NCAA mid-major Top 25 rankings: San Francisco rises to No. 8; Colorado State rolls on

Our updated mid-major Top 25 examines Colorado State more than living up to preseason expectations. San Francisco is among the many WCC teams impressing early.

Feast Week is in progress and mid-major teams across the country are hoping to utilize these opportunities to build their early-season resumes. With that in mind, there were several shake-ups in our mid-major Top 25 at Heat Check CBB. As always, these rankings were compiled by Lukas Harkins and Andy Dieckhoff. We also enlisted the help of our fearless leader, Eli Boettger, for a few “guest blurbs” in this week’s edition.

Perhaps the most notable mid-major development this season has been the performance of the WCC. Gonzaga is the No. 1 team in the conference, these mid-major rankings, and the nation. However, the league is setting itself up to send multiple teams to the NCAA Tournament. BYU and San Francisco have both been very impressive as undefeated teams. Santa Clara and Saint Mary’s are both one-loss teams as well that have made their early marks.

Staying west of the Mississippi, Colorado State has been awesome. The Rams faced high expectations heading into this season and they have lived up to the hype. They are 6-0 and looked superb in their 14-point win over Creighton earlier this week. Their offense is legit and David Roddy is a unique and talented star.

Without any further ado, let’s dive into our Week 3 edition of the mid-major Top 25. Happy Thanksgiving!

Hark’s Remarks: Title contenders; Wyoming’s start; Alabama’s potental
Indiana State’s Cameron Henry has a story as unique as his game
Wisconsin’s Johnny Davis is an emerging star

Note: The ACC, Big Ten, Big East, Big 12, SEC, Pac-12, and AAC are excluded from consideration for these rankings. Gonzaga operates as a high-major program but plays in a mid-major conference. Our mid-major definition for the sake of this article series is based around conference affiliation, thus Gonzaga’s inclusion.

25. Boise State Broncos (3-2)

Boise State is a tough team to assess. The Broncos’ 3-2 record does not exactly inspire confidence, and a team like Vermont could easily belong in these rankings instead. However, their two losses both came against teams also featured in these rankings (UC Irvine and St. Bonaventure), plus they notched back-to-back, neutral-site wins over Temple and Mississippi since those defeats. If we were strictly ranking this mid-major Top 25 by KenPom rankings, Boise State would be No. 11. -Lukas Harkins

24. UC Irvine Anteaters (3-1)

UC Irvine lost its season-opener on the road to New Mexico State. Since then, though, the Anteaters have recovered in solid fashion. They picked up a home victory over Boise State during their current three-game winning streak. Opponents are only displaying a .383 effective field-goal percentage, the sixth-best defensive mark. Dawson Baker is off to a strong start at 13.3 points per game and is the team’s top 3-point shooter. -LH

23. Georgia State Panthers (4-1)

Georgia State has been lighting it up from the perimeter to begin this season. The Panthers are not a high-volume shooting bunch, but they are connecting on 41.4 percent of their trifectas (20th-best nationally). Justin Roberts has been the best sniper thus far, hitting 10-for-19 of his 3-pointers. Georgia State’s defense has plenty of room for improvement, but its offense has been impressive to date. They play at a fast pace and rebound very well. -LH

22. Weber State Wildcats (5-0)

Weber State entered this season as one of the favorites to win the Big Sky and has looked up to the challenge. The Wildcats hold an impressive 5-0 record that includes a pair of solid victories over Duquesne and UMass. Head coach Randy Rahe’s squad is playing at an up-tempo pace and thriving on offense, ranking 14th nationally in effective field-goal percentage. Dillon Jones has been very impressive, averaging a double-double of 13.8 points and 11.0 rebounds per game. -LH

21. Murray State Racers (5-1)

Murray State appears to be on track again after back-to-back down seasons by the program’s standards. Most notably, the Racers are defending quite well this season, forcing turnovers on 24.2 percent of their opponents’ possessions (36th-best nationally). Murray State’s lone loss to date came against East Tennessee State. The elite duo of K.J. Williams (19.2 points, 6.5 rebounds) and Tevin Brown (18.3 points, 5.3 rebounds, 3.5 assists) is leading the Racers. -LH

20. Iona Gaels (5-0)

The Gaels are off to a perfect 5-0 start to the young season, with quality mid-major wins against Appalachian State, Harvard, Hofstra and Liberty. Rick Pitino‘s group looks stingy on the perimeter once again, allowing just 23.4-percent shooting from 3-point range through five games. A Thanksgiving matchup — and 2021 first-round NCAA Tournament rematch — against Alabama awaits. -Eli Boettger

19. Buffalo Bulls (3-2)

Buffalo has a pair of losses on the young season — a valiant effort at Michigan to start the year and one-point loss to Stephen F. Austin — but are certainly capable of remaining one of the nation’s top mid-majors. Jeenathan Williams, Ronaldo Segu and Josh Mballa form a stellar trio of scorers for the nation’s No. 35 offense. -EB

18. Saint Louis Billikens (6-1)

Saint Louis is yet to record a signature win, but holds a 6-1 record with the lone loss coming to a top-10 opponent in Memphis. The Billikens have mostly taken care of business this season while maintaining their place among the A10 contenders. They are dominating the inside offensively, snagging offensive rebounds at the 12th-best rate in the country and getting to the free-throw line at the 22nd-best rate. Gibson Jimerson is 14-for-35 rom three as the team’s top perimeter threat. -LH

17. New Mexico State Aggies (5-1)

New Mexico State is back as one of the dominating forces in the WAC after a one-year reprieve. The Aggies have jumped out to a 5-1 record this season that includes wins over UC Irvine and Davidson. They have struggled greatly in the turnover department but have just about everything else well. NMSU is recording assists on a large chunk of its baskets and has been one of the best shooting teams in America so far. The Aggies are shooting 38.0 percent from three on the 33rd-highest attempt rate. -LH

16. Utah State Aggies (5-1)

Justin Bean, a former walk-on, has been the nation’s most productive player this season. Through five games, the 6-7 forward is averaging 24.6 points, 14 rebounds and 2.6 assists per game while making 10 of his 16 3-point attempts. Utah State captured the Myrtle Beach Invitational title with a 73-70 win over Oklahoma. Despite the offseason coaching transition, the Aggies look like a force in the Mountain West. -EB

15. South Dakota State Jackrabbits (6-2)

South Dakota State is arguably the most unbalanced team in the country. The Jackrabbits are absolutely elite offensively, coming in with the 14th-best adjusted offensive efficiency rate in the country. They are shooting 55.4 percent on 2-pointers and 42.3 percent from three this season. On the flip side, though, their defense ranks just 192nd in adjusted efficiency. South Dakota State is the best team in the Summit League but its ceiling depends on defensive improvements. -LH

14. Chattanooga Mocs (5-0)

Chattanooga choo-choo! The Mocs are rolling in the early season, grabbing road victories over Loyola Marymount and VCU. Chalk that up to the return of guards Malachi Smith and David Jean-Baptiste. Throw in a healthy serving of former Kansas notable Silvio de Sousa, and suddenly the SoCon looks like it has a new top team. The load is light for UTC over the next week or two, but the Mocs finish the nonconference season with games against Belmont, Murray State and Middle Tennessee before jumping right into league play. It would not be surprising to see Chattanooga still undefeated when they travel to Nashville on Dec. 15. –AD

13. Belmont Bruins (3-2)

Belmont still looks excellent offensively this season, but has struggled a bit out of the gates. The Bruins lost their two biggest games of the early campaign while needing overtime to take down Furman. They are still easily the best team in the Ohio Valley, but just how high is their ceiling? A big neutral-site matchup with Drake on Thanksgiving looms as a big opportunity. -LH

12. Santa Clara Broncos (5-1)

Santa Clara suffered its first defeat of the season recently in a neutral-site loss to Fresno State. The Broncos played that game without star player Josip Vrankic, though. Considering Santa Clara ranks just 322nd in bench minutes percentage this year, playing without even one rotation piece is a serious blow. Still, the Broncos are 5-1 overall with three KenPom Top 100 wins — all by double-digits. Head coach Herb Sendek is leading one of the most surprising groups in the country. -LH

11. Ohio Bobcats (4-1)

It’s hard to give the Bobcats too much guff for losing to Kentucky; otherwise, the team has been perfect. Ohio is still hanging its hat on a win over Belmont on opening night, but they have also racked up Ws over Cleveland State, Robert Morris and Mount St. Mary’s. While none of those three are top-tier mid-majors, that win on the road against the Vikings could be helpful if Ohio finds itself sweating out an at-large bid a few months from now. Mark Sears has been wonderful in stepping into Jason Preston‘s old role, and the re-addition of Jason Carter has so far looked like a masterstroke from head coach Jeff Boals. –AD

10. UAB Blazers (4-1)

UAB nearly grabbed a signature win over an SEC foe on the road, but came up just short. Sure, it was South Carolina, but the Blazers appear ready to compete on a higher stage than they have in recent years. The Jordan Walker Volume Operation continues to show up at times, but in UAB’s 86-41 win over Alabama A&M, the transfer had 11 points on effective shooting and poured in eight assists. Andy Kennedy should have the strongest team in Conference USA, but three interesting tests await. The Blazers have games against New Mexico, East Tennessee State and Saint Louis over the next week. Don’t be shocked if they win all three. -AD

9. Saint Mary’s Gaels (6-1)

The Gaels may not have won the Maui Invitational, but they certainly looked impressive in getting all the way to the final. Saint Mary’s took down Notre Dame and Oregon, and while both of those teams left Las Vegas with far more questions than answers, they are still great wins for SMC. There is not just one major star on this team, but senior forward Dan Fotu has been particularly impressive. Fotu had 22 against the Fighting Irish and added another 16 against the Ducks. The Gaels’ team defense has been a calling card, allowing the lowest rate of assists to made field goals in the country. They have a huge week coming up with games against UC Riverside, Utah State and Colorado State in a six-day span. -AD

8. San Francisco Dons (6-0)

San Francisco sits at 6-0 through the opening few weeks with solid wins over Davidson and Nevada already under its belt. Star guard Jamaree Bouyea has been incredible to begin the campaign. Not only is he averaging 19.2 points per game, but he is doing so while finishing on 70.0 percent of his 2-point attempts and hitting 38.5 percent from three. He is one of the nation’s best players and could propel the Dons into the at-large conversation. They are certainly off to a good start in that department. -LH

7. San Diego State Aztecs (3-1)

San Diego State looks about as expected this season. The Aztecs suffered a road loss to BYU, but that isn’t anything to be too distraught over. They did pick up a nice win over Arizona State this week to make up for it. Head coach Brian Dutcher’s team is defending at a very high level, holding opponents to the 28th-lowest effective field-goal percentage in the country. Offensively, the Aztecs are getting to the free-throw line at will but cannot find the range from three. -LH

6. Drake Bulldogs (3-0)

The Bulldogs look strong again coming off their NCAA Tournament at-large bid last year. Tremell Murphy has been the most reliable offensive threat through two games, knocking down nearly 55 percent of his 3-pointers in games against South Dakota and Richmond. There are issues — Roman Penn‘s turnovers, Tank Hemphill’s inefficiency, Tucker DeVries‘ shooting — but there is enough talent up and down the roster that others can step up. Garrett Sturtz continues to be one of the best off-the-bench options in the country, posting top-50 numbers in offensive rating, offensive rebound rate and defensive rebound rate. -AD

5. Loyola Chicago Ramblers (4-1)

Loyola Chicago suffered its first loss of the season this past week but went toe-to-toe with Michigan State the whole way. Head coach Drew Valentine has already proven his chops as an in-game coach and is a rising star in the business. The Ramblers have been very efficient offensively so far this season, ranking eighth nationally in effective field-goal percentage. Ryan Schwieger, Aher Uguak, Saint Thomas, Braden Norris, and Tate Hall are a combined 38-for-77 (49.4 percent) from three so far this season -LH

4. Colorado State Rams (6-0)

Colorado State is winning everything these days, including hearts and minds. The Rams have their signature nonconference win now, too, after walloping Creighton by 14 on a neutral floor. CSU nearly gave away the ghost in the Paradise Jam final, but used a 38-6 run in the second half to beat Northeastern by double digits. David Roddy and Isaiah Stevens are well on their way to All-MWC campaigns, but another guy who deserves a little shine is Dischon Thomas. The big man has an offensive rating over 130 thanks to a penchant for getting to the line (43.2 free throw rate) and making the most of the opportunities (81.2 percent from the line). -AD

3. Saint Bonaventure Bonnies (5-0)

The Bonnies have had a few close calls, but horseshoes and hand grenades and all that jazz. St. Bonaventure won each of its first five games and, most recently, did so against three teams currently ranked in the KenPom top 100. The Bona Wolves scored wins over Boise State, Clemson and Marquette in a span of four days, giving them some strong resume material in the early going. Kyle Lofton has struggled from deep (25 percent on 3-pointers) but shows up in every big moment for SBU. Long-range shooting continues to be an issue — the team was shooting just 29.9 percent through Wednesday — but the Bonnies keep winning anyway. -AD

2. BYU Cougars (5-0)

BYU continues to look incredible to begin this young season. The Cougars have rolled to a 5-0 record that includes a dominant win over Oregon and a solid victory over San Diego State. They have quickly risen into the national rankings thanks in large part to excellent defense. Head coach Mark Pope’s team ranks 10th in defensive effective field-goal percentage. If they can start connecting from three (28.6 percent as a team), they will be all the more dangerous. -LH

1. Gonzaga Bulldogs (6-0)

Gonzaga has this No. 1 spot on lock for the entire season, barring something completely unforeseen. The Bulldogs have asserted themselves as the best team in the country in the early going, posting dominant victories over Texas and UCLA along the way. A difficult matchup with Duke looms — as do meetings with Alabama and Texas Tech — but the Bulldogs have shown no signs of weakness thus far. Drew Timme and Chet Holmgren are incredible. Also, Andrew Nembhard is emerging as possibly the nation’s best point guard. -LH



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