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Building A Top 25 Team With Mid Majors

We define a mid-major and eligibility as anyone, not in a top 10 Major Conference. There have been pretty distinct tiers in recent years developed both in money, average finish, and multi-NCAA bids.

Power 6: Big 12, SEC, ACC, Big East, Big 10, Pac 12

Major: AAC, WCC, Atlantic 10, MWC

Mid Major: led by CUSA, MVC, CAA, WAC, MAAC, Big West, Sun Belt, SoCon, Horizon, MAC

I thought it would be fun to think about what the lowest-ranked conference you could realistically build a top-25 team from. We have UAB ranked #31 in the preseason, so you could certainly build a team IMO with their guys and some of the other top players from North Texas and WKU in that league.

Our Top 25

Let’s quickly take a few of the borderline top 25 teams by our rankings and see what where their top players ranked in the ADJeff model nationally of returners.

#23 UConn

12Adama Sanogo
116Tristen Newton
298Andre Jackson

#24 Florida

10Colin Castleton
130Trey Bonham
159Will Richard
280Kyle Lofton

#25 Creighton

6Ryan Kalkbrenner
162Baylor Scheierman

#26 St. Louis

17Francis Okoro
96Javonte Perkins
221Fred Thatch Jr.
231Yuri Collins
251Gibson Jimerson

#27 Texas A&M

29Tyrece Radford
74Henry Coleman

#28 Memphis

11Kendric Davis
41Deandre Williams
263Keonte Kennedy

That gives you a sense of what kind of talent level you probably need to have a chance. Some of these teams were ranked lower because of coaching or continuity, but most have some high-end elite talent.

CUSA

Here is where CUSA players came in.

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

A Tylor Perry, Jordan Walker backcourt, with Jamarion Sharp behind them on defense would be a Top 25 team in my estimation with all that other incredible depth and the coaching of Grant McCasland. Eric Gaines was a 27-minute-a-game player on a top-25 LSU team last year so when you can bring a guy like that off the bench you probably got a top-25 team. The depth and fit work here in the hypothetical.

Southern Conference

The SoCon possesses the best collection of high-end talent of any of the Mid Majors in my opinion. Where it falls apart some for them is the depth, on the wings and that some of this high-end talent is in the post is a bit overkill as they couldn’t all play together.

13Jake StephensChattanooga
30Jalen SlawsonFurman
43B.J. MackWofford
127Mike BothwellFurman
118Ques GloverSamford

A three-man post rotation of Stephens, Slawson, and Mack with Bothwell and Ques Glover in the backcourt and Bob Richie coaching would still be a serious team to deal with. I think they could find enough perimeter wing role players around the league to crack into the top 20 still. These were some of the nice additions they made this offseason that probably help fill out that hypothetical team and 6th man off the bench.

Keondre Kennedy6-6, 18014.8ppg, 5.1rpgUMBC
Justice Smith6-6, 19020.6ppg, 7.0rpg (D2)Mansfield
DeAnthony Tipler5-10, 17513.4ppg, 2.5rpg (2021)Coastal Carolina

*Bubba Parham as well if his health is better as the wildcard. The Southern Conference would have the highest upside IMO.

These next few conferences, there best I think could contend for the top 25 but not as sure a bet.

MVC

86Garrett SturtzDrakeMVC
94Ben KrikkeValpoMVC
105Rienk MastBradleyMVC
143Tucker DeVriesDrakeMVC
153Roman PennDrakeMVC
176Ben SheppardBelmontMVC
178Marcus DomaskSouthern IllinoisMVC

A lot of depth here, star power isn’t as great though.

CAA

54Aaron EstradaHofstraCAA
91Charles ThompsonTowsonCAA
98Cam HoldenTowsonCAA
170Shykeim PhillipsUNCWCAA

The CAA is a little light on bigs but I think that’s at least better if these guys could play together. They probably have the next best chance behind the SoCon and CUSA.

MAC

66Enrique FreemanAkronMAC
76Sy ChatmanBuffaloMAC
80JT ShumateToledoMAC

Dwight Wilson is another big-time name depending on their health. The problem is all of their talents is concentrated in the post. The fit would be an issue and a couple would be wasting away on the bench at all times.

48Kevin SamuelSouth AlabamaSB
101Jordan BrownLouisianaSB
141Felipe HaaseSouthern MissSB
154Austin TriceOld DominionSB

The fit would be an issue on this team as well with all bigs. Greg Parham’s health would help a lot.

Other Top 100
42Andre KellyUCSB
72Antoine DavisDetroit
82Nelly Junior JosephIona

These three mid-major players also cracked the top 100 in adjusted efficiency, but the rest of their conferences are light on the kind of talent you could see doing it. We’ve seen teams not do anything with Kelly and Davis with nothing around them too. I think there are a few conferences you could build a top 45 team and probably get an at large like those or the American East, or at least the bubble. There might be enough for that level.

Conclusion

I think you could build a top 25 team fairly easily with CUSA and Southern Conferences best. Maybe even a top 15-ranked one. The CAA and MVC would have a chance but not likely although they probably have enough for large teams. The MAC and Sun Belt would be long shots. That’s my take.

So could we build a team from the entire pool to challenge for the top 5?

Why not just for fun.

13Jake StephensChattanooga
30Jalen SlawsonFurman
42Andre KellyUCSB
43B.J. MackWofford
48Kevin SamuelSouth Alabama
54Aaron EstradaHofstra
61Tylor PerryNorth Texas
66Enrique FreemanAkron
72Antoine DavisDetroit
75Jordan WalkerUAB
76Sy ChatmanBuffalo
80JT ShumateToledo
82Nelly Junior JosephIona
86Garrett SturtzDrake
91Charles ThompsonTowson
92Max FiedlerRice
94Ben KrikkeValpo
98Cam HoldenTowson
101Jordan BrownLouisiana
103Tosan EvbuomwanPrinceton
105Rienk MastBradley
112Jamarion SharpWKU
115Darius McGheeLiberty
118Ques GloverSamford
119Antwan WalkerBryant
127Mike BothwellFurman
141Felipe HaaseSouthern Miss
143Tucker DeVriesDrake
151Dylan PennVermont
153Roman PennDrake
154Austin TriceOld Dominion
157Abou OusmaneNorth Texas
163Jordan DinglePenn
167Xavier PinsonNew Mexico State
170Shykeim PhillipsUNCW
176Ben SheppardBelmont
178Marcus DomaskSouthern Illinois
179KJ SimonTennesse Martin
183Justin AmadiJMU
184Ahsan AsadullahLipscomb
190Seneca KnightIllinois State

Here are some of the players in the Top 190.

I think a team of some mix of…

Jake Stephens, Andre Kelly, Kevin Samuel, Aaron Estrada, Antonie Davis, Jordan Walker, Darius McGhee, Jordan Brown, Ques Glover and Tylor Perry could beat Gonzaga or UNC which are our Top 2.

C Stephens

F Brown

F Estrada

G Davis

G Walker

If you have a team good enough to bring players like Darius McGhee or Andre Kelly, or Tylor Perry off the bench you got a team good enough to compete for #1 I think.

#1 Gonzaga

4Drew Timme
28Malachi Smith
126Rasir Bolton
177Julian Strawther

#2 North Carolina

5Armando Bacot
31Pete Nance
193R.J. Davis
266Caleb Love

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