Preseason predictions are back!!
ASC — It was Season 51 the last time Austin was able to hang a banner, but head coach ricosuave21 might have that and more in his sights. Howard Payne and Texas Lutheran should be right there to challenge though.
Capital — Hood begins the season ranked No. 19 as new head coach casiperuano steps in to benefit from an upperclass-rich environment that includes seven seniors. The group went 20-9 last season under Sim control.
Centennial — Ursinus (barjaz) is just two seasons removed from a national title, and based on starting values could contend for another this year. The Ath and Def are certainly there.
CUNY — York (SimAI) strikes me as the best of the lot, even though there are four human coaches in the league this season. That’s a bit of a scary thought seeing as York hasn’t had an RPI under 275 the last two seasons.
CCIW — Martin Luther (albatross1) failed to win 20 games in a season for the first time in a decade last year, but I’ll still give the the nod as the favorite for this season’s conference race. That breath you feel on the back of your neck is Northland.
Coast — Another year, another prediction for Wentworth (chewchad), who saw its streak of undefeated conference games snapped last year after 3+ seasons. To make life more interesting though, let’s provide some bulletin board material...I think this group is overrated at No. 6 in the preseason rankings.
Commonwealth — Penn St. Altoona (frankgrimes1) has been hanging around the final stages of the national tournament for three consecutive seasons. This group might be his best over that time period.
Empire — Vassar (theriddler) gets my nod as league favorite. The Empire looks like it’s going through a reshuffle of talent this season though, so anyone wanting to make the NT is advised to go after that conference tournament championship.
Freedom — Penn St. Behrend (SimAI) is coming off a 23-win season and holds a superclass of 7 seniors. That won’t be enough to cause waves on a national level, but does get PSB the nod to win the Freedom.
GNE — Johnson and Wales (spasticity) was knocked out in the second round of the tournament last season, marking the first time since Season 53 that the season had ended that soon. It will be a dog-eat-dog world in the GNE this season as St. Joe’s, Newbury, Emmanuel and Rivier are all right there as well. First one to 13 wins might get a No. 1 seed.
Heartland — After five consecutive 16-0 runs through league play, how can you select anyone but Defiance (nm1brownsfan) to win this conference? And, for those curious, no, there really doesn’t appear to be a challenger, so it will take a crazy RNG night to prevent the streak from hitting six.
Iowa — Buena Vista (westcoast22) has crafted a nice little program over the years and gets the No. 21 nod preseason. I don’t think the pieces are there to return to the Elite 8/Final Four level of a couple seasons back, but they should suffice to hold off a pesky Cornell squad as prime challengers.
Little East — Looking for the preseason favorite to win it all? Well, don’t bother looking in the Little East, where Fitchburg St. (SimAI) appears the best of the lot. The Little East is so far down that MLA, winner of just 5 games over the last six season (four of them last year), will be hard pressed not to finish top half of the conference this season.
Michigan — Calvin (prc56) gets my nod in what could be a highly entertaining three-school chase between them, Eureka and Kalamazoo. Of those latter two, I’d say Eureka is positioned slightly better to play spoiler.
Midwest — Rose Hulman (strang) failed to win the conference title for the first time in a decade last season as the program has struggled since the departure of nachopuzzle. The most likely challengers look to be simmed St. Norbert and 10-man Carroll.
Minnesota — Bethel (SimAI) hasn’t gone to the dance since Season 26, but that could all change this year as I pick them in front of equally simmed Gustavus Adolphus for top dog in the Minnesota.
NESCAC — Tufts (zmark513) has had a pretty good run of it lately and this season should be no exception. Colby looks like the most-likely spoiler and also holds a preseason No. 25 ranking, meaning I’m going against conventional wisdom with this pick.
New Jersey — Montclair St. only has 10 wins to show for bigpapamatt’s first two seasons coaching, but this could be the breakout year for coach and program as they appear to have the strength needed to carry the New Jersey this season. Ramapo is th eonly other team starting over 500 for ranking and will be the best bet to challenge.
N. Atlantic — This league used to be Johnson St. and the nobodies, but that won’t be the case this season. Maine, Farmington (cjsweat1) has the best team on paper but could be challenged in the regular season by, among others, Thomas, which is coached by...cjsweat2.
NCAC — Denison (dereksilcox) gets the edge in my book over a quartet of challengers in Wooster, Earlham, Wittenberg and Ohio Wesleyan. Quality-wise, I’m not sure any of the schools sneak into elite range for me this season, but the fact five teams are clustered toward the top should make for a fun conference season to watch from afar.
Northwest — Another league where you could be shaving things thin looking for distinctions among the top programs. E. Oregon (ldhope) gets my call here, but my pick for 1B would be Willamette and I won’t be surprised if they’re the ones holding the banner at season’s end.
Ohio — John Carroll (whit6r) is the cream of the crop here, but the chase for second-best looks exciting as heck. JC graduated the league’s top-ranked player, but brings in another stud this season in Fred Dearing (705, 17 ppg).
ODAC — Lynchburg (barney1974) gets my call still as the best in the league, but that’s a pretty thin gap between the Distillers and the folks over at Virginia Wesleyan.
Penn — Arcadia (SimAI) saw its record balloon from 5-22 in Season 63 to 21-6 in Season 64 as it captured its first conference title since Season 40 last season. Now for uncharted territory...back-to-back titles for the first time in program history.
Skyline — SUNY, Maritime (solly2225) looks poised to snap US Merchant Marines’ streak of three consecutive 16-0 seasons. Betting against lynchmob1414 is always a risky proposition though.
So. Cal. — There’s a great battle brewing among top-tier teams this season in the So. Cal. as Colorado (bdpoor) holds the preseason No. 8 ranking to Whittier and windixies’ No. 7. I like the No. 8 team more, however. It’ll be fun to watch.
St. Louis — Webster (mschulte24) should run the table without much worry this season for a repeat 16-0 showing. Aurora would probably be the closest challenger. If there’s a question with Webster, it’s about the accuracy of the No. 10 preseason ranking...which could be a bit high.
SUNY — What the SUNY lacks in overall talent, it makes up for in drama. If you want to talk about a wide open league race, this is where you want to watch this season. There isn’t a frontrunner and there really aren’t that many teams sagging off the pace. It could be that 11-5 is enough to get it done in at least one of the two divisions, but I’ll go with SUNY Cortland (SimAI), who was 14-2 last season in conference.
University — The University has the preseason No. 1 and No. 2 teams in the nation in Millsaps (brianxavier) and Emory (phalla), respectively. And I think the voters got them right and put them in the proper order this season. The University grabbed RPI honors from the GNE last season as a league. They very well might keep it this season. Avoid the wait, send your sympathy cards to Hendrix now.
Upstate — The revolving door continues to spin at the Upstate’s top two programs as both RPI and NYU welcome their third coaches in as many seasons. To make life more interesting, the coaches that have spun in are, respectively, 3-51 lifetime, and a human making his HD debut with a 10-man roster. I suppose we could pull Case Western into the discussion but, again, first time HD coach at the helm. Ai yi yi!! Give me RPI (tiyob90).
USA South — I’m going to take Palm Beach Atlantic (osgonlz), even though the preseason rankings say the favorite is Piedmont, with defendng national champ Greensboro lurking close behind. My question — where the heck is Shenandoah in all that preseason love? Call up the league rankings and hide the left side of your computer monitor so you can’t see the team names and see if you can pick out the No. 13, the No. 16, the No. 18 and the unranked.
Wisconsin — Wisconsin, Superior (cbryant31) gets my nod as league favorite after he manufactured a respectable 10-6 in the league last season as a rookie coach. LaCrosse will be tough, as could be Platteville, but the league appears to lack a national presence this season.