The 2019-2020 NCAA Basketball season is right around the corner and DefPen will take a weekly focus on each Power-6 Conferences plus the Mid Majors. The Mid-Majors have always had a special place for college basketball fans. In the past 10 years, Mid-Majors have been represented by seven different teams from a myriad of conferences. We’ll take a closer look of who DefPen predicts will win each Mid-Major conference.
American Athletic Conference: Memphis Tigers
The AAC once again will be top-heavy with Memphis, Houston, UCONN and Cincinnati all slated to be NCAA tournament teams with Wichita State potentially being a 5th. From a pure talent perspective, Penny Hardaway’s Tigers are far and away the best team with one of the best-recruiting classes in the country with #1 overall recruit James Wiseman, Precious Achiuwa and Boogie Ellis leading the way. Houston will be battling Memphis for the top spot as Kelvin Sampson has developed a winning formula that has translated to NCAA success.
American East: Vermont Catamounts
The American East had the UMBC two years ago, but I’m thinking that the Vermont Catamounts stay on top of the league this season. The Catamounts have an experienced team, and I think they get the job done this season.
Atlantic 10: Davidson
The A-10 is going to be a hotly contested battle this season between Davidson and VCU. This is going to be one of the best battles in the NCAA and one of the storylines worth following. Both teams have players included in our Mid-Major top-10 players list. However, I think Davidson takes this year’s title in the conference. Keep an eye on Jamion Christian’s George Washington Colonial squad. In previous coaching stops Christian turned around Mount St. Marys and Siena.
Atlantic Sun: Lipscomb
This is a league that has produced great upset stories in the past, like Florida Gulf Coast and NJIT. This season I think this is going to be Lipscomb all the way after being edged out by Liberty last season.
Big Sky: Northern Colorado Bears
This conference was led by two teams last season, the Montana Grizzlies and the Northern Colorado Bears. Give me Northern Colorado to bounce back this season and win the conference.
Big South: Campbell Camels
This was a competitive league last season and hopefully this season it will be just as good. Gardner-Webb came out of the conference tournament to take on Virginia and looked like they would take down the Cavaliers ala UMBC. However, this season give me Campbell to win the regular season again and the conference tournament.
Big West: UC Irvine Anteaters
The Big West conference was topped by UC Irvine and second place came in five games behind by the end of the season. I think that the Anteaters are going to get a bigger challenge this season, but they should be able to handle business. The other teams just aren’t going to be able to close the gap this season.
Colonial: Hofstra Pride
The Colonial features one of the best Mid-Major guards in Grant Riller at Charleston, and they will be vying for a top spot in the league. However, the Hofstra Pride are going to be back and with more a wealth of experience, they repeat as champions.
C-USA: Western Kentucky Hilltoppers
Conference-USA always has good basketball going on! Last season Old Dominion topped the league. This season I think that Charles Bassey and the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers get it done and take the C-USA title.
Horizon League: Oakland Golden Grizzlies:
The Horizon League has been taken by storm by the Northern Kentucky Norse since they moved up from Division-II. The Wright State Raiders were there at the top of the league last season as well, however, NKU lost their coach to Cincinnati, and I believe in the Oakland Golden Grizzlies to take the Horizon League this season.
Ivy League: Harvard:
The Ivy League is overlooked most of the year, but their league tournament seems to always be exciting. Harvard has been transforming their program the last few years and I’m taking Harvard to win the league this season.
MAAC: Canisius Golden Griffins
The Metro. Plenty of notable teams have gone from this league on to bigger and better leagues. Last season there was a four way tie for second that was ultimately broken up due to tiebreakers. The Iona Gaels topped the league last season, but teams 2-5 were only a game behind. It’s a hard decision, but I think the Canisius Golden Griffins emerge from this league and take the top spot.
Mid-American Conference: Toledo Rockets
With Buffalo losing coach Nate Oates to Alabama, the road to the MAC title now goes through two teams; Toledo and Bowling Green. Toledo returns guard Marreon Jackson and big Luke Knapke which will help them. A good early test to gauge Toledo will be an early non-conference match up vs. Notre Dame at the Joyce Center.
Missouri Valley Conference: Drake Bulldogs
The MVC produced a Final Four participant a few years ago with Loyola Chicago and look to make splash again between the trio of Bradley, Loyola-Chicago and Drake. Drake looks to have the edge under up and coming head coach Darian DeVries.
Let the official countdown begin!
70 Days until the regular season opener.
— Drake Basketball (@DrakeBulldogsMB) August 29, 2019
Mountain West Conference: Utah State
This has been Nevada’s league for many years, but with Eric Musselman leaving to Arkansas, this paves the way for the Utah State Aggies. Sam Merrill and Neemas Queta lead the Aggies who look to stave off Boise State and New Mexico for the title.
Northeast Conference: St. Francis (PA)
St. Francis looks to take the bid from Fairleigh Dickenson this year. They’ll be looking to build upon their NIT birth from last season.
Ohio Valley: Murray State Racers:
The Ohio Valley has been dominated by Coach McMahon and the Murray State Racers. Those outside of the conference may think the loss of Ja Morant is going to bring this team down, however they just brought in a good 2019 recruiting class and I see no reason why the Racers can’t repeat as OVC Champions. Give me Murray State to take the OVC.
Patriot League: Colgate
Colgate looks to repeat after ending a 23-year drought last season. The Raider’s will lean on Jordan Burns and Rapolas Ivanauskas.
Southern Conference: Eastern Tennessee State University
The SoCon was well represented last year in the NCAA Tournament with Wofford making a nice run, but this year we’re leaning towards ETSU to take the SoCon crown. ETSU is lead by their guard trio of Jeromy Rodriguez, Patrick Good, and Bo Hodges.
Southland Conference: Sam Houston State
Sam Houston State is looking to be the favorite this year and build off their NIT appearance. Look out for center Kai Mitchell to take the next step.
Southwestern Athletic Conference: Prairie View A&M
This senior-laden team should be able to come out of the SWAC but will have to come overcome main challenger Grambling.
Summit League: North Dakota State
Vinnie Shahid and Tyson Ward look to lead the Bison back to the NCAA Tourney. If they make the tourney, at least they won’t have to defend Zion Williamson like this past season.
Sun Belt Conference: Georgia State
Ron Hunter has developed a strong program at Georgia State and will continue to bring the Panthers back to the tournament.
West Coast Conference: Gonzaga Bulldogs
The Gonzaga Bulldogs look to seize the WCC but it won’t be easy. Killian Tillie and a star-studded freshman class that includes 4 stars Drew Timme and Oumar Ballo will have to stave off a host of schools. St. Marys, led by Jordan Ford will be a tough out and will be national top 25 all year. Plus BYU will have plenty of firepower with Yoeli Childs and TJ Haws.
Western Athletic Conference: New Mexico State
New Mexico State was 15-1 in conference play last year and have key pieces coming back that should allow them to get and NCAA bid.