Some conference have already gotten underway with a few games this week, including last night’s Georgetown-Louisville match that saw the Hoyas give Louisville its first loss. Others get going this weekend, while a couple of the big boys tip off next week. We are going to give our predictions for twelve conferences, starting today with the Big East, Pac-10, West Coast Conference and Conference USA. Tomorrow will be the Big Ten, Big XII, Missouri Valley and Colonial Athletic, and next week we’ll have the ACC, SEC, Atlantic-10 and Mountain West.
BIG EAST CONFERENCE
The Big East may not have as many tournament teams as last year, but Syracuse gives them a legitimate title contender who can follow in Connecticut’s footsteps, as Dion Waiters has solidified this team in the backcourt, and they are among the nation’s best in forcing and preventing turnovers. Marquette is undersized and well-coached, and already has a road win at Wisconsin. Georgetown just won at Louisville, a win that can boost them up the ranks.
Winner and Top 3 Finishers: I wanted to go with Marquette to catch Syracuse, but probably not happening. They only play once and the game is in Syracuse. The real battle here is probably going to be who finishes 2nd through 5th. I’ll go Syracuse to win the league, and with Marquette and Georgetown to finish in 2nd and 3rd respectively, just ahead of UCONN, and at this point, the overrated Louisville Cardinals, who are not a Top 10 team but should rebound after the home loss to the Hoyas.
Conference Player of the Year Pick: With such a large conference with so many good teams, several good players are going to be left off, and I think it is possible Syracuse has no first team selections even if they get a #1 seed. The conference is particularly loaded at the Forward/Swing Man position. I’m going to go with West Virginia senior forward Kevin Jones, ahead of Jeremy Lamb and Jae Crowder, as the player of the year projection.
Memphis is young, talented, and needs to learn to play together. They’ve lost 5 games so far (twice to Georgetown in a month) this year, but still should be the class of the conference as the year progresses. Marshall, a team that won at Cincinnati and played a close game at Syracuse, is probably the team that could jump up and challenge them if Memphis falters.
Winner and Top 3 Finishers: Memphis to win, Marshall to place and garner bubble talk as an NCAA at-large, and Southern Miss to show.
Conference Player of the Year Pick: Rice’s Asalan Karzemi has been a beast on the boards this year, but I don’t think the team finishes high enough. I’ll go with Will Barton of Memphis to win the award.
Winner and Top 3 Finishers: Arizona has disappointed with 4 losses. Washington lost a lot of production and does not look like a contender to me. I watched in person California get absolutely rolled by Missouri in November. They’ve got height, and are the team I think can most likely stay in the mix, but I’m going to go off the board a little with their rival, coached by Johnny Dawkins, and pick a Stanford team that is somewhat young in the backcourt to win a watered-down conference, just ahead of Arizona and California.
Conference Player of the Year Pick: Wide open, as I don’t think anyone has asserted themselves. I’ll go with Arizona’s Solomon Hill to come on, ahead of Allen Crabbe of California and Josh Owens of Stanford.
WEST COAST CONFERENCE
Can the old guard hold off the interloper, as BYU has joined this league for basketball? Gonzaga and St. Mary’s both look like the tournament contenders that they usually are, and now it is a three-team race, which should improve the conference’s standing come selection time. It tips off tonight as BYU travels to St. Mary’s.
Winner and Top 3 Finishers: I’m going to say that Gonzaga continues their run, narrowly holding off the Cougars, with BYU finishing 2nd and St. Mary’s third, with all three getting bids to the NCAA Tournament.
Conference Player of the Year Pick: Noah Hartsock has been playing very efficiently for BYU, shooting over 60% from the field, and Brandon Davies is back after last year’s suspension. I think it’s a question of which team splits votes, as Elias Harris and Robert Sacre will both garner attention from Gonzaga. I’m going to say that at the conclusion of conference season, Brandon Davies will be player of the year, and he’ll just have to be careful in his choice of celebration.
[photo via Getty]