Thursday, November 08, 2007

College Basketball Conference Previews - RPI Rankings 15-22

PHSports RPI Projections by Conference

College Basketball Conference Previews - RPI Rankings 23-31

Ohio Valley Conference
Conference RPI Projection: 22
Projected Champion: Austin Peay
Player of the Year: Drake Reed, Austin Peay

This year is all about redemption for Austin Peay. After winning the regular season title by three games, the Governors failed to lay down the law against Eastern Kentucky in the finals of last year’s tournament. This season, they return all five starters from a 21-win squad, including the frontcourt tandem of Drake Reed and Fernandez Lockett. It’ll be a case of the usual suspects in the OVC with the Murray State Racers’ experienced backcourt breathing down the Governors’ spine.

Summit Conference
Conference RPI Projection: 21
Projected Champion: Oakland
Player of the Year: George Hill, IUPUI

Last season, it was the Mid-Continent Conference. This year, it’s even more non-descript. The Summit Conference. Wow. The return of 2005-2006 conference first-teamer George Hill gives IUPUI a real chance to take the league by storm, but I like Oakland behind super sophomore Jonathan Jones and junior Derick Nelson. Eric Kangas will help stretch the perimeter, which will allow for their frontcourt to get easy baskets inside. Oh yeah, there’s Oral Roberts who is still solid despite the purported graduations of conference POY Caleb Green and three-time first team all-conference player Ken Tutt.

Ivy League
Conference RPI Projection: 20
Projected Champion: Yale
Player of the Year: Eric Flato, Yale

After coaching Fran Dunphy’s team last season, some measure of reality will set in for Glen Miller’s Penn squad. The Quakers graduated a two-time Ivy POY, a two-time all-Ivy first team player and a three-year starter. With Penn just out of the picture, expect a three-horse race involving Cornell, Yale and Columbia. While Cornell has the top backcourt and Columbia has the top frontcourt, Yale represents balance and leadership. That all starts with senior guard Eric Flato, who led the team in scoring 21 times and had a 1.55 assist to turnover ratio.

America East Conference
Conference RPI Projection: 19
Projected Champion: Vermont
Player of the Year: Mike Trimboli, Vermont

Two-time America East player of the year Jamar Wilson can no longer hoist the Great Danes to the Big Dance. Nevertheless, Albany wasn’t a one-man team in their consecutive 20-win seasons. They’ll return with three senior starters and a trio of transfers who can immediately contribute. Many miles north, second-leading scorer Joe Trapani has left for greener pastures (Boston College), but court general Trimboli remains to rally the Catamounts.

Patriot League
Conference RPI Projection: 18
Projected Champion: Holy Cross
Player of the Year: John Griffin, Bucknell

It’s a rebuilding year for the Patriot League. The giants, Holy Cross and Bucknell, have lost 2 and 3 starters, respectively. Holy Cross lost Torey Thomas and league POY Keith Simmons to graduation, but Pat Doherty is ready to take on more responsibility at the point and Tim Clifford anchors the inside. The 6’11” center averaged 2 blocks per game and altered many more. As for Bucknell, center Darren Mastropaolo’s knee injury this summer put a halt to Pat Flannery punching his ticket for March. Meanwhile, John Griffin will do everything in his power to include his teammates.

Southern Conference
Conference RPI Projection: 17
Projected Champion: Davidson
Player of the Year: Stephen Curry, Davidson

One of the best players in mid-major college basketball? No. One of the best players in college basketball. Period. That describes none other than Davidson’s Stephen Curry (21.5 ppg, 4.6 rpg). Not to mention, Davidson returns their other four starters and they have a great recruit in Aaron Bond, who can contribute immediately off of the bench. In the Northern Division, Appalachian State is poised to repeat its 25-win season, but they will have to do it without three starters, including speedy point guard DJ Thompson. Don’t be shocked if UNC Greensboro somehow sneaks into the party, as Kyle Hines’s 21 points and 9 rebounds per game performance needs minimal help for a brief conference tournament run. Head coach Mike Dement recruited with an eye for shooters, so time will tell if that comes to fruition.

Sun Belt Conference
Conference RPI Projection: 16
Projected Champion: New Orleans
Player of the Year: Bo McCalebb, New Orleans

Among mid-major conferences, the Sun Belt has one of, if not, the best set of guards. Last season, North Texas streaked to the NCAAs. This season, another team in the middle of the pack has a chance, but it’s slim, because New Orleans, Western Kentucky and Middle Tennessee have enough talent to pull off a 1st round upset in March. This March, the only NCAA bid will be decided by guard play and the trio of McCalebb, James Parlow and Shaun Reynolds averages 49 points and 14 rebounds per game.

West Coast Conference
Conference RPI Projection: 15
Projected Champion: Gonzaga
Player of the Year: Jeremy Pargo, Gonzaga

Last season, Gonzaga did everything humanly possible to make the West Coast Conference worthy of ratings. Two players got suspended for the year and others were forced into roles they were not familiar with. Of those who stepped into roles, Jeremy Pargo became a leader and a scorer. With Josh Heytvelt returning and Matt Bouldin as a super sophomore, the Bulldogs will get to the NCAA Tournament for a 10th straight year. Like many other years, St. Mary’s will play second fiddle.

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