This is November.
And because this is November, it’s time to get to know some of the best mid-major teams in the country. Over the course of this week, we will release our preseason power rankings, five teams at a time in order to provide for maximum analysis and suspense*.
*actually it’s because we just want to hear Cam Newton’s wonderful voice on our videos.
Anyway, here are teams 21-25, featuring a pair from the Atlantic 10 that might not be NCAA Tournament worthy, but could cause problems for teams at the top of the league.
Last Year: 12-21 (6-12), no postseason
Key Returners: Davell Roby (Sr., G), Jermaine Bishop (RSo., G), Elliott Welmer (RSo., F), Jalen Johnson (So., F), Aaron Hines (RSr., G)
Key Losses: Mike Crawford, Reggie Agbeko, Zeke Moore
Key Additions: Jordan Goodwin (Fr., G), Hasahn French (Fr., F), D.J. Foreman (RJr., F, sat out last year at SLU), Adonys Henriquez (RJr., G, sat out last year at SLU)
Going from 12-21 to the preseason Mid-Major Madness power rankings speaks volumes about both the returning talent and incoming class in St. Louis. The Billikens return leading scorer Roby and will surround him with Bishop (11.6 points per game in just nine games last year), a pair of stud recruits in Goodwin and French, and a few transfers who are now eligible. Is this an NCAA Tournament team? No, probably not. But Roby and Bishop should anchor a top-three backcourt in the Atlantic 10, with Goodwin, Henriquez, and Aaron Hines playing key roles as well. The frontcourt is a little less clear, with Agbeko having moved on. But French was fearless on the EYBL circuit last summer and could be a major steal for Travis Ford.
24. South Dakota State Jackrabbits
Last Year: 18-17 (8-8), lost to Gonzaga in NCAA Tournament First Round
Key Returners: Mike Daum (Jr., F), Reed Tellinghuisen (Sr., G/F), Chris Howell (Jr., G), Skyler Flatten (Sr., G), Ian Theissen (Sr., F), Tevin King (Jr., G), Lane Severyn (Sr. G/F)
Key Losses: A.J. Hess, Michael Orris, Andre Wallace
Key Additions: Brandon Key (Jr., G), Ajou Dillon (Fr., F), Ryan Krueger (Fr., G/F), Alex Arians (Fr., G), David Jenkins Jr. (Fr., G), Dallas Polk-Hilliard (Jr., F), Matt Dentlinger (Fr. G/F)
If you’re visiting a website called Mid Major Madness dot com, there is a 100 percent chance you already know who Daum is. So there’s no need to get into his accolades. Just know that he’s back. And while you’re here, learn Tellinghuisen’s name too. His numbers aren’t as gaudy (11.7 ppg, 4.7 rpg), but he’ll be a key piece to this team. In the backcourt, Orris is gone, but coach TJ Otzelberger brings in three-star JuCo Brandon Key, an assist wizard who can score in bunches. Also look for Howell, who really came on at the end of last season, to improve off a stellar second half.
23. Dayton Flyers
Last Year: 24-8 (15-3), lost to Wichita State in NCAA Tournament First Round
Key Returners: Josh Cunningham (RJr., F), Xeyrius Williams (Jr., F), Darrell Davis (Sr., G)
Key Losses: Charles Cooke, Kendall Pollard, Scoochie Smith, Kyle Davis
Key Additions: Jordan Davis (Fr., G), Jalen Crutcher (Fr., G), Kostas Antetokounmpo (RFr., F), Jordan Pierce (Fr., C)
Anthony Grant has some work to do in his first year at Dayton and this season will not be easy. Take a look at the key losses listed above. That’s the core of not just a great mid-major team, but a team that had second-weekend NCAA Tournament potential. So why are the Flyers ranked to begin the season? For one thing, we love Cunningham and Williams. Cunningham missed the majority of last year, but was a constant double-double threat as a freshman for Bradley. If the Flyers are going to stay relevant in the A-10, he will need to stay healthy. As for Williams, he began to break out toward the end of 2016-17 and will now have a chance to be an all-Atlantic 10 player. Now look at the newcomers. You recognize that long, funny name? You should. Antetokounmpo’s brothers has been known to do NBA things, and after redshirting last year, Kostas comes in with a ton of hype. The question, of course, will be in the backcourt for Dayton. Who will step in to help Darrell Davis? Freshman Jordan Davis (no relation) will be part of the solution, as well Crutcher.
Last Year: 20-12 (12-6), lost to Illinois in NIT Second Round
Key Returners: Chandler Hutchison (Sr., G), Justinian Jessup (So., G), Zach Haney (RJr., F), David Wecker (RJr., F), Alex Hobbs (So., G)
Key Losses: Paris Austin, James Reid, Nick Duncan
Key Additions: Christian Sengfelder (Sr., F), Casdon Jardine (So., G/F), Lexus Williams (Sr., G), Cam Christon (Fr., G)
You know what we’re really excited about? I mean aside from Chandler Hutchison. Like Daum above, you already know about Hutchison. He’s great. We’re excited about Sengfelder, an immediately eligible grad transfer from Fordham, who should fill Duncan’s now vacated role admirably. Like Duncan, Sengfelder is a big guy who can shoot, averaging 5.1 rebounds per game last year and making 160 threes in his three years at Fordham. If Haney is more consistent inside, Sengfelder and Jardine can make seamless transitions, and Jessup builds off his strong freshman year, Hutchison will have plenty of help.
Last Year: 17-16 (7-11), no postseason
Key Returners: Alize Johnson (Sr., F), Ronnie Rousseau III (Sr., G), Jarred Dixon (Jr., G), Jarrid Rhodes (Sr., F), Obediah Church (Jr., F), Ryan Kreklow (Jr., G)
Key Losses: Dequon Miller, Chris Kendrix, Austin Ruder
Key Additions: Reggie Scurry (Jr., F), Darian Scott (Fr., C), Tanveer Bhullar (Sr., C), James Byrd (Jr., G), Mustafa Lawrence (Fr., G), Abdul Fofana (So. F)
Don’t be duped into thinking Missouri State will be the Alize Johnson Show and nothing else this year. Yeah, Johnson is going to put up some crazy numbers (if the 15-and-10 last year didn’t give that away), but look who he has around him. Rousseau, a double-digit scorer from last year, returns, along with Missouri State’s next four leading scorers after him. Then there’s incoming behemoth Bhullar, who at 7’2, can be a force inside. The JuCo Scurry should also make an instant impact as a three-star forward. The Missouri Valley is down this year, no question, and Wichita State’s departure has cleared the way for the Bears to dominate.