I'll contribute a few thoughts as well from the (usually) quiet E8 conference. My 9-1 Vassar squad has done pretty good so far this year against a middling nonconference slate of mostly 100 to 150 RPI teams. I've sqeezed out a bunch of 5 to 10 point victories on the road against teams that are competitive but that I should have beaten--so I've been holding form, though biting a few nails along the way.
I've avoided the bad nonconference loss or two that I usually seem to conjure every season, and managed not to schedule any 250+ RPI creampuff/RPI killers, so I'm sitting pretty good with a 6 RPI (though very-early-projecting as only a 5-seed in the NT). I did get dismantled by Rivier during my only true test (and at home, too, where I rarely play in nonconference)--so I'm already worrying about being noncompetative versus the top teams and headed for yet another 1st or 2nd round NT loss.
To be fair, though, this isn't one of my better teams--lower than I like in ATH and DE (never my strongest suit, but even worse after my top 3 defenders all graduated last season and I have nobody left with a 50+ rating in DE), and no dominant player--scorer and/or rebounder--in the post or even on the perimeter (though Woolsey is close as a PG with 90 SPD, 79 PE, 94 BH, and 75 PA). Been mixing and matching my top 4 post players pretty successfully in the SF/PF/C slots, depending on the opponent, but I'm wishing I had one more good backup guard--especially a PG, since my only other good one usually starts at SG. Overall, though, I'm pretty happy with a well-rounded if not dominant team; my scoring has stayed pretty good, and I'm in the top 25 in D3 in all of the shooting % categories.
Conference play shouldn't be too rough--the E8 is barely a top 20 RPI conference (I long for the days...20 seasons or so ago now...when we were regularly a top 5 to top 10 conference)--but middle of the pack is better than the bottom, where we found ourselves too often a few seasons ago. My RPI (and NT seed projection) will drop some during conference play, but shouldn't plunge too far and I'd be happy with a 6- or 7-seed in the NT. I'm assuming I won't have more than 2-3 losses in conference play--I could conceivably run the table, but I don't think my squad is quite that good. I'm still pretty confident I'll have Vassar's 37th straight NT bid, though. A Sweet 16 is probably about as much as I can hope for this time, though I'd like to be pleasantly surprised; I do try to remember that my last NT champ game appearance in season 48 was done as an 8-seed.
The one odd thing in the E8 is what is going on with my compatriot jtgraves' Union squad--I have no idea how that squad (overall rating=551, 24th overall in D3, and only slightly inflated with a high DU rating) is 1-9, including 5 losses to 200+ RPI Sim teams (plus 2 more in his exhibition games). He's not changing defenses and is starting his best players--all upperclassmen. My fear is that he'll turn things around drastically during conference play and hang me with 2 or 3 losses (including in the CT), knocking me down to the lower echelons of the NT seeds. All I know is that if he wins the CT, he'll be one of the most dangerous 16-seeds out there.
Enough rambling...time to get to my gameplanning.