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Preseason Other Top 25: Final Four participants lead the pack to start

Florida Atlantic claimed the top spot, followed by San Diego State in our first poll

The season is upon us. After months of anticipation, we have turned the calendars to November, and that means the games will tip off in just a few days.

Last season was historic for mid majors. A pair of mid-major programs played in the Final Four as Florida Atlantic and San Diego St. squared off in the national semifinal in an instant classic last year. Thanks, Lamont Butler.

And with those two, that’s where we begin our preseason Other Top 25 ranking.

1. Florida Atlantic (3 first place votes)

Dusty May has things rolling in Boca Raton, Fla., and this year it will continue. The Owls finished 35-4 last season and won the most games of anyone in the country. They return all but one player and 90% of their scoring from that squad and will be loaded in 2023-24.

FAU, which was slated at No. 10 in the AP Top 25, heads to the American Athletic Conference from Conference USA and was tabbed as the preseason favorite.

Johnell Davis and Alijah Martin were named as the Co-Conference Preseason Players of the Year. Davis led the squad with 13.8 points and 5.4 rebounds per game. Martin was just behind him at 13.4 points and 5.3 boards.

2. San Diego St. (1)

The Aztecs were 40 minutes away from a national championship this past April. And there’s no reason to believe they can’t get there again.

SDSU brings back four of its top six scorers from that team, led by Darrion Trammell and Lamont Butler. The latter received Preseason All-Mountain West Team recognition.

Brian Dutcher brought in Reese Waters from USC, who was named the Preseason Newcomer of the Year. The guard posted 9.8 points and 3.2 rebounds in 25.3 minutes a game for the Trojans on his way to claiming Pac-12 Sixth Player of the Year honors.

The Aztecs have posted the third best winning percentage since the start of the 2019-20 season.

3. Saint Mary’s (1)

The Gaels have consistently been one of the top mid majors in the country for a long time. They claimed a share of the WCC regular-season title last season and split with rival Gonzaga in the regular season. Wondering where the Zags are on this ranking? Check the note at the bottom.

Now back to Saint Mary’s. Freshman standout Aidan Mahaney took the nation by storm last season with his 18-point performance in an overtime win against Gonzaga. All but two of his points came in the final seven minutes of regulation and overtime.

He is one of three returning starters for Randy Bennett’s squad along with First-Team All-WCC selection Mitchell Saxen and Alex Ducas, who was named Honorable Mention All-WCC.

4. Boise St.

The Broncos ranked second in the Mountain West in scoring defense a season ago by yielding 64.7 points per contest, which helped lead them to a tie for second in the league, 24 overall wins and a trip to the NCAA Tournament.

Leon Rice’s squad returns three of its top four scorers, each of whom posted at least 11 points a night last season. Tyson Degenhart notched a team-high 14.1 points to go with 5.3 rebounds. Max Rice followed right behind at 14.0 points and returns for a sixth season. Chibuzo Agbo is set for his senior season after registering 11.5 points a night last year.

5. New Mexico

The Lobos have one of the best backcourts in the entire country with Jamal Mashburn Jr. and Jaelen House.

Mashburn led the Mountain West in scoring a season ago with 19.1 points. He tallied at least 20 points 17 times. House shined on both ends of the floor. He notched 16.9 points, 4.7 assists and 2.7 steals per game (second best in the country).

Richard Pitino brought in a couple of studs down low. Nelly Junior Joseph transferred in from Iona, where he helped Richard’s father Rick win two MAAC championships. The two-time MAAC First Team honoree was fifth in the nation last year with 19 double-doubles and notched 14.9 points, 9.3 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game.

Isaac Mushila made his way to Albuquerque by way of Texas A&M-Corpus Christi. The First Team All-Southland Conference selection averaged 14.5 points and 9.9 rebounds per game last season.

6. Memphis

Penny Hardaway has brought the Tigers to the last two NCAA Tournaments and has won 20 games in each of his five seasons.

He has reloaded the roster with a ton of talent. Jahvon Quinerly scored more than 1,100 points at Alabama and was named to the preseason All-AAC first team. Jordan Brown was the Sun Belt Tournament MVP as he helped guide Louisiana to the title and NCAA Tournament berth. The big man notched 19.3 points and 8.6 rebounds last season.

The Tigers also bring in a pair of highly-anticipated freshmen in Carl Cherenfant and JJ Taylor. The pair were named AAC Preseason Co-Rookies of the Year.

7. Charleston

The Cougars are coming off a CAA title and a 31-win season. They won 27-straight games and were ranked as high as 18 in the AP Top 25.

Ante Brzovic posted 11.6 points per game and team-high 5.9 rebounds per game last season. The Croatian was named to the All-CAA Preseason First Team.

Sharpshooter Reyne Smith is back for another season as well. He ranks ninth in school history with 182 career 3-pointers.

Frankie Policelli joins the squad as a graduate transfer from Stony Brook. He tallied 13.7 points and 9.4 boards last season.

8. Dayton

The Flyers should be the best team in the Atlantic 10 this season. They bring back four of their top six scorers from last year.

Anthony Grant’s roster will be led by DaRon Holmes II, Malachi Smith, Kobe Elvis and Koby Brea. Holmes and Smith received preseason All-Atlantic 10 recognition. Homles poured in 18.4 points and 8.1 rebounds per game. Smith posted 7.7 points to go along with 5.6 assists in 19 games last season.

9. Drake

The Bulldogs were the class of the Missouri Valley as they won the tournament title last year and reached the NCAA Tournament for the second time in three years last season and finished 27-8

Missouri Valley Player of the Year Tucker DeVries is back for another go-around with his father Darian. The junior posted a team-best 18.6 points per game last season.

Darnell Brodie has the potential to be a breakout star. The Newark, N.J., native averaged a career-high 9.1 points to go along with 7.3 rebounds in 2023.

10. Nevada

It’s no secret that the Mountain West was stacked last year and shapes up to be again this season. The Wolf Pack are the fourth team in the preseason top 10.

Steve Alford brings back his top two scorers. Jaron Lucas led the way last season with 17.0 points while shooting nearly 38% from 3-point land. Kenan Blackshear was second on the squad with 14.1 points and 4.6 assists per night.

T-11. UAB

The Blazers are fresh off their run to the NIT title game and winning a program-record 29 games. They now embark on the AAC after going 14-6 in Conference USA.

They will have to replace the production of Jordan “Jelly” Walker, who knocked down 22.3 points – the best mark in program history.

Eric Gaines is the top returning scorer at 11.5 points, 4.3 assists and 1.8 steals per game during his first year in Birmingham. The guard was named to the All-AAC preseason first team.

T-11. Yale

The Bulldogs return four of their top five scorers from last year’s team, which won a share of the Ivy League regular season crown. They have reigned supreme in the regular season in five of the last eight years.

Matt Knowling was a unanimous first team All-Ivy selection. He posted 13.6 points per game and ranked 10th in the nation in field goal percentage at 62.5%.

Bez Mbeng was named the Ivy League Defensive Player of the Year in 2023 and posted 10.4 points a night.

T-13. Grand Canyon

The Antelopes have won two of the last three conference titles and have won at least two-thirds of their games in that time. Bryce Drew’s team features two of the five players on the Preseason All-WAC Team this year.

Ray Harrison posted career-highs for points (17.8) and assists (3.6). He excelled at the WAC Tournament as he averaged 20 points a game during the tourney and was named Most Outstanding Player.

Gabe McGlothan is a consistent double-double threat after amassing 12.8 points and 7.6 rebounds per game.

T-13. VCU

The Rams won both the Atlantic 10 regular season and tournament titles last season but will have a different look in 2023-24. Head Coach Mike Rhoades and star Ace Baldwin are now at Penn State.

Ryan Odom will now navigate the A-10 after a successful run at Utah State, which was capped off by a berth in the NCAA Tournament. He brought Max Shulga and Sean Bairstow with him from Utah State and signed a total of seven transfers.

Shulga averaged 11.9 points, 4.5 rebounds and 4.0 assists last season, and Bairstow notched 10.3 points, 5.2 rebounds and 2.6 assists.

15. St. Bonaventure

The Bonnies are a veteran team that will make a lot of noise. They brought back all five starters and 90% of their scoring from a year ago. The squad boasts four players who are in their fifth years: Daryl Banks III, Moses Flowers, Mika Adams-Woods and Charles Pride.

The club features players who have played a total of 725 career games, second most in the A-10. (The most experienced team is coming up.)

Daryl Banks III shined in his first season with Mark Schmidt. One of the stars of Saint Peter’s run to the Elite Eight in 2022, he led the nation in minutes per game at 38.4 while notching a team-best 15.5 points per game.

Look for Charles Pride to burst onto the scene. The 6-foot-4-inch wing registered 1,528 points (13.6 ppg) and 750 rebounds (6.7 rpg) over four seasons at Bryant.

16. Duquesne

The run of A-10 teams continues. The Dukes registered one of the biggest turnarounds in the country last season. They finished 20-13 a year ago after going 6-24 in 2022. They were selected fourth in the conference’s preseason poll.

Keith Dambrot brings back a roster that has played most career games in A-10 in 740 games. Dae Dae Grant was named to the Preseason All-Atlantic 10 First Team. He notched 15.5 points per game and eclipsed 20 points 11 times. Jimmy Clark III led the conference with 2.3 steals per game while contributing 12.2 points a night.

17. Liberty

The Flames made the jump to Conference USA and are once again in familiar territory – entering the season as the league’s favorite. This season marks the third straight year they received the top spot in the preseason poll. In the last five years in the Atlantic Sun, Liberty won four regular season titles (including last year) and three tournament championships.

Kyle Rode is the top returning scorer at 10.9 points per game and tabulated 3.5 rebounds and 3.5 assists a night. The 6-foor-7-inch forward received preseason all-conference recognition.

18. Colorado St.

Back to the Mountain West we go. The Rams feature the preseason conference player of the year in Isaiah Stevens. The guard notched 17.9 points, 6.7 assists and 3.4 rebounds per game in 2023. His assist mark ranked fourth in the nation.

He is the program’s all-time assist leader and has his sights set on CSU’s scoring record too as he enters his fifth year with the program.

T-19. UNC Wilmington

The Seahawks return their top four scorers from last season and were picked second in the CAA. Trazarien White led the way with 14.2 points per game. The preseason all-CAA first team selection also pulled down 5.9 boards a game.

It was a balanced scoring attack behind him with Maleeck Harden-Hayes at 9.8 ppg, Shykeim Phillips with 8.4 ppg and Donovan Newby posting 8.1 ppg.

T-19. Iona

The Tobin Anderson Era has begun in New Rochelle, NY. The Gaels turn to the architect of Fairleigh Dickinson’s Cinderella upset to lead the program post Rick Pitino.

The roster has seen a complete overhaul with 7-footer Osborn Shema serving as the lone holdover. The Rwanda big man was named to the All-MAAC preseason first team. He posted 7.0 points, 4.7 rebounds, 1.3 blocks per game in 2023. He can step outside and knock down the 3-ball as well, shooting 35.9% last season.

Two transfers to watch for the Maroon & Gold are Idan Tretout (Cal) and Joel Brown (Harvard).

T-19. Northern Iowa

After a sub-.500 season in the MVC last year, the Panthers are ready to compete for a title once again. They were picked second in the preseason poll.

Bowen Born received preseason first team recognition. He led the team in scoring with 17.9 points per game last season. Tytan Anderson, who was on the MVC Most Improved Team, recorded 12.6 points and a league-best 8.5 rebounds per game.

22. Tulane

The Green Wave are coming off just its second 20-win season since 2000 as it finished 20-11. Tulane points to Jaylen Forbes and Kevin Cross to lead the way this season.

Forbes was a unanimous selection on the Preseason All-AAC First Team. He poured in 18.5 points per game last season, which ranked top five in the conference. He also tallied 1.87 steals a night and knocked down 38.8% of his shots from long range.

Cross registered 14.8 points to go with 6.7 rebounds and 4.2 assists last year and was named to the preseason second team.

23. Furman

The Paladins finally made it back to the NCAA Tournament after four decades. After seeing their March Madness dreams evaporate in the SoCon title game in 2022, Bob Richey’s squad fulfilled its prophecy last March.

Furman brings back seven of its top nine scorers. JP Pegues posted 11.9 points, 3.9 assists, and 3.7 rebounds per game in 2023. He turned it on in the Southern Conference tournament and was named MOP of the tourney while recording 21 points a game.

24. Akron

The Zips look to return to the magic they found in 2022. And they have reason to believe they will with Ali Ali coming back. The guard led that championship team with 13.9 points and 2.5 assists per game, while knocking down 40.7% from 3-point land. He played last season at Butler, where he scored 6.5 points a night.

Pair Ali with Enrique Freeman, and Akron is the favorite in the MAC. The power forward was named to the All-MAC first team last season when he amassed 16.8 points, 11.2 rebounds and 1.2 blocks per game.

25. Loyola Chicago

Drew Valentine is looking to bounce back from a rough 2023 season. The Ramblers saw their streak of five straight 20-win seasons come to an end with a 10-21 mark.

Loyola returns four of its top five scorers, including its top three. Philip Alston led the way with 14.6 points and 5.6 rebounds. Braden Norris was also in double figures with 10.9 points and a team-high 4.0 assists. Ben Schwieger contributed 9.2 points a night.

Des Watson transferred in from conference foe Davidson, where he notched 9.4 points per game last season.

Preseason Other Top 25

Ranking Team (First Place Votes) Points
Ranking Team (First Place Votes) Points
1 Florida Atlantic (3) 121
2 San Diego St. (1) 120
3 Saint Mary's (1) 117
4 Boise St. 99
5 New Mexico 93
6 Memphis 88
7 Charleston 86
8 Dayton 76
9 Drake 68
10 Nevada 56
T-11 UAB 47
T-11 Yale 47
T-13 Grand Canyon 45
T-13 VCU 45
15 St. Bonaventure 43
16 Duquesne 40
17 Liberty 32
18 Colorado St. 31
T-19 UNC Wilmington 29
T-19 Iona 29
T-19 Northern Iowa 29
22 Tulane 24
23 Furman 23
24 Akron 20
25 Loyola Chicago 18

Others Receiving Votes:

James Madison – 15; Princeton – 15; UNC Asheville – 14; Youngstown St. – 14; Vermont – 13; Santa Clara – 12; Belmont – 11; North Texas – 10; UNLV – 10; Utah St. – 9; Bradley – 9; Northern Kentucky – 8; Ohio – 8; San Francisco – 7; Southern Miss – 7; Eastern Kentucky – 6; South Dakota St. – 6; Colgate – 5; Wright St. – 5; Drexel – 4; Stephen F. Austin – 4; Middle Tennessee – 3; Indiana St. – 2; Loyola Marymount – 1; UMass Lowell – 1

* Note: Going forward, Gonzaga will not be considered a mid major. For more information, check our Twitter bio.