Blog Exclusive: The 68 Schools Which Might Earn Invites to the 2015 NCAA Tournament

Like last season, I will only give the schools listed by conference (bold designates that school amongst multiple bid leagues will earn the conference’s automatic tournament berth).

AAC (American Athletic Conference):  Connecticut, SMU, Cincinnati, Memphis, and Temple

American East:  Hartford

ACC (Atlantic Coast Conference):  Duke, UNC, Louisville, Syracuse* (pending results of NCAA investigation), North Carolina State, Pittsburgh, Virginia, Virginia Tech

Atlantic Sun:  Florida Gulf Coast.

Atlantic 10:  VCU, Dayton, St. Joseph’s, and George Mason

Big East:  Villanova, Georgetown, Marquette, and Xavier

Big Sky:  Weber State

Big South:  Coastal Carolina

Big Ten:  Wisconsin (regular season), Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, and Illinois

Big 12:  Kansas, Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas State, and Iowa State

Big West:  Cal-Irvine

CAA (Colonial Athletic Association):  William & Mary

Conference USA:  Louisiana Tech, Tulsa, and UAB

Horizon League:  Wisconsin-Green Bay (Valparaiso could be the last team selected if Syracuse is ineligible)

Ivy League:  Harvard (only conference that does not hold a post-season tournament)

MAAC (Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference):  Iona

MAC (Mid-American Conference):  Akron

MEAC (Mid Eastern Athletic Conference):  North Carolina Central

Missouri Valley:  Wichita State and Indiana State

Mountain West:  UNLV and New Mexico

NEC (Northeast Conference):  Central Connecticut State

OVC (Ohio Valley Conference):  Murray State

Pac 12:  Arizona, Oregon, and UCLA

Patriot League:  American University of Washington, DC

SEC (Southeastern Conference):  Kentucky, Florida, LSU, and Auburn

Southern Conference:  Wofford

Southland Conference:  Stephen F. Austin

Summit League:  Indiana-Purdue of Fort Wayne (IPFW)

SWAC (Southwestern Athletic Conference):  Alcorn State

Sun Belt:  Georgia State

WAC (Western Athletic Conference):  New Mexico State

WCC (West Coast Conference):  Gonzaga, St. Mary’s, and BYU

LAST FOUR IN:  Temple, Auburn, Illinois, and Alabama-Birmingham

FIRST FOUR OUT:  Wake Forest, Northwestern, USC, and Vanderbilt

NEXT FOUR OUT:  Miami (Florida), Washington, Loyola (Chicago), and Richmond

 

 

 

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2014-2015 Season Preview, as Kentucky leads the charge

Welcome Back, my fellow online readers–especially my true friends that might be reading on their mobile devices all around this great country of ours we call the United States.

For those reading for the first time, welcome to Season Two of my blog on all major things involving men’s college basketball–the coaches, the players, the key media members lending their key thoughts leading up to Selection Sunday, and of course, discussing at length about the brackets.

Btw, happy 30th anniversary come March to the revised then-64 team field and to CBS for debuting the Selection Show for the very first time on live television.  It is still appointment watching.  Yes, I usually end up delaying on purpose eating dinner at a slightly reasonable hour so I could watch the brackets unfold and see simultaneously nine different schools hold pep rallies and see them either go crazy or get very somber in just a matter of seconds.

I also hope that my first attempt at podcasting will lead to truly bigger and better things in the months to come.

Think of this as your first virtual road map en route to seeing the games of your choosing or listening to them on your favorite devices.

Similar to last autumn, I will divide this season preview into five easy-to-read sections:

1. The same trio of legendary programs looking to continue their dominance

2. Which mid-majors will surprise people on the road to Indianapolis

3. Which schools may take a while to get their names announced on Selection Sunday.

4. Major questions entering the season.

5. Top Five Games To Watch.

6. Blog Exclusive, the 68 Teams That Will Earn Invites to the 2015 NCAA Tournament

KENTUCKY, COACH JOHN CALIPARI HAVE SOMETHING TO PROVE (AGAIN)

UK reloads with nine McDonald’s All-Americans (at the same time UK leads the way with 19 players being selected into the NBA Draft from 2010-2014), while Duke and North Carolina will continue to replace recent NBA Draft selections like Jabari Parker with fresh, exciting talent.

The USA Today Coaches Poll on Thursday, October 16 (later confirmed on Halloween morning by The Associated Press) has Kentucky again being tabbed as the Number 1 preseason choice.  Pound for pound, they have everything a great team should possess–great ball handlers at the guard spots, agile power forwards, awesome length along the front line, and a very deep bench.

At key points during the season, I will look to highlighting the key players whenever key moments in games are decided that could impact how the brackets will look come March 2015.

And of course, with polarizing Head Coach John Calipari–the man will not retire quietly.  The Wildcats in my mind want to prove that losing in the 2014 national championship games will be nothing more than a distant memory–similar to Georgetown in 1984, after shockingly losing to Michael Jordan and North Carolina in 1982.  The Hoyas were on a mission that season, and not even a resurgent Guy Lewis and his band of Phi Slamma Jamma Houston Cougars did not have firepower in the end to slow down Patrick Ewing and the unstoppable Hoyas that first Monday night in April 1984 inside the old Seattle Kingdome.

MID-MAJORS LOOKING TO MAKE MAJOR SPLASH INTO TOURNAMENT POOL INCLUDING MANY PERENNIAL CINDERELLA DARLINGS OF YEARS PAST

Look for Memphis, Gonzaga, Villanova, and VCU to possibly make Sweet 16 runs.  The key is always getting the breaks and not making too many mistakes on the offensive end of the floor (silly fouls, turnovers, etc.)

SCHOOLS THAT ARE STRADDLING THE TOURNAMENT FENCE

That includes Missouri out of the SEC, Texas, and I cannot believe I am typing this–but perennial Hoosier state darlings in Notre Dame, Indiana, and Purdue may appear to have a long year.

Even first time NCAA Tournament entrant in Cal Poly may go back to their usual ways by the time the conference tournaments start up again in late February.

SOME MAJOR QUESTIONS ENTERING THE 2014-2015 SEASON

  1. Will hand checking need any major tweaking?
    Last season, fans and many coaches were angry about the refs clamping down on hand checking.  To me, it slowed the game down worse than having 50 to 60 free throws taken.  Something has to be done to make the game more open again, and hopefully the NCAA and NABC will agree to make these changes a bit more transparent going forward.
  2. Can Bruce Pearl resurrect Auburn like he did previously with Wisconsin-Milwaukee and Tennessee?
    Yes, Liz Claman of Fox Business fame has quite a voice in being her brother-in-law.  When Bruce worked at ESPN, he often let his thoughts get the best of him at times.  But after sitting out the NCAA mandated ban this past summer, he looked like a long lost brother just looking for another chance.  The SEC again will be top-heavy with Kentucky and Florida, but Vanderbilt, Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama, and LSU might rank just ahead of Auburn when the final dust settles.  Stay tuned.
  3. Many schools that dominated the last two seasons may be taking some steps back to maybe have breakout seasons come 2015-2016.  Those schools, but not limited to–Michigan State, Arizona, Louisville, Maryland, Florida State, Syracuse, Ohio State, Brigham Young, and Oregon.  Yes, each of those schools have chips on their collective shoulders.  The question is, will they be worthy enough in the Committee’s eyes?
  4. Conference parity should be aplenty, but will anyone challenge the ACC for overall supremacy?  Can the Big Ten save the best of last?  And how will Wichita State react as a group when they finally lose their first regular season game in nearly two years?
  5. Will the retirement of Digger Phelps after 20 years at ESPN hurt them?  It may take more than Jay Williams and former Virginia Tech coach Seth Greenberg to fill in for the many affable quirks that Digger possessed.  Also, will the return to a two man booth in Jim Nantz and 1991 All-American Greg Anthony of UNLV fame reinvigorate the ratings at CBS with Steve Kerr having taken the head coaching position for the Golden State Warriors of the NBA’s always rugged Western Conference.

TOP FIVE GAMES TO WATCH

All games on ESPN unless otherwise noted.

Monday, November 17  SMU at Gonzaga 11 p.m. Eastern ESPN2

Last season’s #69 team in the country tries to prove that getting snubbed to the 2014 Big Dance was simply a fluke.  For Mark Few who continues to get calls to go elsewhere, he continues to churn many talented four year starters year after year.

Tuesday, November 18  Wichita State vs. Memphis @ Sioux Falls, South Dakota

Part of ESPN’s annual 24 Hour Tip-Off Marathon, this game will air at 2 p.m. Eastern time.  Will this be the game where the Shockers finally end up getting a L on the right side of the ledger?

Just fyi–later in the night, the heavyweights take over in Indianapolis with Michigan State pitting up against Duke while Kentucky and Kansas lock horns in the nightcap.

Tuesday, December 2  7:30 p.m. Syracuse at Michigan

Early ACC/Big Ten Challenge matchup.  Good measuring stick game as far as getting prime bracket positions could be concerned.

Wednesday, December 3  8:30 p.m.  Duke at Wisconsin

Frank Kaminsky is still there, and we will see how rocking the Kohl Center really is.  Any game against Duke is like playing the New York Yankees in their heyday.  It is always huge, and it has been that way for nearly 30 years–this game will be no different.

Saturday, December 20  North Carolina vs. Ohio State  1 p.m. Eastern

3:30 p.m. or thereabouts UCLA vs. Kentucky

The first annual CBS Sports Classic and it will use the home that Michael Jordan built in Chicago’s United Center to showcase this prime doubleheader.  I did highlight the key reasons for this event earlier in the spring, which you can read via this link:

https://fortyminutesofhoopsfun.wordpress.com/2014/05/10/cbs-sports-classic-drums-up-big-time-programs-with-big-time-games/

Outside of any potential injuries and/or academic problems that might be cropping up, it is time to wrap up this blog with a neatly wrapped bow.

The season begins with Midnight Madness on many college campuses on Friday, October 24.  The games tip off on Friday, November 14.

Let the fun begin (and hopefully the great comments from fans will follow).