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Twitter Mailbag: COLLEGE BASKETBALL SEASON IS HERE

We did it. We made it through the offseason.

NCAA Basketball: South Alabama at Auburn John Reed-USA TODAY Sports

Do you know the escape scene in The Shawshank Redemption? The one where Andy Dufresne tunnels out of his cell and, as the dulcet tones of Red would say, crawls through 500 yards of shit and came out clean on the other end. Yes, that one.

That’s every college basketball fan when the offseason is finally over. We’ve crawled through 500 yards of shit consisting of buy game scoops, transfer waiver decisions, NIL discourse and countless bad tweets and bits that are so desperately trying to generate engagement during the doldrums of the summer. But we did it, and now it’s time to go into hibernation for the next five months for the duration of the college basketball season.

Because our loyal readers and followers are the premium gas in the high powered engine of our content machine, it’s only fair to answer their questions in the final Twitter mailbag of the offseason.

Here. We. Go.

First off, let’s just get it out of the way and say that just about everywhere you look has Vermont as the America East’s autobid to the NCAA Tournament. And for good reason! The Catamounts are going to be great.

UMBC slides into that second tier of teams with Stony Brook and Albany in some order. For these teams, the CBI or CIT are the most likely options for postseason participation. Both of these tournaments are essentially pay-to-play tournaments, so it really comes down to if UMBC wants to play in the postseason or not. In 2017, UMBC participated in the CIT with a 18-12 record before finishing 21-13. Last year, UMBC finished with a 21-13 record without participating in a postseason tournament. Sure!

It’ll likely come down to whether head coach Ryan Odom feels that that additional practices and games would provide enough developmental value for the team that could help them in the future. That’s essentially what happened during the 2017 run, which was the year before the Retrievers became the first 16-seed to knock off a one seed in the NCAA Tournament, in case you forgot.

See above re: pay-to-play postseason tournaments.

Norfolk State is always going to be a factor in the MEAC. Under Robert Jones, the Spartans have won at least 11 games in MEAC play. KenPom currently has Norfolk State as the No. 2 team in the MEAC in his preseason ratings. An NCAA Tournament appearance is certainly in the picture.

With George Mason projecting as a middle of the pack Atlantic 10 team, it’s a little more difficult to see their postseason path. The top half of the A-10 is loaded, so it’s hard to see George Mason building a resume good enough for the NIT or NCAA Tournament. The CIT generally doesn’t include the A-10, just as College Insider doesn’t include it in its mid-major polls. So does George Mason want to play in the CBI? Who knows.

Based off of KenPom conference rankings, the MAAC has been fairly consistent as a solid the mid-major conferences. Last season was the only real outlier of the decade. Here’s where the MAAC has finished every year since 2010: 15, 16, 20, 14, 17, 19, 21, 19, 20, 28. The MAAC checks in at No. 28 again in this year’s preseason rankings.

The quick reaction to those is that the good teams simply haven’t been as good. Since 2010, the MAAC has had a top-100 KenPom team every year except for 2018 and 2019. The parity was very apparent last season when Iona won the league at 12-6 with four teams tying for second at 11-7. I’d expect something similar this year. Rider and Iona will both be very good, but not quite as dominant as some of the conference’s best teams throughout the decade. Does that meet the subjective standard of respectability?

Whichever planet provides the least amount of gravitational resistance so that I could dunk. Mars? I don’t know, I didn’t take any space science classes in college because space is for NERDS!

South Alabama should be Sun Belt contenders, if not the favorites, thanks to a bevy of transfers. KenPom agrees with that sentiment. The Jaguars are projected to win a share of the league title with Georgia Southern.

Looking at them with a national point of view, it’s conceivable that they could be a Top 100 team or even higher. The Jaguars enter the preseason at No. 120 in KenPom, No. 134 in T-Rank, and No. 109 in Matt Norlander’s ranking of all 353 teams. It would be totally reasonable for South Alabama to finish as a Top 100 team, and it wouldn’t be that shocking to see them crack the Top 75 and beyond if they’re as good as advertised. The Sun Belt has produced some really good teams the last couple of years, and South Alabama has plenty of talent on the roster to follow in those footsteps.

Honestly, I don’t really think it’s going to move the needle that much in terms of leveling the playing field. I don’t foresee a world in which NIL rules make things necessarily harder for mid-majors. The best recruits are still going to go to the best schools. That status quo, essentially, will remain the same as it’s always been.

However, for a school like a Dayton, Murray State or even a school with a big football draw like Boise State, there could be some benefits to being the biggest show in town. There’s probably going to be more money (however much there may be) to be had at one of those schools being one of the bigger names as opposed to being just another guy in the mix somewhere else.

There’s not really a good way to predict how it’s going to affect anyone until the rules are actually in place, which is still quite a ways off. And with the NCAA being the creature that it is, it’s highly unlikely that things are going to go smoothly or end up as clear cut and favorable to the athletes as it should be. Ho hum.

WAVES SZN!!!!!!!

We’re on record as a staff thinking that Pepperdine is going to be good this year. We slotted them as the No. 24 team in the Other Top 25 preseason poll, and the Waves have generally been projected as the No. 4 team in the WCC behind the usual trio of Gonzaga, Saint Mary’s, and BYU.

This year could be their best shot in quite some time. Gonzaga is going to be very good. It’s Gonzaga. They’ve earned the benefit of the doubt ten times over. But Pepperdine has Dudes. Colbey Ross is one of the best guards in the country, you won’t hear the national media talk about him. The Waves are going to play fast and take and make a lot of threes. A dominant guard and a play style that’s capable of putting up points in bunches? An upset might not be as far fetched as you may think.