13) WCC— Gonzaga is 8-0; they’ll be in the NCAA’s, but will anyone else from this league get in? The middle of the WCC has gotten better, and Saint Mary’s/BYU have been upset by teams in the middle, putting them squarely on the NCAA’s bubble. The conference tournament in Las Vegas could wind up being very interesting, especially a BYU-Saint Mary’s semi-final.
12) MAAC— Weird league; every team has 3+ losses, and 3+ wins. The last place team is only 3.5 games out of first place. In other words, the conference tournament in Atlantic City figures to be a circus. Iona has been in the NCAAs the last four years, but they’re playing with an interim coach this season and are struggling at 5-11, 3-6 in MAAC.
11) Horizon— Wright State is 9-1 and leads by two games; Northern Kentucky is the only other team in the league over .500 in league play. Five teams (half the league) are currently 5-5 in Horizon games.
10) Big Sky— Another wide-open league; Eastern Washington is 6-2, Montana is 7-3, despite being only 11-10 overall. Conference tournament is in Boise this year, should be interesting. The two Idaho teams in the league are in last and second-to-last place.
9) CAA— William & Mary has never been in the NCAAs, but they’re in first place in CAA right now, and their coach’s name is Fischer, so he must be smart, right? 🙂 Hofstra, Charleston and Towson are only a game behind the Tribe; Conference tournament is in Washington DC this year and as usual, should be solid entertainment.
8) Former NBA player Darrell Walker (10-year vet) has Little Rock at 10-2 in Sun Belt and in first place, four years after Chris Beard won 30 games with the Trojans. Rob Lanier has Georgia State at 7-3 in his first year with the Panthers. Sun Belt tourney starts out at campus sites; the semis/finals are in New Orleans. Having home court edge figures to be a powerful thing.
7) Southern— Bottom three teams in league are combined 3-25 in conference play, which means the other seven teams are all over .500 in league games. Semi-finals of their tournament figure to be excellent. This is an underrated league whose games should be on TV more.
6) Missouri Valley— Evansville won in Rupp Arena in November, but they’re 0-9 in Valley games. Northern Iowa leads league at 7-2; three teams are 6-3, so Arch Madness figures to be fun. UNI is 18-3 overall, with a win at Colorado; they’re the clear-cut favorite here.
5) Mountain West— San Diego State is jogging to a league title; doubtful they get another team in NCAA’s, unless Aztecs get upset in conference tourney. Not sure who second-best team is; Utah State has been a disappointment, UNLV isn’t deep enough, Colorado State won six of its last seven games. Steve Alford has done better than expected in his first year at Reno.
4) Atlantic 14— Dayton is in NCAA’s; VCU/Rhode Island are both bubble teams that will be a problem if they make the field of 68. Dayton is going to be a popular pick to make the Final Four, maybe too popular. St Joe’s is 0-8; why the hell did they fire Phil Martelli?
3) American— Any team where Memphis is in 6th place has to be pretty good; Tigers are #353 experience team, the youngest team in country. Kelvin Sampson has Houston in first place, Tulsa is a surprising second, Cincinnati/Wichita State are bubble teams. SMU split its last six games, as they try to stay on the bubble.
2) Conference USA— This league is weird; their schedule after Feb 15 is determined by where teams are in standings, to try and boost league’s power ratings. North Texas is in first place as I type this, followed by Louisiana Tech/Western Kentucky. Half the teams in the league are either 4-5 or 5-4 in conference games.
1) Big West— No teams in top 100, so their tournament in Anaheim will be late night fun during Champ Week. Cal-Irvine/Hawai’i lead the league right now; Riverside/Northridge are much-improved, while Santa Barbara has been a disappointment. Who improves the most between now and the conference tournament? League appears to be fairly wide open.