Poll Critiques: Colonial, Conference USA & Summit

Posted by Tommy Lemoine on October 27th, 2014

Over the next few weeks, we’ll examine and critique some of the more intriguing preseason conference polls. Here, we take a look at the good, the bad and the weird coming out of the Colonial, Conference USA and Summit League polls.

Colonial

There are plenty of question marks in the CAA this season. (Christopher Szagola/US Presswire)

There are plenty of question marks in the CAA this season. (Christopher Szagola/US Presswire)

The voters got it right at the top, tabbing Northeastern as the favorite in the CAA, followed by William & Mary and Hofstra. The Huskies are the one unit in this league to add more proven talent than they lost, not only bringing back the vast majority of last year’s roster – including Defensive Player of the Year and rebounding monster Scott Eatherton (15.9 PPG, 10.2 RPG, 1.8 BPG) – but also regaining Quincy Ford, who was one among the CAA’s best all-around players before missing most of last year. Still, the recent departure of fourth-leading scorer Demetrius Pollard, combined with the fact that Bill Coen’s club went just 11-21 last season, makes you wonder if Northeastern can actually live up to its top billing. William & Mary also has an argument for the number one spot after finishing third in the standings a year ago and narrowly losing the CAA title game, welcoming back the conference’s best player (Marcus Thornton) and CAA Rookie of the Year (Omar Prewitt). Hofstra is rightfully slotted at third; despite last year’s 10-23 campaign, an influx of talented transfers and recruits, including former Niagara guard Juan’ya Green (16.5 PPG), justifies the anticipated climb.

  1. Northeastern
  2. William & Mary
  3. Hofstra
  4. Drexel
  5. James Madison
  6. College of Charleston
  7. Towson
  8. Delaware
  9. UNCW
  10. Elon

The middle of the poll is where things get interesting. By picking Drexel fourth, voters are putting major stock in Damion Lee, the talented guard who went down with a torn ACL against Arizona in last year’s Preseason NIT. He led the team in scoring two seasons ago (17.1 PPG) and will certainly be an enormous asset, but the loss of backcourt mates Franz Massenet and Chris Fouch – who combined for 35.8 PPG – should not be underestimated. Athletic forward Tavon Allen is the next-best option, but he was very inefficient last year, and the frontcourt is almost completely unproven. The Dragons have major question marks. Then again, just look at spots four through 10 – where aren’t there question marks? James Madison only loses one major contributor, but the Dukes were an incredibly young team last year (12th youngest in the country) and start the season without their best player, Andre Nation. College of Charleston loses its top player; Towson loses the conference’s top player; and Delaware loses almost everyone from last season’s top team. To boot, Elon is new to the conference, so it’s hard to know what to expect from the Phoenix. Picking the middle-to-bottom of this league is like throwing darts at a board, frankly, and that’s probably what happened here. That is to say, I would not put much stock in this – or any – CAA poll.

Conference USA

What's that, you say? A Conference USA Preseason Poll? (El Paso Times)

What’s that, you say? A Conference USA Preseason Poll? (El Paso Times)

What’s funky about this poll? How about the fact that there is a poll! Well, sort of. You see, Conference USA stopped administering preseason polls in 2010, which prompted KenPom – with his first-rate basketball connections and legion of industrious followers – to conduct his own in 2012, and then again last year. So it came as a surprise when, two weeks ago, the league issued a partial coaches poll (just the top four) wherein Louisiana Tech was tabbed as the favorite.

  1. Louisiana Tech
  2. UTEP
  3. Charlotte
  4. Old Dominion

Aside from the fact that not submitting an annual, comprehensive poll is rather odd, it looks like the coaches did a pretty good job here. They may have overrated Charlotte to some extent, and the announcement that guard Shawn Lester (11.9 PPG) is turning pro makes a third-place finish seem even more dubious for the 49ers, but Louisiana Tech definitely deserves its post at the top and UTEP and Old Dominion should both finish in the upper third-to-quarter of the league. The Miners were forced to give young guys like 6’8’’ Vince Hunter heavy minutes last season, which will help them as the only serious threat to the Bulldogs’ supremacy in 2014-15. Hunter, along with 7’1’’ center Matt Willms, 6’10’’ Cedrick Lang and preseason All-CUSA forward Julian Washburn, gives Tim Floyd an enormous, talented front line that should be the best in Conference USA.

Summit League

IPFW is the preseason Summit League favorite. (Photo by Inertia Sports)

IPFW is the preseason Summit League favorite. (Photo by Inertia Sports)

It’s important to remember that projecting conference standings, in the wake of constant roster turnover and seemingly constant realignment, is an incredibly difficult task. There is not a lot of science to it and everybody is just guessing, for the most part. That being said, a few aspects of the Summit League poll – voted on by the coaches, SIDs and media – are head-scratching.

  1. IPFW
  2. Denver
  3. Oral Roberts
  4. South Dakota State
  5. North Dakota State
  6. Nebraska-Omaha
  7. Western Illinois
  8. South Dakota
  9. IUPUI

For one thing, it’s a bit surprising that IPFW was picked to win the conference. While certainly possible, the Mastodons lose two of their top three scorers from last season’s hyper-efficient offensive unit along with the head coach who assembled it, Tony Jasick, who left for Jacksonville. While they return colossal forward Steve Forbes (6’9’’, 320 lbs) and some quality backcourt pieces – along with a couple talented transfers – first place feels too lofty for a program that loses as much as IPFW does (then again, there could be some magic in those tusks). Likewise, the distribution of first-place votes is peculiar. Denver received 12 of the 30 votes, which makes sense, but why did North Dakota State receive four votes while Oral Roberts – two spots ahead – got none? If voters are putting their trust in a program’s historical success over returning personnel and talent (which is not a blameworthy strategy – North Dakota State has been reliably good), then why didn’t the Golden Eagles receive a single vote? The school won six Summit League [formerly Mid-Continent] regular season titles and three tournament crowns before departing for the Southland two season ago, returning this year with a talented roster that includes a pair of big time scorers. Multiple outside publications have Scott Sutton’s club winning the conference, and nearly all have it finishing in the top three. Again, zero first place votes is surprising. In any case, the conference looks to be wide open at the top, which should make for some fun late-season drama.

Tommy Lemoine (249 Posts)


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