The Rauf Report is back to break down the bold predictions from the preseason. What did Brian Rauf get right and wrong?
Unpredictability is at the core of college basketball — it’s one of the things we love most about the sport — but that doesn’t stop us from trying to figure it out in Rauf Report columns published throughout the season.
Every preseason, I predict how I think the year is going to play out with one bold prediction for every conference.
Sometimes I’m right, sometimes I’m half-right, and sometimes I’m just flat-out wrong — but I need to hold myself accountable! Plus, it’s also fun to go back in the metaphorical time machine and reflect on my thinking from six months ago.
As a refresher, you can find my preseason predictions here. How did I do?
PREDICTION: ELIJAH OLANIYI WINS CONFERENCE PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Who was I to go against the reigning conference player of the year in Ryan Davis? The Vermont star repeated unanimously and guided the Catamounts to the NCAA Tournament. Olaniyi, meanwhile, battled injuries all season and ultimately left the school in February. He only played in seven games.
PREDICTION: UCF FINISHES THIRD, MAKES NCAA TOURNAMENT
I was really high on this UCF team having a breakout year. After a 9-2 start that included wins over Miami and Michigan, the Knights looked like they might deliver. Instead, they went 9-10 in their last 19 games and finished right in the middle, placing sixth in the 11-team American.
PREDICTION: LIBERTY LOSES JUST ONE CONERENCE GAME EN ROUTE TO ASUN TITLE
Liberty won the ASUN East, so that kind of counts? But the Flames went 12-4 in conference play — 3-3 over their last six — and lost the outright conference regular season title to Jacksonville State. That was especially important because Bellarmine won the ASUN Tournament and, since it was ineligible for the NCAA Tournament, Jacksonville State got to go dancing.
PREDICTION: BOTH ST. BONAVENTURE AND RICHMOND FINISH THE SEASON RANKED
Well, the Bonnies looked the part for the first month! At least Richmond made the NCAA Tournament and won a game, though it took the Spiders until March to really figure things out.
PREDICTION: HUBERT DAVIS WINS ACC COACH OF THE YEAR
If this award was handed out following the NCAA Tournament, I don’t think there’s any doubt Davis wins. The run he led UNC on from late February through early April was incredible and nearly landed the Tar Heels a national championship. But it’s also hard to argue against Steve Forbes, who actually won the award after leading Wake Forest to one of the nation’s most surprisingly successful seasons.
PREDICTION: AVERY ANDERSON III IS A FIRST TEAM ALL-CONFERENCE PERFORMER
I bought a lot of the Oklahoma State preseason hype and Anderson was a big reason why. We can speculate how much the postseason ban played into the Cowboys’ relatively pedestrian season, but Anderson saw both his efficiency and scoring decrease from 2020-21.
PREDICTION: XAVIER FINISHES OUTSIDE THE TOP FIVE IN CONFERENCE STANDINGS
Nailed it. Xavier actually finished seventh in the Big East after going 7-11 in its final 18 regular season games. That ended up costing Travis Steele his job, making it even more incredible that the Musketeers wound up winning the NIT with an interim coach (shouts to Jonas Hayes, who is now the head coach at Georgia State).
PREDICTION: JALEN CONE WINS BIG SKY PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Cone transferred to Northern Arizona from Virginia Tech in hopes of thriving in a featured role. The 5-10 guard did average 18.8 points per game and was named third team All-Big Sky, but his lack of efficiency and the team’s struggles (9-23 overall) dampened any individual campaign.
PREDICTION: WINTHROP REPEATS AS DOMINANT CHAMPS UNDER MARK PROSSER
Winthrop went 23-9 and was an authoritative 14-2 in Big South play yet lost both the regular season and tournament titles to Longwood, which went 15-1. A good season, certainly, but not the dominant force I predicted.
PREDICTION: RUTGERS FINISHES AHEAD OF INDIANA
I wrote in my preseason article that this was a mixture of my belief in Rutgers and negative thoughts about Indiana. Though both ended up in the First Four, the Scarlet Knights did finish ahead of the Hoosiers in the Big Ten standings, posting a 12-8 mark to Indiana’s 9-11. This one stuck the landing thanks to some big shots from Ron Harper Jr.
PREDICTION: UC RIVERSIDE MAKES FIRST NCAA TOURNAMENT
Riverside looked the part of a quality mid-major team in November and December, beating Arizona State and playing tight games against San Diego State and Oregon, yet the Highlanders were far from dominant in conference play. They went 9-6 in the regular season and lost in the first round of the Big West Tournament. Their NCAA Tournament debut will have to wait at least another year.
PREDICTION: JMU WINS REGULAR SEASON; HOFSTRA EARNS NCAA BID
Man, 0-2 here. James Madison completely tanked after an 11-3 start to the season, posting a 6-12 mark in conference play, but I felt good about my Hofstra prediction — particularly after it beat Arkansas in December. However, the Pride fell flat on its face in March, losing in the CAA Tournament opening round to College of Charleston.
PREDICTION: CONFERENCE WINS AN NCAA TOURNAMENT GAME AGAIN
UAB won Conference USA’s auto bid and was a popular pick to upset Houston in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. On paper, it looked like this prediction was solid. We know that games aren’t played on paper, though, and it’s tough to win when you let your opponent shoots 53.3 percent from the field.
PREDICTION: ANTOINE DAVIS LEADS NATION IN SCORING
Davis averaged 23.9 points per game, which put him third in the country behind Bryant’s Peter Kiss (25.2) and Liberty’s Darius McGhee (24.6). Surprisingly, that was the lowest scoring average of his career. Davis also finished in the top four in scoring in each of his four seasons with Detroit but never won a scoring title.
PREDICTION: HARVARD WINS THE IVY
A 13-13 record with a 5-9 mark in conference play simply won’t get it done. In fact, Harvard missed the Ivy League Tournament altogether. It was the Crimson’s worst conference record since head coach Tommy Amaker’s first season in 2008.
PREDICTION: IONA NEVER SPENDS A DAY OUTSIDE OF FIRST IN THE MAAC STANDINGS
This was true for the regular season! Iona got off to an 11-0 start in MAAC play and claimed the conference’s regular season crown by three games. Of course, the Gaels were upset by Rider in the first game of the MAAC Tournament, paving the way for Saint Peter’s to go on its magical Elite Eight run.
PREDICTION: MARK SEARS WINS MAC PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Sears was a first team All-MAC performer and did have a breakout season in his first year as a starter, averaging 19.6 points, 6.0 rebounds, and 4.1 assists per game. However, Kent State’s Sincere Carry earned Player of the Year honors, and Sears — an Alabama native — has since transferred to the Crimson Tide.
PREDICTION: MORGAN STATE WINS AT LEAST ONE CONFERENCE TITLE
The rule in the MEAC was to never bet against LeVelle Moton and NC Central. Now, the rule is to never bet against Robert Jones and Norfolk State. The Spartans swept the MEAC titles as Morgan State finished fourth and lost to Norfolk State in the MEAC semis.
PREDICTION: LOYOLA CHICAGO DOMINATES CONFERENCE AGAIN
I’ll mark this one as wrong since the Ramblers finished fourth in the Missouri Valley — certainly a long way from dominating. That said, Loyola Chicago cruised through the conference tournament to return to the NCAA Tournament in Drew Valentine’s first year as head coach. They were the class of the conference and one of the highest rated mid-majors all season long.
PREDICTION: COLORADO STATE WINS A MW TITLE AND MAKES THE SWEET 16
The Rams finished second in the regular season, lost to San Diego State in the conference semis, and were bounced in the first round of the NCAA Tournament by Michigan. But Niko Medved’s squad still went 25-6 and was the highest seeded mid-major outside the WCC. If David Roddy returns for his senior season, I’ll be very high on Colorado State again.
PREDICTION: BRYANT MAKES NCAA TOURNAMENT FOR FIRST TIME EVER
Thank you, Peter Kiss! The Bulldogs nearly made the Big Dance in 2021 and, led by the nation’s leading scorer, left no doubt this time around.
PREDICTION: BELMONT GOES UNDEFEATED IN CONFERENCE PLAY
Did I say Belmont? I meant Murray State! The Bruins did start 24-5 and 14-2 in OVC play before losing three of their final four games. Next season presents an entirely new set of challenges, though, as Belmont moves from the Ohio Valley to Missouri Valley.
PREDICTION: ISAIAH MOBLEY WINS PAC-12 PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Benn Mathurin absolutely should’ve won Pac-12 Player of the Year, as he did. But Mobley still claimed first team all-conference honors and guided USC to a No. 7 seed in the NCAA Tournament. The Trojans were also one of the last undefeated teams in the country, largely because of the role Mobley played.
PREDICTION: COLGATE MAKES THIRD STRAIGHT NCAA TOURNAMENT
Toothpaste did it again! Colgate won 19 of its final 20 Patriot League games to sweep both Patriot League titles again before giving Wisconsin a scare in the NCAA Tournament. There’s no doubt about where the best program in the Patriot resides.
PREDICTION: MISSISSIPPI STATE FINISHES THE SEASON AS A TOP-25 TEAM
The Bulldogs did no such thing, never really sniffing the Top 25 at any point. This was certainly one of my biggest misses of the year, as I thought Mississippi State had the makings of a dangerous team. It turns out they couldn’t overcome or develop any perimeter shooting!
PREDICTION: MIKE BOTHWELL WINS SOCON PLAYER OF THE YEAR, LEADS FURMAN TO NCAA TOURNAMENT
Bothwell was a first team All-SoCon performer but lost both Player of the Year (Malachi Smith) and the NCAA Tournament berth to Chattanooga — though the latter was only a second away from being correct.
PREDICTION: NICHOLLS REPEATS AS REGULAR SEASON CHAMPS, EARNS NCAA BID
The Colonels did repeat as regular season champs, so the first part was right! But a first-round upset to Texas A&M Corpus Christi in the Southland Tournament kept this from being completely accurate. The Islanders went on to win the conference’s automatic bid.
PREDICTION: MISSISSIPPI VALLEY STATE DOESN’T FINISH LAST
Certainly, a low bar to clear, but the Delta Devils couldn’t do it. Lindsey Hunter’s squad went just 2-26 overall on the season. They did finish two spots higher in KenPom, though, up from 357th to 355th this year.
PREDICTION: ORAL ROBERTS FINISHES NO HIGHER THAN THIRD
Oral Roberts had another quality season with Max Abmas producing at a high level again, yet it finished right there at third behind North Dakota State and a 30-win South Dakota State team. The Golden Eagles went 6-6 to close the season, which certainly didn’t help things.
PREDICTION: LOUISIANA WINS ONE CONFERENCE TITLE
The Ragin’ Cajuns were one of the winners of the transfers portal last offseason, yet that didn’t translate to on-court success. Louisiana finished the regular season with a sub-.500 record (13-14) but made it all the way to the Sun Belt title game before losing to Georgia State. So, we were 40 minutes away from being correct!
PREDICTION: GONZAGA WINS THE NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP
Gonzaga spent a majority of the season ranked No. 1 again and earned the NCAA Tournament’s top seed again, but — again — couldn’t get it done. Still, its streak of seven consecutive Sweet 16 appearances remains intact. The Zags have also won at least one game in 13 straight tournaments.
PREDICTION: DARRION TRAMMELL WINS WAC PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Trammell missed out on Player of the Year — that went to Teddy Allen, who led New Mexico State to its first NCAA Tournament win since 1993 — but was a first team All-WAC and All-Defensive team selection for the second consecutive season.
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