaks their streak, too. On this list, I see Ohio State as the most overrated.

I'll talk Marquette later

Eagle Eye Readers

For those of you who read and counted the at-large bids you would realize I only have 65 teams currently in.  I did this on purpose to let my counterpart respond with what he believes are the 3 biggest misses I had.  My current list of maybe’s are below.  If forced to choose three I would go with Ohio State, Georgia, and Old Dominion

Old Dominion
Geo Washington
North Carolina St
West Virginia
Ohio State

Conference #1 - ACC

Conference Winner:  North Carolina

It just kills me to type this but there’s no doubt they have the talent to win the ACC.  The only loss is JP Tokoto and that may actually be a plus giving some others players more playing time.  Marcus Paige is looking to have a bounce back year as last year was a bit of a disappointment.  The only solace I take is knowing they aren’t going to win the entire thing.  Roy Williams only wins championships when his teams are heads and shoulders above all other teams.  This team is good but comparable to the other top teams like Maryland, Kentucky, and Villanova.  I look forward to them falling flat again

At-Large: Duke

Yes, I know they lost 3 freshman from last year’s championship team and everybody is up in arms about 3 one and done’s but realistically only one of those players was a true start to finish one and done guy.   Winslow was better than advertised and Tyus Jones went out at his peak….and you ALWAYS TAKE THE MONEY…right Harrison twins?  Coming in to replace this team is another outstanding class of freshman to mesh with the returning upperclassman.  I still think point guard is a question mark but I love the combination of Plumlee, Jefferson, and Rice transfer Sean Obi.  Those three won’t score more than a combined 12 points per game but they will provide leadership, rebounding, and defense.  This team’s ceiling is one again a national championship.

At-Large: Virginia

Virginia loses two starters but like his Dad, Tony Bennett doesn’t need basketball players to succeed.  All he needs is a couple football players and a speed bump.  Oh,  and some old Big Ten refs that allow the putrid scheme he runs.  A great defensive team will get a high seed but eventually they will run into refs who call it tight and boom.  Upset

At-Large: Florida State

The Seminoles have a nice mix of returning stars and an incoming freshman class that should produce a top 6 seed.  Highly underrated this team has the potential to make a splash come March.  Xavier Rathan-Mayes is an all-conference player and Devin  Bookert is a solid senior leader.  All they need is some production out of there 3 7-footers and they will push Virginia for #3 in the conference

At-Large:  Notre Dame

It will be hard to replace Jerian Grant and Pat Connaughton but Demetrius Jackson is great guard and there are a lot of returning role players who should thrive with an expanded role.  Zach Auguste is a solid center and Steve Vasturia should be able to step up take on a larger scoring spot.  It’s not all doom and gloom for the Fighting Irish

At-Large:  Miami
Jim Larrinaga has a great one-two punch with Angel Rodriguez and Sheldon McClellan but after that there’s not much else.  Those two are enough to lead Miami to a bid but it’s a low ceiling come tourney time

At-Large:  Louisville

Truth be told I had them higher when I first did my write up’s but I think the Stripper Scandal is going to wear down on Pitino and his crew and this year may not be as good as first thought.

At-Large: Syracuse

Speaking of Scandal’s I present to you Jim Boeheim on the bench for the first 9 conference games.  The Orange aren’t as talented as they used to be either and lack that big star that you are accustom to.  I think they make the tournament but it’s a double digit seed for me.

Possible At-Large
North Carolina State

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Conference #3 - Big 12

Conference Winner:  Kansas

I went back and forth on this one as I’d really like to pick Oklahoma to finally unseat the Jayhawks at the top of the Big 12 but I just can’t do it.  Last year was a disappointment for Kansas as their freshmen didn’t seem to mesh well with the upperclassmen.  Well, those freshmen are gone but Wayne Selden, Perry Ellis, and Frank Mason III all return and get another go round with a respectable freshman class.  Cheick Diallo is the best of the incoming class spurning home school St. John’s to mix it up in the Midwest.  This team is solid top to bottom and has Final Four potential

At-Large:  Oklahoma

Buddy Heild surprised some by coming back but I think it was a smart move.  The Sooners have a solid bunch of players with experience and I really think they can push Kansas for the conference title.  This is one of my preseason sleeper Final Four picks

At-Large:  Baylor

It’s a bounce back year for the Bears after being upset in the 1st round by Georgia State.  Rico Gathers is back and is an all-conference player.  A couple younger players are going to have to take a step up in minutes but this is a defense first team that is going to be able to lock down just about anybody.  Can they score enough to hang with the big boys though?

At-Large: Iowa State

Fred Hoiberg is gone but Steve Prohm steps in and the Cyclones shouldn’t miss a beat.  Monte Morris and Georges Niang are as potent as any 1-2 punch in the nation and there is quality depth with transfers becoming eligible.  Watch for Marquette’s Deonte Burton to make some noise right away.

Possible At-Large: Texas

It all depends how quickly the Longhorns adapt to Shaka’s style

Possible At-Large: West Virginia

I’m a bit more bullish on Huggy Bear’s team than most.  I think he did a good job of covering up his weaknesses with his crazy full court pressure team but he got exposed terribly by Kentucky.  I see teams adapting quicker this year and this being a bubble team

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Conference #4 -SEC

Conference Winner:  Kentucky

I’m not going to get into great detail here.  Big Freshman class.  Some returning stars.  Probably a bunch of illegal stuff.  Calipari whines.  Team goes deep in the tournament.  Close game in final four but Calipari gets out coached.  Season ends.   Calipari claims he does it all to get kids to the NBA.  Repeat illegal recruiting.

At-Large: Vanderbilt

Hello Commodores, or should I say Anti-Wildcats?  Where Kentucky has youth, Vanderbilt has experience.   Where Kentucky lacks in game coaching, Vanderbilt has great strategist, Kevin Stallings.  The gap in talent between the two squads is still pretty large but Kevin Stallings always has a trick up his sleeve.  This race will be closer than it looks on paper

At-Large: LSU

Ben Simmons.  All you need to know about him is that LSU lost two studs to the NBA and I still think they make some noise in the tournament.  Your top freshman, not only in the conference, but the county.

At-Large: Texas A&M

Billy Kennedy has enough between youth and experience to beat on the bad teams in this league (which there will be less of in the next couple years) and pull of an upset or two to stay in the at-large conversation.  I’m thinking 10-11 range at this point.

Possible At-Large:

The SEC is 1-2 years away from putting 7-8 teams in the tournament.   They are going to be scary deep.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Conference #5 - Pac12

Conference Winner:  California

Yes, I’m buying into the youth movement at Cal.  Ivan Rabb and Jaylen Brown were steals for Cuonzo Martin and paired with returning guards, Jabari Bird and Tyrone Wallace they present the kind of balance that wins Power 5 leagues.  It will take a couple games for this crew to figure out the best way to attack but as long as the guards are willing to pass of to the freshmen and the freshman learn how to let the guards lead the game I see them as a sleeper elite eight, if not final four team.  Thursday night basketball may be worth watching again (avoid USC though).

At-Large:  Arizona

Arizona lost a lot of people from last year’s once again near Final Four run but nobody as important as TJ McCormick.   There are going to be issues at point guard for the Wildcats which is going to hold them back.  The middle is still patrolled by Kaleb Tarczewski and Ryan Anderson (transfer from Boston College) should pack plenty of punch as it pertains to scoring.  Incoming freshman are going to provide plenty of depth but I’m still going to go back to the point guard spot.  If nobody steps up not only will the Wildcats not win the Pac-12 they may not even be a top 6 seed

At-Large: UCLA

UCLA looks to have the look of last year’s team.  Only losing Norman Powell and Kevon Looney there is plenty back for them.  Bryce Alford and Tony Parker provide a nice inside out game and Tim Welsh has put on some weight to become more of a force around the basket.  The downside of UCLA is the same as Arizona.  Young and inexperienced point guard play.

At-Large:  Utah

Larry Krystkowiak is back and that’s enough.  He’s like the West Coast version of Bo Ryan if Bo Ryan was pleasant and coached aesthetically pleasing basketball.  The Ute’s lost Delon Wright but return potential Lottery Pick Jakob Poeltl. In addition 3 other starters are back.  I’d have this team higher if Wright wasn’t such a do all type of player.  If they can fill his stats across multiple players I can see this team right behind Cal in the standings.

At-Large:  Oregon

This team has the makings of an 11 seed.  Joe Young is gone and Dylan Ellis transfers in from Villanova.  The players are good but nobody is great.  They seem like a picture of a team that goes 10-8 in conference and just gets into the field.

I don’t have any teams on the bubble from this conference but I look for Gary Payton III from Oregon State to feast on the bad guard play all over the conference and spring some upsets for the Beavers.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

A-10/Big East Notes

I'll have a full Big East post before the season but I slightly disagree with Brian about how close these two leagues may be.  

KenPom pre-season has 4 Big East teams in the top 32 and no A-10 before 46 and that's Davidson. In fairness, Butler, Georgetown and Xavier all check in at 27,29 & 31. That's basically second round and done projections.

This isn't a slam on the A-10, a league I like a lot. It's just not as good as it once was, sadly (Neither is the Big East for that matter). Losing Xavier and Temple will do that. I don't think there's a huge separation between the top 3 of Davidson, Rhode Island & VCU. Since I've banged the Rhode Island drum for the last two years, I'll stick with them. Also, Richmond is my sleeper to steal a bid.

I'll probably regret this but I disagree with Brian on Georgetown and their ceiling. A lot depends on the development of the sophomores. Paul White, L.J. Peak, Tre Campbell & Isaac Copeland all are very talented and if two of them make a jump, look out. Really keep an eye on Copeland.

They also add some talented freshman in big men Marcus Derrickson & Jessie Govan and swingman Kaleb Johnson who Jon Rothstein said is already their best defender.

They play Maryland and Wisconsin in the 2nd and 3rd games of the season, so we should know quickly where the Hoyas are possibly headed.

Conference #6 - Big East

Conference Winner: Villanova

In my mind this Villanova is the only reason the Big East is above the A-10.  This. Team. Is. A. Threat. To. Win. It. All.  This is another one of those teams the Kurly has a man crush on so I won’t talk much about them.  I will just say this:  I am onboard the Wildcat train and they should be fired up after last year’s flame out.

At-Large:  Butler

The Bulldogs lose a little bit of depth but they return there top 3 scores and I expect Roosevelt Jones and Kellen Dunham to be a potent 1-2 punch from the SG and SF position this season.  The Point Guard and Center is a little questionable but Chris Holtman has 3 solid transfers coming in that should be able to fill the gap.  The biggest, of course, is North Carolina State transfer, Tyler Lewis, who should be able to take the PG reigns and run with it.  How well he meshes with the rest of the team will dictate how far this team can go.

At-Large: Georgetown

Outside of Kris Dunn at Providence the best player in the league is D’Vauntes Smith-Riveria.  The problem is he has to do too much himself.  I don’t consider myself much of a fan of the Hoyas but it’s still sad how far this team has fallen in the past 3-4 years.  This year is going to be no different in my mind.   Good enough to get a solid seed in the tournament.  Not good enough to escape the first round with a win

At-Large: Xavier

X loses their main player in Matt Stainbrook and all of March Madness becomes sad as he was the good goofy player everybody cheered for.  The good news is that pretty much all they lose and Chris Mack is an underrated coach.  I don’t see why he’s not mentioned more often at bigger programs.  This team has the looks of a team that gets in around the 10 seed mark and then beats an overrated 7 seed 57-53 in a grind fest that only Bo Ryan would love.

At-Large: Providence

Two words:  Kris Dunn.  Three More Words:  Last Team In

Others worth watching:

Marquette – everybody says one year away but I think they are bubble worthy now.

Conference #7 - Atlantic 10

Conference Winner:  Rhode Island

Here I thought I was going to be all sneaking and spring Rhode Island on everybody but it turns out that everybody and their mom is ahead of the curve.  I also suspect there will be a follow up on my comments from Kurly singing the praises of the Rams.  That being said I will keep this short and sweet.  A top level soon to be moving to bigger program coach, Dan Hurley.  A stud NBA prospect, E.C. Matthews.  A top of the line transfer, Kuran Iverson, from Memphis.  I figured the casual fan may be on Dayton-again but to me the Rams are the class of the A-14, er, A-10

At-Large:  Dayton

Last year’s darlings sported nobody taller than 6’6” but they were still able to advance to the Sweet Sixteen based on pure hustle and defense.  This year they bring in some freshman height and return star point guard, Scoochie Smith.  I love saying Scoochie.  I believe the Flyers to be a no doubt NCAA Tournament team but their ceiling is going to be based on what their freshman can bring.  I have faith in Archie Miller that he will get nothing but the best from them and be a lock come February.  And then be coaching in the ACC come June.

At-Large: Davidson

Man there are some great coaches in this league.  The Wildcats were predicted to finish last in their first year in the A-10 last year and instead went out and won it.  The lose their top player from last year, Tyler Kalinowski, but return everybody else.  Leading this team is Jack Gibbs who will rival E.C. Matthews as player of the year.  Some teams I would fade after a year of exceeding expectations but Bob McKillop is a coach you trust.  He will have this team prepared and ready for a return trip to the dance.

At-Large: VCU

Shaka Smart finally got “Smart” and took the money and the Texas job.  So, what’s left?  Plenty.  Will Wade steps in to further the Havoc that Smart played with for the past 5-6 years.  Mo Allie-Cox is a great player and there will be plenty of run and gun up and down tempo from this squad.  No, they aren’t as good as the last couple of VCU teams but this team is still viable to sneak into the dance based on smart scheduling and a tough conference.

Others worth watching:

Richmond, see Mooney, Chris

George Washing, see Lonergan, Mike

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Making Sense of the American

Brian has the American checking in at 8 in conference POWER rankings. No argument here. The larger question for me, what is the American?

The American is part old Big East, a minor dash of A-10 and jumble of Conference USA. As we wistfully think back to conference Armageddon, this league is basically all the schools left behind and the one most likely to get raided once the next big realignment occurs.

While it's enjoying its moment in the sun for football (Justin Fuente, Mark Rhule and Tom Herman are short termers), it should be a decent basketball conference. It's largest problem is the bottom of the conference. 

UConn is a national brand. Kevin Ollie's program took a step back last year but he's adding talent and will be a top team sooner than later, if he stays. Cincinnati is a solid basketball school and will be a very good team this year.  Memphis and Temple have always been great basketball schools.

The problem lies with the rest of the league. SMU made a splash hire of Larry Brown and that blew up predictably. Houston has history but it's been 25 years of indifferent basketball.

UCF and USF are commonly referred to as "sleeping giants". They must be in a deep coma. East Carolina and Tulane are there because ECU has had some football succes and Tulane is in a big city.

In KenPom's pre-season numbers, the American looks similar to the Big East at the top but once you get out of the top 5, the Big East's worst team is St. John's at 150. Quite frankly, that's pretty good for a team that basically returns nothing more than a few basketballs. The American has 4 teams below that including Tulane at 253. Even DePaul checks in at 113 which would make them the 7th best team in the American with room to spare.

Sadly for the American, once the next wave of realignment hits, UConn, Cincinnati and Memphis are certainly gone. As for a basketball conference in its current state, the top is pretty good weighed down by a weak bottom.

Conference #8 - AAC

Conference Winner:  Cincinnati

Yes, this should have been SMU but Larry Brown is as dirty as John Calipari but just doesn’t cover his tracks as good.  Either way I thought the Bearcats would give them a good run at the top spot.  All starters for Cincinnati return from last years’ tournament team but more importantly Mick Cronin is back after having to take the season off to recover from his brain aneurism.  That alone with SMU out and a weak bottom half conference should be enough for Cincinnati to return to prominence.

At-Large:  Connecticut

I considered Connecticut for a little while at the top but the loss of Ryan Boatwright is going to be bigger than people think.  Kevin Ollie is a good coach and I like a few of their pieces, including a couple graduate transfers, but it usually takes a while for those players to mesh together.  I see the Huskies as a team that stubbles out of the block; finishes under the radar and then wreaks havoc upon the bracket when they are under seeded.

At-Large:  Tulsa

Frank Haith returns his top 8 players from last year and look to take that next step from the NIT to the NCAA.  Last year they started hot, going 10-0 but then kind of limped through finishing 23-11.  This year they have a little tougher non-conference schedule so 10-0 may not be possible but I guarantee their computer numbers will be a lot better.  I don’t expect 30 wins but Tulsa is good enough to secure a bid around 10-11 seed.

Possible At-Large:  Memphis

Too much turnover and turmoil at Memphis.  Josh Pastner may be on the hot seat at this point. 

Conference #9 - West Coast

Conference Winner:  Gonzaga

The WCC reminds me a lot of the #10 Conference, the Valley.  Gonzaga is akin to Wichita State in that they’ve dominated for a long time.  The difference is that the Zags are going to win with their bigs as opposed to their guards.  Przemek Karnowski and Kyle Wilter present one of the biggest inside/outside combo’s in the country and that’s not taking into consideration who I think is their best player, Domantas Sabonis.  Sabonis, son of not your Vydas, nor my Vydas, but Arvydas Sabonis has the skill set to best of all of them.  Sure there are questions marks about the back court but I like Kyle Dranginis and if the bigs produce as they should they don’t need big numbers from them anyway.  This team is reverse west coast Wichita State.  Elite Eight or bust

At-Large:   BYU

Here’s the slight difference between the conferences as I view BYU as a lock.  Yes, they lost high scorer Tyler Haws but this year begins and ends with Kyle Collingsworth.  Yes, he can score, but it everything else that makes him special. 8 rebounds and 6 assists per game make a him a triple threat and he’s a solid defender as well.  He had 6 triple doubles last year! 6!  A triple double in the high scorer NBA is bandied about on sport center every night but tell me if you’ve heard of Collingsworth?  By the way, it’s an NCAA record.

Possible At-Large:  Pepperdine

And back to the valley comparisons, here’s your MVC’s version of Evansville.  This is scary similar.  A program that has been down for a long, long time (we miss you Doug Christie).  A program that made a breakthrough last year.  A team that returns all 5 starters….it’s eerie.   The only reason I hesitate to put them in the tournament is their weak non-conference which has only 1 team projected in the tournament.  They do have two shots at the Zags and a split is a must.  This is a bubble team for sure.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Valley Sadness, Mountain West Blandness

Remember when the Valley could get 3 teams into the tournament and you wouldn't bat an eye?  What was it, 4 years ago the MWC put 5 teams in the tournament and were clearly better than the Pac-12? Those days seem so far away.

The Valley took a hit when Creighton left no doubt but the rest of the schools outside UNI and Wichita State have been pretty mediocre for the past decade or so. I believe Brian Wardle will do wonders at Bradley but that's a 3-4 year turnaround. What happened at Southern Illinois? When Loyola is in your projected top 5 after just joining last year, your league has taken a step back.

The Mountain West has seen better days, too. New Mexico took a step back after losing Steve Alford and there's doubts Craig Neal is the guy for the job. I think the team to watch will be Nevada who hired Eric Musselman to run the show. He's done a great job recruiting thus far and I look for them to be a top division team soon.

Two teams to watch from these leagues are Northern Iowa and UNLV, respectively.

UNI loses a ton with Seth Tuttle leaving but still have a versatile back court with Wes Washpun and Matt Bohannon (yes, that Bohannon family). Look for Wyatt Lohaus (yes, that Lohaus family) this year, too. Keep an eye on sophomore big Bennett Koch and former Virginia player, Paul Jesperson. KenPom has UNI finishing 12-6 in the league in a tie for 2nd with Evansville. Like Brian, I think Evansville is the second best team in the Valley but don't dismiss UNI and Ben Jacobsen.

The team out west that intrigues me for a variety of reasons is UNLV. I believe they're the most talented team in the MWC. They return top-100 recruits, Dwayne Morgan and Goodluck Okonoboh and add top-100 recruits Derrick Jones and Stephen Zimmerman. Zimmerman will easily be the top NBA prospect in the league.

The problem is, UNLV has has these type of players and the results have been middling. Dave Rice is probably in a make or break year and that'll be tough for Rebel fans if he misses the tournament. He's a great recruiter but the results haven't matched the hype. KenPom has them at 106 to start the year, below Utah State and Fresno State. 

If UNI and UNLV perform well, it'll be a boon to these leagues and in UNLV's case, save them from starting over 

Conference #10 - THE Missouri Valley

Conference Winner:  Wichita State

Another year, another top 10 team for the Shockers.  Sure they lose Tekele Cotton and Darius Cotton but they bring back the core of the team in Fred Van Vleet and Ron Baker.  Holding up the front court are returning big men Shaq Morris and Zach Brown, both who grew a lot last year.  Rounding out the starting lineup and six man are Evan Wessel and freshman Markis McDuffie.  McDuffie is rail thin ay 6-8, 185 but should fit in well with the rest of the team.  Any concerns about depth should be answered in December when Kansas transfer, Connor Frankamp becomes eligible.  This guy is the prototypical mid-major shooter who reminds me a lot of Rotnei Clarke who went from Arkansas to Butler.  I hesitate to call this a final four team but it wouldn’t “shock” me if they made the elite eight

Possible At-Large:  Evansville

Here’s another shocker as I have the Purple Aces picked to finish second in the Valley.  The Aces improved a ton last year and finished the season by winning the “C” league tournament, the CollegeInsider.Com Bowl…or something.  Either way, it was a huge success for a program that has been down for a long time.  Looking to build on this Evansville return all 5 starters and most of the reserves.  An at-large is going to come down to the non-conference slate and whether they can get a split with Wichita State.

Others Worth Watching:

Illinois State

Northern Iowa

Conference #11 – Mountain West

Conference Winner:  Boise State

I thought last year they would win the Mountain West and they disappointed a bit.  A lot had to do with the injury to Anthony Drmic who would have presented an awesome 1-2 punch between him and Derrick Marks.  Well, Marks is gone but Drmic gets 1 more year to prove he can lead a team.  Outside of Marks most of this team returns and as mentioned Drmic is poised to take his place.  Without him Boise was still able to get to the NCAA tournament but lost in the play in game to solid Dayton team.  This year I think their ceiling is a little higher and I expect a conference title and possible 7 seed if it all shakes out.  Boise State is a under the radar top 25 team.

At-Large:  San Diego State

San Diego State has been a force within the Mountain West conference since Steve Fisher took over and although I don’t foresee the kind of dominance that they’ve had in the past couple years I do think they are on track to push Boise State and be a potential 8-10 seed with upset potential.  There isn’t as much star power as they’ve had but this is more of a “team” than in year’s past. I look for Skylar Spencer to have a solid year and they will be a defense first led team.  It’s never wise to underestimate a Steve Fisher team.

Possible At-Large:  UNLV

Dave Rose lost a lot from last year’s squad but this team is full of young potential.  A bid is going to fall squarely on the shoulders of top 20 recruit, Steven Zimmerman, who chose UNLV over many other power 5 conferences.  If he can live up to the billing UNLV has the potential to push San Diego State for that 2nd bid or potentially make this a 3 bid conference.  Right now I don’t see enough help to put them in but they are close and worth watching.

Conference #12 – Conference USA

Conference Winner:  UAB

Last year’s NCAA tournament team was not predicted to go to the dance at all.  This year it’s a little different with Jerod Haase’s team being the hunted and not the hunter.  A round 1 win over #3 seeded Iowa State was huge a blow for the Big 12 and showed the country that C-USA still had some fight in them.  This year UAB looks to be the king of the hill in C-USA will little resistance outside of Old Dominion.  UAB brings back a lot of the firepower that helped them advance to round 2 last year.

Possible At-Large:  Old Dominion

Last year ODU made their debut in Conference USA and turned a preseason last place prediction into an oh-so-close at large bid.  A late collapse prevented them from going to the NCAA but they had a successful none the less.  This year expectations are higher with most prognosticators predicting them as a close 2nd to UAB.  I believe they are good enough to build a strong at large case but they may be at the mercy of a relatively weak conference.  ODU’s bid status will depend on their non-conference performance and I have them as one of the last 5-6 teams out.

Monday, October 26, 2015


Brian's pick of Valpo to win the Horizon might be the lock of the year. Valpo opens the season 35th in KenPom. Not counting the usual suspects of Gonzaga and Wichita State, that's the highest of the mid-majors.

As Brian mentioned, they return all 5 starters. This includes sharp shooting junior forward Alec Peters. Peters was 12th in the nation in 3-pt shooting last year.  Tevonn Walker and Darien Walker will complement Peters scoring. Skilled big man Vashil Fernandez protects the paint. He was 6th nationally in block % and is solid rebounder.

Valpo will also return Lexus Williams who played point in 2013-14 but missed last season with an injury. His return just adds to Valpo's depth. Keith Carter started in his place last year and was a steady influence. The Crusaders have a great mix of players.

It's easy to see why Bryce Drew came back. This should be his best team. Looking for a long shot Vegas gamble? You'd do far worse than Valpo

Conference #13 – Southland

Conference Winner:  Stephen F. Austin

Here’s where we break down the barrier between 1 bid leagues and potential at large stealing 1 bid leagues.  The Lumberjacks have been a force in the Southland the last couple of years compiling a 35-1 conference record.  This year looks to be about the same as they return 4 starters from last year’s tournament team that almost sprung an upset over Utah.  I expect another gaudy record within the conference and a chance at a solid RPI with games against Baylor, Arizona State, and Northern Iowa in the non-conference slate.  32-4 is probably the target and if the conference can produce 1-2 solid other teams they may be able to squeak out an at-large if needed.

Conference #14 – Colonial

Conference Winner:  James Madison

The Colonial continues to be stagnant and I long for the George Mason years where this was more than a 1 bid league.  Last year Northeastern gave Notre Dame a run in the opening round but ultimately fell short.  They project to be a solid team as well as does Hofstra, who return 4 starters from last year’s squad.  Ultimately I see James Madison coming out of this conference with the bid as they build on last year’s strong team by returning all 5 starters.  A 14 seed and a tough out is in the cards for the Dukes.

Conference #15 – Horizon

Conference Winner: Valparaiso

Valpo returns all 5 starters from last year and are heads and shoulders above the rest of the Horizon league.  Most other teams lost their top players and I can see Valpo going undefeated in conference play.  I don’t think they play a tough enough schedule to warrant at large consideration but they should be close as the year ends.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Conference #16 – Big West

Conference Winner: UC-Irvine

UC-Irvine looks to repeat last year’s successful season which saw the Anteaters barely lose to Louisville in the NCAA tournament.  Irvine’s top player is the always fun to watch 7’6” center Momadou Ndiaye.  He alone is worth staying up late on Thursday nights for Big West action on ROOT.

Conference #17 – OVC

Conference Winner:  Belmont

The Bruins look to be the top of the Ohio Valley conference again as they return all players of note except Craig Bradshaw.  Murray State should be solid but I wonder how much affect Steve Prohm leaving to take the Iowa State job will have on this team.  On a side note, former Marquette player, Jon Harris takes over at SIU-Edwardsville

Friday, October 23, 2015

Conference # 18 – MAC

Conference Winner: Central Michigan

Now we make the break from the 1 bid leagues that are bottom seed fodder to 1 bid leagues where the league champion, if they win their conference tournament, have a chance for a 13 or lower seed upset.  We start with the MAC where Buffalo should have been the favorite but Bobby Hurley left to take the Arizona job.  Next up are the Chippewa’s of Central Michigan who played well enough last year to be considered for an at-large deep into February.  Akron seems to be the biggest obstacle but the Chippewa’s return all 5 starters and I think it’s their conference to lose

Conference # 19 – Sun Belt

Conference Winner:  Louisiana Lafayette

It’s a two horse race here between Georgia State and Louisiana.  With Georgia State losing 4 starters and Ron Hunter to the NBA the Ragin Cajuns are poised to take the title.  The Sun Belt, like most mid-majors aren’t what they used to be but Georgia State did spring the upset last year over Baylor.  I’m not sure Louisiana has that sort of firepower this year.

Conference # 20 – Summit

Conference Winner: South Dakota State

After losing last year’s conference title game by 1 the Jackrabbits are ready to redeem themselves this year.  4 starters are back and won’t soon forget how close they were to making the tournament

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Conference # 21 – Big South

Conference Winner: High Point

Coastal Carolina has won the last two bids and are good enough to make a run for a third but High Point boast the best player in the league in John Brown who averaged almost 20 ppg.  Star power wins conferences like these and I see High Point reaching its high point as a 15 seed in the tournament this year

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Conference #22: Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference

My favorite real mid-major is the MAAC.  Last season, I predicted a 3-team race between Iona, Siena & Manhattan. They ended the regular season 1st, T-3 and T-8 with Siena being the biggest disappointment. 

Iona is the clear favorite this season, returning presumptive POY, A.J. English. He's joined in the back court by sophomore guard, Schadrac Casimir. Casimir is a good shooter who was 43% from deep. He also shot 90% at the FT line. English will be the star and leader. 

Iona travels to Valpo, Oregon State, Rhode Island and Tulsa out of conference to test themselves. They were upended by Manhattan in the league tournament last season and will need to avoid that to make the dance this year.

Other contenders will include Monmouth, lead by junior guard Justin Robinson and Siena who looks to bounce back from a disappointing season. Injuries derailed the Saints a year ago.

Iona should come out of this league and if they do, would be a pest for whoever drew them in the opening round

Conference #23 - Southern (SoCon)

Conference Winner:  Furman

The days of Davidson running this conference are gone as they went and dominated the A-10 instead last year.  This year it's very wide open with at least 3 or 4 teams within shouting distance of first place.  Ultimately I think it's going to come down to either the Paladins of Furman or Chattanooga.  Chattanooga has the top player in the conference but Furman returns their top 8 players.  I'll take quantity over quality in this one.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Conference #24 - Big Sky

Conference Winner - Weber St.

Last Year Eastern Washington came out of the Big Sky and guaranteed a first round upset over Georgetown and that didn't happen.   This year Weber State is back to claim what is usually theirs.  There is no stud like The Show Harold Arceneaux but all the components are there for tournament run with potential 14 seed upset"ness".

Conference #25 - Atlantic Sun

Conference Winner: North Florida

North Florida made it last year but lost in the play in game.  They return a lot of what they had last year and the conference is all around weak.  I don't know if the committee would put them in the play in game two years in a row but I'm saying there's a chance!

Monday, October 19, 2015

Conference #25.5 - Ivy

Conference Winner:  Yale

Yes, it says 25.5.  A mistake on my part had the numbering order wrong and I started at 31 instead of 32.  Technically, the Ivy is conference 26 but this will get us back in order.  Harvard has been the prolific favorite going into the past couple years but it looks like talent-wise Yale has taken the lead.  I don’t expect them to make much noise in the tournament but I have them as the slight favorite going in.

Conference #26 - America East

Conference Winner – Stony Brook

Stony Brook has been so close so many times including last year when they lost on a last second shot by Albany.  This year they are once again the favorite as they return all 5 starters from last year’s team.  I think they are good enough to be a 15 seed if not a 14 seed.  I don’t see them losing more than 1 or 2 conference games.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Conference #27 - Northeast

Conference Winner – Robert Morris

Ah yes, good old Bob Morris.  Bob returns 4 starters from last year’s team that won a play in game.  To expect the same thing this year would be par for the course but I’m thinking they get ahead of the play in game and settle in as just a normal 16 seed.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Conference #28 - Patriot

Conference Winner:  Lehigh

Stop me if you've heard this before....the class of the league is either Bucknell or Lehigh.  Seems like almost every year it comes down to these two teams.  The nice part is each has pulled some major upsets in the tournament.  Not as much star power this year though.  15/16 seed upside.