Picking up where we left off with conferences, we start today with the best academic league of them all, the Ivy League.
The Ivy League is in the midst of a great up cycle, and league favorite Harvard has a lot to do with that. The Crimson will again be favored, though not to the same degree as last year when they were prohibitive favorites. They have the league’s best backcourt and plenty of options up front. They will be pushed, however, by the likes of Yale (whose own star, Justin Sears, will be in the running for Player of the Year), Princeton and Brown, for starters. Columbia figured to be right there, but the loss of Alex Rosenberg is a big blow and has to knock them back some.
The MAAC is always a fiercely competitive conference, and this season will be no different. What will also not change much is who should be among the top teams, as Manhattan and Iona should be the favorites once again. They have matched up in the last two conference championship games, and it wouldn’t be a surprise if they met on that Monday night once again. Siena should be in the mix as well, as Jimmy Patsos has quickly brough the Saints back. Don’t sleep on Quinnipiac or St. Peter’s as well.
Also fiercely competitive is the similar-sounding MAC, but this year’s favorite should be clear: Toledo. Tod Kowalczyk has gotten the Rockets rolling, and they had a big year last year but aren’t done yet as they return four starters from the team that won 27 games last season. Akron should push them, as should Ohio and Central Michigan.
North Carolina Central had a big year last year by going 15-1 in MEAC play before winning the conference tournament championship. The Eagles look like they could be favorites again, but Hampton, runners-up last season, should push them, as should Morgan State and Norfolk State.
Last year, Wichita State ran away with the Missouri Valley title with an undefeated run that captivated the country. The Shockers should win again this year, but they won’t be quite the prohibitive favorites despite returning the great backcourt of Fred VanVleet and Ron Baker. Northern Iowa should give them a run for their money, and the conference looks improved as a whole.
The Mountain West has been on a great run in recent years, led by San Diego State but with a lot of help from others. The Aztecs are viewed as prohibitive favorites, likely to be pushed most by Boise State, New Mexico, UNLV, Colorado State and Wyoming.
We’ll continue to look ahead to a few more conferences tomorrow.
The story at North Carolina continues to develop, and the Raleigh News & Observer reported on Sunday that the 2004-05 national championship team was far from free of players enrolled in phony classes. The report states that 35 sham courses were taken by some of the players on that team.
Auburn forward Matthew Atewe suffered a left leg injury in Friday night’s exhibition game, and on Sunday AL.com reported he is likely to miss the season opener on Friday against Milwaukee. That will leave the Tigers with just one true forward for the game, possibly longer if he is out beyond Friday night.
Slipping under the radar on the busy football day that was Saturday was Fordham suspending star guard Jon Severe. The sophomore was suspended for one week due to a violation of team rules, which means he will miss the season opener against New York Tech on Friday night.
Defending national champion Connecticut had to hold off Assumption by a 68-60 margin, while last year’s runner-up, Kentucky, blew out Georgetown (Ky.) in their game.
West Virginia ran away from Shepherd in their exhibition game.
Fresno State blew out UC Santa Cruz in their exhibition game.
Indiana State and Northern Iowa won exhibition games among Missouri Valley teams.
The Pac-12 exhibition schedule is done after Arizona and Oregon won games on Sunday.
The exhibition slate is winding down with opening night now just a few days away.
- Colorado State hosts an exhibition game against Fort Lewis, the last exhibition game for any Mountain West team.
- Illinois State hosts the last exhibition game by a Missouri Valley team before the season opens.