Jamal Mashburn, New Mexico Lobos

The preseason KenPom rankings are out, which, as far as preseason metrics go, are about the best out there. But, like all rankings, they aren’t perfect.


Some teams ranked high in KenPom will finish below .500, while other teams ranked below 300 will ultimately make the tournament. Here are 10 teams that might outperform their ranking or finish well below it. 

1. Northwestern State Demons, 334th

After going 22-11 last year in Corey Gipson’s first and only season at the helm in Natchitoches, the Demons look quite different from this past season after Gipson left for Austin Peay. To replace Gipson, they hired JUCO specialist and Tallahassee CC head coach Rick Cabrera, who was once an assistant coach at Austin Peay himself. Cabrera instantly reloaded the Demons with a bevy of JUCO and lower-division studs, and while they might not be on the level of Southeastern Louisiana or McNeese yet, they’re certainly better than their no. 334 rank would suggest. 

The backcourt tandem of Braelon Bush and Chase Forte is one of the best in the Southland. The 5-8 Bush played at McNeese State as a freshman in the 2020-21 season, where he made eight starts including a 13-point, 10-assist double-double against Dallas Christian. His career-high in assists actually came against Northwestern State, when he dropped 11 assists. He transferred at season’s end, after averaging 5.7 PPG and 3.3 APG, to JUCO Navarro College in Corsicana. He thrived as a scorer, averaging 17.1 PPG, scoring 25+ points on five separate occasions, and shooting 42.4% from deep and 86.9% from the line. Bush’s skill set last year emphasized his scoring ability, as opposed to the rotational distributor role he played at McNeese. This year, it’ll be somewhere in between the two, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see Bush average around 10 PPG and 6 APG. 

Forte is a bit taller at 6-4, and he comes over from JUCO Gulf Coast State in Panama City (Florida). He saw action in just two games as a freshman at UNC-Asheville, but he thrived at GCS. He averaged 13.0 PPG and 5.9 APG, and actually played against Cabrera twice last year, recording 11 points and 6 assists in both contests. He’s got D-1 size, and he’s just as talented as a distributor as Bush, maybe even more so. Built like a football safety, (listed at 6-4, 190) his best trait may be perimeter defense. He averaged 2.7 SPG in conference matchups last year, and he’ll immediately become one of the best defenders in the Southland. 

Add in South Carolina State transfer Justin Wilson and JUCO transfer Jamison Epps (Casper College) in the frontcourt, and this team will remain amongst the upper echelon of the Southland. Epps especially is a name to watch, as he averaged 18.2 PPG and 10.3 RPG last year at the JUCO level. Last year, every team below 313th in the KenPom rankings had a losing record. Odds are that this Demon team’s record is closer to last year’s mark of 22-11 than .500. A postseason rank of around 200-220 would be more reasonable than their current spot of 334th. 

2. Gonzaga Bulldogs, 5th

Gonzaga has been a powerhouse in the Pacific Northwest for the past 25+ years. They’re talented this year, too, but they’re not top five, especially with the losses of Drew Timme, Julian Strawther, and Rasir Bolton. Timme was the heartbeat of the Zags for three years, and his departure signifies not just a statistical loss but a loss for the locker room, too. 

Although Anton Watson and Nolan Hickman return to their starting positions, losing four of five leading scorers doesn’t bode well for a team that didn’t reload in the offseason to the level that others did. Ryan Nembhard is great, of course, and he’ll slide right into the point role, providing a steadying veteran presence, possibly the best medicine a team could be prescribed after losing Timme. Don’t forget that the Bulldogs picked up Graham Ike from Wyoming, who averaged 19.5 PPG and 9.6 RPG in his last season, Wyoming’s 2021-22 campaign. Adding Steele Venters to the mix from Eastern Washington should also help alleviate some of the offensive questions. 

However, there are still more questions than answers. Ike missed all of last season with a leg injury. There’s no doubt that he’s a difference-maker when he’s healthy, but how healthy will he be when he gets back on the court? He hasn’t played a game since March 2022, and it’ll be over 600 days since he last took the court in a real game before the Bulldogs play Yale on Nov. 10. Venters was excellent in the Big Sky, but there’s always going to be questions about how effective a player can be after making the jump up from the Big Sky, especially playing the type of non-conference schedule the Bulldogs typically endure. 4-star Dusty Stromer could answer some questions offensively, but the other freshmen aren’t likely to contribute as much as previous Zag recruiting classes.  

This Bulldogs team has a scarily low amount of depth, and the addition of Nembhard is really the only thing keeping Gonzaga at the top of the WCC in some projections. (For what it’s worth, Saint Mary’s has the better team and roster this year.) Hunter Sallis and Efton Reid both left for Wake Forest, which really cut into the Bulldogs’ depth. Only four players on the roster have played a minute of Power 6 basketball, and there’s a real possibility that this rotation is only 7-8 men deep. It’s not worth sounding the alarm yet, especially before the season starts and while Ryan Nembhard occupies the point spot, but the “5” next to their preseason KenPom ranking feels more like a best-case scenario than a realistic projection for this roster and season. The Zags have the makeup of a top 25-30 team, which isn’t bad, but it also isn’t 5th.  

3. UNC Wilmington Seahawks, 148th

Takayo Siddle is a name to watch in the coaching carousel. It would not be surprising to see him start next year as the head coach at Charlotte. After Kevin Keatts left for NC State following the 2016-17 season, the UNCW program fell into disrepair. C.B. McGrath was not the right man for the job, and the Seahawks suffered through a 26-52 record over the next three seasons. That’s when the Seahawks hired Takayo Siddle, the former Kevin Keatts assistant at both UNCW and NC State. 

Siddle has brought back the UNCW of the late 2010s, and they’ve got a real shot to win the CAA tournament in his 4th (and possibly final) year at the helm. Four of the team’s five projected starters this year made 14+ starts last year, and the combo of Trazarien White and Maleeck Harden-Hayes on the wings are in the upper echelon of the conference. While point guard Shykeim Phillips has taken significant steps backwards in terms of offensive efficiency, his defense is still one of a kind and others (such as New Mexico transfer KJ Jenkins and returnee Donovan Newby) can take care of the offense while Phillips does his thing on the defensive side of the ball on the perimeter. 

Harden-Hayes improved exponentially throughout the past season, which was great to see from a 4th-year player. After playing a minimal offensive role in the first handful of games, he blossomed into a reliable scoring threat, posting games of 31 points against Stony Brook, 28 against NC A&T, and 22 against Campbell, all against conference competition. Though listed at 6-7, he’s an elite shooter, hitting free throws at a 90.3% clip and shots from deep at a 38.5% rate. Harden-Hayes will be integral for the Seahawks’ chances at making the tournament, but he’s just one part of a very deep, veteran-laden roster. 

The frontcourt could be an open competition for minutes, as this roster isn’t exactly blessed with size, (the Seahawks don’t have a single player 6-10 or taller) but iron sharpens iron. I would expect Siddle to figure out the frontcourt rotation, (likely to include returnees Eric Van Der Heijden, Noah Ross, Nick Farrar, and Khamari McGriff, along with High Point transfer Ahmard Harvey), before non-conference games end. 

Despite the College of Charleston’s hold on the CAA, the Seahawks may be legitimate challengers to the crown, if there are any. They loaded up their non-conference schedule with games against UNC-Asheville, Arkansas, Kentucky, and FGCU. Odds are they’ll win one of those games, and they’ll give Kentucky a scare at least. Circle Dec. 2 on the calendar, and this Seahawk team is certainly better than 148th. They might even be 1 of 68 teams in the Big Dance.

4. Louisville Cardinals, 109th

There was not a worse Power 6 team last year, even Cal. In Kenny Payne’s first year, the Cardinals placed 290th in the KenPom rankings by the end of the year, and they lost games to App State, Bellarmine, and Wright State just in the first six days of the season. Esteemed powerhouses such as Marist, Southern Indiana, and, of course, Bellarmine finished ahead of Louisville in the rankings. Louisville wasn’t even the best team in Louisville last year.

I’ll always be at the top of the mountain shouting out the relative insignificance of preseason exhibitions and “secret scrimmages”, (there was actually a secret March Madness already this month that only I know about, and Le Moyne beat Bryant in the final, you’ve just got to take my word for it because it’s secret) but Louisville lost last year to Lenoir-Rhyne before their 4-28 disasterclass. They just did the same thing against Kentucky Wesleyan, and the Cardinals actually looked worse than last year. 

There’s simply no way for this team to even come close to a top-100 finish. The team lacks any semblance of reasonable depth, the depth that they do have isn’t good enough to compete with most mid-majors, let alone their own conference. The roster creation that Payne has assembled does not bode well for any hope of efficient lineups, both on the offensive and defensive side of the ball. The team couldn’t stop anyone last year, and there’s little hope they can do it this year.

Payne’s post-game comments after the exhibition loss only threw fuel on the fire, and this team could fall apart before conference games even start. For as many flaws as El Ellis had at the point guard position and defensive end, he was still better than Skyy Clark, who doesn’t inspire much confidence given how his previous stops have transpired. Southern Cal transfer Tre White is going to have to do some extreme lifting just to carry this Cardinal team to 3-4 conference wins if that. The mere fact that this team ranks above UCSB, EKU, and Georgia Tech almost makes me lose hope in predictive metrics as a whole. By March, this team may end up right where they were at the end of last year, minus Kenny Payne. 

5. New Mexico Lobos, 46th

Look out for the Lobos. The Pit will be rocking this year, as it typically is. The two-headed attack of Jamal Mashburn Jr. and Jaelen House is one of the best backcourt duos not just in the Mountain West but in the entire country. After a red-hot start last season, including a brief stint in the AP poll, Richard Pitino’s squad cooled off, eventually playing their way off the bubble and ending up in the NIT, though a deep Mountain West was partially to blame. 

Mashburn Jr. and House, along with Morris Udeze, were part of a trio that averaged over 16 PPG. While Udeze departs, (eligibility exhausted) the duo may remain a trio with the addition of Nelly Junior Joseph, the Iona transfer that averaged 14 and 9 for Richard’s brother Rick last season. All fans know that the transfer portal giveth and the transfer portal taketh, but Pitino worked magic in the portal. The Lobos saw Josiah Allick, KJ Jenkins, and Javonte Johnson leave, while the aforementioned Junior Joseph, Fresno State guard Jemarl Baker Jr., Texas A&M-Corpus Christi guard Isaac Mushila, and Dayton forward Mustapha Amzil all joined the program. 

All in all, the additions outweigh the subtractions. All four have the possibility of starting, but of course only 3 will, as long as Mashburn Jr. and House are healthy. We saw what College of Charleston could do with some of the best D-2 transfers in the country. Imagine what a team putting together a group of the best mid–major transfers could do. Junior Joseph could’ve chosen a Power 6 program, but he’s rocking with Albuquerque. He’ll be just as effective as Udeze was in his role last year. Hakeem alert. Junior Joseph averaged 1.2 SPG and 1.5 BPG for a 2.7 S+B per game last year. He’s not a threat from the perimeter, but he doesn’t need to be, especially since this lineup includes Mashburn Jr. and House. Also, if he was a threat from the perimeter, he’d probably be playing for Alabama or Arizona. 

Isaac Mushila comes from the two-time defending Southland champs Texas A&M-Corpus Christi Islanders, where the 6-5 guard led the conference in total rebounds. He’s one of the most decorated players in recent Southland history, and best of luck to anyone trying to find a better pound-for-pound rebounder than Mushila. The Southland produces hoopers. Mushila is no exception. Throw in the film. It’s a nice blend of physicality and finesse. Does it translate? Like the Rosetta Stone. In his most recent game, against Alabama, on college basketball’s biggest stage, Mushila dropped a 16-point, 15-rebound statline. In just two years in Division-1, (he transferred into TAMU-CC after two years at the JUCO level with Gillette College and Western Texas) he’s collected 27 double-doubles and 11 games of 15+ rebounds, all at just 6-5. He didn’t just rule the Southland, either, as Mushila ranked in the top 20 in the country in 9 different individual statistical categories, including offensive rating (11th), rebound percentage (9th), and win shares per 40 minutes (11th). It’s not out of the question that Mushila could grab the 3rd guard spot in the starting rotation alongside Mashburn Jr. and House. In fact, I’d be disappointed if he wasn’t starting Nov. 6. Go watch Isaac Mushila when the Lobos play. It’s a treat. 

Of course, don’t forget about Jemarl Baker Jr. The Lobos are the 4th team in Baker Jr.’s career, but he’s spent 2 years at each stop, those being Kentucky, Arizona, and Fresno State. That also makes this his 7th year of college basketball. He was a top-100 recruit in the class of 2017, part of the Kentucky recruiting class that included Jarred Vanderbilt, Hamidou Diallo, SGA, PJ Washington, and Kevin Knox. Gilgeous-Alexander is entering his 6th year in the NBA. Baker Jr. is the new kid on campus in Albuquerque. But that’s the kind of veteran experience that teams need. He averaged 12.0 PPG over 12 games as a starter at Arizona in the 2020-21 COVID-19 season, then transferred to Fresno State where he averaged 11.9 PPG over two seasons. While he doesn’t bring the type of consistent shooting to the court that Mashburn Jr. or House does, (career 32.6 3PT%) he can score in spurts and doesn’t turn the ball over much at all. 

Amzil, a native of Finland, had an impressive freshman season at Dayton in the 2020-21 season, regressed to an extreme degree as a sophomore, then seemingly picked up right where he left as a freshman last season, scoring 9.3 PPG and posting top-20 marks in the A-10 in defensive win shares and box plus/minus. The 6-9 forward will start, but the Lobos have depth behind him with a top-150 recruit in JT Toppin. If Toppin flashes, who knows. Iron sharpens iron. 

Another top-150 recruit, Tru Washington, will provide backcourt minutes, and he’s got a high ceiling. Overall, this team is in the running for the title of best mid-major. The starting 5 is certainly one of the best in the Southwest, and what Mountain West duo could compete with Jaelen House and Jamal Mashburn Jr.? The two combined for 36.0 PPG last year and could very well accomplish that feat again, perhaps to an even higher degree with defenses also having to account for Mushila, Junior Joseph, Baker Jr., Amzil, and returning sophomore Donovan Dent. New Mexico seems like a beautiful place. I’ve watched Breaking Bad twice. Is Jesse Pinkman canonically a fan of Lobo basketball? It’s possible. What’s certain, however, is that The Pit will be packed with fans dressed in red and (walter) white. This team’s ceiling is a fring(e) Final Four contender, and the Lobos could very well be marching into the second weekend, closer to a top-20 KenPom team than their current rank of 46. 

6. Auburn Tigers, 15th

Auburn had some trouble shooting last year, which was part of the reason they went 5-10 in their last 15 games. That stat may surprise some, but likely not those who watched Auburn basketball last year. The backcourt just couldn’t put all the pieces together, much like the year before when they got bounced by Miami despite Jabari Smith Jr. and Walker Kessler occupying the frontcourt. Wendell Green Jr. and K.D. Johnson couldn’t make their threes consistently, which was an issue because they took a lot of them, a combined 7.6 attempts per game between the two of them for a combined rate of 31.1% from deep. 

This year though, coach Bruce Pearl took strides in the offseason to address the problem, signing 5-star guard Aden Holloway in the freshman class and FIU guard Denver Jones in the portal. Holloway is one of the best shooters in the class, and Jones averaged 20.1 PPG on 37.1% shooting from deep. The backcourt duo could raise Auburn’s ceiling to levels above where they’ve been in the past 4 years, especially with Jaylin Williams and Johni Broome in the frontcourt. Broome very well might be the best player in the SEC, and the one-time Morehead State transfer averaged 14.2 PPG and 8.4 RPG in his first year in the SEC. Those four could be a strong nucleus for the team, and don’t forget ultra-efficient center Dylan Cardwell and the mercurial Johnson coming off the bench to provide valuable minutes. Auburn finally solves their inefficiency woes and makes a run into the top 15. 

Then again, there is a very real scenario in which this doesn’t work. A scenario in which Holloway takes time to adjust to the physicality of big-time college basketball and Jones’s game doesn’t translate as well to the Power 6 level, as the backcourt endures the exact same problems as the past two years, this time with even less depth (the Tigers lost three starters and three rotational players in the offseason). Broome will remain a steady hand, but there’s only so much of the team one can carry (we saw that last year). There’s about a 50-50 chance that this team isn’t even a top 40 team, even with their ceiling being in the top 15. Yes, there is a chance that this works to perfection and the Auburn fan base can breathe. But the fact remains that this entire backcourt combined for 0 Power 6 starts last year, and the lack of experience at the game’s highest level is worrisome. This Auburn team is by no means a sure thing, which is why it seems odd for the metrics to place them 15th.  

7. Tulsa Golden Hurricane, 272nd

Despite this team’s record last year, there’s no reason to judge this year’s Golden Hurricane based on the performances of Golden Hurricanes past. This is not the same team that went 5-25 last year. For starters, coach Eric Konkol went and grabbed almost an entirely new roster from the portal. None of the starters from last year return and the roster is filled to the brim with high-ceiling talent. The backcourt duo of Cobe Williams and Keaston Willis, both from the C-USA level at Louisiana Tech, are better than anyone the Golden Hurricane had on the roster last year. The duo combined for 31.2 PPG between the two, and they faced off against many of the new faces in the AAC last year while in C-USA. In fact, Williams scored 20+ points against FAU, Charlotte, Rice, and UAB. 

Two Power 6 players will likely find a place in the starting lineup, those being PJ Haggerty and Isaiah Barnes, who spent last year at TCU and Michigan, respectively. Freshman center Matt Reed was a top-200 recruit in this year’s cycle, and the two JUCO forwards (Jared Garcia and Carlous Williams) have plenty of potential. Williams was a one-time South Carolina recruit out of Gulfport, Mississippi, while Garcia spent time at Charlotte before spending last season with JUCO Salt Lake CC. One returnee, guard Jesaiah McWright, will provide some semblance of continuity for the team after the roster shakeup, and he’ll play rotational minutes.

All in all, this team has a combination of high-level mid-major performers and mid-level high-major potential. Haggerty and Barnes went to the Big 12 and Big 10 for a reason, and there’s reason to think that potential can be unlocked at Tulsa in the AAC. If there are concerns, it’s likely the unknown ability of whether or not the team will gel together, along with size. If Cobe Williams, Willis, and Haggerty start, that’s 60% of the lineup standing at 6’3 or shorter. That’s where Williams (Carlous) and Garcia come in. Those two are capable and willing to go pound-for-pound with anyone on the court. Don’t forget about the freshman, Reed, either. This team is too good to be ranked in the 270s in the KenPom ratings. It’s below teams such as UTRGV and Mount St. Mary’s. This team could very well end up in the top 150. Tulsa is this year’s poster child for untapped potential. They’ve just got to put it all together, and the odds are that they very well might. 

8. Mississippi State Bulldogs, 27th

The Bulldogs had even more trouble shooting than Auburn did. Historical trouble, truly. Mississippi State shot 26.6% from deep. I won’t sugar-coat it. That’s horrible. Preposterous. Disastrous. Nightmare-inducing. More bad news for the Bulldogs? Tolu Smith and KeShawn Murphy are both out until SEC games begin with foot injuries. Where does the offense go when they don’t have Smith to turn to? No matter how many defensive stops the Bulldogs get, they’ve still got to get the ball in the basket. 

Assuming Jimmy Bell is the starting center in the time that Smith misses, the Bulldogs’ starting five will come in having averaged a combined 39.0 PPG last season. The Bulldog bench doesn’t have another 39 PPG sitting around to pick up the slack, either. Returning four starters is great, but what good does it do if the starters that return don’t improve on the offensive end? Guards Andrew Taylor, (Marshall) Trey Fort, (Howard College) and Josh Hubbard (freshman recruit) will all provide a spark offensively off the bench, but they might be forced to start at some point to help find the proper balance of offense and defense. All while the backcourt has sincere depth options, the frontcourt currently does not. With Smith and Murphy injured, D.J. Jeffries, Cameron Matthews, and Bell will likely start the 3-5. That leaves just 3 backup options, none of which have played a minute of D-1 basketball. JUCO transfer Jaquan Scott would be the most likely backup option, but Adrian Meyers and Gai Chol are freshmen that still need time to adjust to high-major college basketball. 

The depth is not there, and that’s extremely concerning for a team that averaged just 65.7 PPG on offense, 323rd in the country out of 363 teams. Their perimeter shooting mark, mentioned above, (I don’t want to have to type out that number again for those with a phobia of bad perimeter shooting) ranked dead last in the country. The Bulldogs were literally 363rd out of 363 D-1 teams. There’s not even 363 teams in D-1 basketball this year. Mississippi State could shoot 1-500 from deep for a 0.2 3PT%, and they’d still finish higher than last year. This is an official red alert. With Smith and Murphy out, they’ll likely have to shoot even more threes! Maybe Taylor, Fort, and Hubbard are all actually well-trained shooters and will all hit 40%+ from deep. That’s a scenario in which the Bulldogs could conceivably be ranked in the top 30. That likely doesn’t happen though, and the likelihood that the Bulldog offense is in huge trouble by the time Smith gets back is a bit more likely. With Smith and Murphy out, this team is closer to a 65-85th ranked team rather than their ranking of 27, and even once Smith comes back, they might not sniff the top 30. 

9. Missouri Tigers, 55th

Do not doubt Dennis Gates. Ever. That includes putting the Missouri Tigers behind the LSU Tigers in the preseason rankings. In what world or data model does that make sense? Not mine. Despite the losses of Kobe Brown and D’Moi Hodge, these Tigers have some underrated talent on the roster still. The starting five will likely consist of short king Nick Honor, either Caleb Grill or JUCO transfer Curt Lewis, John Tonje, Noah Carter, and Connor Vanover. The Tigers have shooting AND size. Look out, SEC. Here comes Dennis Gates. The Tigers have almost a second starting lineup on their bench, as Sean East, possibly the best glue guy out of all the glue guys, returns, as does high-ceiling forward Kaleb Brown, brother of Kobe. In the transfer portal, Gates picked out rotational pieces in Tamar Bates from Indiana and Jesus Carralero Martin from Campbell, and both have potential to make a major impact off the bench in Columbia.

The freshman class is special, and even though it was ranked No. 36 in 247’s composite, it has immediate difference-makers. Trent Pierce, listed at 6-10, has a fluid game and could even end up playing outside on the perimeter at times. Jordan Butler, brother of John, has the same length and athleticism as his Washington Wizard sibling. Don’t forget about Anthony Robinson II, who could make a huge jump next year once East, Honor, Grill, and Tonje graduate. That’s another thing. This team is old, in a good way. Assuming Grill starts over Lewis, every starter will be a graduate student. Imagine that going up against a 3-freshman lineup at Kentucky. Mizzou has the experience advantage over almost all other programs, and they surely have the coaching advantage. (Dennis Gates is a top two coach in the SEC right now.) 

Going back to the top seven in the rotation, they all bring different aspects of skill to the game. Honor is the sturdy, hard-working, dependable, pitbull point guard. Grill, coming over from Iowa State after being dismissed from the program, is the fiery outside shooter who gives the team a much-needed burst of energy and excitement. John Tonje, after having been at Colorado State, has scored at every level of the court for four years now, and his size makes him a great lengthy offensive weapon in Dennis Gates’s hands. Noah Carter, in some games, played the best ball over 40 minutes for Mizzou. Carter didn’t suffer much of a dropoff coming over from Northern Iowa, and now in his second season at Missouri, the hope is that the 6-6 forward continues to have games like his 28-point performance against Penn last year. Connor Vanover is an interesting prospect, having already spent time in the SEC with Arkansas from 2019-2022. He started 15 games for Cal the same year Auburn went to the Final Four, and he’s still playing college basketball. He’s the rare 7-5 center that can shoot the three in a pinch. There were times last year when I watched 6-0 Max Abmas pass the rock to Vanover, who splashed a wing three from deep. It made me feel like I was in the Twilight Zone. Vanover can also play really nice interior defense (3.2 BPG last year!) and he’s just so fun to watch. To reiterate, he made 1.4 threes per game at 7-5. The other two guards left to talk about in the top half of the rotation, Curt Lewis and Sean East II, are actually some of my favorite players, so I saved them for last. Lewis comes over from JUCO John A. Logan where he was both insanely productive and efficient. He shot 48.3% from deep, which is impressive in any level of basketball, and proof that he’ll be a marksman in Columbia. How does one even manage to get so close to shooting a coin-flip from beyond the arc? He also averaged 2.3 SPG and 1.1 BPG for a 3.4 S+BPG. (Hakeem!) He’s spent time at the D-1 level before at Eastern Kentucky, and Lewis should be a difference maker for Gates and his squad this year. Next year, once Grill, East II, Honor, and Tonje graduate, he’ll be guaranteed a starting spot, and he might even have one this year. East II is the glue guy of all glue guys. He does everything somewhat well and nothing poorly. Every time he gets on the court, he’s a burst of energy that keeps the Tigers’ well-oiled machine running. Literally running. He’s one of the fastest players in the Southeast. He can get steals, he doesn’t turn the ball over, and he finds open teammates. He has his niche on the roster and executes it to perfection. Every coach should want a player like East II on the squad, and luckily for Gates, he’s on Mizzou. Extra tidbit of information, but he wears No. 55. That’s such a fun number. 

Did I mention Missouri has six (6!) players on their roster who shot the ball from deep at a 36.8% rate or higher? Missouri might be the best shooting team in their conference, and when coupled with the high-tempo offense, the possibilities are endless. Why do I keep seeing preseason polls putting Mizzou 11th and 12th in the SEC? I understand the conference is deep, but Missouri’s floor is still higher than some teams’ ceilings. This team is more than capable of making a deep run, and I’d be shocked if they even missed the tournament. I just don’t understand what metric places this team 55th in the country. Just watch this team. Don’t say I didn’t say it, and don’t doubt Dennis. 

10. Alabama Crimson Tide, 10th

Alabama very well might make this look foolish once the season does roll around, but right now it’s not likely that they’re a top 10 team. They lost a generational-type player, almost all depth, and have to replace all assistant coaches. The loss of the coaching staff might be even more alarming than the loss of Miller, honestly. Assistant coaches are a vital part of tournament teams’ day-to-day proceedings and team management.  What happens when all 3 (Bryan Hodgson, Charlie Henry, and Antoine Pettway) depart? What happens when the new coaching staff is tasked with teaching an almost entirely new roster a system they themselves just learned? Growing pains!

Mark Sears returns, which is great, but the Tide loses 4 starters, which isn’t. Rumored superhuman Grant Nelson is being hailed as First Team All-SEC material, but there are still questions about how well his game will translate from the Summit League to the big leagues in the Southeastern Conference. Aaron Estrada is, as mentioned in the author’s articles previously, a bucket. There are no real questions about the backcourt duo of Sears and Estrada, as they’ll be a huge asset for the Tide. But everywhere else, it seems like there’s a question for every answer and a pro for every con. Sears is the *only* player on the roster to have started a Power 6 game. To repeat, 1 of 13 players on the Tide have started for a high-major. That’s high to major levels of uncertainty. 

To put it in a neat little list, the positives are Sears returning, pairing him with Estrada, signing Nelson and high-efficiency guard Latrell Wrightsell Jr. in the portal, the possible emergence of freshmen Jarin Stevenson and Sam Walters, and the fact that they’re coached by Nate Oats. The negatives are the fact that they lost four of five starters and all but three players from a once-in-a-blue-moon roster, the assistant staff was completely gutted, the most talented player to ever come through Tuscaloosa is gone to the NBA, only 1 player on the roster has ever started a Power 6 game, fiveplayers have never played at the college level, the defense is questionable at best, questions about frontcourt depth/Nelson and Pringle’s new roles, Rylan Griffen’s efficiency woes, and all that in a newly-deep SEC. 

So, long story short, moderately high ceiling, low floor, not worth a top 10 nod. (As of right now.)

Honorable Mentions

Underrated: Tulane (95th), St. Bonaventure (70th), Stetson (207th)

Overrated: Colorado (28th), BYU (36th), LSU (47th)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.