10 Bold Predictions for 2015-2016 NCAAM Basketball Season

I can honestly say that was one of the most boring tournaments I have ever watched (with the exception of Day 1).

Next season I can guarantee at least one thing…we will have a far more entertaining tournament. After the first few games, the only things of any interest that happened were pretty much: NC State beat Nova, ‘Sconsin stuffed Kentucky, Michigan State stiffed a weakened Virginia, Dayton almost repeated last year.

Regardless, there’s a lot of fog to see for next year, and not a whole lot of clarity as composed to many other years (as expected of a year where most of the best teams were seasoned veterans). So much of what I’m about to say may come across as ballsy and perhaps even a bit groundless. But I ask for you all to bear with me…a lot of speculation is purely just that: speculation.

Besides, what’s a list of bold predictions if over half of them aren’t terribly off-kilter, anyway?

Tulsa among the teams looking ahead to a potential 2015-16 season. Jim Rogash – getty images

 

1) Kentucky doesn’t win the SEC

So while this may not be the “boldest” of the bold here, I’d still elicit this as in the “bold” side of the spectrum. Kentucky may be losing quite a few key players but they are also keeping many huge ones (like the Harrison brothers), and they still have the number 1 recruiting class in the nation along with the number 2 recruit in the nation.

But Kentucky looked fallible this year to many other teams which are still building. This is the best UK team we will have for a while, so if this team goes down a notch and the others all move up one, it makes sense how this could be a thing.  Also, don’t overlook A&M’s big time recruiting class either. UK may have the best Freshman in the SEC, but they’re not by and far better than all the others.

2) Marquette has the biggest turnaround season

Many people are saying this, so this is not as big a “bold prediction” as it was when I first thought of it, but regardless it still is quite a bold move to commit to this prediction. The Golden Eagles were almost the worst in the Big East, and went 13-19 on the season. While the Big East was very good from top to bottom (Creighton beat Oklahoma, remember?), and Marquette was incredibly competitive in all their games and even gave ‘Sconsin a run for their money earlier this year, the results still speak a lot.

But many things are pointing in the right direction. Plenty of developing talent (Wilson, Johnson, Fisher) as well as a blisteringly huge incoming flux of players (Ellenson brothers, Heldt, etc). Plus this team can play more to Wojo’s strengths now that there are more capable man-to-man D players.

3) The NCAA tourney (at least) is played on a 30 second shot clock

It worked really well in the NIT, and I can personally vouch that it was far more exciting. People are making this move for NCAAB to be played at a quicker pace and to make the game more entertaining and less gimmicky.

There’s also a lot of talk about revising the way plays can be reviewed – which I wholeheartedly agree on – but that’s a bit further in the future before it is likely addressed and tried.

The 30 second shot clock worked well and proved capable, so the committee will at least move the trials of it to the Big Dance. But if they do that much, people will outcry that the teams should be prepared for it by playing the season under the same constraints. Food for thought.

4) The Atlantic 10 continues its rise to a power conference

Alright so it’s not so ‘bold’ to claim something as a continuing trend with no finite and absolute outcome. But the concepts here make sense…The A-10 is a “midmajor” that barely manages to send it’s runner-up to a play-in game. It’s best team has just lost it’s best player and spectacular coach. Things look sour, right?

Well, not quite.

Take a closer look, and these teams are only closing the gap between midmajor and power-6 more and more each year. Here’s a quick laydown of how the formula works: as teams within the conference more and more consistently notch key double-yas against the big baddies of the power conferences, their reputation goes up, as does the significance of a victory against them (in basketball, key victories mean way more than bad losses). So as teams latch on to the leaders who are slowly climbing out of the well, they get pulled along with them.

Dayton was a weakened team that stood, at tallest, 6’6″. And yet they were one scoring drought or big defensive play away from repeating a Sweet Sixteen appearance by knocking down huge teams along the way. URI continues its shocking turnaround. Richmond proved in the NIT that it can compete with some of the best. Davidson is only getting better. La Salle, UMass, and St. Bonaventure continue a dangerous stretch of rebuilding. This conference is only getting better.

5) Maryland makes the Final Four

The Terrapins were, in my opinion, the most underrated team in all of College Basketball. They are also only getting better from where they stand, as is the Big Ten. Suffering through a meat-grinder conference can either make one fallible to upsets or prepare one for a trailblazing adventure to glory. I predict the latter. Led by some veterans plus star recruit Diamond Stone, I think this crew can go far. So barring some midseason collapse or a terrible matchup along the way, the Terps look poised to go dancing for a long time.

The Terps have high potential, and there’s no longer a big, bad Badger standing in the way. Leon Halip – gettyimages

6) The Wooden Award race comes down to Paige, Wright, Niang

Even I don’t have enough confidence in this one to commit to any one candidate for this award. But I do think it will end up being a close race between these three. Marcus Paige had a surge the latter half of the season and seems to be back in top form for a Carolina team that will likely win the ACC. Delon Wright is the do-all, be-all for a Utah team in a conference that will likely have the biggest turnaround from last year (and therefore be far stronger and his accomplishments far bigger). Georges Niang will be the almost unstoppable force for a Cyclones’ team that will storm (heh) through a still-incredible Big 12.

7) A midmajor makes the Final Four

I can’t say exactly who I’d think fulfill this prediction, but I have a strong feeling about it. There are so many possible midmajor candidates, I think the odds of it happening out-weight the odds of it not by a small margin.

Some schools have acquired big name Freshman that can help lead them far…like UNLV with Stephen Zimmerman and Derrick Jones…and others could have done it this year and are only getting better…like Northern Iowa or Dayton.

8) There will be no growing pains for Shaka Smart and the Longhorns

Some people, rightfully, think that Smart and his Havoc approach to basketball will take time to sink into Texas. I disagree. I don’t think they will be at prime, top form of course come November, but Texas is full of athletic blue-chips who are very capable defensively. I don’t think Smart would leave his home at VCU simply because of a (far) heftier paycheck, I think he would know if he can work with the crew he’s given from the outset.

I don’t think Texas will win the Big 12, nor do I think they will live too long in March. But they will have immediate impact.

9) The Pac-12 sends over 5 teams to the big dance.

Specifically, the Pac-12 has from ‘Zona, Utah, Stanford, Oregon, UCLA, Washington, Washington State, Arizona State, and Cal. These 9 teams all have the pieces to set up a tournament-worthy resumé next season, in descending order of likelihood.

But I think the Pac-12, fresh off an entirely mediocre season, is set to turn things around and turn them around big-time.

10) A 16 seed beats a number 1

This takes a special kind of crazy to call. It’s gonna happen eventually, folks. It’s just a matter of when.

Next year bodes well for this prediction for many reasons: for one, the big dogs are not going to be near as huge as they were this year…unless someone has a breakout year, there will likely be no 31-2, 33-1, 30-3, 34-0 teams. The gap will close.  Also many of these midmajors are getting better and better…particularly the Atlantic Sun. North Florida, USC Upstart Upstate, Florida Dunk Gulf Coast. These are teams that are prime candidates for 16 seeding, while having all the pieces of being able to bring down a big kahuna.

Also, some of the possible 1 seeds next year are very capable of being beaten. Carolina, unless they find a true enforcing leader, will likely repeat the tendency of fallibility the last 6 minutes of the game. Maryland will be leading a meat-grinder Big Ten. Iowa State showed how much an intricate and well-executed game plan can shut them down.

It will still be a huge upset of historic proportions, and I will go nuts if it happens. But I will have bragging rights of “I told ya so” if it does.

It almost (and probably should have) happened not that long ago. Maybe the moment is almost upon us. John Berry – The Post-Standard

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