Tag: Conference-USA

Mid-Major Update

 

SMC Gonzaga1
Gonzaga forward Johnathan Williams (3) tries to strip a rebound from Saint Mary’s center Evan Fitzner (21) during the first half of a NCAA college basketball game, Thursday, Jan. 18, 2018, in the McCarthey Athletic Center. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)

 

Here’s an Update on three teams that have been playing well recently.

Saint Mary’s had a disappointing time in the Wooden Legacy tournament earlier this season. The Gaels went 1-2 as they lost games to Washington St and Georgia. They have been on cruise control ever since.

They’re 18-2 and 7-0 in league play – already beating top challengers BYU and No. 13 Gonzaga on the road. Tomorrow they travel to Pacific in what will be a trickier game than most people know. However, the Gaels have set themselves up for a huge finish.

They’ll have opportunities for more quality wins at home and their Kenpom rating of 15 is the best for any team not in a power conference. I thought the Gaels would be the best team in the West Coast Conference before the season started and right now they’re proving that to be true.

Western Kentucky is quietly doing work in Conference USA. The Hilltoppers are 6-0 in league play and are building a solid NCAA tournament resume.

Their RPI is 34 and their Kenpom rating is 46.  They have neutral-court wins over SMU and No. 3 Purdue. They have a non-conference strength of schedule (SOS) of 12 with their overall SOS expected to drop to 79 by the end of the regular season due to the competition within the league.

They have two tilts with Middle Tennessee remaining, including at home tomorrow, and have already beaten Old Dominion and Louisiana Tech in league play with another game with Old Dominion coming next month. The Hilltoppers can probably take at least 2 losses and still be ok for an at-large bid.

There was much hand-wringing about Florida Gulf Coast’s non-conference struggles. The Eagles lost to Florida International, Florida Atlantic, Oral Roberts and Bowling Green during non-league play.

All those concerns have been put to bed as they’re in sole possession of first place in the Atlantic Sun at 4-0 after beating Lipscomb 88-83 last night.

Those struggles may hurt them a seed line or two on Selection Sunday, but with a conference tournament that’s played on the home court of the higher-seeded team; the Atlantic Sun  title will once again go through Fort Myers. They’re still the team to beat.

Advertisements

Razor Sharp

Arkansas guard Michael Qualls (24) scores two over Auburn guard KT Harrell (1) Tuesday, Feb. 10, 2015, at Auburn Arena in Auburn, Ala. (Julie Bennett/ jbennett@al.com)

The college basketball world has its eyes focused on Kentucky in the SEC, but it’s another team in that league that has quietly been having an outstanding season. The Arkansas Razorbacks have begun to distance themselves from everyone in the league not named Kentucky.

With play reminiscent of the Nolan Richardson days, the Razorbacks play an exciting brand of trapping and pressing that is finally paying dividends. The “fastest 40 minutes in basketball” is forcing over 16 turnovers per game giving them 11th most possessions per game nationally.

Coach Mike Anderson is back home and it looks like he’s bringing the old days back. Mark Feb. 28 on your calendars folks. That’s the day the Hogs invade Rupp.

Stock Up: Valparaiso. This team is dangerous. While the country was expecting Green Bay to have a big season in the Horizon, it’s been 24-4 Valpo who’s running away with league title.

Stock Down: George Washington. The Colonials had a really bad week last week. Losing at Duquesne and home to Briante Weber-less VCU made GW’s RPI plummet to the 70’s. Going to be an uphill climb for the Colonials the rest of the way.

Stock Up: SMU. Last year on Selection Sunday, the committee took exception to the Mustangs strength and schedule and road record. That will not be an issue this year. SMU took care of business on paper and is now doing it on the court.

Stock Down: Old Dominion. A once promising at-large resume is faltering in the unfavorable light of being 7-5 in Conference USA.

On to the bracket.

Last Four In: Stanford, St. John’s, Colorado St, NC State

Last Four Out: Pittsburgh, Tulsa, Miami (FL), Oregon

This is good for games through 2/15

MIDWEST

1.Kentucky16.St. Francis(NY)/Bucknell Louisville

8.Dayton9.Texas

5.Northern Iowa12.Valparaiso Louisville

4.North Carolina13.Harvard

6.San Diego St11.Michigan St Seattle

3.Notre Dame14.North Carolina Central

7.VCU10.LSU Portland

2.Arizona15.Florida Gulf Coast

WEST

1.Virginia16.South Dakota St Charlotte

8.Ohio St9.Xavier

5.SMU12.Colorado St/St John’s Columbus

4.Oklahoma13.Eastern Washington

6.Oklahoma St11.NC State/Stanford Pittsburgh

3.Maryland14.Bowling Green

7.Temple10.Illinois Seattle

2.Gonzaga15.High Point

EAST

1.Duke16.Louisiana-Monroe Charlotte

8.West Virginia9.Cincinnati

5.Arkansas12.Wofford Jacksonville

4.Wichita St13.Iona

6.Butler11.Texas A&M Columbus

3.Iowa St14.UC Davis

7.Indiana10.Georgia Pittsburgh

2.Villanova15.Albany

SOUTH

1.Wisconsin16.New Mexico St/Alabama St Omaha

8.UCLA9.Mississippi

5.Baylor12.Murray St Jacksonville

4.Louisville13.Louisiana Tech

6.Providence11.Iowa Portland

3.Utah14.Stephen F. Austin

7.Georgetown10.Purdue Omaha

2.Kansas15.William & Mary

Super Nova (Welcome Wichita St, Mercer, Coastal Carolina)

Image
Villanova’s James Bell

How can a team, with recent Final Four pedigree and only three losses fly under the radar?  That’s exactly what’s happened to Villanova.  The Wildcats have quietly put together a great season, which has them in position to possibly be a No. 1 seed.

Villanova doesn’t have the star power of a Kansas or Duke, but that’s fine with them.  The Wildcats are still going to attack you.  As usual, the guard heavy Wildcats use their quickness to force turnovers and get out in transition.  In halfcourt sets, they move the ball and space the floor extremely well.

Coach Jay Wright has had teams with more star power and that have been held in higher regard, but he might have his best chance to win a national championship this season.  No one saw that coming.

MID-EASTERN ATHLETIC: MEAC officials have to be praying that the tournament gets it right this season.  North Carolina-Central is by far the best team in this league and has the non-conference win over NC State to drive that point home even further.  This tournament won’t be a cakewalk as it’s in Tidewater, Va. where Hampton and Norfolk St will have huge contingent of fans.  Despite that, this Central team is too talented and they’re going dancing.

MID-AMERICAN: This is a tough one to call.  There are five teams with a legitimate shot to win this thing.  The MAC was competitive once again with Western Michigan and Toledo tying for the league title.  Western Michigan won the tiebreaker, but no favors were done as they’re staring down Akron or Ohio in the semifinal – both of whom will have plenty of supporters this week in Cleveland.  For that reason, I think Toledo will be able to sneak to the dance from the other side of the bracket.

CONFERENCE-USA: This is another tough one.  Louisiana Tech, Southern Miss, Tulsa and Middle Tennessee St finished in a four-way tie for first.  UTEP, the team that finished one game behind those four, has the honor of hosting the tournament.  The crowd in the Haskins center is sure to be raucous and will make tough for any opponent the Miners face.  UTEP will make its way back to the NCAA tournament.

SOUTHWESTERN ATHLETIC: The NCAA has come down hard on the SWAC as four teams, Grambling State, Mississippi Valley State, Southern and Arkansas-Pine Bluff, are ineligible for the NCAA because academic progress penalties.  The decision came down late and the SWAC is going to let all four teams participate in the conference tournament.  How the conference will decide the automatic bid is too convoluted so I’ll just go with Alabama St.

On to the bracket.

Last Four In: Minnesota, Arkansas, Tennessee, Saint Joseph’s

Last Four Out: California, Pitt, Georgetown, St. John’s

SOUTH

1.Florida16.Stony Brook Orlando

8.Oklahoma St9.Gonzaga

5.Creigton12.Harvard(Ivy) Orlando

4.Louisville13.Iona

6.New Mexico11.Iowa Buffalo

3.Syracuse14.Delaware

7.VCU10.Stanford St. Louis

2.Kansas15.Eastern Kentucky(OVC)

EAST

1.Villanova16.Wofford/Alabama St Buffalo

8.Kansas St9.Arizona St

5.Saint Louis12.Tennessee/Minnesota San Antonio

4.Cincinnati13.Boston U

6.UCLA11.Saint Joseph’s/Arkansas Milwaukee

3.Iowa St14.NC-Central

7.Memphis10.Colorado Raleigh

2.Duke15.Georgia St

WEST

1.Arizona16.Weber St San Diego

8.UConn9.George Washington

5.Ohio St12.Louisiana Tech San Diego

4.North Carolina13.Stephen F. Austin

6.Kentucky11.Nebraska Spokane

3.San Diego St14.UC-Irvine

7.Baylor10.BYU Milwaukee

2.Wisconsin15.Utah Valley

MIDWEST

1.Wichita St(MVC)16.Coastal Carolina(BSouth)/Wright St St. Louis

8.UMass9.SMU

5.Michigan St12.Western Michigan Spokane

4.Oklahoma13.North Dakota St

6.Texas11.Xavier San Antonio

3.Michigan14.Mercer(ASun)

7.Oregon10.Dayton Raleigh

2.Virginia15.Robert Morris

Dragon’s Lair

Image
Drexel hopes to celebrate in Richmond in early March

Will this be the year?  Will this be the year a team other than one from Virginia wins the Colonial Athletic Association.  If the Drexel Dragons have anything to say about it, it will.

It’s been six years since UNC-Wilmington won the regular season title in the CAA.  That’s six long years for the rest of the league as George Mason, Virginia Commonwealth and Old Dominion have dominated the league.  In that span, Mason and VCU have gone to Final Fours and Old Dominion has gone to the NIT semifinals in addition to winning a first-round tournament game.

This year may be different though.  Drexel is currently in a three-way tie for first with Mason and VCU, but it has beaten both teams and has lost only one time in is last 18 games.

The Dragons are hot and only have one game remaining against a team with more than three conference wins remaining.  They’re in prime position to win the CAA title.

Stock Up: Travon Woodall.  He’s made such a difference for the Panthers since returning from injury.  This team looked completely lost without him and now look like one of the best teams in the Big East.  If the tournament began today I don’t think Pitt would be in it, but I’m willing to bet money we’ll see Pitt in the Big Dance and that’s all due to Woodall.

Stock Down: Connecticut.  I’ve never seen this before out of a UCONN team.  The Huskies have had some down years, but what’s going on right now is downright embarrassing.  As I write this, Louisville is currently beating them as if the Cardinals are the Dream Team and the Huskies are Angola.  I’m pretty shocked.

Stock Up: Southern Miss Golden Eagles.  The school that Brett Favre built is having quite a season.  The Eagles are sitting at 20-3 and are atop the Conference-USA standings.  They’ve achieved a season split with Memphis have beaten title contenders Marshall and UCF.  They have a favorable schedule down the stretch and can solidify an at-large bid.

Stock Down: Duke’s Homecourt Advantage. First reports surface that student demand for tickets at Cameron Indoor Stadium isn’t as high as it’s been in the past.  Then the Blue Devils go out and lose to Florida St and Miami.  Not the Heat, the “U.”  Obviously this says more about Duke than it does about Cameron, but it’s definitely surprising to see.

This Week’s Bracket Projections:

Last Four In: California, Minnesota, Wyoming, UCF
Last Four Out: Colorado St, NC State, Arkansas, Northern Iowa

Good for games through of 2/5

SOUTH

1.Kentucky16.UNC-Asheville/Norfolk St Louisville

8.Southern Miss9.Iowa St

5.Temple12.Minnesota/Wyoming Columbus

4.Marquette13.Long Beach St

6.Gonzaga11.New Mexico Nashville

3.Florida St14.Akron

7.Michigan10.Connecticut Omaha

2.Kansas15.Belmont

WEST

1.Missouri16.Stony Brook/Mississippi Valley St Omaha

8.Virginia9.Illinois

5.Louisville12.Saint Louis Albuquerque

4.UNLV13.Middle Tennessee St

6.Wisconsin11.BYU Louisville

3.Georgetown14.Oral Roberts

7.Harvard10.Alabama Greensboro

2.North Carolina15.Bucknell

EAST

1.Syracuse16.Long Island Pittsburgh

8.Wichita St9.Washington

5.Mississippi St12.Purdue Portland

4.St. Mary’s13.Cleveland St

6.Vanderbilt11.Miami(FL) Columbus

3.Michigan St14.Davidson

7.West Virginia10.Memphis Albuquerque

2.Baylor15.Weber St

MIDWEST

1.Ohio St16.UT-Arlington Pittsburgh

8.Notre Dame9.Kansas St

5.San Diego St12.California/UCF Portland

4.Creighton13.Iona

6.Murray St11.Xavier Nashville

3.Florida14.Nevada

7.Indiana10.Cincinnati Greensboro

2.Duke15.Drexel

In Graphical Form