Conference Madness 2016: Part Two

Ten down, 21 to go.

Let’s not beat around the bush, we’ll give you what you came here for and dive right into the predictions.

Horizon

Teams: Valparaiso, Oakland, Wright State, Green Bay, Milwaukee, Detroit, Youngstown State, Northern Kentucky, Cleveland State, Illinois-Chicago

Connor Basch

Sleeper: Wright State Raiders
League-leading Valpo lost only two games this season in the Horizon League. Both of those losses came to the Raiders. They say it’s hard to beat a good team three times, but hey – nothing is impossible.

Champion: Wright State Raiders
They have Valparaiso’s number. Plain. And. Simple. Trends are meant to be broken, but this one won’t be.

Player to WatchAlec Peters (Valparaiso)
The junior from Washington, IL leads the charge for the Crusaders at 17.5 PPG on over 50% shooting from the field. If the Crusaders are to keep their consistency into the NCAA tournament, they’re going to need Peters to continue to contribute in a big way.

Photo Credit: horizonleague.org

Quinn Matheis

Sleeper: Green Bay Phoenix
In a typical Horizon year, Green Bay and Valpo are competing for the top spot (with Valpo just always managing to beat Green Bay) with Oakland and Detroit close behind as sleepers (sometimes Detroit does well enough to win the regular season). Detroit is not so hot this year, and neither is Green Bay.  But the Phoenix have found some sort of momentum of late, and I only perceive Valpo as being able to stop them.

Champion: Valparaiso Crusaders
It’s like the SoCon and America East all over again.  Valpo is just so much obviously better than everyone else, it’s not even funny.  Barring an unfortunate injury to a key player, they’ll be rocking a top 40 RPI and a top 30 rank in the KenPom rankings, just like Chattanooga and Stony Brook. The Crusaders are looking to do far more than merely *make* the tournament.  And Valpo always shows up for the postseason. Always. Without fail.

Player to Watch: Kay Felder (Oakland)
You’ve probably heard too much about this kid already, so I’m moving on.

Connor Mallon

Sleeper: Oakland Golden Grizzlies
This is not much of a sleeper pick, but I think Oakland could win the Horizon tournament if they get all of their issues worked out. The Golden Grizzlies gave Michigan State a tough fight by forcing overtime in the regular season, proving they know how to fight more experienced teams. They have the fifth best scorer in the NCAA with guard Kay Fielder (24.4 PPG), but the real star is guard Max Hooper, who only shoots three pointers (102 FGM -229 FGA). When your last name is Hooper I feel you’re expected to take those kind of shots.

Champion: Valparaiso Crusaders
While Oakland may have their own mojo, the real cream of the crop if Valparaiso. If you’re looking for a mid-major team to go far in the tournament, then the Crusaders are your pick. This is a team where experience is found all over the court. All five starters are back from last season and for those who remember, the Crusaders almost beat Maryland in the first round of the NCAA tournament.

Photo Credit: goldengrizzlies.com

Player to Watch: Kay Felder (Oakland)
The best player and favorite to watch is definitely Oakland’s Kay Felder. If Felder was playing for a major conference team, he would for sure be getting more Wooden Award attention.

Summit

Teams: Denver, IPFW, IUPUI, North Dakota State, Nebraska Omaha, Oral Roberts, South Dakota, South Dakota State, Western Illinois

Connor Basch

Sleeper: IUPUI Jaguars
Indiana basketball this year? Big Ten champions. Purdue basketball this year? Good. Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis basketball this year? Well, they could do some things. The Jaguars have taken down the powerhouses of the conference this season and could throw some more wrenches in the mix in the tourney.

Champion: IPFW Mastadons
Indiana basketball this year? Big Ten champions. Purdue basketball this year? Good. Wait, where have I read this before? Oh yeah, like in the sleeper category. Well Indiana Purdue Fort Wayne has an even better chance to give the great state of Indiana another team in the big dance. At 80 PPG, they’re one of the best scoring teams in the nation. Plus they’re the Mastadons. That’s pretty fun.

Player to WatchMax Landis (IPFW)
It’s kind of funny, this guy has made the second most 3-pointers in the country (behind Buddy Hield) and he played soccer with my brother. Outside of my personal narrative, Landis shoots lights out (46.5% from behind the arc) and has been a big part of the ‘dons success this year.

Photo Credit: USA Today

Quinn Matheis

Sleeper: Nebraska Omaha Mavericks
The Mavericks are in just their second year of Division I, and they’re already catching the eye of the more attentive mid-major viewer.  Good for them.  What makes Omaha so scary is that they can beat (or lose) to anyone on any given Sunday (or Saturday)…and they are prone to streaking.  And they keep every game way closer than the opposition likes, which means 40 minutes of solid, determined basketball are required to put them away.  As proven in the past, that task is monumental.

Champion: IPFW Mastadons
The Mastodons are currently tied for first with SDSU and have a far weaker resume. So why them?  Because IPFW has a spunk about them that makes them seem able to win any game they want.  They do not so much as lose games during their long winning streaks so much as simply falter and let the W get away.​

Player to Watch: Mike Daum (South Dakota State)
A freshman who plays way more mature than you would expect.  First Team All-Summit, Freshman of the Year, Sixth Man of the Year, 14 PPG,6 RPG…this guy is the bigman workhorse in a conference of guards.

Connor Mallon

Sleeper: Nebraska Omaha Mavericks
Currently South Dakota State and IPFW are tied in the Summit League standings, but not far behind are the Omaha Mavericks. You know who says Omaha all the time? Peyton Manning. Peyton Manning plays for the Broncos. Broncos and Mavericks are both horses. The Broncos won the Super Bowl. Therefore, the Mavericks are going to be Summit League champions.

Champion: IPFW Mastadons
South Dakota State may have the better record in the Summit League, but IPFW is the team most likely to clinch the spot in the NCAA tournament. The team with the better road record is what catches my eye and for that I say IPFW.

Player to Watch: Tra-Deon Hollins (UNO)
Junior guard Tra-Deon Hollins to me is one of the more overlooked players in the Summit League. The Maverick may lead the league in assists and steals, but does not get the attention that top scorer Obi Emegano (23.4 PPG) gets. Hollins is a great player on the court because he is always hustling and moving ready to give off a pass.

Photo Credit: Summit League

MAC

Teams: Akron, Ball State, Bowling Green State, Buffalo, Central Michigan, Eastern Michigan, Kent State, Miami (OH), Northern Illinois, Ohio, Toledo, Western Michigan

Connor Basch

Sleeper: Northern Illinois Huskies
Though only 9-9 in conference play, the Huskies finished the regular season second in the MAC in wins with 21 and with a big win at home versus division leading Ball State.

Champion: Ohio Bobcats
Scoring in bunches. That’s what the Bobcats do. At 78.5 PPG, Ohio lead the MAC in regular season points per contest as well as FG% (47%). That wraps up this edition of “DJ Khaled’s Keys to Success.”

Player to Watch: James Thompson IV (Eastern Michigan)
If I asked you who, after Ben Simmons, was second amongst freshman in the country in double-doubles, who would you tell me? Marquette’s Henry Ellenson? Memphis’ Dedric Lawson? Nope. How about Eastern Michigan’s James Thompson IV. At 18 double-doubles in 2015-16, this up-and-coming freshman was just four such games away from Simmons for most in the category amongst NCAA newcomers.

 

 

 

Photo Credit: winnersandwhiners.com

Connor Mallon

Sleeper: Northern Illinois Huskies
It has been a very wild season for conference tournaments, with major upsets, and the most unlikely teams getting bids into the NCAA tournament. The conference as a whole is not that bad, with only three teams under a .500 record. This may be a wild card but I think Northern Illinois can be the one to sneak in. They are heavily under the radar as a team, yet are only 1 game back in the MAC West division. Their defense is top in the conference and as everyone hears all the time, defense wins championships.

Champion: Akron Zips
Even though Akron has the best record in the MAC, the stats behind their winning record are deceiving. They don’t look like a winning team on paper, yet are 24-7 overall. Something about the Zips feels like thy should not be winning like this but somehow they continue to do so. Ohio and Central Michigan look like the better teams right behind Akron, but how could you not pick Akron if they manage to win games.

Player to WatchAntonio Campbell (Ohio)
To me the best player to watch in this week’s MAC tournament is Ohio forward Antonio Campbell. Campbell has the fourth best PPG in the conference with 17.5 PPG, while also having one of the highest field goal percentages at .581% FG.

MEAC

Teams: Hampton, South Carolina State, Norfolk State, Bethune-Cookman, Savannah State, North Carolina Central, Maryland Eastern Shore, North Carolina A&T, Howard, Coppin State, Morgan State, Delaware State, Florida A&M

Connor Basch

Sleeper: Norfolk State
A 20-point win to close out the season over league-leading Hampton should be the defining factor towards how the Spartans play in MEAC tournament action. They’ve got the talent, but how will that win propel them going forward?

Champion: South Carolina State
This is one of the most difficult conferences to predict because it’s a wide open race. Yeah, Hampton won the regular season title with a 13-3 record, but they are certainly beatable. Right now, I just think the Bulldogs are the better team.

Player to Watch: James Daniel III
Here’s the only thing you need to know about this guy: he averages a measly 27.2 PPG. That’s just good enough to check in at number one in the country and 2.1 more points per outing that number two. Maybe you’ve heard of that guy? His name is Buddy Hield.

Connor Mallon

Sleeper: Bethune-Cookman Wildcats
The MEAC is almost the complete opposite compared to the MAC. All but three teams are over .500, with no clear winner for the MEAC. This makes the field wide open for a potential winner and the closest team under the radar would have to be the Bethune-Cookman Wildcats. The Wildcats early on went on an eight game losing streak, but since then have gone 10 and 5. It seems the Wildcats dug themselves a whole at the beginning of the season, but have since filled climbed out of it.

Champion: Norfolk State Spartans
One of the main differences people to figure out when it comes to making these picks, is mainly how well a team does in a certain conference. While the Hampton Pirates have the best conference and overall record, they also got a twenty-point loss to Norfolk State to close the season. Norfolk State is known most notably for their run in the tournament in 2012 after upsetting #2 Missouri. They are only one game back behind Hampton in conference play and seem to be a threat to many of the teams in the conference.

Player to Watch: James Daniel III (Howard)
Top scorer in the nation with 27.2 PPG. Howard’s James Daniel is only 5’11 yet still manages to be one of the best players in college basketball.

Visual content? No way!

Here are who your favorite college basketball-picking staffers chose for the conference tournaments getting underway on March 8th:

Connor Basch Connor Mallon Jamey Schilling Kellan Buddy Quinn Matheis
 

 

ACC

 

 

C-USA

 

 

Big Sky

 

 

Southland

 

 

SWAC

 

 

 

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