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Counting Down Top Hoops Conferences

Counting Down Top Hoops Conferences

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Harvard boosts the Ivy League, while Wichita State (Missouri Valley) and Gonzaga (West Coast) are near the top of the basketball world as we rank those conferences against the traditionally powerful Pac-12 and SEC in the countdown of the best conferences. We start with the 14th best conference (of 33) and count down noting the rank of various teams at www.kenpom.com and which have exceeded (or fallen short of) their preseason projections at www.valueaddbasketball.com.

In 14th place, we start with the Mid-American Conference which has three surprising teams ranked in the top 142 of 351 teams in what proves to be the most balanced conference in the country:

Mid American (14th)

Above Expectations (3): 120. Buffalo, 142. Kent St., 139. Western Michigan.

Disappointments: 202. Northern Illinois.

Other Tourney Teams: only tournament champ.

A great conference to watch because it may be the most balanced conference in the country.

Five of six teams in both the East and the West have a legitimate shot at the bid. We had seniors Richaun Holmes (Bowling Green), Karrington Ward (Eastern Michigan), and Justin Drummond (Toledo) as the projected top three players).

Ivy League (13th)

Above Expectations (1): 31. Harvard.

Disappointments: None.

Other Tourney Teams: Regular season winner and possibly Harvard even if they do not win.

Columbia and Yale look solid this year, too. But if either of them win it may be hard for Harvard to get a bid due to a one-point loss to Holy Cross. That is, unless they can upset Virginia and Arizona state. I’d have Justin Sears (Yale) and Wesley Saunders (Harvard) as all-conference in almost any conference.

Conference USA (12th)

Above Expectations: 88. Charlotte, 136. Middle Tennessee, 98. Old Dominion.

Disappointments: None.

Other Tourney Teams: Possibly La Tech.

Charlotte had thrilling upsets of Penn State and South Carolina, and almost got Miami for a third one. ODU beat Richmond and LSU.

Plenty of chances to move up Thanksgiving weekend with UAB against Florida, Old Dominion against VCU, and Middle Tennessee against Cincinnati. Value Add has three La Tech players in the top five with Kenneth Smith, Alex Hamilton, and Michale Kyser.

Mountain West (11th)

Above Expectations: 79. Boise St., 77. New Mexico, 15. San Diego St., 119. Utah St.

Disappointments: 207. Fresno St., 108. UNLV.

Other Tourney Teams: None.

San Diego State just missed going to 6-0 Wednesday with a two-point loss to Arizona. But they are the class of the conference with wins over BYU, Pitt, and Utah already. The conference is playing well but I leave them just behind the Missouri Valley because I put a premium on having more than one team that could be worthy of an at-large NCAA bid. Wyoming’s 56-33 shut down of Colorado at home impressed, but I believe they will need Breitbart All-American Larry Nance to lead them to a win at SMU to have a chance at a second bid for the conference. 

Missouri Valley (10th)

Above Expectations: 53. Northern Iowa, 8. Wichita St.

Disappointments: 237. Bradley.

Other Tourney Teams: None.

Northern Iowa building the case for a second Missouri Valley bid with 19-point wins over both Virginia Tech and Northwestern. They would really help the conference with upsets of VCU or Iowa. Value Add had Wichita State, Kentucky, and Wisconsin as the only three teams with two top-20 players (Fred VanVleet as the second best player and Ron Baker as 16th).

American Athletic (fell from 7th to 9th)

Above Expectations: None.

Disappointments (4): 24. Connecticut, 167. Houston, 35. Memphis, 56. SMU.

Other Tourney Teams: None.

Value Add had the conference projected 7th, but it has been the most disappointing conference starting with SMU star Markus Kennedy being ruled ineligible for first semester. The defending national champion UConn squad was handled pretty easily by West Virginia. It started great with Houston upsetting Murray State on the road, but then they lost to Harvard by 21. Memphis couldn’t hang with Wichita, but gets another chance Thanksgiving weekend against Baylor. Plenty of potential to move way up – just some hiccups to start.

West Coast (8th)

Above Expectations: 11. Gonzaga, 132. Pepperdine, 69. Saint Mary’s, 105. San Diego.

Disappointments: 50. BYU, 135. Santa Clara.

Other Tourney Teams: None.

The conference is playing well – BYU is a disappointment just because they could be 6-0 but for overtime losses to San Diego State and Purdue during which superstar Tyler Haws put up 58 points on 6 of 12 three-pointers and 16 of 18 free throws. The conference needs BYU to be the second at-large team. The only other real chance would be if St. Mary’s can win at Creighton and St. John’s. Gonzaga looks legit with Kevin Pangos finally healthy. In the two big wins so far (SMU and Georgia) he is 7 of 11 on three-pointers, 10 of 11 from the line and has 13 assists and 6 steals. Those are National Player of the Year numbers.

The American has more potential overall, but the West Coast is off to a better start.

Atlantic 10 (from 8th to 7th)

Above Expectations: 54. Dayton, 117. Saint Joseph’s, 109. Saint Louis.

Disappointments: 216. Fordham, 103. Rhode Island.

Other Tourney Teams: 25, VCU, possibly Richmond and George Washington.

The Atlantic 10 was included as the 8th best team in our preseason rankings, and has passed the American to date to move into seventh.

Dayton had a big win against Texas A&M, but with their loss to UConn I’m not sure they can be a second bid unless they win at Arkansas. Richmond really needs to get a road win at Northern Iowa because their loss at Old Dominion and double digit loss at NC State makes it tough. Likewise George Washington needs a win at Seton Hall. UMass is probably the only team besides VCU to control their own destiny with a decent neutral court win over Florida State and road games still left at Harvard, LSU, Providence and BYU. The American has more talent, but we will see if the Atlantic 10 can get more than VCU into the tournament.

SEC (fell from 3rd to 6th)

Above Expectations: 61. Georgia, 81. Mississippi St., 48. Texas A&M.

Disappointments: 160. Auburn, 12. Florida, 87. LSU, 93. Mississippi,

127. Missouri, 75. Tennessee.

Other Tourney Teams: 1. Kentucky.

Kentucky looks even more unbeatable, but overall the SEC has been the most disappointing conference of all.  Value Add had then projected as the third best conference, but they were blitzed opening night with several bad performances and it continued right up to Florida losing to Georgetown Wednesday. Missouri lost to Missouri-Kansas City and then was blown out by Purdue and Arizona, Auburn was destroyed by Colorado and Tulsa, Florida has been upset twice.

Arkansas had the biggest win Tuesday because it was a win at SMU, and the Razorbacks get the rap of only being a good home team. There is always tons of talent in the SEC and this year is no exception, but it could be another year with the biggest bubble of any conference.

Pac 12 (stayed in 5th)

Above Expectations: 49. California, 64. Washington,

Disappointments: 72. Arizona St., 187. Oregon St., 23. UCLA, 186. USC.

Other Tourney Teams: 6. Arizona, 47. Oregon, 30. Stanford, 40. Utah.

Value Add ranked the Pac-12 fifth in the preseason and remains there. The good news is that Cal already has a signature win against Syracuse, and they could be the sixth team from the conference trying to get a bid. Arizona pulled out a great, narrow victory over San Diego State, but UCLA’s loss to an Oklahoma team that was beaten by Creighton disappointed.

The top-four conferences were covered in a separate post.


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