2016-17 Mid-Major Power Rankings

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Before we get into the meat of this post, let’s hold the annual tradition of laying out our “mid-major disclaimer”, or how we determined who was eligible for this team:

The schools from the Power 5 conferences were excluded, obviously, as well as any program in the Big East, the American, the Atlantic 10 or the Mountain West. The WCC, with the exception of Gonzaga and BYU, were included, as was the Missouri Valley, with the exception of Wichita State. The Zags and the Shockers are top 25 programs nationally paying their head coaches many millions of dollars and recruiting like the big boys. And to me, BYU is still a Mountain West program that was forced to relocate because #football.

This is my plea: Don’t argue the semantics of who we rated as high-major vs. mid-major. That’s not the point of this. The point is to highlight the best players in the country that you’re probably not aware of.

So without further ado …

Top Backcourts | Top Frontcourts | Top 100 Players

POSITION RANKS: Lead Guards | Off Guards | Wings | Big Men


1. Saint Mary’s

The West Coast Conference regular season co-champion was one of the notable snubs from the NCAA Tournament this past March. That shouldn’t be the case this season, as Randy Bennett returns all five starters to what should be a top-25 team in the preseason. Emmett Naar, a first-team all-conference selection, and senior forward Dane Pineau are among the four double-digit scorers the Gaels bring back. According to kenpom.com, Saint Mary’s was top-20 in adjusted offensive efficiency. That’s the highest its been since 2013, the last time the Gaels reached the tournament.

2. UAB

Jerod Haase is now the head coach of Stanford. He left the program in the hands of Robert Ehsan, an assistant who has been with the program since 2012. Ehsan, the first-year head coach, inherits a team that returns four starters, with the conference’s Sixth Man of the Year, Dirk Williams, set to be the starting point guard. Chris Cokley, the team’s leading scorer, and William Lee, Conference USA’s Defensive Player of the Year, are both back, giving the Blazers one of the best frontcourts among mid-majors. UAB could face up to three ranked opponents during in the non-conference: Kansas, Saint Mary’s and Texas.

3. Princeton

Mitch Henderson’s team is set to return the Tigers back to the top of the conference standings this season. Princeton essentially returns six starters: the five who started last season, as well as Hans Brase, a 6-foot-9 forward who averaged 11.5 points during the 2014-15 season, but missed all of last year due to a torn ACL. Henry Caruso, the team’s leading scorer, is back as one of several shooters the Tigers have in their arsenal. Besides center Pete Miller (who did not attempt a three last year), four starters shot better than 35 percent from deep. It’ll be a three-team race with Harvard and Yale, but if Princeton can separate themselves, it’ll earn this spot in the rankings.

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4. Chattanooga

The Mocs had been on the rise since Will Wade took over the program. Even after he departed for VCU, Chattanooga continued to rise, reaching the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2009. During the process of a 29-win season, the Mocs knocked off three high-major programs, including Dayton. Matt McCall brings back four starters. That doesn’t include Casey Jones, the 2015 preseason SoCon Player of the Year, who missed all but seven games due to an ankle injury. In his absence, Tre’ McLean emerged as the top scorer at 12.1 points per game while Justin Tuoyo was named SoCon Defensive Player of the Year for the second time. Chattanooga will have its hands full with Eastern Tennessee State, but the Mocs should be favored to return to the NCAA Tournament in 2017.

5. UT Arlington

On January 21, the Mavericks were 13-2 and held wins over Ohio State and Memphis. But their season was abruptly derailed when Kevin Hervey tore his ACL, ending his season. UT Arlington went on to win 24 games, but saw Little Rock play the role of Cinderella in the NCAA Tournament. Hervey is one of five starters back, meaning the Mavericks should be a team to be reckoned with in 2016-17. Kaelon Wilson, Erick Neal and Jalen Jones were all double-digit scorers last year, which allows Hervey, who was close to averaging a double-double before getting hurt, to ease back into the lineup if he’s not already at 100 percent. UT Arlington did figure out how to win without Hervey, closing out the season as winners of 10 of 14.

Texas-Arlington's Kevin Hervey, left, reacts to a 73-68 NCAA college basketball game win as Ohio State's Jae'Sean Tate looks on in Columbus, Ohio, Friday, Nov. 20, 2015. (AP Photo/Paul Vernon)
UT Arlington’s Kevin Hervey (AP Photo/Paul Vernon)

6. UNC Wilmington

In two seasons, Kevin Keatts is 43-22 as head coach of UNC Wilmington. He not only guided the program to its first NCAA Tournament appearance in a decade, he put a scare into Duke in the first round. From that team, four players return. Chris Flemmings, a candidate for CAA Player of the Year, headlines a backcourt that also includes Denzel Ingram and C.J. Bryce, two other double digit scorers. The trio will continue to force other opponents into turnovers, as the Seahawks were one of the best at doing that last season.

7. Harvard

Siyani Chambers is back at Harvard following an ACL tear. He joins a mix of veteran players and talented youngsters. Zena Edosomwan, a second-team all-Ivy League selection as a junior, is part of the former, while Corey Johnson, a potential mid-major breakout star, headlines the latter. The Crimson are in the middle of what should be a tight race between themselves, Princeton and Yale.

8. Long Beach State

The 49ers were close to a NCAA Tournament berth last season. They should be in contention for once again this year. Long Beach State has one of the best mid-major backcourts with Justin Bibbins being joined by Evan Payne, the Loyola Marymount transfer who should replace the production left behind by Nick Faust. UC Irvine, which has been to back-to-back NCAA Tournaments, should fight with the 49ers for the top spot.

9. Northern Iowa

The Panthers graduated three double-digit scorers in Paul Jesperson, Matt Bohannon and Wes Washpun, but return arguably the best player in the Missouri Valley Conference in Jeremy Morgan. The last time we saw Morgan, he posted 36 points and grabbed 12 rebounds. That’s the only thing Northern Iowa fans choose to remember about the second round of the NCAA Tournament. Northern Iowa does test itself out of conference, playing Xavier, North Carolina, Iowa and South Dakota State.

10. Akron

Isaiah Johnson anchors the middle, while Antonio Jackson and Noah Robotham bring experience to the backcourt for the Zips. Akron should be the favorites after coming up short in the 2016. The Zips go on the road this season to face Creighton and Gonzaga, both of whom could be ranked, before they head into MAC play in a conference that is wide open.

COLUMBUS, OH - MARCH 20: Alec Peters #25 of the Valparaiso Crusaders reacts after losing to the Maryland Terrapins during the second round of the Men's NCAA Basketball Tournament at Nationwide Arena on March 20, 2015 in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images)
Valparaiso’s Alec Peters (Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images)

11. Valparaiso

Alec Peters is the best mid-major player in the country. He was named a third-team NBCSports.com Preseason All-American and is on the radar of every NBA team. The Crusaders, in the first season of the post-Bryce Drew era, will go as far the 6-foot-9 Peters can take them. That isn’t to say the cabinet is bare outside of Peters. Valpo also returns starting guard Tevonn Walker and Shane Hammink.

12. Fort Wayne

A 24-win season led Fort Wayne to an NIT appearance. The Mastodons should be a player in the Summit League, contending with South Dakota State and North Dakota State. Fort Wayne no longer has Max Landis, the Summit League Player of the Year, but Mo Evans, who missed the last two months of the season due to an academic issue, is back, as is John Konchar, who led the conference in rebounding.

13. Belmont

Rick Byrd has four starters back, including Evan Bradds, a 6-foot-7 forward who led the nation in field goal percentage at a remarkable 72 percent. The Bruins are projected to have another efficient offense. Since 2011, Belmont has been in the top-50 in adjusted offensive efficiency five times, according to kenpom.com. As always, Byrd will test his team early on, with games against Florida and Rhode Island.

14. Lehigh

Two-time Patriot League Player of the Year Tim Kempton and first-team all-Patriot League selection Kahron Ross are two of four starters from a team that had its NCAA Tournament hopes dashed by an unlikely postseason run from Holy Cross. The Mountain Hawks have great balance. They have Kempton, at 6-foot-10, on the block, a steady point guard in Ross and guys who can knock down shots from deep and defend.

15. South Dakota State

Despite being in Brookings, South Dakota, Mike Daum is going to be a name you hear a lot this year. The 6-foot-9 sophomore averaged 15.2 points and 6.1 boards per game last season, logging less 22 minutes a night. Daum hit 47 percent from three as a freshman. Reed Tellinghuisen, the other returning starter for the Jackrabbits, can also knock down shots from the outside. Those two, along with Ian Theisen, give first-year head coach T.J. Otzelberger a solid frontcourt to work with. But contending with Fort Wayne for the Summit League title could come down to how good the backcourt can be after losing Deondre Parks and George Marshall.

Ten More Mid-Majors to Watch: East Tennessee State, Florida Gulf Coast, Illinois State, New Mexico State, Ohio, Siena, UC Irvine, Vermont, Weber State, Yale

North Dakota State's Dexter Werner (40) looks around South Dakota State's Mike Daum (24) on his way to the net during an NCAA college basketball game for the Summit League men's tournament championship, Tuesday, March 8, 2016, in Sioux Falls, S.D. (Elisha Page/The Argus Leader via AP)
South Dakota State’s Mike Daum (Elisha Page/The Argus Leader via AP)

Arizona State extends Hurley through 2025-26 season

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TEMPE, Ariz. – Arizona State has agreed to a contract extension with men’s basketball coach Bobby Hurley that runs through the 2025-26 season.

The deal announced on Tuesday is subject to approval by the Arizona Board of Regents. Hurley’s previous contract was set to expire after next season.

“Coach Hurley has made our program relevant nationally with many significant wins and an exciting style, along with a firm commitment to the academic success of our student-athletes,” Arizona State athletic director Ray Anderson said in a statement. “He has made it clear to us that he wants to be here and we have done likewise with him. We share a strong confidence in the present and future state of Sun Devil men’s basketball.”

Hurley led the Sun Devils to 23 wins this season and their third trip to the NCAA Tournament the last five times it has been played. Arizona State beat Nevada in the First Four before losing to Texas Christian on a last-second shot last Friday.

The Sun Devils have won at least 20 games four of the past six seasons. They are 141-113 in eight seasons under Hurley.

Campbell new TCU women’s coach after taking Sac St to NCAA

Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

FORT WORTH, Texas – Mark Campbell was hired as TCU’s women’s basketball coach Tuesday after the former Oregon assistant took Sacramento State to its first NCAA Tournament in an impressive and quick turnaround.

Sacramento State was coming off a 3-22 season when Campbell was hired two years ago. The Hornets won 14 games in Campbell’s first season, and then made another 11-win improvement this season while finishing 25-8 with Big Sky regular-season and tournament championships.

During his seven seasons on Oregon’s staff before that, the Ducks had some of the nation’s top recruiting classes. That included Campbell recruiting Sabrina Ionescu, who became the AP player of the year in 2020 before she was the first overall pick in the WNBA draft.

Campbell replaces Raegan Pebley, who stepped down after nine seasons as TCU’s coach with a 141-138 record. The Horned Frogs were 8-23 this season, including 1-17 in Big 12 play during the regular season.

TCU athletic director Jeremiah Donati described Campbell as an elite recruiter and program builder.

“Similar to his success at Sacramento State, he was instrumental in Oregon quickly becoming one of the nation’s most successful programs, reaching their first NCAA Elite Eight and then Final Four,” Donati said.

The Frogs haven’t been to the NCAA Tournament since 2010. That was their ninth NCAA appearance, all coming in a 10-season span without making it past the second round.

Boston College extends Earl Grant through 2028-29 season

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BOSTON – Boston College coach Earl Grant has agreed to a two-year extension that will keep him under contract through the 2028-29 season.

Grant took over as Eagles coach prior to the 2021-22 season and finished 13-20. Boston College went 16-17 this past season, but it had three wins over nationally ranked teams for the first time in 14 years.

“My family and I have enjoyed being a part of this amazing community,” Grant said in a statement. “Boston is a great city and we are glad to call it our home. I am thankful for the efforts of my staff to help move the program forward.”

The Eagles finished 9-11 in Atlantic Coast Conference play, their most wins in the league play since 2010-11. Quinten Post also became the first Boston College player to be named Most Improved Player.

In announcing the extension, athletic director Blake James expressed optimism about the direction of the program.

“Earl has done an outstanding job leading our men’s basketball program over the last two seasons and we are looking forward to him doing so for many years to come,” James said.

Pitino returns to big stage at St. John’s: ‘I’ve earned it’

Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

NEW YORK – The video banner above the entrance to Madison Square Garden on Tuesday read: “Welcome Rick Pitino.”

More like welcome back for the new St. John’s coach.

Back to The Garden, where he once coached the Knicks.

Back to the Big East, the conference that launched his stardom and where he won his last NCAA championship.

Back to big-time college basketball after a series of scandals made it seem as if that part of his career was over.

“So, when I went to Iona, I said that Iona was going to be my last job,” Pitino said at his introductory news conference at MSG. “And the reason I said that is who’s going to hire a 70-year-old ? No matter how much I think I’m Peter Pan, who’s going hire a 70-year-old?”

St. John’s gave the Hall of Famer a six-year contract to turn back the clock on a program that once stole New York City tabloid headlines away from the Knicks in the 1980s under coach Lou Carnesecca but has been mired in mediocrity for more than two decades.

The Red Storm once played most of their biggest home games at The Garden. Pitino said the goal is to have all their Big East games played there going forward.

“Lou built a legendary program. Legendary,” Pitino said. “I’m all in with everything that St. John stands for. I’m excited about it. I can’t wait to get started.

“And it’s going to start with a culture of work.”

Pitino, who was born in New York City and grew up on Long Island, has won 832 games in 34 full seasons as a college head coach, including NCAA championships at Kentucky in 1996 and Louisville in 2013.

The title at Louisville was vacated for NCAA violations, and another NCAA case related to the FBI’s investigation into corruption in college basketball recruiting led to Pitino being fired by Louisville in 2017.

The final ruling from the NCAA’s outside enforcement arm on the FBI case came down in November and exonerated Pitino.

There was also a criminal extortion case in which Pitino was the victim during his time at Louisville that revealed personal indiscretions.

“Well, it doesn’t matter what you believe, what you don’t believe,” Pitino said. “The one thing all my players have said, because they all wrote letters for me: I’ve never cheated the game. I never gave a player anything that he didn’t deserve in life.”

St. John’s president, the Rev. Brian Shanley, said the decision to hire Pitino was his call.

“Yeah, sure, there’s some reputational risk because of things that have happened before, but I think Rick is at a point in his life where he’s learned from things that have happened in the past,” Shanley told The Associated Press. “I think he’d be the first one to tell you he’s done things that he regrets. Who doesn’t when you get to be that age? I know I have. I’m a believer in forgiveness and new beginnings as a priest, and I think Rick’s going to do a great job for St. John’s.”

Carnesecca, 98 and getting around with the help of a walker these days, sat in the front row of Pitino’s news conference.

“I think it’s a home run with the bases loaded,” Carnesecca said.

Carnesecca was one of the Big East’s brightest coaching stars, along with Georgetown’s John Thompson and Villanova’s Rollie Massimino, when Pitino became Providence head coach in 1985 at the age of 32.

Thirty-eight years later, Pitino’s Providence ties helped him land at St. John’s after three seasons at Iona, a small Catholic school in New Rochelle, just north of New York City.

Shanley previously was the president of Providence. He helped turn around a lagging men’s basketball program by hiring coach Ed Cooley and investing in facilities upgrades.

“If I wasn’t a Providence Friar, he would have never even considered it,” Pitino said.

Shanley attempted to lure Pitino away from Louisville and back to Providence years ago, but he didn’t know much about the coach personally back then. He said he talked to a lot of people about Pitino this time around.

“I’d say my behind-the-scenes wisdom person was Mike Tranghese, the former commissioner of the Big East,” Shanley said. “He got me Ed Cooley last time, and I think we came out pretty well this time, too.”

Cooley was hired by Georgetown on Monday.

Pitino said he’s bringing his entire staff with him from Iona, which announced the hiring of Fairleigh Dickinson coach Tobin Anderson to replace Pitino earlier in the day.

Pitino will try to become the first coach to take six different schools to the NCAA Tournament as he gets one more shot on the big stage.

“I deserve it,” he said, “because I’ve earned it.”

Tobin Anderson leaving FDU to replace Rick Pitino at Iona

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NEW ROCHELLE, N.Y. — Tobin Anderson is leaving NCAA Cinderella Fairleigh Dickinson after one fairy-tale season and replacing Rick Pitino at Iona.

Iona athletic director Matt Glovaski announced the hiring a day after Pitino left to take the job at St. John’s of the Big East Conference.

Anderson led the No. 16 seed Knights to a win over No. 1 Purdue in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament last week, only the second time a No. 16 seed has knocked off a top-seeded team. UMBC beat No. 1 Virginia in 2018.

“Iona University represents everything my family and I were looking for in a school, a basketball program and a campus atmosphere,” Anderson said in a statement. “Our goal is to build upon the tremendous tradition of Iona basketball and elevate the program to greater heights.”

Iona of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference was knocked out of this year’s tournament by UConn on Friday.

“We have long known him to be a fantastic coach and an even better person,” Glovaski said. “Now, with his team’s impressive run in the NCAA Tournament, everyone paying attention to March Madness also knows this. We’re delighted that he will be at the helm of our men’s basketball program.”

Anderson led FDU to a 21-16 overall record and 10-6 in Northeast Conference play. The Knights lost to Merrimack in the conference title game but got the NCAA berth because Merrimack was ineligible to compete as a transitioning school from Division II.

FDU, one of the shorter teams in the 68-team field, beat Texas Southern in a First Four game and followed that with the upset over Purdue. Florida Atlantic knocked the Knights out of the tournament on Sunday.

FDU had a 4-22 record in 2021-22. Anderson was hired after running the program at St. Thomas Aquinas, located less than 25 miles (40 km) from Iona’s campus. In nine seasons, he turned the team into a perennial Top 25 program in Division II after inheriting a team that won just five games prior to his hire.

Anderson got his first taste of Division I coaching, serving as an assistant at Siena for two seasons from 2011–2013. Before his time at Siena, Anderson was a head coach at the Division III level at Hamilton College and Clarkson University in upstate New York. He worked as an assistant at Clarkson and Le Moyne College.

Anderson graduated from Wesleyan University in 1995.