Every year it's the same thing. Gonzaga is going to dominate the WCC, and then a pack of teams are going to compete for the crumbs. Yet in the past five years the Gaels have won the regular season twice, and won the conference tournament twice. And it's been seven seasons since they finished worse than 2nd in the conference (3rd in 2006-07). This year the media is no different, with not a single writer at CBS Sports picking SMC better than 3rd.
The reason (or, this year's reason), is that the Gaels have to replace Matthew Dellavedova. Which is the same excuse writers used when the Gaels had to replace Rob Jones in 2012. And when they had to replace Mickey McConnell in 2011. And when they had to replace Omar Samhan in 2010. And when they had to replace Pattie Mills in 2009.
At this point you just have to assume that Coach Bennett knows more about basketball than college basketball writers. And until San Diego or San Francisco or whoever finds a way to unseat the Gaels, I'm voting with Coach Bennett.
It’s tough to lose the No. 3 pick in the NBA Draft and proceed without taking a major step back, but the Georgetown roster is loaded. Markel Starks is a conference Player of the Year candidate (if not for a certain player from Creighton). Even without Greg Whittington (who they mostly played without last season as well), I consider the Hoyas to be the team to beat in the Big East. Four of six writers at CBS picked them 3rd or worse.
Luckily, the Hoyas have 8 players who were consensus top 100 recruits. Of all college basketball teams last year who played with that much talent, the worst conference record was 12-6 and the average was 14-4.
D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera is poised for a breakout year as a sophomore, and while Stephen Domingo won’t make people forget about Otto Porter, he will be a scorer from day one. If the Hoyas get much down low from UCLA transfer Josh Smith then the Hoyas could be every bit as good as last year.
Stanford was 9-9 in conference last year, but they were a better team than that. Pomeroy had them 48th overall, which was only behind UCLA and Arizona. They just happened to suffer an abnormal amount of bad luck. They return six of their top seven rotation players (in terms of minutes), only losing Andy Brown to an injury, and will be one of the most experienced teams in the nation.
6-10 senior Dwight Powell might end up as the best big man in the conference, and they have an electric back court. I certainly don't expect them to win the conference, but all but one of the CBS guys have them 6th or worse (seriously Norlander, 9th?). I'll be surprised if they finish worse than 4th.
I agree that Duke is the clear favorite in the ACC, but I don't get the chalk for UNC, Syracuse, and Notre Dame behind them. Syracuse will be relying on a ton of new (and talented) players, UNC lost two out of their main rotation, and Notre Dame lost Jack Cooley. I'm not saying that any of those three will be middle of the pack teams, but they all have question marks.
The Hoos, meanwhile, return basically everyone from a team which went 11-7 in the ACC last year. They have the best returning player in the conference (Joe Harris), potentially the most under-rated player in the conference (Akil Mitchell), and future stars in Justin Anderson and Mike Tobey. They're loaded. They're experienced. And they're probably going to have one of the top 10 defenses in the nation.
George Mason is an unknown quantity in the A-10, in that they're new to the league this year. And Paul Hewitt's team struggled a bit in the CAA last year (as Paul Hewitt teams are known to do). But they're in the unique position in that they return every single player who earned a start last year, and nine of the top ten players in terms of minutes. So after having to replace two key starters last year, now they have a team that's been playing together for an awful long time. Experience matters.
Where do I think they'll finish? I don't know, but 5th or 6th seems reasonable. Apparently, only Matt Norlander agrees, and Jon Rothstein has them 10th.