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 10-6.
The Rockets have been the class of the MAC the last few seasons and are looking to accomplish a feat that has not been accomplished in over 70 years. Tod Kowalczyk’s club is looking to become the first team to win three consecutive outright league titles since Cincinnati won four-straight from 1948-51. Four starters return from last year’s team that won 26 games: Setric Millner Jr., JT Shumate, RayJ Dennis and Ra’Heim Moss. Millner and Shumate each averaged 15.0 points per game. Toledo added depth with transfers Tyler Cochran, André Lorentsson and Dante Maddox. Kowalczyk pointed to depth as a major key to this year’s team.
The Rockets will play Richmond, George Mason and Vermont in non-conference play.
Last season featured several highlights, including a pair of wins over Houston, a victory over Alabama and a trip to the second round of the NCAA Tournament. The Tigers are looking to repeat that performance this year and expand upon it. Memphis was picked second in the American and received one first-place vote in the preseason poll. The Tigers were the only team to have multiple players named to the First-Team All-AAC: Kendric Davis and DeAndre Williams. Davis comes to Memphis after most recently playing with SMU, where he won the AAC Player of the Year honor a season ago. He poured in 19.4 points (best in the league) and 4.4 assists (third in the league). He was also named to the watch lists for the National Association of Basketball Coaches’ Player of the Year and the Bob Cousy Point Guard of the Year Award. Williams, who was also named to the Karl Malone Award watch list, tallied 11.4 points per game on 56.4% shooting and 5.8 rebounds per game last season.
Memphis has a brutal non-conference schedule with the like of Alabama, Auburn, Seton Hall, Saint Louis and VCU.
8. Saint Mary’s
The Gaels have accomplished a feat multiple times in recent years that few teams have been able to do at all – beat Gonzaga. Saint Mary’s has topped the Zags three times in the last five seasons and five time in the past seven years. The most recent victory came last February – a 10-point win at home. Consistency has also been the staple for Randy Bennett. The Gaels have made every postseason (either the NCAA Tournament or NIT) since 2008. Coming off earning a No. 5 seed in the NCAA Tournament, SMC looks poised for another March run. Saint Mary’s was picked second in the WCC preseason poll, behind Gonzaga. Logan Johnson and Alex Ducas were selected to the Preseason All-WCC Team. Johnson led the conference in steals last season with 67 and scored 11.9 points per game. Ducas posted 10.3 points per contest.
Before conference play, the Gaels take on Houston, San Diego State, North Texas and Wyoming.
The preseason favorites in Conference USA, the Blazers have high expectations for this season. They look to make the NCAA Tournament for consecutive seasons for the first time since 2006. UAB return four starters from last year’s championship team that won 27 games. Reigning C-USA Player of the Year Jordan “Jelly” Walker returns after posting league-best 20.3 points per game as well as 4.9 assists per contest (third most in C-USA). He was one of just three players across the country to post 20 points and 4.5 assists. The New York native was tabbed to win the honor again this season. He was joined on the Preseason All-Conference Team by Eric Gaines, who transferred from LSU. Gaines averaged 9.0 points, 3.3 rebounds, 2.9 assists and 2.1 steals per game last year.
UAB takes on Toledo, West Virginia, South Carolina in non-conference play.
6. Saint Louis
Pair the nation’s assist leader in in Yuri Collins with Javonte Perkins, a gifted scorer, and the Billikens will be really fun to watch this season. Perkins missed last season with a torn ACL and will be back with a vengeance. He averaged a team-high 17.1 points per game in 2021. Collins distributed 7.9 assists per contest last season and already has the program record for career helpers in just three seasons. He can score the ball as well and posted 11.1 points per game a season ago. He was named to the A-10 preseason First Team. Perkins was named to the Preseason Second Team along with Gibson Jimerson, who led the team in scoring with 16.3 points last season. On the inside, Saint Louis has Francis Okoro, who was named to the Preseason Third Team. He ranked second in the A-10 in rebounding at 8.1 boards per game. SLU was slated to finish second in the A-10, behind Dayton.
In addition to the gauntlet of the Atlantic 10, the Billikens face Murray State, Memphis, Maryland, Auburn, and Iona.