By Drew Barnette
Another season is upon us. Teams can officially begin practicing this Friday, October 13. However, Midnight Madness isnt until Friday night. If a team really wanted to they could begin practice at midnight Thursday night/Friday morning, but since Midnight Madness is more for the fans than anything else most schools opt to have it on a weekend night.
The season officially begins on November 7th and exhibition games begin a week or so before that. EXPANDED SEASON
-The number of non-exempt games a team can play has increased from 27 to 29. This basically allows teams to play two more out of conference games. Exempt tournaments still only count as one game, so if a team plays in a four round tournament such as the Preseason NIT, they could play up to as many as 32 regular season games prior to the conference tournament. I guess Im a fan of this. It means more basketball for us. It also means that a lot of teams will be starting their seasons earlier than usual. Hopefully it will result in giving NCAA Tournament caliber teams an incentive to schedule one or two more quality opponents. The biggest defense teams give for playing so many Buy Games is that it generates a lot of income for the program. Well, hopefully theyll see this as an opportunity to continue to generate income, but play some tough competition as well. I must say that of the few schedules Ive glanced at, it looks as if teams have done just that. There are some pretty good out of conference match-ups this year.
-The Ivy League teams and the Independent teams will be able to play 30 regular season games since they dont have a conference tournament. NOTABLE COACHING CHANGES
-Last season, there were times when many in the media were practically guaranteeing that Skip Prosser would leave Wake Forest for Cincinnati and that Steve Alford
would leave Iowa for Indiana. Not only that, they were hinting at the fact that they had inside information. Another highly speculated move was that Bob Huggins might end up at West Virginia. None of this happened. Whenever the media cites unnamed sources or no sources at all, I tend to be highly skeptical for this very reason. This is not an uncommon story.
-Bob Huggins does have a new job. Hell be coaching Kansas State this year and looks to have what should be a fairly competitive team. I dont know whether or not theyll be in the tournament picture yet, but with what they have coming back they appear to be set up to have one of their best seasons in several years. They have a favorable out of conference schedule too. They are challenging themselves and playing some good road games, but they arent really overwhelming themselves. They could have as few as one or two losses going into conference play.
-Herb Sendek left North Carolina State for Arizona State. He was successful at NC State, but was disliked for not being as successful as Duke and North Carolina while he was at the helm. He takes over a Sun Devils team that needs a lot of rebuilding, but the one thing he should have out there that he didnt at NC State is the support of the fans.
-Kelvin Sampson will replace Mike Davis
as the head man at Indiana. Unfortunately for the Hoosiers he brought some potential probation due to recruiting violations that he had committed at Oklahoma along with him, but I believe it is still a good hire for the Hoosiers. Mike Davis
will take over at UAB, who has been a very successful team out of C-USA the past three seasons. They have reached the NCAA Tournament all three years, been to the Sweet Sixteen once and the Second Round twice. Theyve also spent some time in the top 25, but still seem to float a little below the radar. They have a lot of young players this year though, so its hard to say how well theyll do.
Former UAB Coach Mike Anderson will have his work cut out for him as he tries to rebuild Missouri. It is a step up in terms of conference affiliation and money, but with that being said his old team would likely kick the crap out of his new one.
-Brent Brownell, former UNC Wilmington head coach, left UNCW for Wright State. I still cant figure out why. UNCW made the NCAA Tournament as a #9 seed last year and won both the Colonial regular season and tournament titles. Obviously George Mason had a better run in the NCAA Tournament, but up until that point UNCW clearly had the better year. Wright State isnt exactly known for being a power in the Horizon League. Its a great hire for the Raiders, but one must wonder what drove him away from a good situation at UNCW to take over a struggling team in a weaker conference. TOURNAMENT EXPANSION DEBATE
-There was talk (and thats all it was) among several coaches and commentators in the media about expanding the NCAA Tournament from 65 teams to 80 teams. It was brought up this summer and almost immediately shot down. The biggest reason it was not passed was because Miles Brand and Greg Shaheen dont want to expand the field, and when the two of them dont want something, it tends not to happen.
We might see a new conference in the next year or two called the United Conference, which basically consists of a number of teams who are currently independent. I thought it was supposed to be formed this season, but evidently it hasnt. After four years, this league will be eligible for an automatic bid. At that point we may see the field increase to 66 teams or maybe up to 68, but I dont think it is going to get any bigger than that anytime soon, nor do I think it should. One of the great things about college basketball is that in order to make the NCAA Tournament one must have an outstanding regular season. Out of the 330+ teams, only 65 get in. That is a smaller percentage than any other major sport that has a playoff to determine a champion. Because of this, there are so many high stakes games during the regular season. If they begin to expand the field, I think that would diminish somewhat, so that is why Im against it. I like the size of the field the way it is. It gives us fans a reason to be excited about games being played in November. CONFERENCE PREVIEWS AND PRESEASON BRACKET PROJECTION
-Pretty soon youll begin to see my conference previews for 25 of the 31 conferences. Jonathon Watters is taking care of the Big East, Big Ten, ACC, SEC, Pac Ten and Big Twelve. Shortly thereafter Ill post my preseason bracket and continue to update it every week throughout the season just as I did last year.
The one thing about preseason previews is that fans seem to get so worked up about them despite the fact that they literally dont mean anything. They are also a very poor indicator of the final conference standings no matter how much research a person does. For instance, ask yourself how many of the teams in last years Final Four were in the preseason Top 25. I rest my case.
With that in mind, Im going to be doing something new this year. Along with my own previews and predicted order of finish, Im going to have a second order of finish that is picked entirely at random (probably by drawing names out of a hat). At the end of the year, youll hopefully see that the random picks were just as accurate (or inaccurate) as many major media outlets preseason yearbooks.
I also want to encourage people to send me feedback. Some of these conferences are very hard to write previews on even when you have a satellite package as extensive as mine. I just dont get to see some of the smaller conferences all that often. Not only that, but some of the official athletic sites dont even have a current roster on there. Once the season begins Im all over any team that could possibly be in the NCAA Tournament picture. Im very proud that this site was all over the Missouri Valley Conference and the Colonial Athletic teams like George Mason and UNC Wilmington long before anyone else was last season. However, until I actually get to see some games, I have no results to analyze. Thats why some of these previews are tough to write. The biggest thing they do for me is allow me to learn about all of the teams going into the season. With that in mind, Id appreciate everyone elses feedback and thoughts as they come out.