CHARLOTTE, NC - MARCH 18: Jamal Olasewere #1 of the Long Island Blackbirds reacts late in the second half while taking on the North Carolina Tar Heels during the second round of the 2011 NCAA men's basketball tournament at Time Warner Cable Arena on March 18, 2011 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
50 in 50 is a feature here at RCT counting down until the Jayhawks kick off the 2011 basketball season on November first. Got an idea for something you'd like to see featured here? tweet @rockchalktalk or @fetch9 or email me at fetch9 at gmail dot com.
I suppose I should have saved the Big 12 portion of the predictions for today, but live and learn. As a reminder, this is a prediction of regular season conference champions, not conference tournament ones.
MAC - Kent State
The Golden Flashes lose Rodriguez Sherman, but return four starters including Justin Greene, who had a 19% defensive rebounding percentage. They'll need some better three point percentage, but can still win without shooting the three well.
MEAC - Hampton
They were by far the best team in the MEAC last year, though they were 2nd in the regular season standings. They return three starters and had the 4th best eFG allowed in the entire country last season.
Missouri Valley - Creighton
It's a tight race at the top between the Blue Jays, Wichita State and Indiana State, but I think Creighton has the slight edge. They had the 31st best eFG in the country last year and were the 16th best defensive rebounding team
Mountain West - New Mexico
The Lobos bring back Drew Gordon, maybe the best rebounder in the whole country, and if they can do a little better in the turnover game (165th in turning it over, 226th in forcing turnovers) they can be a real threat in March
Northeast - Long Island
The Blackbirds bring back three starters and also off the bench contributor Jamal Olasewere, who had the 26th highest usage rate in the country last year. Long Island plays fast (3rd in tempo) and draws a lot of fouls (5th in FTA/FGA) and are all around one of the most fun teams in America to watch.
Ohio Valley - Austin Peay
Peay (tee-hee) bring back four starters and will have seven Seniors on the team, making them one of the most experienced teams in America this year. That alone should help them cut down on the turnovers (226th nationally last year).
Pac 12 - UCLA
For a third straight year the Pac 12 looks like it will be down. UCLA looks like they'll have one of the best frontcourts in America, with Josh Smith and Reeves Nelson being joined by the Wear twins, who transferred from North Carolina.
Patriot - Bucknell
The school we're all familiar with blitzed through the conference last year, losing only one game. Holy Cross looks OK and Lehigh might also be good if they can find some depth, but an undefeated run through the league is a distinct possibility for the Bison this year.
SEC - Kentucky
Pundits seem to love the league this year, with Vandy and Florida getting some top 10 love and Alabama getting some pub as well. But make no mistake, this is a one horse league. Vandy and all of their Seniors might have a shot at sneaking into an SEC title if Kentucky takes enough nights off against some of the lesser teams in the league.
SoCon - Davidson
Davidson went just 10-8 in conference play last year, but all of the teams who were better than them lost a ton of talent. Davidson meanwhile loses just one player, who also happens to be the coach's son. Could that mean a little bit more harmony there? Maybe.
Southland - UT San Antonio
They had a pretty poor season last year, but return four starters, and lose just one player, off a team that got hot late and made the NCAA tournament. About 5 teams could win this league, which might be the worst in the country.
SWAC - Alabama A&M
Nevermind, the SWAC is the worst. Literally anyone could win this league and I wouldn't be surprised. A&M had two players last year with higher than a 50% eFG. Gulp.
Sun Belt - Florida Atlantic
The defending East division champs return nearly everyone, and even though they don't shoot the three well their ability to not waste possessions (17.3 turnover percentage) should help them win the league again. Mike Jarvis teams always take care of the ball, and this year should be no different.
Summit - Oral Roberts
They certainly won't suck (rimshot) as they return all five starters from last year's team, which went 13-5 in conference play. Also in the Summit League is North Dakota State, the worst university this side of Mizzou.
WCC - Gonzaga
BYU will get what could be only a one year run at ending the Bulldogs' supremacy in this league, but Gonzaga looks too tough this year. They have a lot of talent up front, but will need Demetri Goodson to play better to be a threat in March.
WAC - Utah State
The Aggies lose four starters from last year's team, but the rest of the WAC competitors suffer heavy losses as well. And if I know one thing about prognosticating, it's pick Utah State to win the WAC.