Home > Current Updates, Team News > Bracket Bits: Valparaiso, S.F. Austin among mid-majors to watch

Bracket Bits: Valparaiso, S.F. Austin among mid-majors to watch

Dave2015If you’re already looking for a couple of mid-majors to keep an eye on next March, consider Valparaiso and Stephen F. Austin.  If those names sound familiar, they should.  Both the Crusaders and Lumberjacks have been in this position before, and both are heavy favorites to again win their respective leagues. Each team might also be better this go-around.  Considering Valpo nearly upset Maryland a year ago, that’s noteworthy.

Valparaiso – Head coach Bryce Drew welcomes back a host of talent, including Horizon League Player-of-the-Year candidate Alec Peters.  In all, the Crusaders return nine players who logged significant minutes.  Valparaiso is balanced, experienced, and confident.  Those traits generally bode well for teams in search of March Magic.  Nothing is certain once the ball is tipped, but expect the Crusaders to push for a 30-win season.  Valpo has non-conference games against MAAC favorite Iona, improving A-10 power Rhode Island, and Pac-12 teams Oregon and Oregon State.  If the Crusaders can win at least two of those they have a chance to bump their seed line and possibly contend for an at-large berth.

Stephen F. Austin – Is it possible for a team that’s gone 35-1 in conference play the past two seasons to be better in 2016?  With a strong returning core and some talented newcomers, the answer is potentially yes.  Head coach Brad Underwood is certainly building a dynasty with the Lumberjacks.  Among the returnees is Southland Player-of-the-Year Thomas Walkup.  He’s joined in the backcourt by a talented group, including point guard Trey Pinkney.  One of the most intriguing newcomers is Lasani Johnson, the son of former UNLV and NBA star Larry Johnson.  Non-conference games include Baylor, Northern Iowa, Arizona State, and UAB.  A couple of wins could make an at-large case interesting.

Who else is worth watching?

We mentioned Iona. The Gaels return point guard A.J. English and sophomore Schadrac Casimir.  Central Michigan returns all five starters, including Chris Fowler, who led the Chippewas in scoring and assists last season.  Belmont brings back Craig Bradshaw, the Ohio Valley’s top returning scorer, not to mention coach Rick Byrd and four starters overall.  Chattanooga returns all-conference talents Casey Jones and Justin Tuoyo.  If the Mocs gel under new coach Matt McCall, expect them to battle Wofford for the Southern Conference title. Louisiana-Lafayette welcomes back Shawn Long and most of its other top performers, including Kasey Shepherd and Hayward Register. That’s notable considering the Ragin’ Cajuns led the Sun Belt Conference in scoring a year ago.

Categories: Current Updates, Team News
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