Your eyes do not deceive you. Yes, there are conference basketball games being played on the first day of December this season.
Well, the Big Ten Conference decided to play its tournament at Madison Square Garden this season, but the World’s Most Famous Arena is playing host to the Big East Tournament on the last weekend before Selection Sunday as it traditionally does.
So the Big Ten tourney will be a week earlier than usual (Feb. 28-March 4) and the ripple effect gives us conference games earlier than usual.
And we aren’t complaining about games taking on extra importance earlier in the season. The Big Ten is the first to begin league play, but it won’t be long until the other leagues get underway, so with a few non-conference games to gauge each team, our experts give their picks on who will win each of the 32 conferences.
The Shockers return all five starters back from a team that finished in the top 10 at KenPom last season, and have a bonafide star in point guard Landry Shamet. When they get Markis McDuffie back on the court, they’re going to be the team to beat in the AAC.
Vermont’s the team to top in the America East after getting to the NCAAs under John Becker last season. With Anthony Lamb returning and Trae Bell-Haynes taking on a bigger role quarterbacking the offense, the Catamounts will likely be back in the field of 68 come March.
Duke is the preseason No. 1 team and the cream of the crop not only in the ACC, but also the country. With Marvin Bagley III playing like a potential player of the year candidate, the Blue Devils have the tools and talent – as well as the coach – to enter league play as the odds-on favorites in one of the stiffest leagues in America.
Dunk City is back! Thanks to the return of all-everything stud Brandon Goodwin and a projected junior leap for Zach Johnson, the Eagles should soar to an A-Sun title and find their way back in the NCAAs. Again.
The Rams were close to scooting into the Sweet 16 a season ago, and with Jared Terrell suddenly looking like the star of Dan Hurley’s unit, fifth-year senior E.C. Matthews gives Rhode Island one of the best second options in the A-10.
Just like Kansas in the Big 12 (spoiler alert!), Villanova is the favorite in the Big East until proven otherwise. With four consecutive regular season titles and a cast of stars headlined by Jalen Brunson and Mikal Bridges, the Wildcats are once again the cream of the crop in the league.
Behind Ahmaad Rorie and Michael Oguine, the Grizzlies are class of the Big Sky. But the gap between Montana and a slew of contenders — including Idaho and Montana State isn’t that wide.
The Bulldogs boast three double-digit scorers in the early season and, outside a shellacking at the hands of Rhode Island in the opener, have fared well against upper level competition. Nick McDevitt just can’t stop winning. They might win the league in a runaway.
The moment Miles Bridges declared he was returning for his sophomore season, Sparty became the preseason favorite in the Big Ten. They have one of the best defenses in the country and their offense, which is…