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November 8, 2010

SCS.comBy now, I’m sure you’ve seen all the predictions. Legitimate news outlets like ESPN, Sporting News, CBS and Fox Sports have released pre-season rankings for major conferences since September, and illegitimate news sources like, well, this one, release them all as well. I’m not trying to change the world with my predictions today—I’m just trying to get my predictions on record so I can throw them in your face in March.

So let’s have some fun and rank the BCS conferences from first to sixth. And then, it’s time for the first Weekly Preview of the season.

1. Big Ten

Predicted Order of Finish
1. Michigan State
2. Ohio State
3. Illinois
4. Purdue
5. Wisconsin
6. Northwestern
7. Minnesota
8. Indiana
9. Iowa
10. Penn State
11. Michigan

It seems harsh to drop Purdue to fourth-place in the conference after losing Robbie Hummel, but that’s more of a statement of how slim a difference there is between Michigan State, Ohio State, Illinois and Purdue—and less of a statement about the Boilermakers’ ability to win without Hummel, although they certainly aren’t anyone’s pick to win the league anymore… Jon Leuer is actually a household name these days, and Bo Ryan is actually getting the credit he deserves. Only took a decade for that to happen, right?... Seven bids looks like a real possibility in the Big Ten, but the remaining four teams don’t look capable of competing for an at-large berth. Penn State’s the sleeper team this year in most circles, but I attribute that to the Star-Player Theorem. Talor Battle has been a star for two years now, but after an NIT title in 2008-09, the Nittany Lions won three games in the Big Ten last year. What’s changed?

2. Big 12

Predicted Order of Finish
1. Kansas State
2. Missouri
3. Kansas
4. Texas
5. Baylor
6. Colorado
7. Texas A&M
8. Oklahoma State
9. Texas Tech
10. Oklahoma
11. Nebraska
12. Iowa State

Although Kansas State is the team with all the pre-season accolades, there isn’t huge gap between the Wildcats and the rest of the conference. KSU, Missouri, Kansas, Texas or Baylor seem almost equally capable of winning the Big 12, which makes it similar to the Big Ten in that respect… There’s still a lot that needs to be sorted out personnel-wise during the course of the season before we can determine the true contenders; will Josh Selby or Tony Mitchell become eligible for Kansas and Missouri, respectively, and what is Lacedarius Dunn’s status at Baylor?... After ripping lazy analysts for using the Star-Player Theorem with Penn State, I’m going to be a hypocrite and use it for Colorado. Much like PSU, the Buffaloes weren’t very good last year. Colorado actually brings back two star players in senior Cory Higgins and sophomore Alec Burks. There’s a few main differences though. First, Colorado won twice as many conference games as Penn State last season. Secondly, it’s reasonable to expect Burks to make even more strides, considering he’s just a sophomore. And, most importantly, Colorado has a new coach in Tad Boyle. He’s an enormous unknown after spending a brief time at Northern Colorado, but he’s at least bringing new energy into the program. That can’t be said about Ed DeChellis at Penn State… Texas Tech’s returning everyone from last year, but Pat Knight’s team simply fails to play good basketball consistently. Much has been made of the defensive issues under his regime, so I won’t get into that, but it’s obvious that something’s not working in Lubbock. Knight admitted that himself when he questioned his own job status this fall.

3. SEC

Predicted Order of Finish, East
1. Kentucky
2. Florida
3. Vanderbilt
4. Tennessee
5. Georgia
6. South Carolina

Predicted Order of Finish, West
1. Mississippi State
2. Mississippi
3. Alabama
4. LSU
5. Arkansas
6. Auburn

I’ve got no issues with the media picking Florida to win the East after returning all five starters and adding Patric Young. I’m just not going to bet against John Calipari, who’s more than proven that he can mold a group of talented youngsters into a conference champion. This pick depends on star freshman Enes Kanter’s eligibility, of course… Georgia has benefited from the Star-Player Theorem this pre-season, but the Bulldogs are more like Colorado and less like Penn State. Once again, UGA actually has two stars in Trey Thompkins and Travis Leslie, and Mark Fox is getting rave reviews from everyone in the SEC… Vanderbilt is easily an NCAA Tournament team. It’s baffling that so many are ignoring Kevin Stallings’ program again… Mississippi State will play some of the non-conference slate without Renardo Sidney and Dee Bost. Sidney becomes eligible in December, while Bost must sit out nine games thanks to a complicated ruling involving his amateur status after throwing his name in the NBA Draft ring last year. The Bulldogs will need time to get everything sorted out, but that’ll happen before SEC play—and it’d take quite a collapse for MSU to fail to win the West… Arkansas, LSU and Auburn are interchangeable at the bottom of the West.

4. Big East

Predicted Order of Finish
1. Pittsburgh
2. Villanova
3. Georgetown
4. Syracuse
5. West Virginia
6. Marquette
7. Notre Dame
8. St. John’s
9. Seton Hall
10. Louisville
11. Connecticut
12. South Florida
13. Cincinnati
14. Rutgers
15. DePaul
16. Providence

The battle between Pittsburgh and Villanova will be a fun one to watch… It’s hard to predict the upper-echelon of this conference after Pitt and Villanova. Syracuse, Georgetown, West Virginia, Notre Dame and Marquette all lost a boatload of star power… Connecticut and Louisville have the coaches and program consistency to overachieve, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see both miss the NCAAs… With so many seniors on the roster and Steve Lavin at the helm, St. John’s is an obvious sleeper pick. I’m hesitant to predict stardom for the Red Storm, but they’re clearly improved… The same is true for Kevin Willard and Seton Hall. The rookie head coach has a lot to work with from the Bobby Gonzalez era… Mick Cronin’s not doing poorly at Cincinnati, but his program isn’t where fans would like it to be… Keno Davis is in serious trouble in Providence. He kicked off leading scorer Jamine Peterson this summer, he lost most of his scoring from last year’s squad, and his team rated extremely poorly in defensive efficiency in 2009-10.

5. ACC

Predicted Order of Finish
1. Duke
2. North Carolina
3. Virginia Tech
4. Florida State
5. Maryland
6. North Carolina State
7. Clemson
8. Boston College
9. Miami
10. Virginia
11. Georgia Tech
12. Wake Forest

Duke’s backcourt is really not fair to the rest of the nation… North Carolina’s Harrison Barnes is supposed to be a savoir during his freshman season. At the very least, he’ll inject some new life into a program that lost 17 games last season and saw five players depart… I’m surprised that more people aren’t picking Maryland to surprise in the ACC. Forward Jordan Williams and guard Sean Mosley are the only two returning starters, but they’re classic breakout candidates… North Carolina State looks great on paper with senior Tracy Smith at forward and three big-time freshmen, that’s for sure. Sidney Lowe’s job is riding on if those youngsters live up to the hype… Georgia Tech needs a healthy Iman Shumpert to lead the way this year. His backcourt mates can play, but the Yellow Jackets have a cast of unknowns at forward. The only big man on this roster that’s ever played a collegiate game is Brad Sheehan, a fifth-year senior. Naturally, he averaged 1.3 points per game last season…

6. Pac-10

Predicted Order of Finish
1. Washington
3. Arizona
4. Arizona State
6. USC
7. Washington State
8. Oregon State
9. Stanford
10. Oregon

Washington should run through the Pac-10 with little trouble, partly due to that backcourt everyone loves to talk about, and also because the rest of the conference is a complete toss-up… Arizona and UCLA look like prime candidates for rebound seasons because of the projected development of their young talent… I have no rational reason for picking California fifth. In fact, Seth Greenberg would call it certifiably insane. The entire starting lineup departed from last year’s regular season champs, but Mike Montgomery is a magician. In his first season in 2008-09, he shocked everyone by leading Cal to an NCAA Tournament berth. He’ll shock people again this year by leaning on tough-nosed, smart leaders in Jorge Gutierrez and Harper Kamp, the latter of whom missed last season with a knee injury. California also brings in promising talent in the backcourt, headlined by top-70 guard Allen Crabbe… It’s hard to believe Oregon State actually won eight Pac-10 games last year. That’s overshadowed by a 51-point loss to Seattle and other defeats to Sacramento State and Texas A&M Corpus Chisti. The Beavers will be young, so Craig Robinson doesn’t have a ton of pressure on him to succeed this year. But his program’s rebuilding project needs to make some progress this year, unlike the 2009-10 season.

Weekly Preview

Here’s how this Weekly Preview thing works: I make a list games you need to watch each week, and then I make a prediction about how they’ll shape out. It’s simple stuff that mostly consists of me making outrageous predictions because I know the readership of this column is small—and dwindling at an enormous rate.


Georgetown at Old Dominion
Friday 6 p.m.

ODU knocked off the Hoyas on their home court last season, and now Georgetown will make the return trip to this CAA power coming off an NCAA Tournament appearance. This is an ambitious season opener for John Thompson III, and I have to credit him for scheduling this series. Unfortunately for him, he’s going to lose on Friday—which means his team may drop out of the rankings almost immediately. Remember, sportswriters are lazy and stupid, which means they won’t understand that losing on the road to Old Dominion hardly qualifies as a bad loss.

Prediction: Old Dominion 66, Georgetown 61


Rhode Island at Pittsburgh
Monday 6 p.m. ESPNU

Look at that! The 2010-11 college basketball season actually kicks off with a decent match-up, pitting a formidable A-10 opponent with the Big East favorite in the opening round of the Coaches vs. Cancer tourney.

Prediction: Pittsburgh 73, Rhode Island 62

Rutgers at Princeton
Friday 6 p.m.

Poor Mike Rice. He’s got to begin his Rutgers career on the road against a team that’s widely considered the team to beat in the Ivy League. No matter how good Princeton may be, Rice won’t be able to justify to fans a season-opening loss to an in-state opponent with no athletic scholarships.

Prediction: Princeton 55, Rutgers 54

East Tennessee State at Kentucky
Friday 6 p.m.

Kentucky’s freshmen will face an Atlantic Sun contender in their first college basketball game. The Wildcats should roll, but that’s what we said about Gardner-Webb three years ago.

Prediction: Kentucky 87, East Tennessee State 69

Northern Iowa at Syracuse
Friday 6 p.m.,

Here’s a scary opener for Syracuse, facing a program with sky-high confidence like Northern Iowa. The Panthers lost three starters, but why do so many continue to overlook the return of proven scorer Kwadzo Ahelegbe? He’s been one of the Valley’s best for two seasons.

Prediction: Syracuse 72, Northern Iowa 66

Seton Hall at Temple
Friday 6 p.m.

Kevin Willard could make some folks happy in East Orange with an upset road win against the A-10 favorite. Don’t worry though, Temple fans. Fran Dunphy’s squad would finish in the top-three of the Big East, and it won’t lose at home to Seton Hall.

Prediction: Temple 78, Seton Hall 62

Western Kentucky at St. Joseph’s
Friday 7 p.m.

Ken McDonald brought in a terrific recruiting class and transfer Juan Pattillo, and he’ll get his first look at the new guys against Phil Martelli’s formidable program. If WKU is really the overwhelming favorite in the Sun Belt East, it better win road games like this.

Prediction: Western Kentucky 72, St. Joseph’s 70

Wofford at Minnesota
Friday 7 p.m.

If Tubby Smith wants to scare his team into playing well Friday night, all he needs to do is show his team tape from last year’s Wofford/Wisconsin first-round match-up. Maybe that will convince his squad to take this SoCon power seriously.

Prediction: Minnesota 68, Wofford 62

Oakland at West Virginia
Friday 8 p.m.

Fans of the NBA probably know Keith Benson’s name, since the Oakland star is projected to make the pros after this season. He would have left last summer, but an injury held him back. Here’s a rare chance for you to see him in action on television—granted, it’s

Prediction: West Virginia 65, Oakland 59

Oral Roberts at Missouri State
Friday 8:35 p.m.

Both Oral Roberts and Missouri State face similar situations this season—neither was picked to win their respective leagues, but both will be in the mix at the top of the conference. MSU fed on weak opponents during last year’s non-conference, but the Golden Eagles will provide a stiff opening test.

Prediction: Missouri State 66, Oral Roberts 65

Harvard at George Mason
Saturday 3 p.m.

I already mentioned that Princeton is the darling of the Ivy this year, but Harvard isn’t far off, even without departed guard Jeremy Lin. This is the kind of match-up we may see in the CBI in March.

Prediction: George Mason 70, Harvard 60

Florida Atlantic at Wisconsin-Milwaukee
Saturday 6:30 p.m.

The young Owls have a shot to make some noise in the Sun Belt this year—but they did just lose to a Division II team in an exhibition. Then again, Syracuse did that last year and earned a number-one overall seed.

Prediction: Florida Atlantic 88, Wisconsin-Milwaukee 80

Southern Illinois at Illinois
Saturday 7 p.m.

Chris Lowery’s program is in shambles after his entire 2008 recruiting class decided to leave Southern Illinois for various reasons. The game marks Bruce Weber’s first contest against his former school.

Prediction: Illinois 80, Southern Illinois 62

Last week’s prediction record: N/A
Overall prediction record: 0-0

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