As we are just days away from the start of the 2022-23 season, Mid-Major Madness put together its top 25. In the lead-up to the season tipping off Nov. 7, we are releasing five teams in the ranking each day. Here are numbers 25-21.
T-24. Colorado State
Coming off the program’s third 25-win season, Niko Medved and the Rams have high expectations. Colorado State won its first 11 games of the season en route to an NCAA Tournament appearance. But all that is history as David Roddy took his talents to the NBA and was selected in the first round. CSU will now turn to senior guard Isiah Stevens. The Texas native was named to the Bob Cousy Award Watch List as well as the Mountain West Preseason All-Conference team. He amassed 14.7 points, 4.7 assists and 3.2 rebounds per game last season.
Colorado State, who was picked fourth in the conference, will take on Saint Mary’s, USC and Colorado in non-conference as well as take part in the Shriners Children’s Charleston Classic.
With hall-of-fame coach Rick Pitino, the Gaels are looking to continue their dominance in the MAAC. Iona has won either the conference regular season title or tournament championship in nine of the last 10 years. The Gaels ran through the conference slate a season ago and finished 17-3 before getting upset in the conference tournament. They knocked off then-No.-10 Alabama on Thanksgiving last November. Tabbed as the favorites once again, Iona is led by unanimous Preseason All-MAAC First Team selection Nelly Junior Joseph. The junior forward tallied 13.0 points and 8.2 rebounds per game last season. Walter Clayton Jr. was named to the Preseason All-MAAC Second Team and serves as the defensive catalyst for the Gaels.
In the non-conference, Iona hosts Saint Louis, faces St. Bonaventure at Barclays Center and visits New Mexico in the Pitino vs. Pitino game.
Bryant ended its tenure in the NEC in style by claiming the conference regular season and tournament championships and securing a berth in the NCAA Tournament for the first time at the Division I level. The Bulldogs said goodbye to the nation’s leading scorer in Peter Kiss, who poured in 25.2 points per game last year. They will now begin their America East time with Charles Pride. The guard knocked in 17.7 points per game and will serve as the focal point for Jared Grasso’s offense. Bryant added NCAA Tournament sharpshooter Doug Edert, who transferred from Saint Peter’s.
Bryant hits the road for several tough non-conference games, including trips to Syracuse, Cincinnati and Tulane.
T-21. UC Santa Barbara
The Gauchos were slated as the favorites in the Big West. After winning the conference and making the NCAA Tournament in 2021, UC Santa Barbara took a step back last season and finished 17-11. UCSB will be led by reigning Big West Freshman of the Year Ajay Mitchell, who averaged 11.6 points, 3.7 assists and 2.2 rebounds last season. The Belgian guard came into his own in February as he poured in 18.7 points per contest. The Gauchos took advantage of the transfer portal and added Andre Kelly from Cal and Zach Harvey from Cincinnati. Kelly posted career-highs 13.4 points 8.4 rebounds per game as a senior with the Bears on his way to being named to the All-Pac-12 Team honorable mention.
UCSB takes on Fresno State, Duquesne, Pepperdine and Appalachian State in the non-conference portion of the schedule.
The Flames are looking to complete its tenure in the Atlantic Sun in dominant fashion. Liberty enters its fifth and final season in the ASUN, and over the first four years, it has won three titles. Despite last season coming to a disappointing end in the conference tournament, Ritchie McKay’s squad was tabbed as the favorite. Darius McGhee, who has won the ASUN Player of the Year award each of the last two seasons, averaged 24.6 points, 4.5 rebounds and 3.6 assists per game last year. His point total ranked second in country. A lethal 3-point shooter, the North Carolina native poured in nation’s best 142 trifectas in 2022.
The Flames visit Alabama on Veterans Day. Later in the non-conference, Liberty takes part in the Cancun Challenge and faces Bryant in the Hall of Fame Classic.