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Preseason Other Top 25 Look Back: What we got right but mainly what we got wrong

Let’s have some accountability around here.

Syndication: The Indianapolis Star Grace Hollars/IndyStar via Imagn Content Services, LLC

Here at Mid-Major Madness, we want to embrace accountability. We’ve still got some housekeeping to finish with the 2020-21 season in the form of awards which, spoiler alert, may or may not include a heavy dose of a team from a mid-major league that is not a mid-major.

Eventually the page will turn to the impossible to project way-too-early Other Top 25 for 2021-22. But before that, let’s hold ourselves up to the light and see how our preseason Other Top 25 stacked up against how things actually finished. What we got right but, really, what we missed on, because that’s way more interesting.

Here are the — we’ll say it — largely ugly results:

What we got right:

We’ll keep this short and simple, we more or less nailed the top 10. Not that that exactly took working the phones and diving into the per 40 numbers on rotation players. Gonzaga was a bolted-on number one and Loyola Chicago, San Diego State, Western Kentucky, Boise State and St. Bonaventure either returned large portions of good teams, had a transcendent star or, some bases, both. But hey, that top 10 looks pretty good nonetheless.

A slight pat on the back goes to our voters’ collective calls on Belmont and Utah State. Both teams were losing their best scorers — Adam Kunkel for the Bruins, Sam Merrill for the Aggies — but we had faith the programs would keep ticking on. We didn’t necessarily expect an at-large season for USU, but had them in the mix nonetheless.

What we got wrong:

So. Much. Red.

Maybe that’s normal, and maybe one day we’ll crunch the yearly results on how our preseason poll usually stacks up. That day is not today, and the preseason list is splotched with scarlet. Some notable misses:

  • Northern Iowa, but maybe with an asterisk. The Panthers seemed poised to rekindle the old dueling thoroughbred nature of the Valley with Loyola swapping in for Wichita State. That didn’t happen, in large part because reigning league POY A.J. Green was lost to a season-ending hip injury after three games. The team pegged to win the Valley never recovered, and went from flirting with an at-large in 2019-20 to finishing 7-11 in the MVC this year.
  • Austin Peay. Oof. Terry Taylor was predictably awesome (21.6 PPG) and the Governors weren’t awful, but in finishing .500 in league play was nowhere near the team many thought would push Belmont atop the Ohio Valley. It was a disappointing enough season that head coach Matt Figger jumped to UT Rio Grande Valley, a fine job in its own right but not the type of coaching move you’d usually expect.
  • We misread the totality of the Mountain West. SDSU and Boise State were good, and we had our eyes on USU. UNLV, however, did not have the season we expected with David Jenkins coming off his redshirt year to join T.J. Otzelberger. A year later, both have left Las Vegas. We didn’t see Colorado State coming, which pushed for an at-large despite, like in the OT25, finishing behind the Running Rebels in the league’s preseason poll.
  • The A-10, as can be the case, was a beautiful mess from a projection standpoint. Richmond’s early season win over Kentucky seemed to validate our projection on the Spiders, before that started to look less and less impressive. They withstood plenty of injuries, but, along with Duquesne and Dayton, didn’t reach the heights we expected. Ditto to some extent for Saint Louis, which had a COVD-complicated season which seemed to leave something on the table. Our voters had been burned by lofty Davidson expectations in the past, leaving a Wildcats team that finished 21st in the final OT25 out entirely. And then there was VCU. We figured a roster with plenty of new faces would struggle, but a breakout season from Bones Hyland proved that to be foolish.
  • The bottom of the poll was a mess. Somewhat of a pass goes to New Mexico State, which dealt with a very strange season half of which was spent marooned in a Phoenix resort. Little Rock plummeted toward the bottom of the Sun Belt standings, planting the 2019-20 regular season champion as one of the biggest potential victims of the cancelled 2020 tournament.
  • Winthrop, we apologize. If it makes it any better, we did have the Eagles as our second team out to start the year.
  • It seems overlooking Drake may be a thing of the past as long as Darian DeVries is in Des Moines. Coming off an 8-10 league season — and losing Liam Robbins — it made sense they weren’t a part of the initial OT25. Even with Joseph Yesufu off the Kansas, the program may have reached a point it gets the benefit of the doubt going forward.
  • We collectively didn’t see the Gauchos coming. But to our credit, UC Santa Barbara slowly climbed up the OT25 until it finished 16th even with a tepid schedule, ultimately validating the voters’ eventual faith by pushing Creighton to the limit in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

With that, we’ll learn our lesson and try to do better the next time we knock all of our collective heads together and produce rankings that surely will have Your Favorite Team far too low.