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Final Thoughts On Ranking 351 D1 Teams

In case you missed it, last Thursday I presented my upgraded projections model. Then I presented my 13-14 season projections on ESPN Insider. My projections included the median simulation, best case, and worst case for every team. I also did a Q & A session with Eamonn Brennan and another one with John Templon. I have also been answering a few questions on Twitter. You would think after all those words I would have run out of things to say, but here are a few thoughts that did not quite make the cut in those articles:

The Underrated Club

Q: Why does the simulation hate Arizona St.? Jahii Carson is one of the best players in the country.

A: Arizona St. is a team with a lot of two-star players on the roster. In fact, they have the second lowest average star rating in the entire Pac-12, ahead of only Utah. Luckily a few of those players are transfers who played well for other teams. But what this really means is that Arizona St. just doesn’t have the same upside as many of the other schools in the Pac-12. Herb Sendek’s track record on defense is also a huge concern.

Q: Why does the simulation hate Maryland? A lineup of Shaquille Cleare, Evan Smotrycz, Dez Wells, Nick Faust and Roddy Peters sounds like it could hang with anyone. And Seth Allen, Charles Mitchell, and Damonte Dodd all seem like solid reserves. Why is the model so pessimistic?

A: The simulation is concerned that Maryland has only nine scholarship players on the roster. There is real downside risk with such a short bench because if a couple of players struggle or get injured, there are no alternates. Last year N.C. State entered the year with just nine scholarship players and things turned south early. Now, that doesn’t mean Maryland is destined to fail, but depth is a risk with this type of roster.

Q: Why does the simulation hate Denver? They had a great margin-of-victory numbers last year.

A: While I truly believe star ratings are important, the focus on recruiting evaluations really hurts the small conference squads in my projections. Only when a small conference team has virtually no lineup questions will that team be ranked near the top. (This year the two exceptions are North Dakota St. and Harvard. North Dakota St. brings back 95 percent of its minutes and gets a player back who was injured for much of last year. Meanwhile Harvard gets two star players back who were suspended last season.)

In Denver’s case even with several efficient players back, particularly star Chris Udofia, winning seems likely. But Denver has to replace two of the three players that played the most minutes last season. And the likely replacements will only be two-star athletes. That’s not to say that head coach Joe Scott cannot build a winner again. But it is very hard to get a Top 50 margin-of-victory in a small conference. And if Scott does it again, that should be considered a huge accomplishment. It shouldn’t be the expectation. (The real issue for Denver is finding another ball-handler to compliment Udofia. Last year Royce O’Neale and Udofia both were key distributors for the team, but with O’Neale transferring to Baylor, the remaining options are not great.)

Random Thoughts on Some Major Conference Teams

- In my Insider column, I said that the Spartans were the lowest risk team in the nation which sparked some jokes from Michigan St. fans on Twitter. I think this points out how insanely volatile college basketball can be. Even when the Spartans bring back five of their six top rotation players including three clear stars, their fanbase in nervous. Part of that is the fact that Tom Izzo’s teams notoriously struggle in November. But when a team with Top 10 talent brings nearly everyone back and their fans are nervous, you know that anything can happen in college basketball.

- Michigan’s position in 12th in my rankings is a little misleading. I honestly believe that Mitch McGary and Glenn Robinson can lead this team a long way. But I am legitimately concerned about the guard rotation. John Beilein was very reluctant to play Jordan Morgan and Mitch McGary together last season because they weren’t outside shooters. So I have to assume Robinson will play most of his minutes at the four-spot again this year. But then how does the guard rotation work? Does the team play Spike Albrecht, Derrick Walton, and Nick Stauskas together? What if Albrecht and Walton aren’t ready? That is why my model has such a low downside for the Wolverines. (And don’t tell me Caris LeVert is the answer. He was a low-ranked recruit and nothing he did last season leads me to believe he should be a key player on a Top 10 team.)

- When I first ran the model, I was a little surprised the downside for Kentucky was not lower. After all, a young Kentucky team lost in the first round of the NIT last season. But this is what happens when you return two efficient high potential players (in Alex Poythress and Will Cauley-Stein), and add five Top 10 recruits. With that many high potential players, even if two or three of them struggle immensely, Kentucky can still win. Kentucky could not afford for Archie Goodwin to struggle and Nerlens Noel to get injured last season. This year if Julius Randle struggles and Will Cauley-Stein gets hurt, the team can just say “Next man in.”

- I love the range for Indiana in my ESPN Insider rankings. The team has 7 top 100 recruits, and an elite season is still possible. But given all the new faces and how little most of the returning sophomores played last year, the downside risk is major.

- If you want to vote any of my model’s Top 34 teams into the Top 25, I can see arguments for all of them. But I stick by my model’s skepticism of Baylor. Pierre Jackson carried the Bears last year and I don’t see how they can be a better team without him. Their margin of victory was 26th last year (thanks to winning the NIT) and I only give them about a 20 percent chance to do better than that.

- If you have ESPN Insider, look at how painfully low Alabama’s downside is this year. After Devonta Pollard was arrested this offseason, the team is down to nine scholarship players who are eligible this year. If someone on Alabama’s squad doesn't play well, there are no alternatives. This is too bad because Anthony Grant is such a talented young coach, but off-court issues keep derailing his teams.

- Iowa St. made a great move adding Marshall transfer DeAndre Kane. But I suspect Fred Hoiberg needed to add a couple more transfers to keep his transfer winning streak going. With 64% of the lineup gone and four of Iowa St.'s six most efficient players departing (Melvin Ejim and George Niang return), expect Iowa St. to take a step back.

- My model is more optimistic about Seton Hall than what you see in some other rankings. Texas transfer Sterling Gibbs will be a huge upgrade over Tom Maayan and his 50% turnover rate. And with fewer injuries, Kevin Willard should have the defense playing better.

Random Thoughts on Some Mid-Major Conferences

- I’ve still got St. Mary’s on the NCAA bubble. Many will discount the team after Matthew Dellavedova's departure. But Beau Leveasque and Stephen Holt aren't suddenly going to forget how to shoot. Brad Wadlow isn't going to stop being a physical force on the boards and finishing over 60 percent of his shots. This team still has talent.

- The team I think most pundits have over-rated this year is Northeastern. The Huskies were extremely lucky last year. Despite the 7th best MOV in the CAA, they won a ton of close games, including a 4-1 record in OT. Their conference title is very deceiving. With the team's leading scorer and most efficient player Joel Smith gone, a repeat conference title seems unlikely.

- One team I am buying is Weber St. Weber St. had the best margin-of-victory in the Big Sky last year. They even outscored Montana by 19 points in their three meetings. But somehow they went 1-2 against the Grizzlies and that 1-2 mark gave Montana the regular season and conference tournament title. Weber St.’s aggressive and efficient inside-outside combination of Davion Berry and Kyle Tresnak is going to make sure that doesn't happen again.

- The conference champion I expect to come out of nowhere this year is Manhattan. Manhattan somehow lost 10 games to conference foes, but only one of those games was by double digits. This team was much better than last year's conference record would indicate.

- The race for the Big West title is wide open. I have five teams projected within one game of first place in that league.

- The CUSA race should also be highly entertaining. Louisiana Tech is the only team in CUSA that returns over 70 percent of its minutes from last year. (Tech brings back 85 percent of its minutes.) And Tech's losses won't hurt the offense. The team loses its least efficient player Brandon Gibson, and the extremely passive JL Lewis. With an already solid defense and an improved offense, Louisiana Tech could be headed for the NCAA tournament. But Southern Miss is just as formidable a competitor. The newest Golden Eagle, transfer Aaron Brown, shot the ball extremely well as a sophomore at Temple. His addition could give Southern Miss the CUSA title.

- Speaking of transfers, transfer Jay Harris was the PG on a Valparaiso team that won the Horizon league title in 2012. He could be the key addition that gets Wagner an NEC conference title in 2014.

- Finally, Indiana St. PG Jake Odum has to be kicking himself that RJ Mahurin transferred out in order to play his senior year with his younger brother. Mahurin was the team's only efficient big man, and the Sycamores could have been a more realistic NCAA bubble team had Mahurin returned.

Late Breaking News

- The news that Josh Smith was eligible immediately didn’t break until after I finished my rankings. With a full season of Smith you can move the Hoyas up to 27th in my projections. But as many people have noted, because of his conditioning, it still isn’t clear how much Smith will play. The downside risk for the Hoyas remains real. However, I do think that it is a major break that Smith will be around from the start of the season. The Hoya offense is a nuanced system that depends on precise cuts and passes, and integrating Smith mid-season would have been much more difficult.

- I had already assumed Joseph Young would be eligible for Oregon so their ranking is not affected by that news. It is clear that the transfer combination of Mike Moser and Young could be one of the best inside-outside combinations in the country. But I want to offer several cautionary tales. Ryan Harrow, Trey Ziegler, and Aaric Murray were three transfers that received a ton of hype last summer, and they were all such poor fits in the new environment, they have all moved on again. We’ve seen teams bring in a bunch of transfers and live up to expectations (like Iowa St.), but we have also seen teams take in a lot of transfer and disappoint (like Missouri last year.) Transfers are high risk players, and that is why my model has such a large range for the Ducks this season.

Dan Hanner vs Ken Pomeroy

Ken Pomeroy also released his preseason rankings on Saturday. While he is rather humble about his algorithm, I think it is important to note how well his system did last season. From a modeling perspective, a more complex system is not always better.

I would argue that the real advantage of my lineup-based system is not the predictive power. The advantage is that by focusing on the lineup, my model has fewer head-scratching conclusions. For example, Ken’s team level model has Miami at 62nd this year. With basically everyone in last year’s rotation gone and Angel Rodriguez electing not to apply for a transfer waiver, that’s an extremely optimistic prediction. But that prediction is based on how well Miami did last season, not any reasonable evaluation of the current roster. The same can probably be said of Minnesota at No. 35. The Gophers had strong margin-of-victory numbers last year, so Ken’s model loves them again this season. But my model sees that the Gophers made a substantial downgrade in the front-court and added an unproven coach. My model based on the current lineup has Miami at No. 102 and Minnesota at No. 63, and I think that’s much closer to what I have seen in most expert rankings.

But while Ken’s model can cause us to scratch our heads at certain results, do not overlook his predictions. The last five seasons of data are a very strong predictor in the aggregate. (If a team had a great offense before it tends to have better facilities, higher caliber recruits, and better coaches today.) And when the results of both our models agree, those are probably the strongest predictions of all. 

Feast Week And More Conference Realignment

Maryland joined the Big Ten on Monday and based on their Tweets, Maryland alumni were not pleased. In fact, even among those who have defended the move, the initial reaction was usually a sense of sadness.

This puzzled me at first. Why does a team make a move that is almost universally derided by its own fanbase? I thought perhaps Maryland fans just needed to hear a little bit of the logic before they would endorse the move. When the SEC first expressed interest in Texas A&M, Aggies’ fans hated the notion. As Big 12 fans, the Aggies had spent their lifetimes screaming that the SEC was overrated. But then Texas A&M fans watched big brothers Texas and Oklahoma dictate terms in the revamped Big 12, and the Texas A&M alumni suddenly changed their tune. The A&M alumni realized that being wanted by a dominant and stable conference was not necessarily a bad thing. And before long it was the A&M alumni pushing for the move to the SEC.

And thus my initial reaction to the Maryland news was that Terrapins’ fans would eventually fall in step. They would eventually realize that having Duke and North Carolina dictate the basketball schedule was irritating. They would eventually realize that the quality of Big Ten basketball has upgraded substantially over the past few seasons. The main problem was the shock of the news. No one had time to let it settle in and contemplate the change of leagues. With time, Terps fans would start to get excited about the future.

(I enjoy the online commentary either way. Isn’t it amazing how each side loves to pull out the least attractive match-ups to support their argument. Critics of the move are quick to point out that Maryland will now play games against Minnesota, Iowa, and Nebraska. Supporters of the move will point out that Maryland no longer has to play games against Notre Dame, Boston College and Miami.)

But I felt Maryland fans would eventually come around. I thought ESPN’s Scott Van Pelt hit the nail on the head on his radio show. Van Pelt noted that the twinge of sadness Terps fans felt was nostalgia for the past, but it was nostalgia for an ACC that didn’t exist anymore. The days of the double round robin were gone. The days of a fierce rivalry with Duke were over. With 15 schools in the new ACC, a Maryland student enrolling at the school would likely get two home basketball games against Duke in their entire career! It was reasonable to have memories for the past, but under all circumstances the league that most Maryland fans fell in love with was gone. And it had nothing to do with Maryland joining the Big Ten.

And yet the more reaction I read from Maryland fans, the more I am convinced the move was still a disappointment. Terps supporters do lose something permanent with the move. To a large degree, Maryland loses their identity.

It isn’t the school’s identity as a past basketball national champion that is lost. If Maryland returns to the Top 10 they could easily become the Big Ten’s signature basketball property. Do you think Maryland is ever playing the Champions Classic with Duke and North Carolina in the league? But with another NCAA title, it wouldn’t be out of the question in the Big Ten. The Big Ten’s signature basketball team has evolved over the years from Indiana to Michigan to Michigan St., and that title is almost annually up for grabs. Thus this isn’t really about Maryland fans losing their team identity as a past basketball power.

But what Maryland fans lose is spelled out in this simple phrase: “ACC basketball is the best in the nation.” You can throw out whatever statistical argument you want for why that phrase isn’t true. The Big East has been better and deeper over the last five years. The Big Ten has started winning the Big Ten/ACC challenge. Kentucky single-handedly recruited more Top 10 recruits than the ACC this year. But this isn’t a statistical argument. It is about an identity. What players like Vince Carter, Tim Duncan, JJ Redick and Steve Blake did was convince a generation of fans that ACC basketball is always the best in the nation. And now Maryland loses that identity.

Feast Week

Last Friday Sam Gardner made the argument that there might be too many early season tournaments. He argued that the empty seats in Madison Square Garden for an Alabama vs Villanova game prove that the early season tournaments are presenting a watered-down product. I understand the criticism, but I disagree whole-heartedly.

First, I love the empty seats at these events. While the general public may disagree, there is something extremely charming about the general admission nature of an event like the Charleston Classic. You can easily get a seat at mid-court three rows back and watch your team play three games in four days. For anyone who no longer lives in the same town as their favorite college basketball team, you cannot duplicate this type of access. The problem with attendance is that most people do not pay attention to basketball during football season and most people want to spend time with their families rather than vacation this close to Thanksgiving. But if the events are profitable (and each BCS team gets one or two extra exempt home games in addition to the TV revenue), then they could play these games in empty arenas and still provide a valuable product.

And the joy of college basketball is seeing legitimate match-ups between high major teams. These neutral site events ensure that we get quality matchups night after night, and even if some of them are sparsely attended, I wouldn’t trade them for anything.

At a tournament like Charleston, we learn something from every game. We learn that sometimes there are other stars. We put Murray St.’s Isaiah Canaan and Baylor’s Pierre Jackson on the Wooden Award and Naismith Watch List, but then a curly haired sophomore guard from Colorado, Askia Booker ends up stealing the show. All Booker did was set a career high for points on back-to-back nights as Colorado knocked off Murray St. and Baylor.

Meanwhile, we watch a young St. John’s team show signs of promise behind its one returning star, D’Angelo Harrison.

We watch a young Boston College team, whose system should be hard to prepare for on one day’s notice, lose three straight games. And we began to ask what head coach Steve Donahue is building at BC.

And we see the drama as a College of Charleston team blows any chance it has of an at large bid with back to back losses to St. John’s and Auburn, all thanks to Andrew Lawrence having the stomach flu. Every game counts. In addition to the Charleston Classic, there were five more events that just wrapped up:

2K Sports Classic

Memorable Moment: Alabama’s second buzzer beating three of the season, this time by Rodney Cooper, deserves honorable mention. But the image that will stick with me is Purdue blowing a late four-point lead when Purdue’s DJ Byrd was called for a flagrant foul for swinging his elbows. Villanova made two free throws, sank a bucket, and sent the game into OT where Villanova prevailed. The look on Byrd’s face on the sideline during the OT loss was painful. It wasn’t just that he let his team down in this game, but having missed the wide open three against Bucknell a few games earlier, he looked like a player who was carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders.

But as bad as Byrd feels, he isn’t the only one who deserves blame. Purdue blew a bunch of close games last year due to bad free throw shooting and if early returns are any indication, Terone Johnson still has problems at the charity stripe. Johnson shot 44% on his free throws last year and is shooting 50% this year. He had two key misses late against Villanova, and if he makes those shots DJ Byrd doesn’t look like the goat.

Coaches vs Cancer

Memorable Moment: St. Joseph’s Langston Galloway had his head crushed against the floor and a tooth came flying out of his mouth against Notre Dame. Galloway went to the sideline, and after holding a towel in his mouth to slow the bleeding, Galloway returned to the game. Galloway then made a key driving lay-up as his team rallied from eight points down in the final minutes to knock off the Fighting Irish in OT.

I am far too enamored with St. Joe’s this season, but I cannot help but gush about this team. Besides CJ Aiken’s shot-blocking and Galloway’s efficiency, the complimentary players for St. Joe’s all have such incredible skill. With Tay Jones missing for one of the games, Chris Wilson showed great quickness in penetrating to the basket. Halil Kanacevic continued to be an extremely impressive passer for a big man. And Ronald Roberts, always good for the occasional amazing dunk, is starting to turn his athleticism into a true skill as a dominant rebounder. Roberts has averaged 13 rebounds per game through 3 games.  The top six players for St. Joe’s have the ability to hang with anyone, but they have to make sure their decision making and defense match their highlight reel ability.

Puerto Rico Tip-Off

Memorable Moment: NC State’s CJ Leslie and Lorenzo Brown sat on the sideline with dejected looks as Oklahoma St. blew out #6 NC State in the title game. What really disturbed me about this loss was that I didn’t think Oklahoma St. played a perfect game. The Cowboys offense settles for far too many bad shots and on too many possessions, the offensive plan seems to be to get the ball to LeBryan Nash or Marcus Smart and hope. But NC State did nothing to take advantage of that. On one possession in the second half, Oklahoma St. failed to run its offense and forced a bad three as the shot clock was winding down. Normally that is the type of shot that results in a lay-up on the other end. But instead of NC State grabbing the rebound and attacking, they seemed unaware of the ball. It hit the floor, was picked up by an Oklahoma St. player, and that player was fouled. Dan Dakich can rub people the wrong way with his commentary, and I’m sure a lot of NC State fans thought he was going too far by questioning the Wolfpack’s effort. But he was right. NC State didn’t just lose because they couldn’t make shots. They lost because they were out-worked.

Hall of Fame Tip-Off

Memorable Moment: Seton Hall was not outworked. I look at Seton Hall’s lineup and wonder where the scoring is going to come from. And thus it was not surprising that the Pirates trailed by 16 and 10 at halftime in both games in the Hall of Fame tournament. But thanks to some defensive adjustments, Seton Hall came back to force OT in the first game (before ultimately losing) and then won the second game. I’m not sure I’ve seen a team shoot as many airballs in crunch time as the Pirates did in this tournament, but they showed plenty of heart.

Paradise Jam

Memorable Moment: As ugly as Seton Hall’s shots were, the games in the Virgin Islands were just the opposite. Quinnipiac and UConn played a 2 OT instant classic that involved a buzzer beating three by Quinnipiac at the end of OT, and a 10 point comeback by UConn in the final four minutes of regulation. Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatright were basically un-guardable at the end of the semifinal game.

But it wasn’t the best ending of the tournament. Trailing George Mason by five in the final minute, New Mexico’s Kendall Williams took three steps past half-court and unleashed a true prayer for three. It swished through the rim. Then Williams stole the inbounds. The ball was then kicked to Tony Snell who knocked down a three at the buzzer to give New Mexico the win. It was an unbelievable sequence and no matter what New Mexico does this season, they will always have that game.

With these six tournaments in the books, there are still thirteen more tournaments to be completed during Feast Week. The Legends Classic isn’t over, but Georgetown pulled a nice upset over UCLA. UCLA struggled against the Hoyas zone defense, which is too bad because the Bruins have potentially one of the best zone-busters in the country in Kyle Anderson. Anderson is a tremendous passer for his size, but Anderson did not have a good game on Monday and UCLA played with little energy. In Maui, I’m going to have a hard time choosing a memorable moment as Rotnei Clarke had a ridiculous buzzer beater as Butler beat Marquette, and Texas playing without Myck Kabongo, lost to Chaminade. The feast is just getting started.

Early Season Tournaments: Brackets, Observations, And Odds: Part 1

While my preseason projections won’t be available until the end of October, I have cranked out the odds for the holiday tournaments based on my rankings. Today’s column looks at who is likely to win each early season tournament, and what storylines to keep an eye on.

Do not hesitate to print out the tournament brackets and follow along as they happen. It is extremely easy to get busy with the Thanksgiving holidays and miss some of the best games of the season. But if you print out these brackets and fill them in, you won’t miss the upsets. Just click on the handy links throughout this document to find the printable brackets.

Preseason NIT Printable Bracket

Nov 12-13, 21-23

 

Virginia

9.6%

Fairfield

0.3%

Delaware

1.2%

Pennsylvania

0.0%

Kansas St.

28.8%

Lamar

0.0%

North Texas

4.4%

Ala.-Huntsville

0.0%

Michigan

19.7%

IUPUI

0.0%

Cleveland St.

0.7%

Bowling Green

0.1%

Pittsburgh

28.6%

Fordham

0.0%

Lehigh

2.0%

Robert Morris

4.6%

I’ve already expressed my doubts about Michigan and my faith in Pittsburgh. But Pitt’s second round opponent will be very dangerous. Both Lehigh (led by NCAA hero CJ McCollum) and Robert Morris (led by super-scorer Velton Jones) have the ability to knock off Pittsburgh. These teams have a real chance to win the Patriot League and Northeast Conference, and this is the type of game that can mean the difference between earning a 15 seed and a 13 seed come March.

2K Sports Classic Printable Bracket

Nov 15-16

 

Oregon St.

12.0%

Alabama

48.2%

Purdue

16.5%

Villanova

23.4%

OSU’s Jared Cunningham, Alabama’s JaMychal Green, Purdue’s Robbie Hummel, and Villanova’s Maalik Wayns are gone, and those players were not only their team’s leading scorers last season, they were the heart of their respective offenses. Which rebuilding team will forge a new identity first? Because Anthony Grant has become a dominant defensive coach, while Craig Robinson has not, Alabama is the favorite here.

Charleston Classic Printable Bracket

Nov 15-18

 

Colorado

10.9%

Dayton

5.4%

Boston College

0.6%

Baylor

42.5%

Charleston

7.2%

St. John's

8.5%

Auburn

4.4%

Murray St.

20.5%

There are some big name conference schools here, but this tournament is a dream for fans of mid-major squads. Murray St. won’t be able to duplicate last year’s 31-2 record, but with superstar point-guard Isaiah Canaan returning, Murray St. should have enough to beat Auburn and St. John’s. In fact, they might even face the College of Charleston in the semifinals. This offseason Charleston added head coach Doug Wojcik, a veteran coach who hasn’t been able to get to the NCAA tournament, but a coach who has consistently built strong defensive teams. If Wojcik can get Charleston to play great defense this season, he has enough returning talent to make a run at an NCAA tournament bid. Andrew Lawrence is clearly Charleston’s best returning offensive player, but the real player to keep an eye on is Adjehi Baru. Baru was ranked 37th in the nation out of high school and is one of the highest ranked recruits to ever attend Charleston. And while Baru was a nice complimentary player as a freshman last season, it will be very interesting to see if he can break out as a sophomore.

Of course the clear favorite here is Baylor. Baylor may have lost some key post players to graduation and the NBA, but they have plenty of incoming talent. This will be our first chance to see the highly acclaimed 7’1” freshman Isaiah Austin in action.

Puerto Rico Tipoff Printable Bracket

Nov 15-18

 

Oklahoma St.

13.3%

Akron

6.1%

Tennessee

33.5%

NC Asheville

0.1%

Penn St.

3.2%

NC State

36.4%

Massachusetts

5.7%

Providence

1.7% 

Oklahoma St.’s odds aren’t poor because Oklahoma St. is a bad team. The Cowboys add Top 10 freshman Marcus Smart alongside former Top 10 recruit LeBryan Nash. That one-two punch will make Oklahoma St. a likely NCAA tournament team this year. But the Cowboys have a terrible tournament draw.  First Oklahoma St. has to face Akron. Akron point guard Alex Abreu may be under-sized, but he’s an extremely talented player, and 7 foot center Zeke Marshall could have played for a number of BCS teams. And while the MAC hasn’t had multiple NCAA bids since 1999, Ohio and Akron are strong enough to break that trend.

Meanwhile Tennessee is a heavy favorite to be the second round opponent. Tennessee may have only finished 19-15 last year, but the Vols played substantially better after Jarnell Stokes joined the team mid-season. And with Trae Golden and Jeronne Maymon becoming efficient scorers for head coach Cuonzo Martin, a lot of people have taken notice. Florida head coach Billy Donovan has gone on the record to say that Tennessee is the team to beat in the SEC this season.

And if Oklahoma St. wins that game, they only have to face NC State in the final, the same NC State team that many people have labeled as the ACC favorite. So no, Oklahoma St. isn’t a bad team. But their path to a Puerto Rico tipoff title is brutal.

Coaches vs Cancer

Nov 16-17

 

BYU

13.2%

Florida St.

29.4%

Notre Dame

32.3%

St. Joseph's

25.1% 

If you get tired of the sloppy play by all the new players in November, please don’t miss Notre Dame vs St. Joseph’s in the first round of the Coaches vs Cancer tournament. Both teams return all five starters from last season and have plenty of offensive stars. I’m going to keep writing about the shot-blocking CJ Aiken, super-slasher Carl Jones, and the super-efficient Langston Galloway until St. Joe’s gets more love, but this four team field is wide open.

Notre Dame is the favorite, but I do have one question for Irish fans. Given Scott Martin’s middling efficiency numbers in his career, was it a good thing that the NCAA granted him an additional year of eligibility? Martin made just 26% of his threes and 40% of his twos last year, and while injuries may have contributed to that, it is clear he wasn’t an elite player last year.

Paradise Jam Printable Bracket

Nov 16-19

 

George Mason

3.0%

Mercer

6.2%

New Mexico

69.0%

Illinois Chicago

0.1%

Connecticut

10.6%

Wake Forest

2.1%

Iona

6.0%

Quinnipiac

3.1%

Despite a host of mid-major schools, this tournament looks very dull. Mercer and Iona might compete for the ASun and MAAC titles this year, but neither looks like a likely at-large bid.

And still Connecticut’s tournament odds are not great. First NCAA tournament sanctions led to a host of transfers this off-season. Then the Huskies lost Jim Calhoun to retirement. And as we’ve seen in recent seasons, UConn has been a different team when Calhoun is out. He’s a special coach who can elevate the level of his players, and he will not easily be replaced.

Steve Alford’s team might actually be a little better on offense this season. The team loses Drew Gordon at the forward position, but New Mexico also loses AJ Hardeman. And as great an offensive player as Gordon was, Hardeman was a black hole on offense. With Alex Kirk returning from injury to provide that shot-blocking presence in the paint, and all the returning talent at the guard spots, New Mexico deserves more preseason praise.

Hall of Fame Tip-Off Printable Bracket

Nov 17-18

 

Rhode Island

0.3%

Ohio St.

76.9%

Washington

11.7%

Seton Hall

11.1%

Washington’s Abdul Gaddy has had an injury filled career, but with Tony Wroten leaving early for the draft, this is Gaddy’s team. The senior point-guard will have to integrate some new pieces throughout the Washington lineup. Seton Hall will have a number of new faces as well, including Georgia Tech transfer Brian Oliver and Southern Illinois transfer Gene Teague. Realistically, the winner of this game will probably be headed to the NIT, but a win against Ohio St. would be a fantastic notch on any NCAA resume. While Ohio St. is the clear favorite thanks to the efficient high volume shooter DeShaun Thomas, there are questions about how the Buckeyes offense will run without Jared Sullinger.

Predictions For A10/CUSA

In a surprise announcement, VCU is headed to the A10 for the upcoming season. Where do I project the Rams to finish?

The Many Facets & Unpredictability Of March Madness

While personnel determine scheme in the NBA, college basketball coaches recruit players that fit their schemes.

Colleges On NBA Rosters

Duke, Kentucky, UCLA, Texas, Kansas, North Carolina, UConn, Florida and Arizona each begin the 11-12 NBA season with 10 or more players on NBA rosters.

YABC Column, Dec. 19 (On Perry Jones, Miami, BYU, Illinois & More)

A hero moment for Perry Jones III, BYU doesn't slow down offense post-Jimmer, Reggie Johnson's return to the Miami lineup and much more.

How To Think About College Basketball Defense, A10 And MVC Notes

Why we can project Kentucky and Kansas as having great defenses despite significant turnover and projecting the Atlantic-10 and MIssouri Valley.

Yet Another College Basketball Column (Mar 9th Bonus Midweek Edition)

Tuesday's conference tournament games began slow, but Prime Time was fantastic. Here is what you may have missed.

Counting All-Atlantic-10 First Team Representatives

Saint Joseph's, Xavier and Temple have had the most First Team selections since the 01-02 season.

 

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