Mid-Atlantic College Hoops Power Rankings: Several teams in contention for an NCAA bid

uva_maryland_georgetown_usat.jpg
USA Today Sports Images

Mid-Atlantic College Hoops Power Rankings: Several teams in contention for an NCAA bid

College basketball season is less than a month away from conference tournaments, and with it NCAA Tournament bids. 

This is a great time to see how the local landscape is doing and which teams potentially could make some noise on Selection Sunday. 

The typical players are at the forefront; Virginia is one of the top teams in the land and Maryland is back in the national conversation. However, the rest of the Commonwealth is in good hands. There is a good possibility that eight teams from the state of Virginia could be dancing in March. 

Below are all the teams, ranked from the Mid-Atlantic area (Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, Washington DC) that have a chance to make it to the big dance. 

1. Virginia (20-1, 8-1 ACC)

This is not last year's Virginia Cavaliers team. They are better. 

DeAndre Hunter, Ty Jerome and Kyle Guy all bring home 10 points apiece every night. Their offense is now middle of the pack in the country, while their defense remains No. 1.

2. Virginia Tech (18-4, 7-3 ACC)

The Hokies brought back so much experience from last year's squad and will be making it back to the NCAA Tournament for the third season in a row. 

Doing an outstanding job in nonconference play (11-1), Virginia Tech emerged as one of the nation's serious contenders. And if they keep their head above water in the packed ACC, the Hokies will really prove how talented they are. 

3. Maryland (18-6, 9-4 Big Ten)

Maryland is finally living up to expectations, minus their obscure loss to Illinois at a neutral court (which might not be that bad of a loss anymore). With the Big Ten having another poor showing as a conference, the Terps are rising to the occasion. 

Bruno Fernando staying was the best thing to happen to the Terps this season. He's been fantastic averaging a double-double on the season and allowing the team to be run an inside-out offense when need be. 

They can win in multiple different ways, the good sign for a tournament team. 

4. VCU (16-6, 7-2 Atlantic 10)

As the first bubble team in these rankings, VCU is reclaiming their identity as a defensive squad. Unfortunately for them, though, they are having to rely on their nonconference resume with the Atlantic 10 having a down season. 

Their best win from noncon is turning out to be over Hofstra, but to counter they also had an inexpiable home loss to Charleston. There's not much there in a resume for VCU, but they are a team that collectively will be better than several NCAA Tournament teams.  

5. Georgetown (15-8, 5-5 Big East)

Could the Hoyas sneak their way into an NCAA Tournament bid? They're currently tied for third  in the Big East and recently  nabbed a decent road win at St. John's. 

Can the legend of Mac McClung keep the team chugging to the end of the season?

6. Liberty (20-5, 9-1 Atlantic Sun)

All the metric systems are rewarding the Flames for their season so far. Liberty is ranked 61st on KenPom and 55th in the NET Rankings. Three of their five losses have been to teams from the top six conferences. But, there is no way the committee is going to give the A-Sun two teams in the NCAA Tournament. Liberty has to win the A-Sun title in their first season with the conference. 

7. George Mason (13-10, 7-3 Atlantic 10)

Take away the 0-3 start (losses to Penn, American and Georgia Southern) and the Patriots don't actually have a bad record. But those games still count and will prevent the team from an at-large bid in any postseason tournament. 

However, they've greatly increased their defense which could propel the team to contention in for the A-10 title. 

8. Old Dominion (19-6, 9-3 Conference USA)

The Monarchs are an intriguing team and sit atop their conference. They are right on their way to returning to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since they were in the CAA.

Notable wins for them this season include VCU and Syracuse. But, they have to win their conference to get in. 

9. Radford (17-7, 9-1 Big South)

Remember these guys? They had two big upsets during the nonconference season over Notre Dame and Texas. They are another team with a tough defense that could provide a mismatch against some of the top teams in the country. Three of their starters are from last year's NCAA Tournament and Big South championship team, and are looking to do it all again.

10. UMBC (14-10, 6-3 America East)

Early on in the year everyone's favorite Cinderella team was struggling. But as of late, the Retrievers have turned it around. They've won five of their last six contests with two of those victories coming over the top two teams in the America East. 

And we all know they love the underdog story. 

11. Norfolk State (13-10, 8-0 MEAC)

The Spartans are running away with the MEAC. With a big presence in the paint no other team has had an answer. However, based on how the MEAC Tournament is set up though, and some close wins, they probably won't win the conference title. 

MORE NCAA NEWS

2018-19 College Basketball Reset: Get caught up on the college basketball season

cbb_usat.jpg
USA TODAY Sports Images

2018-19 College Basketball Reset: Get caught up on the college basketball season

Well it is about time that college basketball is back at center stage. Now that the Super Bowl has come and gone it is nice to have everyone joining us. 

Each team is about halfway through conference play, just a month away from the league tournaments. The landscape is pretty clear (including the bubble), so here is where the sport stands as we reset the season. 

Front Runners for Player of the Year: 

Zion Williamson, F, Duke

Even if you have been under a rock for the first three months of the season, you've heard of Zion Williamson and there is a good reason why. He is undoubtly the most electric player in college basketball this season. Perhaps, the most electric since Kevin Durant. 

Every time Duke plays, it is must-see television because of Williamson. He's lived up to the hype and has not disappointed once. It's hard to say that of an 18-year-old. 

He's a lock for 20 points and a Sportscenter worthy dunk in every game. No one can matchup against him and the biggest question surrounding his talent is when will he shut it down to prepare for the NBA.

If Williamson does not win Player Year, it will be an upset. 

R.J. Barrett, F, Duke

If it wasn't for Williamson, it might be a runaway contest for R.J. Barrett. His season has been just as impressive as Williamson's. 

Barrett, with his ability to shoot the three, is likely a better NBA prospect over his teammate. But despite being better in several statistical categories, Barrett will be second-fiddle to Williamson this season. 

Both should be the No. 1 and No. 2 picks in the NBA draft and are the most dangerous post duo in the country. 

Markus Howard, G, Marquette

At 5-11, Markus Howard has been a huge performer for a Marquette team that was waiting to jump to the next level. At any moment he can rattle off 10, 12 points in a row, flipping a game on its head. 

Three times this season he's scored 40-plus points, including a 53-point highlight reel performance against Creighton.  

If you have not watched a Marquette game this season, find one to squeeze into your calendar. 

Grant Williams, F, Tennessee

Grant Williams is the face of the top team in the country. He's a ball hawk, can shoot and leads his team in nearly every statistical category - and that is as a forward on a 3pt-happy team.

He's similar in style to Barrett, but there isn't a superstar flying around above him on the roster. 

Game of the Year (so far): Duke vs. Gonzaga

This is a no contest. At the time it seemed like the rest of the college basketball season was going to go downhill after this Nov. 21 game.

Duke was flying around with a formidable NBA starting-five and some were guessing that the Blue Devils might not lose a game all year. Gonzaga was playing like a stereotypical mid-major with a chip on their shoulder and looking overmatched.

But the Zags never folded and threw the first punch of the contest. Nearly every possession the Blue Devils looked like the pendulum was swinging their way and Gonzaga responded every time. 

It culminated with Barrett being blocked on a game-tying shot in an 89-87 victory for Gonzaga.

Rui Hachimura matched up with the two superstars from  Duke, Barrett and Williamson. They combined for 45 points. Hachimura had 20. 

If the National Championship Game is anywhere close to the level of this matchup, we're in for a show. 

Breakout Star: 

Ja Morant, G, Murray State

There is not a better mid-major sophomore in college basketball. Ja Morant has turned the Murray State Racers into the dangerous team that scores 82 points a night.

And he is responsible for over 34 of those points through his points and assists. 

Ignas Brazdeikis, F, Michigan

No one expected Michigan to return as a national championship contender this season. And no one expected Ignas Brazdeikis to be the guy to be carrying them at this point in the season.

They lead the Big Ten. A four-star freshman is leading them there.

Chris Clemons, G, Campbell

To some he's not a breakout star. He's been putting up ridiculous numbers for three years now.

As a 5-9 senior for the Campbell Camels, he's leading the country in scoring with 29.2 ppg.

Teams you need to watch: 

Buffalo

Buffalo has the experience, played in the tournament a year ago and will receive a moderate seed in the tournament if they keep it up. 

They have impressive early season victories over West Virginia and Syracuse, but some silly losses hurt their resume.

The Bulls will not be one of the Final Four contending teams, but no one will want them on their side of their bracket.

Nevada

One of the early season favorites has diminished the past several weeks, mainly because they play in the Mountain West. The Nevada Wolfpack have five starters that all could start on a high-major team and, if they all are playing to their potential, might be the best in the country.

They will be a popular pick to go far into the tournament this season. 

Wisconsin

Every year a Power 5 team with a star player will take advantage of an upset, i.e. Michigan. The Badgers have the 2018 Wolverines written all over them. Ethan Happ helps too.

Marquette

When you have a guy like Howard that can score at-will you can win any contest. Clear a path for Marquette and they will take care of business against teams seeded below them.

Four teams that can't win the National Championship: 

Virginia Tech

Too many injuries and they have an offense that only relies on their 3pt game. It does not bode well for a team looking to make a run.

Kansas

Hard to say this about a team that always wins one of the biggest conference championships of the year, but the Jayhawks without Udoka Azubuike look like just a good team. 

Purdue

Betting against Carsen Edwards is not a good strategy, but there is a severe drop-off after him on their roster. No depth for the Boilermakers. 

Tennessee

They're good yes, but there is not enough to justify having them go far in the tournament. Sure they beat Gonzaga at a neutral site, but if you have them going far you could look foolish.

Local Reset:

Virginia: A lock to make the tournament and they will go a lot farther than they did last year. They have a talented offense to match their defense.

Virginia Tech: A great year for the Hokies and they will be in barring a massive collapse.

Maryland: Should be in the tournament, not exactly sure want to think of them.

Georgetown: Their victory over St. John's gave them some bubble action, but they need to make statements to be in serious consideration.

VCU: A border-line at-large team and is more than capable of winning the A-10 Tournament in March.

George Mason: Sitting at second place in the A-10, the Patriots are looking to make some noise this season. They started conference play at 7-1.

UMBC: After a slow start, the nation's favorite underdogs reeled off five straight and are a contender in the America East conference.

Old Dominion: The Monarchs are atop Conference-USA and are 12-1 in their home building. 

Radford: Remember these guys? The ones that knocked off Notre Dame and Texas? They've lost some bad games since then but are the face of the Big South Conference.

Liberty: It will be a true shame if they do not make the tournament, either as an at-large or by winning the Atlantic Sun. The Flames only have five losses this season. 

Norfolk State: Undefeated in the MEAC, they are currently in line for the automatic bid. 

MORE NCAA NEWS

10 DMV-related things to watch ahead of February's official National Signing Day

natlsigningday.jpg
USA TODAY SPORTS

10 DMV-related things to watch ahead of February's official National Signing Day

In just two weeks, a slew of top-rated high school football prospects will rile up fan bases across the country with their college decision announced on National Signing Day. 

Here are 10 DMV-related things to consider as we creep closer to the first Wednesday in February.  

1. Who will join Isaiah Hazel, Deonte Banks, Dino Tomlin, Lavonte Gater, Mason Lunsford, and Malik Jackson to make up the rest of Mike Locksley's first-year recruiting class in College Park? 

Maryland has received verbal commitments from Tayvion Land (CB, Virginia Beach), Jordan Houston (APB, Oakton), Kameron Blount (OLB, Waldorf), David Summers (PRO, Trumbull) and Deshawn Holt (WDE, Waldorf). 

2. Does Virginia Tech add onto its already confirmed list of 19 early signees? 

Head coach Justin Fuente's class is led by five four-star players in offensive lineman Bryan Hudson, Jaden Payoute, defensive back J.R. Walker, wide receiver Tayvion Robinson and running back Keshawn King. The Hokies aren't expected to make any other moves, but be on the lookout for under-the-radar JUCO kids. 

3. Can Bronco Mendenhall and the University of Virginia smoothly turn a page after losing the school's all-time leading receiver Olamide Zaccheaus? 

Filling the shoes of the 2018 Belk Bowl MVP won't be easy but the Cavaliers should be in good position to do so. Zaccheaus is the lone receiver the team is losing from its 2018 roster. Virginia returns its three outside receivers while adding three more from the 2019 class (Dontayvion Wicks, Nathaniel Beal III & Dorien Goddard). 

4. Will West Virginia's focus and commitment to the state of Georgia continue to pay off? 

Four of the current 16 signees in the 2019 class hail from Georgia and it certainly doesn't hurt that several members of first-year head coach Neal Brown's incoming staff have ties to the state. Recruiting from the Peach State has proven to be worth it in the past as names like Bruce Irvin and Pacman Jones both tore it up in Morgantown at one point. Just this year the Mountaineers added four-star cornerback Dreshun Miller (Kennesaw via Eastern Arizona CC), four-star linebacker Jared Bartlett (Suwanee), four-star cornerback Nicktroy Fortune (Roswell), three-star receiver Winston Wright (Pooler) and three-star running back Tony Mathis (Cedartown). Brown did his part to retain each player in the midst of Dana Holgorsen's departure.

5. Will Woodgrove TE Ben Castellano enhance Richmond's passing game?  

Coming off a disappointing 2018 that saw the Spiders go 4-7, Castellano will be a bright spot for head coach Russ Huesman's squad. The 3-star tight end totaled 18 Division I offers while leading Woodgrove High School to the Virginia State Class 4A Championship as a senior, securing the school’s first-ever title. 

6. Can the Good Counsel trio live up to the hype surrounding James Madison's 2019 class under first-year head coach Curt Cignetti? 

Three of nine JMU hard commits hail from Olney, Maryland and join a team that went 9-4 before losing to Colgate in the second round of the 2018 FCS playoffs. Jalen Green (OLB), Julio Ayamel (ILB) and most recently Latrele Palmer (RB) will bring teammate chemistry after a successful high school run in Olney. 

7. Can key members of Old Dominion's 2019 class improve areas on both sides of the ball that led to an eight-loss season for the first time in program history? 

Head coach Bobby Wilder made a slew of coaching changes following the team's second straight losing season. One area in need of improvement is red zone performance which starts with the man under center. JUCO commits Messiah deWeaver and Stone Smartt, freshman Hayden Wolff, and Steven Williams will all compete for the starting QB slot. Another issue for the Monarchs in 2018 was the inability to stop the run. Elonte Jones (WDE) and Elijah Golston (OLB), both three-star signees in their own right, could help clean up last year's shortcomings come 2019. 

8. First-year William & Mary head coach Mike London prepares to solidify his 2019 class. 

With longtime head coach Jimmye Laycock calling it a career after 39 seasons, the Tribe secured London who returns to the CAA where he first led Richmond to the 2008 FCS national championship. London's eight-member incoming class features three offensive linemen, two defensive backs, a quarterback, wide receiver and defensive lineman. London is reportedly bringing his Howard defensive coordinator, Vincent Brown, with him to handle the same duties in Williamsburg. 

9. Hugh Freeze takes the reigns at Liberty University in Season No. 1. 

After a two-year coaching hiatus, Freeze's 2019 early signing class includes four defensive linemen, three wide receivers, two safeties, two defensive backs, kicker/punter and a quarterback. Three-star standouts C.J. Yarbrough (WR), Brayden Monday (WDE), Malik Caper (ILB) and Johnathan Bennett (PRO) headline the group. 

10. This isn't necessarily something to watch for February since he's already signed his National Letter of Intent, but DeMatha Catholic's DeMarco Hellams is Alabama bound to play for the legendary Nick Saban. 

The 2018 All-Met Offensive Player of the Year hauled in 78 receptions for well over 1,000 yards and 21 touchdowns. But don't forget: he's committed to play defensive back at Alabama. The two-way player had 12 interceptions, including three returned for touchdowns, and 91 tackles.