The countdown to the 2022-23 faculty basketball season has begun. As we draw nearer to tipoff on Monday, Nov. 7, ESPN’s panel of consultants of Jeff Borzello, John Gasaway, Myron Medcalf and Joe Lunardi is prepared with predictions. They start with a have a look at the mid-major conferences — and the mid-major program that hasn’t behaved like a mid-major in fairly a while, the Gonzaga Bulldogs.
Elsewhere, conversations across the impression of the switch portal — almost 2,000 gamers made the choice to seek for greener pastures this offseason — have largely centered on the fluidity of Energy 5 rosters. Misplaced within the dialogue, nonetheless, is how mid-major applications have endured extra disruption than their richer, extra distinguished friends on the expense of proficient gamers. Isiaih Mosley (20.4 PPG) left Missouri State for Missouri. Former South Dakota State star Baylor Scheierman (16.2 PPG) is at Creighton now. And KJ Williams, the Murray State and Ohio Valley Convention participant of the yr, adopted his head coach, Matt McMahon, to LSU.
It has by no means been tougher for the highest mid-major applications to take care of continuity. However the expertise and depth on their rosters imply they’re going to stay related by way of the change. Nonetheless, it appears now the hole between the Zags and the others on this class will proceed to develop.
Discover extra preseason evaluation right here.
Mid-majors 2022-23 Superlatives
Participant of the 12 months
Medcalf: Drew Timme, Gonzaga
Borzello: Drew Timme, Gonzaga
Gasaway: Drew Timme, Gonzaga
Lunardi: Max Abmas, Oral Roberts (non-Gonzaga division)
Newcomer of the 12 months
Medcalf: Malachi Smith, Gonzaga
Borzello: Malachi Smith, Gonzaga
Gasaway: Malachi Smith, Gonzaga
Lunardi: Mike Sharavjamts, Dayton (true freshman division)
Mid-majors 2022-23 Roundtable
Gonzaga could not fairly observe by way of on the expectations positioned on it for many of final season. Is that this 2022-23 squad the one to lastly convey a nationwide title to Spokane? Why or why not?
After Drew Timme’s announcement saying he is coming again to Gonzaga, check out a few of his greatest moments from final season.
Borzello: I nonetheless do not suppose Mark Few will ever have a greater workforce than the 2020-21 group that appeared like an absolute juggernaut till the nationwide championship sport. This season’s squad does have the items to chop down the nets although.
If Gonzaga is to lastly silence the doubters, the most important key will likely be Nolan Hickman and Hunter Sallis stepping up. Whereas the 2 former five-star recruits did not play massive roles as freshmen, they (and Chattanooga switch Malachi Smith) want to supply playmaking and explosiveness that Gonzaga’s backcourt lacked final season.
Medcalf: It is doable. We’re extra enamored by flashy, younger expertise than veterans who’ve put up spectacular numbers for a prolonged stretch. That is Timme, who was the very best participant on Gonzaga’s roster throughout the NCAA event, regardless of Holmgren’s buzz — and is without doubt one of the prime three gamers in America proper now.
The Bulldogs must discover a dependable level guard, however Mark Few has misplaced a bunch of Andrew Nembhard-like leaders over the previous 20-plus years and nonetheless regrouped. That may occur once more this yr.
Gasaway: On the one hand, shedding Chet Holmgren and Andrew Nembhard isn’t any small matter. Nembhard’s reads on pick-and-roll coverages had been the microprocessor on this offense, and you may ask Candy 16 victor Arkansas what these Bulldogs appeared like when Holmgren fouled out in 24 minutes (albeit on a name so dangerous will probably be proven in clinics).
On the opposite and extra present hand, the remainder of Division I’d love a backcourt rotation with Rasir Bolton, Smith, Hickman and Sallis. Additionally, Drew Timme continues to be Drew Timme. Mr. Borzello’s appropriate: if the items match, the expertise’s right here to win a title.
Lunardi: All Gonzaga can do is preserve knocking on the door. Geography and scheduling place it for almost annual No. 1 seeds — 5 of the previous six years, counting the canceled 2020 event — permitting Mark Few & Co. to maximise their probabilities every season.
Would I decide this model of the Zags to lastly minimize down the nets? No. Do perennial contenders in each sport break by way of with a “not their greatest” workforce? Completely. Mere chance suggests we wager towards Gonzaga at our personal danger.
Make a case for a non-Gonzaga mid-major program you possibly can envision reaching the 2023 Elite Eight, if not going all the best way.
Daron Holmes with the huge stuff on the rim
Medcalf: Something is feasible. I would faucet Oral Roberts. Max Abmas (22.8 PPG) is certainly one of 4 returning starters and higher than any participant Saint Peter’s had on final season’s roster: bear in mind, that is the workforce that was 12-11 on Feb. 20, 2022, with losses to low-ranked groups, earlier than profitable 10 video games in a row — together with defeating No. 2 Kentucky and No. 3 Purdue — till North Carolina shut them down within the Elite Eight.
After what we witnessed final season, an Elite Eight run for a workforce starring a possible All-American appears believable.
Gasaway: Give me the hypnotically constant Aztecs of San Diego State. Up to now three seasons, Brian Dutcher’s group has compiled a 44-8 document in Mountain West play, and final March SDSU got here inside an additional time of knocking off Creighton within the spherical of 64. Now the Aztecs return 4 starters and add Seattle U switch Darrion Trammell. Earlier than each sport, Dutcher writes an in depth gameplan on the whiteboard: “Shut down the opposing offense fully and provides Matt Bradley the ball.” It really works.
Borzello: San Diego State may need the best flooring of any non-Gonzaga mid-major, however I feel Dayton has a better ceiling than anybody besides the Zags. The Flyers have proved they will beat good groups, with wins final season over Kansas and Miami. And DaRon Holmes II has legit professional potential. The 6-foot-10 massive man averaged 20.0 factors, 6.0 rebounds and a couple of.0 blocks over his remaining 5 video games of 2021-22.
Lunardi: The very best participant on certainly one of a small handful of groups on this class is Holmes. He may not be Obi Toppin, and these Flyers will not be a 1-seed on Choice Sunday the best way Toppin’s workforce would have been in 2020, however Dayton is greater than adequate for an prolonged NCAA tourney run. Led by Holmes and the opposite Malachi Smith at level guard, the Flyers have all starters again from a 24-11 squad that was workforce No. 69 on the NCAA seed listing a yr in the past. If there may be any justice from the misplaced pandemic season, these Flyers play late into March.
The Atlantic 10 has added Loyola Chicago to its membership. The WCC and Mountain West each have prime 25 groups. Which of those conferences may have an total nice season?
Medcalf: The Atlantic 10 and Mountain West might surpass the WCC in bids on Choice Sunday. However I feel each commissioner in these leagues would take a Remaining 4 contender over a victory within the race for a number of bids. The WCC may have the very best season as a result of Gonzaga will spend the yr as a legit nationwide title contender and top-10 workforce. Whereas Saint Mary’s has NCAA event aspirations and BYU might sneak into the sphere, Gonzaga has a shot at profitable the primary nationwide title in this system’s historical past. If its season ends within the Remaining 4, all the WCC will profit and each coach will tout the fact that they needed to undergo a nationwide championship contender to win the league.
Borzello: I am going to take the Atlantic 10. This league has much more than simply the Flyers. Saint Louis brings again 5 gamers who began at the very least 15 video games on a 23-win workforce — whereas additionally regaining the providers of Javonte Perkins, who missed final season with a torn ACL after averaging 17.1 factors in 2020-21. VCU will as soon as once more have an elite protection and can hopefully be more healthy this season. After which there’s Loyola Chicago, coming off back-to-back NCAA event appearances. The highest of this league could be very, superb.
Lunardi: This can be a robust one, with each the Mountain West and WCC coming off historic years when it comes to NCAA illustration. The Atlantic 10 has been a bit down, however has two true second weekend contenders in Dayton and Saint Louis (plus an actual sleeper in VCU). Of the three, I feel the Mountain West is probably to realize or preserve its “bulk” in NCAA groups. Nowadays, the place NCAA income models are the singular objective, the MWC is the very best wager.
Gasaway: Behold the Mountain West, the place “nice season” means good groups and wonderful storylines. Behind the already-discussed Aztecs, we could discover one acquainted identify together with some fast-ascending applications. The standard suspect right here may very well be Wyoming, the place as soon as once more Hunter Maldonado and Graham Ike will likely be a mixed headache for opponents. Richard Pitino and Ryan Odom will likely be of their second seasons at New Mexico and Utah State, respectively, and each the Lobos and the Aggies could also be robust. One may say the identical for Fresno State and its flock of juniors and seniors.
Who or what are we not speaking almost sufficient about throughout the mid-majors?
Gasaway: Max Abmas has already made 301 pictures from past the arc for Oral Roberts in his profession. If he retains going at that fee in 2022-23, he might equal or surpass some fairly massive males’s D-I names, as much as and together with Steph Curry, Gerry McNamara and probably Markus Howard. And in contrast to many profession marks on this extra-eligibility day and age, Abmas may have come by his stats the old style method. To this point he has performed simply three seasons — if something, the pandemic value him video games — and made 89 appearances, together with these towards non-D-I opponents. I will be watching to see how excessive he can go.
Lunardi: Amongst real mid-majors — not Gonzaga, not the well-funded Mountain West or Atlantic 10 — the “greatest at school” program is definitely Saint Mary’s. Since 2008, the Gaels have by no means missed both the NCAA event (eight appearances) or NIT (seven bids). They’re the winningest Division I faculty in California throughout that span, and even knocked off the top-ranked Zags on a number of events. Final yr’s unprecedented No. 5 seed and obliteration of Indiana was lengthy overdue validation for Randy Bennett & Co. Even with key personnel losses, the Gaels will likely be a Prime 50 workforce once more this yr.
Medcalf: Since Ritchie McKay returned to Liberty for his second stint as coach in 2015 (he was head coach from 2007-09 earlier than becoming a member of Tony Bennett’s workers at Virginia), he has averaged almost 23 wins. He has additionally received the Atlantic Solar convention title, or at the very least a share of it, in 4 consecutive seasons. And he has managed to maintain his groups collectively. Darius McGhee (24.6 PPG) is certainly one of 4 starters returning for McKay’s program, which has two NCAA event appearances within the final 4 years. McKay deserves extra credit score for what he is achieved.
Borzello: Convention USA being a possible multibid league ought to be a storyline all season. UAB is likely to be the very best workforce from a real mid-major league, with Andy Kennedy bringing again three starters from an NCAA event workforce — led by star guard Jordan “Jelly” Walker — and in addition including a handful of impression transfers. Western Kentucky is totally loaded with expertise: Dayvion McKnight and 7-foot-5 Jamarion Sharp kind a dynamite inside-outside duo and Rick Stansbury can instantly lean on Boise State switch Emmanuel Akot to make an impression. Oh, and there is additionally North Texas, which has two regular-season titles and an NCAA event look over the past three seasons. We’ll hear an terrible lot about all three of those groups.