2015-16 Preseason Media Bracket

With the 2015-16 college basketball season now upon us, it is time for us at HoopsHD to start forecasting what the 2016 NCAA Tournament will look like in March. Our first bracket shows what the field would look like based on the Coaches’ Top 25 Poll along with the projected preseason champions out of the auto-bid leagues. The coaches’ poll here features coaches from all 32 conferences (in many cases, someone else on the coach’s staff will fill out these polls on a weekly basis). This is not to be confused with the NABC rankings that David Griggs will reference on podcasts throughout the season, however. At a later date, we will put together a separate bracket with Chad Sherwood’s preseason picks on the website.

The top seed line features the Top 4 teams in the country – namely #1, Kentucky (South Region), #2 North Carolina (East Region), #3 Maryland (Midwest Region) and #4 Duke (West Region). The next set of 4 teams (the 2-line) features #5 Kansas, #6 Virginia, #7 Iowa State and #8 Oklahoma. This set of 4 teams are seeded according to the S-Curve along with the teams on the 3rd and 4th-seeded lines ranked #9 through #16, respectively. What is remarkable here is that the teams in this bracket can all be seeded in their natural S-Curve positions without having to be moved around due to each region having teams from 4 different conferences. (An exception would arise if, for example, the Big 12 were to have 5 teams in the Top 16.) During the course of the year, the committee will take care to ensure that Louisville (which is hosting the South Regional) is not placed in the South and that Villanova (which has 4 home games at the Wells Fargo Center and is ineligible to play in Philadelphia) is not placed in the East Region. (EDITOR’S NOTE – Thanks to Jason from the Comments section for pointing out that Villanova only has 3 regular-season games scheduled at Wells Fargo Arena – namely Providence, St. John’s and Georgetown. Villanova CAN be considered for the East Region, but for purposes of this exercise I will leave the bracket as is.)

Now that the 1 through 4 seed lines are filled, it is time to look at region balance. If you take the S-Curve rankings and add them up for each region, each region comes out to a point total of 34. The Selection Committee will balance each region within a range of 5 points. (If you remember the 2013 NCAA Tournament, there were questions about why Wichita State was placed in the “Group of Death” – this was because the average S-Curve ranking only took into account the Top 4 seeds for each region, not the whole region).

With each region competitively balanced, it is time to fill in the sub-regional sites. Kentucky will be sent west along I-64 to St. Louis; Duke and North Carolina will be sent to Raleigh (the 3rd point in the Research Triangle). Maryland and Virginia would both be sent to Brooklyn. Iowa State cannot be sent to Des Moines since they are actually the host institution, but will instead go to St. Louis. Kansas goes to Des Moines in their place, and Oklahoma makes the bus ride from Norman to OKC. Villanova goes north to a familiar arena in Providence, Arizona goes to Denver and Gonzaga gets to stay at home in Spokane since Idaho and Washington State are hosting. Gonzaga (unlike Villanova) does not play any “home” games at the Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena, so they get to make the mile-long trip from campus to downtown. Wichita State gets to go south to OKC, and Michigan State will fill the last remaining spot in Des Moines. Indiana fills the last spot in Providence, Cal goes up to Spokane and Utah goes next door to Denver.

Once we get to the 5-seed line, #17 Wisconsin is placed in its natural S-Curve slot in the South Region with Kentucky. #18 Notre Dame would ordinarily be assigned to the East Region in Philadelphia, but they are moved to the Midwest to avoid a potential conflict with North Carolina in the Sweet 16. Instead, #19 LSU goes to the East. #20 Vanderbilt should be the final 5-seed, but they get switched with Baylor to avoid potential matchups between Baylor and other Big 12 teams that would not be permissible in the Sweet 16 should Baylor and any of the Big 12 teams meet a 3rd time during the season. After the Baylor/Vandy flip-flop, all of the other teams are slotted in their natural S-Curve slots with little disruption in regards to potential rematches in early-round matchups. I wanted to have the Tulsa/Dayton winner go to OKC to meet Vandy in the 1st round (which is permissible because the Commodores are not considered a protected seed by the Committee), but since Vandy and Dayton play each other this season, this is not allowed. Marquette and Old Dominion were the last teams to get a vote in the Coaches’ Poll, and since we had one more at-large slot to fill, I added UAB (the actual preseason pick in C-USA) as a team that could potentially be considered as the last team in by the Committee via the at-large route. They will face Marquette in the 2nd play-in game.

After Old Dominion (who will be the C-USA Tournament champion for purposes of this exercise), all the remaining teams on the 12 line were voted preseason champions in their respective conferences. For the most part, they are seeded according to a comprehensive ranking by CBSSports.com of all NCAA teams ranked 1-351. At the time this article is published, only the Southwestern Athletic Conference has not announced a preseason pick to win the conference. Therefore, we will go with last year’s champion, Texas Southern (even if they are not our colleague Chad Sherwood’s pick to win the SWAC). There are no teams listed that missed out on the tournament since there were not enough teams listed in the polls.

In short, I have summarized how bracketing principles would be applied to the teams in the polls and preseason conference champions. But, what makes the season exciting is to see who come out of the weeds into the NCAA Tournament and to see which teams fall short of expectations and are instead relegated to the NIT, CIT or CBI (or more appropriately, turning down a CBI bid). Stay tuned as we count down to the beginning of the season on November 13 when the NCAA starts keeping score.

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Conference Preview: SWAC

For the rest of our Preseason Coverage, CLICK HERE.

SWAC

In the 2010-11 season, the Centenary Gents went 1-29. It was the school’s final season at the Division I level. In March 2011, when the HOOPSHD crew convened for its annual Mock Selection Committee meeting, we voted Centenary onto our at-large bid “Under Consideration” board and kept them there throughout the selection process (though they obviously were not selected into the final field). In honor of that final D1 Gents team, the following season we christened the “Centenary Award,” an award given each year to the team chosen by HOOPSHD as the worst team in Division I. This team is placed “Under Consideration” by our Mock Committee each season as the reward for winning the Award, even if they are otherwise ineligible for the NCAA Tournament. In 2012, the award went to Towson (though somewhat controversially). In 2013, it went to an 0-28 Grambling State team. In 2014, Southern Utah captured the honor.

Last season, Grambling became the first ever repeat winner, capturing the award following a 2-27 season that saw them fail to win a single game against Division I competition. The Tigers went 0-18 against SWAC competition, a feat made even the more (or should it be less) impressive by the fact that 6 of the SWAC’s 10 teams lost 20 or more games and only Texas Southern, which captured the automatic bid and a 15 seed in the NCAA Tournament, participated in the postseason (though Mike Davis’ team made headlines early in the season picking up wins at Kansas State and at Final Four-bound Michigan State).

This year, Grambling may again be in contention for the Centenary Award, though a deep recruiting class has them looking forward to better days. Texas Southern will be in the running for the conference title again, but the pick to win it this season is Alabama A&M, a team with six key seniors at the top of their rotation. Alabama State, Southern and Alcorn State could all be in contention for the regular season title as well, though Alcorn State is ineligible for the postseason due to their APR and Southern’s APR data is still being reviewed by the NCAA to determine their eligibility.

Predicted Order of Finish

1. Alabama A&M – The Bulldogs have a veteran team with six key seniors and all five starters back from last year. They are led by Ladarius Tabb outside and Nick West inside. All the pieces appear to be here to win the conference title.

2. Texas Southern – The Tigers only return two starters, but they are both double-digit scorers capable of pulling down 10 or more rebounds in Chris Thomas and Malcolm Riley.

3. Southern – The Jaguars are solid in the backcourt with Adrian Rodgers and Trelun Banks but need help down low. The NCAA has finally lifted the blanket ban on postseason play for the entire school due to defects in their APR data, but they are still awaiting final calculation of the most recent team data to confirm their eligibility.

4. Alabama State – Despite losing five seniors off of last season’s team, the Hornets have a solid point guard in Jamel Waters and return the SWAC Freshman of the Year, Steve Rogers.

5. Alcorn State – Three starters return led by Marquis Vance inside. The Braves have a chance to contend for the regular season title under new head coach Montez Robinson; however, they are banned from postseason play this year due to their APR.

6. Jackson State – Raeford Worsham and Kaven Bernard are both solid players, but a lack of outside scoring could be the team’s downfall.

7. Prairie View – Four starters are gone, but the Panthers had depth last season and if former role players can move into starting roles, they may remain competitive in league play.

8. Mississippi Valley State – Only one starter returns from a team that lost 25 games, but a large recruiting class could help as head coach Andre Payne enters his second year at the helm.

9. Arkansas-Pine Bluff – The Golden Lions have a huge lack of depth with only three key contributors returning.

10. Grambling State – Four starters are returning, but those four helped the Tigers claim the “Centenary Award” last season. A deep recruiting class will help in the future, but things appear fairly bleak again this year.

Season preview: Northeastern coach Bill Coen

For the rest of our extensive Preseason Coverage – CLICK HERE

It took Northeastern almost a quarter-century to make it back to the NCAA tourney last March, but the man who led them there will probably not have to wait another 25 years to return.  Coach Bill Coen begins his 10th year as head coach of the Huskies and returns 4 starters from last year’s 23-win team.  He spent 17 years as an assistant to Al Skinner at Boston College/Rhode Island, and even won 3 conference titles as a player at Hamilton College.  HoopsHD’s Jon Teitel got to chat with Coach Coen about losing to the Irish last March and hosting the Spartans this December.

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You played basketball at Hamilton College: how good a player were you back in the day, and how did you get into coaching? I was extremely average as a player but had an outstanding team experience. My head coach Tom Murphy is a Hall of Famer and is now 1 of my assistants: he is also 1 of my inspirations.

You worked as an assistant to Al Skinner at Rhode Island/BC: what makes him such a great coach, and what is the most important thing that you ever learned from him? He is an outstanding coach with so many strong qualities. I was his assistant for 17 years, during which time he took numerous teams to the NCAA tourney and created great programs at both schools. The attribute that stands out to me is his patience, both with player development as well as professional/career goals.

In 2006 you were hired as head coach at Northeastern: why did you take the job, and how long do you plan on sticking around for? After being a D-1 assistant for almost 2 decades I felt that I was ready to become a head coach. I was anxious to see if I was good enough and I got an opportunity in Boston at a high-academic institution, so it was an outstanding fit for me both personally and professionally. I learned a lot of lessons from guys like Al (who had a long-time stay at 2 different schools) as well as Coach Murphy, but 1 of the most important is that if you want to make a difference at a program, then you need to have a long-term plan. I am starting my 10th year and would love to be here as long as they will have me.

In the 2010 NIT you had a 2-PT loss to UConn after going scoreless in the final 3 minutes: where does that rank among the most devastating losses of your career? I would not categorize it as devastating, but rather a “missed opportunity”.  We played well enough to win but just came up short down the stretch. I was very proud of that group of guys because they were the 1st players I recruited here and they were great for our program.

In the 2015 CAA tourney you won 3 games in 3 nights to clinch the school’s 1st conference tourney title in almost a quarter-century: what did it mean to you to win the title, and what was the reaction like when you got back to campus? It was an extremely thrilling time for our program with the excitement level at an all-time high. I think the NCAA tourney is the most exciting sporting event in the world, so it was a galvanizing occasion for our school, our fans, and our alumni. We will cherish it for a long time.

In the 2015 NCAA tourney you had a 4-PT loss to Notre Dame: how close did you come to pulling off the upset, and what did your team learn from that game that you think will help you this year? We had the ball with 30 seconds to play down by 2 PTS, so we were 1 play away from beating a red-hot Irish team that was playing as well as anyone in the country at the time. Hopefully our guys understand that playing hard/smart/together will allow us to compete at a high level.

Your non-conference schedule includes a home game against Michigan State in December: how are you preparing to face the Spartans? I think it will be a historic event on our campus. Tom Izzo is a Hall of Fame coach and we know that we will face a tough-minded physical team. We will have to be at the top of our game to compete against a high-quality opponent.

Your conference schedule begins at Elon on New Year’s Eve: do you have to change your preparation at all when coaching on a big holiday to help maintain the team’s focus? We have a game at NC State less than 48 hours before that so I expect us to be dialed in for our conference opener. Every game matters but it is important to get off to a good start in conference play: I do not think that we will have to alter our preparation.

You return 4 starters from last year: how crucial do you think all of that experience will be to your team’s success this year? Those guys need to be able to set the tone for us throughout the season. They have played an awful lot of college basketball and won a CAA title, so that experience will be invaluable as we move through the challenges of our schedule.

What are your goals for the upcoming season, and what are your expectations for the upcoming season? Our goals are the same every year: we want to compete for a league title, which is what everyone else wants to do as well. My expectations are to focus on the moment: you want to talk about cutting down the nets at the end of the year, but you have to be committed to improving each and every day.

Conference Preview: Sun Belt

For the rest of our Preseason Coverage, CLICK HERE.

SUN BELT

R.J. Hunter’s three-pointer with less than 3 seconds left, propelling his 14-seed Georgia State team to a one point upset victory over 3-seed Baylor in the Round of 64, was one of the top highlights of March Madness last season.  It was a magical victory for the Panthers, capping an amazing season that saw them win the Sun Belt Conference regular season and tournament titles as well.  Unfortunately for Georgia State, Hunter and Ryan Harrow are two of four starters that moved on after the season, making a repeat of last season’s magic a lot less likely.  However, another Sun Belt school could have the tools for its own magical season this year.

Louisiana-Lafayette won 22 games last season and earned a berth in the CIT.  The Ragin’ Cajuns return all five starters from that team led by Shawn Long, who, with Hunter and Harrow gone, looks like the preseason pick for Sun Belt Player of the Year.  His team has all the pieces and the experience for a strong season, and if things go right, Louisiana could even sneak its way into the bubble conversation if needed.  Up to five other teams could challenge the Ragin’ Cajuns during the Sun Belt season, including the defending champions from Georgia State.  Also, keep an eye on Louisiana-Monroe (which lost in the CBI championship series last season), Arkansas State, Appalachian State and a dark horse pick, South Alabama.

Predicted Order of Finish

1.  Louisiana-Lafayette – The Ragin’ Cajuns are a potent, high-scoring team with tons of experience and all five starters back from last season.  They are led by double-double machine Shawn Long, possibly the best player in the conference.  All the pieces appear to be here to win the league and maybe even sneak into at-large bid talks.

2.  Louisiana-Monroe – Four starters return for the Warhawks from last year’s CBI runner-ups.  The team should have a balanced scoring attack and enough size down low to be right near the top of the conference standings all season long.

3.  Georgia State – With R.J. Hunter and Ryan Harrow gone, it will be up to Kevin Ware, Markus Crider and Indiana transfer Jeremy Hollowell to lead the way.

4.  Arkansas State – The Red Wolves should be vastly improved with their top nine players from last season all back, led by three double-digit scorers in Anthony Livingston, Cameron Golden and Sean Gardner.

5.  Appalachian State – The Moutaineers could be in contention for one of the conference’s top spots with four starters and five key seniors overall back, led by Frank Eaves.

6.  South Alabama – The Jaguars have a solid backcourt led by the trio of Ken Williams, Taishaun Johnson and Barrington Stevens.  If they can get inside production from the likes of Georgi Boyanov and Loyola Marymount transfer Nick Stover, this could be the conference’s biggest surprise team.

7.  Arkansas-Little Rock – The Trojans only return two starters, but they were the team’s top two scorers from last season, Josh Higgins and Roger Woods.  They also welcome in a new head coach, former Bobby Knight assistant Chris Beard.

8.  Texas State – Emani Gant will lead a strong frontcourt, but the Bobcats have huge question marks when it comes to outside scoring.

9.  Texas-Arlington – Although their top three players from last year’s 16-15 team are gone, the good news is that there are no seniors among the projected starters.  The experience gained this season could payoff in big ways next year.

10.  Troy – Last year’s Sun Belt Freshman of the Year Wesley Person should star this season, but the lack of any real depth will be a major issue unless the newcomers can come through.

11.  Georgia Southern – The Eagles won 22 games last season and advanced to the conference tournament title game.  However, six of their top eight players from that team are all gone.  This looks like it will be a rebuilding year in Statesboro.

Video Conference Preview: Big East

Very Important Links!

-Check out Jon Teitel’s latest interview with Butler’s Roosevelt Jones – CLICK HERE

-For the rest of our extensive Preseason Coverage – CLICK HERE

 

BIG EAST

Chad is once again joined by Jon, John, Joby, and David as they look at the ten teams in the Big East Conference.  They discuss how successful the league was during the regular season last year with eight different teams cracking the rankings at some point in the season, and six making the NCAA Tournament, but also discussed how for the second year in a row none of the teams managed to advance deep into the tournament.  Villanova is once again the favorites, but they really like Butler and Xavier as well, and feel they could be regulars in the Top 25 this season.

 

 

And for all you radio lovers out there, below is an mp3 version of the show….

Season preview: Butler SR SF Roosevelt Jones

For the rest of our extensive Preseason Coverage – CLICK HERE

There are some college basketball players who just seem like they have been around for 5 years…and there are others who actually have been around that long.  Roosevelt Jones enrolled as a freshman at Butler back in 2011, but due to a wrist injury that forced him to sit out the entire 2013-14 season with a medical redshirt, he begins his final season of college basketball next month.  Those who feared that the injury would end his career were proven wrong last year, as he started all 34 games and was named 2nd-Team All-Big East.  After playing in 3 different conferences during his college career, 1 thing that will not be new this year is that Butler remains in the Big East and remains a strong contender to Villanova for the conference title.  HoopsHD’s Jon Teitel got to chat with Roosevelt about overcoming his injury and almost beating Notre Dame in the NCAA tourney last March.

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In January 2013 you scored 20 PTS including a steal/10-footer at the buzzer in a 1-PT win over Gonzaga: did you think the shot was going in, and what was the reaction like in your locker room afterward? When I let the shot go I knew that it was going in. The locker room was crazy: we were jumping around and were so excited that we had won. We could not believe what had just happened.

In the 2013 NCAA tourney you scored 8 PTS in a 2-PT loss to Marquette: how close did you come to winning the game? We had a really good scouting report on them from our game earlier in the year in Maui and went back and forth with them all game long. We needed one defensive stop but could not get it. Vander Blue made a 3-PT shot from the corner that I remember bouncing straight up and then dropping in. Marquette changed their defense against us on our final possession of the game and we could not get a shot up.

After being the only player to start all 36 games in 2013, you missed the entire 2013-14 season with a left wrist injury: how difficult was the rehab, and how is your health right now? The toughest thing I have had to deal with so far in my life was that rehab. I did not know if I could get back to my full potential. My mom/dad said to keep my head up and keep working. It took a long road to get back, but I am 100% now.

Last October Chris Holtmann was named interim coach after Brandon Miller was granted a medical leave of absence: how difficult was it to deal with that transition right before the season, and how was your team able to make it work? It was not as difficult as a lot of other people thought that it would be because we were all together as a group. We talked about it and bonded together: we came together with the goal of giving it everything we had each and every day. It probably looked a lot more chaotic from the outside than it actually was.

In January 2015 you scored a career-high 28 PTS (12-19 FG) in a 1-PT loss at Georgetown: what contributed to your success that night? We had a good defensive scouting report on what they liked to do. We ended up using a lot of high ball screens because of the way they liked to pressure, which probably gave me a little more space to work with when I shot my floater. I felt good throughout that game.

You finished the year by leading your team in AST and finished 2nd in PPG/RPG: how do you balance your scoring with your rebounding with your passing? I do not keep track of much of that. I just try to do whatever I can to help my teammates and not get involved in all the numbers.

In the 2015 NCAA tourney you scored 23 PTS in a 3-PT OT loss to Notre Dame: what did you learn from that game that you think can help you this year? We know that we can compete with anyone in the country if we come out and play together and play hard. We had a good game plan and stuck to it. If we follow what the coaches tell us and play hard, then we can compete with anyone.

You have played in 3 different conferences during your career (Horizon/A-10/Big East): how does it feel to not be switching conferences this season?! It is nice to finally have some consistency regarding who we are playing. We know our opponents’ tendencies and what they like to do on offense/defense. It makes the preparation for each opponent a little easier when you have some experience to work from.

Your non-conference schedule includes games against Cincinnati/Tennessee/Purdue: which of these games do you feel will present your biggest test? Every game is tough in non-conference play. We are just looking at the next opponent on our schedule and trying not to get caught up looking too far down the road.

What are your goals for the upcoming season, and what are your expectations for the upcoming season? My goal is to play as hard as I can with this team. If we do that then we will get where we need to go. Right now I am not putting expectations on how far we can go: we just need to keep working every day.