Friday, December 26, 2014

State of the mid-major conferences

This is part of a series of posts going up on December 26.  Let's look back at everyone's performance in the non-conference schedule and take inventory on where everyone is at.

We'll use this post to cover relevant teams in the rest of the country.

Green Bay (7-3) scheduled up a bit as the Horizon favorites, but lost a couple of swing games (@Georgia St and N-UC Irvine), and has decent wins (N-Evansville, N-FGCU, @Miami) that just might not be enough.  It's tough to imagine them hanging in the bubble race.  Valparaiso (9-2) has a SoS-assisted good record.  What's shocking is the league only has one other team over. 500 right now in Wright St.

Big West
Going into the season, it was UC Irvine (5-5), Long Beach St (4-8), and UC Santa Barbara (3-6) that figured to be the contenders.  All have been decent-to-worse this year so far.  There could be seeding issues in March.  The two teams racing out front at the moment are UC Davis (8-1) against a very marginal schedule and Hawaii (8-4), who did at least beat Colorado and Nebraska.

Buffalo (9-2) figured to be the team of record.  Good schedule, but no signature wins.  Their computer numbers lead the conference right now.  Two of the Michigans, Central Michigan (7-1) and Eastern Michigan (7-2) are posting good records and wins at B1G schools (CMU > Northwestern; EMU > Michigan St), but are probably too far away from the bubble right now.  Going into the year, I thought Toledo (7-4), Western Michigan (6-4), and Akron (6-4) would be the teams that mattered.  If nothing else, the MAC race is going to be crowded and they should spread good computer numbers across the league.

The CAA is a bit tricky to figure out.  I figured Northeastern (7-4) for the conference head, and there's wins over @Florida St and WMU on here.  I don't think anyone else in here gets close enough to matter even for the NIT.

Harvard (6-2) scheduled well enough; that N-Holy Cross loss really stings for seeding purposes.  Wins over N'eastern and UMass could be handy.  They'll get pushed by Yale (8-4) in the conference, who did beat UConn on the road.  Columbia (6-4) has done enough with results and schedule to earn the right to be called a third banana in this conference.

Old Dominion (10-1) is the revelation of the league so far.  Very good non-con SoS, good wins (N-LSU, VCU, Ga St).  That neutral loss to Illinois St is devastating right now.  They're in the at-large picture right now.

Louisiana Tech (8-4) was supposed to be the favorite.  But the schedule has turned out to be sub-300.  The loss at Louisiana-Lafayette hurts bad.  While the other 3 losses are also road losses and good ones, this does mean they're whiffing on all their quality win chances.  They've struck out.  UTEP scheduled up and did beat N-Xavier.  They could be in play, as only the @New Mexico St loss looks bad right now.

Usually the conference is good enough to be on the fringes of relevancy; this year just Iona (7-4) is close enough, and that may be stretching it.

Stephen F Austin (6-3), after years of poor scheduling, finally manned up.  They're ranked somewhere around 100, which is fine for them.  Their 3 losses are fine (UNI, @Xavier, @Baylor) and it means the win at Memphis carries a bit of weight.  Not sure about an at-large bid, but their seeding will be reward enough.

Big Sky
Do you believe Eastern Washington has played a top 15 non-con SoS?  Me neither.  The win at Indiana was a nice boon, and 3 of the losses came in a row in a brutal road trip (Washington, SHSU, Cal).  No at-large bid coming here, but a nice seed could.

Right now Wofford (7-3) has sterling computer numbers.  That and a win at NC State will help their seed in March.

Sun Belt
Georgia St (6-3) was supposed to be one of the big players in mid-major basketball this year.  Their losses are all perfectly fine (@Iowa St, @Colorado St, @ODU), and they did beat Green Bay at home.

Every other conference, it's tough to find any teams that would be in contention for a 13 seed or better in March.

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