Preseason Bracketology: 9-12 seeds

  • 11/07/2017 8:17 am in

Yesterday we hit the 13-16 seeds, and today we’ll hit the top teams from single-bid leagues as well as the squads I project as the final at-large teams to make the field.

12 Seeds

Vermont – The Catamounts are a unanimous pick to win the America East based on all the projections I’ve seen, and it’s not hard to see why. They have a terrific sophomore in Anthony Lamb, who led the team in points, rebounds, and blocks as a freshman and plays alongside a pair of seniors who also scored in double figures. Payton Henson was just behind Lamb in points and rebounds, while Trae Bell-Haynes led the team with 3.9 assists per game.

Bucknell – Virtually everyone is back for a team that won the regular season and tournament titles in the Patriot League, so there really isn’t an argument for picking against the Bison this time around. The frontcourt is stacked with Nana Foulland and Zach Thomas. Both averaged at least 15 points and 6.6 rebounds last season, with Foulland winning the league’s player of the year and defensive player of the year honors. Stephen Brown led the team with nearly five assists per game and gives Bucknell another double-digit scorer.

Middle Tennessee – JaCorey Williams and Reggie Upshaw won’t be easily replaced, but the Blue Raiders do return sharpshooter Giddy Potts, who averaged 15.3 points and 5.3 rebounds as a junior. MTSU will also rely heavily on Alabama transfer Nick King, as they try to hold off the likes of UAB and Louisiana Tech in Conference USA.

Charleston – The Cougars return all five starters from a squad that went 14-4 in the CAA last season and won 25 games overall. Joe Chealey led the team with 17.8 points and 3.2 assists per game, while Jarrell Brantley provided the muscle on the interior, averaging 14.2 points and 8.4 rebounds as a sophomore. Throw in Grant Riller, who was a double figure scorer as a freshman, and a nice set of complementary pieces, and you have a team that seems destined to win the Colonial.

11 Seeds

Nevada – The reigning Mountain West champs must replace three double-digit scorers, but the good news starts with the return of Jordan Caroline, who averaged 15.0 points and 9.2 boards last season. Forward Elijah Foster is also back from injury, and they’ll be joined by a long list of major conference transfers, including Caleb Martin from NC State and Kendall Stephens from Purdue.

Stanford (First Four) – There’s a clear-cut top four in the Pac-12, and I wouldn’t be stunned if the league earned just four bids. If a fifth team does make it, my money is on the Cardinal. Junior Reid Travis (17.4 ppg, 8.9 rpg) should lead the way once again, and guys like Dorian Pickens and Michael Humphrey round out a solid frontcourt. If Robert Cartwright and freshman Daejon Davis can help stabilize the backcourt, I’ll feel much better about this pick.

Central Florida (First Four) – I had the Knights more safely in the field prior to the news of Aubrey Dawkins’ season-ending injury, but there are still plenty of reasons to like UCF. First and foremost of those is B.J. Taylor, who averaged 17.4 points, 4.0 rebounds, and 3.5 assists last season. Throw in 7-foot-6 Tacko Fall and senior forward A.J. Davis and you have a solid nucleus, which should be aided by transfers Terrell Allen and Dayon Griffin. The Knights are certainly a rung or two below Wichita State and Cincinnati in the AAC, but an at-large bid is still within reach.

St. Bonaventure (First Four) – There are few (if any) backcourts that are more explosive than Jaylen Adams and Matt Mobley, who combined to average 39.1 points last season. Adams also dished out 6.5 assists and posted 2.1 steals per game, while Mobley grabbed 5.8 rebounds as well. While the backcourt is dynamic, there are questions in the frontcourt for a team that didn’t post great defensive efficiency numbers a year ago. Even so, I like the Bonnies as the second best team in the A-10, which should be enough to squeak into the field.

Texas Tech (First Four) – Keenan Evans (15.4 ppg, 3.0 apg) and Zach Smith (12.1 ppg, 7.2 rpg) aren’t household names, but they give Chris Beard a strong foundation heading into his second season in Lubbock. Justin Gray and Niem Stevenson are solid returning pieces, and when you add in a healthy Norense Odiase and transfers Brandone Francis and Tommy Hamilton IV, there’s a lot to like for the Red Raiders. One concern is a relatively weak non-conference schedule, which provides very few chances for quality wins.

Wisconsin – This is ultimately a nod to the consistency of the Wisconsin program after 19 straight NCAA Tournament appearances, as there are far more questions than answers as we head into the season. Sure, Ethan Happ is back, but there is a ton of production to replace following the departure of four seniors. Returnees like D’Mitrik Trice, Brevin Pritzl, and Andy Van Vliet will be asked to step into much larger roles, and a handful of freshmen could earn minutes early on.

10 Seeds

Butler – Not only did the Bulldogs lose a number of key contributors led by Andrew Chrabascz, they also lost their coach when Chris Holtmann bolted for Ohio State. Still, the cupboard isn’t bare for first year head man LaVall Jordan. Kelan Martin (16.0 ppg, 5.8 rpg) led the team in scoring and rebounding, while Kamar Baldwin (10.1 ppg) exceed expectations as a freshman. There are some experienced options to play alongside Martin in the frontcourt, but the backcourt has a number of question marks.

SMU – The Mustangs must replace three double-digit scorers, and outside of Shake Milton, Jarrey Foster, and Ben Emelogu II, there aren’t any key contributors back from last season’s 30-win club. Milton (13.0 ppg, 4.5 apg) gives the team a solid foundation at the point and anchors a backcourt which should be the strength of the team thanks to the addition of transfers Jimmy Whitt and Jahmal McMurray, the latter of which will be eligible after the first semester. SMU desperately needs Georgetown transfer Akoy Agau to give them solid minutes in the frontcourt.

Missouri – The Tigers are among the toughest teams to project heading into the season. The Kim Anderson era is over after two SEC wins last year and just 27 total wins over the last three years. But fans are counting on a quick rebuild thanks to the recruiting class that Cuonzo Martin was able to put together in short order. The headliner is Michael Porter Jr., the top-rated recruit nationally by most services, and his younger brother Jontay reclassified to be part of the same class. Throw in Top 50 recruit Jeremiah Tilmon and Canisius transfer Kassius Robertson, and there’s an impressive collection of newcomers. How those guys can mesh with returnees like Jordan Barnett, Kevin Puryear, and Terrence Phillips will determine the ceiling for the Tigers.

Creighton – Gone are Justin Patton, Mo Watson, and Cole Huff, which leaves Creighton poised to finish in the middle of the pack in a tough Big East. Marcus Foster (18.2 ppg) can light up the scoreboard, and wing Khyri Thomas does a little bit of everything on both ends of the floor. Outside of those two, there are a handful of players who were able to play complementary roles a season ago as well as Syracuse transfer Kaleb Joseph and a pair of Top 100 recruits. There is a wide gap between the top four teams in the Big East and everyone else, but I like the Bluejays to slot in as the fifth place squad.

9 Seeds

Virginia Tech – Buzz Williams returns four players who scored at least 9.2 points per game last season, led by Chris Clarke (11.4 ppg, 7.3 rpg, 3.3 apg), who is coming back from an ACL injury suffered last February. Ahmed Hill and Justin Robinson give the Hokies a solid core in the backcourt, while Kerry Blackshear Jr. is back at center after injuries forced him to redshirt last year. A pair of Top 100 recruits will also be in the mix, and if they progress quickly, Tech could outperform this projection by a couple seed lines.

Oklahoma – The Sooners must replace Jordan Woodard, but stud freshman Trae Young was among the nation’s top-rated point guard recruits and should start from day one. A strong supporting cast will help Young adjust to the college game, as five players return who scored at least 7.9 points per game last season. Kameron McGusty and Rashard Odomes both scored in double figures, while Kadeem Latin led the team in rebounds and block shots. The fall suspension of Kristian Doolittle will make a challenging non-conference slate even tougher to navigate.

Texas – Led by Mohamed Bamba, the Longhorns brought in one of the nation’s best recruiting classes. That class will be counted on to help the team improve on a 4-14 Big 12 record. Shaka Smart hopes freshman Matt Coleman can solve the team’s issues at the point and allow guys like Andrew Jones and Kerwin Roach Jr. to play more off the ball. Tulane transfer Dylan Osetkowski should provide frontcourt help, but Bamba will be the headliner in what is expected to be his only season in Austin.

Maryland – This season for the Terps begins and ends with a terrific trio of sophomores. Justin Jackson (10.5 ppg, 6.0 rpg), Anthony Cowan (10.3 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 3.7 apg), and Kevin Huerter (9.3 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 2.7 apg) all gained a ton of experience last season and should become even more consistent in their second seasons. The questions here are predominately along the front line with Michael Cekovsky, Ivan Bender, Sean Obi, and Bruno Fernando all likely to get a crack at earning minutes at the four or the five. Maryland is right in the middle of a group of six teams that could finish anywhere between fifth and 10th in the Big Ten.

Follow Andy on Twitter (@andybottoms) for more thoughts on college hoops and to receive an update whenever new brackets are posted.

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  • Meadows007

    So no Hoosiers?

  • Fifer39

    I assume IU is one of the six that could finish between 5th and 10th in the conference, but on the outside looking in at the moment is my guess. Hard to pick them ahead of both Wisc and Maryland.

  • ’11Hoosier

    There will likely be a lot of people noticing that at this point it is likely that Indiana will be left out of Andy’s preseason bracket.

    While I have high hopes for the improvement the team will make at a fundamental level, I don’t think there is much to suggest they deserve to be in a preseason bracket. Nor do I think there is any shame in admitting that.

    Historically, new coaches do very little to improve teams in their first year. Sean Miller went 16-15 with Arizona and missed the postseason all together before going 30-8 in his second season and reaching the Elite 8. Archie needs to build a culture first and recruit his guys second.

    Look for Archie to make big strides defensively and fundamentally this season. This is the cornerstone of basketball as all Hoosier fans know. These improvements may not show up in the W/L column but they will be felt by the fan base. Next season he will have a culture in place and a top 10 (possibly top 3) recruiting class to boot.

    I’m headed to Prudential Arena on Nov. 15 to get my only look at the Hoosiers in person this season. A great opportunity for Archie and crew in a true road game against the #23 team in the nation. Go Hoosiers!

  • PBzeer

    While it’s certainly understandable to leave us out of pre-season brackets, I don’t think you can write off our chances simply because of a first year coach. 11-7 in the B1G is a reasonable possibility and that should get us in the Dance.

  • Andy Bottoms

    Correct, they are in that mix in the middle of the league. They were in the mix for the last handful of spots but too many questions at this point when comparing to other teams along the cut line. As an IU fan I certainly hope they make me look foolish!

  • Hoosier89

    Wow, Andy, you think IU will be a top 8 seed? Bold

  • TomJameson

    I agree. This team, coach, and season may well be described as an aberration to the “historical” idea of new coaches doing little to improve their teams in the first year. Heck, Archie already has them playing (IMHO) drastically better defense, and with a drastically better turnover rate.

    I believe that with the idea of improving steadily throughout the season, this team will squeak into the NCAA. If they don’t it won’t kill me, but I really do think they will.

    I think that there is a very reasonable possibility that we will be dancing in March.

  • ’11Hoosier

    I think that is the misconception people have with these preseason brackets. They are not saying that IU doesn’t have a chance, they are saying that there isn’t much on paper to indicate IU is going to be at the top of the B1G. That can all change 2 weeks into the season.

  • Arch Puddington

    An excellent post that all fans of the Hoosiers should understand and agree with. Not surprisingly, all fans do NOT understand and agree with this perspective. It is the nature of fandom to see your team in the best light possible. But when even guys like Alex Bozich and Andy Bottoms have IU projected as 8th (or worse) and outside the tournament cut line, it is simply a reflection of the reality we face at this moment. As you say, it is a very good reality going forward. We’ve already seen signs of improvement in areas that have vexed the Hoosiers for years, and between the talent already on board and the talent on the way, years 2 and 3 of the Archie Miller regime should see improvement in outcomes as well. But new coach or no, this team has some real questions to answer, especially shooting and scoring. And while I am not concerned about foul trouble or other single-game problems, if DD goes down with injury we just don’t have a meaningful long-term replacement.

    I’ve said it before, and still think so after seeing the exhibition games: a 7th place finish and an NCAA bid would be an excellent result.

  • adam

    it was inconceivable that we’d miss out on the big dance after beating kansas and north carolina last year.

  • N71

    In the long run we know early season forecast don’t amount to much. Instead, I’m excited about similarities to how things were with Knight and are somewhat with Izzo at MSU. We have a basketball practitioner in charge who has played the game and I expect we’ll see experimentation early in the season like we once saw with Knight. We may loose a few that we thought we shouldn’t but if Archie, like Knight and Izzo, takes these experimentations and forges a better product come Big Ten season, then ultimately, that’s what’s needed to do well when things really count. I remember Knight once explaining an early season fail at his address to the students at the IU Auditorium essentially saying that you need to make certain you clearly understand your strengths and weakness so when it counts you play to those strengths for maximum results. This gets to not only managing the games but managing the season, this early season talk is nearly immaterial. I felt Crean thought he needed to win every game which was probably linked to job security. He essentially ran the tires bald and we’d be in a ditch before February. It takes confidence to do what Knight, Izzo, and perhaps what Archie is going to do, fail early and often so your product is fully vetted for the games that count.

  • IUMIKE1

    A ncaa (I refuse to capitalize it, especially after the most recent idiotic decisions handed down) bid is my expectations and is not an unjustified expectation IMHO. It may very well come down to how well we can do in the conference tourney and after us having the season to jell I’m looking for us to be better prepared and to do better in it than we have in the recent past. Having said that I’ll not be calling the season a failure, for our coach to be replaced, or that it’s B1G title or bust next season if we barely miss getting a bid. If that is the case tho I think it puts a little bit more pressure on the staff to make a very noticeable jump in the W column the following year and that a decent seed in the Big Dance will be only one of the things that are going to be expected.

  • IUMIKE1

    Excellent post and points.

  • Bruce Clark

    Great stuff Andy, Alex, et. al. I believe I speak for all us basketball junkies and say thank you.

    One of the biggest takeaways from Archie’s pressers has been that he sees the season as an opportunity to get the team ready for the postseason, which includes physically also.

    I hope all the sportswriters are underestimating the value of better defense and ball protection.

  • Arch Puddington

    The only “on the other hand” I can see in this has to do with talent. If neither Romeo nor Darius commits to IU, we still won’t have any truly elite players on the team. And whatever Romeo and Darius do, we will still be just one deep at the 5. Lots of good players, but not necessarily any great ones. As excited as I am by the recruits on board for 2018, I don’t think any of them are by themselves game-changers (at least not as freshmen). Given all that we will lose to graduation, next year’s roster will be no better than this year’s unless one of the 5 stars commits.

    Obviously things could easily go the other way, and if we end up with one or both of Romeo and Darius, expectations go up significantly. But without them we are still just looking to finish in the top half of the conference and make the tournament. I do hope that by 2019 we start to see a regular inflow of top 50 and top 25 talent, but I am not yet convinced 2018 will be a significantly better year than 2017. Hopefully we get some great news in the next few days that changes all that.

  • TomJameson

    It’s that qualifying point, that makes you (seem) sane. JK man, I have high hopes as well, but I will be happy if they steadily improve in all areas …. which so far they have. Yeah, yeah, I know .. two exhibition games don’t say a lot, but they have improved both games, and I’m thinking that’ll be a trend we’ll all enjoy all year.

  • Fifer39

    Occupational hazard for a bracketologist.

    I also hope you’ll be continuing the analysis you do on line-ups for the Assembly Call. I’ll be interested to see if there are any significant changes in trends under Archie particularly in terms of fewer unique line-ups being used and more time on the floor for the rotations with the more positive +/-. There may not be much difference in the short term as Archie will no doubt need to experiment with different line-ups, but this may start to look a bit different by conference play.

  • StudentHoosier

    McRoberts used to go to Vermont, people forget that.

  • Fifer39

    Exactly. There’s only any point to them at all at this stage if they’re done with the head rather than the heart.

  • dwdkc

    Debbie Downer. Reasonable, yes, but a buzzkill. Patience is a virtue, just not one of the fun ones!

  • Outoftheloop

    And #4 and a Sweet Sixteen even better! “Hope springs eternal…”.

  • Outoftheloop

    I disagree. Collin is a great kid but he has had serious injuries almost every year. Each of our current 5 recruits (I include Race) are young, healthy athletes. Freddie was not a real basketball player when he arrived. Each of the 5 is. Tim is just Tim, no expectations. Each of our new 5 wants the NBA dream. Josh was a rehab project but a top 150 player. Each of our new 5 recruits is top 100 (in my humble opinion, Jake and Race are). Robert is a top 50 recruit who has played well for 3 years. However Phinisee is a better PG, Jerome is a better NBA talent, Damezi is as good, and Jake and Race much bigger on the boards. IU will be substantially improved next year. Having Race as a redshirt freshman makes him very prepared on day one. No question next year’s team will have far superior talent to this year’s squad.

  • Arch Puddington

    For what it’s worth, the reality of what next year looks like without Darius and/or Romeo did not occur to me until I wrote the post. I hadn’t even thought about it. But CTC’s recruiting struggles did not end with his termination, and Archie still has an uphill climb to get us past them. That climb could end as soon as this week, and there are some really nice indicators for 2019. But hopeful signs are not the same as actual signings, and so we are left with uncertainty.

    I will say this: it seems likely that at least a couple of the players we already have on board (including the 2018 commits) will outperform rankings and expectations, and Archie has shown he can win tournament games with less talent than we will have even without Romeo and Darius. So I’m sure we will be competitive regardless of what they do. But Top 10 consideration and Final Four aspirations may have to wait a bit depending on how things go with Batman and Robin, er, Romeo and Darius.

  • unclekerfuffle

    Arch, I was thinking exactly the same thing today

  • unclekerfuffle

    Should have read this before I responded to your earlier post. I guess I’m being repetively redundant

  • Arch Puddington
  • IdahoHoosier

    I like your sentiment that the type of player being recruited is changing. I think you have a point there. There has been the feeling since the Sampson era that IU is just “filling roster spots” around the inconsistent high recruits. The 2018 crop already feels like a balanced list of kids with high aspirations. I hope this is a sign of the future where we see the overall talent level of IU recruits rise. Then we just have to hope Archie and the players translate that “want to” to winning. It may take time, but I agree with your point about increased talent and drive.

  • Andy Bottoms

    I definitely plan to still track the lineups, but we will likely post about them a bit less frequently. Looking at them game by game makes it a little harder to draw meaningful conclusions, but I definitely plan to post periodically on what the higher level trends suggest.

  • Fifer39

    Thanks Andy. I’ll look forward to your analysis.