With 2015 firmly in the rear-view mirror being nothing but a distant memory, teams are fully engaged in the gauntlet that is known as conference play, and they all have the same goal in mind: advancing to the NCAA Tournament.
For the smaller programs, a strong performance in conference play is much more important to them achieving their goal as opposed to power conference programs. Power conferences get multiple bids in the tournament, creating a ton of intrigue as to what teams make it in and what ones do not. Selection Sunday is always a hot topic, as several teams find themselves on the bubble, anxiously awaiting their post-season fate. Some will find their name on a line in the NCAA Tournament bracket, while others will make their way to the NIT.
With the New Year under way, College Court Report’s own Maverick and Bennett offer up the second edition of CCR Bracketology, giving their opinions of what the field of 64 could look like. As conference play moves along, we will expand to a field of 68 teams, complete with opening round match-ups. We will be doing a weekly Bracketology report every Monday morning!
Below, take a look at both sets of predictions, and let us know what you think!
We will be doing a 2016 March Madness Challenge on College Court Report; stay tuned for more details as the tournament approaches!
Maverick’s Bracket Notes
- In their history, the Miami (FL) Hurricanes have never been ranked higher than a 2-seed. The last time they made the NCAA Tournament was in 2013, when they made the Sweet 16 as a 2-seed, losing to Marquette. Miami has never made it past the Sweet 16 in their history, either, and are hoping that this year will be the year they make a deep run in the Big Dance.
- In each of the last four seasons, the New Mexico State Aggies have found themselves in the NCAA Tournament field, and have been a 13-seed each time. They have reigned supreme over the Western Athletic Conference, and look to be the conference’s representative once again. The Aggies will also be the beneficiary of the fact that the Grand Canyon Antelopes aren’t eligible for post-season play this season. Someone will represent the WAC in the tournament, and all signs point to the Aggies being that team.
- The Valparaiso Crusaders have been to the NCAA Tournament a total of 9 times in their history, going 2-9 over that span. Despite having some strong teams in each of their past two appearances (2013, 2015), the Crusaders have never been awarded a seeding higher than 12. This season could see the Crusaders receive a single-digit seeding if they can put up a strong performance in Horizon League play.
Maverick: Three Teams Who Could Fall Victim to an Early Exit
South Carolina Gamecocks (#3 Seed)
Despite being 15-0 and ranked #22 in the nation, the Gamecocks could very well be a one-and-done team in the tournament for a few reasons. First, their non-conference schedule wasn’t one of the strongest in the NCAA this season. The played teams of the likes of Norfolk State, Oral Roberts, South Florida, Lipscomb, and Western Carolina. At this point in the season, those teams are a combined 28-43. Second, South Carolina has a back-loaded SEC conference schedule with games left to play against Kentucky, LSU, Florida, Texas A&M, and Alabama. The Gamecocks will need to win the majority of those games to prove they are a legitimate contender in the conference and show they deserve the higher praise. Third, the Gamecocks only have five players that have made a significant impact this season. As a cohesive unit, the Gamecocks are less impressive, as they have team averages of 44.8% shooting from the field, 37.5% from three point range, and 68.2% from the charity stripe.
Yale Bulldogs (#10 Seed)
The Bulldogs are sitting at 9-5 on the season and currently only have two players averaging double-digit points per game so far, which could be a problem for them come March. Yale will most likely end up as a 10-12 seed, and would draw a top-tier Division 1 in their first game come March. One area of concern for the Bulldogs is their size, or lack thereof, in the front court. The Bulldogs only have 3 players on their roster this year that are 6-8 and taller (tallest is 6-10), and they combine to average 22.4 points per game. The Bulldogs simply don’t have the pieces on this year’s team to make a run come March, in my opinion.
Wichita State Shockers (#8 Seed)
The Shockers didn’t have the greatest start to a season, starting out 2-4. Since then, they have put together one of the better win streaks this season, winning 8 out of their last 9 games. The Shockers are led by senior guards Fred VanVleet and Ron Baker, as they combine for 32.4% of the team’s total points scored. The Shockers will need to find production from their role players if they expect to make a run come March.
Bennett’s Bracket Notes
- The William & Mary Tribe are one of just 5 original NCAA Division I teams to be without an NCAA Tournament berth in their history. Since the NCAA split its classifications to divisions in 1948-49, the Tribe have gone without an appearance in the Big Dance. As have the Northwestern Wildcats, who are also one of the five schools. Both teams are currently in Bennett’s projected field of 64.
- Fans of the Jackson State Tigers have been waiting a long time for their team to make it back to the NCAA Tournament. The last time they made the tournament was in 1968, when they won the regional 3rd-place game over McNeese State. This season, the Tigers look like a top contender in the SWAC, and could steal a bid from perennial conference powerhouses like the Texas Southern Tigers and the Alamaba State Hornets.
- After a streak of four-straight NCAA Tournament appearances from 2011-2014, which included a national championship appearance in 2013, the Michigan Wolverines missed the tournament in 2015 following an injury-filled season that saw them lose two head-scratching non-conference games. With a healthy roster this season, including having Zak Irvin and Caris LeVert back in action, the Wolverines look like a team who could be a sleeper team come March.
Bennett: Three Teams Who Could Fall Victim to an Early Upset
Year after year, the Kentucky Wildcats bring in some of the nation’s top prospects, and this season is no different. Skal Labissiere, Jamal Murray, and others bring a wealth of talent to Big Blue Nation, but their lack of experience could spell an early exit for the Wildcats. Labissiere hasn’t quite lived up to expectation in the paint so far this season, and that doesn’t bode well for Kentucky. Murray has put up some strong numbers this season, and is on the CCR Watch List for the Wayman Tisdale award, but they need others to step up. If Labissiere struggles, Kentucky may not make it out of the first weekend.
The Arizona Wildcats are a team who have the potential to be a really good team and can make a run come March. However, they also have the look of a team who could bow out of the tournament early. They are expecting a lot out of their freshmen, including stellar freshman Allonzo Trier. If they can enter the tournament on a high note, which would mean a Pac-12 tournament title, they could make a run. With that said, there’s something about this team that says don’t pick them. Always trust your sports gut, and there should be a few red flags around Arizona.
Tony Bennett and the Virginia Cavaliers rely heavily on their defense to win games, and as the old adage goes, “defense wins championships”. More often than not, teams need an offense that can match their defense, and the Cavaliers simply do not have that this season. The loss of Justin Anderson has hurt them on offense, and the likes of London Perrantes and Malcolm Brogdon haven’t been able to keep the team rolling on offense. If Virginia wants to make a deep run in March, the likes of Anthony Gill and Mike Tobey will need to step up and put together significant contributions. Back-to-back losses to the Virginia Tech Hokies and the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets could be a sign of things to come for Virginia.