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Mid-Major Madness Preseason Power Rankings: Princeton debuts ahead of the Ivy League pack

Princeton was picked third in the Ivy League but is our highest ranked in a crowded conference.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-First Round-Princeton vs Notre Dame Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

Our preseason power rankings reveal rolls on, complete with some perennial contenders, the hot pick for a mid-major breakout team, and another video featuring Cam Newton’s sexy voice.

Today, we look at teams ranked 11-15:

15. BYU Cougars

Last Year: (22-12, 12-6 WCC), Lost to UT Arlington in NIT First Round
Key Returnees: TJ Haws (So., G), Nick Emery (Jr., G), Yoeli Childs (So., F), Elijah Bryant (Jr., G)
Key Losses: Eric Mika, LJ Rose, Kyle Davis, Steven Beo, Davin Guinn
Key Additions: Kolby Lee (Fr., C), Jahshire Hardnett (JUCO So., G), Kajon Brown (JUCO Jr., G), Rylan Bergerson (Fr., G/F)

The perennial third team in the WCC power triumvirate is staring at another bronze medal heading into the season. That’s no fault of their own; Gonzaga and Saint Mary’s are just that good. However, BYU returns a lot of talent — especially on the perimeter — and Dave Rose has never won fewer than 20 games since he came to Provo. The Cougars are going to get great guard play out of TJ Haws and Nick Emery, and Yoeli Childs is one of the most athletic players in the conference. If BYU is able to find some pieces to fill the void down low left by Eric Mika, the WCC could turn into a three team race.

14. College of Charleston Cougars

Last Year: (25-10, 14-4 CAA), Lost to Colorado State in NIT First Round
Key Returnees: Joe Chealey (Sr., G), Jarrell Brantley (Jr., F), Grant Riller (So., G), Cameron Johnson (Sr., G), Nick Harris (Jr., F), Marquise Pointer (Jr., G)
Key Losses: Chevez Goodwin, Peyton Hulsey
Key Additions: Osinachi Smart (R-Fr., F/C), Brevin Galloway (R-Fr., G), Zep Jasper (Fr., G)

Charleston has a chance to be one of the best mid-majors in the country this year, mainly because of roster continuity. The Cougars return their top six scorers from a team that ran one of the most efficient offenses in the CAA last year. On top of that, the Cougars were ranked No. 66 in Kenpom’s defensive efficiency last year. Earl Grant’s crew has all the makings of a successful mid-major: they take care of the ball, play strong team defense, and have veterans who can score. The Cougars are going to be dangerous, and could very well climb these rankings over the course of the season.

13. Virginia Commonwealth Rams

Last Year: (26-9, 14-4 A-10), Lost to Saint Mary’s in NCAA Tournament First Round
Key Returnees: Justin Tillman (Sr., F), Jonathan Williams (Sr., G), Deriante Jenkins (So., G/F), Malik Crowfield (So., G)
Key Losses: Mo Alie-Cox, JeQuan Lewis, Samir Doughty, Ahmed Hamdy Mohamed, Doug Brooks, Jordan Burgess
Key Additions: Khris Lane (Sr., F), Isaac Vann (So., F), Tyler Maye (Fr., G), Sean Mobley (Fr., F), Xavier Jackson (JUCO Jr., G)

Will Wade is out, and Mike Rhoades is in as VCU’s third head coach in the last four seasons. Rhoades comes in after a short stint as head coach at Rice, but was an assistant with the Rams before that, so there shouldn’t be too much deviation from the norm in Richmond. The combination of Justin Tillman and Longwood transfer Khris Lane will provide a formidable frontcourt for VCU, while Jonathan Williams and Deriante Jenkins should be a solid backcourt. There’s plenty of new faces for this VCU team, but they’ll still be among the best teams in the A-10.

12. Princeton Tigers

Last Year: (23-7, 14-0 Ivy), Lost to Notre Dame in NCAA Tournament First Round
Key Returnees: Devin Cannady (Jr., G), Myles Stephens (Jr., F), Amir Bell (Sr., G), Will Gladson (So., F/C), Alec Brennan (Sr., C)
Key Losses: Spencer Weisz, Steven Cook, Pete Miller, Henry Caruso, Hans Brase
Key Additions: Jerome Desrosiers (Fr., G), Ryan Schweiger (Fr., G)

As we mentioned yesterday in the rankings, it’s nearly impossible to predict the Ivy League with any confidence. Ask six people to predict the top three, and there’s a good chance you’ll get six different answers. However, after running the table last year, Princeton comes in as the highest rated Ivy League team in our rankings. Mitch Henderson is one of the best young coaches in the game, and brings back two potential first-team players in Devin Cannady and Myles Stephens. Replacing the production of guys like Cook, Weisz and Caruso will be a tall task, but the Tigers have proven they’re capable of winning a lot of games with their style of play.

11. UT Arlington Mavericks

Last Year: (27-9, 14-4 Sun Belt), Lost to CS Bakersfield in NIT Quarterfinals
Key Returnees: Kevin Hervey (Sr., F), Erick Neal (Sr., G), Kaelon Wilson (Sr., G), Nathan Hawkins (Sr., G), Julian Harris (Sr. F)
Key Losses: Jalen Jones, Jorge Bilbao, Drew Charles, Faith Pope
Key Additions: Davion Turner (JUCO Jr., F), David Azore (Fr., G), Johnny Hamilton (Sr., C)

Over the course of the last two seasons, head coach (and friend of the site) Scott Cross has become one of the hottest names on the mid-major coaching market. The Mavericks have won 51 games during that span, but still have not made the NCAA Tournament under Cross. That could very well change this year. Kevin Hervey is one of the best forwards in college basketball, and Erick Neal is the perfect guard to pair with Hervey’s athleticism and skill. As preseason favorites in the Sun Belt, there’s an expectation that Cross will finally take them to the NCAA Tournament. That might be all Cross needs to warrant a call from a major program next summer.

TEAMS 16-20
TEAMS 21-25
TOMORROW: TEAMS 6-10