Mid-Major Regional Quick Guide, Part I

Posted by Tommy Lemoine on November 10th, 2017

With the season now upon us, here’s a region-by-region look at the mid-major players, coaches, teams, and storylines you need to know entering 2017-18.

Northeast

Makai Mason and Yale look to inflict more damage this season. (Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

  • Vermont. The Catamounts went 16-0 in America East play last season and hung around with Purdue for more than 30 minutes in the NCAA Tournament. Their top four scorers are all back in 2017-18, including conference Player of the Year Trae Bell-Haynes and Rookie of the Year Anthony Lamb. Oh yeah — Defensive POY Dre Wills and Sixth Man of the Year Darren Payne also return. Don’t blink, Kentucky.
  • Ivy League Athletes. Harvard and Yale should compete neck and neck for an NCAA Tournament bid this season, but either would be a scary draw for any high-major foe. The Crimson in particular are equipped with a sophomore trio of former four-star recruits. The Bulldogs welcome back giant-slayer Makai Mason and pro prospect Miye Oni. This ain’t your father’s Ivy League.
  • Rhode Island. Dan Hurley led Rhode Island to its first NCAA Tournament appearance since the Lamar Odom era last season. With E.C Matthews (14.9 PPG), Jared Terrell (12.6 PPG), and Stanford Robinson back (maybe), the Rams should be right back in position to inflict even more damage this March.
  • Tyler Nelson – G – Fairfield. The 6’3″ senior (19.5 PPG) was the MAAC’s second-leading scorer last season, showing a knack for big shots and eye-popping performances. Iona and Monmouth should be the league favorites in 2017-18, but Nelson’s high-volume, high-efficiency offense makes him the player to watch in that league.

Mid-Atlantic

St. Bonaventure’s Jaylen Adams is among the best point guards in college hoops. (collegecourtreport.com)

  • Jaylen Adams – G – St. Bonaventure. The senior averaged 20.5 points, 6.5 assists, and 2.1 steals per game last season, which ranked first, second and first, respectively, in the Atlantic 10. He’s among the most complete point guards in college hoops, and a big reason why — alongside backcourt-mate Matt Mobley (18.5 PPG) — the Bonnies could hear their name called on Selection Sunday.
  • Saint Francis (PA). Last March, the Red Flash did this. With perhaps the NEC’s most talented roster — including sharpshooter Isaiah Blackmon (47% 3FG) — next March might be even better.
  • Bucknell. After owning the Patriot League and testing West Virginia in last season’s NCAA Tournament, Bucknell is poised for one of its best seasons in program history. The Bison return virtually their entire roster, including conference Player of the Year Nana Foulland (15 PPG, 7.8 RPG, 2.1 BPG). Nathan Davis’ team might be just balanced and experienced enough to win a game in March.
  • Tiwian Kendley and Phillip Carr – Morgan State. Kendley (21 PPG) led the MEAC in scoring while Carr (9.6 RPG) led the league in rebounding last season. Both are back, which makes Morgan State the odds-on favorite to win this conference.
  • Mike Rhoades – Head Coach – VCU. Can the Shaka Smart disciple extend VCU’s seven-year NCAA Tournament streak? The Rams suffered substantial roster turnover, but Rhoades worked incredible magic during his three years at Rice.
  • B.J. Johnson – F – La Salle. Jordan Price was supposed to be ‘the guy’ at La Salle last season, but it was Johnson (17.6 PPG, 6.3 RPG) who outshined the rest. The former Syracuse forward should help the Explorers improve on their .500 record this time around.

Southeast

  • College of Charleston. After finishing second in the league a year ago, Charleston returns its entire starting five including preseason CAA Player of the Year Joe Chealey (17.8 PPG). The Cougars’ perimeter defense is suffocating, and should again be top-class. Continued improvement on the offensive end should put Earl Grant’s team in position to not only reach the NCAA Tournament, but possibly win a game or two while there.
  • Middle Tennessee State. No high-major opponent — especially those in the Big Ten — wants to see the Blue Raiders in March. Not after Kermit Davis’ group knocked off #2 seed Michigan State in 2016 and #12 seed Minnesota last March. Losing forwards JaCorey Williams and Reggie Upshaw will hurt — the duo combined for 31.0 points and 14.0 rebounds a night — but point guard Giddy Potts and most other cast members return. Middle Tennessee should once again be the cream of Conference USA.
  • Jonathan Stark – F – Murray State. Dude gets buckets with the best of them. The 6’0″ point guard averaged 21.9 points and 5.2 assists per contest last season while shooting nearly 43 percent from long range. HIs presence should make the Racers an OVC title contender once again.
  • What could’ve been — and what could still be — at WKU. Five-star recruit Mitchell Robinson was oh-so-close to suiting up for the Hilltoppers this season, opting instead to forgo college basketball altogether and prep for the NBA Draft. Even without him, though, super-recruiter Rick Stansbury has assembled a very intriguing, if unproven, roster. Three very good transfers — Lamonte Bearden (Buffalo), Darius Thompson (Virginia), and Dwight Coleby (Ole Miss, Kansas) — along with a couple three-star recruits should make Western Kentucky a Conference USA contender.
  • Florida Gulf Coast. Andy Enfield may have built Dunk City, but Joe Dooley has built a program. After back-to-back NCAA Tournament appearances, the Eagles look poised for another Atlantic Sun title and some possible magic in the Big Dance. Joining preseason conference Player of the Year Brandon Goodwin (18.5 PPG) this season will be incoming transfers Ricky Doyle (Michigan) and Michael Gilmore (VCU).
  • Chris Clemons – G – Campbell. UNC Asheville is the Big South’s team to beat, but Clemons is the player to watch. The diminutive guard made good on his nation-leading shot share (42 percent of shots while on floor), averaging 25.1 points per game — third-most in college basketball — and dropping 51 points in Campbell’s upset victory over UNC-Asheville in the conference tournament.
  • Scott Padgett – Head Coach – Samford. Remember him? The former NBA forward and key member of Kentucky’s 1998 National Championship squad? Yeah, he also turns out to be a pretty good coach. After guiding Samford to its first winning season since 2006, Padgett has a chance to break more ground in the wide open Southern Conference this season. If the Bulldogs outlast Mercer and Furman for the league crown, expect several high-major athletic directors to come knocking on Padgett’s door.
  • Seventh Year Senior. Northwestern State guard Jalan West enters year seven  — yes, seven — in Natchitoches after missing two years with consecutive ACL tears. If he can stay healthy, the 5’11” guard should be a prolific scorer this season.
Tommy Lemoine (216 Posts)


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