College Basketball Preseason: Mid-Majors Rankings for 2012-13
As always, the mid-major scene will be exciting during this college basketball season. Many of the top mid-majors from last year, like Creighton, Ohio, Drexel, Gonzaga and others, return most of their key players, making them able to compete well with larger schools from better conferences.
Now that the college basketball season has returned, here are the top 25 mid-majors in NCAA Division I, based on my own evaluation.
I consider a mid-major to be any team that is not from any of the power six conferences, the Mountain West, Atlantic 10 or Conference USA; so schools like UNLV, San Diego State, Butler and VCU, among others, are not included.
25. Wagner Seahawks
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2011-12 Record: 25-6, 15-3 NEC
After two years under the coaching of Dan Hurley, Wagner went from complete irrelevance to the top of the NEC. Although Hurley left for Rhode Island, former assistant Bashir Mason is expected to continue the winning tradition.
The Seahawks return three starters and most of their bench from last year's 25-win team. Leading the way are Latif Rivers, Jonathon Williams and Kenneth Ortiz.
Rivers and Williams started on the wings and averaged 14.6 and 13.4 points per game, respectively. Ortiz manned the point with 4.3 assists per game. In addition he averaged 8.1 points and 4.5 rebounds.
In the frontcourt, the Seahawks will use a combination of Naofall Folahan, Josh Thompson, Mario Moody and Orlando Parker. None of them played more than 17.5 minutes per game last year, but Folahan and Moody are both primed for breakout seasons in the NEC.
Wagner's one big addition is that of former Michigan State commit Dwaun Anderson. Anderson was Michigan's Mr. Basketball in 2011 and is the front-runner for Newcomer of the Year in the NEC.
24. Iona Gaels
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2011-12 Record: 25-8, 15-3 MAAC
Iona lost a lot of firepower from last year's NCAA Tournament team. Leading scorer Mike Glover, who averaged 18.3 points, nine rebounds and 1.2 blocks while shooting 63.7 percent from the field, graduated, as did Scott Machado, the nation's leading assist man, who posted 13.6 points, 4.9 rebounds and 9.9 assists per game. Among lesser known players, Jermel Jenkins (5.5 points per game) graduated, and Josh Gomez, Ra'Shad James and sharpshooter Kyle Smyth all transferred.
The Gaels return only three players with substantial experience in Division I basketball, but they still will be a top mid-major.
Arizona transfer Momo Jones is ready to take on a much larger role as the club's leader. Last year, Jones averaged 15.7 points and 2.9 assists. He also shot a career-high 35.3 percent from beyond the arc.
Also returning is sharpshooter Sean Armand, who scored 9.5 points per game while making 46.2 percent of his three-pointers. He is among the best shooters in the nation.
In the frontcourt, the Gaels return senior Taaj Ridley. Ridley played only 18.5 minutes per game, but he posted a solid 6.7 points and four rebounds.
Among Iona's notable newcomers are Toledo transfer Curtis Dennis and junior college transfer David Laury. Dennis averaged 11.8 points for the Rockets and will definitely start Iona's opener. Laury is expected to have a huge sophomore season in the Gaels' frontcourt, but he is not eligible until the end of the fall semester.
23. Belmont Bruins
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2011-12 Record: 27-8, 16-2 A-Sun
Belmont may be playing in a different league this year, but the Bruins will remain one of the top mid-majors.
The Bruins have one of the most experienced and talented backcourts at this level. They return two seniors, Kerron Johnson and Ian Clark, and a junior, J.J. Mann.
Johnson led the Bruins in scoring (13.8 ppg), assists (5.2 apg) and steals (1.4 spg) last season. The point guard's breakout junior season saw him score 10 or more points in 28 games. He also had 14 games with six or more assists.
Clark, who played mainly off-ball guard, averaged 12.7 points per game and shot 40.5 percent on three-pointers. As a freshman, he posted nearly 15 points per game, so you know he has the talent to score in high volume.
The Bruins' weak area will be their frontcourt. They lost Scott Saunders and Mick Hedgepeth, so they will have to look to Blake Jenkins, Brandon Baker and Samford transfer Drew Windler to pick up the slack.
Neither Jenkins nor Baker saw a lot of playing time last season, but both showed flashes of talent. Jenkins scored 10 or more points in nine of his final 13 games, and Baker set a career-high with 16 points against Kennesaw State.
Windler gives the Bruins great size a 6'9", but he is not the strong, interior player that they need. He averaged 14.4 points as a sophomore and shot 42.6 percent from beyond the arc, but he only posted 3.8 rebounds and 0.4 blocks.
22. Wichita State Shockers
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2011-12 Record: 27-6, 16-2 MVC
Wichita State returned to the NCAA Tournament as a No. 5 seed last year, but their top five scorers departed. With a mix of transfers and freshmen, Gregg Marshall has reloaded to keep his team in contention in the Missouri Valley.
The Shockers bring in Oregon transfer Malcolm Armstead, who averaged 8.6 points, 4.4 assists and 2.3 steals for the Ducks two seasons ago. Also joining the squad is freshman and top-100 recruit Fred Van Fleet.
Returning to the backcourt is Demetric Williams. In 24.3 minutes per game, Williams posted 5.5 points and 2.3 assists while shooting 35.2 percent from beyond the arc.
The only main frontcourt player Wichita State returns is Carl Hall, a 6'8" forward. Hall averaged 8.4 points and five rebounds and was the team's most efficient scorer, shooting 57.2 percent from the field.
Wichita State's success will heavily depend on how much newcomers in the frontcourt can make an impact. The Shockers add three junior college transfers: Chadrack Lufile, Cleanthony Early and Nick Wiggins.
Early averaged 20.4 points and 11.4 rebounds per game at Sullivan JC, and Wiggins posted 17.3 points at Wabash Valley College.
21. Denver Pioneers
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2011-12 Record: 22-9, 11-5 Sun Belt
Last year, Denver lost by more than seven points only once, which was at then-No. 18 California. With four losses by two points or fewer, the Pioneers were essentially a few lucky bounces away from being 26-5 and possibly going to the NCAA Tournament as an at-large.
Now, the Pioneers return four starters, losing only Brian Stafford and a few other reserves.
They return Chris Udofia, one of the more versatile players in the WAC. Udofia, a 6'6" forward, led Denver in scoring (14.5 ppg) and assists (2.6 apg) last year, and was their second-best rebounder (5.2 rpg). He also led the Pioneers in field-goal percentage at 53.4 percent.
Royce O'Neale will join Udofia in the frontcourt while Brett Olson and Chase Hallam man the backcourt.
O'Neale averaged 9.9 points and 5.8 rebounds. Olson posted 7.6 points and shot 46.2 percent from three-point range, and Hallam averaged 7.5 points, 2.3 assists and a team-best 1.6 steals per game.
20. Akron Zips
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2011-12 Record: 22-12, 13-3 MAC
Akron won the MAC's regular-season title last year, although Ohio defeated the Zips in the conference championship. This year, the Zips return three starters, including 7-footer Zeke Marshall. Marshall was the team's best player last year, leading in scoring (10.4 ppg) , rebounding (5.4 rpg), blocks (2.8 bpg) and field-goal percentage (54.2 percent). He will have a lot of competition for MAC Player of the Year, but he is certainly a candidate for the award.
Supporting him in the frontcourt are Nick Harney, Demetrius Treadwell and Chauncey Gilliam.
None of these three were dominant on their own, but together, with Marshall, they create an extremely strong, balanced frontcourt.
In the backcourt, the Zips will look to junior point guard Alex Abreu. Abreu averaged 9.6 points and 4.8 assists, the fourth-best mark in the MAC.
Akron could also get some help from freshmen Blake Justice and Jake Kretzer. Justice, who redshirted last season, averaged 24.2 points per game in high school, and Kretzer, a 6'7" wing, posted 26.6 points and 10.2 rebounds.
19. Loyola (MD) Greyhounds
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2011-12 Record: 24-9, 13-5 MAAC
Loyola (Md.) had its best season in its history as a Division I school in 2011-12. The Greyhounds set a record with 24 wins and went to their second NCAA Tournament, where they lost to Ohio State in the second round.
Loyola graduated its senior leader, Shane Walker, and was hurt by the surprising transfer of Justin Drummond, who was MAAC Sixth Man of the Year. Drummond was expected to take on a much larger role this year after averaging 10.7 points and 3.9 rebounds as a sophomore.
Still, the Greyhounds return four starters, including All-MAAC first-team selection Erik Etherly. Etherly posted 13.7 points and 7.5 rebounds last year in addition to 1.1 steals and 1.5 blocks.
In the backcourt, they return shooting guards Dylon Cormier and Robert Olson and point guard R.J. Williams. Cormier averaged 13.4 points and 1.6 steals while Olson cemented his reputation as a sharpshooter, making 43.1 percent of his three-point attempts.
Williams, now a sophomore, led the team with 2.6 assists per game. In order to become a top-of-the-line point guard in the MAAC, he will have to improve his scoring. He averaged only four points on 33 percent shooting as a freshman. However, Williams is suspended until mid-January, and his absence will hurt Loyola in non-conference and the beginning of conference play.
Loyola will have plenty of competition in the MAAC with Manhattan, Iona and Siena, but the Greyhounds could end up in back-to-back NCAA Tournaments for the first time in school history.
18. Manhattan Jaspers
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2011-12 Record: 21-13, 12-6 MAAC
Manhattan returned to relevance last year after several losing seasons. The Jaspers had the biggest turnaround in NCAA Division I last year, increasing their win total by 15, and had their first 20-win season since 2005-06.
They return four starters, including George Beamon, who led the MAAC in scoring with 19 points per game last year. Beamon holds the longest active streak in NCAA Division I with 48 consecutive games with 10 or more points.
The Jaspers also return point guard Michael Alvarado and point forward Emmy Andujar, who averaged 3.2 assists apiece last season. Andujar also averaged 8.5 points and 5.7 rebounds, earning All-MAAC Freshman honors. Alvarado averaged 8.5 points and 1.4 steals but missed some key games down the stretch with an eye injury.
In the frontcourt, Manhattan returns Rhamel Brown and Roberto Colonette. Brown was the MAAC Defensive Player of the Year in 2011-12, averaging 2.5 blocks along with 7.9 points and 4.9 rebounds in only 19.1 minutes per game. Colonette, a graduate student, posted 6.3 points, 5.1 rebounds and one block per game.
On the bench, the Jaspers return Donovan Kates, who is expected to have a strong sophomore showing. Kates averaged five points last year and is known for his three-point shooting.
17. Montana Grizzlies
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2011-12 Record: 25-7, 15-1 Big Sky
Montana will have one of the best mid-major backcourts this season. Will Cherry, who could miss the start of the season with a foot injury, is one of the premier point guards at this level. Last season, he averaged 15.8 points, 3.3 assists and 2.6 steals, and a year before he averaged 4.3 assists.
Complementing him is Kareem Jamar. Jamar proved to be one of the most versatile players in the Big Sky last year. The 6'5" guard/forward averaged 13.6 points, 5.6 rebounds and 3.7 assists. In addition, he made 44.1 percent of his three-pointers.
Although the Grizzlies lost two key forwards in Derek Selvig and Art Stewart, they return 6'7" forward Mathias Ward. Although Ward averaged only 3.9 rebounds per game, he scored 10.9 points and shot 53.8 percent from the field.
To complement Ward in the frontcourt, the Grizzlies could look to newcomers Spencer Coleman and Jake Wiley. Coleman averaged 15.1 points and 7.3 rebounds at Eastern Arizona JC, and Wiley posted 24 points and 12 rebounds per game at Newport High School in Washington.
16. Bucknell Bison
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2011-12 Record: 25-10, 12-2 Patriot
Bucknell has been a top-25 mid-major each of the last two years, winning the Patriot League regular-season title both times. This year, the Bison have a shot at a three-peat, although they will have to find a way to take down a very good Lehigh squad. (More on the Mountain Hawks later.)
The Bison return their top four scorers from last season. The only key player they lost is Bryan Cohen, who led the team with 2.5 assists per game. Even though he led the Bison in assists, six players who averaged 1.5 assists or more return.
Among their returners, Mike Muscala stands out the most. Muscala is a potential Patriot League Player of the Year after averaging 17 points, 9.1 rebounds and 1.7 blocks, all team bests, as a junior.
Joe Willman, who averaged 10.7 points and 4.9 rebounds, will complement Muscala up front.
In the backcourt, Bucknell returns Cameron Ayers and Bryson Johnson. Both were among the top three-point shooters in the Patriot League last year, shooting 46.8 percent and 40.6 percent, respectively. Johnson should start at the point while Ayers plays off-ball, but both are capable of being distributors.
The Bison also return a trio of of role players that could be ready to take on bigger responsibilities. Brian Fitzpatrick, a 6'8" junior who transferred from Penn, averaged 3.9 points and 3.4 rebounds while shooting 63.3 percent from the field. Guards Steven Kaspar and Ryan Hill both scored a little more than two points in 16.5 minutes per game.
15. Robert Morris Colonials
2011-12 Record: 26-11, 13-5 NEC
Robert Morris challenged LIU-Brooklyn for the NEC championship last year, but the Colonials fell to the Blackbirds in the conference tournament finals. Now, they return their top seven scorers, including all five starters and everyone who played at least 20 minutes per game. Only one player who played a somewhat significant role last year, Lawrence Bridges, is gone. In 19.9 minutes, he averaged 3.8 points and 3.8 rebounds.
The most notable returnee is Velton Jones, a redshirt senior who averaged a team-best 16 points last year. He also led the Colonials with 4.5 points and 1.8 assists per game. He was also one of the more explosive players in the NEC, putting up 25 or more points on four different occasions.
Also returning in the backcourt are Coron Williams, Lucky Jones and Anthony Myers. Williams put up 10.8 points per game last season and was Robert Morris' best three-point shooter at 41 percent. Jones, a guard/forward hybrid, averaged 8.5 points and 6.1 rebounds during his rookie season, and Myers posted 6.2 points and three assists per game.
In the frontcourt, the Colonials bring back Russell Johnson, Mike McFadden and Lijah Thompson. Johnson averaged 8.5 points and 5.7 rebounds. He struggled with foul trouble, finishing 13 games with four or more fouls.
McFadden, an Iona transfer, posted 8.4 points and 4.3 rebounds per game, and Thompson's numbers dropped slightly from his sophomore season, falling to 7.3 points and 4.2 boards per game.
14. LIU-Brooklyn Blackbirds
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2011-12 Record: 25-9, 16-2 NEC
LIU-Brooklyn dodged a serious problem when four players who were arrested and charged with third-degree assault, including its three leading scorers, were reinstated to the program with only a two-game suspension.
Now that they will have a full team for basically the entire 2012-13 season, the Blackbirds are once again the best team in the NEC and one of the best mid-majors in the country.
Most of these LIU players already have loads of winning experience. Seven players have already experienced two NEC titles and NCAA Tournament appearances. This year, the Blackbirds are the favorite to go dancing for the third straight year, and here's why:
They return their top four scorers in NEC Player of the Year Julian Boyd, Jamal Olasewere, C.J. Garner and Jason Brickman. Boyd and Olasewere are arguably the top two players in the NEC, and Brickman is easily the best point guard in the conference. In fact, he is the nation's second-best returning player with 7.3 assists per game.
To fill the void left by the graduated Michael Culpo, LIU can go to seniors Kenny Onyechi and Brandon Thompson.
The one big change for LIU this year is on the sidelines. Jim Ferry, who built the program, left for Duquesne, and Jack Perri, who served as an assistant under Ferry for many years, was promoted. Having the continuity of a coach who has been involved with the program is helpful, but there is always room for disappointment with a first-year head coach.
13. Delaware Blue Hens
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2011-12 Record: 18-14, 12-6 CAA
Delaware made huge improvements last season, winning 18 games and advancing to the CBI. The 2012-13 team will be the best of the Monte Ross era, as the Blue Hens return their five leading scorers and are widely regarded as a top-three team in the CAA.
The Blue Hens' two most notable players are Devon Saddler and Jamelle Hagins.
Saddler, who was No. 2 in the conference in scoring last season with 19.1 points per game, is one of the best pure scorers at the mid-major level. He scored less than 10 points only twice last season. His only issue was his low field-goal percentage of 39.1 percent. As a freshman, Saddler scored 13.3 points per game on 46.9-percent shooting.
Hagins is the best big man in the CAA and one of the best on any mid-major team. He averaged a double-double last year with 12.4 points and 11.1 rebounds. In addition, he posted three blocks per game and shot 54.8 percent from the field.
The Blue Hens also return Jarvis Threatt (10.7 points per game), Kyle Anderson (8.9) and Josh Brinkley (8.7).
12. Brigham Young Cougars
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2011-12 Record: 26-9, 12-4 WCC
Once Brigham Young made the transition from the Mountain West to the WCC, everyone knew it would be a perennial, mid-major power. The Cougars went to the NCAA Tournament last year with an at-large bid, and this year they should be back for more.
Although they graduated Noah Hartsock, their leading scorer with 16.8 points per game, and Charles Abouo, who averaged 11 points and 6.2 rebounds, they return three very good starters.
Point guard Matt Carlino is back, as are forward Brandon Davies and guard/forward Brock Zylstra.
As a redshirt freshman, Carlino burst onto the scene by posting 12.2 points and 4.6 assists per game. Although he and Jimmer Fredette play very differently, the comparisons are bound to start popping up once Carlino gets more exposure.
Davies, who made national headlines with his suspension two years ago, averaged 15.2 points, 7.7 rebounds and 2.1 assists. He was also the Cougars' best defender with 1.5 steals and 1.3 blocks per game.
Zylstra averaged 8.3 points and 4.3 rebounds. He was also Brigham Young's best three-point shooter at 37.6 percent.
11. Saint Mary's Gaels
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2011-12 Record: 27-6, 14-2 WCC
It will be interesting to see how Saint Mary's recovers from the losses of forward Rob Jones and sharpshooting small forward Clint Steindl. Jones was one of the most dominant big men on the West Coast last year with 15 points, 10.8 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game, and Steindl averaged 7.9 points and made 42 percent of his three-point attempts.
The Gaels return three starters, most notably point guard Matthew Dellavedova. Dellavedova averaged 15.5 points and 6.4 assists last year. He has the potential to lead the nation in assists this year.
In the backcourt, the Gaels also return Stephen Holt and Jorden Page. Holt improved his all-around game last year, averaging 10.1 points, 4.7 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 1.8 steals while improving his three-point shooting to 37.5 percent. Page also had a strong sophomore showing with eight points and 2.3 assists per game.
There is no question that the Gaels have a great backcourt, but it is tough to tell if they have what it takes in the frontcourt.
They will have to rely on sophomore Brad Waldow and senior Mitchell Young up front. Waldow had a great rookie season with 8.1 points and 4.4 rebounds per game. He also shot 66.7 percent from the field. Young, however, had a disappointing junior season after averaging 10.2 points and 5.1 rebounds the year before.
10. Murray State Racers
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2011-12 Record: 31-2, 15-1 OVC
Murray State returns two starters from last year's team that lost only once in the regular season, including potential All-American guard Isaiah Canaan.
Canaan, the well-known star of the Racers, had a breakout junior season and averaged 19 points, 3.5 rebounds and 3.6 assists. In addition, he shot 46.8 percent from the field and 45.6 percent from beyond the arc. He scored as many as 36 points in a single game last year.
The other returning starter in Ed Daniel, a defensive stalwart who averaged 6.8 points, 5.5 rebounds and 1.5 blocks as a junior and shot 57.8 percent from the field.
The Racers were dealt a preseason blow with the suspension of Zay Jackson after he allegedly hit people with his car. Jackson, a sophomore, averaged 4.9 points and 2.3 assists last year and was expected to replace some of Donte Poole and Jewuan Long's production. As of now, he is suspended indefinitely.
Helping Daniel in the frontcourt are Latreze Mushatt and Stacy Wilson. Mushatt averaged 4.3 points and 4.8 rebounds last season, and Wilson posted 4.3 points.
There was already speculation that Murray State might have been overrated last season, and now the Racers are without four key players from last year in Jackson, Poole, Long and forward Ivan Aska. Their status as a top-of-the-line mid-major is partially in question, and we'll have to see how the Racers fare in early-season games at the Charleston Classic.
9. Northern Iowa Panthers
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2011-12 Record: 20-14, 9-9 MVC
After an uneventful 2010-11 season, Northern Iowa rebounded with an NIT appearance in 2011-12. This season, the Panthers are expected to produce much more. They are definitely a sleeper because of all the hype surrounding Creighton, but they surely have the talent to compete with the Bluejays.
Northern Iowa lost one starter in Johnny Moran, who averaged 7.5 points and 3.1 rebounds, but everyone else who started a game in 2011-12 is back.
Anthony James, the team's leading scorer, is suspended for the first three games of the season, but once he returns and the team is at full force, Northern Iowa becomes a team that could eventually crack the top five of this list.
In addition to James, the Panthers return Marc Sonnen, Deon Mitchell and Matt Morrison in the backcourt. Sonnen and Mitchell averaged 1.7 assists apiece, and Morrison contributed 3.4 points in 11.8 minutes per game.
Up front, they return Seth Tuttle and Jake Koch.
Tuttle, a sophomore, showed some signs of immaturity as a freshman, but you could tell he is going to become one of the better bigs in the Missouri Valley. As a rookie, he averaged 9.6 points and a team-best 5.6 rebounds.
Koch, whose brother Adam started on the Northern Iowa team that went to the Sweet 16 in 2010, averaged 8.5 points, 5.4 rebounds and a team-best 2.7 assists last season.
8. North Texas Mean Green
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2011-12 Record: 18-14, 9-7 Sun Belt
Sophomore stud Tony Mitchell is the main reason why North Texas has gained national attention this year, but there is more to the Mean Green than one player.
Along with Mitchell, North Texas returns its top seven players from last year, including all five starters.
In the backcourt, the Mean Green returns Chris Jones, Jordan Williams, Alzee Williams and Brandon Walton.
Just like Mitchell, Jones and Jordan Williams missed half of last season. Once Jones was eligible, he averaged 14.1 points, 4.7 rebounds, 4.3 assists and 2.4 steals.
When all three became eligible, North Texas went 14-9, a 60.9 winning percentage compared to 56 percent for the entire season. Getting the entire team on the floor from the start will be important, as it will help the team build its chemistry and be at full force early on.
Walton was the team's best and only competent three-point shooter last year at 36.7 percent. He, as well as the rest of the team, will have to improve this area of their game in order to create a more balanced offensive attack.
In the frontcourt, North Texas returns Roger Franklin and Jacob Holmen, along with Mitchell. Franklin and Holmen add solid depth, but Mitchell is obviously the team's main big. Last season, he averaged 14.7 points, 10.3 rebounds and three blocks.
7. Davidson Wildcats
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2011-12 Record: 25-8, 16-2 SoCon
Davidson became famous with Stephen Curry and the school's Elite Eight run in the 2008 NCAA Tournament. Last year, the Wildcats returned to the NCAA Tournament but fell to Louisville in their first game. But they should get another shot at a postseason win this year.
Everybody who averaged more than seven minutes per game is returning, including the Wildcats' eight best scorers.
Leading the pack is NBA prospect De'Mon Brooks. Brooks had team-bests of 15.7 points, 6.2 rebounds and one steal per game. He was also Davidson's most efficient scorer at 53 percent from the field. He did all this while playing only 22.8 minutes per game.
Joining Brooks in the frontcourt are seniors Jake Cohen and Chris Mann. Cohen was the team's second-best player with 14.3 points, 6.1 rebounds and a team-best 1.7 blocks per game. At 6'10", he has the ability to step out and make 36.6 percent of his three-point attempts. Mann, who was more of a role player last season, averaged 5.7 points and three rebounds.
In the backcourt, the Wildcats return Nik Cochran, J.P. Kuhlman, Chris Czerapowicz, Tyler Kalinoski and Tom Droney. Cochran, Kuhlman and Czerapowicz should all start, as all had a scoring average in double-figures last year.
6. South Dakota State Jackrabbits
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2011-12 Record: 27-8, 15-3 Summit
South Dakota State went to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in school history last year, but the Jackrabbits hopes of a Cinderella story ended with a 68-60 loss to No. 3 seed Baylor in the second round.
The Jackrabbits graduated Griffin Callahan, their starting shooting guard who averaged 10.4 points and 4.7 rebounds while shooting better than 40 percent from beyond the arc, but they return their four other starters.
Most notably, they return All-Summit League first-team selection Nate Wolters and second-team selection Jordan Dykstra.
Wolters made national headlines last season as the only player to average more than 20 points, five rebounds and five assists. He also swiped 1.7 steals per game and shot a solid 44.8 percent from the field. The big question mark surrounding his game was his three-point shooting, which fell from 40.8 percent as a sophomore to 24.1 percent as a junior.
Dykstra was No. 2 on the team with 11.3 points per game. He also grabbed 4.9 boards per game and shot 51.2 percent from the field and 47.3 percent on three-pointers.
The Jackrabbits also return four other players who were key to last year's success.
Chad White and Tony Fiegen will help out Dykstra in the frontcourt. White averaged 9.3 points and shot 47.2 percent on treys, and Fiegen posted seven points and 3.9 rebounds.
In the backcourt, they have Brayden Carlson and Taevaunn Prince. Carlson has the ability to play both point guard and shooting guard. He averaged 7.3 points and 2.5 assists while shooting 46.1 percent from beyond the arc. Meanwhile, Prince scored 6.5 points and 3.4 rebounds in just 15.8 minutes per game.
5. Lehigh Mountain Hawks
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2011-12 Record: 27-8, 11-3 Patriot
C.J. McCollum got Lehigh on the map with an NCAA Tournament upset over No. 2 seed Duke, but now he and his Mountain Hawks are back for more in 2012-13. The Mountain Hawks return four starters, losing only Jordan Hamilton, John Adams and Justin Maneri from the rotation.
McCollum is undoubtedly the team's star. He averaged 21.9 points, 6.5 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 2.6 steals last season, shooting 44.3 percent from the field and 34.1 percent from beyond the arc. He has already won the Patriot League of the Year award twice, and he could become Lehigh's all-time leading scorer this year.
He will be joined by junior Mackey McKnight in the backcourt. McKnight had a great sophomore season with 8.8 points and 3.6 assists per game. He also upped his shooting percentage to 43.5 after posting a 33.7 percent mark as a freshman.
In the frontcourt, the Mountain Hawks have Gabe Knutson and Holden Greiner. Knutson averaged 12.2 points and 5.6 rebounds for Lehigh last year. In the NCAA Tournament, he averaged 14 points and seven boards. Greiner averaged 9.4 points and 4.8 rebounds.
Lastly, Lehigh adds freshman Devon Carter. Although it is very difficult to tell how much of an impact a freshman will have, Carter clearly has great potential.
Lehigh will be a veteran team this year, which is always important for a mid-major. The Mountain Hawks have winning experience in the NCAA Tournament, and they will start at least four upperclassmen.
4. Drexel Dragons
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2011-12 Record: 29-7, 16-2 CAA
Drexel was arguably robbed of an NCAA Tournament bid after losing in the CAA Tournament, but luckily the Dragons will get a second chance this year. The Dragons return four starters, losing only forward Samme Givens, who averaged 11.6 points and 7.9 rebounds.
Once again, the Dragons' backcourt will be very deep, returning Frantz Massenat, Damion Lee, Chris Fouch and Derrick Thomas.
Massenat led Drexel in scoring and assists with 13.7 points and 4.8 assists per game. He also had 3.1 rebounds per game and shot 45 percent from beyond the arc.
Lee averaged 12 points and 4.4 boards while draining 63 of 168 three-pointers for a 37.5 conversion rate. He emerged immediately as an offensive force and won CAA Rookie of the Year. Fouch averaged 10.8 points and led the team with 65 made three-pointers, and Thomas posted 8.1 points and 2.1 assists per game.
In the frontcourt, Drexel will most likely start Dartaye Ruffin and Darryl McCoy. Ruffin averaged 5.6 points and 4.9 rebounds and McCoy posted 4.3 points and 6.7 boards.
Head coach Bruiser Flint has turned Drexel into a very good program over the last 11 years, but he has never taken the Dragons to the NCAA Tournament. This is the year that his team will get over the hump and do something special.
3. Ohio Bobcats
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2011-12 Record: 29-8, 11-5 MAC
Ohio became a national sensation last year, advancing to the Sweet 16 and nearly upsetting No. 1 seed North Carolina, and the Bobcats should only get better. They return their top nine scorers from last season, or, in other words, everyone who played a legitimate role in last year's NCAA Tournament run.
The Bobcats will be able to go with the same starting lineup as last year if they want: D.J. Cooper, Walter Offutt, Nick Kellogg, Ivo Baltic and Jon Smith.
Cooper, who is the best point guard in the MAC, was the team's star with 14.7 points, 5.7 assists and 2.3 steals per game. Last year, he posted a triple-double against Portland with 14 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists. He also had five steals in that game.
Offutt and Kellogg both played off-ball guard. Offutt was No. 2 in scoring with 12.4 points per game. He shot 45 percent from the field and 38.1 percent from deep. Kellogg averaged nine points per game and led Ohio in three-point shooting, making 85 treys at a 42.7 percent clip.
In the frontcourt, the Bobcats started Ivo Baltic and Jon Smith. Baltic averaged 8.7 points and five rebounds and Smith posted 3.6 points, 4.5 rebounds and 1.2 blocks.
Off the bench, they used Reggie Keely, who averaged nine points and four rebounds, and T.J. Hall, who had 3.8 points in 12 minutes per game.
This is a group of players that knows how to win, but the big question surrounds the new coach. John Groce, who led Ohio to three NCAA Tournament wins in his four years, is now at Illinois, and in his place is former Texas Christian coach Jim Christian. Christian was very successful at Kent State, but his TCU teams struggled over the last four years.
2. Gonzaga Bulldogs
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2011-12 Stats: 26-7, 13-3 WCC
Gonzaga once again went to the NCAA Tournament last year, and the Zags return four of last year's starters.
Sophomores Kevin Pangos and Gary Bell Jr. head the backcourt after both had successful freshman campaigns. Pangos led the team in scoring and assists with 13.6 points and 3.4 dimes per game. He also had 1.2 steals per game and shot better than 40 percent from three-point range. Bell Jr. scored 10.4 points per game and was the Bulldogs' best long-range shooter in terms of percentage at 47.7 percent.
The Zags will also get backcourt contributions from David Stockton, son of Hall of Fame point guard John Stockton. Stockton averaged 3.7 points and 2.4 assists last year while shooting 39.2 percent on three-pointers.
In the frontcourt, the Bulldogs have Elias Harris, Sam Dower and Guy Landry Edi.
After a disappointing sophomore year, Harris returned for an exceptional junior season. He posted 13.1 points per game along with 8.5 rebounds. His overall shooting percentage fell to a still solid 50.2 percent, but his three-point shooting improved to 41.4 percent.
Dower had a very strong sophomore year with 8.3 points, 3.7 rebounds and 53.8 shooting, and Edi played well in his first year at the Division I level with 5.5 points per game.
This is Mark Few's best team in a few years, and the Zags have a legitimate shot at the Elite Eight.
1. Creighton Bluejays
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2011-12 Record: 29-6, 14-4 MVC
Creighton cemented its name among mid-major powers with its 29-win 2011-12 season. The Bluejays finished No. 2 in the MVC and advanced to the third round of the NCAA Tournament, where they lost to No. 1 seed North Carolina.
The Bluejays return four starters, although the loss of Antoine Young is a big one. Young averaged 12.1 points, two rebounds and 4.5 assists, but senior Grant Gibbs will be able to pick up a lot of the slack. Gibbs averaged seven points, 4.5 rebounds and five assists last year while shooting 36.7 percent on three-pointers.
Of course, Creighton's most notable player is junior Doug McDermott. McDermott chose to return to school after averaging 22.9 points and 8.2 rebounds. The 6'7" forward also made 48.6 percent of his triples. He is possibly the most talented player at the mid-major level and will be the key to Creighton's success.
The Bluejays also have Gregory Echenique and Ethan Wragge in the frontcourt. Echenique posted 9.7 points, 7.3 rebounds and 1.6 blocks per game last year and shot better than 60 percent from the field. During his sophomore campaign, Wragge scored 6.6 points and shot 41 percent from deep.
The Bluejays other key returnees are guards Jahenns Manigat and Josh Jones. Both proved themselves as sharpshooters last year, making 46.8 percent and 42.3 percent of their three-pointers, respectively.
Just like last year, Creighton has a bunch of very good teams on its non-conference schedule. Games against North Texas, St. Joe's, Akron and California will provide a good measuring stick for how deep the Bluejays could go in March.
Expect huge things from McDermott and Co. this season.
Other Mid-Majors to Keep an Eye on
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Long Beach State
North Dakota State