Saturday, October 26, 2013

Conference Calling's 2013-14 College Basketball Previews: #21 Northeast

"Martin making faces at me back there?"
Last season, three new coaches joined the Northeast Conference and made a quick mark.

LIU Brooklyn stormed to its third straight NCAA tournament under former assistant Jack Perri. Ex-Mount St. Mary's guard Jamion Christian took over at his alma mater and and won 18 games before losing to LIU in the NEC title game. Finally, Wagner hired 28-year-old Bashir Mason and watched him take the Seahawks to 19 wins.

All three inherited some decent talent, which may be more than one of this season's noobs can say. The other only has the unenviable task of replacing his program's all-time Division I scoring leader.

Lest anyone get the impression that this coaching stuff is easy, especially in the NEC, the conference might deliver two of its bench bosses a cold, hard dose of reality.

Who finishes where? How bad is the outlook for the NEC's cellar-dwellers? Why do bananas turn brown before you get them home from the market?

The answers to some of these questions will be found after the jump. For the others, Google is your homeboy. (Homesite?)

(All stats and rankings via unless otherwise noted.)

Monday, October 21, 2013

Conference Calling's 2013-14 College Basketball Previews: #22 Atlantic Sun

Hey, Neo, Elektra wants her sai AND dress back.
Our last post was all about movies, and the Atlantic Sun Conference has its own movie-related issues this season. After all, the A-Sun just had its masterpiece moment, its Citizen Kane or The Godfather, when Florida Gulf Coast stormed through the conference tournament and all the way to the Sweet 16.

After a great movie in the modern film industry, there's always the pressure to deliver with a sequel. The Godfather pulled it off (once), but most franchises stumble. Looking at you here, Matrix.

It's unreasonable to expect a reprise of last season, but no one ever accuses sports fans of being rational beings. While FGCU or any other A-Sun team once again making the Big Dance's second weekend would still be a bet that the adventurous gambler could retire on, we know somebody from this conference is going to the tournament.

Who's most likely? Read on after the jump.

(All stats and rankings via unless otherwise noted.)

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Conference Calling's 2013-14 College Basketball Previews: #23 America East

(Warning: this post contains some teen-movie sex scenes and the occasional bared breast. If you're watching/reading at work, I'd recommend headphones and another window to click to when the boss walks by.)

A full 55.6% of the America East's current membership has never made a trip to the NCAA tournament. Six of last season's members' 16 all-time bids bolted when Boston University left for the Patriot League.

Puts the league in dire straits, right? Eh, maybe not so much.

There's a very good possibility that one of the AE's schools pops the cherry this season, and not just because those odds are so good. (Seriously, five of nine. As a comparison, the only SWAC school with no bids is Grambling.)

One of the AE's V-club has to replace one of the conference's top players, but still has the weapons to contend. Then, there's the school that returns a nearly all-junior starting lineup led by a serious Player of the Year candidate.

Finally, there's the contender that lost its NCAA virginity 10 years ago and has since turned into a raging slut, going back five times since 2003. Makes one wonder how those whores at Kentucky and Kansas have any self-respect left.

Okay, that whole metaphor made absolutely no sense, and was actually somewhat disturbing. With all apologies, let's move on before we start quantifying how many tournament wins equal a dirty Sanchez. (Answer: a lot fewer than UCLA has. They're seriously depraved in Cali.)

(All stats and rankings via unless otherwise noted.)

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Conference Calling's 2013-14 College Basketball Previews: #24 Horizon

If you're an Ohio-hating political junkie who thinks the Buckeye State has way too much electoral power, you won't care for the balance of power in the Horizon League.

The potential exists for Ohio-based schools Wright State, Cleveland State and Youngstown State to sweep the podium positions in the Horizon this season, thanks to multiple all-conference losses by Detroit and Valparaiso.

The most dangerous threats to the looming Ohio hegemony may come from the north, as Green Bay and Oakland return the conference's most dangerous individual talents. But do UWGB's Alec Brown and Oakland's Travis Bader have enough support?

Read on and we'll discuss.

(All statistics and rankings per unless otherwise noted.)

Monday, October 14, 2013

Conference Calling's 2013-14 College Basketball Previews: #25 OVC

Pictured: Belmont (right), rest of OVC (left).
In this space last season, we expected Belmont to walk into the Ohio Valley Conference and begin running the league like a boss. Rick Byrd's club did exactly that, toppling the Fighting Canaans of Murray State and making its sixth NCAA tournament in eight years.

In the subsequent offseason, stars filed out of the league one after the other. Belmont lost all-conference backcourt duo Ian Clark and Kerron Johnson, along with steady forward Trevor Noack. Murray State lost its own backcourt, Isaiah Canaan and Stacy Wilson, along with workhorse forward Ed Daniel and his equally notorious hair. Tennessee State lost its star forward Robert Covington and two other double-digit scorers.

So, the door is open for a new boss. UT-Martin is the only OVC school that didn't lose a double-figure scorer, but are we really going to pick the Skyhawks to step up that big?

Eh, maybe not so much.

Everybody absorbed a little attrition, but who's going to react the best to their new cast of characters? Read on after the jump and see who should go dancing from the OVC.

(All statistics and rankings per unless otherwise noted.)

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Conference Calling's 2013-14 College Basketball Previews: #26 Southern

Over the past 18 seasons, the Southern Conference has been Davidson's toy to play with as it saw fit. 13 of those seasons ended with the Wildcats either hoisting the regular-season or the tournament championship. Six times, they did the double.

Because of that, next season will truly feel like the end of an era when Davidson heads off to the Atlantic 10. Charleston has already left for the CAA, with Elon to follow next season. Appalachian State and Georgia Southern will chase football crumbs off to the Sun Belt. In place of these rising programs, the SoCon will pull Mercer and East Tennessee State away from the Atlantic Sun and regain former member VMI from the Big South.

Doesn't look like a tremendous trade, does it? Davidson is a college basketball power hitter in this deal, perhaps not Frank Robinson-caliber, but still. Guess that makes Mercer Milt Pappas.

If there's good news, it's for writers and sportscasters everywhere. Both the Big South and SoCon will settle at 10 members, removing the division structure and the need for announcers to spout gibberish like "they lead the Big South North" or the "Southern South" with a straight face.

What makes it even more bittersweet for the SoCon is the expectation that the departing programs will be the primary powers this season, one or another likely to take a championship with them to their new home.

Who's got the inside track? Read on after the jump.

(All statistics and rankings per unless otherwise noted.)

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Conference Calling's 2013-14 College Basketball Previews: #27 WAC

Patron saint of All-Name teams everywhere.
In an era where the Big 12 has 10 teams and the Big Ten has 12 (soon to be 14), we're used to conference names being a bit nonsensical. If you're looking for false advertising in your league handles, though, the Western Athletic Conference nearly had the market cornered this offseason.

The WAC is no longer exclusively western, unless you consider Chicago and Kansas City far west outposts. If you do, kindly ask Doc Brown to drag you back to 1845.

The snarky college football jock-sniffer would claim that the "Athletic" part went away when the WAC stopped sponsoring football.

Finally, had it not broken down and invited Chicago State, UMKC and a host of other misfit toys, the conference would have no longer been a conference.

So, credit to the league for doing what it had to do to survive, but this is not the WAC that once gave us stars like Danny Ainge, Tim Hardaway, Keith Van Horn or the immortal Fennis Dembo.

WAC basketball will look extremely different this season (and there's still a domino left to fall when Idaho heads for the Big Sky in 2014), but it could surprise us all. There will be no return to 1998's four-bid status, though. Ever.

More on who should get this year's bid after the jump.

(All statistics and rankings via unless otherwise noted.)

Friday, October 11, 2013

Conference Calling's 2013-14 College Basketball Previews: #28 Big South

For an indication of how shaky the Big South was last season, consider this: The league's championship tournament was won by a team that didn't beat a Division I opponent until New Year's Eve.

Liberty getting the automatic bid lessened any chance of the league springing an upset, which may have been possible if it had been Charleston Southern or High Point in the dance. The Flames became only the second team in NCAA tournament history with 20 losses, joining Coppin State's 2008 squad.

As long as everyone stays healthy (and TBI is saying a prayer for High Point stud John Brown; more on him in a bit), the BSC should have a team qualified to pull a No. 15 seed. As Florida Gulf Coast proved, the 15 need not be a death sentence.

This season, the Big South has one team with a tremendous pair of forwards that need guards to step up and help. Several teams have strong backcourts, including one that's probably the best duo you've never heard of.

Let's look at this season's Big South and decipher who's got the best chance to dance...after the jump.

(All statistics and rankings per unless otherwise noted.)

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Conference Calling's 2013-14 College Basketball Previews: #29 Big Sky

White ribbon=Best Licker, for dog with cleanest junk.
The Big Sky is closer than most college hoop conferences to getting its season right.

Even though there are 11 teams in the league, the BSC still orders everyone to work with a 20-game double round-robin, eliminating the issue of any team getting an advantage from the day the schedule comes out. It'll be screwed up next year when Idaho returns, but for now, it's a nice change of pace.

When the postseason hits, instead of the league tournament being a participation ribbon and juice box for every kid, even the asthmatic ones, only the top seven make it with the regular-season champion getting a first-round bye.

I'd advocate a system that leaves the regular-season champion out totally, pitting that team against the tournament champ in a winner-takes-all single game, but again, the Big Sky has it more correct than most.

As far as who'll be dueling for that bye, the usual suspects will be near the top, but a couple of experienced squads should mount a major challenge. Read on after the jump for more.

(All statistics and rankings per unless otherwise noted.)

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Conference Calling's 2013-14 College Basketball Previews: #30 Southland

The Southland Conference was actually one of the more surprising minor conferences in 2012-13. The Back Iron Index was kind to three SLC squads: Stephen F. Austin, which ranked highly enough to score a play-in spot in TBI's fantasy bracket of the nation's REAL top 68 teams; Northwestern State, whose Index ranking was actually four spots higher than Dunk City's; and league newcomer Oral Roberts, which entered the year as a favorite to win the conference outright.

Fast forward to the new season, and college basketball's inevitable change appears to have been unkind to the Southland's elite. SFA lost three All-SLC players as well as its head coach. ORU likewise lost two, plus another who could have made the leap this year. Northwestern State may be in the best shape after losing an all-conference performer of its own, but it still returns two more.

What really damages the league's stock this season is not so much the top of the food chain, but the bottom. The Southland went all Statue of Happiness on us this summer, asking for college basketball's tired, its poor and its Division II.

New Orleans spent a large part of a decade as an independent as its school and program tried to recuperate from Hurricane Katrina. Houston Baptist fled from a much smaller-scale disaster, one which most of us knew as the late, unlamented Great West Conference. Finally, two Division II schools, Abilene Christian and Incarnate Word, are beginning their transition to D-I. It will be 2017 before the two are eligible for any postseason play.

All four will need a couple of seasons before the benefit of affiliation with a real live conference shows up in recruiting.

When the season shakes out, there may be a surprise waiting for us. Of course, it wouldn't be a surprise if we saw it coming, and right now, there doesn't appear to be a whole lot coming out of the Southland. Just what we can expect will be spelled out after the jump.

(All statistics and rankings per unless otherwise noted.)

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Conference Calling's 2013-14 College Basketball Previews: #31 SWAC

Dickens would have loved the Southwestern Athletic Conference's 2012-13 season. Best of times, worst of times and all that.

Two of the SWAC's top three finishers (Texas Southern and Arkansas-Pine Bluff) were ineligible for the postseason tournament, leaving Southern to waltz its way to the Big Dance. Once there, the Jaguars nearly pulled the upset of upsets, taking top-seeded Gonzaga to the final minute before succumbing.

The latest APR results came out in June, and the SWAC once again took it raw. Four programs were banned, including repeats for Pine Bluff and Mississippi Valley State. Grambling hopped on the short bus, although the Tigers need to be more focused on winning A game more than any postseason reservations.

Alabama State got its postseason APR ban overturned, which is about the extent of the good news the Hornets received this offseason.

TSU lost the league Player of the Year (guard Omar Strong) and Defensive POY (forward Fred Sturdivant) to graduation and MVSU watched league scoring champ Davon Usher bolt for Delaware after the APR ban came down. On the arrivals board, Jackson State activates a pair of notable transfers in Julysses Nobles (ex-Arkansas) and 6'11" B.J. West (New Mexico State). Plus, Texas Southern becomes the final stop on La Salle West Virginia journeyman Aaric Murray's magical college basketball mystery tour.

Finally, in the most EPIC news of all, the SWAC miraculously rises out of the cellar in TBI's conference rankings! The league office will erupt in mad champagne-spraying

Best. Intern. Crop. Ever.
So now that we know the SWAC's out of the cellar, let's look at why. Who wins and gets to pass around those chicks right there before going to the tournament and getting blitzed by some one-seed that didn't play in the West Coast Conference?

Answers after the jump.

(All statistics and rankings per unless otherwise noted.)

Monday, October 7, 2013

Conference Calling's 2013-14 College Basketball Previews: #32 MEAC

The MEAC was a big sack of hot mess when last season was totaled up. If not for North Carolina Central losing a road squeaker to Savannah State, the league would have had regular-season co-champions with matching 16-0 records. Meaning Norfolk State and NC Central never played each other.

At all.

Not once.

Who in the blue flames of hell does this? Unbalanced schedules are one thing, but at least make everybody play everybody once.

Meanwhile, North Carolina A&T went into the conference tournament with a losing record and came out with a bid to the Big Dance, thanks to a totally goofed-up championship event in which none of the top four seeds reached the semifinals. The good news was that all the conference tourney carnage put three MEAC teams into postseason tournaments for the first time ever, as Norfolk State went to the NIT and Savannah State played in the CIT.

In a league like this, there's a real chance that preseason predictions will be shot to hell by one team making a four-day charge like A&T did. There's not much reason to expect that anyone projects as an all-conquering Harvard-esque juggernaut this season, so the MEAC falls in dead last among TBI's conference rankings.

For standings and awards, read past the jump.

(All statistics and rankings per unless otherwise noted.)