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 15-11.
After finishing in the middle of the American standings last season, Jalen Cook will look to lead the Green Wave to its first NCAA Tournament since 1995. The unanimous Preseason All-Conference First Team selection led all freshman in the AAC last season with 18.0 points per game. He also dished out 3.5 assists while starting all 24 games in which he appeared. The 6-foot guard shot a hair under 40% from 3-point land. Tulane was the only school in the American to have three Preseason All-Conference selections. Kevin Cross and Jaylen Forbes were named to the Second Team. Cross tallied 13.9 points on 52% shooting, 6.8 rebounds and 3.6 assists last season – all marks ranked in the top 10 in the conference. Forbes played 36.2 minutes per game, the most of anyone in the AAC, and poured in 16.5 points.
In non-conference play, Tulane will take on Bryant, Buffalo and George Mason.
With the departure of Loyola Chicago to the Atlantic 10, the Missouri Valley Conference is Drake’s for the taking. The Bulldogs were tabbed as the preseason favorites and received 52 of the possible 54 first place votes in the preseason poll. Drake has come painstakingly close to winning the conference title each of the last two years, only to lose to the Ramblers in the title game both seasons. The Bulldogs will turn to MVC Preseason Player of the Year Tucker DeVries to lead them this season. He netted a team-best 13.9 points per game en route to being named the conference’s Freshman of the Year last season. Joining DeVries on the First Team was Roman Penn, the program’s all-time assist leader. The graduate guard dished out 3.9 helpers as well as scored 11.1 points in 2022.
Drake will visit a pair of A-10 schools in Richmond and Saint Louis as well as face Mississippi State before MVC play begins.
13. North Texas
Locking down opponents is the calling card for the Mean Green. It was the nation’s stingiest defense last season by limiting the opposition to 55.7 points per game. This success on the defensive end powered Grant McCasland’s North Texas squad to program record in wins (25) and conference victories (16). UNT also reeled off a program-best 15-game winning streak. On the offensive end, Tylor Perry will carry the load. He posted a team-best 13.5 points per game and garnered First Team All-Conference honors. He hit 72 3-pointers and shot better than 42% from deep. He drained five game-winning or game-tying shots as well.
The Mean Green will take on Saint Mary’s, Fresno State and UMass in non-conference play before hitting the Conference USA portion of its schedule.
Fousseyni Traore served as one of the biggest bright spots for the Cougars last season. Stepping into the starting lineup, he posted 9.6 points and 8.9 rebounds per game. He shot 58.9% from the field. His 280 rebounds broke the program record. He also blocked 42 shots, good for 1.3 per game. BYU added the offensive firepower of Rudi Williams from the transfer portal. Williams posted 14.7 points and 3.2 assists per game at Costal Carolina last season. A dangerous 3-point shooter, he shot 44.7% from deep. He will step right into the fold for a Brigham Young team that was selected to finish third in the competitive WCC.
In addition to the Battle 4 Atlantis, where the Cougars open against USC, Mark Pope’s team will face San Diego State, Creighton and Utah in non-conference play.
The Rams were selected to finish third in the Atlantic 10 this season. After posting a 14-4 conference mark and 22-10 overall record last season, Mike Rhoades’ squad is poised to contend for the A-10 title. Ace Baldwin Jr. excelled at both ends of the floor last season. He registered 11.4 points, dished out 5.5 assists and tallied 2.5 steals per game. He was named to the Atlantic 10 Preseason First Team as well as Preseason All-Defensive Team. VCU brought in seven newcomers, including a pair of transfers from Michigan in Brandon Johns Jr. and Zeb Jackson in addition to David Shriver from Hartford. Shriver has shot 40.7% from 3-point range over his career and averaged 10.7 points per game last season.
The Rams have a tough non-conference slate that features the likes of Arizona State, Memphis, Vanderbilt, Temple and Navy.