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.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Conference #29 - WAC

Conference Winner:  UMKC Roos

Boy, has this conference fallen.  Just years ago it used to be solid with an at-large bid here or there but then it basically turned into New Mexico State and everybody else.  Now, not even New Mexico State looks like they are worthy.  Nobody in the conference returns more than 3 starters and we're going to go out on a limb and take the Kansas City team in the WESTERN conference.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Conference #30 - MEAC

Conference Winner:  Hampton

The Pirates return 4 starters from last year’s tournament team.  Hampton is probably good enough to not be a play in game but not good enough to break the 15 seed mark.  One and done material.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Conference #31 - SWAC

Conference Winner - Alabama A&M

Not much to say here; as will be the case with the first dozen or so conferences.  This is a play in game conference.  See you on Tuesday March 15th Bulldogs!

One Month Out

We are officially 1 month away from the start of College Basketball.  With that our conference picks will start coming out.  We'll start with our 1 bid leagues and work our way up to the top conference overall.  Let the countdown begin!

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

SEC Rising

I've been pretty bullish on the SEC the past 4-5 years only to have the league stumble through the regular season. Kentucky and Florida have made Final 4 trips while the rest of the league has scuffled.

The past two off-seasons has seen an infusion of talent on both the floor and in the coaching circles. They won't be contenders this year but Tennessee, Auburn, Mississippi State and Alabama should be better sooner than later with the additions of Rick Barnes, Bruce Pearl, Ben Howland & Avery Johnson.

More importantly, the talent level has increased dramatically as well. LSU has a freshman class that rivals a typical Kentucky class with number one ranked prospect Ben Simmons and five star Antonio Blakeney. Texas A&M had a surprisingly fertile recruiting period adding 4 top-100 players.

Mississippi State immediately benefited from the hire of Howland and added top prospect Malik Newman. Newman is the headliner but Howland added other top players to form a top-20 class.

Auburn didn't add a star at the level of Malik Newman but did net the league another top-20 class. Auburn has a jump start on 2016, poaching five star Mustapha Heron from NYC.

Kentucky, along with Florida have been the class of the league. The recent talent infusion will make the league deeper and tougher.  Don't fret, Kentucky still landed a top-5 class and will be a force. 

Also returning to the scene will be Vanderbilt who should be one of the most improved teams in the nation. Among their better players will be Brookfield native Riley LaChance and Luke Kornet, son of former Buck draft pick, Frank Kornet. Vandy is also building a solid 2016 recruiting class.

The league is probably a 5 bid league this year, 6 max. In a year or two, it shouldn't surprise anyone to see the league match the B1G and ACC as a possible 8+ bid league.