The 2015-16 season is a little more than a week away! To celebrate here are eight bold predictions about the upcoming season. These of course come with Big Apple Buckets no worries, money-back guarantee. So you know they’re going to be 100 percent correct.
1. NJIT will win the Atlantic Sun regular season title
This may be the Highlanders’ first season in the Atlantic Sun, but Jim Engles’ crew looks like it picked the right time to leave its independence behind. NJIT’s backcourt with Damon Lynn, Tim Coleman, Ky Howard and Winfield Willis should be one of the best in conference. Both the KenPom and SI projections expect NJIT and North Florida to be the teams to beat in the A-Sun. Why is winning the regular season title so important for NJIT? The Highlanders would then be able to play the entire conference tournament at home. Not winning could mean quite a bit of travel during the first week of March. Still, just having a shot has to be a huge relief for the entire program.
2. Stony Brook will not win the America East regular season title, but will dance for the first time ever after winning the conference tournament
The first part of this projection might be the bolder piece. But the America East regular season is long and there are at least a few talented teams among the upper echelon that will challenge the Seawolves (Vermont, Albany, maybe New Hampshire). Why I think the Seawolves will earn the automatic bid is because those few weeks in March will represent the final stand for classmates Jameel Warney and Carson Puriefoy. Two all-America East players will have a final chance to do the one thing that would cement their legacies at the school. They won’t let it pass. It might take a road victory somewhere along the way, but Stony Brook will finally dance.
3. Princeton, Columbia and Yale will finish in a 3-way tie atop the Ivy League
This has about a 4% chance of happening, according to 10,000 simulations of the Ivy League race using Ken Pomeroy’s preseason ratings. The best chance that this happens is all three teams finishing 10-4. Ivy League fans will remember that the three-team tie did occur in during the 2001-02 season, when Penn, Yale and Princeton all finished 11-3. Harvard lurks as the ultimate spoiler, which is why I’m adding an extra loss to the leaders this season. But if Cornell is once again one of the worst teams in Division I and another team regresses the odds improve.
Iona should be the best team in the MAAC. A.J. English is the best player on Iona. It’s ridiculous that the Gaels’ point guard wasn’t included on ESPN’s Top 100 list, but he has been recognized by a number of outlets, including NBC Sports (as a preseason mid-major all-american) and CBS Sports (in their top 100). No one on any of the major conference teams should provide a major threat to English (with the possible exception of Isaiah Whitehead at Seton Hall). Instead English’s competition will probably come from his mid-major brethren where the NYC area is absolutely stacked, including Warney, Hofstra’s Juan’ya Green, and Columbia’s Maodo Lo. High-scoring guards from Iona have won the award before (see Scott Machado and Momo Jones) and his season sets up perfectly for English, who averaged 20.1 ppg a season ago.
5. Denton Koon will be healthy all season and an all-CAA player for Hofstra
Followers of Princeton basketball know that the first part of this prediction is the bolder piece. Koon struggled with injuries during his entire career with the Tigers, including missing all of last season. But two seasons ago, when healthy as a sophomore, the 6’8 forward put up phenomenal numbers, with a 106.5 offensive efficiency rating. If Koon can get healthy and find that form, he could be an integral piece of the Pride’s attack, especially considering the attention that Green, Ameen Tanksley and Brian Bernardini will be drawing on the perimeter.
6. St. John’s and Rutgers will both finish in the basement of their respective leagues
Let’s be honest. This prediction isn’t a bold one for Rutgers. The Scarlet Knights appear to be the worst major conference team in the country and the Big Ten is no slouch. As SI put it in their ranking of every team in the country, “SI forecasts that Rutgers (288) will be the worst team from a BCS conference by a huge margin: The Scarlet Knights are the only BCS-conference team outside our top 200, and we project them to go 1-17 in the Big Ten. Rutgers’ projections are so bleak that we would still have them finishing last if they were in the CAA.”
What about St. John’s? That one is a bit more controversial. Chris Mullin has basically been given a blank slate upon which to write a new chapter for the Red Storm and the preseason projections aren’t quite sure what to do with an extremely green St. John’s roster, half of which are freshmen. Mullin’s problem isn’t that his team is projected to be poor, it’s that the Big East should be quite strong as a whole, with no particularly terrible team. Even perennial last-place finisher DePaul looks to have a little bit of life, so avoiding the basement is going to be quite the challenge.
7. Fordham will go 10-1 in non-conference play (with wins over St. John’s, Manhattan and LIU Brooklyn), but still finish near the bottom of the Atlantic 10
Jeff Neubauer sure figured out how to work the schedule during his first year in charge of the Rams. Fordham will play nine of its 11 non-conference games at home this season. It’s not a like a murder’s row is coming to Rose Hill either. Rebuilding seasons for the Red Storm and Jaspers mean that the Rams are actually favored in both of those games according to KenPom’s preseason projections. The toughest part about fulfilling the 10-win non-conference prophecy will be winning one of the two games away from the Bronx—at UT Arlington in the season opener or against Boston College at the Barclays Center. Unfortunately, the Atlantic 10 schedule will be much more challenging. Playing potential bubble teams Rhode Island and Richmond home-and-home certainly won’t help.
8. LIU Brooklyn’s Jerome Frink will make the all-NEC first team
Hat tip to Ryan Peters for this one. Frink, a transfer from Florida International, is garnering a bunch of preseason hype for the Blackbirds. The 6’7 redshirt junior is even being compared to Julian Boyd—which are certainly lofty expectations—and should be a nightmare for opponents to guard in the NEC. The NEC also conveniently happens to have a bit of room on its all-conference teams, after a senior class heavy first team a season ago. If Frink lives up to his preseason hype the Blackbirds should also challenge for a spot in the top half of the NEC.