Potential March Madness Cinderella Stories 2019- Early Edition

Each season, I chronicle the potential March Madness Cinderella Stories by writing two articles that detail teams across that could become a feel-good story come March.   The first article is written around the midpoint of the season (late January/early February) and the second is published  just as the conference tournaments begin.  Here is the first of those two annual editions.

While almost all mid-major college basketball teams have the chance to play Cinderella come Christmas Day (aka the first round of the NCAA tourney), it is particularly special when these teams have an inspiring sentimental storyline.  Often times this involves a squad making its first trip to the Big Dance (see Northern Colorado in 2011).  Other times there is a likable coach who warms the hearts of the nation (see Pete Carril in 1994, Andy Enfeld in 2012).  Inevitably, when the second week of March comes around, these stories will come to fruition.  In the meantime, it’s worth looking at the standings and checking out which mid-major conference leaders/contenders and other probably NCAA Tournament teams could inspire us during the first few weeks of March.  Only teams currently in first or second place of their respective conferences or squads currently in the hunt for an at-large bid will be included in this column.  They are listed in alphabetical order by conference.

Duquesne (Atlantic 10)- The Dukes haven’t danced since 1977 but currently have a 4-1 conference mark and are only a game out of the A-10 lead.  Interestingly enough, the first two schools on this list are located in the city of Pittsburgh (see below).

Pittsburgh (ACC)- If Jeff Capel can somehow get the Panthers to the NCAA tournament this year in his first year on the job and just a year removed from their 0-18 campaign, it would be one of the greatest single season rebuilding jobs of all-time.  Right now I have Pitt squarely on the bubble as they are the first team out of the tournament on my most recent edition of Brad-ketology.

Campbell (Big South)- Chris Clemons from Campbell has been one of the most prolific and dynamic scorers throughout his four years in college, despite standing only 5’9″.  How special would it be if he closed his college career by sending his Camels to their first Big Dance since 1992?  They’re currently 3-1 in conference play and only a game and a half out of the conference lead.

High Point (Big South)- You know who is also 3-1 in the Big South and also only a game and a half out of first?   The Panthers of High Point, who have never been dancing before.  What a story it would be if Tubby Smith could back to his alma mater and take his sixth different team to the NCAA Tournament..

Dartmouth (Ivy League)- The Big Green haven’t danced since the Eisenhower administration (1959) and even though they are only 1-0 in Ivy league play, their first win was an impressive 18 point annihilation over Tommy Amaker’s perennial powerhouse Harvard team.  Dartmouth also gave Davidson a run for their money in conference play, so this squad appears to be for real.

Rider (Metro Atlantic)- The Broncos haven’t danced since 1994, but they have started off conference play this season with an impressive 5-0 start.  They are all alone atop the MAAC with two less losses than their closest competitors.

Canisius (Metro Atlantic)- The Golden Griffins (very underrated nickname) are nipping at heels of the Broncos (see Rider entry above) and haven’t been to the Big Dance since 1996.

Bowling Green (MAC)- Despite their football successes, the Falcons haven’t been to the Big Dance in basketball since 1968.  However, they are currently tied atop the MAC standings at 5-0 with number 14th ranked Buffalo.  The two squads meet for the first time this season on February 1st in Bowling Green.

Norfolk State (MEAC)- Even though UMBC knocked off Virginia last year for the biggest upset in tourney history according to seed differential, the Spartans of Norfolk still have the record for biggest point spread upset in the tournament.  The last time this squad went dancing in 2012 they knocked off Missouri as a 21.5 point underdog (UMBC was a 20.5 point underdog).  They haven’t danced since then, but this team would love to get back and try to repeat history, and they are in a great spot to do so in 2019 with a 5-0 start to conference play.

Loyola-Chicago (Missouri Valley)- Speaking of teams looking for an encore performance, the Ramblers and Sister Jean would love to have a chance to make another tourney run and are currently in position to do so as they are tied for 1st in the Valley with a 5-1 start.  This team doesn’t appear to be quite as good as it was last year but they do have all the key pieces back from that Final Four run.

Illinois State (Missouri Valley)- It is hard to believe the Redbirds haven’t danced since 1998, as they have made multiple trips to the MVC final in recent years.  ISU is once again in position to make a run, as they are only a game back of the leaders in the current conference standings.

St. Francis-Brooklyn (Northeast)- There are only four teams that have played basketball since the NCAA tournament began in 1939 not to make the NCAA tournament.  They are: William & Mary, Army, The Citadel, and these Terriers of St. Francis.  This year’s squad is looking to end that streak, as they are currently tied for 2nd in NEC play.

Sacred Heart (Northeast)- The Pioneers of Sacred Heart are another Big Dance virgin that is tied for second in Northeast conferece play.

Army (Patriot)- Like St. Francis above, Army is one of the original four teams never to make it to the NCAA tournament.  Nevertheless, the Black Knights are in the thick of the Patriot league race this year, as they are currently tied with league powerhouse Lehigh for 2nd place in the standings.

Ole Miss (SEC)- The Rebels were predicted to finish dead last in the loaded SEC this year during Kermit Davis’ inaugural campaign in Oxford.  However, Ole Miss has exceeded everyone’s wildest expectations and currently sit at 4-1 in conference play  and project as an 8 seed in my latest NCAA bracket projection which was published earlier today.

Abilene Christian (Southland)– The Wildcats have only been a Division 1 basketball participant since 2014, but they are already find themselves in contention for their first-ever NCAA tournament trip.  Abielene is off to a 5-1 start in Southland play and are only a half game back from league leader Sam Houston State.

Central Arkansas (Southland)- The Bears are another Big Dance virgin who is currently off to a great start in Southland play.  Too bad Corliss Williamson isn’t the coach anymore.

Grambling (SWAC)- The Tigers have had one of the most legendary football programs in all of FCS over the years, but they have never been to the Big Dance in men’s hoops.  That could all change in 2019, as this squad, who is typically a league bottom dweller, finds itself only a game and a half behind league leader Prairie View (see below).

Prairie View (SWAC)- The team Grambling is chasing in the SWAC is in fact my beloved Prairie View Panthers who are undefeated in conference play so far.  This university who suffered through the longest losing streak in college football history (80 straight losses from 1989 to 1998) hasn’t been to the Big Dance since the streak was going on in 1998.

Omaha (Summit)- This conference is interesting in that only three of its members have been to the NCAA tournament before (Oral Roberts, South Dakota State, and North Dakota State).   And while this is once again South Dakota State’s conference to lose, two big dance virgins, Omaha and IPFW, are their biggest challengers.  The Mavericks of Omaha (great nickname) are tied with SDSU for first place in the conference, and the Mastodons of IPFW (an even better nickname) blew out South Dakota State by 16 points earlier this month.

IPFW (Summit)– see Omaha entry above

Texas State (Sun Belt)- The Bobcats haven’t danced since the 1990s, but they are currently tied for first in the Sun Belt.

Georgia Southern (Sun Belt)- Two other Sun Belt squads who haven’t been to the tournament this century are also in contention for this league’s championship.  Georgia Southern and UL-Monroe are both within a game and a half of the league leaders.

UL-Monroe (Sun Belt)- see Georgia Southern entry above

San Francisco (WCC)- The Dons who haven’t been dancing since 1998 are off to a magnificent 16-3 start this season with wins over BYU, Stanford, and Cal.  Gonzaga is still the heavy favorites to win the WCC, but if the Bulldogs somehow stumble in the conference tournament, San Francisco may be the best equipped squad to win this league in 2019.

Grand Canyon (WAC)– The Antelopes have never been dancing but former NBA superstar Dan Majerle has had them in contention the past few seasons.  He has once again gotten them off to a strong start in conference play this year, as the Antelopes are currently tied for first with league leader Cal State Bakersfield.  The Aggies of New Mexico State are a little down this year relative to their past few campaigns, so this may be the season Majerle can get Grand Canyon to the Big Dance.

 

 

 

 

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Brad-ketology: January 21st Edition

The teams below are displayed below on an S-curve, so they are ranked from left to right within each seeding line.  The italicized teams are ones predicted to win their conference tourney and gain an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.  You will notice that some of these squads are also listed in the NIT bracket.  The reason for this is two-fold.  First and foremost, it shows how close those teams are to getting at-large bids in the NCAA tournament field.  Secondly, it shows where those squads would be seeded if in fact they lost in their conference tournament and garnered an automatic bid to the NIT.

Also, just to clarify, my bracket projection is intended to project the NCAA Tournament field if it was chosen today.  Unlike some bracketologists, I am not trying to predict how each team will finish the season and then seed the teams based on that.  There is one slight exception to this rule, however, and that is that I have always chosen to award the projected automatic bid for each conference to my projected best team in that conference, and not the team who is currently leading the conference standings.   Given how unbalanced conference schedules are, it just seems like common sense to project that the best team in a conference will win the league championship, not the squad currently in first place.

Brad-ketology columns will be published at least twice a week (typically on Mondays and Fridays).  This bracket projection has been updated through all games played on Sunday January 20th.

NCAA Tourney Field:

1-seeds: Tennessee, Duke, Virginia, Michigan

2-seeds: Gonzaga, Michigan State, Kentucky, Kansas

3-seeds: Texas Tech, North Carolina, Iowa State, Marquette

4-seeds: Louisville, Houston, Virginia Tech, Maryland

5-seeds: Buffalo, LSU, Nevada, Wisconsin

6-seeds: Purdue, Auburn, Iowa, Villanova

7-seeds: Oklahoma Nebraska, Indiana, Kansas State

8-seeds: Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Syracuse, St. John’s

9-seeds: Seton Hall, Mississippi State, TCU, Ohio State

10-seeds: Cincinnati, Minnesota, Seton Hall, Butler

11-seeds: TCU, Baylor, Arizona, Washington, Temple, UCF

12-seeds: VCU, Wofford, Murray State, Liberty

13-seeds: Hofstra, Yale, Vermont, New Mexico State

14-seeds: North Texas, Radford, Loyola-Chicago, Northern Kentucky

15-seeds: South Dakota State, Georgia State, UC Santa Barbara, Rider

16-seeds: BucknellWeber State, Sam Houston State, Prairie View, Norfolk State, Robert Morris

NIT Tourney Field:

1-seeds: Pittsburgh, Alabama, Florida, VCU

2-seeds: Wofford, Murray State, Arizona State, Oregon

3-seeds: Saint Louis, Clemson, Oregon State, San Francisco

4-seeds: Creighton, Utah State,  Saint Mary’s, Liberty

5-seeds: Lipscomb, Arkansas, Notre Dame, Northwestern

6-seeds: Hofstra, UCLA, Xavier, Georgetown

7-seeds: Georgia Tech, Furman, Fresno State, Providence

8-seeds: Yale, Vermont, UNC Greensboro, Davidson

Ranking of Other Postseason Contenders: Missouri, Miami-FL, Memphis, Toledo, New Mexico State

Brad-ketology: The Inaugural 2019 Edition

With college football season officially over, it’s time to start dreaming about the glory that is March Madness.  It also means that is time for me to publish my first edition of Brad-ketology for the 2019 season (my personal NCAA/NIT bracket projections).  For the tenth consecutive season, this column will become the staple of my blog from now until Selection Sunday.   Brad-ketology is a little different than other NCAA bracket projections in that it is much more expansive, as it also includes the NIT field and NIT bubble.  Furthermore, it is one of the columns used in the nationally-recognized bracket project which seeds NCAA teams by taking an average of the most prominent bracket projections in the country.  As you will see here, my bracket projection has been the 45th most accurate  amongst the 127 nationally recognized veteran bracketologists (previously ranked 13th, but had a bad year last year).  That’s still not too bad considering I am ahead of the chief bracketologists for Yahoo, CBS, and ESPN (Joe Lunardi’s got nothing on me).  In fact, in 2017 I actually finished with the third most accurate bracket in the entire country!

The teams below are displayed below on an S-curve, so they are ranked from left to right within each seeding line.  The italicized teams are ones predicted to win their conference tourney and gain an automatic bid to the dance.  For the conferences who currently have NCAA tourney teams, it is assumed that one of those teams will win their conference tourney.  If not, then a stolen bid would result, and the number of at-large bids would drop.

Also, just to clarify, my bracket projection is intended to project the NCAA Tournament field if it was chosen today.  Unlike some bracketologists, I am not trying to predict how each team will finish the season and then seed the teams based on that.  There is one slight exception to this rule, however, and that is that I have always chosen to award the projected automatic bid for each conference to the best team in that conference, and not the team who is currently leading the conference standings.  Given how unbalanced conference schedules are, it just seems like common sense to project that the best team in a conference will win the league championship, not the squad currently in first place.

Brad-ketology columns will typically be published twice a week (typically on Mondays and Fridays) and more often than that when it gets closer to tourney time.  Please feel free to comment or debate.

NCAA Tourney Field:

1-seeds: Virginia, Michigan, Tennessee, Duke

2-seeds: Gonzaga, Michigan State, Texas Tech, Kansas

3-seeds: Kentucky, North Carolina, Iowa State, Marquette

4-seeds: Louisville, Houston, Virginia Tech, Maryland

5-seeds: Buffalo, LSU, Nevada, Auburn

6-seeds: Purdue, Wisconsin, Oklahoma, Iowa

7-seeds: Indiana, Villanova, Nebraska, Florida State

8-seeds: St. Johns, Ole Miss, Kansas State, Syracuse

9-seeds: Seton Hall, Mississippi State, TCU, Ohio State

10-seeds: Cincinnati, NC State, Minnesota, Texas

11-seeds: Arizona, Temple, Pittsburgh, Butler, Baylor, Alabama

12-seeds: VCU, Wofford, Murray State, Liberty

13-seeds: Hofstra, North Texas, Yale, Vermont

14-seeds: New Mexico State, Radford, Georgia State, Loyola-Chicago

15-seeds: Northern Kentucky, South Dakota State, UC Santa Barbara, Lehigh

16-seeds: Rider, Weber State, Wagner, Sam Houston State, Norfolk State, Arkansas Pine Bluff

NIT Tourney Field:

1-seeds: Washington, UCF, Florida, Oregon

2-seeds: VCU, Wofford, Murray State, Arizona State

3-seeds: Oregon State, Saint Louis, Clemson, San Francisco

4-seeds: Creighton, Utah State, Notre Dame, Saint Mary’s

5-seeds: Arkansas, Liberty, UCLA, Lipscomb

6-seeds: Northwestern, Hofstra, Georgia Tech, Furman

7-seeds: Xavier, Providence, Georgetown, Fresno State

8-seeds: North Texas, Yale, Vermont, Georgia

Ranking of Other Postseason Contenders: UNC Greensboro, Dayton, East Tennessee State, Davidson, Memphis, Toledo

My Final College Football Rankings (1-130)

1 Clemson
2 Alabama
3 Ohio State
4 UCF
5 Notre Dame
6 Oklahoma
7 Washington State
8 LSU
9 Georgia
10 Kentucky
11 Florida
12 Michigan
13 Syracuse
14 Fresno State
15 Army
16 Appalachian State
17 Utah State
18 Cincinnati
19 Texas
20 Texas A & M
21 Washington
22 Stanford
23 Oregon
24 West Virginia
25 Penn State
26 Iowa
27 NC State
28 UAB
29 Boise State
30 Troy
31 Georgia Southern
32 Northwestern
33 Missouri
34 Mississippi State
35 Auburn
36 Iowa State
37 Virginia
38 Utah
39 Wisconsin
40 Boston College
41 Duke
42 Marshall
43 Buffalo
44 FIU
45 Ohio
46 North Texas
47 Michigan State
48 Oklahoma State
49 Baylor
50 TCU
51 Wake Forest
52 South Carolina
53 Minnesota
54 Georgia Tech
55 Arizona State
56 Miami-FL
57 California
58 Temple
59 Houston
60 Nevada
61 Louisiana Tech
62 Arkansas State
63 Southern Miss
64 Pittsburgh
65 Purdue
66 Vanderbilt
67 Virginia Tech
68 Brigham Young
69 Northern Illinois
70 Memphis
71 Middle Tennessee
72 Tulane
73 San Diego State
74 Toledo
75 Hawaii
76 Eastern Michigan
77 Wyoming
78 Western Michigan
79 South Florida
80 Miami-OH
81 UL-Monroe
82 UL-Lafayette
83 Maryland
84 Southern Cal
85 Ole Miss
86 Arizona
87 Tennessee
88 Florida State
89 Kansas State
90 Colorado
91 Texas Tech
92 Indiana
93 Nebraska
94 Illinois
95 SMU
96 Charlotte
97 Florida Atlantic
98 Air Force
99 Coastal Carolina
100 Liberty
101 UCLA
102 Kansas
103 North Carolina
104 Old Dominion
105 UNLV
106 UMass
107 Akron
108 Ball State
109 Arkansas
110 Oregon State
111 Louisville
112 Tulsa
113 Colorado State
114 East Carolina
115 Western Kentucky
116 New Mexico
117 South Alabama
118 Bowling Green
119 UTSA
120 Texas State
121 New Mexico State
122 Rutgers
123 Navy
124 Kent State
125 Georgia State
126 San Jose State
127 UTEP
128 Rice
129 Central Michigan
130 UConn

Bowl Game Rankings 2018

Last month I posted my bowl game intrigue rankings where I ranked all the bowls based on how good of games I thought they would be.  Some of those ended up being duds, while others ended up as classics.  Here is my post-bowl rankings of all 39 (I mean 38) contests.

1 Dec. 22 Birmingham Wake Forest (6-6) vs. Memphis (8-5) 12:00 ESPN
2 Dec. 31 Liberty Oklahoma State (6-6) vs. Missouri (8-4) 3:45 ESPN
3 Dec. 28 Alamo Iowa State (8-4) vs. Washington State (10-2) 9:00 ESPN
4 Dec. 27 Texas Baylor (6-6) vs. Vanderbilt (6-6) 9:00 ESPN
5 Jan. 1 Citrus Kentucky (9-3) vs. Penn State (9-3) 1:00 ABC
6 Dec. 29 Arizona Arkansas State (8-4) vs. Nevada (7-5) 1:15 CBSS
7 Dec. 31 Red Box (San Francisco) Oregon (8-4) vs. Michigan State (7-5) 3:00 FOX
8 Jan. 1 Fiesta UCF (12-0) vs. LSU (9-3) 1:00 ESPN
9 Dec. 26 Cheez-It (Phoenix) California (7-5) vs. TCU (6-6) 9:00 ESPN
10 Dec. 15 Camellia (Montgomery) Georgia Southern (9-3) vs. Eastern Michigan (7-5) 5:30 ESPN
11 Jan. 1 Outback Iowa (8-4) vs. Mississippi State (8-4) 12:00 ESPN 2
12 Dec. 31 Military Virginia Tech (6-6) vs. Cincinnati (10-2) 12:00 ESPN
13 Dec. 31 Sun Stanford (8-4) vs. Pittsburgh (7-6) 2:00 CBS
14 Jan. 1 Sugar Texas (9-4) vs. Georgia (11-2) 8:45 ESPN
15 Jan. 1 Rose Washington (10-3) vs. Ohio State (12-1) 5:00 ESPN
16 Dec. 21 Bahamas FIU (8-4) vs. Toledo (7-5) 12:30 ESPN
17 Dec. 31 Holiday Utah (9-4) vs. Northwestern (8-5) 7:00 FS1
18 Dec. 22 Dollar General (Mobile) Troy (9-3) vs. Buffalo (10-3) 7:00 ESPN
19 Dec. 29 Orange Oklahoma (12-1) vs. Alabama (13-0) 8:00 ESPN
20 Dec. 15 Las Vegas Arizona State (7-5) vs. Fresno State (11-2) 3:30 ABC
21 Dec. 28 Camping World Syracuse (9-3) vs. West Virginia (8-3) 5:15 ESPN
22 Dec. 15 Cure (Orlando) UL-Lafayette (7-6) vs. Tulane (6-6) 2:30 CBSS
23 Dec. 26 Quick Lane (Detroit) Minnesota (6-6) vs. Georgia Tech (7-5) 5:15 ESPN
24 Dec. 22 Hawaii Louisiana Tech (7-5) vs. Hawaii (8-5) 10:30 ESPN
25 Dec. 18 Boca Raton Northern Illinois (8-5) vs. UAB (10-3) 7:00 ESPN
26 Dec. 20 Gasparilla (Tampa) Marshall (8-4) vs. South Florida (7-5) 8:00 ESPN
27 Dec. 31 Gator NC State (9-3) vs. Texas A & M (8-4) 7:30 ESPN
28 Dec. 15 New Orleans Middle Tennessee (8-5) vs. Appalachian State (10-2) 9:00 ESPN
29 Dec. 27 Pinstripe Miami-FL (7-5) vs. Wisconsin (7-5) 5:15 ESPN
30 Dec. 27 Independence Duke (7-5) vs. Temple (8-4) 1:30 ESPN
31 Dec. 22 Armed Forces Army (9-2) vs. Houston (8-4) 3:30 ESPN
32 Dec. 28 Music City Purdue (6-6) vs. Auburn (7-5) 1:30 ESPN
33 Dec. 29 Peach Florida (9-3) vs. Michigan (10-2) 12:00 ESPN
34 Dec. 19 Frisco Ohio (8-4) vs. San Diego State (7-5) 8:00 ESPN
35 Dec. 29 Belk Virginia (7-5) vs. South Carolina (7-5) 12:00 ABC
36 Dec. 21 Famous Idaho Potato Western Michigan (7-5) vs. Brigham Young (6-6) 4:00 ESPN
37 Dec. 29 Cotton Notre Dame (12-0) vs. Clemson (13-0) 4:00 ESPN
38 Dec. 15 New Mexico North Texas (9-3) vs. Utah State (10-2) 2:00 ESPN
39 Dec. 26 First Responder (Dallas) Boston College (7-5) vs. Boise State (10-3) 1:30 ESPN