Regular season college basketball returns in just five days.
If you’re like us, you couldn’t be more excited about what the next five months will provide for basketball fans alike, in terms of pure entertainment mixed with some anxious moments surrounding your respective favourite teams.
From coast to coast, there are a plethora of talented teams heading into the 2016-17 season. Each season, we rank the top ‘mid-major’ teams in the country in our weekly ‘Top 20 Power Rankings. (Hate the term ‘mid-major’, for the record).
Last year, the Valparaiso Crusaders finished the regular season as the top mid-major team in the country, in our opinion.
Heading into the 2016-17 season, the top two teams reside on the west coast, and will do battle once more in the West Coast Conference. The Gonzaga Bulldogs and the Saint Mary’s Gaels are atop the preseason edition of the College Court Report Mid-Major Top 20 Power Rankings.
Who comes in at #1?
The Gonzaga Bulldogs come in on top of the preseason rankings in 2016-17. As a 10-seed in the NCAA Tournament a season ago, the Bulldogs advanced out of the Denver Regional and into the Sweet 16, where they would ultimately fall at the hands of the Final Four-bound Syracuse Orange.
A healthy Przemek Karnowski (top) and transfer Johnathan Williams III will solidify a front court that will be without both Kyle Wiltjer and Domantas Sabonis, who are now in the NBA.
Add in a back court that features returnees Silas Melson and Josh Perkins and transfers Nigel Williams-Goss and Jordan Mathews, and it’s easy to see why the Bulldogs are the pre-season favourites to win the West Coast Conference title.
In the two-spot at the Saint Mary’s Gaels, a team that won 29 games a season ago, and were snubbed of a spot in the field of 68 come March. They settled for a spot in the NIT, and advanced to the quarter-finals before having their season come to an end at the hands of the Valparaiso Crusaders.
In 2016-17, they will be neck-and-neck with the Bulldogs atop the conference standings, and among the country’s best teams. The Gaels bring back their entire starting five from last season, including the likes of Dane Pineau, Emmett Naar, and Joe Rahon. Rahon and Pineau are the only two seniors on the roster.
We went back-and-forth on who should be in the top spot of the first edition of the Power Rankings, but it was tough to overlook the incoming talent that the Bulldogs will have at their disposal.
The Monmouth Hawks were arguably the biggest snub of all last season, not earning a spot in the 2016 NCAA Tournament despite being one of the nation’s top teams all season long.
Senior guard Justin Robinson, the 62nd-ranked player in our list of the Top 100 Players for the 2016-17 Season, is back and ready to prove that last year was no fluke for the Hawks. Je’lon Hornbeak, Chris Brady, Collin Stewart, and Micah Seaborn are also back to give the Hawks a well-rounded roster.
Monmouth enters the season as the team to beat in the MAAC, and as the #4 team in the Power Rankings.
Following the 2015-16 season, forward Alec Peters declared for the 2016 NBA Draft. He was the last player who entered early to make his decision. In the end, he opted to return to the NCAA.
He was then classified as a graduate transfer, and was free to transfer anywhere he pleased. With several programs interested in his services, he made his pick shortly after withdrawing from the NBA Draft.
Peters chose the Valparaiso Crusaders.
When he opted to return to Valparaiso for one more season, the rest of the Horizon League let out a collective ‘sigh‘ as Crusader fans everywhere rejoiced. Their star big man was back for one more kick at the can. Having Peters back makes Valparaiso the team to beat in the Horizon League in 2016-17, and they enter the 2016-17 regular season as the #9 team in the Pre-season Power Rankings.
When Siyani Chambers suffered a season-ending ACL injury before the 2015-16 season began, the odds were against the Harvard Crimson. In a rare sight, the Crimson were a middle-of-the-pack team in the Ivy League, finishing with a 6-8 record in conference play, and 14-16 overall.
This season, Tommy Amaker’s crew should be back to their dominant ways. A healthy Chambers will do wonders for the team, but that’s not all the team has going for them. The return of sharp-shooting Canadian Corey Johnson and senior big man Zena Edosomwan provide big boosts for Amaker.
To make things even better, the future has arrived for the Crimson, in the form of four ESPN Top 100 recruits. Chris Lewis (#68), Robert Baker, Jr. (#97), Seth Towns (#98), and Bryce Aiken (#99) will all look to contribute right away for Harvard. They will all play integral parts in the bounce-back year for the Crimson.
Harvard enters the season ranked #17 in the Pre-season Power Rankings.
– T. Bennett
*The College Court Report Mid-Major Top 20 Power Rankings are comprised of teams from the following conferences:
America East, Atlantic 10, Atlantic Sun, Big Sky, Big South, Big West, Colonial, Horizon League, Ivy League, MAAC, MAC, MEAC, Missouri Valley, Northeast, Ohio Valley, Patriot League, Southern, Southland, Southwestern, Summit League, Sun Belt, West Coast, WAC