College Basketball Preview Part 1 – The Mid-Majors (AAC, A-10, WCC and more!)

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American

1.  Wichita State

Wichita State won 28+ games every year, but never really got respected because they played in the Missouri Valley Conference. Now, the Shockers move to the American, still a mid-major conference, but certainly a step up. WSU returns basically everybody, including all five starters from a 2016-17 team that went 31-5 and scored over 80 points per game. Gregg Marshall’s leading scorer from a season ago was Markis McDuffie (11.5 ppg, 5.7 rpg). McDuffie also led the team in rebounds. Landry Shamet (11.4 ppg, 49.3 3-pt %) will also contend for All-AAC honors, and potentially a league player of the year. Wichita might not win 30 games this year because of a much tougher strength of schedule, but this team will contend for a spot in the Final Four.

2.  Cincinnati

That other team in the AAC, Cincinnati. Some have the Bearcats in the top ten preseason, and for good reason. The Bearcats return their top three leading scorers from a team that went 30-6 last year, and Cincy won’t have to adjust to a new conference. They will however, have to adjust to a change of scenery. Cincinnati will play its home games at Northern Kentucky’s campus as Cincy’s own arena undergoes renovations. It is hard to know if the lack of a home-court edge will haunt the Bearcats, but making the NCAA Tournament shouldn’t be a problem. Gary Clark (10.8 ppg, 7.9 rpg) is a prolific rebounder and defender that could contend for all-conference honors.

3.  SMU

4.  UCF

5.  Temple

6.  Connecticut

7.  Houston

8.  Tulsa

9.  East Carolina

10.  Tulane

11.  Memphis

12.  South Florida

Atlantic 10

1.  Rhode Island

Rhode Island went 25-10 last year, and probably wouldn’t have made the tournament if the Rams hadn’t won the A-10 Title, but they made noise, falling just three points shy of a trip to the Sweet Sixteen where they would’ve faced a very beatable Michigan team. The star guard that led them on that run, E.C. Matthews (14.9 ppg, 4.3 rpg), returns for this year. Matthews will need to up his scoring average by a couple points, but he might break the school record for carer scoring. All in all, the A-10 is in a down year in 2017, with VCU in year one with a new coach and Dayton returning just two starters, this team is certainly the favorite.

2.  St. Bonaventure

3.  Saint Joseph’s

4.  VCU

5.  Dayton

6.  Saint Louis

7.  Davidson

8.  La Salle

9.  Richmond

10.  George Mason

11.  George Washington

12.  Massachusetts

13.  Duquesne

14.  Fordham

CAA

1. Charleston

2. Elon

3. UNC Wilmington

4. Hofstra

5. Towson

6.  Northeastern

7.  William & Mary

8. James Madison

9. Deleware

10. Drexel

Mountain West

1.  Nevada

2.  San Diego State

3.  Boise State

4.  Wyoming

5.  Fresno State

6.  Colorado State

7.  UNLV

8.  Utah State

9.  New Mexico

10.  San Jose State

11.  Air Force

MVC

1.  Missouri State

2.  Loyola-Chicago

3.  Illinois State

4.  Northern Iowa

5.  Valparaiso

6.  Southern Illinois

7.  Bradley

8.  Evansville

9.  Indiana State

10.  Drake

WCC

1. Saint Mary’s

The Gaels return four starters from a team that won 29 games last season, so even in a conference with Gonzaga, this squad takes the #1 ranking. Jock Landale (16.9 ppg, 9.5 rpg) is the best player in the conference, and Calvin Hermanson (13.1 ppg, 3.9 rpg) is a corner specialist that can provide a spark for this team whenever things get rough. The toughest game in the non-con is California in early December, and the only real in-conference threats are Gonzaga and BYU.

2. Gonzaga

The defending national runner-ups aren’t even the projected favorite in a mid-major conference? Zach Collins, Przemek Karnowski, and Nigel Williams-Goss have all graduated and moved on, and out of five in the 2016-17 season, Jonathan Williams (10.2 ppg, 6.4 rpg) is the only double-digit scorer returning. Josh Perkins (8.1 ppg, 3.1 apg) is the only returning starter other than Williams, and while this team will still make the tournament and be a threat, hoping for a repeat of last season might be asking for too much.

3. BYU

4. San Francisco

5. Santa Clara

6. San Diego

7. Pacific

8. Portland

9. Pepperdine

10. Loyola Marymount

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