The Way Major College Conferences Ought to Be

We all love college sports, but many recognize that they are inherently flawed by both design and execution. There are a million things that could be changed to make each sport better. Rule changes to get rid of flopping, NIL/player compensation adjustments, CFP expansion, etc…etc… I’m sure you’ve discussed each of these things ad nauseum.

What I’ve written about today is a fantasy world. I listed out (what I consider to be) the ideal alignment for power/high-major and mid-major (not to be confused with low major) conferences.

Obviously, this will never happen… I just wanted to see it out on written out on paper and I figured I would share with anyone who cares to take a look. In doing this, I tried to keep to the principle that conferences should be aligned to maximize games that matter.

And what makes games matter you may ask? IMHO is it is: competitiveness (during a game itself, across the conference, and across the sport), games with stakes (championships, playoff implications, etc.), and rivalries. As you will see, a lot of this is a throw back to the way things were in the 90s and 00s, with a few major tweaks.

Big 8 > The Plains Conference

Colorado
Iowa State
Kansas
Kansas State
Missouri
Nebraska
Oklahoma
Oklahoma State
North Dakota State
South Dakota State

The original Big 8 plus we’re adding in a little firepower from the best teams in the FCS to get the numbers up (and then redubbing the conference to the Plains). Kansas and Missouri get reunited. Oklahoma, Colorado, and Nebraska together again as well! NDSU and SDSU will fit right in culturally and NDSU has built a dynasty in the FCS. They would routinely be a top 50 FBS team (beating out many power teams in the process) and some years can even crack the top 25. SDSU has arguably been the second best FCS team over the last few decades and also have been pretty good in hoops, making the tournament 6 times in the last 10 years. All our boxes are checked here: proximity and continuity of the conference leads to rivalries. The teams are relatively competitive with each other and will be competitive on a national scale, which will lead to games with stakes.

Southwest Conference (SWC)

Arkansas
Texas A&M
Baylor
Texas
Texas Tech
TCU
Rice
SMU
Houston
10th spot – callup

That’s right folks, the SWC is back! There was some real, genuine hatred across all the teams in this conference (rivalries galore). Sometimes it bordered on war or at least armed conflict. The only problem, is we only have nine members (One too few to be ideal IMO). To remedy this, I’m going to give the SWC five yrs to call up a team. The twist is that SWC does not get to decide for itself which team. It will have to be the most deserving team in contiguous territories, meaning states in or touching Arkansas or Texas. Preference would be given to schools in Texas, Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Louisiana. This will then be be voted on by the players, coaches, administrators, and even fans of the SWC. To me it seems like Louisiana, Tulsa, and Tulane are probably the frontrunners but I could see Memphis being overwhelmingly attractive option. Maybe even Jackson State could make a push here. With Coach Prime at the helm, the tigers are setting FCS attendance records and beating out many P5 teams in that category.

The Big East

Boston College
Providence (Olympic Sports)
St. John’s (Olympic Sports)
Villanova (Football > FBS)
Connecticut
Virginia Tech
Penn State
Georgetown (Football > FBS)
Syracuse
West Virginia
Pittsburgh
Seton Hall (Olympic Sports)
Rutgers
Temple (Football Only)

The Big East rises from the ashes as a football conference. We leave Miami in the ACC and trade Notre Dame to the B1G for Penn State for geographic and cultural reasons. We force Nova and Georgetown to bring their football up from FCS to FBS (as the conference did with UConn previously). While it hasn’t been going super great with the Huskies as of late, this will decrease the division between the football and non-schools as their will now only be 3 Olympic sports only schools in the conference, rather than 5 (or 7 as there once was). This move will be more palatable for Nova than Georgetown, but they’ll get their act in order sooner or later (and, hey, they get Cuse back in conference for two basketball games a year!).

This will be a weaker football conference than some of the other power leagues, but one or two of the second tier (WVU, Pitt, Cuse, Rutgers, BC, VT) will rise up with the power vacuum that is created to where they were before the dissolution of the Big East the first time. Most of these teams have languished in both revenue sports in their new conferences and this reunion will be just what the doctor ordered.

Big 10 > Great Lakes Conference

Michigan
Northwestern
Purdue
Ohio State
Wisconsin
Minnesota
Notre Dame
Iowa
Illinois
Michigan State
Indiana

The OG Big 10 plus Notre Dame (how it should have been for …. over a century). I know ND has a ton of rivals but with these smaller conferences we can go to an 8 game conference schedule. They can still play USC, Stanford, and Navy every year out of conference, Pitt and BC every other year or throw in Army if they like. Purdue, Michigan State, Northwestern, and Michigan will be conference games for them.

The Big 10 becomes a Midwest conference again. We’ve also got to rebrand conferences to the correct number of teams in conference (another fantasy of mine). So these guys go to the Great Lakes Conference or the Big 11 if they prefer (Alternatively, they could kick one team out. I would vote for Ohio State in this scenario).

ACC

Florida State
Clemson
Georgia Tech
Virginia
NC State
North Carolina
Maryland
Wake Forest
Duke
Miami

The ACC is pretty simple. Maryland back in, Miami stays (geographically and culturally they feel like an ACC team). Everything else is the way it was in 91.

SEC

Florida
Georgia
South Carolina
Tennessee
Vanderbilt
Kentucky
Auburn
LSU
Mississippi State
Ole Miss
Alabama

The SEC as well. Ten original schools (who’ve been in conference since 1932) plus SCar.

Pac 12

Arizona
UCLA
Southern California
Washington State
Oregon
Washington
Arizona State
Stanford
California
Utah
Oregon State
12th member from MWC

The Pac is pretty good as is, but since they lost Colorado back to the Big 8/Plains Conference I feel like they need a replacement to round things out. And since I gave the MWC 13 football playing members (below), they need to cut one. So, we’re going to do the same as we did for the SWC. 5 year call-up for the most deserving team (and this will definitely be from the MWC).

Mountain West (MWC)

Boise State
Colorado State
San Diego State
Wyoming
UNLV
Fresno State
Utah State
Nevada
New Mexico
Air Force
San Jose State
Hawaii (Football Only)
Gonzaga (Olympic Sports)
St Marys (Olympic Sports)
BYU

The MWC is pretty perfectly constructed already in its own right but I gave them some more basketball firepower. As mentioned, they will lose their most deserving/best fit to the Pac 12 in five years. BYU would be the presumptive favorite, but the ideology there doesn’t jive so well with the Pacific schools. Would another school rise up to take their place if they knew a ticket to a power league was up for grabs in five years? Boise State has been the best football program and their basketball team has come on as of late as well. UNLV has the basketball history and I’m sure the conference would love a presence in Las Vegas but their revenue sports have been perhaps the worst in conference the last few decades. This move unfortunately kills the WCC as a mid-major or multi-bid league, but I think it is a sacrifice worth making. Those late night (or early morning EDT) basketball games would get a lot spicier if we add in the best of the WCC. A true treat for any of us who happen to be up at that ungodly hour.

Conference USA/Metro > Metro USA

Louisville
East Carolina
Cincinnati
UAB
Tulane
Memphis
UCF
Tulsa
Charlotte
Army (Football Only)
Navy (Football Only)
USF

Things start to get a little wonky here as we don’t have as many programs left. This wouldn’t be a directly contiguous conference (as you can tell I am a big believer in contiguity in my conferences). Though, most of these teams have history together in the Metro, CUSA, or AAC. This would be a really fun and solid conference and wouldn’t be that out of control geographically for Olympic sports. Army and Navy are the big outliers and they are football only which means much fewer games/trips than most other sports.

Atlantic 10 (A10) > A14

Saint Joseph’s
Temple

Massachusetts
Dayton
St. Bonaventure
George Washington
La Salle
Fordham
Duquesne
Rhode Island
Richmond
VCU
George Mason
Davidson

Temple back to the A10, where they had their best years and still have some rivals. We rebrand the name here as well. If we really want to get funky we can talk about adding Iona and Vermont to the A10/14. But I don’t think we’re quite ready yet.

American Hoopland Conference

Creighton
Belmont
Murray State
Xavier
Southern Illinois
Wichita State
Northern Iowa
Loyola-Chicago
Butler
St Louis
Marquette
DePaul

A play on America’s ‘Heartland’, this Hoopland conference pulls teams from several different conferences to unite into one continuous basketball-first mid-American conference. I feel like this is a really solid basketball conference and if you don’t like the name just think of it as a ‘working title.’

A lot of these teams have spent years in the wilderness. They would be happy to finally have a home that suits them. The only teams that would be downgraded in terms of overall conference strength would be the current Big East squads, but I don’t feel like it is too much of a downgrade. These schools are also closer geographically and generally have more in common culturally than they do with the Eastern schools. More of a breeding ground for those rivalries we spoke about.


Slam Dunk MBB Coaching Hires in The East!

Buzz abounds in the Big East and A10 conferences with big name coaching hires that are both highly-accomplished and have deep connections to their new employers. Let’s take a look at each of their resumes to see who hired the best coach in each conference.

New Big East Coaches 2022-2023

Shaheen Halloway | Seton Hall

  • 45 yrs of age with 4 years HC experience
  • Last coached 2021-2022 St Peters
  • MAAC COY 2020
  • 1 MAAC tournament championship
  • 1 Elite 8 as a 15 seed (with a school that has the athletic budget of a Winnebago)
  • .529 overall record
  • 3-1 (.750) NCAA Tournament record
  • Arguably the 2nd best Seton Hall player of the 90s (behind Terry Dehere)
  • Still holds Seton Hall all-time assist record with 681

Shaheen Halloway is coming off of potentially the best cinderella run in NCAA tournament history. However, we have seen low and mid-major coaches falter at the high-major level after deep runs in the tourney before. He will have to prove that he can be a successful coach at the Big East level. Make no mistake, this was a great hire for Seton Hall but Halloway is the most unproven new coach in the Big East.

Thad Matta | Butler

  • 54 yrs. old with 17 years HC experience
  • Last coached 2016-2017 Ohio State
  • 2 Final 4s, 4 Elite 8s, 6 Sweet 16s
  • 15x conference champion (Horizon, A10, B1G)
  • 5x conference COY (Horizon, A10, B1G)
  • .740 overall record
  • 24-13 (.650) NCAA tournament record
  • 2 year starter for Butler as a player
  • Coached Butler from 1997-2000 (assistant) and 2000-2001 (HC)

Thad Matta hasn’t coached since 2017 but if he can pick up where he left off he’ll immediately become the second best coach in the Big East (behind Jay Wright, of course). He’ll have to prove that he can adjust to todays college basketball landscape, with NIL, transfer rule, and play-style changes. It might take him a bit to shake off the rust and build Butler up from a team that hasn’t had a tourney bid since 2018. (Tbf, they would have certainly made the field in 2019-2020 had the tourney not been cancelled). However, if he can adjust well to the transfer portal it can fast-track Butler’s title contention timeline.

Sean Miller | Xavier

  • 53 yrs. old with 17 years HC experience
  • Last coached 2020-2021 Zona
  • 4 Elite 8s, 6 Sweet 16s
  • 4x conference COY (Pac-12/A10)
  • 12x conference champ (Pac/A10)
  • .730 overall record
  • 19-11 (.630) NCAA Tournament record
  • Coached Xavier from 2001-2004 (assistant) and 2004-2009 (HC)

It is worth noting that Sean Miller still faces an individual Level I charge for lack of head coach responsibility from his last stint at Zona. He will likely serve a 9-to-15-game suspension. However, that seems like a small price to pay for Xavier to bring in their guy, the once and future king of the Musketeers!

Verdict: Thad Matta is the most accomplished and likely still the best coach of the new Big East hires. Butler made the best hire with the information they have available today.

New A10 Coaches 2022-2023

Frank Martin | UMass

  • 56 yrs old with 15 years head coaching experience
  • Last coached 2021-2022 South Carolina
  • 1 Final 4, 2 Elite 8s
  • Big 12 COY 2010
  • Jim Phelan National COY Award 2017
  • .589 overall record
  • 10-5 (.670) NCAA Tournament record

Frank Martin and UMass might seem like an odd couple (aside from Martin just being a phenomenal coach and UMass needing just such a coach). However, Martin’s wife, Anya Forrest, was a track star at the school and remains well connected there. He also served as an assistant coach at Northeastern from 2000-2004 so he is not totally unfamiliar with Mass/Northeast recruiting.

Archie Miller | URI

  • 43 years of age with 10 years HC experience
  • Last coached 2020-2021 Indiana
  • 1 Elite 8
  • A10 COY 2017
  • 2x A10 Champ
  • .650 overall record
  • 5-4 (.560) NCAA Tournament record

The younger Miller brother didn’t see much success at Indiana but was a flat out great coach at Dayton. He obviously knows the A10 well and URI is a program that can compete at the top of that league with a solid coach like Miller.

Fran Dunphy | La Salle

  • 73 years young with 29 years HC experience
  • Last coached 2018-2019 Temple
  • 4x A10 & AAC COY
  • 16 conf champs (Ivy, A10, AAC) & the Ivy League did not have a conference tournament when Dunphy coached Penn
  • .641 overall record
  • 3-16 (.160) NCAA Tournament record

Fran Dunphy is an absolute Philly hoops legend. Once he coaches his first game at La Salle he may be the first person to coach 3 of the Philly Big 5. (I haven’t done the research to see if anyone else has done this before). Dunphy has also never been past the round of 32. He does know the high schools/coaches in Philly probably better than anyone else. I will expect him to bring La Salle back to respectability but not make any deep runs in the tourney. But I am sure the Explorers will take it as they have just 1 NCAA tournament appearance since 1993.

Chris Caputo | George Washington

  • 41 years old with 0 years HC experience
  • 20 years of assistant experience under Jim Larrañaga at Miami and George Mason
  • Knows the DMV area well according to u/SDFDuck on Reddit

Caputo is an unknown quantity as a head coach at this point. He does know the DMV area from his time at Mason but he doesn’t have experience in the A10 as the Patriots were in the CAA when he was there. He is a blank slate but as we saw with Tommy Lloyd this past season previous HC experience is not necessary for immediate success. Caputo will have the opportunity to build his own program in DC.

Verdict: Frank Martin is likely the best coach of the new A10 hires. URI made the best hire with the information they have available today.

Should 5:00 PM EST Tipoffs Be a Thing in College Hoops?

Who says that college hoops tipoffs need to start at 7:00 PM EST? For much of the country it makes sense but there is a segment of the college hoops world that would benefit from 5:00 tipoffs.

Traditionally, there have been a few blockers to the illustrious 5:00 tip: time zones, primetime TV coverage, student/fan experience, and the commute. We will tackle each one by one.

Time Zones

This is a non-starter for all conferences except for those predominately located in the Eastern time zone. Both for the viewing time frame of the local audience and the fact that the vast majority of their alumni base would be in those time zones. So, count out the rest of the country and lets focus on the East Coast.

Primetime

The 5:00 timeslot is suboptimal for the big boy (P6 aka high major) conferences as there will be many more eyeballs on screen between 7:00-10:00 EST. However, the mid and low major conferences don’t get that many viewers in these timeslots anyways. In theory they could get better viewership by playing in the 5:00 timeslot as the only show in town rather than playing at 7:00 and competing against the ACC, B1G, SEC, Big 12, Pac 12, and Big East.

Consider mid-week MACtion in college football. The concept would be similar here but it would not as detrimental to the student and fan experience. (Though I admit it might be mildly detrimental – more on this below). In any case, it should be mid and low major conferences considering this move.

Additionally, part of the incentive to do this would be for a TV partner to provide the conference with more money for these games. The amount of money would not be obscene so it would really only be move the needle for low or potentially mid major programs.

Student/Fan Experience

There is no doubt that this poses a risk to the in-person student or fan experience. One of the things that makes college hoops (and football) great is the pageantry and passion brought mostly by the student section. Starting games at 5:00 would put it closer to classes for many and may make it more difficult for students and other fans to attend. However, many college campuses have classes that extend to 9:00 PM or even later. Students haven’t ever really been shy about skipping class for almost any reason or no reason at all. So, I think we are safe here. Though, I will concede somewhat on the next point.

Commute

There is no getting around the fact that a large contingent of the workforce in this country gets off around 5 PM and creates rush hour. Whether fans would be attempting to go home and watching on TV or going to watch in person they would essentially have to take off from work early to watch a game.

However, low and mid major conferences don’t get that much attendance anyhow. For example, the A10 and the MVC average about 4,900 and 4,000 fans per game respectively. The rest of the non-power conferences average much lower than that with a large contingent of the attendees coming from on or very near to campus.

Additionally, more and more Americans are working from home than ever before now. They do not have a commute to contend with and many could watch these games in the 5:00 timeslot even if they haven’t totally finished work for the day.

The fans who don’t fall into this bucket are the main casualty of this plan. However, this could be done on a limited basis. A couple of games per weekday in the 5:00 timeslot spread across Eastern mid and low majors would mean that a given school would only have a 5:00 game a few times per year at most.

5:00 Tips in Theory

Lets take a look at the A10 schedule for next week (Mon-Fri). The A10 is by far the best mid major conference, so the other conferences we’re talking about have even less favorable national TV coverage than this.

Seven games, four on ESPN+, one on CBSSN, and one on ESPN2. The one on ESPN2 (which averages the most viewership of these) is a 6:00 tip I might add. Moving some of those 7:00 and 9:00 tips to 5:00 would be awfully enticing to CBSSN or ESPN2.

All of the following conferences should be racing to be the first to fully implement this idea over the course of a season. They could carve out their niche just the way that MAC football carved out MACtion.

America East
A10
Atlantic Sun
Big South
CAA
Horizon
MAAC
MAC
MEAC
Northeast
Patriot
SoCon

So, Who is This For?

Imagine, if you will, that you are either an alum/fan of an East Coast low or mid major, you’re a hoops junkie (and if you are reading this article you no doubt are), or you are a degenerate gambler. You live on the East Coast and you finish school/work at ~ 5 PM or work from home. Why wait two hours for basketball to start?

The conferences and schools get more money from the TV networks. The teams themselves get to play earlier in the evening and, more importantly, get back to their campus or hotel earlier and rest longer for the next game. Its a rare win-win-win.

Live Depiction of this Plan in Action

2021 CBB Awards Through Non-Con Play

The 2021-2022 college basketball season is roughly a third over. Most teams have just started conference play or will do so soon after their holiday break. If you’re like me, you’ll want a measuring stick to compare teams and players in thus far in the season. We hear about the “September Heisman” in college football but the concept doesn’t really exist in college hoops.

So, this juncture seems like a good time to check in and see who has performed the best through non-conference play. I decided to expand a bit as well for other things like the All-America team, likely conference winners, one seeds, etc. mostly just to look back upon for March. Note that this is not a projection of how I think things will end up but rather how I think awards and seeding should be handled if the regular season ended today.

Individual Awards:

COY – Scott Drew, Baylor

POY – G Ochai Agbaji, Kansas

DPOY – C Christian Koloko, Arizona

ROY – F Paolo Banchero, Duke

All-America First Team:

G Ochai Agbaji, Kansas

G Jaden Ivey, Purdue

F Drew Timme, Gonzaga

F EJ Liddell, Ohio State

F Oscar Tshiebwe, Kentucky

One Seeds:

Baylor

Houston

Gonzaga

Purdue

Multi-Bid Conference Front Runners:

Big 12 – Baylor, Kansas

B1G – Purdue

Big East – Villanova, Seton Hall

SEC – LSU, Auburn

ACC – Duke

Pac 12 – Arizona, UCLA

WCC – Gonzaga

A10 – Davidson

MWC – Colorado State

AAC – Houston

A10 Realignment Targets Post Loyola-Chicago Addition

News broke two weeks ago that Loyola-Chicago will become the 15th member of the Atlantic 10 conference. This is a great pick-up for all involved: the A10, Loyola, and the fans.

Visual Representation of Loyola-Chicago to the A10

However, is the conference done expanding? The answer to this should be no. The conference is sitting at 15 members. A nice round 16 teams would make scheduling a bit easier, though there is no reason to stop there. If there are other schools out there that provide value to the conference, the A10 (or any conference) should entertain adding them. So, who are these mystery suitors that the A10 should consider? In no particular order…

AAC Left-Behinds: Wichita State & Memphis

The argument for both of these schools is roughly the same. They are both not terribly outside of the A10’s geographic footprint (with St Louis, Davidson, and Loyola-Chicago in the fold), are in decently sized metro areas, and have had both historic and recent success in basketball.

Memphis boasts 3 Final Fours in their history and is currently ranked in the top 10 in this year’s AP Poll. Wichita State has 2 Final Fours in their history and has been to 8 of the last 9 NCAA tournaments (including Sweet Sixteens in both 2013 & 2015). Suffice it to say that both schools would bring significant cache, fan attention, and money to the league.

Going to the A10 seems like more of a boon for the Shockers (from the crumbling AAC) as they do not have a football team to worry about. Memphis has a decent football program and does appear to be on the short list for the Big 12 if they decide to expand again. I would put the chances at slim for Wichita State and slim to none for Memphis but the A10 would be foolish not to at least kick the tires on these additions. At the very least, if the AAC breaks up further these teams might be looking for a home for their Olympic sports and the A10 might be their best bet basketball wise. The A10 would do well to start conversations with these schools asap and perhaps influence their decisions.

The Once (& Future?) King of the A10: Temple

Also an AAC team but Temple deserves its own discussion as the elephant in the room for A10 expansion. Temple is the fifth winningest D1 Men’s hoops team of all time and much of that success came while in the A10 conference. Under legendary coaches John Cheney and Fran Dunphy, the Owls racked up the following accolades during roughly 30 seasons in the A10:

  • 10 A10 POYs
  • 7 A10 COYs
  • 5 Elite Eights
  • 23 NCAA Tournament Appearances
  • 9 A10 Tournament Titles
  • 10 A10 Regular Season Championships

On the flip side, Temple has FBS football and the A10 does already have two Philly teams in La Salle and St Joe’s. On the flip-flip side, the AAC is a shell of it’s former self and may even disband entirely if a couple of more dominoes fall against them. Also, I don’t foresee La Salle and St Joe’s being able to stand in the way of Temple return to the A10. In the new world of streaming with regards to conference realignment Temple will bring enough fans and revenue to the remainder of the A10. Throw in the history that the Owls have with the conference and it starts to make all kinds of sense.

Temple cannot be happy about the direction of the AAC, and has to have contingency plans in place. The fact that there are more independent FBS teams in the Northeast these days (Army, UConn, and UMass) might interest Temple to take football independent and return to the A10. Another option could be to take football back to the MAC or maybe CUSA or Sun Belt. In any case, there is plenty of call these days amongst the college hoops community to return Temple to its former glory in the A10. Jon Rothstein, in particular, will not stop tweeting about it.

A10 Callups: Iona or UVM?

Let me preface this by saying that neither school is super attractive to the A10 right now but are showing potential. If they continue on their paths of success and become Loyola-lite or Gonzaga-lite they could be good value adds for the A10. So, let me lay out the case…

Here we have two schools who have been making some noise in lesser leagues, the MAAC and America East respectively. Iona is the king of the moment right now: HOF coach Ricki Pitino is leading the Gaels to unprecedented recruiting and on-court success. They have a program defining win already this season over at the time #10 Alabama and have made 7 of the last 9 NCAA tournaments. They have won the MAAC conference tournament or regular season every year since 2012 except for 2020. They also are squarely in the A10’s geographic footprint as well as in a heavily populated area in Westchester County, NY. Fordham is nearby in NYC, but I feel like this addition would help the A10 shore up the area as Fordham really hasn’t been holding NYC down.

Vermont to its own credit has won the America East regular season for the last 5 years and have made 4 NCAA tournament appearances over the last 10. Vermont is in the A10 geographic footprint and would give the A10 another state flagship university in New England to go along with UMass and URI. Vermont actually does decently well in athletic revenue and coach John Becker has been America East coach of the year 4 of the last 5 years. Neither Vermont nor Iona have football, so that’s not a concern.

Let me make it clear that I don’t think either of these schools are ready to be added to the A10 at the moment. However, if Rick Pitino resumes super-sayain HOF mode or Becker does his best Mark Few impersonation and either of their schools ascend to Gonzaga-lite status the A10 should come calling. To do this they’ve got to do more than just make the dance, they’ve got to make some noise in the tournament. A few deep-ish runs would be necessary and being highly ranked during the season wouldn’t hurt. With that, I think their relatively small market size can be overcome. We’ve seen how passionate the fan bases of schools in smaller A10 markets can be.

An Intriguing Prospect: Buffalo

The MAC is a great league. And I actually think that Buffalo fits into it pretty well geographically, culturally, and athletically. However, the MAC media payout is only ~$670k per year per school and Buffalo is kind of at the crossroads of the Northeast and the Midwest. While the A10 deal is rumored to be slightly less than the MAC’s, it does not include football. The Bulls could more than make up the difference with their own football rights deal or just playing one additional buy game per year.

Also, the A10 will definitely be able to negotiate a higher media rights deal in a conference that includes Loyola-Chicago and Buffalo (or any of the more established basketball schools mentioned here). Finally, this version of the A10 would expect to see a lot more NCAA Tournament units than the MAC. All around this is a better deal for the Bulls, though they would have to do something with their football team. As we mentioned earlier, there are a lot more FBS independents in the Northeast the days but this might still involve sacrificing football a little bit.

I haven’t even mentioned that the Bulls are an attractive target basketball wise. They’ve reached the NCAA tournament 4 of the last 6 years and made the round of 32 twice. They amassed a 32-4 record in 2018-2019 and earned a a #15 ranking in the AP poll and 6 seed in the NCAA tournament. They are a flagship university in a decent size city and an AAU member, a tremendous academic add. They would also start immediate rivalry with St Bonaventure.

A Market Addition with Upside: Belmont

Edited 12/11/2021 to add Belmont on suggestion from u/awrf on Reddit

Geographically, Belmont is pretty attractive to the A10. They are in Nashville, the 21st most populous city in the USA, bringing another big market to the conference. They are also a little bit further East than Memphis and don’t have football to worry about.

Belmont also has big athletic aspirations it seems, they are set to leave move up to the MVC next year (from the OVC) and they spend money on basketball. As of most recent data, Belmont outspends the OVC by the widest margin of any team to its conference in the country. The Bruins rank 94th in the country in this regard, outspending current A10 teams: Fordham, Richmond, Rhode Island, George Mason, St Bonaventure, La Salle, and George Washington. It is only a matter of time before that spending turns into on-court success and inbound revenue if they keep it up.

Basketball wise, they have 8 NCAA tournament appearances since 2006 (qualified for the 9th prior to Covid cancellation) and have 12 regular season conference championships during that same span. Belmont has won 20+ games every year during that time frame aside from one, and are usually closer to 30 than 20. So, the regular season success has been there.

The major knock on the Bruins is that they have never made it past the 1st round in March. To really entice the A10, they need to make a few runs. But hey, prior to 2018 Loyola-Chicago had only made the tournament once since 1969. So, 2 or 3 tournaments from now we could be viewing Belmont in a very different light.

A10 Target Map

Proposed A10 Targets

Looking at this map, the A10 obviously doesn’t shy away from saturating a market (Richmond, DC, and Philly) so I don’t think Buffalo and Temple’s proximity to other A10 teams is a real problem. Wichita State and Memphis are the long shots of their own accord but if either want into the A10 they’re in. Iona, Vermont, and Belmont have work to do but the A10 should be watching their careers with great interest. If I were Commissioner McGlade I would sending feelers out to all of these target schools. Hopefully she has already.


Big East Tier Rankings: Post Gavitt Games

Top Dog (Until They Get Knocked Off)

  • Nova: 2-1 – OT Loss at #2 UCLA. This game was an 11:30 PM ET tip, so I won’t hold the loss against the Wildcats too much. They have proven to be the kings of the Big East until someone can knock them off.

Big East Contenders

  • Seton Hall: 3-0 – Beat #3 Michigan on the road in Ann Arbor.
  • Xavier: 3-0 – Beat Ohio State w/o Zach Freemantle (X’s best or 2nd best player) but had uninspiring home wins against Niagara and Kent State. When Freemantle is back I fully expect them to contend for the Big East.

Maybe Contenders (I Need to See More)

  • UConn: 3-0 – Untested, have played only low-majors but the Huskies have an absurd ~50 ppg MOV. The advanced analytics love Dan Hurley’s squad so far.
  • Marquette: 4-0 – Upset #5 Illinois in Milwaukee (without Illini probable All-American Kofi Cockburn) and beat Ole Miss soundly on a neutral court but didn’t look impressive against New Hampshire. The analytics hate the Golden Eagles but I can’t deny their resume.

Solid Big East Teams

  • St John’s: 2-1 – 2 point loss at Indiana, a probable tournament team.
  • Providence: 3-0 – Won at Wisconsin but the Badgers were missing their arguable best player, Johnny Davis. Ok win over New Hampshire. Maybe UNH is better than previously thought.
  • Creighton: 3-0 – Middling home wins over Arkansas Pine-Bluff and Kennesaw State. Won at Nebraska.
  • Butler: 3-1 – Lost to Michigan State, a probable top 25 team by the end of the season. Looked ok, not great, in their buy games.

Things Might be Looking Up

  • DePaul: Won at home against Rutgers, looked ok in their buy games.

Not Off to a Good Start

  • Georgetown: 1-1 – Lost at home to Dartmouth.

Analytic Breakdown

TeamKenpomTorvikSagarinAverage
Nova913910.3
Uconn21121616.3
Seton Hall29182423.7
Xavier33303833.7
St John’s45563344.7
Providence68514855.7
Creighton59828274.3
Marquette80986480.7
Butler72959587.3
DePaul1199992103.3
Georgetown8614391106.7
As of AM 11/19/2021

Big East MBB – Preseason Preview & Projection 2021-2022

If you’re just starting to pay attention to Big East hoops again (or any college sports for that matter), there are 2 game-changing NCAA rule updates to note for the 2021-2022 season:

  1. All athletes who were eligible during 2020-2021 were granted an unprecedented additional year of eligibility due to Covid. So, all players that were eligible to play last year have 5 total years of NCAA eligibility.
  2. All athletes this year (and going forward indefinitely) are now allowed a 1-time penalty free transfer. So, players will no longer have to sit out a year to be eligible to transfer among D-1 schools as in years past. Thus, the transfer portal was especially spicy this year.

Ok, with that out of the way, let’s get into the preseason preview and projection!

Projected Big East MBB Standings:

  1. Villanova
  2. Xavier
  3. St. Johns
  4. UConn
  5. Seton Hall
  6. Butler
  7. Providence
  8. Creighton
  9. Georgetown
  10. Marquette
  11. DePaul

Projected NCAA Tournament Outlook for the Big East:

  • One Seed Potential – Villanova
  • Locks – Xavier, St John’s, UConn
  • Bubble – Seton Hall, Butler
  • Better Luck Next Year – Everyone Else

Big East Team Projections

1. Villanova

Departures:

  • Jeremiah Robinson-Earl, F – NBA
  • Cole Swider, F – Transfer to Cuse
  • Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree F – Medical retirement, sat out all of 20-21 with injury
  • Kyle Neptune, AC – New Fordham HC. Neptune was Nova’s longest tenured Assistant

Returners/Additions:

  • #3 Big East Recruiting Class (by average recruit ranking) – Freshman are not listed individually as they’re largely unknown quantities at the college level at this point
  • Collin Gillespie, G – Returning extra-year senior
  • Jermaine Samuels, F – Returning extra-year senior
  • Justin Moore G
  • Jermaine Samuels F
  • Caleb Daniels G
  • Brandon Slater F
  • Eric Dixon F
  • Bryan Antoine G
  • Chris Arcidiacono G
  • Trey Patterson F

The kings of the New Big East remain so until someone takes their crown. They lost in the Big East Tournament last year (without Gillespie and Moore) but they did win the regular season. Robinson-Earl left for the NBA, but with Gillespie and Samuels returning for another go around the rest of the Big East will probably have to wait at least another year before attempting to usurp the crown. However, aside from Gillespie, Samuels, Moore and Caleb Daniels there is not a lot of experience for Jay Wright’s squad. No one aside from those 4 averaged 4 or more ppg last year .  If the team fails to fill in around the big 4 or there are key injuries Gillespie and Samuels may find themselves wishing that they didn’t come back for that 5th year of play.

2. Xavier

Departures:

  • C.J. Wilcher G –  Transfer to Nebraska
  • Bryan Griffin F – Pro
  • Jason Carter F – Senior Transfer to Ohio U
  • Daniel Ramsey F – Transfer to Tenn Tech

Returners/Additions:

  • KyKy Tandy G – Opted out of Transfer Portal
  • Paul Scruggs G – Returning Extra-Year Senior
  • Nate Johnson G – Returning Extra-Year Senior
  • Jack Nunge F – Transfer from Iowa
  • Jerome Hunter F – Transfer from Indiana
  • Zach Freemantle F
  • Colby Jones G
  • Adam Kunkel G
  • Dwon Odom G
  • Ben Stanley F
  • Danny Ramsey F
  • Dieonte Miles F

The Musketeers floundered down the stretch last season and missed the NCAAT entirely but that seems more due to untimely and lengthy Covid pauses more than anything else. X gets a boon in returning extra-year seniors in Scruggs and Johnson, Iowa transfer Nunge, and Tandy opting to return back to the fold. Zach Freemantle is the Big East’s co-Most Improved Player and earned 2021 Second Team All Big East honors along with Scruggs. Colby Jones also earned a spot on the Big East Freshman Team last year. The Baseline Times also expects Dwon Odom to improve upon his stellar 20-21 campaign and earn Big East Sixth Man of the Year honors. This squad should be deep and experienced – no excuses for Head Coach Travis Steele if he can’t get it done this year. This probably means a top 3 finish in the Big East and at least a 7 seed in the NCAAT. Winning the Big East tournament or regular season would not hurt either. Anything less than the above and Steele’s seat will be as hotter than a $2 pistol. 

3. St. John’s

Departures:

  • Rasheem Dunn G – Senior Transfer to Robert Morris
  • Greg Williams Jr G – Transfer to ULL
  • Marcellus Earlington G/F – Transfer to USD
  • Josh Roberts F – Transfer to Manhattan
  • John McGriff G – Transfer to Binghamton
  • Vince Cole G – Transfer to Coastal Carolina
  • Isaih Moore F – Transfer to Southern Miss
  • David Caraher G – Departed team early last season

Returners/Additions:

  • Aaron Wheeler F – Transfer from Purdue
  • Stef Smith G – Transfer from UVM
  • Joel Soriano F – Transfer from Fordham
  • Montez Mathis G – Transfer from Rutgers
  • Esahia Nyiwe F – Transfer from Texas Tech
  • Julian Champagnie F – Elected not to go to NBA Draft
  • Posh Alexander G
  • Dylan Addae-Wusu G
  • Arnaldo Toro F
  • Aremios Gavalas G

The Red Storm lost almost all of their leading players from last year except for Champagnie and Posh. But those are the two who matter most as Champ was All Big East First Team in 20-21 and Posh made the Freshman Team and also named co-DPOY. If St John’s had returned those two plus most of the rest of their squad, they might have been battling Nova for control of the Big East. However, HC Mike Anderson did bring in some impact transfers in Wheeler, Smith, Soriano, and Mathis so they don’t slide far. In fact, these incoming transfers may be even better than the players they lost but there is something to be said about continuity and development in a system. So, the Johhnies could be feast or famine this year. If the team gels and the role players fit in around Champ and Posh they could be sitting very pretty. If not, it could be a long season in Queens.  Basketball is a game of star power and the Johnnies boast two of the 7 or 8 best players in the league.  I think this ends up as a banner year for the Johnnies. 

4. UConn

Departures:

  • James Bouknight, G – NBA
  • Josh Carlton, F/C – Senior Transfer to Houston
  • Branden Adams, G – Transfer to George Washington
  • Javonte Brown-Ferguson C – Transfer to Texas A&M, did not play in 20-21
  • Kevin Freeman AC – Stepping down from on-court coaching role to an admin role to spend time with family.

Returners/Additions:

  • Big East’s #2 Ranked 2021 Recruiting Class (#1 by avg recruit ranking)
  • Luke Murray AC – Son of Bill Murray but a talent in his own right. Coached under Hurley at URI and Wagner.
  • R.J. Cole G
  • Tyrese Martin G
  • Isaiah Whaley F – Returning Extra-Year Senior
  • Tyler Polley F – Returning Extra-Year Senior
  • Adama Sanogo F
  • Jalen Gaffney G
  • Andre Jackson G
  • Akok Akok F
  • Richie Springs F
  • Andrew Hurley G

The Huskies suffer the biggest single player loss on this list in G James Bouknight to the NBA. Last year, when they had to play without Bouk they were barely a .500 team… but this will likely help the squad this year as they’ve already had to adjust to life without last year’s star. Whaley returning for another year is huge for UConn as he is the reigning Big East co-DPOY and they need his size, depth, experience, and versatility (nicknamed the Wrench). Sanogo was named to the Big East All Freshman Team and expects to make an even bigger jump in his sophomore season. Fellow Soph Andre Jackson is freak-of-nature athletic and also expected to make a jump. Cole and Martin were transfers last season that seemed to find their stride with the team and the conference as the season progressed. If Junior C/F Akok Akok can return to his 2019 form from achilles injury and their terrific recruiting class can contribute, UConn should find itself in the upper echelon of the Big East once again.

5. Seton Hall

Departures:

  • Sandro Mamukelashvili F – NBA
  • Shavar Reynolds G – Transfer to Monmouth
  • Takal Molson G – Transfer to JMU

Returners/Additions

  • Jamir Harris G – Transfer from American
  • Kadary Richmond G – Transfer from Cuse
  • Alexis Yetna F – Transfer from USF
  • Myles Cale G
  • Jared Rhoden G/F
  • Ike Obiagu C
  • Tyrese Samuel F
  • Bryce Aiken G
  • Jahari Long G
  • Tray Jackson F

After Bouknight and UConn, Seton Hall losing Mamu is likely the second biggest single player loss in the Big East. Jared Rhoden looks to be the next man up leading the Pirates in a one-man wrecking crew linage that seems to go Myles Powell-Mamu-and now to Rhoden. Myles Cale will play Robin to Rhoden’s Batman and defensive stalwart transfers Yetna and Richmond look to make a big impact in their first year in the Big East. Richmond in particular, has been getting hyped up as an incredibly cerebral defender who can fill out a stat sheet. Obiagu still anchors the defense and provides elite rim protection. The Pirates will be long, tough, and exceptionally hard to score on. Expect a lot of slug fests out of this squad.

6. Butler

Departures

  • JaKobe Coles – Transfer to TCU
  • Markeese Hastings F – Transfer to WMU but opted out of most of 20-21 season.

Returners/Additions

  • Ty Groce F – Transfer from Eastern Michigan
  • Chuck Harris G
  • Aaron Thompson G
  • Jair Bolden G
  • Bryce Nze F
  • Bryce Golden F
  • Bo Hodges G
  • Myles Tate G
  • Myles Wilmouth F
  • John-Michael Mulloy F
  • Christian David G

Butler is certainty the most experienced team in the Big East, maybe the most experienced team in the entire country from top to bottom. Of the eight returners/incoming transfers who expect to see significant playing time, six are seniors (five of whom are redshirt seniors). Heck, at this rate the Bulldogs rotation might be older on average than the OKC Thunder who have an average age of 23.5. The one starter who is not a senior, Chuck Harris, was their best scorer last year as a freshman and potentially their best player in 21-22. Aaron Thompson is the team leader and facilitator, averaging 4.7 apg and all of the starters have the ability to average 10+ ppg. Butler battled with health issues last year but if they have better luck in that regard and Harris takes a step forward like expected LaVall Jordan’s squad will be in the hunt for an at-large bid.

7. Providence

Departures

  • David Duke G – NBA
  • Greg Gantt F – Transfer to NC State
  • Jimmy Nichols F – Transfer to VCU

Additions/Returners

  • Aljami Durham G – Transfer from Indiana
  • Justin Minaya F – Transfer from South Carolina
  • Nate Watson C – Extra year senior
  • Noah Horchler F – Extra year senior
  • A.J. Reeves G
  • Jared Bynum G
  • Alyn Breed G
  • Brycen Goodine G
  • Ed Croswell F

Ed Cooley’s squad got a huge lift when C Nate Watson decided to return for an extra year. He made a leap to almost 17 ppg in 20-21, from less than 10 ppg in 19-20. Al Durham also transfers in from Indiana averaging 11 pts, 3 rebs, and almost 3 asts per game in the Big Ten. The change of scenery should do him good, and I expect him to continue or improve that production in the Big East. He won’t fill David Duke’s shoes but AJ Reeves and Jared Bynum should be able to shoulder more of the load after another year of development.  The Friars ceiling appears to a middle of the pack finish in the Big East and perhaps one of the last few into the dance. However, Prov is always a tough out.

8. Creighton

Departures:

  • Marcus Zegarowski G – Pro
  • Mitchell Ballock G – Pro
  • Denzel Mahoney G/F – Pro
  • Christian Bishop F – Transfer to Texas
  • Damien Jefferson F – Pro

Returners/Additions:

  • #1 Recruiting Class in the Big East and #7 class in the country
  • Ryan Hawkins F – Transfer from D-II SW Missouri State
  • Keyshawn Feazell F – Transfer from McNeese State
  • Shereef Mitchell G
  • Ryan Kalkbrenner F/C
  • Alex O’Connell G
  • Rati Andronikashvili G – Medical redshirt
  • Modestas Kancleris F – Medical redshirt

The Bluejays are the youngest and least experienced squad in the Big East this year. Having lost the vast majority of their production from last year, they don’t have a player who has averaged 6 or more points in P6 play. They do bring in transfers Hawkins and Feazell who averaged 22.6 and 13.1 ppg in lesser leagues. Kalkbenner will be Creighton’s best player and premier rim protector this year. On the flip side, Coach McDermott brought in a heck of a recruiting class, the best ever in their history. It is 5 players deep, 4 of which are in the top 75 players in the 2021 class: Arthur Kaluma, Trey Alexander, Mason Miller, and Ryan Nembhard. In addition, the Bluejays get another highly touted recruit back who missed all of last year due to injury in Andronikashvili. Those 5 in fact represent the 5 best recruits that have ever signed with Creighton. The future looks bright for McDermott’s squad but this year will bring some growing pains for Creighton’s version of the Fab 5.

9. Georgetown

Departures:

  • Jahvon Blair G – Pro
  • Jamorko Pickett F – NBA G League
  • TJ Berger G – Transfer to San Diego
  • Qudus Wahab C – Transfer to Marlyand
  • Chudier Bile F
  • Jalen Harris

Returners/Additions:

  • Kaiden Rice G – Transfer from The Citadel
  • # 1 Recruit in the Big East this year
  • Chudier Bile F
  • Donald Carey G
  • Dante Harris G
  • Jalen Harris G
  • Timothy Ighoefe C
  • Collin Holloway F
  • Jamari Sibley F
  • Kobe Clark F
  • Malcolm Wilson C

Patrick Ewing had the Hoyas rolling at the end of last season. You likely know that they won the BET but you may not know that they went 10-5 to end the season with losses only to tournament teams (Nova, Creighton, UConn x2, and Colorado). Unfortunately, Georgetown lost its three most productive players from that team in Pickett, Blair, and Wahab. I expect Sophomore Dante Harris to make a leap forward this year and transfer Rice averaged 17.6 ppg for the Citadel last year. The Hoyas figured to have the services of EKU transfer Tre King but news just broke last week that he will not be with the team, a major blow for their 2021-22 season.  Georgetown didn’t bring in an overall top recruiting class but they did land the top incoming recruit in 5 star shooting guard Aminu Mohammed (there is also a familiar name in 4 star center Ryan Mutombo).  So, Ewing will have a squad to get into shape but it will be tough to replace the lost production entirely. If Ewing can get them rocking like the end of last year – look out. However, if the team doesn’t gel it could get ugly.

10. Marquette

Departures:

  • Steve Wojciechowski HC – Fired
  • Dawson Garcia F – Transfer to UNC
  • D.J. Carton – Pro
  • Theo John F – Transfer to Duke
  • Koby McEwen G – Transfer to Weber State
  • Jose Perez G – Transfer to Manhattan
  • Jamal Cain F – Transfer to Oakland

Returners/Additions:

  • Shaka Smart, HC – Hired from Texas (Before he could be fired from there)
  • Darryl Morsell G – Transfer from Maryland
  • Tyler Kolek G – Transfer from George Mason
  • Kur Kuath F – Transfer from Oklahoma
  • Olivier-Maxence Prosper F – Transfer from Clemson
  • Justin Lewis F
  • Greg Eliott G
  • Oso Ighodaro F

Shaka Smart arrives in from Texas to replace the ousted Wojo. He inherits a squad with a lot of roster turnover and lacking the best players from last year’s Golden Eagles squad in Garcia, Carton, and John. He did have success in bringing in some bigtime transfers in Morsell, Kolek, Kuath, and Maxence Prosper. It also feels like this job is a more natural fit for Smart as a Wisconsin native. He is at the helm of more of an upstart, scrappy bunch rather than the number one athletic department by revenue in the country. This is a role he thrived in at the helm of the VCU Rams.  I feel like Shaka will get the Marquette magic rolling but it will take him a few years to really contend in the Big East.

11. DePaul

Departures:

  • Dave Leitao HC – Fired
  • Romeo Weems – Pro
  • Pauly Paulicap – Transfer to WVU
  • Charlie Moore G – Transfer to Miami
  • Ray Salnave G – Transfer to UMBC
  • Kobe Elvis G – Transfer to Dayton
  • Darious Hall F – Transfer to Central Arkansas
  • Keon Edwards – Transfer to Nebraska

Returners/Additions:

  • Tony Stubblefield HC – Former Asst Coach at Oregon
  • Jalen Terry G – Transfer from Oregon
  • Brandon Johnson F – Transfer from Minnesota
  • Tyon Grant-Foster F – Transfer from Kansas
  • Philmon Gebrewhit G – JUCO Transfer
  • Yor Anei F – Transfer from SMU
  • Javan Johnson F – Transfer from Iowa St.
  • Javon Freeman-Liberty G
  • Nick Ongenda F
  • Courvoisier McCauley G
  • David Jones G/F

The Tony Stubblefield era begins in Chicago.  Dave Leitao didn’t leave the cupboard completely bare but Stubblefield had to rely on bringing in a litany of transfers.  He succeeded in bringing in others from P6 or other high-major schools.  Javon Freeman-Liberty ran the show for the Blue Demons last year (avg more than 14 ppg), we will see what Stubblefield brings to stylistically to Chicago.  He has a good pedigree and many years of experience as a long time assistant at Oregon.  He seems like a man who is up to the task of turning things around for DePaul but time will tell.


Check Out the Baseline Times’ Projected Big East Year End Awards

Projected Big East MBB Awards 2021-2022

In projecting the 2021-2022 Big East Men’s basketball season I sat down attempted to determine who will be the most significant players. My hope is that figuring out who will earn the hardware for the end of the year will allow me to reverse engineer the season for my Big East season projection (coming soon). Lets take a look, shall we?

All Big East First Team*

  • Julian Champagnie, St. John’s, G/F, Jr., Brooklyn, N.Y. – Probably the best player and NBA prospect in the Big East this year.
  • Collin Gillespie, Villanova, G, Sr., Huntingdon Valley, Pa. – One of the three 2021 co-POYs comes back for one last ride.
  • Posh Alexander, St. John’s, G, So., Brooklyn, N.Y. – 2021 co-DPOY as a freshman, if he has developed a reliable outside game over the summer look out.
  • Nate Watson, Providence, F/C, Sr., Portsmouth, Va. – Made a leap to almost 17 ppg in 20-21.
  • Zach Freemantle, Xavier, F, Jr., Teaneck, N.J. – Also made a leap to 16 ppg in 20-21, looks poised for a big 21-22.
  • Paul Scruggs, Xavier, G, Sr., Indianapolis, Ind. – Already a solid scorer and elevated his facilitation to 5.7 apg last year. Solid leader needs to be the key to give X a big 21-22.

* Six selections are made for the First Team.

All Big East Second Team

  • RJ Cole Sr., UConn, G, Sr., Union, N.J. – Former MEAC POY, Cole transferred in last season and seemed to get a feel for the Big East game as the year progressed.
  • Adama Sanogo, UConn, F, So., Bamako, Mali by way of The Patrick School (Hillside, N.J.) – A bit undersized for the frontcourt but extremely powerful, Sonogo is a force in the paint.
  • Jermaine Samuels, Villanova, F, Sr., Franklin, Mass. – Rangy wing in the Nova tradition has a knack for hitting big shots and was All Big East Honorable Mention last season.
  • Jared Rhoden, Seton Hall, G/F, Sr., Baldwin, N.Y. – Looks to be the next man up to play the role of Batman for the Pirates.
  • Justin Moore, Villanova, G, Jr., Fort Washington, MD. – Already a significant contributor at shooting guard for Nova, Moore was good in 20-21 but he can take another step forward this season.

Honorable Mention*

  • Chuck Harris, Butler, G, So., Washington, D.C. – Will be surrounded by experience, as the only non-senior starter for the Bulldogs. Went on a tear towards the end of last year, ended up averaging almost 13 ppg but may see some of his touches diminish with all of the returners that Butler has coming back from injury.
  • Al Durham, Providence, G, Sr., Lilburn, GA – Durham transfers in from Indiana averaging 11 pts, 3 rebs, and almost 3 asts per game. Expect him to continue or improve that production in the Big East.
  • Nate Johnson, Xavier, G, Sr., Miami, FL – A dead-eye shooter, Johnson shot better than 45% from three point range last season and averaged more than 11 ppg in his first season in the Big East.
  • Myles Cale, Seton Hall, G, Sr., Middletown, DE. – Cale looks poised to play Robin to Rhoden’s Batman averaging 11.6 ppg last year. He has good length for a SG at 6’6″, which helps on both ends of the court.

* The Big East makes an undetermined amount of Honorable Mention selections each year, usually 2-3 players and quite often they are seniors. I couldn’t choose from among these players, they’re all so deserving!

All Big East Freshman Team*

  • Arthur Kaluma, Creighton, F, Glendale, AZ
  • Aminu Mohammed, Georgetown, G, Washington DC
  • Jordan Hawkins, UConn, G, Hyattsville, MD
  • Jordan Longino, Villanova, G, Fort Washington, PA
  • Rati Andronikashvili, Creighton, G, Tbilisi, Georgia * Medical Redshirt in 20-21

All of these players are unknowns at the college level at this point; however all are four star recruits aside from Mohammed who was a five star and the number 23 player in the 2021 class (per 24/7 sports). UConn’s Samson Johnson (C, Elizabeth, NJ) and Rahsool Diggins (G, Philadelphia, PA) are also highly ranked but may not reach enough playing time to make the squad, especially with Hawkins also in the mix. Ryan Nembhard of Creighton (G, Ontario, Canada) was ranked just behind those two as a recruit, but it might be difficult for so many Creighton players to be recognized. Marquette’s Stevie Michell (G, Reading, PA) and DePaul’s Ahamad Bynum (G, Chicago, IL) may both crack their starting lineups. So, they could earn a spot on this squad if they show out.

Individual Awards

  • COY – Travis Steele, Xavier – COY should probably always go to to Nova’s Jay Wright but the voters would tire of giving him the award every year. Steele looks like he will have Xavier in the next best spot so he gets the nod here.
  • POY – Gillespie, Villanova & Champangie, St John’s – As mentioned, reigning co-POY and the conference’s best player.
  • DPOY – Alexander, St John’s – Co-DPOY last year as a freshman (with UConn’s Isiah Whaley), many expect Posh to make enough strides in year two to take sole possession of this award.
  • Freshman of the Year – Mohammed, Georgetown – Highest ranked recruit in the Big East and the Hoyas need the help.
  • Most Improved Player – Akok Akok, UConn, F, Jr. Manchester, N.H. – The big man missed most of last season with an achilles injury. When we last saw him in 19-20 he was an amazing shot blocker. Expect the rest of Akok’s game to have improved considerably as well.
  • Sixth Man Award – Dwon Odom, Xavier, G, So., Alpharetta, Ga. – Odom would be starting on most teams in the country but extra year seniors have crowded the Musketeer’s backcourt. Odom’s game will provide a spark off the bench and Steele should give him enough minutes to keep him happy.

Conference Success in Earning NCAA Tournament Bids

Earlier this week, I put out an article about the distinction between major, mid-major, and low-major conferences that had a chart very similar to the below. I have expanded such to add the Power Six conferences for comparison purposes and added the column to the far right on percentage of schools in each conference that earn NCAAT bids per year.

Conference2021 Bids2019 Bids2018 Bids2017 Bids2016 BidsAvg # of Bids# of Conf Teams*MultiplierExpected Bids in a 16 Team Conf% of Teams With Bids Per Year
Big 12767676.610.01.6010.5666%
ACC779977.814.01.148.9156%
Big East446755.210.21.578.1651%
Big Ten98477714.01.148.0050%
SEC678535.814.01.146.6341%
Pac-12533474.412.01.335.8737%
American24324311.41.404.2126%
Atlantic 10223332.614.01.142.9719%
WCC221211.610.01.602.5616%
MWC222111.611.01.452.3315%
MVC211121.410.01.602.2414%
NCAAT Bids Per Major & Mid-Major Conference 2016-2021

* You may notice that some of these conferences are listed as having a number of teams that is not a whole number. And you might be thinking how can that be? (Or you’re thinking that I am a total moron). Well, friend, I have adjusted the number of teams for schools departing and joining conferences. Namely, UConn moving from the AAC to the Big East for 2020 and Wichita State leaving the MVC for the AAC in 2018 (Moves that have been widely applauded by both fan bases but some are still somewhat skeptical). Anyway, each year of having an additional team is worth an +.2 to the number of teams in a conference. This number is then used to calculate the three right hand columns.


Majors, Mid-Majors, & Low-Majors: Defining College Basketball Conferences

Let’s set this straight once and for all. There are 3 levels of D1 college basketball conferences: Majors (aka High-Majors), Mid-Majors, and Low-Majors.

Many people think there are only 2 designations (majors and mid-majors) and that all non Power 6 conferences are mid-majors. Those people are wrong. This is just like a fast food place offering medium, large, or extra-large drinks. We all know that is a lie and the sizes are: small, medium, and large no matter how big their cups are.

So, let’s make this real simple and settle this. We will use average number of NCAA Tournament bids per year as the defining metric as that is easily quantifiable and well known. There are far more scientific metrics we can use but the fact of the matter is that the college basketball world defines conferences by the number of March Madness bids they are able to earn in a given year. See the definitions and conferences below.

Majors – Numerous Bid Conferences

Definition: Conferences that send 4 or more teams to the NCAA Tournament per year on average (evaluated within a 5 year period). I settled on 4 bids as the cut off as this is double the mid-major requirement. This means generally that a conference had at least 4 teams within the top 44 in the country in that 5 year timespan.

Qualifying Conferences: B1G, SEC, ACC, Big 12, Pac 12, Big East, AAC.*

Mid-Majors – Multi Bid Conferences

Definition: Conferences that send between 2-3 teams to the NCAA Tournament per year on average (evaluated within a 5 year period). This means generally that a conference has 2 or 3 teams within the top 44 (depending on seeding) in that 5 year timespan though it is very possible that these conferences have an auto-qualifier (AQ) that pulled an upset.

Qualifying Conferences: A10, MWC, WCC, MVC.*

Low-Majors – Single Bid Conferences

Definition: Conferences that send only 1 team to the NCAA Tournament per year on average (evaluated within a 5 year period). These are usually AQ teams only.

Qualifying Conferences: All others.

Notes

  • A team can be very good, or elite even, and play in a mid-major or low-major conference (Gonzaga for example in the WCC). This is a conference wide designation and does not have a bearing on any individual team in that conference.
  • A conference can raise or lower its status with performance or by schools joining/leaving the conference.
  • I chose to evaluate this in 5 year time periods as that is the length of time in which you would expect a full recruiting class to process all the way through to graduation (factoring in red-shirts, medical issues, etc.).
  • *The conference size rule* – I am equalizing conferences of varying size by seeing how many bids would be expected if the conference had 16 teams. To do this, I multiply their average tournament bids by 16/their # of conference members. I’m using 16 as the cutoff here as the new SEC will have 16 teams so that seems like a good limit for conference size (the old Big East had 15 basketball schools fwiw). If we move to super conferences in the future we will have to adjust this formula.
  • The AAC and all of the mid-majors aside from the A10 (which has 14 teams) would not have qualified for their current designations without the 16 team conference multiplier but it doesn’t seem fair to penalize smaller conferences and to reward large conferences with a hard line. See the below sheet for the last 5 years for applicable conferences.

Conference2021
Bids
2019
Bids
2018
Bids
2017
Bids
2016
Bids
Avg # of Bids# of TeamsMultiplierExpected Bids in a
16 Team Conference
AAC243243111.454.35
A10223332.6141.142.96
WCC221211.6101.62.56
MWC222111.6111.452.32
MVC211121.4111.452.03
There was no NCAAT in 2020, as we all know 🙁