Saturday’s Den: College hoop teams/leagues I need to see in February

Little more than a month until the college basketball conference tournaments start; having ESPN+ on my TV now gives me a good chance to watch a lot of games from smaller leagues, so why you’re sleeping, I’ll be watching mid-major basketball.

Here are teams/leagues I need to see more of before then:

— Charleston is 21-1 vs schedule #286, Florida Atlantic is 20-1 vs schedule #198; ESPN has FAU as an 8-seed, so they might be able to survive a loss in the C-USA tournament, but Charleston is listed as an 11-seed, so they’ll probably need to win the CAA tournament to make the NCAA’s.

Both teams had their only loss way back on November 11.

— Towson has won seven of last eight games; they’ve got best continuity number in CAA, so they figure to be Charleston’s biggest threat.

— UAB is 14-7, 5-5 in C-USA, but their star G Jordan Walker missed their last four games; they are a threat in C-USA tourney if they Walker back, but only if. North Texas would be the other team that could make FAU squirm- they lost 66-62 to the Owls couple weeks ago.

— VCU, Saint Louis and Dayton are the three best teams in the A-15; this could be the first time since 2002 that the A-15 only gets only one team in the NCAA’s.

VCU won 11 of its last 12 games; they have sketchy losses to Duquesne, Jacksonville; a 63-59 loss to fellow bubble team Arizona State won’t help any.

Saint Louis beat Memphis/Providence, but lost to SIU-Edwardsville.

— I haven’t seen any Big Sky games yet this season; I’ll fix that today by watching a couple. Right now, Eastern Washington is 15-7/9-0; they’ve won their last 11 games, but lost to Texas Tech, which is winless in the Big X, and FIU, which is 4-6 in C-USA.

Montana State has best continuity number in Big Sky; they’re 7-2 in league games, but their non-league resume is pretty dismal.

Whoever wins the Big Sky tournament better enjoy it; they won’t last long in NCAA’s.

— There are 13 teams in the WAC this year, as schools migrate in/out of the league for mostly football-related reasons. Southern Utah has most experienced team; Seattle is the contender with best continuity number, while Sam Houston State has wins over Oklahoma/Utah to boost its resume. Bearkats are shooting 40.6% on arc, #2 in country.

Traditional WAC power New Mexico State has been in NCAA’s 8 of the last 10 years, but Aggies have had lot of off-court problems this year- they’re 0-8 in WAC games this year, which leaves the door ajar for someone new to represent the WAC in March.

— Missouri Valley Conference is #14 league so far this year, its 2nd-lowest ranking in the last 20 years. This is a one-bid league no matter what; Drake/Southern Illinois have best experience, continuity numbers, while Belmont is 9-2 in its first season in the Valley.

One thing about conference tournaments is that you need depth to win three games in three days. Belmont/Salukis have more depth than Drake does.

Northern Iowa is 8-3 in MVC games; they were 4-6 in pre-conference games.

— Sun Belt has 14 teams, stretching from Virginia to Texas; Marshall/James Madison have most experienced teams, Louisiana/Marshall have best continuity numbers. Mike D’Antoni’s brother has been the coach at Marshall for nine years; they play fast, #30 tempo in country. 

With four top 100 teams, need to watch some Sun Belt ball in February. Every team in league has already lost 2+ conference games, so their conference tournament should be interesting.

— I’ve watched decent amount of Big West games already; looks like there are five teams with a legit shot at winning their league tournament. Cal-Davis has won six of its last seven games; along with Cal-Santa Barbara, they’re two teams with best experience/continuity numbers.

Cal-Riverside has the best team they’ve had since moving up to D-I; they’ve won eight of their last ten games. Cal-Irvine/Hawai’i are also good teams; Anteaters are little less experienced than usual, but they’re shooting 3’s better than they have since 2015, when they made the NCAA’s. 

— ESPN needs to get some Southern Conference games on TV; this is a pretty good league, the league Steph Curry played in. This year, Samford, Furman, NC-Greensboro will be the favorites to win the league tournament; Greensboro has best experience/continuity numbers, Samford has #43 eFG% in country, so they can score the ball.

Furman is the team to watch; they’re 7-2 in SoCon games this year, 86-30 the last seven years, but they haven’t won the SoCon tourney during that time, losing the final in OT last year, also getting bounced in OT the year before. Paladins last made the NCAA’s in 1980.

— ESPN carries lot of Mid-American Conference games on TV, mostly Friday nights; Toledo and Kent State are the favorites this year, along with Akron. 

Toledo is 14-6, 5-2 this year; they’ve got an older, experienced team with good continuity. Last three years, Toledo is 37-9 in MAC games, but they haven’t won the MAC tournament- their last NCAA appearance was 1980, just like Furman.

— MAAC tournament used to be here in Albany, but now they play it in Atlantic City, because they have casinos there. Not sure the league makes more $$$ this way, but some teams didn’t like playing the tournament on Siena’s home court every year.

Siena whacked Iona Friday night; they’re 8-2 in MAAC, just ahead of Rider, the team with the best experience/continuity numbers in the league. Iona has made five of last six NCAA’s, but they’re not as experienced this year, are 2-3 in their last five games. 

Quinnipiac has won six games in a row; they’re 15-5 as they try to make the NCAA’s for the first time. Mike Dunleavy’s son is the Bobcats’ coach. 

Author: Armadillo Sports

I've been involved in sports my whole life, now just write about them. I like to travel, mostly to Las Vegas- they have gambling there.