Thursday, November 30, 2017

Small Conferences

OK, my honest bad... the Sun Belt has no business being lumped in here, but they fall at the end of the alphabet and I forgot them.

That being said... this looks like the "New Valley"... the mid major that is growing competent basketball programs and finding new player pipelines.  Scott Cross has UT Arlington humming, Troy is sharp, GSU and GSU are winning talent over their BCS counterparts.  The bottom of the conference has fallen mightily, as it seems just yesterday Little Rock was rocking Purdue.

Liberty was killed by injury last year, but should be back to top Asheville and Winthrop.

The Big West was maddeningly mediocre last season.  Long Beach looked like they blew an easy slate, but it turns out that they are not very good.  Reggie Theus is probably missing the days of easy recruiting and homecourt advantage in Las Cruces; Northridge isn't getting much better this season. Davis will slide back to the field after last year's run.  I expect Hawaii to pull it together for a run after having to sit last year out.

The Northeast Conference is a total wild card.  St. Francis PA looks the deepest, but I could see any of the top 8 sneaking into Dayton and making some noise.

Florida Gulf Coast is so much deeper and more prepared than the rest of this conference it is not even funny.  In other seasons, I would give Lipscomb some hope, but I'd expect FGCU to nearly run the table.

The Southland is balanced.

MEAC is much stronger than the SWAC this year... the SWAC is really struggling right now, both on and off the court, but Mike Davis at least seems to have Texas Southern competing at the level of the other small conferences.  The top 4 in the MEAC look OK.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

One Bid League Predictions

Once again, no slights intended as to who's who here.  I just know that despite gaudy records, these regular season champions have no shot of catching the eye of the committee for an at-large:

Not much to say about the MAC, other than there doesn't seem to be any continuity or esteem here anymore. A hot season or two in the MAC used to be a launching pad to a nice BCS gig.  Instead, Keith Dambrot gets exiled to Duquesne for his accomplishments.  Duquense would be at the bottom of the MAC, and it's not for a lack of trying from Everhart or Ferry.  That said, the MAC still gets coaches, they still get players, but they just don't build the resumes they used to and have fallen behind the likes of the MAAC, Summit, and Southern.  I would not see any of these top 4 hanging with the Ivy top 4 over the long haul.

The WAC is up for grabs.  UVU doesn't quite have the horses to maintain their pace for a full 40 and will struggle against the top 3.  Bakersfield has been on a nice run, but with GCU eligible for postseason, it makes their path more difficult.  The Aztecs looked ready to run the regular season table until the road went through the other top schools.  This should be an entertaining race, but I expect Dan Majerle to get GCU to the promised land in their first season of eligibility.

The Ohio Valley has been a lot of Belmont, but without Bradds, that should change.  Jacksonville St. finished on the upswing and will continue that way.  Too much turmoil elsewhere in the conference to feel anyone else is a sexy pick.

The Summit is simple: the Dakota schools are good (the monopoly will be more apparent with UND coming over next year), ORU and Western Illinois are not.  Fort Wayne had their window close, and Denver is recovering from Joe Scott. 

This is the worst Big Sky I can remember.  NAU, ISU, SUU are among the worst teams in the country again.  There was a time when the Sky would park one team down there only to have them bounce back.  I like the skill players at Idaho (Sanders) and Montana St (Hall) to drive those teams to the top of the standings.

Duggar Baucom has his system and players in place, but I think the opposition is on to his pace and The Citadel can only go as far as their defense takes them.  UNC Greensboro has a fun team, but I don't think they have the overall consistency to take the regular season crown from Furman.

Vermont probably won't be on the fringes of the at-large discussion, but they should roll through the AE again.  Albany provides a nice foil, but UNH is several steps below after that.

Bucknell has a NCAA weekend-caliber team.  I don't see anyone in the Patriot gaining ground, though the work that Ed DeChellis has done, and Navy should improve their league win total for the 6th straight year.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Preseason bracket

I'm a little delinquent, but should have an opportunity to comb through and seed it Friday, when all is quiet because the Internet exists to do my holiday shopping.

2017-2018 Mid-Major Conference Previews

There is not a slight between these 8 conferences and the 8 referenced under “One-Bid” (coming soon) other than I feel that the 2-3 best teams in these conferences are more likely to be a factor on the bubble come February.

The Mountain West is still several seasons away from being a legitimate multi-bid threat again.  It’s a shame, because the old WAC was home to some of the nation’s most exciting basketball.  When the MWC broke away, they took the heart of the conference.  It has fought small battles of attrition to football, but it looks to be taking its toll.  New Mexico and UNLV have been staggering aimlessly for several seasons.  Wyoming, Fresno St and Utah St are consistently unable to break through. Nevada was a very fringy Bubble team last year (likely “Next Four Out” had they not claimed an auto bid). San Diego State could go either way.  I’ve never been a fan of the coaching coattails, but the word out is that Dutcher has been doing the grunt work here for much more of their run than I would have believed.  Eustachy has the Rams pointed in the right direction, but they are not deep at all.  The conference just doesn’t draw from the Big 12/PAC 12 reservoir the way it used to.

The Missouri Valley has reloaded about as well as it could from the Creighton and Wichita defections.  The conference had survived the losses of Tulsa, Cincinnati, Louisville before that.  The difference is that those are larger cities that have their own sports world.  Valpo falls into mould of the other schools (ISU, ISU, SIU, NIU, MSU), with great tradition, but not much happening in a small town to sell recruits on MVC over Big East, AAC, or even Big Ten.  The MVC needs a winner in Loyola to pipeline talent back into the conference.  The play deliberately, and with the Redbirds and Panthers struggling, there isn’t much resistance.  Bradley will be a shocker, as they have been left for dead for several seasons.  Not seeing much more than an auto bid here, unless somebody pulls together 30 wins.

Not much to say about the West Coast Conference.  Gonzaga reloaded, but St. Mary’s has the NBA talent this year, and should be able to take 2 of 3.  BYU will be exciting until Emery has a meltdown on the road and costs them a couple winnable games.  Too much turnover in the conference the last 2 years to generate many other threats.  Santa Clara is building a solid system and base, but they need way more talent to crack the top 3.

The CAA was a potential multi-bid league with UNCW and Charleston playing tight most of the way, but Charleston fizzled, now the Seahawks have graduated most of their diamonds in the rough.  Elon and Towson are competent enough to make a run. The Tribe lost some of their underrated talent that made Williamsburg a very difficult place to win the last few years.

The loss of Valpo from the Horizon makes this a very unappealing slate of teams.  The Norse are on the map in the wake of Alec Peters late season injury, but it is unlikely Oakland craps the bed again like they did last season.  The Phoenix never figured out how to score at that tempo, and that doesn’t figure to change this season.

The Ivy is a tale of 4 Haves and 4 Have Nots.  Any one of the top 4 can steal the auto bid, but I’m not sure anybody is going to catch the scheduling breaks to be at-large worthy.  Dartmouth, Brown, and Cornell are several steps down from the top four, and there is a pretty large break between the Tigers and Lions.  Princeton has lost the most from last year, though it still can run away with this.  My money would be on the FBS-level talent at Harvard, or the depth at Yale, but never rule out the ability of Penn to spread and shoot.

Monmouth’s stranglehold on the Little MAAC (though what’s it say about the MAC that they rate below here) is over with nary an NCAA bid.  Manhattan has assembled a formidable team.  Iona has been solid for years and are not going away, though Fairfield could be the sleeper here.  Also, never count Siena out in the MAAC tourney.

Conference USA is where things typically go to die, and there isn’t much coming out this year.  ODU will bore you to death, and both Charlotte and Marshall will ignore defensive obligations, making MTSU the favorite again.  UTEP and LaTech will win 20 games and be thorns in their side.  The most interesting pieces are North Texas and UTSA, both of whom can make an unexpected run up a weak conference… the Hilltoppers dream about what might have been, though the concern to me is how Stansbury lined that deal up.

Monday, November 13, 2017

2017-2018 Major Conference predictions

I have been a little delinquent starting the previews and preseason bracket.  The FBI sting took some of the wind out of my sails.  I could write for days on that particular topic, but that has nothing to do with the bracket.  I do feel that it would be ignorant not to take the investigation into consideration, as well as other legal implications, so I highlighted teams that I felt were in limbo for this season... not that the NCAA sanctions or postseason bans are imminent or likely (though that is a possibility) but this will affect the longterm mental health of the program.  Maybe not so much the players on the court, but everything that goes into the sausage (recruiting, coaches, practice, travel, media, etc) are going to change for those teams in the immediate future.

The PAC12 is a disaster. Arizona, USC, and UCLA looked to be frontrunners, but who knows where the investigation leads, and how China expedites their legal process, which I can only imagine to be like Brokedown Palace.  Cal is bankrupt, Oregon is embroiled in its moral and ethical quandries, and every school north of the 44 degree parallel sucks.  Arizona has the depth to prevail, but my guess is that the investigation breaks Miller before the postseason.  If so, the PAC12 is wide open.

ACC is messy, but the teams currently involved were outside the "lock" status.  Miami and Louisville had tourney potential, but will likely be just impacted enough to tumble to the middle of the ACC standings, with self sanctioning a bargaining chip. Not quite as high on Duke's likely outcome versus the "upside" outcome.  Notre Dame is flying under the radar despite being sound, deep, and experienced.  They have a better shot at an ACC title, while Duke could go all the way if they peak at the right time.

The state of Alabama shot itself in the foot big time.  Auburn looked close to a contender last year, while Alabama pulled a few upsets to remain in the selection discussion until the SEC tourney.  Both are already in the midst of damage control, and I can't see Pearl lasting through Christmas.  Florida and Kentucky are the class of a flat conference again.  Media is high on Missouri because of the Porter effect, but both Fultz and Simmons played for the draft, not necessarily for the postseason.  I can see the Tigers getting off to a fast start and fizzling once NBA scout confirm his draft status. 

The Shockers are jumping to the AAC, which will put a strain on their typical road dominance.  Cinci didn't lose enough to warrant overlooking (SMU did) so I think that chip on their shoulder will be enough to win the league while everyone prematurely puts WSU in the Final Four.  UConn could be the wild card again.

Venue issues will change the fortunes of both Villanova and DePaul.  While the Wildcats are basically playing neutral or road all season, DePaul finally has new digs of their own near campus.  The edge goes to Xavier and Seton Hall to play up that advantage, while DePaul could finally be trending out of the cellar.

Oklahoma State should plummet back to early, while the Dixon effect has taken root at TCU.  Kansas hopefully exhibits a less ambiguous standard toward moral turpitude on the roster.  Over the years, Self has never worn the same stink of other embattled coaches.  I doubt there is any dirt there, but come on, show some discipline.

I have nothing to say about the Big Ten, other than they were very overrated in the seedings last year, and the overall talent seems to have slipped, though little Pitino has a sleeping giant.

Mike Rhodes could keep VCU's stream open, but the Rams have been good for 13 years now.  Typically the bubble bursts on mid-majors and someone has to rebuild from scratch, but that doesn't seem to be the case here.  Ironically, the man who broke their drought, Anthony Grant, will be presiding over continuity at Dayton.  The Bonnies and Rams have the best 5's in the conference, and without much competition, they won't need the depth to win.