With the 2022-23 season tipping off today, here are the top five in the Mid-Major Madness top 25.
The Cowboys are poised to build off a breakout 2022 season. Wyoming returns 85% of its scoring from a 25-9 NCAA Tournament team. That was tied for the most wins by the program in the last 34 years. First-year head coach Jeff Linder brings back four starters from that team, including a pair of preseason all-conference selections. Graham Ike was tabbed as the Mountain West Preseason Player of the Year. Last season, he ranked second in the conference in both points (19.5) and rebounds (9.6) and was one of two players in the country to average at least 19 points and nine rebounds. Hunter Maldonado joined Ike on the preseason team. The program’s all-time leader in assists, he tallied 18.5 points, 6.3 assists and 5.7 rebounds. He was one of two players in the nation to post more than 18 points and six assists.
The Cowboys, who were selected second in the Mountain West, take on Dayton and Saint Mary’s in the non-conference.
Anthony Grant returns all five starters from last year’s team. The Flyers were tabbed as the preseason favorites in the Atlantic 10 after posting a 14-4 conference mark and just missing a bid to the NCAA Tournament a season ago. Dayton had three Preseason All-Atlantic 10 selections in DaRon Holmes II, Malachi Smith and Toumani Camara. Standing at 6-foot, 10-inches, Holmes shot 64.9% from the field last season, the second highest mark in the country. He posted 12.8 points per game and was named the conference Rookie of the Year. Smith – no, not the Malachi Smith who transferred from Chattanooga to Gonzaga – runs the offense and yielded a 2.61 assist-to-turnover ratio last season. Camara, who transferred from Georgia, averaged 10.8 points and 6.9 rebounds per game.
Dayton will take part in the Battle 4 Atlantis, where it opens against Wisconsin. The Flyers also face Virginia Tech, Wyoming and SMU in non-conference play.
3. San Diego State
Behind a slew of veteran players, the Aztecs have the potential to make a deep NCAA Tournament run. San Diego State returns four starters from a team that won 23 games and garnered a No. 8 seed last season. Tabbed as the preseason favorite in the Mountain West, Brian Dutcher’s roster features a quartet of fifth-year seniors. Matt Bradley was named Preseason All-Mountain West. He led the Aztecs with 16.9 points per game and 57 made 3-pointers. He ranked second on the team with 5.4 rebounds and 2.7 assists. Darrion Trammell, who transferred from Seattle U., was selected as the Preseason Newcomer of the Year. In two seasons, he posted 18.7 points, 5.1 assists, 3.8 rebounds and 3.8 steals.
In addition to the Maui Invitational, where the Aztecs face Ohio State in the opening round, SDSU will face Saint Mary’s, Stanford and BYU in the non-conference.
2. Houston (1 First-Place Vote)
After making the 2021 Final Four, the Cougars were optimistic about last season. They came within a couple of possessions of reaching the Final Four again without the likes of Marcus Sasser and Tramon Mark, who both went down with injuries in December. Now, both guards are ready to make this season one for the ages. Sasser, a Preseason All-American, tallied a team-best 17.7 points and 2.2 steals per game last season. In just seven appearances last season, Mark posted 10.1 points, including knocking down 22 points against Bryant. Over the last five years, Kelvin Sampson has led Houston to 143 wins, second-most to Gonzaga’s 155.
Before heading into AAC play, the Cougars will take on Oregon, Saint Mary’s, Alabama and Virginia.
1. Gonzaga (2 First-Place Votes)
Not only are the Zags the top-ranked “mid-major,” they have a legitimate chance to cut down the nets this April. Owning the No. 2 spot in the AP and Coaches polls, Gonzaga has just one elusive accomplishment to add to its prestigious mantle – a national championship. Mark Few’s club has been the overall No. 1 seed in each of the last two NCAA Tournaments. Drew Timme is back for yet another season in a Bulldogs uniform. The Preseason All-American led the WCC with 18.4 points per game. He ranked third in the conference by shooting a 58.6% clip from the field and was top-10 in both rebounds (6.8) and blocks (0.78). This year’s team features another loaded roster. In addition to the preseason attention Timme is drawing, Rasir Bolton and Malachi Smith were named to the Jerry West Award Watch List, and Julian Strawther was selected to the watch list for the Julius Erving Award. Bolton knocked in 11.2 points, and 2 3-pointers on 46% shooting from beyond the arc last season. Smith was Southern Conference Player of the Year at Chattanooga last season, where he posted 19.9 points, 6.7 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 1.7 steals. Strawther started all but one game last season and tallied 11.8 points per contest.
Gonzaga has a loaded non-conference schedule, which includes games against Tennessee, Michigan State, Texas, Kentucky, Baylor, Washington and Alabama.
The Preseason Other Top 25
|3||San Diego State||69|
|T-21||UC Santa Barbara||14|