The SEC and Big Ten aren’t the only leagues starting up conference play this weekend. Here’s a review of what some of the smaller leagues have been up to…
The top four are pretty much as expected in my preseason projections, though Boston University are outstripping even my expectations and have a legitimate shot at an at-large bid if they keep winning. Navy and Colgate have also impressed, though not to that degree, while Army looks pretty good for a postseason spot. Lafayette and Bucknell have both been marginally better than expected, while Loyola (MD) and Holy Cross have both been big disappointments early on. The expanded conference tournament should ensure the drama goes down to the last round both at the top and in the battle for the postseason places.
Considering the Southland has feasted on regional SWAC teams and some of the teams moving up a division have barely played DI opposition, the picture is still a bit in the league. Really though, it’s probably going to take a lot to dislodge Stephen F. Austin at the top, especially after seeing them dismantle SEC side LSU in their last non-conference contest. It’s a big puzzle after that. McNeese State has outperformed expectations, as their draw with Baylor shows. Nicholls State is also doing well in most measures so far, but they’ve feasted on SWAC opposition. Some of the bigger underachievers at the moment include Houston Baptist and Lamar, though the former has played a reasonably rigorous schedule compared to some of their conference brethren. With a lot of balls in the air right now, it’s probably a crapshoot behind SFA at the top heading into a marathon league season.
The WAC’s pretty much gone as expected, at least as far as the RPI is concerned heading into double round-robin league play. Seattle may only be at .500, but they still have a big leg up with their strength of schedule and with the rather depressing fact that everyone else in the league is also under .500. The Redhawks remain comfortable favorites to win the league, while UMKC is second in the league RPI by a fair distance as well. New Mexico State’s probably performing a bit better than expectations, while Grand Canyon is struggling a bit more than I thought they would early. Keep an eye on Idaho though, who look especially putrid at 0-7-0 and could well end up propping up the table come season’s end.
I tipped Monmouth as my pick for league champions in the preseason, and that looks like a wise pick at this stage, as the Hawks are currently the only side over .500. That’s only part of the story though, as MU is 6-1-0 and close to the Top 50 of the RPI right now. That number’s obviously coming down as the season goes on, but you can’t deny the Hawks’ quick start to life as a MAAC club. Fairfield’s the only other MAAC team in the Top 200 of the RPI right now, while Marist is perhaps underachieving a bit at #5 in the MAAC RPI. That’s nothing compared to Canisius though, who are a light 2-6-1 and #316 in the RPI after I picked them for fourth in the preseason. Rider’s been surprisingly spry early on, while Saint Peter’s may be 1-4-0 but still getting a little relative love from the RPI. Everyone can breathe easy about a postseason trip, but it looks to be a tall order for anyone looking to top Monmouth at the top this year.