-The Big Ten appears to be a half-way decent conference this year. Indiana and Ohio State are national title contenders, and Michigan is also a top five team. Michigan State and Wisconsin (who will have to deal with injuries) are in the rankings as well. Iowa has been trending up and could end up in the NCAA Tournament, and Minnesota is another team we could see in there. I wouldn’t be surprised if eight Big Ten teams ended up dancing.
Then of course there is Nebraska, who single-handedly cancels out all the strength in this conference. But even the Huskers can be tough to beat at home.
-Like the Big Ten, the Big East has a half way decent league this year. They just aren’t quite as half way decent as the Big Ten is. They do have a national title contender in Louisville, who was a Final Four team a year ago and who returns most of their key players.
Cincinnati isn’t starting off that high in the rankings, but I think they’re a team to pay attention to. They seem to have a tendency to finish better than where they start as of late.
Syracuse and Notre Dame are also teams that could contend for protected seeds, and Marquette should be strong again as well.
Last, and probably not least, South Florida is an up and coming program that made the NCAAs last year and advanced to the Round of 32.
-Baylor has to replace quite a bit of talent, but they have their backcourt back, and freshman Isaiah Austin should be a force in the frontcourt. The Bears have been to two Elite Eights in the past three years and will likely be strong again.
-Kansas is strong, but that’s not news.
-Texas is another team that should end up dancing.
-West Virginia, who is new to the conference, is an NCAA Tournament regular and should be able to get back there again.
-Not sure what to make of a Frank Martin-less Kansas State team.
-Iowa State was in the Round of 32 last year, but has gone through some roster changes and it’s hard to get a gage on them.
-Rumor has it that Oklahoma is also trending up.
-The conference appears to be good, but not as dominant as the Big Ten, Big East, Big Twelve, or even the SEC this year.
-North Carolina and Duke, as always, will be strong, but there is another Tobacco Road team in the mix, and that’s NC State. They begin the season ranked #6. I know they had a good showing in the NCAA Tournament a year ago, and not only have most of their contributing players back, but have also made some great additions, but prior to the run to the Sweet Sixteen they were a bubble team. I think the #6 ranking is a little too lofty, but they’ll certainly have their opportunities to prove me wrong.
-Florida State is another team that I think is very good. They certainly have quite a bit of size.
-Other than those four, I’m having a hard time getting overly excited about anyone.
-The league welcomes Butler and VCU, as it goes to a sixteen team format this year.
-I really like this VCU team. They are having issues with eligibility, but still return a ton of their contributing players from last year who advanced to the Round of 32 and nearly beat Indiana.
-Butler, who advanced to the national championship game in back to back years, struggled last year, but appears to be back on pace and should be another NCAA Tournament caliber team.
-Saint Louis was another team that was in the Round of 32 a year ago, and although they have most of their players back, they do not have their head coach back. I don’t have nearly as much confidence in Jim Crews as I do Rick Majerus, so it will be interesting to see how that effects them this year.
-Temple is seemingly always in the mix.
-Not a whole lot of buzz about Richmond, but they are very well coached and always seem to exceed expectations.
-We’re used to seeing Xavier at or near the top of the league. Since they lost pretty much everyone, I would not be surprised if they failed to finish with a winning record in league play this year.
-The league has lost VCU, and Georgia State and Old Dominion will not play in the conference tournament due to them leaving the conference, so if either of teams wants to dance they’ll need the at-large.
I love this Drexel team. I feel they were good enough to be an NCAA Tournament team a year ago and really feel the committee should have taken them, but understand how their weak overall schedule held them back. This year, they return all their key players, and have beefed up the schedule, so I’m expecting them to make a splash.
Delaware is another team that is expected to do well. They finished the season on a nine game winning streak and have most of their core players back this year.
George Mason and Old Dominion are always tough and they could be a force this year as well.
-The league is now at a twelve team format and is going to divisions this year. Coastal Carolina and UNC Asheville are the teams that we’re used to seeing on top, but Campbell and Charleston Southern have been voted the favorites this year.
-Long Beach has run away with the regular season the last two years, and is picked to win it again this year. They were an at-large caliber team a year ago, but won the conference tournament and didn’t need the at-large bid. They lost most of their contributing players and aren’t likely to be nearly as good overall, but I guess they’re still good enough to contend for the conference title.
-Vermont won the league last year, and is favored to do so again this year. Stony Brook is right behind them.
-Binghamton was a last place finisher last year who just missed winning the Golden Seat Centenary Award. Had it not been for an opening round win against UMBC in the conference tournament, it would have been theirs. They are early favorites who take home the golden crapper this year, though.
-Belmont has been a good team the last two years, but Belmont is no longer in the conference. The remaining teams are likely destined for the play in game.
-The league welcomes NKU, who is not just new to the Atlantic Sun, but new to div1.
-I’ve been looking for the preseason favorite on the website, but can’t find out who it is. I know Mercer was strong last year and has four starters back, including Langston Hall, who is perhaps the best player in the league, so I’m going with them as my preseason favorite.