It's the time of year where I really get into blogging. Three cheers for college basketball! In the next few posts I'll delve into my predictions for the upcoming season as well as some mid-major programs to be aware of. Ok, here we go with the power conferences.
Conference Champ: Duke
Likely Tournament Teams: Maryland, Florida St., North Carolina
Need a few breaks: Virginia Tech, Miami, Clemson, Boston College
Wait til Next Year: Wake Forest, Virginia, Georgia Tech, North Carolina St.
The ACC again will send multiple teams to the NCAA Tournament but as a whole the conference is not as strong as in years past. That won't stop #1 Duke from trying to become the first repeat champs since Florida in 2006 and 2007.
Conference Champ: Richmond
Likely Tournament Teams: Xavier, Temple
Need a few breaks: UMass, Dayton, St. Louis, Charlotte, Rhode Island, Duquense
Wait til Next Year: LaSalle, St. Bonaventure, St. Joseph's, George Washington, Fordham
Richmond has the reigning conference player of the year and has already knocked off Purdue. Xavier seems to haven taken a small step back but is still solid. Temple could be a sleeper this season. Well, I guess I should have written this before they beat Georgetown.
Conference Champ: Kansas
Likely Tournament Teams: Baylor, Texas, Missouri, Kansas St., Texas A&M
Need a few breaks: Iowa St., Oklahoma St.
Wait til Next Year: Nebraska, Oklahoma, Colorado, Texas Tech
The Big 12 can arguably be called the deepest conference in the land. Personally, I feel the Big Ten is better but only time will tell which is really the case. Kansas St. may be the most overrated team in the country but Baylor and Texas A&M are very strong. Kansas, as usual, is my favorite to win the conference.
Conference Champ: Pittsburgh
Likely Tournament Teams: Louisville, Syracuse, Notre Dame, West Virginia, Villanova, Georgetown
Need a few breaks: Cincinnati, Seton Hall, Providence, St. John's, Marquette
Wait til Next Year: DePaul, Rutgers, South Florida
I honestly have no idea who will win this conference. I'm impressed by Pitt's back to back wins over Maryland and Texas so they're my pick. The Big East as usual has several good teams but some pretty bad teams. I think DePaul will win more than two conference games this year but I doubt they win five. Depending on how the year shakes out, I could see a couple of teams in the "Need a few Breaks" category qualify for the Big Dance. Thanks for 68, selection committee.
Conference Champ: Michigan St.
Likely Tournament Teams: Illinois, Ohio St., Purdue, Wisconsin, Minnesota
Need a few breaks: Northwestern
Wait til Next Year: Indiana, Penn St., Michigan, Iowa
Unlike years past, the bottom of this conference is not filled with pushovers. That was often the biggest criticism that prevented the Big Ten from being included in the "Best League" talk. With Iowa substantially improved and Indiana inching toward decency, those days are over. Michigan St. is playing a brutal schedule early and not faring well--which is typical. The two teams I'm still watching are Purdue and Northwestern. I'm not sure how either team will do this year. The rest I'm confident I've pegged in the right spot.
Conference Champ: Washington
Likely Tournament Teams: Washington St., UCLA, Arizona
Need a few breaks: Cal, Stanford, Arizona St.
Wait til Next Year: Oregon St., Oregon, USC (ineligible)
The Pac 10 is a weird conference. Last year the first place and eighth place team were separated by only two games with just four to go! I don't expect that to happen again this season. Washington has most of their team returning and has already scored over 100 points four times. Today's game against Texas A&M will say a lot.
Conference Champ: Kentucky
Likely Tournament Teams: Florida, Tennessee, Vanderbilt
Need a few breaks: Mississippi, Georgia, Mississippi St., LSU, Arkansas, Alabama
Wait til Next Year: Auburn, South Carolina
The fact that five teams are bunched in the "Need a few breaks" category should tell you how I feel about the SEC this season. They stink. The SEC West's best team is Mississippi and I'm not even sure they're a tournament team. Kentucky has a ton of young guys, a staple under Calipari, but I don't think this is a Final Four or even an Elite 8 team.
Tomorrow I'll preview the other conferences that have legitimate tournament teams.