Weekly Dime—The Ten Team Ticket Challenge

This week‘s week we dime isn’t your typical top-ten list. Instead, our NCAA basketball podcasters came up with two lists for you just in time for the NCAA schedules to be released. Here is the Ten Team Ticket Challenge:

When Shea and I were looking for a way to add some fun to the NCAA basketball regular season, we settled on what’s about to be a HUGE bet that factors in 20 teams and their success in 2022-23. Shea immediately drafted a point system similar to most fantasy sports formats, and on the line is a trip across the country, paid for by the loser, to meet up and catch a couple of college basketball games in 2023-24. It’s a long wait, but from the months of November to the National Championship in April, we will be on pins and needles, screaming at TVs, obsessing over stats, and praying our teams make it further than the experts predict. Here is a breakdown of the Ten Team Ticket Trip Challenge:

-Each player selects ten teams, 5 high majors (Teams from the Pac-12 Big 10, Big 12, Big East, ACC, SEC) 5 mid majors (all other remaining conferences).

-Since we value the underdogs, when it comes to the high major picks, no blue bloods or any team that is favored to win their conference or are perennial locks to win 30+ games and a tournament bid, are allowed to be picked.  That means teams like Duke, UNC, Gonzaga, Houston, Kansas, Kentucky etc. Are off the table and cannot be chosen. 

-The draft is a snake, and you must alter between picking a high major, and next a mid, next a high, etc.

Here is how the point system works:

20 + wins for the season

2 points

25+ wins

3 additional points

30+ wins

5 additional points

Season Toal

Maximum 10 points

 

 

Conference Regular Season Title

5 points

Conference Tournament Title

5 points

Conference Tournament Total

Maximum 10 points

 

 

NCAA Tournament Appearance

2 points

First Round Win

3 points

Sweet-16 Appearance

5 points

Elite-8

10 points

Final-4

15 points

National Title Appearance

20 points

National Championship Win

25 points

NCAA Tournament Total

Maximum 80 Points

 

 

Total Max Points Season + Tournament

100 Points

 

The Risks

This system makes the draft a little tricky.  Since tournament appearances and wins are where the points are at—it can be risky to pick a mid-major that may not be given an at-large-bid if they lose their conference tournament.  For example, if Iona is chosen—they may win 30+ games which will give us 10 points total, and they’ll likely win the regular season title for an additional 5 points, but if they lose the conference tournament, they won’t make it to the dance.  That means Iona only got Shea or me 15 total points out of a possible 100.

Another risk is picking teams in snake draft format—Shea may pick a mid-major team that could potentially win their conference, like Dayton in the A10.  If I chose another team in that same conference like St. Louis, one of us is either automatically gaining or losing extra points by having our team either win the regular season title or the conference championship.  Should we be on the losing end of that, we miss out on 10 extra points while the other gains 10 for a huge 20-point swing in the winner’s favor.

The final risk—simply picking good teams in good conferences.  The high major conferences are stacked, and since we are forced to choose “underdogs” there’s always the possibility they find themselves on the bubble come tournament time.  A pick like Virginia last season may have seemed safe—they ranked #25 in the AP poll to start the year.  But by the end, they didn’t even make the tournament since they got smoked in conference play. Another example may be Oklahoma—they’re a solid pick that on paper should win 20 games, but they were a part of the first four out when it came to Selection Sunday.

A final final risk—the season doesn’t begin until November. The variables that come into play before the season kicks off are numerous: player injuries (anyone see Paige Bueckers?) coaching or recruiting debacles, team sanctions (careful picking Memphis or Louisville), NIL investigations, some pre-season schedules have yet to be released, etc. All of those factors can totally shift the way a team performs, especially non-conference scheduling. And with the possibility of a new bracket busters schedule being tested this season, it could be the difference between 20 wins and 30.

 

But despite all of the risks, the fact that Shea and I are broke as can be and probably can’t afford a cross country airline ticket, we’re doing it for the fans! Here is the first official Ten Team Ticket Trip Challenge Draft:

**Disclaimer—Shea and I agreed to share our first 2 picks knowing that each of us had favorites that we’d chosen prior to the transfer portal chaos and final AP poll predictions. So if you’re thinking wow—they picked a couple teams that were WAY further down my list—that’s why. But beyond these first 4 teams, it was a total wildcard who was picking who.

 

Trevor High Major #1 – Creighton BlueJays

Shea gifted me this pick knowing that I was a huge supporter of the Jays at the end of the 2023 season.  Even before Scheierman made his commitment, my hot take was that Creighton would win the Big East and find themselves in the final four. This take was hot, but now seems reasonable with the headband back in Omaha.  They return the majority of their starters including premier point guard Ryan Nembhard and 7-footer Kalkbrenner who was second in scoring and boards last year along with 2+ blocks a game.  Add Scheierman, the versatile shooting champion of the universe, and it’s a lock.  New hot take—Jays win the title!

 

Shea High Major #1 –Seton Hall Pirates

The Pirates roster is going to be full of unshakable, big time athletes from NYC with the same mindset and philosophy of their new head coach Shaheen Holloway- toughness, resiliency, and an ability to make life difficult for opponents on the offensive end of the floor. Opposing teams might have a champagne party if they reach the 60 point mark against Seton Hall, that’s how legit their defense will be. KC Ndefo, Kadary Richmond, Tyrese Samuel, the list goes on; those guys are just straight up DOGS.

 

Shea Mid-Major #1 – Dayton Fliers

The Flyers are ready to do just what their name entails…fly to the top of the Atlantic 10 standings and make an NCAA Tournament run. Last season they proved they could hang with the best of competition by taking down the eventual national champion Kansas Jayhawks and also adding to the resume with wins against Miami (Elite Eight team), Virginia Tech (ACC Champions), and multiple other tournament teams. With another year of experience, more consistency, and the rise of DaRon Holmes II; Dayton should be the favorite in the Atlantic 10- regardless of what Trevor has to say about the Billikens.

 

Trevor Mid-Major #1 –St. Louis Billikens

I honestly just loved the fact that Shea and I will have two teams who are predicted to win the conference regular season and title, and multiple experts flip flop between the two being only a seed or two ahead of the other for the NCAA tournament.  The Billikens feature the nation’s assists leader with Yuri Collins, and I do love me some dimes, so I said why not—Billikens seem like a cool name, Yuri is a cool name, I like bothering Shea, my favorite rapper Nelly is from St. Louis.  Too many stars aligned—go Billikens!

Trevor High Major #2 – TCU Horned Frogs

The Frogs were my favorite to win the BIG-12 in our “Way Too Early Conference Predictions” late in April. After an awesome tournament run in which they should have toppled #1 seed Arizona, they return their entire starting lineup and 92% of their scoring last season.  I’m a big fan of experience when it comes to success, and with Mike Miles who posted 15+ points in a juggernaut of a conference returning along with big man Eddie Lampkin, it’s hard not to have them atop your list for conference “underdogs.” Go froggies!

 

Shea High Major #2 – Texas Longhorns

Chris Beard has won everywhere he’s been, and in year two with the Longhorns that standard should stay true to form. All three double-digit scorers from last season are back, Big 12 Freshman of the Year Tyrese Hunter has transferred in, and Texas certainly has the overall talent and depth to compete with Kansas and Baylor for the top spot in the Big 12. They “underperformed” last season by receiving a 6 seed and only advancing to the round of 32 in the NCAA Tournament, this time around expect them to be somewhere in the top 4 seed line and make a run in 2023.

 

Shea Mid-Major #2 –UAB Blazers

Jelly Walker, five 1,000 point scorers, and a roster full of former high major, 3 star and 4 star recruits; need I say more? The Blazers won 27 games and appeared in the NCAA Tournament last season, now Andy Kennedy is going to have an even more dangerous team in 2022-23. UAB has everything you need to make a second weekend tournament run; playmaking, shooting, size, depth, experience, and well-coached.

 

Trevor Mid-Major #2 — San Diego St. Aztecs

The Aztecs are always a tough defensive team that typically winds up with a decent tournament seed (they were a 6 and 8 seed in the last two years).  Last season they lost a tough OT loss to Creighton in the first round of the tournament, and they add a big transfer in Darion Trammel from Seattle (17+ ppg).  Plus, even Shea mentioned that the bottom of the Mt. West is almost a lock for 10+ wins. Hoping the Aztecs can continue their dominance, and ideally win the conference title, regular season, or both.

 

Trevor High Major #3 – Arkansas Razorbacks

I don’t like picking them because they beat Gonzaga last year… but it’s really hard to assume they’ll be anything less than phenomenal with their incoming talent.  The Muss Bus is hauling in the #3, #11, and #15 recruits in the nation and a boatload of stellar transfers. So as good as they were last year on their way to the Elite-8, they just got better and anything but a Final Four trip will be a letdown for the Razorbacks. And don’t listen to Shea who thinks the Muss Bus falls off the rails… ridiculous!

 

Shea High Major #3 – Miami Hurricanes

Jim Larranega was able to turn the Hurricanes program around from a 10-17 record in 2020-21 to a 26 win, Elite Eight team just one season later. They lose starting guards Kam McGusty and Charlie Moore, but big time star Isaiah Wong is back. They also brought in 1st Team All-Big 12 selection Nijel Pack to form a lethal backcourt duo with Wong. Miami really struggled to rebound the basketball at times last year, but the addition of the Sun Belt POY Norchad Omier should fix that achilles heel. He averaged 12.2 RPG and had a 26 rebound performance last season with Arkansas State. Look for Miami to be just as competitive in the ACC as they were in 2021-22, and ready to make another run come next March.



Shea Mid-Major #3 – Drake Bulldogs

Each of the last two seasons the Bulldogs have lost in the MVC Final to Loyola Chicago. With the Ramblers gone to the Atlantic 10, it’s now Drake’s time to become the cream of the crop. They have a rising mid-major star in the reigning MVC Freshman of the Year Tucker DeVries, three other players (Penn, Wilkins, Sturtz) that have been All-MVC selections at some point in their careers, and a former Florida State transfer (Sardaar Calhoun) coming in. The Bulldogs have won 51 games over the last two seasons, so at the very least another 25 win season should be on the horizon. But that’s just the start of what they can accomplish; the sky’s the limit for this group.

 

Trevor Mid-Major #4 – Murray State Racers

Just to spite Shea for having nabbed the next two picks on my list, the Racers are a low-blow for him both because they’ll battle Drake for the conference, and they are one of Shea’s favorite teams. It’s a bit risky—the MVC is loaded with talented teams, but after the D.J. Burn’s interview we had a week ago—I’m all in for the Racers.  My thinking behind this is that if either the Racers or the Bulldogs win the conference title, both have a chance to get at-large bids—and towards the end of this draft, tournament trips are a premium.  Go Racers!

Trevor High-Major #3 – Indiana Hoosiers

Much like TCU, Indiana brings back a ton of experience and Trayce Jackson-Davis.  The BIG-10 will be a nightmare to predict winners or losers, but Indiana will likely have a shot at both the regular season title, the conference title, and will likely wind up with a solid tournament seed regardless their standing.  I’m banking a LOT on experience here while the rest of the conference loses so much.  The Hoosiers were a little streaky last year, but I’m banking on the returning core to keep them atop the conference and in a much better position to advance in the dance.

 

Shea High Major #4 – Alabama Crimson Tide

The Crimson Tide have one of the most promising young coaches in Nate Oats, who has brought his teams to the NCAA Tournament in 5 of his 7 years as a head coach between Buffalo and Alabama. Next year should be no different, and if star PG Jahvon Quinerly is able to fully recover from a devastating injury suffered in the season finale, the ceiling for this team should be set pretty high. They have three starters returning, two top 20 recruits in the 2022 class coming to Tuscaloosa in Brandon Miller and Jaden Bradley, and have landed two transfers in Mark Sears (nearly 20 PPG at Ohio) and Dom Welch (91 3-pointers at St. Bonaventure) that fit their system perfectly. This team will be a tough out in the SEC and NCAA Tournament.

 

Shea Mid-Major #4 – New Mexico State Aggies

New Mexico State is one of the most prized mid-major programs in recent memory. Las Cruces has turned into transfer U, a destination where players come in and rise to stardom immediately. Just ask Teddy Allen- who averaged 20 PPG, won the WAC POY, and dropped 37 on UConn in the NCAA Tournament during his lone season with NMSU. They have multiple guys that are coming in that could become the next star of the WAC in their final season in that conference, especially Xavier Pinson- who was a crucial part of two SEC teams (Missouri and LSU) that made the NCAA Tournament in back to back years. Doctor Bradley, who was on our podcast this week, is another player to watch out for- 6’8, elite athleticism, and the potential to take the WAC by storm. As always, the Aggies will be dangerous in 2022-23 and hovering around the 25-30 win total once again.

 

Trevor Mid-Major #4 – Iona Gaels

I did the thing I wasn’t going to do by choosing a Mid-Major that could potentially miss the tournament.  I have a good feeling that Pitino could get them 30 wins, and a very good feeling they win the MAAC, and I’ll also run with the gambler’s fallacy that suggests after they’ve lost 14 straight NCAA tournament games, they are due. I trust good coaches, maybe hope he can illegally recruit a few more guys to Jersey, and I’m good to ride the wind on this one… get it, Gaels! HA!

Trevor High Major #5 – Oregon Ducks

I hate this pick.  I’m not happy about it at all. I didn’t need to pick them, but they are the ex-girlfriend team that all your friends warn you about, and somehow you just keep going back to them.  They have the talent, they have a great coach in Altman, but they’re either going to get to the Elite-8 or miss the tournament entirely.  Last season was a debacle for a loaded roster that couldn’t put it together.  But with a healthier frontcourt, Will Richardson returning, and multiple big time recruits, they’re my all in or bust team that I’m praying doesn’t blow it.  Go Ducks… I think.

 

Shea High Major #5 – Illinois Fighting Illini

As coach Brad Underwood stated recently- Illinois doesn’t rebuild, they reload. And he isn’t kidding, next season they are bringing in Terrence Shannon (Texas Tech), Matthew Mayer (Baylor), and three ESPN Top 100 recruits. They have Coleman Hawkins and RJ Melendez, a popular pick to become a breakout star, returning to Champaign, IL. The Fighting Illini should stay in contention to win another Big Ten championship, and hopefully this time around advance past the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament.



Shea Mid-Major #5 – Furman Paladins

The Paladins haven’t been to the big dance since 1980, but that drought is going to come to an end in 2023. It took Chattanooga’s David Jean-Baptiste a buzzer beating prayer to stop them from going in 2022, now they return Mike Bothwell and Jalen Slawson- two All-SoCon level guys. Plus they hit the transfer portal to add former 4 star recruit Carter Whitt from Wake Forest to the lineup. It’s NCAA Tournament or bust for Furman next season, and I truly believe they’ll be ready to meet those expectations.

 

Trevor Mid-Major #5 – Wyoming Cowboys

This is a strategy pick.  I already have SDSU, and I’m assuming either the Aztecs or Cowboys win or trade regular season and tournament titles, but in the end both have a good shot to wind up in the NCAA tournament with an At-Large bid.  So since tournament trips are so important, and possible advancement gets you big points, I’ll take the potential 5-10 point loss in the regular season for the potential payout in the tournament.

 

Shea’s Team

Trevor’s Team

High Majors:

  1. Texas
  2. Seton Hall
  3. Illinois
  4. Alabama
  5. Miami

 

High Majors:

  1. Creighton
  2. TCU
  3. Oregon
  4. Indiana
  5. Arkansas

Mid Majors:

  1. UAB
  2. Drake
  3. Furman
  4. New Mexico St.
  5. Dayton

Mid Majors:

  1. St. Louis
  2. San Diego St.
  3. Iona
  4. Wyoming
  5. Murray St.

 

We will be sure to keep you updated as the year progresses—and please let us know if you and your friends joined in on the fun! You can always catch us @mentaldimes on all social media, or specifically us @mentaldimesncaa.

 

 

 

 

Author

  • Trevor Heilman

    I'm Trevor Heilman--currently a high school teacher and coach, and an aspiring sports editor for Mental Dimes. I'm a self-proclaimed expert when it comes to NCAA Basketball, an embarrassingly awful Fantasy Football player, underdog loving sports bettor, Gonzaga alum, and huge fan of anything sports. Co-Host of the mental Dimes NCAAM Podcast

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