Monday, November 7, 2011

2011-2012 Season Preview: What's the opposite of a "sleeper"?

Last week, we gave you a list of teams that we believed are primed to have a season that will be better than we expect. But for every team that exceeds expectations, there is a team that fails to live up to the hype. Every season there is at least one team in each conference that underwhelms, disappoints, implodes or regresses. We are here to take a look at the teams we think will do just that this season.

But first, please note that we aren't hating on any of the teams here. We are simply trying to project a teams lack of success based on conference strength, lack of experience, lack of roster depth and so on. We are just trying to do our jobs. After all, not every team can go undefeated, and we aren't here to hand out "participation trophies" to all 346 teams.

Atlantic Coast Conference: Florida State
Preseason Ranking: 3rd Place
Where we ranked them: 3rd Place
Why we think they won't do as well as expected:
The only thing working for this team is that the ACC is very thin outside of Tobacco Road. True, they do have Michael Snaer, and talented wing who has flown under the radar for a long time. But who else will step up? Who do they have to replace Chris Singleton? Okaro White should see an increase in production, but who do they have after that? Their back court is weak and their front court is thin. There really isn't anything about this team that makes me think they will be better than nine other teams.


Atlantic-10: Richmond
Preseason Ranking: 5th Place
Where we ranked them: 8th Place
Why we think they won't do as well as expected:
After Xavier and Temple, the rest of the A-10 is a jumbled mess. So it is hard to picked a team that will underwhelm this year. But based on all the losses to the Chris Mooney's program, it is hard to see this team being too successful. Outside of Darien Brothers and Darius Garrett, this team doesn't have a terrible amount of talent. With teams like Saint Louis, St. Bonaventure's and George Washington set to breakout this season, Richmond looks like a team that will regress.


Big East: West Virginia
Preseason Ranking: 7th Place
Where we ranked them: 10th Place
Why we think they won't do as well as expected:
This one is pretty easy. 1) They play is a 16-team mega-super-conference. 2) They return only three players from last years squad. 3) Eight freshman will suit up this season. 4) They lost their first exhibition game of the season, to Northern Kentucky (DII). West Virginia is going to be good eventually, just not right now. But the thing is, they could be even worse than expected.


Big-Ten: Purdue
Preseason Ranking: The Big-Ten does not release a preseason poll
Where we ranked them: 6th Place
Why we think they won't do as well as expected:
What exactly do we know about Purdue? Sure, they have Robbie Hummel, but it's been a long time since he's played competitive basketball. Outside of Hummel, Purdue is full of question-marks. Who is going to be their front-court presence? Will Lewis Jackson finally start to produce? What about their depth? Luckily for the Boilermakers, the bottom of the Big-Ten is pretty dreadful, so a 6th-8th place finish is probably a reasonable expectation;.


Big-XII: Kansas
Preseason Ranking: 1st Place (Tie)
Where we ranked them: 2nd Place
Why we think they won't do as well as expected:
If Kansas finishes anywhere in the top three in the conference, Bill Self should win Big-XII Coach of the Year honors. This team has almost no depth whatsoever, and the guys who were supposed to be leaders, Elijah Johnson and Tyshawn Taylor, got suspended by coach Self two weeks ago for violating team rules. If teams can properly game plan to shutdown Thomas Robinson, it will be very difficult for the Jayhawks to win a lot of games.


Colonial Athletic Association: James Madison
Preseason Ranking: 5th Place
Where we ranked them: 4th Place
Why we think they won't do as well as expected:
It's not like JMU is expected to do great things this season, but due to Denzel Bowles' graduation and Devon Moore's eligibility issue, the Dukes could be in for a long season. They do have Rayshawn Goins and Julius Wells up front, but the CAA should feature a handful of teams with talented front courts. The lack of a solid back court is going to hurt the Dukes.


Conference-USA: Central Florida
Preseason Ranking: C-USA does not conduct a preseason poll
Where we ranked them: 4th Place
Why we think they won't do as well as expected:
This team should be good, I think. At least I want to think that they will be. But then I remember about last season's epic collapse, and the fact that they're, well, Central Florida. This team is like a drug addiction. The highs are great, and the lows are absolutely miserable. That's how the 2011-2012 season will play out. Plus, @DanWolken won't stop chirping about UCF, and he's rarely wrong. I think.


Horizon League: Detroit
Preseason Ranking: 2nd Place
Where we ranked them: 2nd Place
Why we think they won't do as well as expected:
When Eli Holman left the program two months ago, it was a huge blow to the Detroit program. He was the guy that would put them over the edge this year. Ray McCallum may be the team's star, but Holman was their top front court producer, averaging nearly a double-double per game. In a mid-major conference like the Horizon League, having an elite big-man can put a team over the edge. The Titans won't be terrible this season, they'll be somewhere around the top four or five. But without Holman up front, they will struggle to assert themselves as legitimate contenders for the Horizon League crown


Missouri Valley Conference: Creighton
Preseason Ranking: 1st Place
Where we ranked them: 1st Place
Why we think they won't do as well as expected:
OK, OK, just hear me out. I don't doubt that this team is the best in the MVC, but, like, who is going to play defense this year? Last season they ranked 187th in the conutry in defensive efficiency. Sure, they have more talent than any other team in the conference, but with the expectations that are being placed on them this season, anything less than a perfect conference record would have to be considered a disappointment.


Mountain West Conference: UNLV
Preseason Ranking: 2nd
Where we ranked them: 2nd
Why we think they won't do as well as expected:
The Mountain West is going to stink this season, and since UNLV will be good, but not nearly as good as New Mexico, I have to list the Runnin' Rebels here. Teams like SDSU and Colorado State aren't expected to do anything special, so it's impossible for them to fail. UNLV doesn't have anything to gain, other than winning a really sub-par conference.


Pac-12: Arizona
Preseason Ranking: 3rd Place
Where we ranked them: 1st Place
Why we think they won't do as well as expected:
Unless you're John Calipari, it's rather difficult to ask freshman to carry the bulk of the workload for a top-level BCS-conference program, and that's exactly what Sean Miller is going to have to do this season. With Derrick Williams gone to the NBA Lockout, MoMo Jones gone to Iona, and Kevin Parrom still recovering from bullet wounds, the Wildcats are going to need a lot of production from their standout freshman class. But the Pac-12 will be much better than in recent seasons, and it just seems like a tall order for this squad. Plus, they lost an exhibition game to Seattle-Pacific. That doesn't exactly help their cause.


Southeastern Conference: Vanderbilt
Preseason Ranking: 2nd Place
Where we ranked them: 2nd Place
Why we think they won't do as well as expected:
The Commodores lack that killer instinct that great teams need to possess. Last season, they were 1-5 in games decided by three points or less and and seven losses were by four points or less or in overtime. Factor in the back-to-back first round exits in the NCAA Tournament, and the injury to Festus Ezeli, and you have a team primed to disappoint. This team has serious talent, and have a bunch of experienced players. But the problem is that none of these experienced players have any experience winning close games. You kinda have to be able to do that if you want to keep playing games late into March.


Western Athletic Conference: Utah State
Preseason Ranking: 3rd Place
Where we ranked them: 3rd Place
Why we think they won't do as well as expected:
The Aggies have had a stranglehold on the WAC for the last couple of seasons, but their grip could start to loosen this season. While they do return Brockeith Payne, one of the conference's top players, Utah State lost a lot of veteran leadership and front court production. Gone is Taj Wesley, their All-Conference center, Brian Green, their crafty distributor and key contributors like Nate Bendall, Tyler Newbold and Pooh Williams. Even with guys like Payne and forward Brady Jardine, this team has to find out what they have rather quickly.


West Coast Conference: BYU
Preseason Ranking: 3rd Place
Where we ranked them: 3rd Place
Why we think they won't do as well as expected:
They don't have Jimmer Fredette anymore, do they? Jimmer put this team over the top. Sure, they have a solid crop of experienced players in Brandon Davies, Noah Hartsock, Chris Collinsworth and Charles Abouo, but without Jimmer, this team simply wont be the same. This season could turn out to be a huge wake-up call for the Cougars.


2 comments:

Deron said...

The Pre-Season poll has become less of a predictor of the final rankings in the last few years. But I think this year will be different with so many good players returning to top-ranked teams. I see 4 number ones reaching the Final Four, or at least nothing lower than a 2 seed in the Final Four.

http://theresastatforthat.blogspot.com/2011/04/uconnbutler-is-ap-poll-losing.html

DMoore said...

"There really isn't anything about {Florida State] that makes me think they will be better than nine other teams."

Bernard James. Also Bernard James. Not to mention Bernard James.

He's better on offense than Singleton was (which isn't saying too much), but he's also a better rebounder and a monster at blocking shots. When you combine that with 7 foot center Okaro White, you're not going to score on these guys inside. He will be the leader of this team -- not Snaer, not White, and not Kitchen.