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Preseason Mid-Major Top 25: October 16 Edition

Jesse KramerCorrespondent IOctober 16, 2011

Preseason Mid-Major Top 25: October 16 Edition

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    Here are the top 25 mid-major teams in college basketball based off my own evaluation. Once the season starts, the rankings will be based off of results to that point in the season. However, for the preseason rankings, I am using my own speculation for how each team will perform in the 2011-12 season.

    I consider a mid-major team to be any team that is not from any of the six power conferences, the Mountain West, Atlantic 10 or C-USA.

    Enjoy.

     

    *Also check out my list of 10 mid-majors to look out for.

     

    **Follow Jesse Kramer on Twitter @Jesse_Kramer for more college basketball news and info.

25. South Dakota State Jackrabbits

2 of 26

    2010-11 Record: 19-12, 10-8 Summit

    South Dakota State had a lot of talent on last year's team, but the Jackrabbits never found a consistent groove. This year, the Jackrabbits return star point guard Nate Wolters and budding sophomore Jordan Dykstra. Wolters, an all-Summit League first team member in 2010-11, finished second in the conference in scoring last year while leading the conference in assists. He was No. 28 in the nation in scoring last season.

    Key Players: Nate Wolters, Jordan Dykstra, Griffan Callahan

    Key OOC Games: Minnesota (Road), Georgia (Road), Nebraska (Road), Washington (Road)

     

    **Follow Jesse Kramer on Twitter @Jesse_Kramer for more college basketball news and info.

24. Lehigh Mountain Hawks

3 of 26

    2010-11 Record: 16-15, 6-8 Patriot

    Lehigh had plenty of struggles last season. With the talent that the Mountain Hawks possess between C.J. McCollum and Gabe Knutson, they have the potential to be one of the top mid-majors in the 2011-12 season.

    Key Players: C.J. McCollum, Gabe Knutson, Mackey McKnight

    Key OOC Games: St. John's (Road), Michigan State (Road)

     

    **Follow Jesse Kramer on Twitter @Jesse_Kramer for more college basketball news and info.

23. Ohio Bobcats

4 of 26

    2010-11 Record: 19-16, 9-7 MAC

    Two years ago, Ohio shocked the nation first by winning the MAC tournament and then defeating No. 3 seed Georgetown in the NCAA tournament. After a very mediocre 2010-11 season, the Bobcats have a chance to be relevant once more in 2011-12. Junior D.J. Cooper is one of the best guards at the mid-major level. Last year, Cooper just missed out on a quadruple-double with 43 points, 13 assists, eight steals and eight rebounds against Saint Bonaventure.

    Key Players: D.J. Cooper, Ivo Baltic

    Key OOC Games: Louisville (Road)

     

    **Follow Jesse Kramer on Twitter @Jesse_Kramer for more college basketball news and info.

22. Bucknell Bison

5 of 26

    2010-11 Record: 25-9, 13-1 Patriot

    Bucknell dominated the Patriot League last season and made an appearance in the NCAA tournament. However, the Bison went down early with a second-round loss to No. 3 seed Connecticut. In 2011-12, the Bison return Mike Muscala, the key to their success last season. Muscala's supporting cast will have to show up strong in 2011-12 for the Bison to build on their success from last year.

    Key Players: Mike Muscala, Bryson Johnson

    Key OOC Games: Vanderbilt (Road), Princeton (Home), George Mason (Road), Richmond (Home), Syracuse (Road)

     

    **Follow Jesse Kramer on Twitter @Jesse_Kramer for more college basketball news and info.

21. Weber State Wildcats

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    2010-11 Record: 18-14, 11-5 Big Sky

    The Wildcats finished in third place in the Big Sky last season and earned a bid to the CBI tournament, where they lost in the first round to eventual champion Oregon. Weber State returns leading scorer Damian Lillard, who missed a large chunk of last season with a foot injury. 

    Key Players: Damian Lillard, Scott Bamforth, Kyle Bullinger

    Key OOC Games: BYU (Road), California (Road)

     

    **Follow Jesse Kramer on Twitter @Jesse_Kramer for more college basketball news and info.

20. Kent State Golden Flashes

7 of 26

    2010-11 Record: 25-12, 12-4 MAC

    Kent State was a strong mid-major last year, winning the MAC regular season title and advancing to the NIT quarterfinals. The Golden Flashes lost Rodriguez Sherman, but the only main pieces of last year's team are returning. 

    Key Players: Justin Greene, Michael Porrini, Carlton Guyton

    Key OOC Games: West Virginia (Road), UAB (Home)

     

    **Follow Jesse Kramer on Twitter @Jesse_Kramer for more college basketball news and info.

19. Fairfield Stags

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    2010-11 Record: 25-8, 15-3 MAAC

    Fairfield received preseason attention last year, but the Stags did not quite live up to the hype in 2010-11 with star guard Derek Needham hitting a sophomore slump. But that doesn't mean you should count the Stags out in 2011-12. Needham will be back, alongside Boston College transfer Rakim Sanders and incoming freshman Adam Jones, looking to repeat as MAAC champions.

    Key Players: Derek Needham, Rakim Sanders, Adam Jones

    Key OOC Games: Minnesota (Road), Old Spice Classic (Neutral), Connecticut (Road)

     

    **Follow Jesse Kramer on Twitter @Jesse_Kramer for more college basketball news and info.

18. Princeton Tigers

9 of 26

    2010-11 Record: 25-7, 12-2 Ivy

    The Ivy League is set to have another strong year between Princeton and Harvard. The Tigers lost Dan Mavraides, but juniors Douglas Davis and Ian Hummer will be back to lead the way. 

    Key Players: Ian Hummer, Douglas Davis

    Key OOC Games: Rutgers (Road), Drexel (Road), Florida State (Road)

     

    **Follow Jesse Kramer on Twitter @Jesse_Kramer for more college basketball news and info.

17. George Mason Patriots

10 of 26

    2010-11 Record: 27-7, 16-2 CAA

    George Mason is entering a new era with former Georgia Tech coach Paul Hewitt. Looking to follow up a CAA championship, there will be a lot of pressure on this talented George Mason squad. The Patriots lost two of their three leading scorers from last season, but there is still plenty of talent for Hewitt to work with.

    Key Players: Ryan Pearson, Erik Copes, Andre Cornelius

    Key OOC Games: NIT Season Tip-Off (Neutral), Virginia (Road)

     

    **Follow Jesse Kramer on Twitter @Jesse_Kramer for more college basketball news and info.

16. Detroit Titans

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    2010-11 Record: 17-16, 10-8 Horizon

    Detroit looked like it had a strong chance to overtake Butler in the Horizon League this year. However, Indiana transfer Eli Holman is currently on a leave of absence from the team. Although the Titans are still a solid group without him, they will be a step away from elite mid-major status until Holman returns.

    Key Players: Ray McCallum, Eli Holman, Chase Simon, Nick Minnerath

    Key OOC Games: CBE Classic (Neutral), St. John's (Home), Mississippi State (Home)

     

    **Follow Jesse Kramer on Twitter @Jesse_Kramer for more college basketball news and info.

15. Montana Grizzlies

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    2010-11 Record: 21-11, 12-4 Big Sky

    Two years ago, Montana went to the NCAA tournament. Last year, the Grizzlies earned a spot in the CBI. This coming year, the Grizzlies could be back to NCAA tournament material. Will Cherry is one of the best young guards at the mid-major level and could lead the Grizzlies to doing a lot of damage in the Big Sky Conference.

    Key Players: Will Cherry, Derek Selvig, Art Steward

    Key OOC Games: Long Beach State (Home)

     

    **Follow Jesse Kramer on Twitter @Jesse_Kramer for more college basketball news and info.

14. Old Dominion Monarchs

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    2010-11 Record: 27-7, 14-4 CAA

    Old Dominion lost a lot of talent after last year, but doesn't mean the Monarchs won't be good this year with a good coach like Blaine Taylor. The key to the Monarchs success will be how Kent Bazemore performs after injuring his foot over the summer.

    Key Players: Kent Bazemore, Jason Pimentel

    Key OOC Games: Hall of Fame tournament (Neutral), Richmond (Road), Missouri (Home) 

     

    **Follow Jesse Kramer on Twitter @Jesse_Kramer for more college basketball news and info.

13. VCU Rams

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    2010-11 Record: 28-12, 12-6 CAA

    Shaka Smart and Co. shocked the nation last year by taking VCU to the Final Four as a No. 11 seed. However, the Rams lost 61 percent of the team's scoring from last year. Unlike last year, when the Rams had a handful of threats, they will most likely rely a lot more on Bradford Burgess this year.

    Key Players: Bradford Burgess, Teddy Okereafor, Rob Brandenberg

    Key OOC Games: Charleston Classic (Neutral), Alabama (Road), Richmond (Home)

     

    **Follow Jesse Kramer on Twitter @Jesse_Kramer for more college basketball news and info.

12. St. Mary's Gaels

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    2010-11 Record: 25-9, 11-3 WCC

    A lot of people are giving up on St. Mary's this year due to the loss of Mickey McConnell. However, the Gaels return everyone else who played more than 10 MPG last season. The Gaels will still have a lot of three-point threats, just like last year. Although the WCC will be tougher than it was last year, St. Mary's will still be in the mix in 2011-12.

    Key Players: Matthew Dellavedova, Rob Jones, Mitchell Young

    Key OOC Games: Baylor (Neutral)

     

    **Follow Jesse Kramer on Twitter @Jesse_Kramer for more college basketball news and info.

11. Creighton Bluejays

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    2010-11 Record: 23-16, 10-8 MVC

    Creighton had a quiet but good season last year. The Bluejays won 23 games and were one game away from winning a CBI championship against Oregon.

    Nearly all of this Creighton team will be back this year, minus Kenny Lawson Jr. The MVC will most likely come down to the Bluejays and the Wichita State Shockers.

    Key Players: Doug McDermott, Gregory Echenique, Antoine Young

    Key OOC Games: San Diego State (Road), Nebraska (Home), Northwestern (Home)

     

    **Follow Jesse Kramer on Twitter @Jesse_Kramer for more college basketball news and info.

10. Santa Clara Broncos

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    2010-11 Record: 24-14, 8-6 WCC

    Santa Clara was overshadowed by Gonzaga and St. Mary's in the WCC last season. The Broncos put together a very strong season, going 24-14 and winning a CIT championship. 

    The Broncos return their three leading scorers, including Kevin Foster, the WCC leading scorer from a year ago. With support from Evan Roquemore and Marc Trasolini, Santa Clara could make some noise in the WCC this year.

    Key Players: Kevin Foster, Evan Roquemore, Marc Trasolini

    Key OOC Games: 76 Classic (Neutral), Washington State (Road)

     

    **Follow Jesse Kramer on Twitter @Jesse_Kramer for more college basketball news and info.

9. Belmont Bruins

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    2010-11 Record: 30-5, 19-1 A-Sun

    Belmont picked up its first 30-win season in school history. After a disappointing loss in their first NCAA tournament game, the Bruins look to do more damage this year.

    They return all players but one that averaged more than 15 minutes of playing time per game last year, including the three leading scorers from last year. 

    Although Belmont plays in a relatively easy conference in the Atlantic Sun, it will start the season off with a bang, opening the season with games against Memphis and Duke. 

    Key Players: Ian Clark, Mick Hedgepeth, Scott Saunders

    Key OOC Games: Duke (Road, Maui Invitational), Memphis (Road, Maui Invitational)

     

    **Follow Jesse Kramer on Twitter @Jesse_Kramer for more college basketball news and info.

8. Iona Gaels

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    2010-11 Record: 25-12, 13-5 MAAC

    Iona returns all the key components to last year's CIT runner-up squad. Mike Glover and Scott Machado are both candidates for MAAC Player of the Year, and the Gaels could also have Lamont "MoMo" Jones on their team, pending a hardship waiver from the NCAA.

    With or without Jones, Iona will still be one of the top mid-majors in college basketball in 2011-12.

    Key Players: Mike Glover, Scott Machado, Momo Jones, Kyle Smyth

    Key OOC Games: Puerto Rico Tip-Off (Neutral), Richmond (Road)

     

    **Follow Jesse Kramer on Twitter @Jesse_Kramer for more college basketball news and info.

7. Harvard Crimson

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    2010-11 Record: 23-7, 12-2 Ivy

    Although Harvard could get some fight from Princeton, it is the clear favorite in the Ivy League this year. Harvard fell one point short of an Ivy League championship last year, and that was with a team that had no seniors and only three upperclassmen in total.

    The Crimson return all six players that averaged more than nine points per game last season, plus it will have the addition of a very strong incoming class, led by center Kenyatta Smith.

    Smith was ranked No. 17 among centers in this incoming class, and he could do some immediate damage in the Ivy League.

    Key Players: Keith Wright, Christian Webster, Brandyn Curry

    Key OOC Games: Battle 4 Atlantis (Neutral), Connecticut (Road), Boston College (Road)

     

    **Follow Jesse Kramer on Twitter @Jesse_Kramer for more college basketball news and info.

6. BYU Cougars

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    2010-11 Record: 32-5, 14-2 MWC

    BYU will certainly not be as good as it was last year. But that doesn't mean that the Cougars won't have a good team. 

    BYU returns Brandon Davies, Noah Hartstock, and Charles Abouo to lead the team. However, even with three good players like those, the Cougars will still have to find a way to replace Jimmer Fredette and Jackson Emery.

    Key Players: Noah Hartstock, Brandon Davies, Charles Abouo

    Key OOC Games: Baylor (Home), Virginia Tech (Road)

     

    **Follow Jesse Kramer on Twitter @Jesse_Kramer for more college basketball news and info.

5. Butler Bulldogs

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    2010-11 Record: 28-10, 13-5 Horizon

    The Butler Bulldogs lost their two leading scorers from last season, Matt Howard and Shelvin Mack. This year, Butler will rely on players who were solely role players last year. These guys will have to step up in order for Butler to be a top mid-major once more.

    Key Players: Andrew Smith, Ronald Nored, Khyle Marshall

    Key OOC Games: Louisville (Home), Xavier (Home), Purdue (Neutral), Gonzaga (Road)

     

    **Follow Jesse Kramer on Twitter @Jesse_Kramer for more college basketball news and info.

4. Drexel Dragons

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    2010-11 Record: 21-10, 11-7 CAA

    Drexel was overshadowed in the CAA last year by George Mason, VCU and Old Dominion. The CAA will be a slightly easier conference this year, and that will play right into Drexel's hands. The Dragons return 84 percent of their scoring, losing only one key player.

    Unfortunately, Drexel will not have the chance to make a lot of noise in non-conference play, with its toughest games coming against Fairfield and Princeton. 

    Key Players: Chris Fouch, Samme Givens, Dartaye Ruffin  

    Key OOC Games: Paradise Jam (Neutral), Princeton (Home)

     

    **Follow Jesse Kramer on Twitter @Jesse_Kramer for more college basketball news and info.

3. Long Beach State 49ers

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    2010-11 Record: 22-12, 14-2 Big West

    The Long Beach State 49ers return their three-headed monster made up of T.J. Robinson, Casper Ware and Larry Anderson. This trio averaged over 45 PPG last season, and it will most likely have improved over the summer.

    Long Beach State will not have a lot of competition in the Big West, but it will get plenty of chances to show off its skill set in non-conference play. 

    Key Players: Casper Ware, T.J. Robinson, Larry Anderson

    Key OOC Games: Pittsburgh (Road), Louisville (Road), Kansas (Road), UNC (Road), Diamond Head Classic (Neutral)

     

    **Follow Jesse Kramer on Twitter @Jesse_Kramer for more college basketball news and info.

2. Wichita State Shockers

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    2010-11 Record: 29-8, 14-4 MVC

    Wichita State is fresh off a NIT championship. The Shockers return five of their six leading scorers from last season. 

    They have a strong 1-2 punch in the backcourt with Toure' Murry and David Kyles that could give a lot of teams in the MVC trouble.

    Key Players: Toure' Murry, Garrett Stutz, David Kyles

    Key OOC Games: Puerto Rico Tip-Off (Neutral), UNLV (Home)

     

    **Follow Jesse Kramer on Twitter @Jesse_Kramer for more college basketball news and info.

1. Gonzaga Bulldogs

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    2010-11 Record: 25-10, 11-3 WCC

    Although Stephen Gray departed Gonzaga after last season, the Bulldogs still have a very good group of players for the 2011-12 season. They will rely heavily on Robert Sacre and Elias Harris in the frontcourt while sophomore David Stockton will most likely be the starting point guard.

    Key Players: Robert Sacre, Elias Harris, Gary Bell Jr.

    Key OOC Games: Notre Dame (Home), Illinois (Road), Michigan State (Home), Arizona (Home), Butler (Home)

     

    **Follow Jesse Kramer on Twitter @Jesse_Kramer for more college basketball news and info.

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