It’s that time of year again! Basketball starts in a few hours. Thus it’s time for my third annual bold predictions.
I’ll admit, my track record hasn’t been too great with these. (Though they are supposed to be bold!) Two seasons ago I got about three of eight. Let’s look back on my 2016-17 predictions:
- Monmouth will not win the MAAC regular season title. — Wrong. Monmouth went 18-2 and won the league title by four games over Saint Peter’s. (Though Iona won the MAAC tournament.)
- Justin Robinson will win the Haggerty Award. — Wrong. Angel Delgado won the Haggerty Award, though Robinson put up a strong senior season.
- Michael Carey will be the NEC’s Player of the Year. — Wrong. Jerome Frink of LIU Brooklyn won NEC Player of the Year. Also, Mount St. Mary’s won the NEC by a game over LIU and three games over Wagner.
- Steve Pikiell’s old school and his new school will struggle. — Half right! Rutgers went 15-18, including 3-15 in the Big Ten. But Stony Brook went 18-14, including finishing second in America East with a 12-4 record.
- St. Francis Brooklyn will finish better than the coaches expect (7th) in the NEC, but the Terriers still won’t need their dancing shoes. — Wrong. (Half right generously.) The Terriers finished 10th. They of course did not make the NCAA Tournament.
- Fordham will take a slight step back in the A-10, but won’t fall to the basement. — Right! After going 17-14 (8-10) in his debut campaign Jeff Neubauer went 13-19 (7-11) in his second season.
- One Iona transfer will be named All-MAAC. — Wrong. Jordan Washington absorbed the possessions, points, and accolades for the Gaels. Though both Jon Severe and Sam Cassell, Jr. put up great tempo-free numbers in conference play.
Well, that was a rough 1.5 (2 generously) out of seven last season.
So maybe don’t trust these preseason projections. I’m going to give it a shot anyways.
1. Angel Delgado will become the first player to win back-to-back Haggerty Awards since Charles Jenkins.
Delgado was the nation’s leading rebounder a season ago and was placed on the Oscar Robertson Watch List as one of the best players in the nation. Former Hofstra star Charles Jenkins actually won three times in a row, finishing with the 2010-11 season, but obviously Delgado can’t do that. If the Pirates live up to expectations and make it beyond the first round of the NCAA Tournament then Delgado is a shoo-in for this one.
2. Iona will win the MAAC regular season title.
But I wouldn’t necessarily write the Gaels into a third straight NCAA Tournament quite yet. Iona has a ton of individual talent and Tim Cluess will work hard to mold it into a complete lineup. Most preseason projections have Iona way out in front of the pack in the MAAC. The problem is that the NCAA Tournament berth will still come down to three days in March and a number of MAAC teams could knock Iona off in a one-and-done scenario. Manhattan, Monmouth and Niagara are the most logical threats to the regular season title, but even a Fairfield, Rider or Siena could knock the Gaels off if it was just one game.
3. One of the Ivy League’s bottom four will crack the playoff at the Palestra.
I don’t know which (though my bet would be on Cornell). I also don’t know who will falter. (I really don’t want to think about the scenarios.) Though I guess this projection isn’t too bold considering that Michael James’ computer says that there is about a 60 percent chance of this happening. (The computer gives Columbia the highest odds at 34 percent.)
4. Central Connecticut will make the NEC tournament.
The Blue Devils haven’t qualified for the NEC tournament since the 2013-14 season when they lost in the quarterfinals to Wagner. Donyell Marshall has assembled enough talent that I expect them to finally make it back. Ryan Peters wrote yesterday about how Tyler Kohl should be one of the most impactful transfers in the NEC this season. If I were making two NEC predictions I’d also be on the Bryant bandwagon.
5. Vermont will go undefeated again during the America East regular season.
This one is really bold. It’s super hard to 1) be talented enough and 2) have enough luck to go undefeated in the regular season once, let alone twice. KenPom currently puts the Catamounts’ chances of having this happen at 2.1 percent. Still, John Becker’s team is deep and talented. Bringing Anthony Lamb back was a huge coup for the defending America East champions. They’ll certainly have a chance of pulling this off. The hardest games are a bit backloaded though, as Vermont plays at UMBC and Albany on Feb. 3 and Feb. 8 and then at Stony Brook on Feb. 24.
6. At least one of St. John’s and Rutgers will play in the postseason.
Alright, this isn’t too bold. “Postseason” is a pretty general term and the Red Storm are projected to be right around the 50th best team in the country. But I think the Scarlet Knights have an outside chance of making the postseason as well. They just need to surprise some people in conference play. KenPom currently projects Rutgers to finish 15-16 (5-13 in the Big Ten). That wouldn’t be good enough to make the NIT, considering the non-conference schedule is going to be abysmal in terms of RPI and quality wins, but surprising a few people and getting into the 18-win range might do it.
7. Justin Wright-Foreman will lead the Colonial Athletic Association in scoring.
Wright-Foreman finished 92nd in the NCAA last season in points per game, behind a few seniors in the CAA. They’ve graduated, so this isn’t the boldest of picks, but he’ll need to stay healthy and build off of an excellent sophomore season. I seriously considered putting Rokas Gustys in the top five nationally in rebounding again, but since he did that last season it didn’t seem particularly bold. The biggest question with Wright-Foreman hitting the 20 ppg mark or higher is the supporting cast. If Hofstra is stronger the Pride might not need to feed the 6-foot-1 guard 27.3 percent of their possessions this season.
What do you think will happen this season? Let us know in the comments.