There are seemingly a dozen unofficial starts to the college basketball season. We’ve already had the first day of practice, a few media days, and most teams have held their midnight madnesses or some sort of equivalent. On Sunday, we passed another milestone on the long road to Nov. 9: Basketball Nerd-God Ken Pomeroy updated his site with his preseason rankings.
As usual, before you complain about your team’s ranking, keep in mind that preseason KenPom is flawed. Pomeroy admits as much. It will take a month or so of gathering real 2021-22 data for everything to normalize. Still, this should give fans a rough baseline of what to expect heading into the season.
Mid-major fans will notice that while Gonzaga is No. 1 overall to start the year, true mid-major schools are shut out of the top 25 entirely. St. Bonaventure (30), Loyola University Chicago (32), San Diego State (33), San Francisco (34), and BYU (38) all crack the top 40 with ample opportunity to move up.
For those wondering what it all translates to in the NCAA Tournament picture, BYU and Saint Mary’s (42) project to be right around the cut line, so expect Syracuse (41) to undeservedly bump one of them out of the Big Dance.
From a conference perspective, college basketball’s six power conferences (Power 6?) take the top six spots, as expected. But it is the West Coast Conference, not the American, that is ranked seventh. Both leagues are going to be weakened in the near future as BYU, Cincinnati, Houston, and UCF head to the Big 12, but for now can duke it out for the title of “kind of, but not really a mid-major.”
The Mountain West, Atlantic 10, and Missouri Valley all follow. The Mountain West and Atlantic 10 should both be multi-bid leagues and the MVC will certainly have its say in the matter as well.
With opening night less than a month away, you might already be planning your watch schedule to kick off the season. Yes, the Champions Classic will be great and you should have one screen on the happenings at MSG all night. But here are the five best mid-major games to watch alongside it, according to KenPom’s FanMatch:
Belmont (77) at Ohio (115) (Time/TV TBA)
UC Irvine (112) at New Mexico State (109), 9 p.m. ET, ESPN+
Louisiana Tech (88) at Alabama (19), 9 p.m. ET, SEC Network
Pepperdine (147) at Rice (144), 8 p.m. ET, TV TBA
Toledo (116) at Valparaiso (236), 7. p.m. ET, ESPN3