Per usual, a Blue Blood leads the pack in the first AP Poll of the year. Duke is the best team coming into the year, but does that make the ACC the best conference in basketball? Kentucky, Michigan State, and Arizona are all arguably No. 1 teams as well. Some conferences have added some extra power, like the AAC in adding Wichita State, and some have just gotten better at recruiting. Take the SEC for example, adding seven teams in the Top-30 of recruiting, which is second to the PAC-12’s eight teams.
We’ll be looking at conferences who will certainly have multiple-team bids into the Big Dance. Sorry Atlantic-10, VCU and Dayton were completely wiped out this off-season.
- Mountain West
NCAA Bids- Nevada, San Diego State
Nevada has had a lot of talent come their way via transfers and look like the Golden State of their conference. And although the conference has yet to send a second bid recently, Wyoming and San Diego State both have big potential in getting an at-large bid into the tournament. It may be a stretch but SDSU is looking to return and they have some decent PAC-12 matchups, along with facing Gonzaga.
NCAA Bids- College of Charleston, Elon
The CAA has now lost George Mason and VCU leading to an emergence of a very good Charleston team. They’re almost certain to win the conference but Elon has an out of conference that is otherwise winnable with an exception to, you know, Duke. But hey, crazy things can happen.
- West Coast
NCAA Bids- Gonzaga, Saint Mary’s
Gonzaga will probably not even make the Final Four this year, but they’re still talented and well-coached. Saint Mary’s is going to give the Zags a run for their money this year and could be that dark horse come tourney time. However, there is a slight chance this conference could get three teams. Maybe. Big maybe. It’s really borderline for two teams, San Francisco and BYU. They’re both in the top-100 in SI’s rankings. San Francisco’s schedule is slightly tougher out of conference so let’s give them an edge to an at-large bid with some key wins.
NCAA Bids- Wichita State, Cincinnati, UCF, UConn
Wichita State made a big move by joining the AAC and further propelling their status as a formidable powerhouse. They’re going to have their hands full of Cincinnati and the Bearcats have four of their five starters from last year and a very, like a really good, transfer from Sacred Heart, Cane Broome. Difference is Wichita State has virtually not changed at all, so they should be just as consistent as last year. UCF and UConn have lots of work to do to catch up to those two teams on top, but it doesn’t mean they can’t have a good year in the conference to help give them a boost come March.
- Big 12
NCAA Bids- Kansas, West Virginia, Baylor, TCU, Oklahoma
First, I’d just like to say that I can’t wait for this conference to change their name or to actually have twelve teams, it really annoys me. Anyway, Kansas is beyond the best team in this conference and is the only chance of this conference winning the national championship. Oklahoma, Baylor and TCU will almost certainly see themselves as post-6 seeds in March. Baylor has the best chance other than Kansas to make a deep run into the tournament being led by Manu Lecomte. West Virginia lost a lot of key scorers, but still have a shot at making it if they can hold their own on defense and gain just a little of the scoring power back. Oklahoma probably has the best defense outside of Kansas paired with new five-star recruit Trae Young, which will almost certainly guarantee a spot in the dance.