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Twitter Mailbag: Buffalo’s big matchups, A-10 struggles, and more

We turn to the readers for some discussion on some hot topics in college basketball.

NCAA Basketball: Buffalo at St. Bonaventure Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

With schools in the midst of finals week, the college basketball slate has been light all. Since there’s a lull in the action, let’s answer some questions from the first third of the season.

Right now, I guess you can say Furman is an at-large candidate. It’s No. 34 in the NET and hasn’t lost a game yet. However, it would require a miraculous run through the SoCon to even be in the conversation for an at-large bid on Selection Sunday though. Furman has played an extremely light schedule, and the two marquee wins over Loyola Chicago and Villanova lose their luster with each passing week as both teams struggle. And to be quite honest, I’m still not sure if it’s even the best team in the conference.

The SoCon is going to be a very, very good mid-major league. It’s not a multi-bid league though.

Buffalo’s matchup with Syracuse is going to be an interesting contrast of styles. Syracuse slows the game down and makes it a priority to defend the three-point line. Buffalo wants to do the opposite. The Bulls want to push the pace and shoot a lot of threes. It’ll require a lot of things to go right, but Buffalo absolutely has the talent to hang with Syracuse.

As far as Marquette goes, that game is going to be all kinds of fun. Both teams are capable of putting up points, especially if guys like Markus Howard or CJ Massinburg get going. Again, Buffalo will have to be on its A game to win, but I think the Bulls have earned the benefit of the doubt.

The optimist in me says they get at least one of those games, but for the sake of argument let’s say Buffalo wins both. Buffalo is currently slotted as a 7 seed on Bracket Matrix. One would think that winning both games could bump them up a line or two. And despite what expects to be a very competitive MAC season, the Bulls are still the heavy favorite. The path to a 5 seed (or better) is there.

I think Monmouth can pick off Manhattan at home on January 12.

Jazz Johnson is so much fun to watch when he’s on the floor for Nevada. He’s the one guy on the roster that I would classify as a knockdown shooter. It seems like every time he’s open, it’s going in. It also feels like every time Nevada needs a big bucket, Johnson is there to step up. He may be the unsung hero of this Nevada team, and he’s been extremely fun so far.

To this point, the WCC has clearly been the best league we cover. If you go by KenPom conference rank, it’s No. 8 nationally and is creeping up on the AAC. Granted, some of that is buoyed by Gonzaga, but that’s been the case for years now. The rest of the league features four others in the top 100, two of which is knocking on the door of the top 50. Compared to other mid-major leagues out West, the only league that you could maybe make a case for is the Mountain West, but the Mountain West doesn’t have the same depth as the WCC. The PAC 12 stinks this year, but it’ll still manage to get more bids by virtue of being a Power 5. I think the PAC 12 is closer to the WCC than it is to the Big Ten, ACC, etc.

11-5 or 12-4. Do not ask for reasoning.

...are we’re sure it’s TEAMS and not TEAM? The Atlantic 10, quite frankly, has been a huge disappointment so far. There have been so many squandered opportunities that could come back to bite them on Selection Sunday. Sure, Saint Louis has picked a couple of good wins, as has VCU. Davidson has won the games it’s supposed to. Within conference play, there just aren’t going to be that many opportunities for wins that move the needle. The A-10 could certainly end up getting multiple bids, but I wouldn’t say that with any sort of confidence right now.

If we’re to believe the NCAA, the NET rankings are going to be the only ones that actually matter on Selection Sunday. Since we’re going into this blind and don’t know how the NET would have affected the tournament last year, we can’t say for sure whether it’s going to help mid-majors. The AP Poll doesn’t really serve much of a purpose other than driving storylines throughout the season. That’s why it’s dumb to get mad over a team’s ranking in it (or any other poll-based ranking for that matter). None of it matters.

As far as KenPom and other computer metrics, I wouldn’t necessarily say they give mid-majors an advantage. Those are mathematical outputs that take human biases out of the equation. If a team is good enough to be in the NCAA Tournament, those metrics will usually show that more often than not.

For all your WAC needs, read up on Greg’s latest WAC Wednesday piece here.

From an outsider’s perspective, it seems like NMSU and Grand Canyon are the favorites with Utah Valley, Seattle and Cal St. Bakersfield as the darkhorses.

This may be somewhat unpopular, but I kind of love how the Ivy League does it. Take the top 4 teams and play them at one of the league’s venues. For some of these conferences that may not be as deep as some others, this format ensures that you’ll be putting one of your best teams in the field. And isn’t that what the conferences should want? Doesn’t it make sense to give your conference the best chance at a better seed and better chance of advancing? It’s fun watching a lower seeded team get hot and tear through a conference tournament. It’s not fun watching that team get blitzed by 40 by a 1 seed.

The WCC probably has the best shot at two bids. The Mountain West and Atlantic 10 have work to do.

Read more about this here from our WCC expert Will Maupin!

I don’t have any research to back this up, but I don’t think there has been a significant change in the talent gap. The best players are still going to the best schools. Sure, teams like Buffalo and Furman can burst onto the national scene and climb the rankings, but there are teams like them every single year. There are always going to teams that outperform.

Now the coaching talent gap? I think that’s shrinking. Hence why we see some of these programs like Buffalo, Loyola Chicago, etc. That’s why the Power 5 programs want to poach coaches from these schools.

Not great, Bob!

If the Atlantic 10 isn’t the most disappointing conference this year, it’s the Missouri Valley. Loyola Chicago was severely overrated in the preseason. Illinois State has not lived up to the hype. Southern Illinois and Bradley have both been fine but nothing special. It’s definitely more down than it has been for a couple of years now. It would be hard to be surprised by anything that happens in conference play.