2014 CBB Conference Champions with No Chance of Repeating This Season
After making a very difficult transition from the Southern Conference to the Atlantic 10 this summer, Davidson tops our list of 2013-14 regular-season conference champions in men's college basketball with no chance of hanging another banner this year.
No one wants to believe that their team will do worse than the previous year, but repeating as conference champions is a tough thing for everyone other than Gonzaga to do.
Two years ago, Georgetown, Indiana, Marquette and Miami each earned at least a share of their major conference titles before proceeding to miss the NCAA tournament altogether this past season. Niagara won the MAAC in 2012-13 and lost 17 conference games in 2013-14.
In total, only 11 conferences had the same champion in each of the past two seasons, meaning 20 conferences (excluding the newly formed AAC) had new regular-season champs last year.
Thanks to a number of ties atop last year's standings, there were a total of 38 teams that won at least a share of a regular-season title. From those 38 teams, we've ranked the 10 that are least likely to do it again this season.
26-10 (14-2 in OVC)
They'll miss J.J. Mann, but the Ohio Valley isn't exactly loaded with better options than Belmont. When the Bruins play Murray State on January 15, it will likely determine who wins the conference.
North Dakota State Bison
26-7 (12-2 in Summit)
The Bison lose their three leading scorers from last year's tournament team, but I wouldn't bet on anyone in the Summit League this year. Denver and IPFW might be the favorites, but only marginally.
Robert Morris Colonials
22-14 (14-2 in NEC)
Between Bryant, Central Connecticut State and St. Francis (NY), there are a lot of good options to win the Northeast, but not any great ones. In what could be a four-way tie atop the conference with 11-5 records, there's no reason Robert Morris can't survive the loss of Karvel Anderson (19.7 PPG).
19-13 (15-3 in SWAC)
Southern loses its top four scorers while Alabama State doesn't lose a single thing from last year's roster, save for a freshman who transferred after averaging 2.2 PPG. Outside of Grambling, though, anyone can win the SWAC in any given year.
10. Michigan Wolverines (Big Ten)
2013-14 Record: 28-9 (15-3 in Big Ten)
Noteworthy Departures: Nik Stauskas, Glenn Robinson III, Mitch McGary, Jordan Morgan, Jon Horford
Before you completely lose your mind, keep in mind there are only 32 conferences to choose from, and schools like Arizona, Florida Gulf Coast, Gonzaga, San Diego State, Villanova and Wichita State have pretty much already started sewing their banners for a second straight season.
Also, this has less to do with a weakness in Michigan than it does the expected dominance of Wisconsin.
Unlike others at the top of this list who would be lucky to even finish in the top half of their conference standings this season, Michigan is one of the only teams with a great chance of finishing in second place in the Big Ten.
Despite all the Wolverines lost, Michigan will have a very strong lineup headlined by the backcourt play of Zak Irvin, Derrick Walton Jr. and Caris LeVert. They may be a bit undersized, but they'll make the NCAA tournament with room to spare and then some.
But Wisconsin is just too strong this year for any other team to win the Big Ten.
9. Virginia Cavaliers (ACC)
2013-14 Record: 30-7 (16-2 in ACC)
Noteworthy Departures: Joe Harris, Akil Mitchell
As was the case on the previous slide, Virginia's spot on the list is mostly due to there being much stronger options in the conference.
The Cavaliers might open the season ranked in the Associated Press Top 10, but Duke, Louisville and North Carolina are each deeper and better than the Hoos. In what figures to be an extremely top-heavy conference, Virginia looks to be the odd team out.
Of course, that was also the case this past season when pretty much everyone was picking Virginia to finish behind Duke, North Carolina and Syracuse.
But the difference feels even more pronounced this year.
Save for a couple of inefficient backcourt players (Jontel Evans and Paul Jesperson), the Cavaliers entered the 2013-14 season with essentially the same roster they finished with in 2012-13. This season, they have to adjust to life without two of their most valuable players from the past several years.
While they figure out that change, they'll also play a much more difficult conference schedule featuring road games against Louisville, North Carolina, North Carolina State, Notre Dame and Syracuse, as well as home games against Duke and Louisville.
We're not suggesting they'll lose all seven of those games, but you're crazy if you think they're dropping fewer than four games in conference.
Virginia's best hope of winning the ACC is a situation in which the other top teams take turns beating each other up to the point that 13-5 is good enough for a share of the conference title. But more likely than not, at least one (non-Virginia) ACC team will go 15-3 en route to a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament.
8. Vermont Catamounts (America East)
2013-14 Record: 22-11 (15-1 in America East)
Noteworthy Departures: Clancy Rugg, Sandro Carissimo, Candon Rusin, Luke Apfeld, Brian Voelkel
Dating back to the days of Taylor Coppenrath and T.J. Sorrentine—apologies to Syracuse fans for bringing up those names—Vermont has earned at least a share of five of the last 10 America East regular-season championships.
But regardless of how accustomed we are to seeing the Catamounts atop the conference standings, it's hard to picture them there after losing five of their top six scorers from last season.
It'd be one thing if all the other teams in the conference were also getting crippled by graduations, but Hartford returns six of its top seven scorers from last season, and Albany and Stony Brook each bring back a pair of double-figure scorers.
The bottom half of the America East is absolutely dreadful, so Vermont should be able to scrounge together close to 10 conference wins just by showing up for all its games. However, it's going to take at least 14 wins to take home the banner this season.
7. Cincinnati Bearcats (American)
2013-14 Record: 27-7 (15-3 in American)
Noteworthy Departures: Sean Kilpatrick, Justin Jackson, Titus Rubles
The AAC is very much up for grabs. Connecticut and Southern Methodist are the favorites, but Memphis is hardly a long shot to finish in first place. Tulsa could even make a spirited run for the title after returning all five of its leading scorers from last season.
But Cincinnati's chances of repeating as conference champs lie somewhere between slim and none.
It's bad enough that the Bearcats are losing their top three scorers, but those guys were also the best defenders on what was one of the stingiest defenses in the nation.
Though Kilpatrick reached 2,000 career points last season, Jackson is the one they'll miss the most. His offensive rebounding went a long, long way on a team that ranked 256th in the nation in field-goal percentage, and his shot-blocking expertise allowed the perimeter players to take more risks on defense.
Without Jackson, Shaquille Thomas is the team's best incumbent shot-blocker, and he averaged just 0.6 blocks per 40 minutes as opposed to Jackson's mark of 4.2. As such, the Bearcats will be relying heavily on freshmen Gary Clark and Quadri Moore, as well as JUCO transfers Coreontae DeBerry and Octavius Ellis.
Even if those new bigs pan out to some degree, they'll still be banking on Troy Caupain, Ge'Lawn Guyn and Kevin Johnson as their only real options at the guard positions.
Long story short, they've got a lot to figure out. Until they prove otherwise, this is a borderline NCAA tournament team at best.
6. Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders (C-USA)
2013-14 Record: 24-9 (13-3 in C-USA)
Noteworthy Departures: Shawn Jones, Neiko Hunter, Kerry Hammonds, Trantell Knight
Middle Tennessee State was one of four teams to claim a share of the 2013-14 C-USA regular-season title, but the Blue Raiders won't be sniffing that crown this year.
Those four players listed above were their four leading scorers last season. They combined to account for 65.2 percent of the points MTSU scored.
But one thing to note about Kermit Davis and the Blue Raiders is that they make their bread on defense and typically have a very deep rotation. Two years ago, they only had one player average better than 8.5 PPG, while a total of nine players averaged at least 13 minutes per game.
Expect Jaqawn Raymond and Reggie Upshaw to emerge as the primary scorers in a rotation of eight or nine players, but also expect the Blue Raiders to finish well behind both Louisiana Tech and UTEP in the conference standings because it's hard to replace your top four scorers no matter how deep you go.
5. Boston Terriers (Patriot)
2013-14 Record: 24-11 (15-3 in Patriot)
Noteworthy Departures: Maurice Watson Jr., D.J. Irving, Dom Morris, Travis Robinson, Malik Thomas
On the bright side for Boston, there's no clear-cut favorite in the Patriot League.
American would seem to be in the best shape after only losing Tony Wroblicky, but he was by far the best interior presence on both ends of the court for the Eagles last season. Army lost eight conference games last season, but the Black Knights are probably the next-best option with Kyle Wilson back for at least one more year.
The Boston Terriers aren't really being considered as candidates, though, because they lost five of their top seven scorers from last year's squad.
Watson was the biggest blow by far. Not only did he lead the team in scoring and darn near lead the nation in assists, but he was only a sophomore. Another two years from him could have been another two Patriot League titles, no matter how many seniors they lost this summer.
Without their leader, the only question is how fast and how far the sink ships.
4. Delaware Blue Hens (CAA)
2013-14 Record: 25-10 (14-2 in CAA)
Noteworthy Departures: Devon Saddler, Davon Usher, Jarvis Threatt, Carl Baptiste
Delaware was one heck of a sleeper team in last year's tournament. The Blue Hens might have been better off as a No. 14 seed than they were as a No. 13, because they could have pulled off at least one major upset if they had been matched up against just about anyone other than Michigan State.
But the meat of that roster is gone. They lost all four of their leading scorers—a quartet that scored 75.0 percent of the team's points in 2013-14, even though Saddler and Threatt combined to miss 16 games.
They do still have Kyle Anderson—a shooting guard who averaged 6.5 three-point attempts per game last season—but that's about it. No other player on the team contributed more than 4.0 points per game.
While Delaware loses everything, other CAA teams are still in pretty good shape. William & Mary hangs onto Marcus Thornton and Omar Prewitt. Drexel will still have Damion Lee, Tavon Allen and Kazembe Abif. And Hofstra is adding a bunch of transfers who sat out this past season.
Unlike others on the list, it's not like Delaware has exactly had a recent history of successful seasons, either. Last year was the first time in more than a decade that the Blue Hens won 20 games or won their conference.
It was a magical year highlighted by some great seniors, but it's time to settle back into their more familiar position in the middle of the CAA standings.
3. Saint Louis Billikens (A-10)
2013-14 Record: 27-7 (13-3 in A-10)
Noteworthy Departures: Dwayne Evans, Jordair Jett, Rob Loe, Mike McCall, Jake Barnett
I'm not expecting very much out of the A-10 this season, but Saint Louis will be long gone from that conference title race before it even gets started.
First off, VCU is clearly the class of the A-10. Maybe the Rams won't go 18-0 in conference play, but they should win this thing by a margin of at least four games.
Secondly, Saint Louis lost all five of its 2013-14 starters this summer.
The Billikens are only returning two players who scored 100 points last season, and one of them separated his shoulder last week. They expect Grandy Glaze back for the start of the season, but a lingering shoulder issue hardly seems like a good thing for an already-undersized power forward.
Even with all its starters, Saint Louis ranked 181st in adjusted offensive efficiency last season. Unless Austin McBroom evolves into some sort of unbelievable conglomeration of Stephen Curry and T.J. Warren, the Billikens could have one of the worst offenses in the country.
2. Southern Miss Golden Eagles (C-USA)
2013-14 Record: 29-7 (13-3 in C-USA)
Noteworthy Departures: Michael Craig, Neil Watson, Daveon Boardingham, Jerrold Brooks, Aaron Brown
If you thought Middle Tennessee State has it rough, take a look at what Southern Miss is trying to overcome.
Another one of the four teams that tied for last year's C-USA title, the Golden Eagles lost their head coach and all five of their leading scorers from last season.
Those five guys combined to score 69.8 percent of the team's points last season. They were the only players to average at least 6.0 PPG, and they each averaged better than 9.5 PPG.
Talk about starting over from scratch.
Matt Bingaya and Jeremiah Eason will be the team leaders, but they'll be lucky to lead Southern Miss into the top half of the C-USA standings.
1. Davidson Wildcats (A-10)
2013-14 Record: 20-10 (15-1 in SoCon)
Noteworthy Departures: De'Mon Brooks, Tom Droney, Chris Czerapowicz
Not only will Davidson fail to win the A-10 title after realigning from the Southern Conference, but the Wildcats could legitimately go 0-18 against their new rivals.
They routinely dominated the SoCon over the past decade-plus, but this isn't exactly a lateral transition. KenPom rated the SoCon as the 30th-best conference last season, while the A-10 ranked eighth. Over the past six seasons, the A-10 has had an average rank of 8.0 while SoCon's average rank was 24.2.
It would be less of a jump to ask Kentucky to play in the NBA. And the Wildcats aren't exactly being eased into the A-10, as George Washington, Richmond and VCU are three of the five teams that they play twice.
Brooks was a monster in the paint for them over the past four seasons, but their best rebounder in his absence is a 6'4" guard (Jordan Barham) who didn't start a single game last year.
Brian Sullivan and Tyler Kalinoski shot the lights out in conference play (combined 82-of-173 shooting from three-point range), but let's see how effortlessly they score against "Havoc."
A home game against Fordham on February 21 might be the only thing standing between Davidson and a winless record in the A-10.
Kerry Miller covers college basketball for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter @kerrancejames.