After many mid-major basketball teams dealt with brutal schedules, conference play is getting underway. Here are 5 questions concerning these leagues.
1. Is Portland State the most dangerous mid-major around?
There are plenty of mid-majors people know about because of high-major transfers or potential pros on their teams. But the Vikings of Portland State may have the most fascinating non-conference records of the small schools.
The team ended non-conference with a record of 10-3, with the only losses to Duke, Butler, and Oregon. They also have a pair of wins of PAC-12 schools Stanford and Cal. There’s tough competition around with North Dakota and Eastern Washington in the Big Sky, but you don’t want the Vikings in your favorite team’s bracket if they make the Big Dance.
2. Will Florida Gulf Coast still dominate the Atlantic Sun?
Joe Dooley is one of those mid-major coaches that’s gone the transfer route to bring talent to their teams. Led by Brandon Goodwin, FGCU was supposed to be the unquestioned front-runner to win Atlantic Sun.
But non-conference losses to Florida International, Oral Roberts, and Bowling Green have shaken that confidence. Teams like North Florida and Lipscomb might have a better shot than expected to win this league
3. Does any of the “Big 3” in the Ivy start to separate themselves?
As a conference, the Ivy League altogether was disappointing. Between injuries, inconsistencies, and youth, the trio of Harvard, Princeton and Yale has struggled. With conference play approaching, do any of the three start to get things going or is the Ivy going to be a free-for-all?
4. Can Grand Canyon be in first place in the WAC after a month?
After being eligible to participate in the NCAA tournament for the first time, head coach Dan Majerle and the Antelopes have their sights set high. Problem is, New Mexico State looks as good as ever and is the favorite to win the WAC. The Aggies travel to Phoenix this month, and in a two-team race, that game is vital. Will the Antelopes hold home court?
5. Who is the second-best team in the Atlantic 10?
Rhode Island is clearly the best team, having a successful non-conference even after losing their top player, E.C. Matthews. The spot for No. 2 is up for grabs right now.
VCU doesn’t have a bad loss but did lose all five of their tough games, something the team didn’t do in years past. Teams like Dayton, UMass, St. Joe’s and St. Bonaventure all have good wins but have been inconsistent as well. In a league where two bids might be the max, second place is all the more important.