By Riley Saxon
2. Florida St
6. Virginia Tech
8. Notre Dame
9. Georgia Tech
10, NC State
14. Wake Forest
15. Boston College
2. Wichita St
4. Ohio St
6. Michigan St
4. Texas Tech
5. West Virginia
6. Oklahoma St
9. Kansas St
10. Iowa State
4. St. John’s
7. Seton Hall
5. Washington State
6. Oregon State
8. Arizona State
6. Mississippi St
10. Texas A&M
11. South Carolina
3. St. Mary’s
5. San Francisco
7. Santa Clara
9. San Diego
ACC: The Paolo Banchero hype is real, and of course there is the Coach K retirement tour. Duke hasn’t been the regular season conference champion since 2010 (but has won the tournament 4 times since then), but expect the all-out pursuit of titles in K’s last year. There are question marks and uncertainties surrounding every team in the ACC, including Florida St, North Carolina and Virginia. Syracuse is a dark horse Final 4 contender, but aside from that top 5, it’s the bubble, or worst, for the rest.
American: The League got a big bump with the newly-minted freshman duo, but also took a hit with Conference realignment. Still, they boast a 2021 Final Four Squad and the 2021 NIT Champion, and neither of those two teams won the conference last year. Houston lost its starting PG and the conference defensive player of the year, but they should still be in the mix for the title. Wichita St, UCF and Cincinnati will all be on the Bubble.
Big 10: Could this be the year the championship drought ends? The conference carries its typical top-to-bottom strength (7 teams in the AP top 27), although Minnesota has the potential to be an easy doormat. Michigan and Purdue come in with sky-high expectations, with Illinois nipping right behind them. It’s odd to see Wisconsin so low on projections, and Iowa will likely be in a free fall, but the potential is there for the conference to get 8 bids… and potentially have the last team standing.
Big 12: Offseason craziness aside, this will likely be the best conference in the nation (again). Kansas and Texas have national title aspirations, Baylor is the defending champ and teams 4 through 8 should be knocking on the door, if not already bursting through, to the Big Dance. Texas Tech lost Chris Beard, but won’t lose much ground, Oklahoma State said goodbye to Cade Cunningham but also will still be strong and Oklahoma has the hot coaching commodity in Porter Moser. All this is and Bob Huggins and Jamie Dixon have yet to be mentioned. In all, the conference will be another fun watch… even Kansas St and Iowa St should be better (partially because there’s really no where to go but up for each team).
Big East: Villanova is again the class of the Big East, but they are in desperate need of their conference competitors to step up. UConn will likely be the top competition, but Xavier and St. John’s return a lot, Creighton is bringing in its best recruiting class ever, and Providence reportedly beat Purdue in a secret scrimmage. None of that will likely mean stiff competition for Villanova, but respectable showings in the non-conference will go a long way for the conference’s reputation, and likely Villanova’s seeding.
Pac 12: The March Madness run, of the league and its top team, propelled the offseason discussion, and with good reason: The league had the fifth most teams in the tournament, but left with the most wins, best winning % and most teams in the Sweet 16 and Elite 8. It’ll be hard for the conference to duplicate that success, just as it will be hard for their 3 Elite 8 teams to repeat their postseason magic over an entire season. Regardless, there is a good chance the conference will get more teams in this year, especially if they can build off their tournament success and Washington State and Arizona take the big steps they are expected to take.
SEC: Is the SEC a basketball conference now? The bottom of the conference isn’t as strong as some other conference bottoms, but the top teams will compete with any conference’s top teams. Any one of the top five teams could realistically win the conference, and the top three should be favored to be second weekend teams. The offseason announcement will undoubtedly boost the basketball pedigree, and if the SEC performs as it should, they may even be able to lay a claim as the best conference in basketball in a few years.
WCC: It’s a testament to Gonzaga’s dominance and the rising strength of the middle tier teams that they are in this spot over the A-10 or Mountain West. The bottom is still dreadful, but the WCC should return to being a three big league this year, with dark horse LMU on the fringe bubble. If Pepperdine and San Francisco can recapture some of their mojo from last season, the WCC should make some noise in the non-conference season, although non-watchers of the sport will likely still claim that “Gonzaga plays nobody).
Secret scrimmages can be meaningless (in the 2014 secret scrimmage, UCLA reportedly beat UNLV by 51… the same season Kentucky and Utah held the Bruins to under 42 and 39 points, respectively) or telling (in the 2018 secret game, UCLA needed overtime to beat Pepperdine… Steve Alford was fired in the middle of the season), so rather than speculate, today’s Bruin Bias will just lay out what sources have said about the October 30th Secret Scrimmage against San Diego State:
The Bruins went with a starting line-up of Tyger Campbell, Johnny Juzang, Jules Bernard, Jaime Jaquez Jr. and Cody Riley.
Juzang played about 20 minutes and Bernard 30, with Myles Johnson, Jaylen Clark and Peyton Watson getting a lot of minutes off the bench. David Singleton and Jake Kyman did not get much playing time.
Stats +Final Score
Juzang scored 19 points, going 5 of 6 from three, and, according to one source “looked unreal.” Bernard had 16 points, and Myles Johnson was described as “effective in the low post,” despite some fouls (enough fouls to warrant a mention).
According to sources, SDSU was up big at the start, but UCLA took over and pulled out a 78-73 victory.
Okay, so it is a secret scrimmage so this section is most likely useless, BUT: it’s a tantalizing thought to hear Juzang called “unreal.” No one expects him to sustain his March Madness run over an entire season, but if flashes of it appear frequently and in sustained time periods, look out.
And, just to keep the expectations level, two questions: Why were Singleton and Kyman’s minutes so low? How will the way the game is reffed in the Pac 12 affect Johnson, who’s coming from the rough and tumble Big Ten? In any case, as the countdown to the season begins, speculation and predictions will turn into real results and analysis. We’re almost there.
College Hoops Breakdown appears twice a month through the summer at JoeTorosian.com
Riley Saxon can be reached at:
Twitter: @CHoopsBreakdown …