The Dumb and the Daring: Conference Champions Edition, From the Big 10 to the Mountain West

You know you’ve reached the pinnacle of daring when your own mother calls you to share her disdain over your predictions. The Dumb and the Daring has already reached unprecedented heights! We press on through the next set of 10(ish) conference picks as we hit the remaining two “Big” conferences and a bevy of mid-majors. If you want to read about the other 4 “Bigs” (12, East, Sky, South) and the other conferences at the beginning of the alphabet, don’t delay! While I can’t go back in time and petition to name our three kids Mac, Maac, and Meac, we will see who their regular season conference champion will be. Without further ado!

Big Ten: Indiana Hoosiers

A jump from 9th in conference to the top of the heap would certainly be near-historic, but the Big 10 is even more of a madhouse than the Big 12 is because having 5 losses could still win you the regular season ring. A 9th place finish seems a much smaller hill to climb when you consider some of last season’s narrow outcomes for IU. Deduct a 7-point loss to Northwestern, an overtime fall to Ohio State, a 3-point slip against Rutgers, and a 2-point heartbreak at #8 Purdue and you’ll get an Indiana team that finished tied for 3rd. You could make similar claims for other teams, that a few close losses would’ve changed their season drastically, but IU was in its first year with Mike Woodson and he already has been putting them in positions to win key games in conference. I feel less daring with this pick now that the coaches poll has come out and the coaches launched Indiana to the preseason #14 spot while the AP posted them at #13. Shows how much belief there is in Woodson and his recruiting class.

Big West: Cal State Fullerton

Long Beach State took home the regular season crown last year, only to see their NCAA tourney dreams get dashed by the Titans of Cal State Fullerton by one point in the conference championship game. If you want to see a late game defensive clinic, watch the last possession and the pressure that Fullerton puts on the Beach. This style of play even made for a respectable first round game against Duke. Cal State Fullerton will carry the momentum into this year and take the conference regular season, conference tournament, and get a win in the NCAA dance.

C-USA: North Texas (West Division), Western Kentucky (East Division)

What in the world happened in Conference USA last year? The Blue Raiders and the Mean Green were on a collision course for the automatic bid to the National Tournament but instead of battling to the point of a weird shade of turquoise, the conference semifinals were the end for both as the East Division champions were knocked out in triple overtime by UAB while the Green could only muster 36 points in a loss to Louisiana Tech. North Texas has an appetite for revenge and a solid group of returners to fill that craving. No one has a stellar non-conference slate, but North Texas’ opener against St. Mary’s is going to be a great showdown for both clubs who have legitimate sights set on a conference tournament championship and a push passed the first round of the dance. On the East side though, be ready for the Hilltoppers to storm the party. Western Kentucky is returning leading man Dayvion McKnight along with key starter Jairus Hamilton. They were in a position to knock out Louisiana Tech in the conference tournament but fell by 2 being unable to redeem a 1-point loss to them early in the year. This is their year though to get back to the tournament as well. The Hilltoppers are 4-4 in the dance having been there in 2008, 2009, 2012, and 2013.

Colonial Conference: Hofstra Pride

North Carolina, Oklahoma, and UCONN; Iona, and Saint Mary’s; Duke, and Davidson. Those are the preseason matchups for UNC Wilmington, Hofstra, and Delaware respectively. While some of that is the payday that comes with scheduling “guarantee” games against the thoroughbreds, but all three programs also have aspirations to get the coveted automatic bid into the dance. Like many conferences, the regular season only matters for seeding into the conference tournament because it’s a winner-take-all league with the likelihood of an at-large bid being slim-to-none. So, who takes the regular season crown? We can’t make that decision without also throwing Towson in the conversation who finished tied for 1st last season alongside Wilmington. The Tigers suffered a disappointing upset in the conference tournament to Delaware, but it’s going to be Hofstra and Aaron Estrada who will be their nightmare this year. Even though Towson returns Justin Timberlake’s brother Nicolas, it won’t be enough to get by the Pride. **Nicolas Timberlake is not actually Justin Timberlake’s brother. I have no idea if they’re related, but at 6’4/205 I think NT would eat JT alive in most anything except a singing contest.

Horizon: Purdue Fort Wayne Mastodons.

The Horizon is home to some of the best mascots in all of college hoops. The Raiders upset the Norse in the conference tournament to get the bid last season which left Vikings and the Mastodons on the outside looking in despite tying for the regular season. The best game of the regular season in all of college hoops that no one saw was the 3OT duel between Cleveland State and Purdue Fort Wayne. The horizon is tough. Wright State even made it out of the first four and did battle with Arizona showing how far they’d developed from their early season struggles. But losing their two leading scorers isn’t a good sign for a return trip. I don’t like underdog stories, but I love redemption stories. This is a year of redemption for the Fort Wayne Mastodons and the dynamic duo of Jarred Godfrey and Damian Chong Qui. The disappointing loss in the semis of the Horizon tournament is going to fuel the fire as they complete the job this year.

Ivy: Princeton Tigers

It was a two-team race all year as Princeton and Yale split regular season matchups by 6 points in both contests. The Dogs ended up nipping the Cats in the conference tournament by a deuce, but that was then. Yale no longer has Azar Swain while Princeton returns 6’8 monster Tosan Evbuomwan along with a slew of other giants that should overwhelm the league. Ivy league basketball is the only place where size matters for these academics, but it matters a lot. Princeton should even roll through the league undefeated and near 28 wins on the season.

MAAC: Iona Gaels

Hearts will be broken across the land as I say that the Saint Peter’s Peacock’s glory is over. They will not return to the NCAA tournament this year. They will not win even finish in the top 4 of the conference. This is Iona’s conference as long as Rick Pitino stays. While this will likely be the last year Pitino guides the Gaels before he returns to a Power Five conference, he’s going to guide them to the dance and even a deep run. They have a highly competitive preseason but not a top-ranked one: Hofstra, Saint Louis, St. Bonaventure, Princeton, SMU, and then New Mexico in the Pit. All winnable games, all solid games to prep for a conference run, but with no ranked opponents they may have a low seed come dance time. Pitino knows what he’s doing though in scheduling because he has a strong freshman class but a freshman heavy team that is going to need guidance, confidence, and solid reps early without the crushing pressure of playing a top-15 right away.

MAC: Kent State Golden Flashes

After their run to the NCAA tournament and near knockoff of 4-seed UCLA, the Zips have extended Coach John Groce’s contract through 2030. While that seems like a lifetime contract, it’s only 8 years from now! Akron loses leading scorer Ali Ali, but brings back rebounding machine Enrique Freeman. The “Glass Cleaner” isn’t going to be enough fire power though, especially for the Golden Flashes who return leading scorer Sincere Carry, as well as their #2-man Malique Jacobs. The Flashes have a nice balanced schedule as they get a lead up to a wild three game stretch where they hit the road to #3 Houston and #2 Gonzaga with an always feisty South Dakota State team sandwiched in between. If they can build momentum even through some losses, they will be primed for the MAC.

MEAC: Howard Bison

Circle the date now: March 2nd will decide the MEAC champion as Howard plays host to Norfolk State. The two teams finished 1-2 last season with Norfolk winning the conference by a cushy 3-game margin, but this isn’t 2022 anymore, or least it won’t be when business starts. The two will again finish in the top two spots but this year will be the year of the Bison. 6’10 Steve Settle III is a unique talent and will take command of the team after the departure of 5th year senior Kyle Foster. Norfolk still has monster man Kris Bankston who dominates at 6’9 and 230lbs but the guard play that facilitated his work is no longer there. This is going to allow the Bison to push passed the Spartans.

MVC: Drake Bulldogs

Since 2010, Kansas Jayhawks fans shutter every time the MVC automatic bid is placed on the bracket anywhere near KU. In 2006, Bradley upset the Jayhawks in the first round, and then in 2010 Ali Farokhmanesh shocked the world by knocking out KU who was the overall #1-seed. I think all of Jayhawk nation was happy to see Bucknell stay away from the MVC as part of the additions, but some killers were brought into the conference in Belmont and Murray State. The Racers were THE dark horse final four pick for last year’s tourney, but the Peacocks upset 30-win Murray State in the second round. That was only the tip of the iceberg in terms of heartbreak for Murray State fans as leading scorer “KJ” Williams followed head coach Matt McMahon to LSU making the Racers question their next steps. Will the Belmont Bruins burst onto the scene and steal the show or will one of the mainstays of the MVC show their superiority to the Ohio Valley? It’s the year of the dog in the MVC. Drake, who brings back 4 out of their 5 double-digit scorers and have some post season experience in the last years’ CBI will find themselves on top. While not a parallel to NCAA tourney experience, they know what it feels like to play in the post season and their seniors will be ready to win this time.

Mountain West: CSU Rams

The Mountain West has 2 preseason top-25 teams in Colorado State and Boise State. Both saw opportunity to make noise in the NCAA tournament last year with Bosie State getting the automatic and CSU garnering an at-large, but neither showed up the way fans and upset pickers were expecting. Michigan just toyed with the Rams for 40 minutes while Boise State could never overcome their dismal first half against Memphis. Both squads have loaded back up and no one else in the Moutain West is coming to dethrone them so it’s almost a coin toss on the two. My daring pick is Colorado State. They scheduled early games that will allow them to get back into competitive rhythm but also have dates against Saint Mary’s and USC leading up to conference play. That’s the perfect balance for Coach Niko Medved to have the Rams fine-tuned to get CSU its first NCAA tournament win since 2013.

If you haven’t seen your beloved conference discussed yet, and aren’t currently disgusted by the Dumb and Daring, then be prepared for next week as we finish out the regular season conference championship picks. Until then, keep it friendly on the blacktop!


  • Kyle Spencer

    Not a jack-of-all trades just a master of none. Former Assistant Coach for 2x Middle School Soccer Championship team. Coached a few other things along the journey, but focusing on leading my family well and mentoring students.

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