We did it. We made it through the offseason. There will be real college basketball games on your screen this week. Rejoice!
We’ve answered a lot of questions this offseason. Some of them many times! But we opened up the mailbag one last time to answer any final questions before the season tips off on Tuesday.
Of the mid majors they play in non con, who has the best chance at beating Kansas? I think Vermont, but there are aome more options.— Alex Ailey KU (3-5) (@etnalexailey) October 31, 2018
Kansas traditionally schedules pretty well. They’re always going to have the high profile matchups with other national powers, but Bill Self usually sprinkles some quality mid-majors into the non-conference mix. You’d have to go back to January 2014 to find the last time the Jayhawks dropped a game to a mid-major when San Diego State won in Phog Allen Fieldhouse. The following teams will get a crack at the nation’s No. 1 team this year: Vermont, Louisiana, Wofford, New Mexico State, South Dakota, and Eastern Michigan.
Kenpom gives New Mexico State a 5 percent chance of winning, which is the highest of those teams listed. That game will be played on a “neutral” court in Kansas City. To be quite honest, I don’t think any of these teams have much of a shot against Kansas this year. They’re No. 1 for a reason. I think your best hope at a monumental upset would be a scenario in which Wofford and Fletcher Magee go in and just absolutely shoot the lights out from three.
How many bids can the MWC get? Does SDSU or Boise have a shot?— Bennywise the Dancing Clown (@ben_abramowitz) October 31, 2018
Assuming Nevada is a lock, the Mountain West can certainly get multiple bids. San Diego State can absolutely make it again. They have the talent, and a trip to the Maui Invitational provides multiple opportunities to pick up a couple of quality wins. As always for mid-major leagues, the margin for error is significantly smaller than that of a Power 5/6/7 team. Win the games you’re supposed to win, pick up an upset or two, and hope things break in your favor. It can be done.
Do Gonzaga or Nevada have a chance at a 1 seed line? What has to go right for that to happen?— Joshua Tomas Garcia (@sparkythehuman) October 31, 2018
This is a fun question because both of them have a shot, albeit through different paths. It can really be broken down into this: quality or quantity?
Gonzaga’s path fits into the quality argument. Simply put, their non-conference slate is LOADED. They go to Maui. They make road trips to Creighton and North Carolina. They host Texas A&M and Washington, and play Tennessee on a neutral court. Depending on how things shake out in Maui, they could have games against Arizona, Iowa State, Auburn or Duke. Opportunities for huge wins are plentiful for Gonzaga. They’ll handle their business in WCC play, and they have the talent to rack up wins in the non-conference as well. It’ll be a similar path to when they got a 1 seed in 2013 and 2017: dominate your league and beat the good teams that you play in the non-conference.
Nevada’s non-conference schedule isn’t quite as beefy, so their path to a 1 seed likely relies on quantity. Going off of preseason KenPom ratings, the Wolf Pack don’t have a top 50 team on their schedule. KenPom does, however, give them a 4.1 percent chance of going unbeaten, which is the highest mark in the country. Their path is similar to Wichita State’s in 2015: simply don’t lose. Predicting a team to undefeated is always a cautionary practice, especially in a league like the Mountain West. Nevada is a top 10 team nationally for a reason, and if the Wolf Pack are a 1 seed in March, it’ll be because they simply won almost all of their games.
do you think 4 2019 ESPN Top 100 recruits will help Nova breakthru from it's mid-major status?— Steve (@sgmpic) October 31, 2018
Gonna need to see Jay Wright get it done in March a few more times before we can really be sure.
Opinions on the MAC?— Bobby with that tool (@bob_clone116) October 31, 2018
After Buffalo, what 2-3 teams do you like the most in the MAC?— Ryan (@ou_country) November 1, 2018
After Buffalo, I like Ball State and Toledo a lot. I like teams that can score, and those two are probably the best in the league at doing it, excluding Buffalo. Eastern Michigan is also a really good defensive team with a great front court that can be tough to handle. The MAC is a sneaky good league and kinda goes overlooked sometimes. #MACtion is fun! Tune in!
We like teams that will pay us any modicum of attention online. Schools that are good at banter are fun to us. The CAA is a hotbed of fun teams online.
2 bid cusa?— Lucas Bloss (@Lucasbloss22) October 31, 2018
Not impossible, but not likely. It should be a really, really good league though. There are four or five teams that wouldn’t surprise me if they came out on top, which can’t be said for a lot of the leagues we cover.
What are your top three mid-major venues?— Toni DeVelin (@tonidevelin) October 31, 2018
I personally haven’t been to as many as some other folks on this site and that follow us, but The Palestra is probably the one I’ve enjoyed the most. I’d love to get a game at The Pit. Grand Canyon by all accounts has a raucous home environment. There’s a lot of places I’d like to get to, but unfortunately don’t live anywhere close to. Such is life.
Who are some sleeper teams that could surprise people by making the tournament?— Z (@The_Real_Zolman) October 31, 2018
Just gonna rattle off a few that might not be considered the favorites in their league that I think have a chance to get a bid: Southern Illinois, North Texas, UIC, Ball State, UC Santa Barbara, George Mason, North Texas, South Alabama.
Could the MVC get multiple teams in? If so, who?— Max (@mgoring10) October 31, 2018
They can, but it’s tough. Not to sound like a broken record, but the margin for error for some of these leagues is so incredibly small. Nearly everything has to go right in their favor. Multiple teams need to have great showings in non-conference play, and a lot of the time the “best” team in the league needs to lose in the conference championship game. I think the top of the Valley is really strong this year, particularly in Illinois. Loyola and Illinois State are obviously the two that come to mind, but don’t sleep on Southern Illinois and Bradley.
Does Shaka Smart coaching automatically make Texas a mid-major? when will Gonzanga join the ACC?— Oliver Reid (@OllyReid82) November 1, 2018
Gonzaga can join the ACC when the NCAA nukes Louisville or something like that.
While we’re on the topic of Shaka, I’m kind of surprised that he hasn’t done better at Texas. Hiring the “Mid-Major Flavor of the Month” is always interesting. You could end up with a guy like John Groce at Illinois, who ultimately flames out and has to return to the mid-major ranks. Of the coaches whose star has grown since bursting onto the scene, who’s the most successful coach to make the jump from the mid-major ranks to a big time job in recent memory? Mike White at Florida? There’s a lot of recent guys that could end up having a ton of success, it just hasn’t happened yet.
Outside of Nevada and The Zags, which mid-major program or programs have the greatest chance of making a Loyola Chicago type run this season?— Blake Krek (@BlakeKrek) November 1, 2018
Whoever comes out of Conference USA will be dangerous. South Dakota State has Mike Daum, who could carry a team deep in the tournament if he gets hot. Buffalo is going to be a force again. Davidson has dudes. A team I love that doesn’t get as much national attention as some of the other mid-majors is Northeastern. I think there’s a really strong crop of mid-majors this year.