Now that we're about a third of the way through the College Basketball season, I'm starting to focus more on the season and the NCAA Tournament. Up to now, the coverage is still dominated by preseason expectations for the most part, and a lot of coverage is being given to the bowl games.
Below is a list of teams that I'm curious to see where they end up. It's still early and there's still the conference play to go, so anything can still happen at this point. Just some teams that have caught my eye and am curious to see where they go:
William & Mary (7-2) - currently have an RPI of 16. Wins against Richmond, @ Wake Forest, and against VCU have caught my eye. They also played close to a suprisingly good Harvard, and also had a respectible showing @ UConn. One of only a handful of teams in their history to never go dancing, but that makes watching this team that much more fun. Old Dominion looks to be the team to beat in the CAA, but having 3 contenders makes for an interesting conference tournament.
Southern Mississippi (7-1) - Is Larry Eustachy finally back? Hard to say. The RPI of 11 stands out, but it's too early.They haven't played much in terms of quality opponents yet, but they did only lose by 2 @ Ole Miss, a team that is likely going dancing this year. They should be right up there in the CUSA with Tulsa and Memphis. If that's the case, they're going dancing.
- Missouri State (10-0) - Where did these guys come from? I live in Central Iowa, a place close to a lot of The Valley teams, and I hadn't heard anything about these guys. Just talk about UNI and Creighton. They could sneak in there at the top. I'm curious to see how they play against UNI and Wichita State this year. If they can split with both teams, they could very well get that top seed in The Valley Tournament.
- Harvard (7-2) - I'm not going to sit here and pretend that I follow Ivy League basketball closely, because I don't. The Ivy League is unique in that they get an automatic bid, but have no conference tournament. Cornell is the favorite to win the league, but checking Ken Pomeroy's most recent basketball projections show Harvard has a good chance to be right in the mix to win the Ivy League and make their first NCAA Tournament Apperance since 1946.
- Rhode Island (9-1) - The A10 is going to be tough yet again this year. Hard to really think of them as a "mid-major" when it comes to basketball. They are off to a good start, and playing teams like Xavier, Charlotte, Temple, Dayton, Richmond, and George Washington is a two-edged sword. It's the kind of league where you can pick up a bunch of quality wins, but you can also bury yourself.
- Minnesota (8-3) - After going through a rough patch at the end of November/beginning of December, losing to Portland, Texas A&M, and Miami (FL), lots of people were getting down on the team. I think the Gophers are poised enough to bounce back. When Big 10 play starts in about a week or so, I think they will start to separate themselves.
- Xavier (6-4) - At first glance, you might say to yourself "wow, Xavier isn't themselves this year". I know I did. But then you look at the schedule and see that they lost to Marquette and Baylor on neutral sites, and @ K-State, those are legit losses. Plus their 4th loss was kind of flukey as I think they got a screwed a little @ Butler. They have plenty of time to enchance their resume though. They've got a road game at Wake Forest on the schedule coming up soon, and they're playing in a tough A10.
- Northwestern (9-1) - After losing Coble and Ryan, the sexy pick to make the NCAA Tournament seemed to be done. But then, stuff happened. Now the Wildcats have jumped to a 9-1 start, losing only to Butler, and collecting decent wins against Notre Dame, Iowa State, and Stanford. Ken Pomeroy currently has the Wildcats winning 21 games, including going 9-9 in the Big 10. Last year, Michigan and Minnesota both got in with 9-9 records and 20+ wins, so could this finally be their year? Either way, they are much better than I thought they would be and have a great coach in Bill Carmody
- Oklahoma (8-3) - To start the year, many were excited about this team, and they have been disappointing, losing to VCU, San Diego, and Houston. Now, all three of those teams are actually pretty solid, but they weren't that close of games. Ken Pomeroy currently has the Sooners going 14-16 overall with a 4-12 league record. I don't know if they will be that bad, but it's an interesting story. I would think with guys like Tiny Gallon and Willie Warren, this team would find their way to the middle of the pack in the Big 12, but with the Big 12 looking so deep, maybe not? That's why I'm watching them!
- Texas Tech (9-1) - I had these guys picked for last in the Big 12, and they have suprised me with their start. They did get a nice home win against Washington, but just lost @ Wichita St. Those are the only two teams they have played with a pulse, and I think the Red Raiders are a little bit of paper tigers still at this point. Over the next few weeks, their games @ New Mexico, UTEP, and @Oklahoma State will tell me a more about this team.
- Iowa State (8-3) - Last and hopefully not least. My team. I watch this team closely regardless as I'm a season ticket holder, but I had expectations for this team prior to the season. Losses to Northwestern, UNI, and Cal have been tough, but the team has the potential to come around. Part of me thinks that a team of Craig Brackins and Marquis Gilstrap is too talented to not go dancing, but the other part of me realizes that ISU doesn't have a marquee game and is playing in the buzzsaw of the Big 12. With games against Houston, Duke, Texas, Texas Tech, and Kansas over the next month or so, January is going to be make-or-break for the Cyclones.