Kevin Connors 2022-23 Mid-Major Preseason Top 10
2022-11-22

KCs Mid-Major Top 10: 2022-23 preseason edition

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Kevin Connors 2022-23 Mid-Major Preseason Top 10

KCs Mid-Major Preseason Top 10 includes behemoths San Diego State and Wyoming.

Writer, ESPN mid-major college basketball top 10

4-year member of the Ithaca mens basketball team

Last years breakout star in college basketball is back.

All the buzz, all the accolades, all the attention -- it was all warranted -- and frankly, all the many imitators are both understandable and mildly flattering. Indeed, KCs Mid-Major Top 10 returns for another season of extreme excellence, highlighting the brightest stars and programs in mens college basketball beyond the purview of the narrow-scoped.

As a reminder, our definition of mid-majors excludes programs from the American, ACC, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 and SEC, as well as the Gonzaga Bulldogs. It includes, as we like to refer to them, the Power 25 conferences.

Without further ado, feast your eyes on the 2022-2023 edition of KCs Mid-Major Preseason Top 10.

Heavy is the head that wears the most magnificently gilded crown in sports.

Coach Brian Dutchers mail was rerouted to KCs Top 10, given how much time the Aztecs spent in the P.O.R. (poll of record) last season, and there wont be any change-of-address forms needed this season.

San Diego State returns four starters from a 23-9 team that earned an 8-seed in the NCAA tournament as an at-large last season. Most notable among the returning group is reigning Mountain West Newcomer of the YearMatt Bradley, who averaged 16.9 points per game on 40% shooting from 3-point range.Nathan Mensahis the returning Mountain West Defensive Player of the Year, andDarrion Trammellwill be a major impact transfer after averaging 18.7 PPG over two seasons at Seattle.

The Aztecs ranked second in defensive efficiency last season, per KenPom data, and, as is the case every year, that will be their identity again this season.

Early tests will come in the form of BYU and Stanford -- and the murder hornets nest that is the Maui Invitational field. Still, for a team that figures to be a regular in that other poll all season, the Aztecs start atop the games most consequential one.

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Thousandths of a percentage point in the KC mid-major algorithm of excellence are all that stand between the Flyers and top billing in the Hope Diamond of mid-major preseason polls.

Anthony Grants team is loaded for bear again on the heels of a 24-11 season that included early wobbles, then consecutive wins over Miami (Elite Eight), Kansas (national champion) and Belmont (25 wins) in the ESPN Events Invitational in Orlando, Florida, then- an eventual trip to the NIT.

Sophomore centerDaRon Holmes IIwill anchor a deep, balanced team that includes fellow all A-10 rookie team memberMalachi Smith(brother of former Flyers standout Scoochie Smith.)

Circle an opening-round date with Wisconsin at the Battle 4 Atlantis -- as well as a possible second-round tilt with Kansas -- not to mention a mid-major steel-cage match against Wyoming in mid-December, as major rsum-building opportunities.

Perennial members of the most exclusive society in sports, the Gaels figure to maintain their Triple-Rhodium Club status in KCs Mid-Major Top 10 this season despite key departures. Tommy Kuhse and Matthias Tass no longer stroll the welcoming footpaths of Moraga, California, but coach Randy Bennett has battle-tested replacements at his disposal.

Logan Johnson, the teams top returning scorer, showed hes poised for a breakout fifth year after pumping in a team-high 21 points in last seasons WCC championship game loss to Gonzaga.Alex Ducasled the 2021-22 Gaels with 67 3s while shooting 39% from deep -- and dont be surprised ifAugustas Marciulionis(son of NBA Hall of Famer Sarunas Marciulionis) becomes the programs next steady point man.

A veritable Monterey Pop Festival lineup of mid-major opponents dots the schedule, including jam sessions with Oral Roberts, Vermont, North Texas, San Diego State and Wyoming! Coach Bennett, on behalf of Mid-Major Nation, we are not worthy.

The Pokes achieved mid-major enlightenment last season, earning an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament a mere two years after winning just nine games. This season, an improvement on their 25-9 record seems as likely as a double-kicker after a spur to the hind quarters.

Graham IkeandHunter Maldonadoare back to, once again, form the best 1-2 combination in mid-major hoops. The duo averaged 38 PPG last season while finishing second in the conference in rebounding (Ike) and assists (Maldonado), respectively. Ike is the Mountain West Preseason Player of the Year.

Coach Jeff Linder also lassoed three Power 5 transfers inMax Agbonkpolo(USC),Ethan Anderson(USC) andJake Kyman(UCLA) to give even more depth to an already deep Cowboys team.

Neutral-site mid-major nonconference bare-knuckle brawlswith Daytonand Saint Marys are merely the undercard to the nightly no-holds-barred fracas that is Mountain West play.

The UAB Blazers defeat the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs to win the Conference USA title.

Much like the bottle service inside KCs -- the most exclusive joint this side of the 40/40 Club -- guard play at the mid-major level is filled with top-shelf brands.Max Abmasat Oral Roberts.Antoine Davisat Detroit-Mercy.Aaron Estradaat Hofstra.Darius McGheeat Liberty.

None are more decorated, nor dazzling, than UAB dynamoJordan Jelly Walker: Conference USAs reigning Player of the Year and the preseason favorite to win the award again this year. Second in Division I in made 3s last season (behind McGhee,) Walker led C-USA in scoring and finished third in assists, while also leading the Blazers to 27 wins, a conference championship and a trip to the NCAA tournament.

Andy Kennedys squad returns serious length up front inKJ BuffenandTrey Jemison, while LSU transferEric Gainesis one of the most impactful defenders in college hoops.

December trips to West Virginia and South Carolina could better resemble John Wick-style takedowns of Power 5s by this mid-major colossus.

Excitement around this Billikens team must be tempered, but its awfully hard not to imagine what could be if things play out as coach Travis Ford dreams. Saint Louis returns the nations top assist man inYuri Collins, a dime dropper who set a school record with 19 in a win over Boston College last season. Collins is an NBA-ready point guard who can also get his -- see his 35-point performance against George Mason, which included the game winner in 2OT.

Still, make no mistake, all eyes will focus on the return ofJavonte Perkins, SLUs top scorer two seasons ago (17.1 PPG) who missed all of last season with a torn ACL.

World-class standing on the guest list of Studio KC awaits a Saint Louis team that must navigate a hellacious nonconference slate (vs. Memphis, at Auburn, at Iona, vs. Boise State, vs. Drake) before dealing with the hellacious challenge of A-10 play. Saddle up.

Lets face it, the end of the 2021-2022 season at Kent State was ugly.

A profane social media post leading to the suspension of four players prior to the MAC championship game -- which ended in a 20-point loss at the hands of Akron -- was not the way anyone drew it up. Coach Rob Senderoff called his players actions really, really, really dumb.

No one is excusing, or running, from what happened.

But its also time to remember what an incredible season Kent State put together: a 12-game win streak (longest for the program in 20 years), 23-11 record, MAC Coach of the Year honors for Senderoff and the evolution ofSincere Carry, thebest player non-KC disciples have never heard of.

Carry averaged 17.9 points and better than 4.5 assists and rebounds per game last year, and he has a chance to do what only three men -- including Ron Harper and Gary Trent -- have done: win MAC Player of the Year twice.

Gio SantiagoandMalique Jacobs-- who combined for better than 30% of the Flashes scoring last season -- should take on even greater roles in 2022-23.

And visits to preseason No. 3 Houston and No. 2 Gonzaga will sharpen iron in Kent, Ohio.

Theres unfinished business along the banks of the Cuyahoga.

No town has embraced this poll, our mission or our world-class credentials quite like Des Moines, Iowa. The heartfelt connection with the upstanding folks of the Hartford of the West is a testament to a shared respect of basketball IQ, mid-major basketball IQ and what separates the KC brand from all imposters.

Which is why were tickled to include Drake among the VIPs inside our elegant velvet ropes.

Coach Darian DeVries & Co. are the preseason favorites to win the restructured Missouri Valley Conference, thanks in part to whats expected fromTucker DeVries. The coachs son, reigning MVC Freshman of the Year and Preseason Player of the Year, could blossom into a superstar in Year 2 -- which is saying something, considering he led Drake in scoring last season.

Steady veteranRoman Pennplayed through a fractured foot last year and should return to the form that saw him lead the Valley in assists as a sophomore and junior. Gas up the RV for roadies to Richmond and Saint Louis as early-season Christmas presents to yourself. Youve earned it.

The snooty Power 5 parvenus view the SoCon as one of the hidden gems in the game. But ask them about the difference between a Keydet and a Catamount, and watch them get exposed faster than an exhibitionist.

True die-hards like us know this league is outstanding. So when a Furman team that camethisclose to an NCAA tournament bid last season is voted preseason favorites, it resonates.

The Paladins are for real, for real.

Coach Bob Richeys team led Division I in 3-pointers last season (401) and finished 13th in 3-point percentage (38%) -- and returns another roster of sharpshooters this season, led by fifth-yearsMike BothwellandJalen Slawson.

An early-season run with Belmont, not to mention the Charleston Classic and a visit to NC State, will serve as sparring rounds before nightly phone-booth fights in the SoCon. Lets get it on.

The city that gave us Anita Baker, Chicago Bears head coach Matt Eberflus and Klinger from M.A.S.H. provides us our No. 10 team in the Transcendent 10, Toledo.

Coach Tod Kowalczyks club has been the Menace of the MAC each of the past two regular seasons, combining to go 32-7 in league play, including last years 17-3 run.

Numerous mentions in last years Column of Ultra-Brilliance helped alert the Golden State Warriors to the talents of Ryan Rollins, whom the Dubs drafted in the second round. How the Rockets fill his void will determine whether they three-peat as regular-season champs.

Seth MillnerandJT Shumatereturn, both seniors, both coming off years in which they averaged 15 PPG.RayJ DennisandRaHeim Mossare back to lead one of the more experienced backcourts in major mid-major ball, while transfer portal additions should provide Kowalczyk much-needed depth. Nothing will be complete until the Rockets cut down the nets in the MAC tournament, but cutting out this inclusion in the KC Top 10 for prominent display on ice boxes across northern Ohio is a tremendous runner-up.

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