Ranking the top 10 conferences (cont.)
LOCKS (3): Temple, Richmond, Xavier
The A-10 might be better at the top than the Pac-10, but has too much dreck still at the bottom. The league's top three teams last season will be the top three again this season, especially after Saint Louis was crushed by the dismissals of its two leading scorers earlier this month. Expect more than the two combined NCAA wins this trio yielded last season, with the hope that at least one goes to Temple's Fran Dunphy, one of the class acts in the business who is improbably riding a record 11-game NCAA tournament losing streak, including defeats in each of the last three seasons.
SHOULD BE IN: None.
IN THE MIX (1): Dayton
If freshman point guard Juwan Staten lives up to billing, the Flyers have more than enough talent to make the NCAAs. Dayton lost a slew of close games last season, in part because of subpar late-game decision-making.
There are too many good teams at the top of the league to think anyone's running away and locking up an NCAA berth.
SHOULD BE IN (1): Wichita State
The Shockers look like the best Valley team on paper, with practically everyone back from last season's second-place club that had late-season hopes for at-large consideration before a couple of sloppy losses. They have the size, depth and talent not only to subdue the Valley but also to win some nonleague games to help with seeding or as a safety net should the Shockers not win the auto bid.
IN THE MIX (2): Missouri State, Creighton
Cuonzo Martin's Bears have serious firepower in Sonny Weems and Adam Leonard. Creighton, under new coach (and Valley veteran) Greg McDermott, is its typically solid, balanced self and will get a huge boost when Rutgers transfer Greg Echenique gets eligible in December. He was a double-double threat in the Big East and should be a nightmare in the Valley.
LOCKS (1): Butler
With Matt Howard, Shelvin Mack and Ronald Nored returning from the national finalists, these Bulldogs should be dancing comfortably, but that doesn't mean life in this underrated conference will be easy.
SHOULD BE IN: None
IN THE MIX (3): Cleveland State, Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Detroit
Butler's 20-0 romp through the conference masked the fact that there were five 20-win teams in the Horizon League last season. It's not clear that anyone is close enough to knock Butler off its perch, but there are a number of solid teams that could steal the auto bid. Cleveland State and Wisconsin-Milwaukee more or less return everyone from burgeoning 2009-10 teams and should be threats to finish a very strong second. Another option is Detroit, which not only added two standout juco transfers but also the coach's son, point guard Ray McCallum, a top-25 national recruit.
Other leagues considered: Colonial Athletic Conference, Conference USA, West Coast Conference, Mid-America Conference.
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