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2022-23 College Basketball Rankings: Our Staff’s Top-25 Mid-Major Teams

2022-23 College Basketball Rankings: Our Staff’s Top-25 Mid-Major Teams article feature image
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Photo by G Fiume/Getty Images. Pictured: Yuri Collins (Saint Louis)

College hoops is back, and while everyone may be focused on the Power Six teams, we at The Action Network are diving deep into the mid-to-low major waters to provide you with more betting knowledge.

With that in mind, let’s dive into our staff’s top-25 mid-major teams entering the 2022-23 college basketball season.


Teams You Won’t Find in this Top 25 List Include:

As far as we’re concerned, these teams are not mid-majors — not with regard to their respective aptitude, national awareness nor program prestige. You don’t need us to tell you that Gonzaga is great — the team has proven it time and again all on its own.

You also don’t need us to shout out Houston or San Diego State, as if either of those programs shares company with the MEAC (all due respect — we love our low-majors; don’t get it twisted).

Instead, this article is about putting some shine on programs that deserve it and all-too-frequently don’t get their just due. These are our top 25 low- and mid-major college basketball teams entering the 2022-23 season; thank us in March.

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25.

Longwood Lancers

Longwood is the favorite to win the Big South, and for good reason. The Lancers return four of last year’s starters, as well as eight players total who recorded an offensive rating of 100+ last year.

But how will the Lancers respond with a target on their back?

Longwood enters the season as reigning champions for the first time ever — not to mention, it has some questions that need answered.

Those questions are specifically at point guard, as the Lancers lost Justin Hill to Georgia. However, Walyn Napper — a standout transfer from Southern Miss — can be the answer.

Watch for Isaiah Wilkins and Michael Christmas to be impact players, as well.


24.

Northern Kentucky Norse

Similar to Purdue Fort Wayne, Northern Kentucky brings back a similar roster to last year’s team that won 20 games.

While the Mastodons won one more game than the Norse, NKU made the Horizon League championship game and nearly beat Wright State, losing 72-71.

The Norse have their top three scorers back from 2021-22, including Marques Warrick, who could easily average 20-plus points this season.

But the biggest returnee is fifth-year senior Trevon Faulkner, who was not only the team’s second-leading bucket-getter last year, but the leader of the roster.


23.

Kent State Golden Flashes

The coaches of the Mid-American Conference selected Kent State as the top team in the preseason poll, as the Golden Flashes possess both the reigning Coach of the Year (Rob Senderoff) and Player of the Year (lead guard Sincere Carry).

Carry and his backcourt mates, Giovanni Santiago and Malique Jacobs, ensure that the Golden Flashes will be a tough out once again.

However, Kent State loses three key frontcourt pieces. The Golden Flashes’ interior size and strength was an antidote to many league foes’ perimeter-based offenses.

Senderoff has potential replacements, but they are unproven, and depth could be a question. Regardless, Kent State should be in the mix to win the MAC.


22.

Akron Zips

The Zips will lean on the inside-out duo of Enrique Freeman and Xavier Castaneda. The pair have drastically different pedigrees: Freeman is a former walk-on, while Castaneda was a lauded recruit from Chicago who began his career at South Florida.

Regardless, though, they are a tough-as-nails combination that embodies coach John Groce’s workman-like approach.

Groce has raved about this team’s defensive potential, especially on the perimeter.

Combine that with the loss of Ali Ali’s shooting, and unders could be an intriguing proposition early in the Zips’ schedule.


21.

South Dakota State Jackrabbits

Baylor Scheierman is in Omaha with Creighton, but the Jackrabbits have some nice pieces that will keep their offense humming in 2022-23.

And if their offense is humming behind sophomore guard Zeke Mayo, Wisconsin-transfer Matthew Mors and senior forward Luke Appel, then they have a chance in a wide open Summit League.


20.

Bradley Braves

The Braves might have lost their best player in Terry Roberts, but they bring back four starters, led by all-conference big man Rienk Mast.

Head coach Brian Wardle is one of the best X’s and O’s minds in the Missouri Valley Conference and always leads a team known for its physicality and defensive effort.

Six-foot, six-inch wing Ja’Shon Henry will look to bounce back after an injury held him out for the majority of last year.

Meanwhile, rising sophomore Connor Hickman will look to expand on an all-rookie campaign.


19.

Western Kentucky Hilltoppers

Western Kentucky might possess the most talent in Conference USA.

The Hilltoppers boast transfers from Kentucky, Indiana, Boston College, Boise State and Davidson — and that’s before you get to their two best players.

Those would be power southpaw lead guard Dayvion McKnight and 7-foot-5 shot-swatting menace Jamarion Sharp. That inside-out duo could vault WKU into title contention.

Rick Stansbury knows how to get that talent to play up against high-caliber competition, too. As an underdog, his Hilltoppers are 31-11-1 against the spread in the last five years, per TeamRankings.

We may not see that scenario until mid-December, but it is a stat worth remembering.


18.

Iona Gaels

The case for taking Iona in the MAAC is simple. Boil it down to coach and best player, and nobody in the conference is topping Iona’s duo.

Say absolutely whatever you want about Pitino, but he wins basketball games everywhere he goes.

That has been true at Iona, where he is 37-14 so far in two seasons. Last season, Iona announced itself as a threat with its win over Alabama in November. That was nearly enough to inch the Gaels into the at-large pool after Iona lost to Rider in the MAAC Tournament.

Pitino brings back Nelly Junior Joseph, a first-team all-conference player last season as a sophomore. At 6-foot-9, Joseph is an athlete that can do it all. His performance against Harvard early last season showcased his talents, with a final box score of 28 points, eight rebounds, two steals, and two blocks.

Any worries with the rest of the roster should be unfounded, and Iona should be the class of the MAAC.


17.

Southern Illinois Salukis

After undergoing a patient rebuild, the Salukis may finally be ready to break out in Bryan Mullins’ fourth season at the helm.

Once a league power that made six consecutive NCAA tournaments under Bruce Weber, Matt Painter and Chris Lowery, SIU has gone 16 seasons without an invitation to the Big Dance.

Marcus Domask and Lance Jones are back to contend for All-MVC honors and lead a deep roster.

Also, Mullins reached into the transfer portal and reeled in two productive guards in Xavier Johnson (George Mason) and Jawaun Newton (Evansville).


16.

Davidson Wildcats

Matt McKillop takes over as head coach, replacing dear old dad Bob McKillop. McKillop, the youngster, has spent 14 seasons on the Davidson bench as an assistant and also played for his father back in the mid-2000s.

He bleeds Wildcat red and should keep the always-potent Davidson offense humming.

As seems to be the trend at the top of the Atlantic 10, Davidson is led by a savvy upperclassman point guard. Former Michigan State-transfer Foster Loyer looks to improve upon his 16.1 points per game average from last season.


15.

Oral Roberts Golden Eagles

Max Abmas is back, and that means the Golden Eagles will compete in the Summit League.

The supporting cast will be a question mark, but former Vanderbilt guard Issac McBride and ex-Stanford big man Connor Vanover could change that thought.

Defense is another concern for the Golden Eagles — as it is for any team that resides in the Summit League.

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14.

UC Santa Barbara Gauchos

UC Santa Barbara returns one of the best players in the conference in Miles Norris, but its season will rely heavily on the output of sophomore Ajay Mitchell.

The Gauchos’ success down the stretch of last season (winning nine of their last 11 games) directly resulted from Mitchell’s play. In the first 16 games of the year, he averaged just 7.9 points per game. In the Gauchos’ last 11 games, he more than doubled that, putting up 16.8 per contest.

UC Santa Barbara was 6-7 in games he scored less than 10 points in.

Incoming Cal-transfer Andre Kelly should help cushion the departure of Amadou Sow, but Mitchell will decide where the Gauchos rank heading into the conference tournament.


13.

Towson Tigers

The Tigers return four starters from last year’s CAA regular-season championship team. They’re still in search of ending their 31-year tournament drought.

Last year’s squad was the first team in the Colonial to lead the conference in both Adjusted Offensive and Defensive Efficiency, per KenPom.

Charles Thompson is a veteran leader on the squad and one of the best big men in the conference. After winning Defensive Player of the Year a season ago, he could very well repeat or find himself in the running for CAA Player of the Year.

Towson is the team to beat in the conference.


12.

Toledo Rockets

After capturing two straight regular-season MAC crowns, Toledo once again sits atop the conference’s odds board (+200).

Tod Kowalczyk has constructed an offensive juggernaut centered around inverting the floor. Starting forwards Setric Millner Jr. and JT Shumate form arguably the best shooting frontcourt duo in the country.

The Rockets have notably been unable to win the MAC Tournament, though. That grinding event has sapped their offensive explosiveness, and more physical foes have found success inside.

Enter AJ Edu, a towering shot-blocker whose career has been derailed by repeated ACL tears. He is finally healthy — by all accounts — and his size should give Kowalczyk more lineup flexibility against bigger frontlines.

In addition to being the best team in the MAC the last two seasons, the Rockets have also been the best ATS team in the entire country. They are an otherworldly 42-21 ATS (.667) over that span, so fade them at your own wallet’s risk.


11.

Vermont Catamounts

There is no question that the Cats are as vulnerable as they’ve ever been, and John Becker’s chokehold on first place has become more of a light attachment, but the America East still runs through Burlington.

Vermont is a -400 favorite to win the America East title this season. Almost every media outlet picked UVM to finish first because Becker has that much respect in the college basketball landscape.

The story for the Catamounts this season will be about Dylan Penn.

Becker pulled off a massive transfer portal steal by grabbing the former Bellarmine guard. He’s the most electric guard in the mid-majors, with his ability to penetrate defenses and score in a million ways around the rim.


10.

Grand Canyon Antelopess

The Lopes return three starters and 56.1% of their minutes from a season ago. The leading returnee is Jovan Blacksher, who earned all-conference honors a season ago when he led the conference in multiple offensive categories.

Other returning starters include Gabe McGlothan and Yvan Ouedraogo, along with a key rotational piece off the bench in Chance McMillian, who appeared in every game last season.

From the transfer portal, the Lopes added threats from deep in Noah Baumann — a Phoenix native who has made stops at San Jose State, USC and Georgia — and Walter Ellis (Bucknell). They also added Rayshon Harrison (Presbyterian), a guard familiar with heavy usage.


9.

Liberty Flames

Liberty has dominated the ASUN the past four seasons, achieving a conference record of 50-11 and earning the league’s auto-bid three times.

Liberty has also notched the fourth-most wins in the country over that timeframe, trailing only Gonzaga, Houston and Kansas.

Head coach Ritchie McKay, a Tony Bennett-inspired lead man, consistently puts a winning product on the floor led by a disciplined defense.

Point guard Darius McGhee will be one of the nation’s best players this season, coming off of a year in which he ranked second nationally in scoring. He’ll end his career as a member of the illustrious 2,000-point club.


8.

Boise State Broncos

The defending Mountain West champions are actually ahead of where they were last year in the preseason rankings.

Boise State loses three of its starters — Emmanuel Akot, Abu Kigab and Mladen Armus. None of them are stars in their own right, and Marcus Shaver Jr. is back to be a more ball dominant guard again.

The key potential breakout player for the Broncos isn’t Shaver, though, but Tyson Degenhart.

The team is certainly less talented than last season and should take a step back, but Leon Rice should have the Broncos competing for a tournament bid. They can beat anyone in their league on their day, but can probably lose to just about anyone, too.


7.

Furman Paladins

The Paladins have been among the class of the SoCon for the past several regular seasons.

Still, Paladin fans have been left disappointed at the team’s lack of success in the conference tournament. Furman will enter this year looking to punch its ticket to the Big Dance for the first time since 1980.

Furman looks to be a measurable “notch” above the remainder of the league this year. The Paladins will be led by super seniors Jalen Slawson and Mike Bothwell, who will both be looking to use their heartbreaking loss in the SoCon title game as fuel throughout the year.

The scoring depth and experience of this roster is why Furman is identified as a deserving favorite in the Southern Conference.


6.

Drake Bulldogs

Two years removed from an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament, the Bulldogs are at the top of the Missouri Valley food chain.

Head coach Darian DeVries has led Drake to 20-plus wins in each of his four seasons at the helm, and now looks to dominate the conference with five of his top seven players from 2021-22 returning.

DeVries’ son Tucker is the odds-on favorite to win MVC Player of the Year. He’s making the juicy freshman-to-sophomore leap and is as versatile a player as you’ll find in mid-major basketball.

He’s joined by point guard Roman Penn, big man Darnell Brodie and tough-minded wing Garrett Sturtz.


5.

North Texas Mean Green

One of C-USA’s near-misses for an at-large last year? North Texas, a team which again looks like a top contender despite losing multiple elite defenders.

Tylor Perry earned the league’s Sixth Player of the Year award, but he’s far more than just a bench weapon. The crunch-time hero is a true Player of the Year candidate this time around.

Coach Grant McCasland was voted as the best X’s and O’s boss in the league by his peers in The Almanac. McCasland has also hinted to several publications that this edition of the Mean Green will be more offensively-inclined than last year’s suffocating unit.

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4.

Saint Mary’s Gaels

The Gaels won’t have veteran leader and point guard Tommy Kuhse or big man and leading scorer Matthias Tass this season, but they return key players like Logan Johnson, Alex Ducas and Kyle Bowen.

Also, don’t be surprised if sophomore guard Augustas Marciulionis takes a major leap in 2022-23.

As long as Randy Bennett is on the sideline, the Gaels will always be in the mix to be the country’s top mid-major squad.


3.

Loyola Chicago Ramblers

The Ramblers are the new kids on the block in the A-10. Loyola dominated the Missouri Valley the past few years and were rewarded by a step-up in conference.

Despite the uptick in competition, don’t expect this plucky group to fade into the night.

Thirty-one-year-old head coach Drew Valentine is one of the brightest rising stars in the country, and he has a roster capable of competing.

Senior guards Braden Norris and Marquise Kennedy lead the way.


2.

UAB Blazers

UAB has legitimate hopes of building a resume worthy of at-large consideration on Selection Sunday.

Andy Kennedy quickly righted the ship at his alma mater, dipping into the portal for talented transfers from all over. He continued to ply that trade this offseason.

Former LSU guard Eric Gaines is arguably the best newcomer in Conference USA. His disruptive defensive talents profile perfectly in Kennedy’s various pressure schemes.

He joins the incendiary Jelly Walker in one of mid-majordom’s best backcourts.


1.

Saint Louis Billikens

The Billikens are absolutely loaded this season. Five of their top six performers return from last season, as does the electric Javonte Perkins, who missed 2021-22 with an ACL tear after many thought he would capture Atlantic 10 Player of the Year honors.

Junior point guard Yuri Collins was named to the Bob Cousy Award watch list, and coach Travis Ford thinks he’s the best lead guard in the country.

Transfers Javon Pickett (Missouri), Jake Forrester (Temple) and Sincere Parker (JUCO) give SLU a deep nine-man rotation that could rival most power programs.


More College Basketball Betting Content

Want to read even more about each of these top 25 mid- and low-major programs? How about the rest of the landscape of college basketball, including power conferences, too?

We’ve got you covered across the board with 2022-23 betting previews for all 32 college basketball conferences.

Check ’em out below:

2022-23 NCAA Basketball Conference Previews

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