Peterson predictions for five off-the-board conferences

By Greg Peterson  ( 

November 9, 2017 11:33 PM

The predicted order of finish for five conferences — Big South, MEAC, NEC, Southland and SWAC — excluded from the regular college basketball betting rotation.

UNC-Asheville has been the victim of many players electing to transfer recently, but the Bulldogs appear to have almost everyone back from last year, including Ahmad Thomas. The 6-foot-5 combo guard is coming off a junior year in which he had 18 points, 6.2 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game. He also drilled 45.7 percent of his 3-pointers.

The divide between the haves and have-nots in the Big South is wide. This is UNC Asheville's conference to lose, but Campbell has the Big South's best player in guard Chris Clemons, while Liberty, Winthrop and Gardner-Webb should put forth some resistance, as well.

Greg Peterson’s Big South Conference forecast:

1. UNC Asheville

2. Campbell

3. Winthrop

4. Gardner-Webb

5. Liberty

6. Radford

7. High Point

8. Charleston Southern

9. Longwood

10. Presbyterian

NC Central made the NCAA Tournament for the second time in four years under coach LaVelle Moton, who was John Wall's AAU coach, but got stuck in the play in game despite 25 wins was bounced right away.

The team with the most upside is Morgan State, which went 11-5 in MEAC play last season and did it with just one senior on the roster. Many MEAC teams have become reliant on junior-college transfers, and while coach Todd Bozeman still brings some in, he does the best job of anyone in the conference at taking freshmen and developing them. Tiwian Kendley, a 6-foot-5 combo guard, stepped in as a JUCO transfer and dropped a conference-best 21 points per game to go with 5.4 rebounds and 1.2 steals. Morgan State is the most experienced team in the MEAC, and with Kennedy returning as a big-time scorer, Bozeman's squad has to be the favorite to win the conference.

Greg Peterson’s Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference forecast:

1. Morgan State

2. Norfolk State

3. Savannah State

4. NC Central

5. Maryland Eastern Shore

6. Hampton

7. Florida A&M

8. South Carolina State

9. Howard

10. Coppin State

11. Delaware State

12. Bethune-Cookman

13. North Carolina A&T

The Northeastern Conference again sent a team to the NCAA Tournament that was either a 15 or 16 seed, with Mount St. Mary's being the representative last season. Mount St. Mary's won a play-in game and gave Villanova a tougher test than expected.

Despite winning 20 games, LIU Brooklyn made a bold coaching change by letting Jack Perri go and hiring former Massachusetts coach Derek Kellogg. Although LIU-Brooklyn looks like the preseason favorite in the NEC, the middle of the conference has improved significantly, and that should lead to a dramatic race.

Greg Peterson’s Northeast Conference forecast:

1. LIU Brooklyn

2. Saint Francis (PA)

3. Wagner

4. Mount St. Mary’s

5. Bryant

6. Sacred Heart

7. Fairleigh Dickinson

8. Robert Morris

9. Central Connecticut

10. St. Francis (NY)

Stephen F. Austin's stranglehold on the Southland Conference ended last season as New Orleans won both the regular-season crown and the league tournament to earn the right to go to the dance.

The Lumberjacks are in great hands in the post with 6-foot-8 junior TJ Holyfield. With Texas A&M Corpus Christi coming off a 24-win season and returning three of its top four scorers, the Islanders should be in the running with Stephen F. Austin and Lamar for the conference crown.

Greg Peterson’s Southland Conference forecast:

1. Stephen F. Austin

2. Lamar

3. Texas A&M Corpus Christi

4. Nicholls State

5. Southeastern Louisiana

6. New Orleans 

7. Northwestern State 

8. Sam Houston State

9. Abilene Christian

10. Incarnate Word

11. Houston Baptist

12. Central Arkansas 

13. McNeese State

It has become an annual tradition for the Southwestern Athletic Conference tournament winner to make the NCAA Tournament and get beat as a 16-seed. The representative of the SWAC has been seeded 16th in the dance in 18 of the past 19 seasons, with 2015 being the lone exception.

For the third time in the past four years, Texas Southern won the SWAC for coach Mike Davis. The Tigers, who return four starters from a 23-win team, will face Gonzaga, Washington State, Ohio State, Syracuse, Kansas, Oregon, Baylor, Wyoming, Texas Christian and Brigham Young on the road in November and December. All in all, this conference is garbage. Texas Southern likely repeats with Alcorn State looking like a strong candidate for second.

Greg Peterson’s Southwestern Athletic Conference forecast:

1. Texas Southern

2. Alcorn State

3. Alabama State

4. Southern

5. Prairie View A&M

6. Jackson State

7. Grambling State

8. Arkansas-Pine Bluff

9. Mississippi Valley State

10. Alabama A&M

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