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2022-2023 CUSA College Basketball Preview

CUSA being a FBS football playing conference has meant it as remained as in flux the last 20 years as any conference there is with realignment. That turnover is already taking hold this season earlier than expected with USM, Marshall, and ODU leaving for the Sun Belt. The Sun Belt who BTW seems to be one of the more stable conferences these days and moving forward. That’s pretty wild to consider if you know hte history.

UAB, North Texas, Rice, Charlotte, UTSA, and FAU will follow next season to the American. From a strictly basketball perspective only UAB and maybe UNT if McCasland sticks around are losses. ODU has the fundamentals in faculties and support but they are really down right now. USM, Marshall, and ODU leaving to the Sun Belt early probably helps tighten up the level of play this season and makes CUSA a better conference on their last ride with CUSA 3.5 or whatever version we are at currently. I actually think CUSA 4.0 could be a better basketball conference moving forward. In next season will be Liberty, New Mexico State, Sam Houston State, and Jacksonville State, while retaining WKU, UTEP, MTSU, FIU, and La Tech. We’ll monitor that closely for sure because it’s interesting. I just don’t see as weak of a floor in that conference from year to year like you have now with schools like UTSA, Rice, UNCC etc.

Here are my current national ranks, and while Jacksonville State isn’t projected to be very good this year they were #148 NET and in the NCAA just last season.

CUSA 4.0
88Western KentuckyCUSA
99New Mexico StateWAC
102LibertyASun
139MTSUCUSA
158UTEPCUSA
163La TechCUSA
187FIUCUSA
196Sam Houston StateWAC
223Jacksonville StateASun

It’s a conference that can be a little better IMO or has that potential and probably challenge for the 11th best conference from year to year.

Here are our national ranks so you can see the tiers we have each of the current version of CUSA teams are on.

1-363 ranking

National Rank
30UABCUSA
67North TexasCUSA
88Western KentuckyCUSA
134FAUCUSA
139MTSUCUSA
158UTEPCUSA
163La TechCUSA
175CharlotteCUSA
187FIUCUSA
209RiceCUSA
274UTSACUSA

In Lieu of an All Conference teams, I’ve listed the Top Returning Players by Peak Adjusted Efficiency for SOS. Most will likely come from this list anyway, but the awards are more team driven. I’m more interested in who is actually doing the most when they are on the court. The players can’t control the team that was put around them. If they are putting up tangible numbers at top efficiency per possession on bad teams, that is actually more impressive to me. It’s coming under more pressure and game planning for them, with less viable options around them to take the pressure off. This list encompasses the players that have been the best on a D1 court going into the season.

ADJ effTop 300
61Tylor PerryNorth Texas
75Jordan WalkerUAB
92Max FiedlerRice
112Jamarion SharpWKU
157Abou OusmaneNorth Texas
198Ladarius BrewerUAB
203Dayvion McKnightWKU
236KJ BuffenUAB
253Trey JemisonUAB
260Montre’ GipsonCharlotte
283Tavin LovanUAB
297Eric GainesUAB

(Last year’s NET, Seed, and Tournament Finish on the top header line for reference. Deep bench players are not listed, only those in the projected rotation. I also included player ADJ eff rankings. ADJ eff Rankings and qualifying explanation here.)

1. UAB

UAB49 NET12 seed1R
Trey Jemison7-0, 2607.0ppg, 7.4rpg18.9Sr
KJ Buffin6-7, 23010.0ppg, 6.8rpg19.3Sr
Ledarrius Brewer6-5, 19514.6ppg, 5.3rpg(@ETSU)17.1Gr
Jordan Walker6-3, 18520.3ppg, 4.9apg22.8Sr
Eric Gaines6-2, 1559.0ppg, 2.9apg(@LSU)14.4So
Tavin Lovan6-4, 2108.2ppg, 3.5rpg18.3Sr
Ty Brewer6-9, 21010.7ppg, 6.7rpg (@ETSU)16.3Gr
Javian Davis6-9, 2423.5ppg, 2.3rpg (@Miss St)12.1Sr
Tyler Bertram6-3, 1859.0ppg, 1.8rpg(@Bingington)11.4Jr
Peak Efficiency Adjusted by SOSReturning Players in the Top 300
75Jordan Walker
198Ladarius Brewer
236KJ Buffen
253Trey Jemison
283Tavin Lovan
297Eric Gaines

Returning 4 key players and a 20ppg scorer is pretty big to go with what they added. Adding a couple of brothers / teammates should help with the chemistry as well. Walker and Gaines are a big time backcourt in the making. This should be the year they take a big step, it’s just too good deep team top to bottom with lots of versatility that will have lots of winnable games.

Andy Kennedy has proven he is one of the portal whisperers, and UAB is lucky to have this alum probably for years to come. With the level he’s already recruiting at in the portal I’m really excited to see the kind of transfers Kennedy can pull off when they upgrade conferences to the American. They already are on the cusp of the top 25 as it is.

2. North Texas

North Texas55 NETNCAA
Abou Ousmane6-10, 25010.2ppg, 5.9rpg20.9
Jayden Martinez6-7, 21514.9ppg, 5.5rpg(@N. Hampshire)20.6
Tyree Eady6-5, 20010.3ppg, 5.0rpg(@ND St)15.3
Rubin Jones6-5, 1848.2ppg, 3.1rpg11.3
Tylor Perry5-11, 18213.5ppg, 2.5apg22.9
Kai Huntsberry6-3. 21619.6ppg,4.3apg (D2)
Moulaye Sissoko6-9, 2502.4ppg, 2.0rpg(@Dayton)22.7
Peak Efficiency Adjusted by SOSReturning Players in the Top 300
61Tylor Perry
157Abou Ousmane

UNT has 2 players in the Top 160 players nationally in Adjusted Efficiency, returning Perry and Ousmane. Probably most importantly, McCasland returns to coach them. He did a nice job rebuilding the roster around them. They added a quality transfer class as well, listed. They have 2 core players and a top reserve and were able to rebuild nicely around them. It’s always nice to be your best and most experienced at PG (or Primary ball handler) and Center as well where they are. You can always fit shooting around that combination. They do have to replace Bell and McBride though so I could see them taking a small haircut this season.

3. Western Kentucky

WKU122 NET
Jamarion Sharp7-5, 2258.2ppg, 7.6rpg, 4.6Bpg23.7
Emmanuel Akot6-8, 21010.6ppg, 2.8apg(@Boise St)11.9
Dontaie Allen6-6, 1985.4ppg, 1.6rpg(@Kentucky 2021)12.8
Luke Frampton6-5, 2008.8ppg, 3.2rpg11.9
Dayvion McKnight6-1, 19016.2ppg, 5.5apg20.5
Tyron Marshall6-7,21516.2ppg , 8.8rpg (JUCO)
Khristian Lander6-2, 1852.9ppg, 0.9apg(@Indina)5.9
Jordan Rawls6-1, 1805.2ppg, 2.2apg(@Georgia St)7
Peak Efficiency Adjusted by SOSReturning Players in the Top 300
112Jamarion Sharp
203Dayvion McKnight

Western Kentucky had a big week getting Emmanuel Akot to decommit from Memphis and enroll at WKU in the 11th hour. It’s pretty crazy. This coming off the magic earlier in the summer of having a 7-5 shot-blocking defensive presence enter the portal and then be able to pull him back out. Retaining Jamarion Sharp was a nice save for Stansbury and still probably the single biggest thing they did this offseason. He was able to add a pretty solid transfer class as well. I’m not really as high on Lander and Akot as most, but I do believe Allen will be a nice one-two punch, with Sharp getting the talent back to the levels WKU is accustomed to. While I think the class overall is a little overrated they clearly are upgrading their talent.

4. Florida Atlantic

There isn’t much flash here. FAU didn’t have anyone register in the top 300 Adjusted Efficiency even though they are a more offensive oriented team. They didn’t add anyone proven of note, but they do return their top 6 players. That continuity is a good thing when you were the number 132 NET last season. FAU already made the step from #178 two seasons ago to #132 last season so the trajectory is what you would like to see as well. I would expect some improvement this season but moving up gets more difficult the higher you ascend.

As much as they return on the surface they aren’t without any questions. The two contributors FAU lost were both 6-7 power forwards that accounted for about 38 minutes at a position of importance. Baruiti didn’t play but 14 minutes a game but he was the most impactful as an athletic player that had a good net rating teams had to respect on the perimeter. It’s a bit unclear how they replace this position overall. They could go big but it’s pretty clear Rasodo and Goldin were spiting time at Center. That would change the make up of this team if Rasodo at 6-8, 247 has to try to guard quick players on the perimeter like he will see. I can’t see that as the path and playing 4 guards seems like the next most likely with a 6-4 200lb PF. This is the only question on a team that returns so many players, but it’s a substantial question to me.

5. MTSU

Nick McDevitt had his most successful season to date at MTSU finishing the season with 95 NET ranking going to the CBI and losing to UNCW in double overtime in the finals. The CIT and CBI get mocked, but there have been multiple examples of teams that had deep runs and follow it up with NCAA or NIT bids the next year. It can be a good experience but for MTSU I would expect a step back after they lost their 2 best players in Sims and Jefferson. They do get Jalen Jordan back, who didn’t play last year which will help. They didn’t really add anyone proven, though.

6. UTEP

UTEP161 NET
Jonathan Dos Anjos6-8, 20512.1ppg 5.5rpg (JUCO)
Otis Frazier III6-6, 2072.7ppg, 1.9rpg (@George Mason)18.3
Mario McKinney Jr.6-2, 1853.8ppg, 2.1rpg (New Mex St)11.1
Tae Hardy6-3, 17511.0ppg, 2.6apg (@USM 2021)13.6
Shamar Givance5-10, 15513.7ppg, 3.9apg (Evansville)16.7
Jamari Sibley6-8, 2005.3ppg, 4.0rpg13.5
Calvin Solomon6-7, 2089.3ppg, 5.8rpg(@SFA)17.7
Che Evans6-5, 2101.1ppg(@San Deigo St)

UTEP wasn’t very good last year, but they essentially have a completely new team this season. It was rebuilt from the portal and JUCO ranks. Souley Boum is the biggest loss and he’s being replaced by guards like Givance and Hardy who’s teams were 325+ NET teams. The rank is probably out of respect for Joe Golding who I think is a pretty good coach and can get something out of them. I respect going into the portal and JUCO’s like he did trying to remake the team. That’s a much more wise approach than freshman you likely can’t keep anyway and are punting being good next year with. At least there is a reasonable path, you could see UTEP doing something with so many experienced players.

7. La Tech

Gone are both Kenneth Loften Jr, and Eric Konkol who were obviously the two biggest driving forces of the team. Louisiana Tech does return their starting backcourt. The biggest add will be getting Isaiah Crawford back, who only played 3 games last season. He was highly productive 2 seasons ago and will be counted on the most I believe to pick up the slack left by Loften. Hester was on staff until last year, so it’s essentially like promoting a coach from within similar to when Konkol was hired. La Tech has been a quality program since Mike White was there and I think can continue to be respectable, but losing Loften is a lot to absorb in the short term when they didn’t had much proven help. The only addition was Dravon Mangum from Radford who averaged 7.1ppg, 3.6rpg 13.9 PER.

8. Charlotte

Peak Efficiency Adjusted by SOSReturning Players in the Top 300
260Montre’ Gipson
Transfers
Igor Milicic Jr.6-10, 2242.0ppg, 0.917.9Virginia
Josh Aldrich6-7, 2057.2ppg, 4.5rpg15.2USC Up
Lu’Cye Patterson6-1, 2307.4ppg, 2.7rpg12.8Missouri St
Montre Gipson5-11, 20014.9ppg, 3.2apg18.8Tarleton

Ron Sanchez survived last season even after losing one of the best transfers on the market in Jahmir Young. He was able to recover as well as could be expected with a reasonable facsimile in Montre’ Gibson. It’s just the poor man’s version. Sanchez tried to bring in several other transfers but I don’t think it’s going to be nearly enough to save him this season. It feels like last year was only delaying the inevitable.

This will probably be the 3rd coach Charlotte has went through since firing Bobby Lutz 13 seasons ago. To set the scene they had a nice program in the A10 at the time. Lutz was a 51 year old Alum coach who probably would have stayed until he was 70, had just come off a 19 win top 80 NIT caliber season and they fired him. Apparently they wanted to go to the next level. They certainly have moved their program multiple levels in the decade plus since.

Great Job

9. FIU

FIU finished with a #266 NET last season and they lost their best player Tevin Brewer. They do return Denver Jones who averaged 12.5ppg, 3.7 rpg 18.6 PER to help soften the blow. Fortunately Hartford’s going D3’s and their fans loss is FIU’s gain, acquiring Austin Williams getting out of dodge. They also landed Nick Guadarrama from the northeast who was a quality player for New Hampshire as well. One player I expected more of last season and I could see still making a bigger impact this season is Seth Pinckney. He’s a 7-1 and was a force at Quinnipiac in limited minutes I expected to run with an expanded role but that didn’t happen. 8.3ppg, 4.8rpg, 2.3bpg on 79% from the floor 23.7 PER there.

10. Rice

Peak Efficiency Adjusted by SOSReturning Players in the Top 300
92Max Fiedler

Fiedler is one of the best players in the conference certainly and one of the better ones in the country no one knows about. Last season he had to split time with Mylyjael Poteat who was equally efficient. It was kind of an embarrassment of riches to have them both and not be able to find a way to play them together. Sure the fit wouldn’t have been ideal but it’s not like the other guys they were putting on the court were doing anything positive. Pera couldn’t figure it out and Poteat was only playing 13 minutes a game so he peaced out and transferred…….to Virginia Tech. Yes I know it seems strange on the surface that a top 20 NET team from last year would want a guy that played 13 minutes a game on a 215 NET one but he’s that good. He certainly was dominate in the minute he actually got to play. You got to figure a way to get your best players on the court or they will leave. Fiedler will have all the minutes he can handle this year at center now and I expect a massive season. Unfortunately there is nothing else around him at this point. Their 2nd best guard, Evee, returns but there isn’t much new help on the way and they also have to replace their leading scorer.

11. UTSA

USTA was 324 NET last season, and lost 2 of their 3 best players to transfer. These weren’t big losses though considering how inept they were last season. Dhieu Deing returns and he put up numbers, but highly inefficiently, .461 True Shooting. This is going to be a bad team, but I don’t think quite as bad as last season even losing a couple of their top players and adding no one of note. It just kind of hard to be in a decent conference and be that bad 2 years in a row. I think they improve a little just on continuity and maybe some better shooting luck. The players they lost weren’t efficient so I expect they can get equally bad shooting out of internal promotions in their replacement and maybe a little better even.

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  1. Pingback: NCAA College Basketball Rankings: All 363 teams in 2022-23 – The Hoops Resource

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