8. Appalachian State: Given the fact that the Mountaineers have only faced Toccoa Falls and Bridgewater thus far, it is practically impossible to know how good or bad they are thus far. We will learn more during this tournament. For now, I am sticking with my preseason prediction which had them as a bottom half Sun Belt team and that unfortunately means three straight losses in Myrtle Beach.
7. UTEP - I shouldn't doubt Tim Floyd's Miners. I know better. However, I have them losing two close games to Boise State and Illinois State before taking out some aggression and salvaging a win over Appalachian State. But don't be surprised to see UTEP do much better than this prediction.
6. Western Michigan - Thomas Wilder is the best player in this tournament and will be a treat to watch. In the Tip-Off tune up game at South Carolina he had 21 Pts, 6 Steals, and 5 assists. The Problem? They still lost to South Carolina by 18. With Wilder on the court, the Broncos are capable of hanging with anyone. I have them losing a tough one to Tulsa, then beating Appalachian State, followed by a loss to Illinois State.
5. Illinois State - The Redbirds may in fact be the 2nd best team in this field. We will know more in a week. Unfortunately, they draw virtual hosts South Carolina in the opener. The 1-2 punch of Keyshawn Evans and Phil Fayne will be the tandem to watch. They combined for 52 points in their opening loss at FGCU. I see Illinois State bouncing back nicely after their Opening day loss to South Carolina by beating both UTEP and WMU respectively.
4. Tulsa - I was really thrown for a loop when Tulsa lost their opener at home vs. Lamar. That loss raised some serious concerns. This tournament will be an opportunity for Frank Haith's club to come together and figure out their chemistry for the rest of the year. They draw WMU to begin with, and I have a hunch they will get that win, and then run into a team also searching for an identity - the Iowa State Cyclones and lose close. Then I see them running out of gas in the 3rd place game.
3. Boise State - The Broncos come into this tournament feeling good after coasting to an easy 2-0 start. There's a lot to like about this team. They start three seniors (Chandler Hutchison, Lexus Williams, Christian Sengfelder) and they are getting great efficiency from Junior Zach Haney and Sophomore's Alex Hobbs and Justinian Jessup. On paper, they can make a run and win this thing. The reason they won't win it is because they will run into South Carolina in a virtual home game in the semifianal. Despite falling short there, I predict the Broncos to bounce back with a nice win over Tulsa for 3rd.
2. Iowa State - This was a painful pick. When you look at the bottom half of the bracket, good luck successfully picking a team to make the final! The Cyclones certainly haven't earned this prediction after getting thoroughly beaten by both Missouri and Milwaukee. Sometimes, these tournaments act as a chance to getaway from distractions and just focus on your team and playing Basketball. Steve Prohm is a proven Head Coach and I am banking on him getting the team to gel out in Myrtle Beach. I think they have enough firepower to beat Appalachian State and Tulsa, but it wont be easy at all given the state of the team.
1. South Carolina - Many of us had doubts in South Carolina during the offseason after losing so many pieces from the Final Four team last year, and many predicted the Gamecocks at the bottom of the SEC. Well guess what? In two games against Wofford and WMU, South Carolina has cruised to easy victories at home. This tournament is essentially at home as well. And I like the way that Frank Martin has distributed minutes early. Based on the limited information we have, South Carolina has to be the pick to win this.