The calendar has turned, and that means it’s time for college basketball to take center stage. Non-conference play provides some intriguing matchups, fun games, but also comes with a level of uncertainty when trying to evaluate teams.
Now that conference play is in full swing across the country, some of that uncertainty will wane. Teams face familiar foes that are often of the same caliber, and a clearer picture of the mid-major landscape will emerge.
Before conference play picks up steam, let’s use a traditional bit to pin down which teams you should be taking note of. That’s right, it’s the debut of the Mid-Major Stock Watch. Here are some teams you should buy, sell, or hold steady to start 2017.
Teams to Buy
New Mexico State: The Aggies haven’t lost since before Thanksgiving and are owners of the fifth-longest winning streak in the country at 11 straight. Paul Weir has done a great job of maintaining the momentum that Marvin Menzies had built, and the Aggies look poised to make their fifth NCAA Tournament in six years.
UT Arlington: If it weren’t for New Mexico State and some school in Spokane, UT Arlington would have the longest win streak among mid-majors. The Mavericks started the season slowly at 1-3, but have won 10 straight since their three-game skid. They’ve cracked the top 60 in the KenPom rankings, and his metrics project them to run the table in the Sun Belt.
Missouri State: The Missouri Valley is still Wichita State’s to lose, but Missouri State picked up two close wins to start conference play. If the Bears hope to be considered contenders in the Valley, winning those single-digit games could be the difference. If they’re able to win at Illinois State this week, the Bears will finally have a signature win to put the rest of the conference on notice.
Vermont: So far this season, the Catamounts appear to have positioned themselves as the team to beat in the America East. They racked up double-digit wins in non-conference play, and don’t have a bad loss on their resume. John Becker has never finished worse than 11-5 in the conference, and his squad is the only team that cracks the KenPom top-150 in the entire league.
Teams to Sell:
Saint Joseph’s: Phil Martelli and Co. took a major hit this weekend when it was announced that Shavar Newkirk would miss the rest of the season with a torn ACL. The junior guard was leading the team in scoring at 20.3 points per game, and his production will be missed by a team is trying to compete in a cluttered Atlantic 10.
Loyola Chicago: As mentioned in our weekend recap, the Ramblers have now lost three straight, capped off by a drubbing from Illinois State. They’ve allowed nearly 86 points per game during that skid, and were out-rebounded in each of those contests. They only have one win against the KenPom top 100, and opportunities for quality wins are hard to come by in a down year for the MVC.
Northern Iowa: Sticking in the Valley, the Panthers are one of the biggest disappointments thus far. After a 3-0 start, a brutal non-conference schedule resulted in a 2-8 record over their last 10 games. Despite being a solid defensive team, the Panthers took a major step back on the offensive end. They’re only scoring 63.6 points per game, which is one of the lowest marks in the country.
Teams to Hold Steady:
San Diego State: I think I’m guilty of jinxing the Aztecs when I bought their stock on our podcast last week. Fresh off a dominant showing in the Diamond Head Classic, the Aztecs fell to New Mexico despite controlling most of the game. They’ll be tested right away with road games against Nevada and Boise State, and those games should give us a better idea in regards to where the Aztecs fall in the Mountain West hierarchy.
East Tennessee State: Steve Ford carried the momentum from his first year patrolling the sidelines and turned it into a hot start for the Buccaneers. They went 10-3 in their non-conference slate, but only two of those wins were against top-200 KenPom teams. The Southern conference appears to be a two-horse race between ETSU and Chattanooga, and we’ll get to see how the two compare when they meet at the end of January.