Because I was nominated...because I was bored...because I'm on a sugar high from raiding the kids' Easter candy all day. Whatever the reason, here's Rednu's Season 58 preview for the season ahead (with pre-emptive apologies to anyone I overlooked, annoy or otherwise rub the wrong way...):
American Southwest -- Hardin-Simmons and Texas Lutheran are both worthy of inclusion in the discussion for national championship picture. The pre-season pollsters like Texas Lutheran by a nose, but I like Hardin-Simmons slightly better. Coach aggiegeog's Howard Payne and a Sim-coached LeTourneau with a superclass of juniors could both make waves.
Capital -- The winner of the North division's Catholic-Gallaudet battle of first-year coaches will likely face York (PA) for the league title. Whoever wins it will probably be a double-digit seed come tournament time.
Centennial -- Ursinus might be a touch on the young side but coach barjaz brings a good functional rating into the preseason and should still be the one to beat. Whether Ursinus becomes a force come the postseason will depend on a sophomore class and redshirt freshman PF Ross Thurman and their growth over the season. Dickinson and Washington (MD) are also strong contenders for slots in the NT.
CUNY -- Discussion in this conference should start and end with Staten Island, which brings a top-heavy lineup of 11 juniors and seniors to the court, giving them an advantage over the rest of the league. Expect to see this group in the Top 25 by season's end. The closest challenger is probably CCNY.
CCIW -- Northland and Martin Luther should have a spirited divisional battle. Northland's seniority probably gives them the edge in the regular season, but I'll go on a limb and say kap's Martin Luther squad gets the better of the in-year improvements and gives him a conference tournament title at year's end. Both should be thinking field of 64 at year's end.
Commonwealth Coast -- Merry Christmas coach caesari as you step into the helm of a nine-senior superclass and the favorite's role in this league with Colby Sawyer. Keep a sharp lookout in the rear view mirror for Wentworth, but age and experience should win out over youth this time around.
Commonwealth -- Last year's undefeated national champion Penn St.-Altoona will have their hands full simply being conference and divisional champions this season as zeuspole and Susquehanna are capable of giving them everything they can handle. In fact, I'll give a preseason nod to Susquehanna to grab the automatic berth. Elizabethtown is the most likely challenger from the opposite side of things. LaRoche, Lebanon Valley should also be in the mix for possible NT appearances.
Empire -- Put theriddler's Vassar squad on the short list of preseason national champion favorites. Union and St. John Fisher will play the challenger's role for league honors as the balance of power this season lies heavily in favor of the South division.
Freedom -- Carnegie Mellon, Lake Erie and Scranton should battle for the conference title and this league's only national tournament berth this season. Put me on record as calling the race for the Mellon.
Great Northeast -- There's no confirmation to the rumor that the Justice Department is looking into filing charges to break up the GNE's monopoly, but it certainly wouldn't surprise us. It's only a matter of time before an Occupy GNE movement mobilizes. This year, things get even filthier as the league boasts 3 of the top 4 preseason teams. Newbury, Johnson and Wales and Rivier are not just short-list contenders for national title; they should be at the top of that list. I'll nod toward Newbury by an eyelash. I won't discuss the other teams in the league for fear I'll be accused of talking up my own conference too much, but there will be many other GNE schools in the NT besides those three.
Heartland -- This should be a good season-long battle with Defiance, Westminster (PA) and Thomas More duking it out. Give the edge to carl's Defiance squad and don't go to sleep on a Sim-coached Manchester team that has enough talent to not only play spoiler to someone's title dreams, but possibly slip into post-season.
Iowa -- Dubuque has the flashy No. 5 preseason ranking, but let me call your attention to Loras, which has a nine-senior superclass stocked with A- and higher IQs in the press. That class is now in the hands of a first-year coach and could present some troublesome times. Okay, now that you've noticed that, let me reassure you that the class of the league is still Dubuque, where tubby tags in on the sidelines for TRrrr as head coach. Another solid group in this division is bk41129's Buena Vista side. All three should be dancing in another conference where the balance of power is tilted in favor of one side.
Little East -- East Connecticut State fans shouldn't have too many nervous moments this season as their squad looks like the superior side in the Little East. Sim-coached UMass-Dartmouth is still solid as some of jana's old recruits are still juniors and seniors. MLA is in rebuild mode this year.
Michigan -- While there isn't a team that quite touches elite level, this will be a fun conference to be a part of this season I think. Adrian, Calvin, Eureka and Hope provide plenty of top-end talent and all four should be thinking national tournament runs this year. Y'know what, throw Kalamazoo in that crowd as well. The preseason voters got it right, in my opinion as Adrian has a slight edge over the others for league favorite's role.
Midwest -- Rose Hulman Tech is for real and before this season is done a whole lot of D3 basketball fans will be trippin' out over Norman Tripp, the division's highest rated player to begin the season. Ripon, Illinois, Grinnell are all capable of reaching the NT perhaps. Coach miamoon's Lake Forest team is only 8 deep, but runs a zone scheme and might be able to pull it off.
Minnesota -- St. Mary's and 700+ rated center John Castello get the nod as preseason favorite in a league that will only be receiving one NT berth this season and will undoubtedly see brighter days ahead.
NESCAC -- Connecticut and Bates get my nod as the two teams who, by season's end, should duke it out for league honors. I'll give the edge to Connecticut, but this could really come down to a question of which league team did the best job recruiting high potentials and developing them in the days ahead.
New Jersey -- If balance is what you're looking for in a team, look no further than zaclowe's Rutgers at Camden team. Nine players clustered between 500 and 603 in personal ratings should provide a solid, albeit probably not overly flashy, core to work with. Montclair St. has a super-senior class of eight looking to improve on last year's first-round NT loss under the watchful eye of Sim-AI.
North Atlantic -- Elms College, coming soon to a 16 seed near you. Next!
NCAC -- Wabash is underrated at No. 22 preseason and could be 5-10 places higher without seeming out of place, but can a first-year head coach get that much performance out of them? I'll give the preseason nod to Denison, where there are no such questions about dereksilcox's abilities to coach. Another first-year coach at Ohio Wesleyan also appears to step into a nice environment for immediate success as this league appears poised to send multiple squads to the NT.
Northwest -- The left coast will enjoy a West Division battle royale between Whitworth, Chapman and Eastern Oregon this season. All three teams look good on paper with the voters again getting it right this preseason by sliding the edge in Whitworth's favor. It would be a surprise if all three weren't dancing.
Ohio -- The Capital-John Carroll battle up north will get all the preseason attention, but the Ohio Northern-Wilmington mashup in the south division could be even more entertaining and evenly balanced. Call me crazy, but I actually like John Carroll, even though the preseason voters clearly favor Capital in their view. Both north powerhouse teams belong in the mix for national title contenders.
ODAC -- Lynchburg and Bethany get my nod as the top two programs in the league this season. I don't think either one quite rises to the level of national championship discussion this season, but they've got the edge on the rest of the league. I'll give Lynchburg the bulletin board material and call Bethany a slim preseason favorite for conference tournament champ.
Penn -- On paper, the best team might be Sim-coached Babson. Human-coached Alvernia is close enough in terms of talent though that I'll give them the nod over the silicon powered Sims. Another conference that just appears in a down cycle this year overall though.
Skyline -- The Merchant Marines are loaded and look to take the Skyline for a third straight season. Hey, you just don't mess with a coach named lynchmob, do you? SUNY Maritime and Stevens Tech both have what it takes to throw a monkey wrench into the Marines' celebration plans and all three should power the Skyline to a bevy of postseason representation.
Southern Cal -- Another conference that could be talking a minimum trifecta of national tournament spots this season could be the SoCal. Give windixies the favorite's nod at Whittier with the likeliest challengers being at CMHMS and LaVerne. I'd take CMHMS if the conference tournament were today, but Whittier appears to likely have the better growth potential over the course of time.
St. Louis -- Mizzoufan steps in a the right time to collect a 26-3 Westminster (MO) team that went multiple rounds in the PIT last season as a SIm. He also gets one of the league's top-rated players to help him out this season. Corybanks' Benedictine squad is probably best-poised to challenge as all the human presence in this league is clustered in the same division.
SUNY -- Upperclass heavy Brockport gets the favorite's call in a league with just two humans. This is another league that just looks down and will get only the CT champ into the dance this year.
University -- Millsaps and Louisiana stand ready to school the competition. Emory, Dallas and Rhodes won't provide many easy nights in the office either for opposing coaches. Like the GNE, this is a conference poised to consume multiple NT berths this season. Millsaps' one-two punch of Blake and Macklin could be as fine as any combination in the nation at this division.
Upstate -- Coming off back-to-back first-round NT exits, lhrr is hoping to take Brandeis deeper into the dance this year, and very well could. To do that, he'll have to get past an NYU team that has solid starting values and would appear to have good growth potential. Also not to be slept on in the division is Chicago, while RPI is probably the frontrunner for the opposite division's No. 1 seed.
USA South -- Greensboro and coach tilldog could be scary by season's end. Very. Scary. The team is sophomore heavy and began the season with the fourth-best functional rating (team rating minus WE, STA and DUR) in D3. Add the usual crazy growth found in high-potential sophomores (till's been around long enough, I don't think I'm assuming too much to guess they were all high potential when he signed 'em) and this could be a FInal Four or better caliber team by year's end. Christopher Newport has the best shot to deliver disappointment within the league.
Wisconsin -- Sim-coached Oshkosh, bigosh, although human-coached Platteville might beg to differ. It'll all come down to who peaks at the conference tournament, because this league won't get an at-large berth.