Monday, October 31, 2016

The AAC and Realignment

The AAC is a direct result of conference realignment. Created from the remnants of the Big East or what was going to be the Big East, the American Athletic Conference are schools caught in a league no one wants to be in.

Cincinnati, UConn & Houston spent the last 6 months whoring themselves out to the Big XII in expansion talks only to be rebuffed. UCF & South Florida did so as well. Memphis has been flaunting FedEx money trying to get out. League is on solid ground.

Football built the league and that's why the Catholic 7 went on its own and hasn't looked back. In a desire to chase the football dragon, the league hurt itself when it comes to basketball.

It hasn't helped that Memphis has been mired in mediocrity but the league has been hurt more by the bottom dragging it down. SMU was the highest ranked team to finish the year in KenPom and they were ineligible of course. 

They also had USF at 237, Tulane at 219 and East Carolina at 209. UCF was at 194. Those numbers are why the Catholic 7 wanted basketball schools only. The RPI numbers aren't much better.

Despite this, there are programs in this league that can be very good. UConn is a true blue blood. Cincinnati, Memphis and Temple have been consistently good. Houston has history, none of it very good recently but there's a new commitment to the athletic department. Of course, that's because they want to get the hell out of the AAC.

The AAC could be a good basketball league. UConn should be a regular national title contender. Truth is, they'd all rather be somewhere else and something else, Power 5 teams. That's the AAC, the league of misfit toys. 

Conference Preview #7 - American

Conference Champion – Connecticut

Another year, another bid for UConn.  Kevin Ollie loses some talent from last year but returns enough in Rodney Purvis and Amida Brimah along with a solid recruiting class to shore up the conference.  Cincinnati is in the same boat, losing 3 starters but Troy Caupain and Gary Clark are a formidable 1-2 punch.  Rounding out this 3 bid league is SMU who after getting reprimanded for Larry Brown’s “recruiting” finally has a non-dirty coach and talent.  As long as their Strength of Schedule isn’t over 300 like it was 2 years ago they should be able to lock that third bid in even if it’s a double digit one.  As a side note I see this conference being owned by Memphis in 2 years.  That’s how long it will take Tubby Smith to dominate.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Conference Realignment and the A-10

Prior to the 2012-13 season, the Atlantic 10 added VCU and Butler creating a 16 team league. It would last all of one season. Charlotte would leave the following season to pursue football at the FBS level in Conference USA and Temple joined the AAC due to football as well. Xavier and Butler both left to join the Big East.

The A-10 added George Mason in 2013 and Davidson in 2014. So after reaching 16 teams, it's back to 14.

The net results have weakened the A-10. Temple has been a consistent NCAA team and Final 4 contender at times. The league already has a strong presence in Philadelphia, though, with LaSalle & St. Joe's. Neither can match Temple, though.

Xavier has also become a consistent NCAA team and frequent Sweet 16 team. One could argue it's also the cradle of coaches, producing Pete Gillen, Skip Prosser, Thad Matta & Sean Miller. With its move to the Big East, it appears Chris Mack is in it for the long haul in Cincinnati. Would that scenario be likely had they remained in the A-10? Perhaps but not as likely.

The key addition was VCU along with Butler in 2012. VCU has made the tournament each year in the league and has contended for the league title each season. VCU has the potential and resources to be a flagship institution.

The other two additions aren't as strong but have some good recent history. George Mason has floundered since Jim  Larranaga left. Davidson took a share of the A-10 crown its first year in the league and has a brilliant coach in Bob McKillop. Both have shown enough in the past decade or so to help keep the A-10 a league with multiple bids.

The A-10 survived realignment and is still a strong league with good programs and coaches. It may not happen on a regular basis, but the league will also produce teams good enough to contend for Final 4's. All things considered, it's still a league in a good place.

Conference Preview #8 - Atlantic 10

Conference Champion – Dayton

Once again Dayton looks to be the cream of the crop in the A-10.  They will have to overcome the untimely death of returning center, Steve McElvene, but the cupboard is not bare.  Scoochie Smith and Charles Cooke return as potential First team A-10 players and Kendall Pollard is no slouch.  A nice recruiting class including Kostas Antetokounmpo rounds out a solid team.  Rhode Island looks to rebound after losing star EC Matthews to a torn ACL in the first game last year and should be able to secure an at-large bid with their talent.  VCU once again has enough talent to also vie for a bid although it won’t be as easy as previous years.  This looks like a 3 bid league to me.  George Washington lost too much and had to fire Mike Lonergan this summer because he was mean.  If anybody comes from nowhere to snag a surprise bid it will be Davidson and star Jack Gibbs.  Depth (and defense) was a problem last year but Bob McKillop should have more firepower this year.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Conference Preview #9 - West Coast

Conference Champs – Gonzaga

Yep, it’s going to be the Zags and Gaels show again.  Stop me if you’ve heard this before.  Gonzaga is good enough to be knocking on the Elite Eight door while St. Mary’s will be working for an at-large bid with a gaudy record and a NCSOS north of 150.  Pepperdine, who disappointed me last year will be NIT worthy and BYU will once again be fun to watch but not good enough to merit consideration.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Conference Realignment and the Mountain West

The Mountain West was created at the Denver International Airport in 1998. As we know, DIA is a hub for the illuminati.

Originally, the league was 8 members and added TCU in 2005. In 2010, the league added Boise State, only to lose Utah shortly thereafter.

Later in 2010, BYU left to go independent in football and joined the WCC in all other sports. The MWC responded by adding Nevada and Fresno State and eventually Utah State. TCU, originally planning on a move to the Big East, eventually left for the Big XII.

So, in review, the MWC lost Utah, BYU & TCU. They were replaced by Fresno State, Boise State & Nevada. They also added Utah State and San Jose State. That's a net loss.

It's easy to point the finger at why the conference isn't as good as it was. You don't lose Utah & BYU and get better with the additions they made. Yet, in 2013, they sent 5 teams to the dance. It was also a 9 team league as Utah State & San Jose State had not yet joined.

Since then, New Mexico lost Steve Alford and Craig Neal hasn't been able to maintain his success. UNLV has underachieved despite success in recruiting. The league also added San Jose State who has been a drag on the SOS among other things. 

It isn't likely this league gets 5 bids again but it should at the very least be a 2-3 bid league. Steve Fisher has built a good program at San Diego State. UNLV has wildly underachieved since Lon Kruger left. New Mexico has enough history to contend on a regular basis. The rest of the league will probably struggle to be consistent on a regular basis without the right coach. Nevada hired Eric Musselman a few years back and are a program on the rise.

Conference realignment hurt the MWC. While they had 5 bids after the shuffle, the league simply isn't as strong. While this is true, the league has also underachieved. They need a strong UNLV and a better New Mexico. With both struggling at the same time, the league has suffered. 

The league probably won't be very strong this year. Keep an eye on Nevada as a sleeper. It's shaping up as a one-bid league but shouldn't be. 

Conference Preview #10 - Mountain West

Conference Champion – San Diego State

Wow, has this conference tanked.  Just to show how bad it is, San Diego State went 16-2 in conference last year and did not get an at-large bid.  UNLV is terrible and is looking at last place and New Mexico hasn’t been good since Steve Alford left.  Fresno State lost too much to repeat as the conference tournament champion so we are left with Steve Fisher’s group.  They won’t be blowing any doors down but a 8-9 seed isn’t out of the question for the Aztecs

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Conference Realignment and the Valley

The Missouri Valley swapped Creighton for Loyola (IL) following the 2013 season. The Blue Jays were regular contenders for the Valley title and league bid to the Big Dance. While Loyola is in a big market, they don't bring the on court prowess or fanfare Creighton did.

Creighton won the Valley tournament 12 times to go with 6 regular season titles. They were at their best over their last 15 years or so in the league. 

While Omaha pales market wise with Chicago, Creighton is typically amongst leaders in attendance, drawing around 17,000 fans a game. 

Loyola hasn't been to the NCAA tournament since 1987 and haven't won a league title since 1985, having spent 34 years in the Horizon league prior to replacing Creighton. Their arena holds less than 5,000 fans.

The league still has doggedly loyal fanbases. Though overall attendance  took a hit, each member school has robust attendance numbers. Arch Madness drew over 50,000 people in Creighton's last trip (the Creighton faithful flooded St. Louis) and still continues to draw over 50,000 people despite the loss of the Creighton legions.

On the court, Loyola has not replaced Creighton. Creighton enters this season expected to make the NCAA tournament, even as they're projected anywhere form 3rd to 5th in the Big East. The Valley looks like a one-bid league if Wichita State wins both the regular season title and conference tournament. I think if they have enough chances out of league to earn a bid should they stumble in St. Louis.

The Valley isn't as strong without Creighton and adding Loyola hurt the league. As we begin the season, 3 Valley teams are in the KenPom top 100 and then the drop off is quite large. The larger problem for the league is, outside Northwen Iowa, no one has stepped up to be a regular challenger to Wichita State.

Southern Illinois is nowhere near as good as they were a decade ago. Bradley and Drake have been quite poor after one season hits in the late 2000's. 

The Valley can be a top mid-major again. Wichita State gives them a "signature" school and national attention. UNI has had very good success. The loss of Creighton stung but can be made up by improving teams at Bradley and SIU. Both appear to be moving in that direction.

Realignment Reality: League lost some firepower and a powerful fanbase. The fanbase loss has been minimal. The on the court loss has been much greater. It took a hit and needs programs with past success to reach those heights again. It's very doable.

Conference 11 - Missouri Valley

Conference Champ – Wichita State
Once again we have Wichita State on top but the margin isn’t like it has been the past couple of year.  Ron Baker and Fred Van Vleet are gone and it will be up to a couple new players to get it done this year.  They have the talent to once again win the conference but it won’t be easy.  Northern Iowa will once again present a challenge even though they lost a couple pieces from last year’s tournament team and Illinois State has plenty of returning firepower.

This is the point where conferences turn from 1 bid to a possible 2 bid league.  The Valley has had multiple bids here and there after sending 4 not that long ago but I’m not sure Wichita is going to have an at-large profile come March.  It may take some squeezing and luck for a 2nd bid this year in the Missouri Valley Conference.

Monday, October 24, 2016

KenPom 2017 Pre-Season Rankings

KenPom preseason rankings are out. Let's see how the top-50 shake out by conference. 

Not surprisingly, the ACC leads the way with ten teams. The league has 7 teams in the top 25 and 4 in the top 10. When the ultra exciting talk of "best conference" comes up this year, there's no debate. Move along.

Somewhat surprisingly, the Big XII is next with 8 teams. They only have 1 team in the top 20, Kansas, who is a realistic title contender. It'll be a fun league due to the round robin.

The Big East and Big 14 both have 7 teams in the top 50. The Big 14 has 5 teams in the top 16 and that sounds about right. It'll be a top heavy league with a lot of bad teams on the bottom.

The Big East has 3 teams in the top 20. Like the Big XII, the league will be a lot of fun with the round robin. Sadly, DePaul will be terrible, possibly historically bad. That's for another day.

The SEC, Pac-12, AAC & A-10 check in with 3 each. The SEC has a national title contender in Kentucky and then a lot of meh. The Pac-12 has 2 Final 4 contenders. The AAC and A-10 don't have a team in the top 25. The AAC should be better given some of the schools in the league. The bottom half will drag them down again.

The WCC has St.Mary's and Gonzaga at 18 & 22. Pretty remarkable how consistent both programs have been.

The MVC, Ivy & Mountain West each have 1. The Mountain West has SDSU at 46. Bleak times in the MWC.

Conference 12 - Conference USA

Conference Champ – UAB

After only 2 conference losses last year UAB return most of its roster this year.  This is still a single bid league and the most likely challenges will come from last year’s darling Middle Tennessee State or old Dominion.  Ultimately, the Blazers experience will win out and represent C-USA come March

Friday, October 21, 2016


Remember last March when Tulsa made the tournament over Monmouth? That was dumb. But that's life in the MAAC.

This year, there are probably four contenders to win the league with one that's a prohibitive favorite. That would be Monmouth who returns MAAC player of the year, Justin Robinson. They also return Micah Seaborn and Je'lon Hornbeak. 

Monmouth will have a chance to prove its mettle as they travel to South Carolina, Syracuse, Memphis and North Carolina. They also host Ivy favorite Princeton. Mark me down as having them go 3-2 in that stretch.

Siena and Jimmy Patsos bring back nearly everyone as well. The name to know is F Brett Bisping. Also, Javion Ogunyemi is a player to know. He does it all. Check his numbers at KenPom. Kid is a flat out good basketball player. 

Siena's schedule isn't as challenging as Monmouth's. They do travel to GW and Kansas. They also go to St. Bonaventure who should be in the mix in the A-10.

Iona loses AJ English but adds Sam Cassell, Jr as a graduate transfer. F Jordan Washington can be their best player but needs to avoid foul trouble. 

St. Peter's is being touted at various places as the 4th contender in the league since they return a good chunk of their roster and add some solid transfers.

Monmouth has a chance to be one of the best non-major teams in the country this year. With a challenging schedule, they can once again put themselves on bubble talk. Realistically, they don't want to do that and want to win the league title and league tournament.

College basketball fans should mark the Monmouth and Siena as must see games this year. They play twice in 11 days on February 13 and 24.

MAAC-tion, baby

Mid Major Predictions

I have 6 conferences filling this designation.  These conferences are 90% locked in as a 1 bid conference.  Perhaps, with the right scheduling and no slip ups an at-large could come from 1 of these conferences but it isn’t likely.  See how the MAAC and Monmouth got screwed last year for a perfect example.

Colonial – Towson
Probably the weakest conference of this group nobody jumps out at you.  Wilmington will contend and William and Mary will flirt with a bid but ultimately the Tigers come out on top

WAC – New Mexico State
A year after getting clipped at the buzzer by Bakersfield the Aggies are the “cream of the crop” again.  There’s another Bhullar to cheer for and he’s got a 6’11” starting buddy.

Ivy – Harvard
Yale lost too much to contend after beating Baylor last year so it’s a two horse race between Harvard and Princeton

MAC – Akron
The MAC is slowly making a comeback as there are a couple teams were noting at this point.  Akron looks to be ahead of everybody but Buffalo, Ohio, and Eastern Michigan are closing.  Still thinking 1 bid this year

Horizon – Oakland
Most people will be on Valpo because of Alec Peters but I think Oakland, despite losing Kay Felder will be better.  Green Bay will contend as well

MAAC – Monmouth

They got screwed last year and we’ll see if it happens again.  Siena is a close second at this point.  If an at large bid comes from this group of conferences it will be Monmouth or Siena.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Low Major Predictions

I have 14 teams pegged as Low-Major which means no matter what happens these are 1 bid leagues.  No at-large bids here.

America East – Vermont (although I’m hoping for Hartford so I can cheer for Pancake Thomas)
Atlantic Sun – North Florida
Big Sky – Weber State
Big South – Winthrop
Big West – Long Beach State (since Hawaii is on probation)
MEAC – South Carolina State
NEC – Fairleigh Dickenson
Ohio Valley – Belmont (and they should romp)
Patriot – Lehigh
SoCon – Chattanooga
Southland – Sam Houston State (although SFA should be a close 2nd)
Summit – South Dakota State  (go TJ Otzelburger)
Sun Belt – UT-Arlington

SWAC – Alabama State

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

More Replay for the MAC & Big 14

This nugget dropped from the NCAA this afternoon:

The MAC and Big 14 will allow officials or coaches challenge block/charge that happen near the restricted area calls in the final 2 minutes of the 2nd half and overtime. 

Coaches that challenge and lose will lose a timeout and if they win, streamers will drop from the ceiling and all in the land will eat the finest meats and cheese.

Coaches and refs cannot challenge non calls and any challenge must occur before the ball is put back into play. Again, you can only challenge calls that occur near the restricted area.

This is arguably the dumbest thing I've ever heard of for basketball rules changes in my lifetime. 

What needs to happen is what Mark Titus (@clubtrillion) of The Ringer is going to harp on all year, and that's the end of the charge. The charge rewards bad defenders and floppers. Please tweet early and often this basketball season #BanCharges #BanTheCharge

Those in favor of this replay system hope it ends flopping but my guess is, confusion will reign and a coach will instantaneously combust in one of these leagues this year (looking at you, Tom Izzo). Simply, #BanCharges #BanTheCharge

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Official Conference Breakdowns

Low Major (14)
1 bid leagues who will occupy the 14-16 seed lines.  A March Madness win is something to write home about.
1. America East
2. Atlantic Sun
3. Big Sky
4. Big South
5. Big West
7. Northeast
8. Ohio Valley (a couple years ago was a Mid-Major)
9. Patriot
10. SoCon (same as OVC but felt the realingment trickle down effect through the Colonial)
11. Southland
12. Summit
13. Sun Belt
14. SWAC

Mid Major (6)
Used to be everybody but the Power 6.  These leagues are 1 bid leagues but you may get a 12-13 seed out of them or a second bid if they schedule and win properly
1. Colonial (very close to falling to low major after flirting with high major)
2. Horizon
4. MAC (should be a high major but just isn;t)
5. WAC (same as Colonial.  New Mexico State has single handedly kept them here)
6. Ivy

High Major (6)
Probably a two bid league but can sometimes get 3-4 bids.  Can surprise with a sneaky 4-5 seed out of the conference
1. American
2. A-10
3. C-USA (questionable whether they should be this high)
4. Misssouri Valley
5. Mountain West
6. West Coast

Power (6)
At Large Country.  Word is the ACC could get 11 bids themselves this year.  I hope not.  And I realy hope Virginia Tech fails.  Anywho....
1. ACC
2. Big 14
3. Big 12 -2
4. Big East
5. PAC 14
6. SEC and Midwestern Missouri

Friday, October 14, 2016

Conference Previews - A Rebuttal


I'd probably put the Big East into a top 6. They've been a top five league the last two years without much help from flagship schools St. John's, Georgetown & Marquette.

I'll mention this later as we move through conferences, but Xavier, Butler & Creighton have quickly improved their recruiting to levels that match the so-called "Power 5". In fact, Xavier landed a top-30 prospect, Paul Scruggs, today over Indiana and Michigan State.

The A-10 and Mountain West can be players but have issues. The A-10 losing Xavier and Temple took away perennial tournament teams. The league is still a very good basketball league but it's hard to see a program consistently contending for Final 4's. Dayton might as long as they keep Archie Miller.

I'll dive into the Mountain West when we get there but they've been hurt by usual powers scuffling and a resurgent Pac-12.

The AAC has a chance to be another Big East but flagships, UConn and Cincinnati are ripe for expansion happy conferences. 

Conference Previews - Breakdown of the Breakdown

I’m going to try to do something a little different this year and lump some of the Low Major’s together to get through the conference  previews quicker.  My analysis is a little different than others as I break the conferences down in to 4 categories:

Low Major – 1 bid.  No matter what happens this league is only getting 1 bid
Mid Major – The old standard of everybody else when there were 6 power conferences.  This now represents the conferences that are 90% sure to get one 1 bid but may be able to sneak a 2nd if things break correctly.  Think MAAC or Colonial from a couple years ago.
High Major – Named to make the 2nd tier conferences feel good about themselves…but not good enough to get the power conference money.  Probably a 2 bid league but may get a third.  WCC and A-10, I’m looking at you. But, am I no longer looking at you decrepit Mountain West?
Power – The Power 5…or is it 6 with the Big East making a comeback?

Breakdown coming soon.  Kurly can argue conference alignment in a minute.

Monday, October 10, 2016

America's Real Top 10

Forget Athlon's garbage top 10 and Gary Parrish's or Andy Katz's or whatever Seth Davis says.

Also, Wisconsin is trash and so is Virginia. Welcome to low possession hell. I can already hear the condescending "right way bull shit". It's not even November and I want Jon Rothstein to start covering billiards.

10. Xavier - They'd be higher if I knew the status of Myles Davis who was a naughty boy this summer. There's some depth issues but look for Edmond Sumner to be a potential Big East POY

9. Michigan State - I'm banking on the Izzo factor because they lost a lot. They also lost grad transfer Ben Carter to an injury, hurting front court depth. They added some likely one and dones. I bet they start slow but are a trendy Final 4 pick come March.

8. Louisville - Seen them projected all over the place. I think Deng Adel and Donovan Mitchell are household names by the end of the year. 

7. Arizona - Pac-12 could be the 2nd best league behind the ACC this year. Arizona is a legit Final 4 squad and oozes talent, albeit young. Expect a huge jump from Allonzo Trier and Dusan Ristic.

6. Kansas - Not to be to hyperbolic but I could see a scenario where Frank Mason is this year's Buddy Hield. They'll need some big production from super frosh Josh Jackson. If sophomore Carlton Bragg can match his recruiting hype, he could be their best overall player.

5. North Carolina - They lost their hear and soul in Marcus Paige but bring back a lot of talent. Theo Pinson, Justin Jackson, Kennedy Meeks, Joel Berry II, Nate Britt & Isaiah Hicks are a good six man rotation. Which one becomes the leader?

4. Oregon - The Ducks are loaded with the return of backcourt mates Tyler Dorsey and Dillon Brooks. Chris Boucher is a load inside. Juco transfer Kavell Bigby-Williams will be a factor. They also get Dylan Ennis for a full season. The football program is circling the bowl but the basketball program has ascended.

3. Villanova - Not having freshman Omari Spellman hurts their depth. Though they lost Daniel Ochefo and Ryan Arcidiacono, they still have Josh Hart & Kris Jenkins. Look for Darryl Reynolds and Mikal Bridges to be solid contributors and Jalen Brunson to seamlessly replace Arch.

2. Kentucky - What's new? A lot like usual as they have the 2nd best freshman class in the nation behind the team that will be number one. I like this team though because of returning players Isaiah Briscoe and Derek Willis. It's a good mix of players similar to 2015 and close to 2012.

1. Duke - They're talented enough to go undefeated but won't because the schedule is brutal. The freshman class is the best in school history but having beta Grayson Allen, Matt Jones and Amile Jefferson are why this team will win the national title. Sophomores Luke Kennard and Chase Jeter make them even deadlier. This team will be bananas fun.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Welcome To The Season.....

October is upon us and the Basketball magazines are starting to trickle out.  The first one I saw was Athlon's, which is usually pretty good, so I picked it up.  I like when they go back and look at the Top 10 recruiting class from 5-10 years ago.  Some of those names are forgettable!
As for the predictions, like most seasons, I'm not expecting to see much difference between this magazine and any other magazine.  It'll probably be the same 9 with an stretch thrown in.  As for Athlon, here's what they have:

1. Duke
2. Kentucky
3. Villanova
4. Oregon
5. Kansas
6. North Carolina
7. Virginia
8. Xavier
9. Arizona
10. Wisconsin

Nothing really jumps out at me here.  I'm guessing everybody will have Duke or Kentucky #1.  Oregon may be a stretch at 4 but the one that I think is too low is Wisconsin.  They really came on last year after old man Bo quit.  With a solid core and 4 of 5 starters returning I think they are a viable Final Four team.  Arizona may surprise this year....finally.  Then again they'll probably lose in the Elite Eight.  Virginia will make me want to poke my eyes out I'm sure.

40 days to Tip!