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 20-16.
20. Loyola Chicago
The Ramblers have a new home in the Atlantic 10. Loyola Chicago always ranked among the top in the Missouri Valley and is coming off consecutive trips to the NCAA Tournament. After winning 25 games a season ago, Drew Valentine’s squad will now have to face stiffer league competition in the likes of A-10 favorite Dayton, Saint Louis and VCU among others.
This season will come with challenges as the roster features 11 new players. Braden Norris produced 10.4 points, 2.8 rebounds and 3.9 assists per game last season and was named to the Preseason All-A-10 Third Team. The redshirt senior serves as the floor general and boasts the best career 3-point field goal percentage among active players at 44.2%.
Before embarking on its first trek through the A-10, the Ramblers will take on Clemson, DePaul and Stanford in the non-conference.
T-18. Boise State
The Broncos are looking to follow up last year’s outright Mountain West regular season championship. Boise State posted a 27-8 overall record and 15-3 mark in the conference. It garnered an eight seed in the NCAA Tournament but saw its season come to a close against Memphis in the first round. With the losses of Abu Kigab and Emmanuel Akot, BSU will turn to Marcus Shaver Jr. and Tyson Degenhart. Shaver tallied 13.6 points and 2.2 assists per game while claiming All-Mountain West Second Team honors. Degenhart was the conference Freshman of the Year last season and averaged 9.9 points.
The Broncos open the season at home against South Dakota State and will take on Saint Louis, Texas A&M and Washington State before Mountain West play starts.
Improvement is the name of the game for the Tigers. After a 4-14 COVID-shortened 2021 season, Towson won 25 games last season, won a share of the CAA regular season title and played in the NIT. Now the Tigers are the hunted in the conference as the preseason favorites, exactly where they should be. Towson returns four starters, including three of the five members of the preseason All-CAA first team members: Cam Holden, Charles Thompson and Nicolas Timberlake. Each averaged more than 10 points per game last season. The Tigers added Division II Player of the Year Sekou Sylla. The guard/forward posted 22.4 points on 57.8% shooting and 10.4 rebounds at Nova Southeastern.
They will face a tough non-conference slate with games against Bryant, UMass and Clemson.
17. Western Kentucky
Anchored by the country’s tallest player, the Hilltoppers have high expectations for the 2022-23 season. Standing at 7-foot, 5-inches, Jamarion Sharp led the country with 4.62 blocks per contest last season. The reigning C-USA Defensive Player of the Year tallied 8.2 points and 7.6 rebounds per game last year was named to the Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Award watch list. Joining Sharp on the Conference USA Preseason All-Conference team were Dayvion McKnight and Emmanuel Akot. A stat-sheet stuffer, McKnight compiled 16.2 points, 5.5 rebounds, 5.5 assists and 1.9 steals per game last season. Akot transferred from Boise State and posted 10.6 points per game with the Broncos last season.
WKU was picked second in the conference. Last year, it went 19-13 and 11-7 in C-USA. The season was highlighted by a 23-point win over Ole Miss and a 10-point win over Louisville.
The Hilltoppers have another showdown with Louisville as well as a meeting with South Carolina in non-conference play.
After falling to Chattanooga on a buzzer-beating heave in overtime in the SoCon championship game, the Paladins are the favorites to win the Southern Conference this season. Bob Richey has established Furman into a consistent winner. The team has won 20+ games in five of the last six seasons. Mike Bothwell and Jalen Slawson will carry the load for the Paladins. Slawson, who was the SoCon Defensive Player of the Year last year, was named to the Karl Malone Award watch list. He averaged 14.4 points, 7.4 rebounds, 3.7 assists, 1.7 steals and 1.7 blocks per game last season. Bothwell tallied a team-best 15.7 points per game.
Before SoCon play begins, the Paladins will take part in the Shriners Children’s Charleston Classic, where they will open against Penn State. They will also take on NC State in December.