32 Conferences, 32 Questions
1. America East -- Can Maine win an America East Tournament game for the first time since 2005? I'm unaware of any other Division I coaches who have survived going seven consecutive seasons without a conference tourney win, but that's the case with UMaine's Ted Woodward. Sounds to me like being the head basketball coach at a school where hockey is king might be the cushiest D-I job in America.
2. ACC -- Will NC State be the real deal or a fraud? I'm skeptical whenever I hear someone other than Duke or North Carolina is favored to win the ACC.
3. Atlantic Sun -- Can Mercer follow up its College Insiders Tournament (CIT) championship with an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament?
4. Atlantic 10 -- Will newbies Butler and VCU jump directly to the head of the class? Or will this league filled with solid programs (Dayton, Richmond, Saint Joseph's, Saint Louis, Temple, Xavier) say, "Not so fast, my friends"?
5. Big East -- Is this the year Notre Dame's Mike Brey does something of significance in the NCAA Tournament? Brey is a solid coach, but generally speaking his teams tend to overachieve and/or impress in the regular season before performing a March Madness face-plant.
6. Big Sky -- Can UND (North Dakota) do what its in-state rival (NDSU) did in 2009, earn an automatic NCAA berth in its first year of eligibility?
7. Big South -- How will RPI bottom-feeder and former D-I independent Longwood fare in its initial season as part of a conference?
8. B1G -- Will Tom Izzo's streak of having every one of his 4-year players reach at least one Final Four be in jeopardy after this season? Juniors Keith Appling and Adreian Payne have yet to play in a Final Four, so if the Spartans fail to reach Atlanta next spring, the heat's on in 2013-14.
9. Big 12 -- Was Iowa State a one-year wonder, or will The Mayor's Hilton Magic continue in 2012-13?
10. Big West -- Can Dan Monson reload in short order and get Long Beach State back into the NCAA Tournament?
11. Colonial -- With Old Dominion and VCU out of the equation, will any team have an easier path in its conference tournament than heavy favorite Drexel?
12. Conference USA -- Can Memphis, with 75 wins in three years under Josh Pastner, finally win a NCAA game?
13. Great West -- If a "conference" without an automatic bid falls in the forest, does it make a sound?
14. Horizon -- Can Winona's own Alec Brown lead Green Bay to the NCAA promised land?
15. Ivy -- Harvard, Penn, or Princeton? Take your pick.
16. Metro Atlantic -- Will Iona build on the "Mo-Mo"(Jones)-mentum it gained from its surprising 2012 at-large bid?
17. MAC -- Will a talented and experienced Ohio squad led by mercurial D.J. Cooper skip a beat or two without former coach John Groce?
18. MEAC -- Can the conference pull off a Round of 64 stunner in back-to-back seasons?
19. Missouri Valley -- Will Evansville sharp-shooter Colt Ryan be a household name at the conclusion of Arch Madness, otherwise known as the MVC Tournament?
20. Mountain West -- Will San Diego State's MWC swan song result in a conference championship?
21. Northeast -- Can LIU make it three consecutive NCAA berths?
22. Ohio Valley -- Does OVC newcomer Belmont have the goods to give Murray State and Isaiah Canaan a run for its money?
23. Pac 12 -- Is Colorado a rising power in the West?
24. Patriot -- Bucknell or Lehigh? Flip a coin.
25. SEC -- Can one conference newcomer (Mizzou) topple Kentucky and win the league, while the other one (Texas A&M) finishes dead last?
26. Southern -- Is Davidson in the process of starting a "Gonzaga-like" run in the SoCon?
27. Southland -- Does O-Bob (also known as Oral Roberts) dominate its new conference from the get-go?
28. SWAC -- Can this downtrodden league's NCAA representative avoid the First Four in Dayton?
29. Summit -- Can the Nate Wolters led Jackrabbits do enough in November/December to merit an at-large bid in the event they fail to win their conference tourney?
30. Sun Belt -- Will studly North Texas forward Tony Mitchell become a household name during the NIT Season Tip-Off?
31. West Coast -- With the return of Kevin Foster and Marc Trasolini, can Santa Clara go from winless (0-16) in conference play to a a WCC title contender?
32. WAC -- In its first year in the league, does DU (Denver) become known for more than just its men's hockey program?
And 5 More to Ponder
1. Can the Gophers earn a bye for the B1G Tournament, something they've done only once in the tournament's 15-year history? Dan Monson's Gophers earned a bye as the #5 seed for the 2005 B1G Tournament. With 12 teams now in the conference, the Gophers need to finish in the top four to secure the elusive bye.
2. Will Indiana play just enough defense (think Roy Williams' uber-talented UNC squads) to justify its perch as a legitimate national championship contender? My hunch is yes.
3. Will Duke, Gonzaga, Kansas, Michigan State, Texas, and Wisconsin continue their streaks of reaching every NCAA Tournament since 2000? I think we'll see all of 'em back in the NCAA Tournament.
4. Can Nebraska, Northwestern, Oregon State, and Rutgers -- the only BCS programs without a NCAA appearances since 2000 -- reach the Big Dance? Northwestern appears to have the best chance.
5. Can the above four (see #4) plus Minnesota, Providence, and South Carolina -- the only BCS programs with nary a NCAA tourney win since 2000 -- make the NCAA and then "survive and advance" for at least one game? The Gophers are the most obvious candidate to get this done, but be warned, I said the same thing before last season.
Blue Ribbon Yearbook Projection of Gopher Nonconference Opponents
1. American (picked 4th in Patriot League)
2. Toledo (picked 1st in MAC West)
3. Tennessee State (picked 1st in Ohio Valley East)
4. Richmond (picked 9th in Atlantic 10)
5. Duke (ranked #6, picked 2nd in ACC)
6. Florida State (picked 5th in ACC)
7. North Florida (picked 6th in Atlantic Sun)
8. South Dakota State (picked 1st in Summit League)
9. USC (picked 7th in Pac 12)
10. North Dakota State (picked 2nd in Summit League)
11. Lafayette (picked 6th in Patriot League)
Potential Opponents (Battle 4 Atlantis)
1. Memphis (ranked #18, picked 1st in Conference USA)
2. VCU (picked 2nd in Atlantic 10)
3. Louisville (ranked #2, picked 1st in Big East)
4. Missouri (picked 4th in SEC)
5. Northern Iowa (picked 2nd in Missouri Valley)
6. Stanford (picked 3rd in Pac 12)
Week 1 B1G Openers (Nov. 9-11)
Nov. 9 -- Colgate @ Illinois, Bryant @ Indiana, Texas-Pan American @ Iowa, Slippery Rock @ Michigan, Michigan State vs. UConn, American @ Minnesota, Marquette vs. Ohio State, Saint Francis-Pa. @ Penn State, Bucknell @ Purdue.
Nov. 11 -- Southeastern Louisiana @ Wisconsin.
B1G Team on Upset Alert
Purdue -- The new-look Boilers best be careful with Bucknell, one of two clear-cut favorites to win the Patriot League.
Other Week 1 Games to Keep An Eye On
Nov. 9 -- Denver @ Iona, Florida vs. Georgetown, Kentucky vs. Maryland, Lehigh @ Baylor, Montana @ Colorado State, North Texas @ Creighton, San Diego State vs. Syracuse, South Dakota State @ Alabama, Tennessee State (future Gopher opponent) @ BYU.
Nov. 10 -- Evansville @ Notre Dame.
Nov. 11 -- Loyola-Maryland @ Washington, Marshall @ Villanova, New Mexico State @ Oregon State.
Week 1 Upset Special
Take South Dakota State to pick up a road win in Tuscaloosa vs. the Crimson Tide.
Tag(s): Gopher Basketball