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Early Season Tournaments Part 1

My projections for 351 teams will be revealed by Sports Illustrated next week. But today I want to use those projections to compute the odds for this year's early season tournaments.

Puerto Rico Tipoff

Puerto Rico Tipoff

Semis

Final

Champ

Texas A&M

38%

12%

7%

Dayton

62%

26%

18%

College of Charleston

11%

2%

1%

Connecticut

89%

59%

45%

New Mexico

55%

26%

8%

Boston College

45%

20%

5%

George Mason

36%

16%

4%

West Virginia

64%

38%

13%

UConn is likely to use a 4-guard lineup with Ryan Boatright, transfer Rodney Purvis, JUCO Sam Cassell Jr, and five-star freshman Daniel Hamilton at times this year. I’m looking forward to seeing that lethal offensive attack unleashed.

Texas A&M's odds of winning the tournament got a lot better when it was announced that transfer Jalen Jones would eligible in November, but they have to go through two NCAA tournament teams from a year ago, Dayton and Connecticut, just to reach the finals.

Charleston Classic

Charleston Classic

Semis

Final

Champ

USC

52%

17%

7%

Akron

48%

15%

6%

Drexel

18%

7%

2%

Miami FL

82%

61%

39%

Penn St.

71%

38%

19%

Charlotte

29%

10%

3%

Cornell

10%

1%

0%

South Carolina

90%

51%

25%

Miami (FL) won't be 100% in this tournament as Ivan Uceda must sit out the start of the season and cannot play until January. But with transfers Sheldon McClellan and Angel Rodriguez leading the way, and redshirt freshman Deandre Burnett now healthy, they are still the tournament favorite.

I understand why Penn St. and South Carolina aren't getting more love nationally. After the way their teams have performed historically, people tend to write them off before the season starts. But both teams have veteran lineups with more skilled players than most people realize, and don't be surprised if one of those teams wins this tournament.

2K Sports Classic

2K Sports

Final

Champ

Texas

60%

40%

Iowa

40%

22%

Syracuse

64%

27%

California

36%

11%

Texas has a deep and talented frontcourt with Cameron Ridley, Myles Turner, Jonathan Holmes, and Connor Lammert. But so does Iowa. Aaron White, Jarrod Uthoff, Adam Woodbury, and Gabriel Olaseni aren't just going to roll over. Their first-round game is a great early season match-up.

Cal is an underdog in this field, but they have over a 50% chance of winning at least one game, and any victory in this tournament will resonate on Selection Sunday.

Paradise Jam

Paradise Jam

Semis

Final

Champ

Clemson

76%

42%

19%

Gardner Webb

24%

7%

2%

Seton Hall

70%

40%

19%

Nevada

30%

11%

3%

LSU

66%

45%

29%

Old Dominion

34%

18%

9%

Illinois St.

77%

33%

18%

Weber St.

23%

4%

1%

The bracketing here didn't do tournament favorite LSU any favors. First round opponent Old Dominion has a veteran team that should be much improved thanks to the addition of transfers Jonathan Arledge and Trey Freeman.

If Clemson and Seton Hall meet in the second round, it should be a great matchup. Clemson has a veteran team that plays outstanding defense while Seton Hall has a talented young recruiting class led by super-scorer Isaiah Whitehead.

Coaches vs Cancer

Coaches vs Cancer

Final

Champ

Stanford

66%

19%

UNLV

34%

6%

Duke

90%

72%

Temple

10%

3%

If you love watching elite freshman, this is the tournament to watch. Duke has Jahlil Okafor, Tyus Jones, Justise Winslow, and Grayson Allen, while UNLV has Rashad Vaughn, Dwayne Morgan, and Goodluck Okonoboh. Meanwhile Stanford has Reid Travis, Robert Cartwright, and Michael Humphrey. But all anyone will be talking about is the possibility of Stanford head coach Johnny Dawkins facing his mentor Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski.

Hall of Fame Tipoff

Hall of Fame Tipoff

Final

Champ

Massachusetts

40%

19%

Notre Dame

60%

36%

Providence

46%

20%

Florida St.

54%

25%

This might be the most important holiday tournament this year. All four of these teams project as bubble NCAA squads and the winner of this tournament will pick up two critical non-conference wins. I have Notre Dame as the favorite as I think the return of Jerian Grant is going to improve the Irish substantially.

Maui Invitational

Maui

Semis

Final

Champ

Purdue

28%

4%

1%

Kansas St.

72%

19%

9%

Missouri

9%

3%

1%

Arizona

91%

75%

57%

Pittsburgh

99%

45%

13%

Chaminade

1%

0%

0%

BYU

32%

14%

3%

San Diego St.

68%

41%

16%

I’m looking forward to the contrast in styles between offensively dominant BYU and defensively dominant SDSU.  All seven of the D1 teams in the field have the talent to finish in the Top 100. Missouri is probably the worst of these squads, as they must replace almost all of last year's top scorers, but they have some quality recruits who are capable of pulling an upset.

Legends Classic

Legends

Final

Champ

Villanova

61%

44%

VCU

39%

24%

Michigan

66%

25%

Oregon

34%

8%

This looked like one of the best early season tournaments in the land, with four very talented teams. But the news that Oregon's Michael Chandler is injured and the news that JaQuan Lyle is ineligible makes the Ducks an underdog.

CBE Classic

CBE

Final

Champ

Arizona St.

28%

7%

Maryland

72%

32%

Alabama

27%

12%

Iowa St.

73%

49%

Iowa St. vs Alabama presents another great contrast in styles. Fred Hoiberg has been an offensive genius for the Cyclones while Anthony Grant has been a dominant defensive coach (with the exception of last year.)

MGM Grand Main Event

MGM

Final

Champ

Oklahoma St.

87%

47%

Oregon St.

13%

2%

Auburn

44%

21%

Tulsa

56%

30%

There are lots of new faces in this tournament. I'm looking forward to seeing how transfer Anthony Hickey fits in with Oklahoma St., how quickly new head coach Bruce Pearl can build Auburn into a winner, and how Tulsa adjust to new head coach Frank Haith.

Oregon St.’s roster is in terrible shape which makes Oklahoma St. the favorite even though they might not be an NCAA tournament team.

Cancun Challenge

Cancun Challenge

Final

Champ

Virginia Tech

35%

16%

Northern Iowa

65%

40%

Miami OH

30%

9%

Northwestern

70%

35%

If the MVC is going to get two NCAA bids this year, Northern Iowa must win here. Chris Collins begins year two of the Northwestern rebuild while Buzz Williams begins year one of the Virginia Tech rebuild.

College Basketball Preview Summary And Updates

Over the past 12 weeks, I have released a number of conference previews for the upcoming 14-15 college basketball season. Today, I want to provide a few updates on some of the things I wrote.

Pac-12 Preview: Since I wrote my Pac-12 preview, Jonathan Octeus and Jonah Bolden were declared ineligible at UCLA. That knocked the Bruins out of my Top 25 and it puts the Bruins in danger of missing the NCAA tournament. The problem for the Bruins is that they really only have six quality players on the roster. In the backcourt the team has Normal Powell, Bryce Alford, and Isaac Hamilton (who sat out last year due to a letter of intent issue.) In the frontcourt the team has RSCI #11 recruit Kevin Looney, Tony Parker, and RSCI #33 Thomas Welsh. But the other three scholarship players really should not be playing major minutes for a team as good as the Bruins. When Noah Allen, Wanaah Bail, and Gyorgy Goloman enter the game, the quality of play is going to decrease substantially. That likely means the Bruins are going to have to play at a much slower pace than last season. (Bill Walton will not be pleased.) And an injury to one of the top six players could cause the season to completely fall apart.

In my opinion, the biggest thing the Bruins will miss without Octeus is not his passing, but his outside shooting. Powell has shot under 30% from three the last two years and the lack of outside shooters could really hurt UCLA’s spacing this year and cause their offense to be stagnant.

Since I wrote the Pac-12 preview it also became official that JaQuan Lyle will not be competing for Oregon this year. You can’t count the Ducks out completely. Any team with a player as good as Joseph Young and a coach as good as Dana Altman is always a threat to reach the tournament. But the Ducks NCAA tournament odds are getting much longer.

Big Ten Preview: Unable to enroll at UCLA, Jonathan Octeus has enrolled at Purdue. When a scorer like Octeus enrolls at the last minute, it feels like it should substantially change a team’s outlook. But while Purdue moves up a little in my rankings, I still don’t see them as a likely tournament team. Purdue’s biggest weakness was a lack of a natural PG on the roster, and Octeus certainly helps. But remember that Octeus was not a prolific passer at Colorado St. His assist rate the last two years was 11.8% and 13.5%. (I have similar feelings about Tennessee’s transfer PG Ian Chiles. Both have shown a nice scoring touch, but it isn’t clear to me that either player has the passing skills to lead a team to the NCAA tournament.)

Unfortunately, Purdue’s Bryson Scott isn’t a natural PG either. Because I’m not sure about Octeus and Scott’s ability to lead a team, I still think freshman PG PJ Thompson is going to get a good share of minutes. In other words, I fear that Purdue may still look a bit like the team did the last few seasons, where players each had certain strengths and weaknesses, but it was hard to find a lineup that was strong in all dimensions. Having another outstanding outside shooter improves Purdue’s outlook, but I’m skeptical that this upgrades Purdue enough to really be in the tournament hunt.

SEC Preview: In my projections Cameron Biedscheid was projected as Missouri’s leading scorer this year. His departure is a major problem for the Tigers. Jonathan Williams looks like the top choice for the team’s new leader, but Williams also recently suffered a minor knee injury. That could hamper his production. Transfer Keith Shamburger can score, but if he is focused on scoring and not setting up his teammates, Missouri is in trouble.

And I’m not sold on the other veterans. Center Ryan Rosburg was very passive last year. It will take a major change in his game to make him a big time scorer. And veterans Deuce Bello and Wes Clark have been very inefficient at the college level.

Freshman Jakeenan Gant might be good, but he will probably not be the team’s breakout player because he will likely be playing behind Williams and Rosburg. Thus as crazy as it sounds, my best guess is that Montaque Gill-Ceaser and Namon Wright will end up scoring at a much higher clip than is typical for freshman with their recruiting rank. Gill-Ceaser re-classified, but he would have been about the 40th ranked recruit. His youth is a huge red flag, but he also has some real offensive skill both inside and outside the arc. And Namon Wright was only ranked 93rd nationally by RSCI. But on this team he’s going to have every opportunity to score buckets. With Biedschied out, don’t be surprised if one of these two freshmen steps up and fills the void.

That said, when you are talking about going from a veteran transfer to a shaky freshman as one of the team’s primary scorers, that is a huge downgrade. In my projections, Missouri has fallen off the NCAA bubble.

On the flip side, Texas A&M got fantastic news when the NCAA ruled that Jalen Jones could start in November instead of at the mid-semester break. Often when a player joins the lineup after the first semester they don’t have a chance to build chemistry with their teammates. Despite having immense talent, Florida’s Chris Walker couldn’t even crack the rotation for the Gators last year because of his late start. Texas A&M was a bad offensive team last season, and it makes a big difference that the team will get to reconstruct its offense around a natural scorer like Jalen Jones from the start of the season.

Finally, after I wrote my SEC preview I got some better JUCO recruiting data that elevated the projection for LSU’s Josh Gray. Thus I have LSU a little higher. But I think the Tigers are still closer to the middle of the SEC than to Kentucky and Florida.

MWC Preview: Since I wrote my initial MWC preview, Colorado St. added Grambling St. transfer Antwan Scott. We spend a lot of time talking about how Kentucky’s players are sacrificing their own offensive production to be part of a winning team. But it happens at other levels of basketball as well. I’m fascinated to see how Colorado St.’s roster fits together this year. JJ Avila and Daniel Bejarano are clearly stars. And the super-efficient Joseph DeCiman is back. But the team adds four transfers with significant D1 experience, John Gillon, Dantiel Daniels, Stanton Kidd, and the aforementioned Scott. All four could be major scorers, but someone is going to have to sacrifice shots on this team. The dynamic of who plays and who gets shots will be fascinating, but with so many efficient scorers, I’m confident that Colorado St.’s offense is going to be dominant.

Unfortunately, Colorado St. also received some bad news as Top 100 JUCO transfer Daniel Mulamba did not make it through the NCAA clearinghouse. I remain worried that a front-court of Stanton Kidd, JJ Avila, and Dantiel Daniels may be under-sized. And given that the team was poor defensively last season, I am very afraid that the defense is going to hold this team back from reaching its full potential.

A10 Preview: Dayton’s freshman center Steve McElvene was declared ineligible. That isn’t the end of the world, but it means there are only two players over 6’6” on the roster, and both had ORtgs of 93 and 96 last year. I’m not saying that McElvene was going to be a game-changer, his loss only costs Dayton three spots in my rankings, but Archie Miller would have much preferred to have McElvene as an option in his rotation.

American Preview: I had already forecast that Kedren Johnson would become eligible for Memphis, so my preview is unchanged.

Big 12 Preview: We’re still waiting for the TaShawn Thomas ruling for Oklahoma. Suffice to say I see it as a game-changer. I have Oklahoma 10 spots higher in my rankings if he becomes eligible.

Big East Preview: I don’t have anything new to add except to say that I’m a little surprised how low Villanova is in most preseason polls that I have seen. The Wildcats only lose James Bell, and they had three very good bench players (Josh Hart, Kris Jenkins, and Dylan Ennis) who were very efficient last year and who are ready for more minutes. I understand that Villanova was blown out by Connecticut in the NCAA tournament last year, and they didn’t add any Top 10 immediate impact recruits. But when I compare Villanova to a team like Texas, a team with a big hole at off-guard, I don’t understand why Villanova is the inferior team.

ACC Preview: I wrote this preview first, before I had processed the rosters for all the conferences, and before I had run 10,000 simulations of the season. I’m now a little more pessimistic about Clemson than in my preliminary look. Pitt lost Cameron Wright for two months due to an injury, and they are now a little lower in my projections.

Georgia Tech’s Charles Mitchell became eligible, and while he helps, I still have Georgia Tech in last in the ACC. Mitchell was not efficient last year, and Brian Gregory still remains the worst coach in the ACC according to all my advanced metrics.

Other Previews: WCC Preview, MVC Preview, The Rest of the Conferences

Five College Teams That Will Play Slower In 2014-15

Tulsa: Frank Haith took a Missouri team that was 14th in the nation in tempo and slowed the team down to 163rd in the nation. He now inherits a Tulsa team that is 79th in the nation in tempo, and a similar slow-down seems likely. But Tulsa fans won’t be complaining if Haith matches what he did in his first year at Missouri. Even though Missouri’s pace was slower, because his team played in a more controlled style, Missouri had the top offense in the nation and won the Big 12 Conference Tournament title.

Central Arkansas: Former head coach Corliss Williamson learned to play fast as a player under Nolan Richardson. And while Williamson didn’t win at a high level at Central Arkansas, he was able to implement a high octane attack. After he left to become an assistant in the NBA, interim head coach Clarence Finley maintained that same up-tempo attack with the team. New head coach Russ Pennell isn’t necessarily a slow coach, but he is unlikely to maintain the pace of the previous staff.

Maine: Former head coach Ted Woodard was Maine’s coach for a decade. Unfortunately, his final season was his worst, as his team won only 6 games. But if his team was going to lose, at least he let his players have some fun on the court. His final season was also his fastest team, as Maine was the 3rd fastest team in the nation. Bob Walsh is in his first season as a D1 head coach, but he probably won’t implement quite as quick a pace as he tries to let a new group of players learn on the job.

California: New head coach Cuonzo Martin’s fastest paced team ranked only 194th in the nation. Cal’s pace was never ranked that low under Mike Montgomery. Martin had dominant margin-of-victory numbers last year, and won three games in the NCAA tournament, so Cal fans may not mind if his team plays slow, as long as he wins.

Pace Rank

Mike Montgomery

Cuonzo Martin

2014

191st

323rd

2013

163rd

274th

2012

120th

194th

2011

66th

309th

2010

133rd

250th

2009

132nd

280th

Tennessee now has the oddest profile of “firing” head coaches of almost any school. They let Jerry Green leave after he made the NCAA tournament in every season as head coach. Bruce Pearl left after making the NCAA tournament in every season. And now Martin left after making the NCAA tournament. On paper, none of that makes any sense, but when you understand the background, it does. Green failed to live up to high expectations set for the team early in his tenure. Pearl was let go because of recruiting violations. And Martin was fired because he played a boring style of basketball and couldn’t live up to the high expectations set by Bruce Pearl. While I wish new head coach Donnie Tyndall nothing but the best, you do wonder whether Tennessee can every find a way to have, enjoy, and keep a winning coach. 

Oregon St.: New head coach Wayne Tinkle has traditionally had one of the slowest teams in the nation. He sped things up for two years when Montana went 15-1 and 19-1 in the Big Sky conference in 2012 and 2013, but his team still had a below average tempo. To put it another way, Tinkle has never played as fast as Craig Robinson did at Oregon St. last year.

Pace Rank

Craig Robinson

Wayne Tinkle

2014

139th

344th

2013

60th

258th

2012

15th

197th

2011

37th

304th

2010

324th

310th

2009

343rd

307th

Of course coaches do sometimes change their approach. Robinson started off as a slow-paced coach and sped up at Oregon St. when he thought he had the right personnel. It didn’t result in enough wins, because Oregon St.’s defense was too poor, but Robinsons track record shows that coaches will sometimes change their approach. But with Tinkle coming in, a slower season is the safer bet.

Reviewing The 2014 NBA Draft (From A College Perspective)

Notes on Marcus Smart, James Young, Elfrid Payton, Mitch McGary, Julis Randle, Jordan Adams, Adreian Payne and Isaiah Austin.

Is The Sophomore Leap Real?

The sophomore leap is real, but it is largely about freshmen correcting mistakes. For polished and skilled freshmen, don’t expect the same huge jump in efficiency.

Notes On The 2014 Jordan Brand Classic

On Justin Blackmon, the budding chemistry between Jahlil Okafor and Tyus Jones, the potential of Cliff Alexander and Kelly Oubre at Kansas, and why Myles Turner is making the most informed decision of any high-level recruit.

Why I Love The Nike Hoop Summit

The Nike Hoop Summit is the best of the high school All-Star games. Something happens when players put on the Team USA uniform. This isn’t just an all-star dunk contest. You get to see a little bit more of the player’s character.

A Champion Is Crowned

Should Kentucky have played more zone this year, why Niels Giffey made a lot of fans happy, and how Napier survived a few frustrated moments to lead his team to victory.

Final Four Saturday

Kentucky continues to overcome the odds, Wisconsin's season was historic even without a Final Four win, and I break down the simulcasts.

The Worst Game Of Aaron Gordon’s Life

Did the Elite Eight expose Aaron Gordon's game, or prove he is not a quitter?

Every Player In The Sweet Sixteen

Time to classify every player in the Sweet Sixteen.

Championship Week Final Wrapup

Phil Martelli's emotion, Brent Musburger's mistake, Tulsa's sophomore leaps, and other final thoughts on Championship Week.

Championship Week’s Amazing Thursday

Thursday featured 36 games in the nine major conference tournaments. Here is my running summary of all the games.

Preseason Predictions Revisited

Which teams have performed above the best case I projected in October and which teams have performed below the worst case I projected in October?

Evaluating Recent Coaching Hires And The Meaning Of Coin Flips

Tubby Smith and Larry Brown's turnarounds, plus meditations on close losses and wins for Tom Crean and Jim Boeheim.

Coaches Hurt The Most By New Foul Rules

The impact of the new foul rules on Kansas and Kentucky, the new key to Wisconsin's season, and Florida St.'s poor defensive rebounding highlight this week's column.

Conference Play In Full Force

Why I hate January NCAA tournament talk, players who should stop taking threes, what happens when you are down five players, Duke's struggles, and more.

Coaches That Peak Early In The Year

Explaining how an Iowa vs Iowa St. basketball game can be better than Kentucky vs North Carolina, and how Mike Krzyzewski can show up on a list about coaching disappointment.

From The Champions Classic To Cupcake Week, Part 1

Does a team's performance in cupcake games matter? How did Marquette score 35 points at home? Plus a few words of praise for Michigan St.'s Branden Dawson.

From The Champions Classic To Cupcake Week, Part 2

On Obama watching Oregon State, VCU, Trae Golden, the search for upsets, Branden Dawson at the 4, Harvard Watch and more.

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