Last year, Gonzaga and Saint Mary’s spent the entire season near the top of the Mid-Major Madness Power Rankings, and to start this year, not much has changed.
Except that now the Gaels are No. 1 and the Bulldogs are No. 2.
Our Preseason Power Rankings countdown comes to an end today as the regular season tips off. Here are your top 10 teams:
10. Bucknell Bison
Last Year: 26-9, 15-3 Patriot, Lost to West Virginia in NCAA Tournament First Round
Key Returnees: Nana Foulland (Sr., C), Zach Thomas (Sr., F), Kimbal Mackenzie (Jr., G), Stephen Brown (Sr.,G), Nate Sestina (Jr., C), Avi Toomer (So., G)
Key Losses: None
Key Additions: John Meeks (Fr., F), Paul Newman (Fr., F)
With nearly every key contributor back in the fold at Bucknell, the Bison are going to be one of the most experienced teams in the country and heavy Patriot League favorites. Foulland and Thomas combine to form one of the best frontcourt pairings in college basketball, and they’re flanked by a pair of steady guards in Mackenzie and Brown. The Bison run one of the most efficient offenses in the country, and have the defense to back it up. They ranked in the top-100 in KenPom’s offensive (No. 78) and defensive (No. 83) efficiency metrics last year, and surely will have a similar showing this season. They’ll be battled tested come conference play after completing a non-conference schedule that includes games against North Carolina, Maryland, Arkansas, VCU and Vermont.
Last Year: 20-12, 11-5 A-10, no postseason
Key Returnees: Jaylen Adams (Sr., G), Matt Mobley (Sr., G), Idris Taqqee (Sr., G), Josh Ayeni (So., F), LaDarien Griffin (Jr., F)
Key Losses: Denzel Gregg, David Andoh
Key Additions: Izaiah Brockington (Fr., G), Tshiefu Ngalakulondi (Fr., F), Ndene Gueye (JUCO Jr., F)
For the Bonnies, it all starts and ends with the backcourt. Adams has established himself as one of the premier guards in the country, and is capable of winning games singlehandedly on any given night. His running mate, Mobley, is an equally capable creator. Together, the two combined to average nearly 40 points per game last year. Ayeni showed promise as a freshman, but will need to step into a bigger role in the frontcourt this year. If head coach Mark Schmidt is able to find additional sources of production to compliment his guard duo, the Bonnies could be dancing for the first time in six years.
8. Florida Gulf Coast Eagles
Key Returnees: Brandon Goodwin (Sr., G), Zach Johnson (Jr., G), Christian Terrell (Sr., G), Antravious Simmons (Sr., C), RaySean Scott (So., F),
Key Losses: Marc-Eddy Norelia, Demetris Morant, Rayjon Tucker
Key Additions: Dinero Mercurius (Jr., G), Michael Gilmore (Jr., F), Ricky Doyle (Jr., C), Brady Ernst (So., F), Darnell Rogers (Fr., G), Brian Thomas (Fr., F)
The Eagles are certifiably not a flash in the mid-major pan. Last season, FGCU won 26 games, made yet another NCAA Tournament and pushed Florida State to the limit in the first round. Joe Dooley was not poached over the offseason, and has the pieces to put together another great year. The Atlantic Sun favorite returns a perimeter trio that any coach in the country would happy to have. Goodwin (18.5 PPG) may be the league POY, while Johnson (11.9 PPG) and Terrell (10.2 PPG) could join him on the all-league first team. There are some questions in the frontcourt, but it should be another fantastic season for Dunk City.
7. Oakland Grizzlies
Last Year: 25-9, 14-4 Horizon, Beat Clemson, Lost to Richmond in the NIT
Key Returnees: Jalen Hayes (Sr., F), Martez Walker (Sr., G), Brailen Neely (So., G), Nick Daniels (Sr., G), Isaiah Brock (So., F), Xavier Hill-Mais (Jr., F), Brad Brechting (Jr., C), Chris Palombizio (So., G/F), Jaevin Cumberland (Jr., G)
Key Losses: Sherron Dorsey-Walker, Stevie Clark
Key Additions: Kendrick Nunn (Sr., G), James Beck (Fr., G/F), Chris Gilbert (Fr., G), Stan Scott (Fr., G), James Edward Jr., (Fr., F),
Greg Kampe has been at Oakland a long time, but may have his best team yet in 2017-18. The reigning Horizon regular season co-champions return two league POY candidates in wing Walker (17.8 PPG) and forward Hayes (15.9 PPG, 8.0 RPG). And while Dorsey-Walker is gone, Kampe does bring in former Illinois standout Nunn. The ultra-talented trio are all brought together by promising sophomore point guard Neely, and the team got a boost when Isaiah Brock decided to return. If the Golden Grizzlies defend like they did a year ago, an NCAA Tournament bid could be in the cards for the first time since 2010-11.
6. Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders
Last Year: 31-5, 17-1 C-USA, Beat Minnesota, Lost to Butler in second round of NCAA Tournament
Key Returnees: Giddy Potts (Sr., G), Tyrik Dixon (So., G), Edward Simpson (Sr., G), Brandon Walters (Sr., C), Antwain Johnson (Jr., G)
Key Losses: JaCorey Williams, Reggie Upshaw , Xavier Habersham
Key Additions: Nick King (Sr., F), David Williams (Jr., G), James Hawthorne (Jr., F), Donovan Sims (Fr., G), T.J. Massenburg (Fr., F), Therron Shelton-Szmidt (Fr., G),
Kermit Davis has it rolling in Murfreesboro. The Blue Raiders have now won games in back-to-back NCAA Tournaments, and while they lose a lot (Upshaw, Williams), there’s still enough for Davis to mold another C-USA giant. It starts with site favorite Giddy Potts, a long range bomber and premier scorer (38.5% on 192 3PA) that is joined in the backcourt by sophomore point guard Dixon, who made the all-league freshmen team last season. Middle Tennessee will also be looking for a major impact from Alabama graduate transfer King. If Davis can unlock the ultra-athletic forward’s potential, the Blue Raiders could yet again be a threat in March.
Last Year: 28-7, lost to Iowa State in NCAA Tournament First Round
Key Returners: Jordan Caroline (Jr., G/F), Lindsey Drew (Jr., G), Josh Hall (So., G), Elijah Foster (Sr., F)
Key Losses: Marcus Marshall, Cameron Oliver, DJ Fenner, Leland King
Key Additions: Darien Williams (Sr., F), Caleb Martin (Jr., F), Cody Martin (Jr., F), Hallice Cooke (Sr., G), Kendall Stephens (Sr., F)
How does a team that lost Marshall and liver from last year’s squad start the season in the top five? Easy. Own the transfer market like Eric Musselman has. Cooke (Iowa State) and Stephens (Purdue) should both make a difference immediately — as should the Martin twins, who come to Reno from NC State. Them, plus the returners Foster and Drew, should be plenty to accompany the Mountain West Player of the Year candidate Caroline. And don’t worry, Wolf Pack fans. Musselman has five more transfers ready to step in next year.
Last Year: 29-6, lost to Purdue in NCAA Tournament First Round
Key Returners: Anthony Lamb (So., F), Trae Bell-Haynes (Sr., G), Payton Henson (Sr., F), Cam Ward (Sr., G), Drew Urquhart (Sr., F), Ernie Duncan (RSJr., G)
Key Losses: Darren Payen, Dre Wills, Kurt Stiedl
Key Additions: Stef Smith (Fr., G), Skyler Nash (Fr., G), Samuel Dingba (RSJr., F), Bailey Patella (Fr., F), Ra Kpedi (Fr., F)
After running the table in the America East last year, the Catamounts burst onto the scene as one of the best mid-majors in the country. John Becker’s crew plays stingy defense and almost always gets a good look close to the hoop. They could be even better this season. Lamb has the chance to follow up an impressive freshman campaign with an even better sophomore showing. Bell-Haynes and Henson provide a senior backcourt that takes care of the ball and pesters opposing guards. The Catamounts face a solid non-conference schedule with games against Kentucky, Yale, Richmond, Bucknell, Marquette, St. Bonaventure and Harvard. Another undefeated America East campaign and a NCAA Tournament birth are absolutely realistic possibilities for Vermont this year.
Last Year: 25-10, lost to Oregon in NCAA Tournament Second Round
Key Returners: EC Matthews (RSSr., G), Jared Terrell (Sr., G), Stanford Robinson (RSSr., G), Jarvis Garrett (Sr., G), Cyril Langevine (So., F), Jeff Dowtin (So., G)
Key Losses: Kuran Iverson, Hassan Martin
Key Additions: Fatts Russell (Fr., G), Ryan Preston (Jr., F), Michael Tertsea (RSFr., C)
There are a lot of questions in the A-10 this season, but Rhode Island is not one of them. The Rams were able to hold on to Danny Hurley as the coaching carousel spun, and he has plenty of firepower heading into his sixth season in Kingston. Most of it resides in the backcourt, which features tons of experience and talent. Matthews looked stronger at the end of last season, and will be a year further removed from a major knee injury. Fellow senior guards Terrell and Garrett have 162 career starts between them and Dowtin, an athletic sophomore guard, could be poised for a breakout season. There are big shoes to fill in the frontcourt and uncertainty around Robinson’s availability following misdemeanor charges, but URI has the pieces for another special season.
Last Year: 37-2, lost to North Carolina in National Championship Game
Key Returners: Johnathan Williams (RSSr., F), Killian Tillie (So., F), Josh Perkins (RSJr., G), Silas Melson (Sr., G), Rui Hachimura (So., F)
Key Losses: Nigel Williams-Goss, Przemek Karnowski, Zach Collins, Jordan Mathews
Key Additions: Corey Kispert (Fr., F), Joel Ayayi (Fr., G), Jacob Larsen (RSFr., C), Zach Norvell Jr. (RSFr., G)
The national runners-up will have a starkly different look this season without four of the Bulldogs’ key contributors from their unforgettable 2016-17 season. But don't count out Mark Few. The reigning National Coach of the Year has a talented roster with an intriguing upside at his disposal this year. Williams is the most solid WCC player outside of Moraga, and guards Perkins and Melson are Power 5 talents. If Gonzaga wants to challenge the next team in our power rankings in the conference — and possibly other teams, once it makes the NCAA Tournament — then role players from last season need to step up. Look for sophomores Tillie and Hachimura to have breakout seasons.
1. Saint Mary’s Gaels
Last Year: 29-5, lost to Arizona in NCAA Tournament Second Round
Key Returners: Jock Landale (Sr., C), Jordan Ford (So., G), Emmett Naar (RSSr., G), Calvin Hermanson (RSSr., F), Evan Fitzner (Jr., F), Tanner Krebs (RSSo., G), Kyle Clark (Jr., F)
Key Losses: Stefan Gonzalez, Joe Rahon, Dane Pineau
Key Additions: Jock Perry (RSFr., C), Elijah Thomas (RSFr., F), Tommy Kuhse (Fr., G), Kristers Zoriks (Fr., G), Cullen Neal (RSSr., G)
Could it be anyone else? The Gaels return four of their five starters from a highly-experienced and highly-disciplined system on both ends of the floor. Preseason All-American Landale will grab the most headlines for the Gaels, but don’t sleep on backcourt tandem of Naar and Hermanson — two of the best offensive players in the West Coast Conference. Although the Gaels are a senior-heavy team, they have a solid bench between Fitzner, Krebs and graduate transfer Neal, who will fit in the Gaels’ efficient offense perfectly. The Gaels are the surest bet in the West Coast Conference.