2014-15 College Basketball: Best of the Rest

Posted by Ross Bentley on November 17, 2014 · 27 mins read

They are playing real live basketball now guys! It’s finally happening. Each of the 351 teams in College Basketball assuredly have high hopes going into the season. I have worked hard to give you as extensive of previews as I could of the larger conferences thus far — we’ve gotten to all of the power five leagues as well as the Mountain West, AAC,  A-10 and Big East. Now, I’m going to try to do my best to give you something on the rest of the collegiate landscape. Here’s a look at my abbreviated predictions for the remaining College Basketball conferences.

Conference USA Projected Standings 

1. Louisiana Tech


3. Charlotte

4. Old Dominion

5. UAB

6. Western Kentucky

7. Middle Tennessee State

8. Florida Atlantic

9. Florida International

10. Southern Mississippi

11. North Texas

12. UT San Antonio

13. Rice

14. Marshall

This is a two horse race between UTEP and Louisiana Tech. LA Tech returns four starters from a 29-win team and Kenny “Speedy” Smith is one of the most underrated point guards in the nation. UTEP meanwhile has tremendous athletes and plays great defense behind Tim Floyd. They should be able to up the tempo and simply outgun many teams in the C-USA.

Charlotte will be solid and should move up the ranks, while Old Dominion, and Western Kentucky bring back veteran laden squads that should win a lot of games. The biggest sleeper here is UAB who brings in one of the nation’s best recruits in William Lee.


1. Gonzaga

2. BYU

3. Portland

4. Saint Mary’s

5. San Francisco

6.  San Diego

7. Santa Clara

8. Pepperdine

9. Loyola Marymount

10. Pacific

We all know Gonzaga is a legit Sweet Sixteen team and could even go further. Behind them, both BYU and Portland have an outside shot at an at-large bid. The Cougars have a tremendous player in Tyler Hawes, who averaged 23.2 points last season. Portland brings back four starters and has a lot of talent that should make a surge.

Behind them the middle of the WCC will battle against one another for relevancy. San Diego and Santa Clara have intriguing backcourts that could pull off an upset or two of the top three teams.

America East

1. Stony Brook

2. Albany

3. Hartford

4. Vermont

5. Binghamton


7. UMASS Lowell

8. New Hampshire

9. Maine

Stony Brook was once again denied their birth in the NCAA Tournament by Albany last season and will be out for revenge this year. Although they lose a lot from last season, Jamal Warney is back and could be the POTY in the league.

Hot on their heels will be the Great Danes looking for another appearance in the big dance, and they will need Peter Hooley to duplicate his late season run last year. Hartford is another potential league winner, returning four starters from a 10-6 league record team a season ago.

Atlantic Sun 

1. Florida Gulf Coast

2. North Florida

3. Lipscomb

4. Northern Kentucky

5. USC Upstate

6. Jacksonville

7. Stetson

8. Kennesaw State

With Mercer gone, Florida Gulf Coast (aka Dunk City) is the big favorite to win the A-Sun this season. You may remember Bernard Thompson and Bret Comer from their Sweet Sixteen run, and they are still there, looking to back it back to the big dance.

North Florida could be dangerous, bringing back three starters and some intriguing new talent, while Northern Kentucky and Lipscomb have veteran laden teams that might be dangerous come March.

Big Sky

1. Eastern Washington

2. Weber State

3. Northern Arizona

4. Sacramento State

5. Portland State

6. Idaho

7. Northern Colorado

8. Montana

9. Idaho State

10. North Dakota

11. Montana State

12. Southern Utah

Weber State is the preseason favorite in the coach’s poll under the strength of their reputation and Joel Bolomby and Jeremy Senglin returning, but I’ll take Eastern Washington and their four returning starters led by likely POTY Tyler Harvey.

While the middle of the Big Sky is okay, no one will challenge Weber State or EWU. The bottom of the Big Sky is plain awful, as Southern Utah, Idaho State, and Montana State will likely be amongst the worst teams in D1.

Big South

1. High Point

2. Coastal Carolina

3. Radford

4. Winthrop

5. Gardner Webb

6. Charleston Southern

7. Campbell

8. UNC Asheville

9. Liberty

10. Presbyterian

11. Longwood

The Big South will be an intriguing mid-major conference this season and has three teams that could make the postseason. Coastal Carolina returners four starters from a team that almost beat Virginia in the tournament last year, but it’s High Point behind John Brown (19.5 ppg) that is my favorite.

Radford is also expected to be very good this year returning all of it’s major players from a 10-6 team that beat Oregon State in the CBI. It would not be surprising to see any of those three teams, as well as potentially Winthrop, make the NCAA Tournament and give a high seeded team all they can ask for.

Big West

1. UC Irvine

2. UC Santa Barbara

3. Long Beach State

4. Cal State Northridge

5. Hawaii

6. UC Davis

7. Cal State Fullerton

8. Cal Poly

9. UC Riverside

Cal Poly’s Cinderella run last season is an indicator of just how unpredictable the Big West can be. The Mustangs won only six regular season games in conference but ended up going to the NCAA Tournament anyways by winning the Big West tournament.

Cal Poly won’t return this year though as they lose much of what got them through the big dogs a season ago. Instead, UC Irvine, who they upset in the semifinals, should be out for revenge, and they have four starters back with plenty of depth.

Behind them, UC Santa Barbara is the next in line as Bob Williams has one of his best teams yet, and Long Beach State plays an unbelievably difficult non-conference slate that should make the Cal State Fullerton’s and UC Riverside’s of the world seem like cupcakes even to them.


1. Northeastern

2. William & Mary

3. Hofstra

4. James Madison

5. Drexel

6. College of Charleston

7. UNC Wilmington

8. Delaware

9. Towson

10. Elon

Talk about wide open. The Colonial is easily the most wide open league this side of the Mississippi, with no team really claiming much of an advantage going into the season.

Northeastern has managed to become the favorites despite winning only 11 games last year. Still they bring back every key player and surged late in the CAA. William & Mary lost a lot, but has the best player in Marcus Thonrton.

James Madison, Drexel and Hofstra have an outside shot of surprising, but they all have major question marks. This could be the league where a five or six seed storms through to win the automatic birth.


1. Green Bay

2. Cleveland State

3. Detroit

4. Wright State

5. Oakland

6. Valparaiso


8. Youngstown State

9. Illinois-Chicago

Cleveland State and Green Bay are the teams to look out for this season in the Horizon League. Cleveland State brings back four starters from a 12-4 team a season ago including Trey Lewis, however Bryn Forbes transferred out of the program.

Green Bay also brings back four starters but lost Alec Brown to the NBA. Whichever team manages to replace their star with last year’s reserves will win the league. Sleepers include Detroit who brings in several intriguing transfers, and Wright State who has senior leadership ready to take over after losing four starters from a year ago.

Ivy League

1. Harvard

2. Yale

3. Columbia

4. Princeton

5. Dartmouth

6. Brown

7. Cornell

8. Penn

Another team featured on my mid-majors to watch list was Harvard, and they should once again manage to win the Ivy league regular season title behind the strength of Syani Chambers and Wesley Saunders.

However Yale and Columbia should at least push the Crimson this year and make it difficult for them to back it back the big dance. Columbia brings back all major contributors from a 21-win team and Yale has Justin Sears won of the top players in the Ivy League.

Overall the Ivy League is much deeper than in prior years, but it’s still Harvard’s league to lose, and Tommy Amaker should once again lead them to a tournament run.


1. Siena

2. Iona

3. St. Peter’s

4. Quinnipiac

5. Manhattan

6. Monmouth

7. Marist

8. Rider

9. Fairfield

10. Canisius

11. Niagara

The MAAC is an interesting league this season. Manhattan pushed Louisville to it’s limit in the NCAA Tournament last season, while Siena won the CBI Championship, and Iona came within a point of upsetting LA Tech on the road in the NIT.

Manhattan ended up bringing Steve Masiello back, but they are no longer the favorites after losing three starters.  Instead, the Saints and Gaels will likely battle it out for the top spot. Siena gets the slight edge, because of how much they grew up last season in the CBI. Winning the CBI might not seem important to high major schools, but for a program like Siena, being able to cut down the nets and win any postseason tournament is a huge accomplishment. This year, they bring back all five starters and should be able to use that momentum to win the league.

Iona will have something to say about it however. Tim Cluess’s team welcomes back A.J. English, perhaps the league’s top player, as well as David Laury and Isaiah Williams. Sleepers here include Quinnipiac who has a solid one-two punch of Zaid Hearst and Ousamne Drame, and St. Peter’s who brings back 11 players from a nine-win MAAC campaign a season ago.



1. Akron

2. Kent State

3. Ohio

4. Buffalo

5. Miami (Ohio)

6. Bowling Green


1. Toledo

2. Western Michigan

3. Eastern Michigan

4. Northern Illinois

5. Central Michigan

6. Ball State

In the MAC this season, the West reigns supreme. While Akron is far and away the top team in the East behind four returning starters (Kent State is second, but far behind) the West is much more loaded. Eastern Michigan, Western Michigan (the defending MAC champions) and even Northern Illinois could challenge as the season goes on.

Still, there is one team that stands out above the rest: Toldeo. The Rockets won 27 games a season ago but failed to win the MAC tournament. This year they should avenge that with four returning starters including Julius Brown a dynamic point guard, and slasher Justin Drummond. If you’re looking for a potential cinderella in the midwest, look no further than Toledo.


1. Hampton

2. North Carolina Central

3. Morgan State

4. Coppin State

5. Norfolk State

6. Delaware State

7. Bethune Cookman

8. Howard

9.Savannah State

10. North Carolina A&T

11. South Carolina State

12. Maryland Eastern Shore

13. Florida A&M

The MEAC is going to struggle this season in the non-conference as many of the teams at the bottom will be amongst the worst in the nation.

At the top however, Hampton and North Carolina Central have intriguing squads. NCC went 15-1 in the MEAC a season ago and despite losing some significant talent, they do bring back several key returners from last year’s team.

Hampton on the other hand will be guided by the strong backcourt duo of Deron Powers and Brian Darden and they should have what it takes to build off of their 13-3 MEAC season a year ago.

The middle of the league is crowded with teams looking to breakout including Coppin State, Morgan State, and Bethune Cookman who could challenge for the title.


1. Wichita State

2. Northern Iowa

3. Evansville

4. Illinois State

5. Missouri State

6. Indiana State

7. Bradley

8. Southern Illinois

9. Loyola

10. Drake

If you’ve been following along with me at all here, you know how much I love this Wichita State team, so I won’t get too much into it. If you’re interested you can read about why I think they’re a Final Four team here.

So other than the Shockers, is there any legit NCAA threats in this bunch? Northern Iowa would like to say hello. It might be tough for UNI to secure an at-large bid but if they can somehow knock of Wichita State in the MVC Tournament, watch out. Northern Iowa is deep and brings back all five starters include their best player Seth Tuttle.

Below the top two, Evansville is an interesting team to look at. The Purple Aces were among the youngest teams in the country last season but should get much better with an additional year of experience.


1. St. Francis (PA)

2. Robert Morris

3. Central Connecticut State

4. Bryant

5. St. Francis (NY)

6. Mount St. Mary’s

7. Sacred Heart

8. LIU Brooklyn

9. Wagner

10. Fairleigh Dickinson

The NEC is going to be another fun mid-major league to watch this season. The conference has five teams that could potentially win the conference going into the season, and that doesn’t even include Mount St. Mary’s the defending champions.

It’s really a take your pick with the top of the NEC. If you like returning players with experience, it’s St. Francis PA who brings back all five starters. If you like reputation for success and momentum, there’s Robert Morris who is always near the top, and won 14 NEC games last season but loses their best player. If you like programs on the rise looking to make a jump, Central Connecticut State is there for you. If you like star players, there is Jalen Cannon at St. Francis (NY). Bryant isn’t bad either and if you look hard enough someone probably has them winning the league as well.

It’s a toss up all around but we’ll go with the experience for now as the tie-breaker and go with the Red Flash to make the big dance.

Ohio Valley


1. Belmont

2. Morehead State

3. Eastern Kentucky

4. Tennessee Tech

5. Jacksonville State

6. Tennessee State


1. Murray State

2. Southeast Missouri State

3. SIU Edwardsville

4. Austin Peay

5. Eastern Illinois

6. Tennessee-Martin

Belmont has dominated the regular season in the OVC since moving from the A-Sun two years ago, but it may be tough for the Bruins to run away with the regular season title this year. Belmont remains the favorites in the east but they bring back only two starters and will need young players to step up.

Morehead State is a legitimate challenger in that division as former Kentucky assistant Sean Woods has created a deep roster with under-valued recruits and transfers. Defending conference champion Eastern Kentucky is no slouch either and Corey Walden is a player to watch this year.

In the West it’s all about Murray State who should be the overall league favorite. The Racers were denied a bid to the NIT, so they won the CIT championship instead over Yale. Now that additional postseason experience will do nothing but help Murray State continue to dominate the weaker West division behind four returning starters  and a key reserve T.J. Sapp.


1. American

2. Army

3. Holy Cross

4. Lafayette

5. Bucknell

6. Lehigh

7. Boston University

8. Colgate

9. Loyola (MD)

10. Navy

American, Army and Holy Cross all have legitimate shots at going home with the Patriot League championship this season. American is the defending league champs and brings back four starters three of which are seniors. Army brings back nearly everyone significant from a surprise team last year and Kyle Wilson is the early favorite for Patriot League Player of the Year. Meanwhile, Holy Cross is intriguing after quietly winning 20 games a year ago and bringing back four starters, but they must replace their leader from last year, David Dudzinski.

Much of the talent from Lafayette is back as well and they could build on a 6-12 campaign last season, while traditional powerhouses Bucknell and Boston U will have to reload with young talent but could end up figuring things out by March.


1. Wofford

2. Chattanooga

3. East Tennessee State

4. VMI

5. Mercer

6. UNC Greensboro

7. Western Carolina

8. Furman

9. The Citadel

10. Samford

=With Davidson off to the greener pastures of the A-10, it’s time for Wofford to anoint itself as the dominant team in the SoCon. They were solid last year but should take the next step up to comfortably winning the league with all key players returning this season. The Terriers will lean on seniors Karl Cochran and Lee Skinner to guide them.

Chattanooga, East Tennessee State, and VMI all bring back a number of returning talent that should keep them in the mix. They all had at least 10 conference wins a season ago and are heading in the right direction. Chattanooga is the team most likely to knock off Wofford, due to their ability to score the basketball and Casey Jones being one of the best guards in the league.

Last year’s cinderella Mercer plays in the Southern, but it would be a surprise to watch them repeat last season’s success after losing all five starters from the team that upset Duke in the NCAA Tournament.


1. Stephen F. Austin

2. Sam Houston State

3. Texas A&M Corpus Christi

4. Northwestern State

5. Incarnate Word

6. McNeese State

7. Southeastern Louisiana

8. Nicholls State

9. New Orleans

10. Abilene Christian

11. Lamar

12. Houston Baptist

13. Central Arkansas

The Lumberjacks of Stephen F. Austin completed a historic season last year by going 18-0 in conference, winning the league tournament, and upsetting VCU in the NCAA Tournament. Now they will once again be the favorites with three of their top players coming back including Jacob Parker.

It would be surprising for any team to unseat them but Sam Houston state is an intriguing bunch with four starters back from a 24 win team a season ago. Jason Hooten has done an excellent job with that team and could be a candidate for a bigger job next offseason.

Northwestern State and Texas A&M Corpus Christi will also be in the mix. NWSU will need Jacob West (19.4 ppg last year) to once again put up those kind of numbers, while Corpus Christi is hoping senior leaders John Jordan and Hameed Ali will lead them to the promised land.


1. Alabama State

2. Alcorn State

3. Arkansas Pine-Bluff

4. Southern

5. Prairie View A&M

6. Texas Southern

7. Mississippi Valley State

8. Jackson State

9. Alabama A&M

10.  Grambling State

The SWAC is another league that’s tough to call this season. In the preseason coach’s and SID’s poll, eight out of ten teams in the SWAC received first place votes, including Grambling State who won only five games last season, which….come on,  but you get the point.

For my money, I’ll go with the safe bet in Alabama State.  ASU won 12 games in league last year and now they bring almost everyone back. Jamel Waters should have the inside track for conference POTY.

Alcorn State should be much better as they bring back a lot of veteran talent and some interesting newcomers, while Arkansas Pine-Bluff should win a lot of games behind their excellent backcourt duo of Marcel Mosley and Tevin Hammond. I could also conceivably see Southern or Prairie View A&M making a run at things if their new pieces can come in right away and make an impact.


1. Denver

2. Oral Roberts

3. Fort Wayne

4. North Dakota State

5. South Dakota State

6. Omaha

7. South Dakota

8. Western Carolina


Within mid-major spectrums, the Summit League is one of the best conferences. This season they are deep and could potentially duplicate North Dakota State’s success in the NCAA Tournament a season ago with their representative.

Only IUPUI truly fields an uncompetitive team this season, which makes this conference race wide open. Denver gets the slight edge despite going only 8-6 in league play last season. They lose Chris Udofia but do bring back Brett Olson one of the league’s top talents, as well as three other starters.

Fort Wayne is a sexy pick to make it out but they will need to replace two double-digit scorers. Still, they could make a run if Steve Forbes can become a POTY candidate. Oral Roberts is an interesting case as they rejoin the Summit League after two seasons in the Southland. They bring back four starters as well but could struggle with the change in league.

One of last year’s cinderella’s North Dakota State isn’t likely to repeat due to the loss of stars Taylor Braun and Marshall Bjorklund, but they still should finish in the top half of the Summit.

Sun Belt

1. Georgia State

2. Louisiana-Lafayette

3. Arkansas Little-Rock

4. Texas-Arlington

5. Louisiana-Monroe

6. Texas State

7. Appalachian State

8. Georgia Southern

9. South Alabama

10. Arkansas State

11. Troy

One of the preseason names to look out for as a potential NCAA Tournament darling is Georgia State. GSU went 17-1 in the Sun Belt last season but didn’t make the big dance after failing to win the conference tournament. Current Orlando Magic point guard instead led Louisiana-Lafayette and the Rajun’ Cajuns  to the tournament.

This season Georgia State should be able to handle their business. They bring back three starters including potential POTY R.J. Hunter in the backcourt, and fellow dynamic guard Ryan Harrow. Both averaged north of 17 points per-game a season ago. The Panthers also led the league in field-goal percentage, field-goal percentage defense, turnover margin, blocks, free-throw percentage and a slew of other stats. This will be the best team in the Sun Belt, and the tournament will be better with them in it.

ULL is still very good despite losing Payton and they should be Georiga State’s biggest challenger behind Shawn Long. The middle of the league is a toss-up, but Arkansas Little-Rock appears to be a contender due to 10 of their 12 rotation players from last year coming back.


1. New Mexico State

2. Grand Canyon

3. Seattle

4. Utah Valley State

5. CS Bakersfield

6. Missouri Kansas-City

7. Chicago State

8. Texas Pan-American

Even with the loss of Sim Bhullar and K.C. Ross-Miller, New Mexico State should be able to cruise to another WAC conference victory.

The Aggies bring back three starters from last year’s team including Daniel Mullings (16.8 ppg last year). The second best team may be Grand Canyon led by former NBA star Dan Majerle but the ‘Lopes are still not yet eligible for the NCAA and NIT tournament since they are still a brand new D1 program. GCU could challenge New Mexico State for the league regular season title, but won’t be an issue for Marvin Menzies team come March.

Behind those two, Seattle is likely the next best team to look for. They bring back three starters and Isiah Umpig is a Player of the Year candidate. The regular season champions a season ago was Utah Valley State, but they will likely fall off a little after losing three of their best players.