Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Mid Majors Preview Part 7 - AAC

Projected Champion:  Wichita State
Possible Contenders:  Cincinnati
At-Large Bids: Cincinnati, Central Florida, Connecticut

Yes, the AAC is still considered a Mid-Major.  No, I’m not happy about it.  At least they can rollout at least 1 Final Four contender in Wichita State and if you squint hard enough Cincinnati may be one of those surprise teams that makes it to the Elite Eight.  There’s some room between the top two but not as much as people think.  Sliding in at 3 and 4 and probably getting some at-large love are Central Florida and Connecticut.  UCF is led by 7’6” Tacko Falls, who put the NBA off for one more year.  They seem like a safe bet for 24-25 wins.  Connecticut is the X-factor here as they won a National Championship just a couple years ago and have fallen on hard times.  I see a late run and a 12 seed in their future with a little bounce back year.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Mid Majors Preview Part 6 - WCC

Projected Champion:  St. Mary’s
Possible Contenders:  Gonzaga, BYU
At-Large Bids: Gonzaga

I think it’s finally the year when St. Mary’s overtakes Gonzaga for the WCC title.  The Bulldogs will still be good, at-large bid good, but they lost too much in the off season to be the defact-o champion.  St. Mary’s returns a ton and not only boasts the deepest roster but also the top player in the league Jock Landale.  BYU will continue to be a pest in the league but probably not be good enough to get in the at-large conversation.  I like San Francisco’s returning roster and what Herb Sendek is doing at Santa Clara.  Those two teams just aren’t there yet although they may rival BYU for the 3 seed in the conference tournament.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Valley, A-10 and MWC stuff

These are three leagues that can be fun basketball leagues. Can they be leagues that get multiple bids and be contenders in March? Let’s examine.

The Valley

In a word? No. The money spent at Creighton in facilities outstripped the rest of the league. Wichita State struck gold with Gregg Marshall who stayed long after many coaches would have bolted. Sadly, for the Valley, Wichita State parlayed that into a “promotion” to the AAC. Simply put, unless someone spends on facilities like Creighton or strike gold with a coach and some luck, it’s unlikely the Valley can match the glory days of the aughts.

Now, it’s possible for a team to rise and be a legit March threat but they’ll always be behind the 8-ball as the league has lost any room for error when it comes to seeding. A weaker league and fear of being scheduled will make it hard for a Valley team to earn a solid seed.


When conference realignment struck, I probably underestimated just how hard hit the A-10 was. Losing Temple was a serious blow even if the Owls have had middling results the last few years. Xavier was a blow as well. Less so was Butler since they were only there for a year. Adding George Mason and Davidson added two schools serious about basketball but without the budgets of X and Temple. VCU was a good addition. They’ll take a step back this year. The real test is how they respond to a rebuilding year.

The A-10is far weaker than what it was five years ago but there are enough schools serious about winning that success is possible come March. They’ll need some luck and more importantly, good coaches that stick around. Keeping Dan Hurley at URI matters after losing Shaka Smart and Archie Miller the last two years.

Mountain West

We’ve said ad nauseum it wasn’t that long ago they were sending five teams to the dance. That may not be repeatable but any league that has New Mexico and UNLV can’t be dismissed.

Neither team is expected to be very good this year. In fact, this will probably be New Mexico’s worst team in years. They hired away New Mexico State’s Paul Weir and if given time, should find a lot of success. UNLV is the key to a resurgent Mountain West. Marvin Menzies came aboard to a true train wreck. He’s slowly building a program and recruiting at a solid level. When these two return to national prominence, the MWC can be a high level league again.

Behind those two programs, there is enough depth to build a solid league. The key question is can San Diego State sustain success without Steve Fisher? With the amount of talent in California, SDSU will have a chance to do so. Steve Fisher turned a moribund program around and given it a solid base. It’s up to Brian Dutcher to make it happen.

Mid Majors Preview Part 5 - Mountain West

Mountain West
Projected Champion:  Nevada
Possible Contenders:  San Diego State, Boise State, Colorado State
At-Large Bids: San Diego State

Nevada is the clear cut favorite a year after winning the CBI Title.  Eric Musselman always has this team prepared and the fall of the Mountain West is a couple years in.  The seems to be the theme for the bottom half of the mid-majors.  San Diego State should bounce back this year with Malik Pope leading the way.  Boise State and Colorado State will have some success but probably not enough to contend.  2 bids will depend on the Strength of the bottom half of this conference.  I don’t have much hope.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Mid Majors Preview Part 4 - Atlantic 10

Atlantic 10
Projected Champion: Rhode Island
Possible Contenders: St. Louis
At-Large Bids: None

Another Conference being bitten by the Power confernces, this has always been the source of at least two bids lately.  This year, I’m not so sure.  Rhode Island is again the bid dog here with EC Matthews poised to be the conference player of the year.  Outside of Matthew the Rams return about 75% of their minutes and production from last year.  Their biggest challenge is probably going to come from resurgent St. Louis.  Travis Ford has used transfers to quickly rebuild this program.  How quickly they mesh will determine if this team is at-large worthy or not. VCU and St. Joseph’s appear to be in the good but not great category

Mid Majors Preview Part 3 - Missouri Valley

Missouri Valley
Projected Champion:  Northern Iowa
Possible Contenders:  Missouri State
At-Large Bids: None

The big news here is that Wichita State left and Valpo is in.  That’s a big loss for the Valley as they continue to fall from the mid 2000’s where multiple bids were the norm and not the exception.  Northern Iowa seems to be the class of the league with Missouri State not too far behind.  Valparasio should see some success this year but it will take some time to be a top tier team here.  I see only 1 bid for the Valley as well.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Mid Majors Preview Part 2 - Conference USA

Conference USA
Projected Champion:  UAB
Possible Contenders:  Middle Tennessee State, Louisiana Tech
At-Large Bids: None

Middle Tennessee State has dominated  the last 2 years but this may be the year UAB gets back to the top.  Last year they looked solid until team leader Robert Ehsan tore his ACL.  This year he’s back surrounded by a strong supporting class.  Middle Tennessee still has Giddy Potts and should be right in the mix of things but I believe UAB hangs on.  Louisiana Tech should make some noise but not enough to get to the top.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Mid Majors Preview Part 1


Projected Champion:  Western Michigan
Possible Contenders:  Ball State, Toledo
At-Large Bids: None

When I think of the MAC I always lump them in as a Mid Major as opposed to a Low Major.  Realistically they are a low major.  Off the top of my head I can’t name the last two bid year and this year won’t be any different.  Western Michigan with potential NBA Player, Thomas Wilder returning is a cut above the rest.  Ball State and Toledo return some pieces of a successful last year but they probably don’t have enough firepower to push the Broncos, much less grab an at-large bid.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

More Mid-Major Misery

Last week, the Big 14 announced they were moving to a 20-game league schedule beginning next season. The ACC had announced something similar awhile back. It seems likely, the Pac-12 and SEC will follow suit (though, the SEC has been bullheaded about adding a 9th league game in footsie).

It makes sense from the league standpoint. Better fan experience, more games against a natural rival like Rutgers for Wisconsin and so forth. The real reason, goes well beyond that.

What more league games are going to give teams, is a better RPI. RPI? What buffoon still uses that metric? Well, the dopes that sit on the committee who pick teams for the tournament. It’s been reported in various spots that one Big 14 commissioner said off the record, the goal was to “take all at-large bids for Power 5” schools. It’s always about the money.

Mid-majors already struggle to schedule Power 5 teams and this will make it virtually impossible for say, a Illinois State to get a game against a Big 14 or Big XII-II team. A loss to Illinois State? Doesn’t matter how good they are in say KenPom, if that RPI is bad, you might as well lose in conference to a bottom feeder. At least that team will have an inflated RPI and you can chalk it up to the grind and vagaries of league play (Full disclosure: I’m far too guilty of that excuse). It also obviously leaves less games to have to be scheduled. Less dates on the calendar leaves less chances to show the little guys belong at the “big boy” table.

You can better your bottom dollar, the Big XII-II will reopen talk of expansion. The Big East has been rumored for awhile now to be doing the same in hopes of playing 20 league games.

At the end of the day, the mid-majors Brian is going through, really will find it impossible to make the dance without winning their league tournaments. It also means more mediocre 8th and 9th place league teams dancing. A 12-5 upset of Arkansas over Indiana doesn’t seem that exciting but that’s where we’re headed. And it sucks.

Season Preview Low Majors Part 5

Summit – South Dakota State – Great young coach in TJ Otzelburger, Great young player in Mike Daum

Sun Belt – Georgia Southern – They return most of last year’s 11-7 conference team.  Should be the leader here.

SWAC – Alcorn State- they finally are eligible again and takes over the strangle hold Mike Davis and Texas Southern has on this conference

WAC -  Grand Canyon – It’s Thunder Dan Time!

Monday, October 23, 2017

Season Preview Low Majors Part 4

Patriot – Bucknell – All 5 starters return from a team that gave West Virginia a game in the NCAA tournament last year

SoCon – Furman, Wofford, Mercer - Any of these 3 could take the title.  It's going to be whoever is hot at the end of the year.  Let's say umm, Furman.  Go Paladins!

Southland – This one is also wide open; Northwestern Statw, Laamr, or SFA could all grab it.  Let’s go with Northwestern State since I have great memories of them beating Iowa in 2006

Friday, October 20, 2017

Season Preview Low Majors Part 3

MEAC – Norfolk State – 16 seed fodder.  Sorry

NEC – St. Francis (PA) – at least they aren’t St. Francis (NY).  They’ve never made it to the tournament ever!

OVC – Belmont – It seems each year it comes down to Belmont and Murray State and this year is no different

Wednesday, October 18, 2017


I can’t believe Brian just glossed over my favorite little major, the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference. The MAAC has “suffered” from mid-major tragedy the last two years as regular season champion, a dominant Monmouth was upset in the conference tournament. The Hawks were a good enough team to make a little March run but instead came up short.

Manhattan is a solid choice to win the league. They return a good chunk of their minutes and have a proven coach in Steve Masiello. Iona will also be a contender. The Jaspers have a chance to build a little momentum with a non-conference schedule that includes Harvard at home and a trip to Jersey to take on Seton Hall. They also go to Tulsa, a borderline tournament team. Iona has trips to Syracuse and St. John’s on the docket.

Monmouth will be a factor as well. They won’t repeat their record from the last two years but they’re certainly capable of winning the conference tourney. Fairfield has the probable pre-season POY in Tyler Nelson but will be inexperienced through the rest of the roster. Still, he’s a good enough player to take a team through Albany.

FWIW, the MAAC was 14th or 15th in most conference metrics last year. That won’t get them two bids but if a conference regular season champ can also win the league tournament, they should produce a March threat.

Season Preview Low Majors Part 2

Colonial – College of Charleston – they are the favorite but Elon isn’t far behind.  The Colonial could have two teams in the at-large conversation until late February

Horizon – Northern Kentucky – Seems to be a two team race between NKU and Oakland

Ivy – Harvard – Tommy Amaker always has this team towards the top of the division and will be looking to reclaim the crown from Princeton who went 14-0 in conference last year

MAAC – Manhatten – Iona and Monmouth lose a ton and the Jaspers look poised to leap both of them

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Season Preview Low Majors Part 1

America East – Vermont – went 16-0 last season and returns 4 starters

Atlantic Sun – FGCU – Has an NBA prospect, Brandon Godwin plus 2 transfers from a 26 win team last year

Big Sky – Idaho – Victor Sanders averaged 20+ppg last year and return 3 6’7” bigs who played last year

Big West – UC-Davis – at this point the league is wide open.  Long Beach State is always a threat with their tough non-conference schedule

Friday, October 13, 2017

Kurly’s Five Storylines for ‘17-‘18

5. Archie Miller and Indiana

Indiana is a blue-blood college basketball program. Since 1987, they’ve made two Final Fours. There’s a lot of reasons for this we won’t detail but a big part of the problem has been the coach. Enter Archie Miller. Of the coaches who have come after Zombie Bob Knight, Miller has a chance to return Indiana to its rightful place of prominence. His recruiting should match Tom Crean and surpass it at some point. Most agree he’s probably a better coach and will be able to handle the pressures of coaching at Indiana. Indiana probably projects on the outside of the bracket entering the season but if they sneak in, it’ll be a harbinger of things to come.

4. Duke and Defensive Aversion

There is not a more talented team in the nation, including Kentucky. Besides youth, Duke’s biggest question mark will once again be defensive efficiency. If they can be a top 30ish defensive team, they’re legit national title contenders. Top 20? They win it all. Ignore any early conference losses anencephaly pay attention to the defensive numbers. Duke’s season revolves around that.

3. Mid-Major Demise and that Boring 1st Weekend

Last year’s opening weekend of the tournament was largely a snooze fest. Why? Mid-major basketball is at its lowest in years. There’s a variety of reasons. We’ve discussed conference realignment poaching teams up but another factor has been the amount of graduate transfers from lower to higher programs. One of the great equalizers in March for mid-majors has been roster continuity and development. Now we’re seeing graduates move on to a higher level program to chase March glory. Coaches at mid-majors are developing players like the minor leagues to see them graduate to the big leagues. It’s unfair to keep kids that graduate at a school, it’s also a tough spot for coaches.

2. Kansas and Villanova

The Big XII and Big East and have been ruled by Kansas and Villanova. Will it continue this season? Kansas looks like a prohibitive favorite again and Villanova is the pre-season favorite. Of the two, Villanova is probably the most vulnerable. Seton Hall is a legit contender along with Xavier. Both programs will still be judged on what they do in March. Still, another banner for both seems likely.

1. The Elephant in the Room

As discussed here, college basketball will have the looming shadow of a federal investigation into the influence of shoe companies on steering recruits to schools. The general assumption is there are a lot more dominoes to fall. The longer it takes to happen, the more rumor and innuendo will spread. Louisville has almost certainly saw this become a lost season. It will be the story of the season.