Offseason Conference Realignment

Offseason Conference Realignment
Sep 28, 2007, 10:56 am
-As hard as it is to believe, practice officially starts two weeks from tonight. Granted, practice unofficially started for many about a week after last season ended, but college basketball 2007-2008 is almost officially here.

-Bracket Express is now back in full swing. Between now and the start of the season I plan on writing conference previews for all 31 leagues, along with the United Conference and the Independent teams. That will take us right up to the beginning of the regular season. The first official game, I believe, is November 5th in the opening round of the College Hoops Classic. If there is an earlier game I haven’t found it yet. It’s one of these tournaments where we have four major programs, and twelve lower caliber teams. It’s set up to where the four majors host the games, and then, ideally, meet in the semifinals at a neutral site. The first official game of the 2007-2008 season will pair Maine against Richmond. The winner will face the winner of Memphis vs Tennessee Martin. Oklahoma, Kentucky and Connecticut are also in this tournament.


-Presbyterian, North Carolina Central and South Carolina Upstate begin their first year of probation as div1 programs. For those that don’t know, teams that make the jump to div1 are automatically on probation for their first four years. South Carolina Upstate will play in the Atlantic Sun Conference right off the bat, whereas Presbyterian and NCCU will play as Independents. Presbyterian is only playing five games at home this year. Good luck with that. Their strategy seems to be one of playing a ton of what I call ‘Buy Games’ and trying to generate as much revenue as possible. For those that may be new to the site, a ‘Buy Game’ is a game where a major program hosts a low level program and doesn’t return the game. The reason I call these Buy Games is because a team like Clemson will write a check to a team like Presbyterian for them to come and play. Presby gets the paycheck, and Clemson makes their money back in ticket sales and gets a win. A rather meaningless win, but a win nonetheless. Clemson is hosting Presbyterian on November 21st.

North Carolina Central will also play as an Independent this season, but is applying for membership to the MEAC in the near future. A number of MEAC teams are on their schedule this year. Their strategy is similiar to Presbyterian's, but not quite as bad. They're playing seven games at home this year. NCCU last made the div2 tournament in 1997 and finished 13-15 last season. They've got quite a bit of work to do.


-What used to be the Mid Continent Conference is now the Summit League and the lineup has changed somewhat. Valparaiso left the conference to join the Horizon League. IPFW, North Dakota State and South Dakota State are newcomers to the league this year. That gives the league ten teams. I don’t know how the conference tournament will work since the new Summit official website is still being built and doesn’t have a whole lot of information on it. IPFW has been div1 long enough to be eligible for postseason play, but I’m not sure about North Dakota State and South Dakota State. NDSU is probably one of the better teams in the league even if they’re not eligible for postseason play. They won 20 games last season, including an upset win at Marquette. They also managed a surprising win against Wisconsin the year before. With four starters coming back NDSU should be able to finish toward the top of the standings.

-This has wreaked havoc on what used to be the United Conference. It was never an actual conference that was recognized by the NCAA, but from what I understand it would have been in four years had six or more teams stuck together. With IPFW, North Dakota State and South Dakota State leaving, the league is now down to just three teams in NJIT, Utah Valley State and Texas Pan-American. This might not be big news, but I mention it simply because it doesn’t look as if we’ll have a 32nd automatic bid anytime soon.

There is talk that the Big East might split in half in 2010, which would obviously create a 32nd automatic bid. By that point all of the “football schools” will have been together long enough to automatically qualify for NCAA Championship play. That’s sort of a moot point because it’s hard to imagine that the conference champion would need an automatic bid to make the postseason if the ‘football schools’ were to split off, but nevertheless they are waiting until 2010 to make any sort of move. (Another motive for staying together had to do with bowl tie-ins, but that’s a long story that doesn’t bare much relevance here) The Big East may decide not to do anything. The superconference that is the Big East seems to be doing just fine in all sports.


-I have what I call the one-third theory. Going into a season, a third of the teams will be better than people expect. At the same time, a third of the teams are going to be worse than expected. Only one-third of the teams, if that, end up having seasons that resemble what people were projecting them to do in the preseason regardless of what preview you’re looking at. Look at where Butler and LSU started ranked last year and look where they ended up. The season before last we saw four teams in the Final Four who began the season unranked. No one really knows who is #10 and who’s #25 at this point. I really do like the idea of preseason polls and previews because it helps us learn about the teams, but I never understood why people put so much stock into them. By December 1st no one will remember or care where anyone was ranked in the preseason.

For that reason, when writing the conference previews I’m going to focus more on the team’s strengths and weaknesses rather than trying to predict the order of finish like I’ve done in years past. I’m going to indicate who I believe the conference frontrunners will be, but I’m not going to try and distinguish the 6th place team from the 9th place team in the Northeast Conference, or any conference for that matter.

-Midnight Madness is Friday, October 12th. I plan on having my preseason bracket up by then. Between now and then be sure to check back in as I begin running down all 31 conferences, plus the Independents, plus what’s left of the United Conference.

It’s good to be back!!

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