With the start of the regular season now less than a week away, we’ll now look at a few conferences on some of these upcoming days.
America East has a familiar look among its favorites, as Stony Brook should once again be the team to beat. The Seawolves have had a great run in recent years, but haven’t been able to get over the hump in the conference tournament. They’ll have good competition from a senior-laden Hartford team, as well as defending champion Albany.
Defending national champion Connecticut was chosen as the favorite in the American Athletic Conference coaches poll, but the thinking here is that SMU is more deserving of the nod. The Mustangs bring back plenty from last season, while most of the other top teams in the conference – the Huskies, Cincinnati and Memphis – all lose a lot. Newcomer Tulsa might be the sleeper.
The Atlantic 10 has a tough act to follow after having its best season ever last year. VCU should lead the pack this time, but George Washington and Dayton are among the teams that should push the Rams. UMass, Rhode Island, Richmond and Saint Louis are among the teams that will make life difficult for those three.
The Atlantic Coast Conference didn’t exactly live up to the hype last season, when many thought it would be right up there with the Big East in some of its recent years. But this season should be different, as Duke should be a national title contender, while Virignia, North Carolina and Louisville should be top 25-caliber.
For postseason success among mid-majors in recent years, few can match the Atlantic Sun. Last season, Mercer’s win over Duke in the second round of the NCAA Tournament was just the latest example. But the conference has a very different look this season, save for Florida Gulf Coast being the likely favorites. The Eagles have been on a good run, and that should continue this season.
The Big 12 has been ruled by Kansas for a decade now. The Jayhawks figure to be the favorites once again, but they lost a good deal as well. Texas, Oklahoma and Iowa State are among the teams that have a chance to knock the Jayhawks off, but until someone beats them, it’s hard to think of anyone but Kansas as favorites there.
The Big East is very much in a new era, and this season it looks wide open after Villanova. The Wildcats are clear favorites, though St. John’s should be NCAA Tournament-worthy as well. Marquette has good personnel but has to adjust to new head coach Steve Wojciechowski. Other teams in the conference are largely unknowns for one reason or another.
We’ll look at more conferences tomorrow.
Indiana forward Devin Davis was expected to be released from the hospital on Friday, a very encouraging sign. Head coach Tom Crean says the sophomore has a long road ahead, but a full recovery is likely.
Virginia suspended junior forward Evan Nolte and sophomore guard London Perrantes for the Cavaliers’ preseason scrimmages and their season opener next Friday. The school said the suspensions were for a violation of team rules in the summer. Virginia opens at James Madison next Friday; the two player return when they host Norfolk State two days later.
Mississippi did the same thing with senior forward Aaron Jones, suspending him for three games. The leading rebounder and shot-blocker for the Rebels last season, Jones can return on November 20, when the Rebels host Southern.
VCU ran away with an exhibition win as they get ready for the season.
In the Big 12, Iowa State and Oklahoma won exhibition games. In the Big Ten, Illinois, Michigan State and Northwestern all rolled in exhibition games.
In the Pac-12, Washington State won an exhibition game, while Oregon State lost 57-47 to Western Oregon.
Holy Cross, one of the favorites in the Patriot League, broke open a close game late in the first half and rolled over cross-town rival Assumption College.
On a lighter note, Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim is now on Twitter. It seems the account will be primarily for promoting his new book, as Boeheim has never been a man of many words. But news of his new account got around on Friday, and already he has over 9,000 followers as of early Saturday
More exhibition games are on tap Saturday. A few of note:
- Among Big East teams, Providence and St. John’s host exhibition games.
- Maryland hosts Bowie State.
- In the SEC, Missouri and Tennessee host exhibition games.