Saturday’s Den: Early thoughts on this year’s college basketball

— Florida Atlantic made a miraculous run to the Final Four last year, then somehow kept both their head coach and all their players, as they move up from Conference USA to the AAC.

AAC lost three teams to the Big X, added six other teams. 

Tulsa went 5-25 last year, then cleaned house; they have only one scholarship player returning.

— San Diego State beat FAU 72-71 in national semi-final, then lost to UConn in the national title game; they lost five 5th-year players from last year’s team, but re-tooled with some transfers and still figure to be prominent in the Mountain West race.

San Jose State had their first winning season since 2011.

Only new coach in Mountain West is Utah State’s Danny Sprinkle, who takes over from Ryan Odom, who bolted to Virginia Commonwealth.

— Atlantic 15 was #13 conference LY, tied for their worst ranking ever- they only got one team into the NCAA’s. VCU had won nine in a row heading into March Madness, but lost 63-51 to Saint Mary’s in their first round game. 

VCU coach Rhoades jumped from VCU to Penn State, a strange decision (Penn State will have an almost all-new roster this year). Penn State is a football school; VCU is a basketball school, you’d think a basketball coach would much rather be there.

— Big 14 hasn’t won a national championship since 2000, when Michigan State won; they didn’t have a team in the Elite 8 the last two years, had only four Sweet 16 teams the last three years. 

Purdue gets big man Zach Edey back; they figure to be very good again.

— Since 2015, five of the 15 ACC basketball teams have made it to a Final Four.

— CAA is now the Coastal Athletic Association, not the Colonial; last year they slipped from the #14 league to the #26 league- they had seven of their teams finish outside the top 300. There is a new CAA team this year; the Campbell Camels.

— Word of the Day: Continuity— the unbroken and consistent existence or operation of something over a period of time.

— BYU has bolted from the WCC to the Big 12, leaving the WCC with nine teams (for now).

Last year, Portland Pilots had players from eight different countries.

— Big X had seven teams in the NCAA’s last year; they add four new teams this year, the year before Texas/Oklahoma bolt to the SEC, then they’ll have 16 teams next year, when lot of the old Pac-12 teams join the league. 

Josh Eilert is interim coach at West Virginia, replacing Hall of Famer Bob Huggins; he’ll try to win enough games to get the interim tag removed.

— Big West was the #15 league LY; after being the #30 league in 2020, they’ve been #15-19-15 the three years since then.

Cal-Northridge hired Andy Newman, the league’s only new coach this year.

Cal-Davis player Drew Carter used to be a quarterback at Colorado; he threw 12 passes for the Buffaloes in 2021. I’m told that Colorado has a new football coach now, and his son is the QB, so Carter is at Cal-Davis playing basketball now.

— Princeton got to the Sweet 16 last year, upsetting Arizona/Missouri; they were the 4th Ivy League team to make the Sweet 16, the first since Cornell in 2010.

When Magic Johnson/Larry Bird played in the Final Four in 1979, one of the other two teams in the Final Four that year was the Penn Quakers.

— Rick Pitino is the new coach at St John’s; he overhauled the roster, with nine players hitting the road, as Pitino added 10 new players, including two guys from the Ivy League.

St John’s hasn’t made the NCAA’s since 2019; they’ve made it twice since 2011, it would be really surprising if Pitino doesn’t make them a perennial top 25 team.

— Tobin Anderson replaced Pitino at Iona; he led Fairleigh Dickinson to the NCAA’s LY, where they upset Purdue.

Iona has been in six of the last seven NCAA Tournaments, so there are big expectations in New Rochelle, but they have only one player back from last year- they added 12 new players. 

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.