Monday, October 30, 2006

Preseason Picks V

The Champ- Florida

The Rest- East: Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky, Vandy, South Carolina
West: LSU, Alabama, Arkansas, Miss St., Ole Miss, Auburn

Quick Take- Florida is the easy pick here. They bring back every starter and boast a stellar recruiting class. Anything less of a Final Four would be a disappointment. LSU lost a lot but still has Baby Shaq and some other good returnees as well as a good freshman group. Alabama has a lot of talent but also a short bench, if no one gets hurt a Top 6 seed is possible. Georgia also brings back a lot of last year’s team and they will go dancing too. Tennessee and Kentucky will also be there but will take a step back from where they were last year.

The Champ- UCLA

The Rest- Arizona, Washington, Oregon, USC, Washington St., Cal, Arizona St., Stanford, Oregon St.

Quick Take- UCLA only returns 2 starters but Darren Collison should have no problems jumping into the starting lineup and Josh Shipp returns from injury. They should also have a deep and experienced bench with and a Top 10 recruiting class and a lot of last year’s bench coming back. Arizona returns 4 starters and gets back Jawann McClellan who missed all but 2 games last year with grade problems and injuries. They also have a Top Ten recruiting class and most of last year’s bench coming back. I don’t foresee them finishing first because I think they will have chemistry issues and they will struggle to replace Hassan Adams scoring. Washington lost a lot of last year’s team but still have enough to finish third. Oregon, USC, and Washington St. have the talent to compete and should but all have their own issues to overcome. Oregon has the most talent of the three but it has been there for several years and they haven’t put it together yet and Washington St. can’t score and will have trouble overcoming deficits. USC is probably in the best shape but needs a point guard to step up after the tragic shooting death of Ryan Francis in the off-season.

Big Ten
The Champ- Wisconsin

The Rest- Ohio St., Michigan, Indiana, Michigan St., Purdue, Illinois, Iowa, Penn St., Minnesota, Northwestern

Quick Take- Wisconsin brings back a lot of talent and Alando Tucker is the best player in the Big Ten. Ohio St. is the only other lock to make it and their seed depends on how soon and how healthy Greg Oden gets. The next 5-7 teams all have a shot to make the Big Dance but all have to overcome their own problems whether it is youth, injury, or past attitude.

Big 12
The Champ- Kansas

The Rest- Texas A&M, Oklahoma St., Texas Tech, Kansas St., Oklahoma, Colorado, Texas, Nebraska, Baylor, Iowa St., Missouri.

Quick Take- Kansas is easy the class of the league. The Aggies, Cowboys, and Red Raiders should all finish between 2nd and 4th. If the league gets 5 bids Kansas St. has the best chance but the Sooners and Buffalos will also have a chance.

The Champ- UNC

The Rest- Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech, Virginia, Duke, Florida St., Clemson, BC, Wake Forest, Maryland, Miami Fl., NC St.

Quick Take- UNC and Georgia Tech are both legitimate Final Four teams. Both Virginia schools should be much improved and both should be safely in the Big Dance. Duke will struggle losing 3 starters and a key bench player from last year, but as usual Duke won’t stay down for long and the McRoberts-Hansbrough battles are going to be a lot of fun to watch.

Big East
The Champ- Pitt

The Rest- Georgetown, Marquette, Syracuse, Villanova, UConn, DePaul, Louisville, Providence, St. John’s, Seton Hall, Notre Dame, Rutgers, West Virginia, Cincy, South Florida.

Quick Take- The Big East has a great chance to get 8 bids led by Pitt and Georgetown. Marquette lost Steve Novak but has a ton of talent led by Freshman of the Year Dominic James. Syracuse’s season likely depends on how fast Paul Harris develops. The Orangemen could definitely be the most overrated team right now. Villanova and UConn both lost a lot but have good enough replacements to get into the Big Dance. DePaul will be much improved from last season and Louisville loses their leading scorer but gets back pretty much everyone else.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Preseason Picks IV

Sun Belt
The Champ- Western Kentucky

The Rest- Arkansas Little-Rock, North Texas, Denver, Arkansas St., Troy, Middle Tennessee St., New Orleans, Fl. International, LA Monroe, South Alabama, LA-Lafayette

Quick Take- Western Kentucky will win the east; Arkansas LR will win the west. The Hilltoppers will cruise through the league tournament and be a dangerous 12 seed in March. This is the best bet among any conference champion.

The Champ- Gonzaga

The Rest- San Francisco, St. Mary’s, Loyola Marymount, Santa Clara, Portland, San Diego, Pepperdine

Quick Take- It seems like Gonzaga was the only team to lose most of its scoring from last year meaning this will be one heck of a competitive season in the WCC. The other seven teams smell blood toward a weaker but still strong Gonzaga team that returns many of last year’s players but of course loses its best two. The conference should get two and has a slim outside chance at three and any team that makes it shouldn’t be a surprise.

The Champ- Nevada

The Rest- Fresno St., Boise St., Hawaii, New Mexico St., Utah St., Louisiana Tech, Idaho, San Jose St.

Quick Take- New Mexico St. would be higher but the status of top scorer Ty Nelson is in doubt after he was suspended indefinitely by head coach Reggie Theus. If Nelson is back for conference play then the Aggies could compete for second, if he doesn’t then they will finish in the middle. They might have been able to beat Nevada in the conference tournament since it is in their gym but not without Nelson. Speaking of scandal, Fresno St. is apparently clean for the first time in a while and they return every starter while only losing one key bench player. Nevada returns a solid core of last year’s team as well as two-time league MVP Nick Fazekas and let’s be honest that’s all the Wolf Pack need to get the automatic bid.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Preseason Picks III

The Champ- Robert Morris

The Rest- Long Island, Sacred Heart, Quinnipiac, FDU, St. Francis (PA), Monmouth, Wagner, Mt. St. Mary's, St. Francis (NY), CCSU

Quick Take- Robert Morris returns 4 starters and 3 key bench players to a team that went 10-8 in the NEC last year. Long Island also returns a significant portion of last year's team but Robert Morris is better. The rest of the conference is one big mess.

The Champ- Samford

The Rest- Tennessee Tech, Morehead St., Jacksonville St., Tennessee St., Austin Peay, Murray St., Eastern Illinois, SE Missouri St., Tenn-Martin, Eastern Kentucky

Quick Take- It's Samford's conference to lose as they bring back 4 starters and their key reserve, while most of the league is rebuilding.

The Champ- American

The Rest- Holy Cross, Bucknell, Army, Lehigh, Colgate, Navy, Lafayette

Quick Take- This is going to be one fun league this year. All teams bring back a big portion of last year's team but American brings back the most.

The Champ- Charleston

The Rest- Appalachian St., UNC Greensboro, Furman, Elon, Georgia Southern, Chattanooga, Davidson, Western Carolina, Wofford, The Citadel

Quick Take- Charleston breaks in an old great coach, Bobby Cremins, to go along with an experienced group of players. Appalachian St. and Greensboro have a chance but it should be CoC winning the league.

The Champ- Texas A&M-CC

The Rest- SFA, Nicholls St., Sam Houston St., Texas St., McNeese St., SE Louisiana, Central Arkansas, Lamar, Northwestern St., Tx-Arlington, UTSA

Quick Take- Texas A&M-CC and Central Arkansas join the conference but the Islanders have a talented bunch that will fight with SFA down to the wire. The Islanders will prevail.

The Champ- Alcorn St.

The Rest- Texas Southern, Miss Valley St., Jackson St., Grambling St., Alabama St., AR-Pine Bluff, Southern, Prairie View A&M, Alabama A&M

Quick Take- Alcorn St. returns every player who played for them last year. They only went 8-10 in conference last year but they should be improved enough and every other team should have lost enough that the Braves should win the league and get pummeled in the first round at best.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Preseason Picks II

The Champ: Penn

The Rest: Princeton, Columbia, Cornell, Dartmouth, Brown, Harvard, Yale

Quick Take: As usual it will come down to Penn and Princeton. Penn loses a coach and 2 starters but returns Ibrahim Jaaber, the best player in the Ivy, and that will be the difference.

The Champ: Marist

The Rest: Niagara, St. Peter’s, Rider, Manhattan, Siena, Loyola MD, Iona, Canisius, Fairfield.

Quick Take: Marist is easily the odds on favorite as they return nearly everyone from last year’s team that went 19-10. Niagara also has some experience and talent but went 11-19 last year. Nearly every other team is in rebuilding and learning mode and it may take a while for them to compete by then Marist should be long gone.

The Champ: Akron

The Rest: Toledo, Ohio, Western Michigan, Miami OH, Ball St., Kent St., Bowling Green, Buffalo, Northern Illinois, Central Michigan, Eastern Michigan

Quick Take: Akron has LeBron’s high school teammates and enough talent and experience to take the league’s automatic bid in what should be a down year for the conference. The league has a slim shot at more than one bid as one of the more competitive leagues in college hoops is in for a rebuilding year. Toledo and Ohio have enough players returning that a NIT bid is a realistic goal.

The Champ: UMKC

The Rest: IUPUI, Oral Roberts, Oakland, Western Illinois, Centenary, Southern Utah, Valparaiso

Quick Take: The Kangaroos bring back their 3 leading scorers from a team that finished 3rd in conference last season. The top 5 teams all bring back significant pieces of their teams which should make for a fun conference season and the right to be a 15 seed in March.

The Champ: Delaware St.

The Rest: Coppin St., South Carolina St., Howard, Norfolk St., NC A&T, MD Eastern Shore, Florida A&M, Morgan St., Bethune-Cookman, Hampton

Quick Take: Coppin, SC St., Howard, Norfolk, and NC A&T all have experience but Delaware St. is the only team with a legitimate NBA prospect.

The Champ: Creighton

The Rest: Southern Illinois, Wichita St., Missouri St., Drake, Northern Iowa, Evansville, Bradley, Indiana St., Illinois St.

Quick Take: Creighton gets back point guard Nate Funk, a MVC first-teamer in 2005, from injury. The Jays lack of a point guard caused their end of year stumble last season and their omission from the Field of 65. Southern Illinois brings back a lot of experience and talent as well as a head coach. The Salukis should be another team dancing in March. Wichita St. and Missouri St. are in much the same boat as Southern Illinois in terms of returning players. Drake and Evansville have enough experience and Northern Iowa returns enough talent to be factors for the NIT. The MVC should be getting 4 bids again this year.

Mt. West
The Champ: Air Force

The Rest: BYU, San Diego St., Utah, Colorado St., Wyoming, UNLV, New Mexico, TCU

Quick Take: 3 bids aren’t out of the question. Air Force returns 5/6 of their rotation while BYU brings back everyone except their number 2 scorer from last year and SDSU returns 3 of its top 4 scorers. Utah, Colorado St., and Wyoming could all impress and get NIT bids.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Preseason Picks

We are 3 weeks away from the start of yet another awesome season of college hoops. Check back here over the next week as I unveil my conference champs and Field of 65.

America East
The Regular Season Champ: Albany

The Rest (from best to worst): Vermont, UNH, Binghamton, Maine, Stony Brook, UMBC, BU, Hartford

Quick Take: Albany brings back 3 starters including the conference POY, Jamar Wilson, from a team that nearly became the first 16 seed to beat a 1. They receive challenges from Vermont, UNH, and Binghamton who with one win can take the auto bid away.

The Champ: Belmont

The Rest: Campbell, Lipscomb, Stetson, East Tennessee St., Gardner-Webb, Jacksonville, North Florida, Kennesaw St., Mercer

Quick Take: Belmont returns Justin Hare who was the A-Sun tournament MVP last year who also led the team in PPG. Campbell should give them the most trouble in this wide-open league as they may be the best running team in this running conference. Don't count out Lipscomb or Stetson either.

The Champ: Xavier

The Rest: GW, UMass, St. Louis, Charlotte, Fordham, Dayton, St. Joe's, Rhode Island, Richmond, Temple, La Salle, St. Bonaventure, Duquesne

Quick Take: Xavier's starting lineup includes 4 players who averaged over 9 points and a McDonald's All-American. This 21-win team will be in the dance one way or another. GW loses a ton of offense and talent but returns Carl Elliott. GW will take a hit but still has a good chance at an at-large. UMass transfers in a ton of talent but can they finally live up to expectations and produce an at-large bid?

Big Sky
The Champ: Northern Arizona

The Rest: Eastern Washington, Montana, Portland St., Sacramento St., Northern Colorado, Weber St., Montana St., Idaho St.

Quick Take: With the majority of the league rebuilding, Northern Arizona should have no problems repeating last year's success as they return 4 starters. Eastern Washington and Montana will give Northern Arizona some problems but Northern Arizona will be dancing this time.

Big South
The Champ: Winthrop

The Rest: Coastal Carolina, High Point, Radford, Charleston Southern, UNC Asheville, Liberty, VMI

Quick Take: Winthrop is easily the class of the league as usual. Coastal Carolina is the only team who even remotely stands in the way of the Eagles going dancing for the 3rd consecutive season.

Big West
The Champ: Long Beach St.

The Rest: UC Irvine, Cal Poly, Pacific, CS Fullerton, UCSB, CS Northridge, UC Riverside

Quick Take: The 49ers return their key players from last year's third place team while the Top 2 Big West teams (Pacific and UC Irvine) each took a hit. UC Irvine has talent but its cobbled together from a bunch of different places and team chemistry might outweigh the talent. Cal Poly is young but probably has the best chance to beat LBSU when it matters.

The Champ: Hofstra

The Rest: UNC Wilmington, George Mason, ODU, Towson, Drexel, VCU, Northeastern, James Madison, Delaware, William & Mary, Georgia St.

Quick Take: Hofstra brings back its top 3 scorers from a 26 win team. Wilmington returns their leading scorer to defend its championship and still has what it takes to make a run at an at-large bid. Mason coming off its magical Final 4 run loses its Top 3 scorers but returns pretty much everyone else and adds some good newcomers. The CAA has a good chance at an at-large bid or two.

The Champ: Memphis

The Rest: Houston, UAB, UTEP, SMU, Rice, UCF, Tulsa, Tulane, Marshall, Southern Miss, East Carolina

Quick Take: Memphis is still easily the best team even after losing 3 NBA players. They still have a lot of talent and could make a Sweet 16 run. Houston and UAB both look like potential at-large teams and they bring back several significant players from last year’s squads.

The Champ: Wright St.

The Rest: Wisconsin-GB, Loyola-Chi, Illinois-Chi, Detroit, Butler, Youngstown St., Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Cleveland St.

Quick Take: The Panthers losing most of their rotation to graduation over the past two years opens the door for another team to claim the crown. Wright St. returns pretty much everyone to a team that went 8-8 in conference last year. The league though is wide open with anyone from the Raiders to Butler having a chance to emerge victorious.