I am pretty sure that Dan Hanner is the man. His computer rankings, which require him to forecast starting lineups and playing time for every team in the country, have to be the most complex and time consuming of any set out there.
And I know how much time goes into developing and maintaining the MRI.
Last season, ESPN the Magazine featured his rankings prior to the season, and this year it will do the same. Basketball Prospectus is giving a little sneak preview, along with an explanation of some of the rankings that should have people scratching their heads.
Hanner calls out some of the mid-majors that should achieve greatness this season. It should be no surprise, given that we have been touted some of these teams here at Mid-Major Madness.
* Are you ready to get on the Davidson and Robert Morris bandwagons?
Davidson comes in at No. 51, in a cluster with VCU, Murray State, St. Mary's, Cincinnati and Oklahoma. The Wildcats are definitely ready to have one of those dream seasons. Heck, I think they might be ready to go to the NCAA Championship game.
And Robert Morris (No. 59) should be in the running for the Northeast Conference, even given the loss of Lijah Thompson.
Those two still come in behind Gonzaga, Memphis and Creighton, out three preseason ranked mid-majors. And Ohio and Northern Iowa make appearances just outside of the top 40.
What is shocking is that despite Ohio's obvious strengths entering the season based on these rankings, they have been picked to finish behind Akron in the MAC again this season by several publications. The Zips are No. 63 on Hanner's list, and are projected to be one game behind the Bobcats in the standings (14-2 vs. 13-3).
And Hanner's rankings help to highlight exactly what I pointed out in my Wichita State preview: the Shockers aren't in for a great year. According to the projections, Wichita State will finish 8-10 in the MVC, which actually ties them for 4th in the league (with Evansville, a school that the Shocker fans felt I was a little nuts in saying had a chance to beat Wichita in the league).
As for the bottom of the list, the worst team is pretty much what you would expect: the Grambling Tigers come in as the last team out there.
It should be no surprise given that they lost the only glimmer of hope they had last season -- Quincy Roberts -- and are having to deal with a postseason ban. That is not a recipe for success.
In the end, these rankings show just how wide open the race for the title is this season. It could be anyone's championship to win... or lose.