NCAA – Chris’ Projections for All Those Other Mid-Majors + Big Seven Conferences

Why, hello. So, I’ve been busy writing a million different things, meaning the rest of those conference previews might be coming a bit into the season (or not at all, d’oh). I just wanted to get on record with my projections for every conference though, so here’s the ones I haven’t hit so far, along with some very brief commentary.

Southern

1. Furman
2. Samford
3. UNC Greensboro
4. Appalachian State
5. Georgia Southern
6. The Citadel
7. Western Carolina
8. Elon
-
9. Davidson
10. Wofford
11. Chattanooga

With ten starters back, including supreme goalgetter Stephanie DeVita, Furman should be able to break the duopoly of Samford and UNC Greensboro at the top of the league and might have a chance to give someone problems in the NCAA Tournament. Samford look like a solid #2, and nobody should be surprised if they end up topping the pile come November. In what looks like a rebuilding year, UNCG will probably slide back towards a chasing pack which includes Appalachian State and Georgia Southern and potentially improved Citadel and Western Carolina sides. Elon and Davidson, traditionally respectable sides in mid-table, could figure among the strugglers this year, fighting traditional conference punching bags Wofford and Chattanooga for the final playoff spots in the SoCon.

Southland

1. Stephen F. Austin
2. Lamar
3. Oral Roberts
4. Houston Baptist
5. Incarnate Word
6. Central Arkansas
7. Sam Houston State
-
8. Southeastern Louisiana
9. Northwestern State
10. Nicholls State
11. Abilene Christian
12. McNeese State
13. Texas A&M-Corpus Christi

(NOTE: Incarnate Word and Abilene Christian are ineligible for the postseason as schools transitioning from a lower division.)

You might need a scorecard to keep up with all the new faces in the southland, with Incarnate Word and Abilene Christian moving up a division, Texas A&M-Corpus Christi starting a new program, and Houston Baptist moving in from the Great West. Stephen F. Austin are again favorites, though the gap between them and the rest of the league has likely closed after the departure of head coach Tony Amato and some of the team’s elite talent. Lamar and Oral Roberts will fancy their chances of challenging for honors, while Houston Baptist and Incarnate Word should not fear a step up in class given their talent. The rest of the league looks like a muddle, though eighth place could theoretically qualify for the postseason if the transitioning teams end up in the playoff places. There’s plenty of room for movement for the likes of traditional strugglers Central Arkansas and Nicholls State, while fallen giants Southeastern Louisiana’s odds for a rebound season look mixed.

Patriot

1. Navy
2. Boston University
3. Colgate
4. Army
5. Lehigh
6. Holy Cross
-
7. Loyola (MD)
8. American
9. Lafayette
10. Bucknell

The Patriot League gets bigger and better with the addition of Boston University, who should challenge for honors right off the bat, and Loyola (MD), who may have to be content with a challenge for a postseason spot. BU’s main title challengers figure to be a loaded Navy side, one that could be one of Carin Gabarra’s best in her time with the club. Last year’s Patriot League Tournament champions Colgate should be dark horses again, while Army and Lehigh look good bets for postseason spots as well in the newly expanded conference tournament. The Greyhounds mentioned above will likely battle with Holy Cross and American for the last postseason spot, while Lafayette and Bucknell look likeliest to be propping up the league this season.

MAC

1. Miami (OH)
2. Eastern Michigan
3. Akron
4. Kent State
5. Northern Illinois
6. Central Michigan
7. Ball State
8. Toledo
-
9. Buffalo
10. Ohio
11. Western Michigan
12. Bowling Green

Star attacker Jess Kodiak may have gone, but Miami (OH) returns just about everyone else, meaning the Redhawks will be favorites to storm to another league title this year in the MAC. Previous titans Central Michigan, missing eight starters from last year, and Toledo, suddenly short on top-flight talent, may be more in the mire than they’d like, meaning some new challengers might rise to the top of the league, with Eastern Michigan, Akron, and Kent State likely to be amongst those most likely to climb the league ladder this year. Ball State has the league’s second best recruiting class but may have to settle for mid-table thanks to heavy losses, while new regimes at Ohio and Bowling Green will likely find themselves with tough tasks ahead of them in trying to claw their way into the postseason this year.

Conference USA

1. Colorado College
2. Rice
3. FIU
4. North Texas
5. Tulsa
6. UTEP
7. Charlotte
8. UAB
9. Florida Atlantic
10. East Carolina
-
11. Middle Tennessee State
12. Marshall
13. Southern Miss
14. UTSA
15. Louisiana Tech
16. Old Dominion

(NOTE: C-USA is split into two eight-team divisions this season, with top five in each making the C-USA Tournament. The projected top ten above are also the top five in each division, so those are the ten I project to make the postseason.)

The colossally bloated latest incarnation of Conference USA weighs in at a whopping sixteen teams, split into two divisions, with the top five in each making it into a four-round slugfest of a conference tournament. All the power this season is concentrated in the West though, with stalwarts Colorado College and Rice likely to begin as title favorites, though imports Florida International (the best club in the East by a mile) and North Texas are intriguing dark horses. The departure of some of the powerhouses means clubs like Tulsa and UTEP have a chance to move up, while Charlotte and UAB may reach giddy heights thanks to the relative weakness of the East Division this season. Outside of the top six, Middle Tennessee State would appear to be the best choice for a sleeper given their past pedigree, though they absorb heavy losses. At the bottom of the league, traditional strugglers Southern Miss might fancy a move up, while it’s been all change at Louisiana Tech, who’ll at least have company in the lower regions of the league with woeful UTSA and Old Dominion being added to the mix.

Atlantic 10

1. La Salle
2. Dayton
3. VCU
4. Richmond
5. Saint Joseph’s
6. George Mason
7. UMass
8. George Washington
-
9. Saint Louis
10. Duquesne
11. Rhode Island
12. Saint Bonaventure
13. Fordham

It’s probably not going to be a vintage year in the A10. Pretty much everyone gets waylaid by losses of crucial personnel, though La Salle probably has enough left in the tank to win the league comfortably, despite losing five starters. Dayton return eight, including budding star Ashley Campbell and potential NWSL draft pick Juliana Libertin, but it’s tough seeing them hitting previous heights right away without Colleen Williams. Beyond that? Draw names out of a hat. Traditionally formidable VCU should again be comfortably in the postseason places despite a coaching change, while Richmond should be better with a full season of Becca Wann up top. Saint Joseph’s didn’t add much, but the return of Mo Hawkins might make them the league’s big sleeper. UMass looks to be seriously weakened by the loss of Moa Mattsson and might be in a fight to just make the postseason. George Washington and Saint Louis might be in line for rebound years, while under new management Saint Bonaventure and Fordham could be amongst the real strugglers this year.

Colonial

1. Hofstra
2. Drexel
3. William & Mary
4. Northeastern
5. James Madison
6. Delaware
-
7. UNC Wilmington
8. College of Charleston
9. Towson

The unfettered madness of last season’s CAA Tournament could be repeated in the league this season, with what looks like a pretty open race for honors this year. Last season’s conference tournament winners Hofstra are probably slim favorites to emerge victorious, but they should get strong challenges from Drexel, William & Mary and Northeastern, Traditional powerhouse James Madison has the league’s best recruiting class and could make my prediction of mid-table look foolish. UNC Wilmington could be this season’s big fallers after taking heavy losses through graduation, while newcomers College of Charleston are probably going to get a trial by fire as they make a step up in class from the SoCon.

Big West

1. Cal State Fullerton
2. UC Irvine
3. Hawaii
4. Long Beach State
-
5. Cal Poly
6. Cal State Northridge
7. UC Davis
8. UC Santa Barbara
9. UC Riverside

The nation’s most wide open title race might be in the Big West, where I count no fewer than seven teams that could lift the league title come the end of the regular season’s end. Reigning champs Cal State Fullerton have a fair chance of repeating, while UC Irvine should be back amongst the contenders after a year of consolidation. Hawaii could be shock contenders for silverware, while Long Beach State should still be formidable despite heavy offseason losses. One of the toughest conference tournaments to qualify for means the likes of mid-table sides Cal Poly, Cal State Northridge and UC Davis may all still have fine seasons despite not making the postseason if they miss out. Under pressure UC Santa Barbara don’t look like to make an impact, while UC Riverside look odds on to finish bottom come season’s end.

Ivy

1. Dartmouth
2. Harvard
3. Princeton
4. Brown
5. Penn
6. Columbia
7. Cornell
8. Yale

The gap between the top two and the rest of the league looks ominous, with Harvard likely to depend on a great recruiting class to enable them to overhaul a Dartmouth side likely hell bent on winning the league after last season’s NCAA Tournament snub. Princeton has talent but also many losses to make up for, and could be joined in mid-table by a Brown side that could be a sleeper team, Penn, and Columbia. Cornell should make a little forward progress this season after a decent recruiting class was brought in, but Yale might be in danger of hitting rock bottom with heavy losses, a nondescript recruiting class, and little returning talent in comparison to the rest of the league.

Big East

1. Georgetown
2. Marquette
3. Villanova
4. Butler
5. Saint John’s (NY)
6. Providence
-
7. DePaul
8. Seton Hall
9. Xavier
10. Creighton

You get the feeling that Georgetown’s Daphne Corboz and her teammates are going to score roughly a million goals against their league rivals this year, and the Hoyas are pretty comfortable favorites to win the new Big East in my mind, with Marquette a solid second. Villanova’s been decidedly down the past few seasons but have a pretty good shot at being part of the new order in the league, while I don’t expect Butler to have too many problems transitioning to rougher waters given some of their shrewd recruiting. The same can’t be said for Xavier and Creighton, who may be in a personal battle to stay off the league’s basement. The rest of the sides from the old Big East are probably going to be battling it out for one of the last few postseason slots with the new league taking six teams to the conference tournament.

Mountain West

1. San Diego State
2. UNLV
3. Utah State
4. Boise State
5. Nevada
6. Wyoming
7. San Jose State
8. Fresno State
-
9. New Mexico
10. Air Force
11. Colorado State

San Diego State doesn’t exactly escape the offseason unscathed from graduation and other travails, losing the likes of scoring talisman Megan Jurado and goalkeeper Rachel Boaz, but they probably have just enough to get them over the line in what looks to be a tight title race in the Mountain West. They’ll be pushed hard by a dark horse UNLV team and a Utah State team that showed plenty of mettle in the last remnants of the WAC. Keep an eye on Boise State. Despite a change in management, these Broncos might have a shock title run in them the way my projections break. The usual suspects will be in mid-table, fighting for a postseason spot, but the team to really watch might be New Mexico. The Lobos get clobbered by graduation and come into the season with a side threadbare on proven talent. The coaches’ poll is optimistic about their chances, but I’m significantly more bearish on their hopes of mounting anything close to a title challenge.

WCC

1. Portland
2. Santa Clara
3. BYU
4. Pepperdine
5. San Diego
6. Loyola Marymount
7. Saint Mary’s (CA)
8. San Francisco
9. Pacific
10. Gonzaga

It’s a big gap between the top two and the rest of the league again, as the old order is likely to be restored after Pepperdine, San Diego, and BYU crashed the party the past few years. Santa Clara’s probably got the better returning squad, but Portland’s top-notch recruiting class has me tipping them for the title by a hair, though the duo could easily split the crown this year. The aforementioned trio are likely to battle it out for the honor of being the best of the second tier, and of course, the right to do some damage in November. BYU isn’t going to hit last year’s heights, but they’re still a match for anyone in the imposing altitude of Provo. I think Loyola Marymount has a big chance at improvement this year and may be a fringe NCAA Tournament contender It’s a battle to stay off the bottom for the other four sides. Saint Mary’s (CA) probably stands to fare best after a great recruiting class, while Pacific might be able to acclimate with a very good incoming class of their own. San Francisco looks like a club ripe to suffer from Second Season Syndrome, while Gonzaga’s brass are undoubtedly under pressure for improved results this season.

American Athletic

1. UCF
2. Louisville
3. Memphis
4. Rutgers
5. SMU
6. South Florida
7. UConn
8. Cincinnati
9. Houston
10. Temple

It’s a brave new world for the old Big East, as the conference absorbs much of the top tier of Conference USA. UCF and Memphis will fancy their title chances at the time of first asking, while Louisville looks primed for a rebound season after last season’s U20 World Cup seemed to unsettle the side. Rutgers and SMU look like clubs capable of dark horse runs but may be more concerned with solidifying their NCAA Tournament hopes. South Florida are always a dangerously unpredictable side but may struggle to rise above mid-table, while UConn continues to look like a spent force. Cincinnati is under new management and bring in a respectable recruiting class and may get a chance to haul themselves off the bottom of the league, where Houston and an grossly out of their depth Temple figure to be come season’s end.

Big XII

1. Texas Tech
2. West Virginia
3. Kansas
4. Baylor
5. Texas
6. Oklahoma State
7. TCU
8. Iowa State
-
9. Oklahoma

The battle for the title figures to come down to Texas Tech and West Virginia, but I think the Red Raiders will have the edge with a little more proven talent returning, with the Mountaineers’ youngsters probably needing a little time to acclimate. Both figure to be dangerous opposition in November though. Kansas looks to be dangerous in their own right with the return of Liana Salazar to the midfield and the addition of French starlet Aurelie Gagnet. Baylor takes some big losses but should have enough to make another NCAA Tournament trip, while Texas could be much improved over Angela Kelly’s first season with the club. Oklahoma State’s pedigree suggests a bounce back, but I’m not sure they’ll rise so high right away, while TCU could make some steady progress in year two under Eric Bell. It figures to be tougher for Matt Potter at Oklahoma, who are clobbered by attrition and will likely be battling Iowa State for the final postseason berth in the league.

SEC

1. Texas A&M
2. Tennessee
3. Missouri
4. Florida
5. Ole Miss
6. LSU
7. Alabama
8. Kentucky
9. South Carolina
10. Auburn
-
11. Georgia
12. Vanderbilt
13. Arkansas
14. Mississippi State

This could be an especially volatile year in the SEC. Well, at least behind likely winners Texas A&M, whose returning collective talent dwarfs that of a conference hit hard by attrition. Many have tipped Florida to keep going from strength to strength, but I don’t see them not slipping a little, as their legion of graduated stars masked some deficiencies that become glaringly apparent at times against top opposition the past few seasons. They’ll likely be in a second tier of contenders that seems likely to include a Hannah Wilkinson driven Tennessee and a Missouri side whose football hasn’t won them any friends in the conference but has made them instant threats to be reckoned with. Ole Miss could this season’s surprise package, with ten returning starters, including Brazilian Rafaelle Souza, while Alabama desperately needs a rebound season for the regime’s job security. LSU’s recruiting class points to a contender, but the returning talent surrounding them screams mid-table, where they could do battle with a dour South Carolina side that will hope for more offense after scoring a league low nine goals in SEC play last year, as well as a Kentucky side that will likely need a Herculean contribution from Arin Gilliland to match last year’s second round showing in the NCAA Tournament. Auburn’s Karen Hoppa will likely need one of her biggest Houdini acts yet to extend the Tigers’ NCAA Tournament streak after losing the goals of Tatiana Coleman and the leadership of goalkeeper Amy Howard, while under fire Georgia boss Steve Holeman will largely be depending on a highly touted recruiting class to offset massive offseason losses. Vanderbilt return ten starters and have a puncher’s chance of reaching the postseason again, while Arkansas will strive to avoid Second Season Syndrome under Colby Hale. Mississippi State has a new man at the helm in Aaron Gordon, but he’ll be hard pressed to lift the Bulldogs into postseason places at the time of first asking.

Big Ten

1. Penn State
2. Michigan
3. Ohio State
4. Wisconsin
5. Illinois
6. Nebraska
7. Iowa
8. Minnesota
-
9. Northwestern
10. Michigan State
11. Indiana
12. Purdue

Penn State and Michigan look to be light years ahead of their Big Ten opposition this season, and their regular season meeting could well decide the league title. Behind them, the usual suspects of Ohio State, Wisconsin, and Illinois figure to duke it out to be the best of the rest, though you’d probably figure Wisconsin has the edge on an OSU team replacing some of its best players and an Illinois team that may be too reliant on Vanessa DiBernardo. Nebraska might be one of the nation’s biggest sleeper teams, with ten starters returning and two legit scoring threats in Mayme Conroy and Jordan Jackson. Iowa have a dark horse chance of an NCAA Tournament run, while a Taylor Uhl-less Minnesota will look to avoid the muck near the bottom of the league. It’s where an improving Northwestern, the newly Amy Berbary led Indiana, and struggling Michigan State and Purdue programs figure to be come the end of the season.

Pac-12

1. UCLA
2. Stanford
3. Cal
4. Washington State
5. Washington
6. USC
7. Arizona State
8. Oregon State
9. Utah
10. Colorado
11. Arizona
12. Oregon

I fancy UCLA’s odds of breaking Stanford’s death grip on the Pac-12 title this season, though the Bruins do need to find a scorer that can carry the load up top after Zakiya Bywaters’ graduation. The Card have a fantastic recruiting class, but they also have some serious holes in the spine of the team following the losses of Mariah Nogueira, Alina Garciamendez, Maddie Thompson, and Rachel Quon. The addition of Taylor Uhl might be enough to keep them above Cal, who will look to continue to close the gap to the top two while fending off some of the league’s other formidable sides. Washington State look like a side being overlooked going into the new seasons that could cause a lot of teams problems, while Washington should again be in the thick of things in upper-mid table. USC has a ton of upside but may need a little time to gel with their rookie recruits, while Arizona State and Oregon State are as dangerous as any 7th/8th ranked team in a league in the nation. Utah is a real sleeper with just about everyone returning from last year’s young side, while Colorado will also look to scrape their way up the table. Arizona and Oregon figure to prop up the table once again, with new coaches likely needing a few more years to rebuild stagnant programs.

ACC

1. North Carolina
2. Duke
3. Notre Dame
4. Florida State
5. Virginia
6. Wake Forest
7. Boston College
8. Maryland
-
9. Virginia Tech
10. Clemson
11. Syracuse
12. Miami (FL)
13. NC State
14. Pittsburgh

The ACC figures to be a grueling battle of attrition this season, but it’s hard to look past North Carolina at the top. The Tar Heels figure to be pushed by an explosive Duke side and the young and talented newcomers of Notre Dame, with Florida State and Virginia also holding very real title hopes this season. I think Wake Forest’s in a sort of limbo, probably not good enough to challenge for a title but still decidedly better than what’s below them. Watch out for a potential College Cup run for the Demon Deacons. Boston College may kick themselves for missing out on a big opportunity with last season’s senior influenced side, while I think a Maryland team that takes big hits again this year through attrition will struggle to match last year’s runner-up finish. Virginia Tech should again be in the mix for ACC and NCAA Tournament action, while Clemson looks like a club ready to make a sizable step forward thanks to a great recruiting class. Syracuse will probably do more sinking than swimming in their first ACC season, while Miami (FL) could also struggle after their coaching change. NC State and Pittsburgh both have a long, long way to challenge the order in the cutthroat ACC.

3 thoughts on “NCAA – Chris’ Projections for All Those Other Mid-Majors + Big Seven Conferences

  1. Charles B.

    BYU are likely to dominate the midfield in any game, and your lack of mention of their recruits plus the depth they had last year that is stepping in nicely this year should worry you. They should compete for the top off the WCC with Portland and S. Clara, not the tier. Not unless Portland and S.Clara end up finishing top 5 in the country and least.

    Reply

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