NCAA mid-major Top 25 rankings: VCU continues to soar; Boise State rising

Led by stingy defenses, VCU and Boise State are on a tear in our latest mid-major Top 25 college basketball rankings.

Another week of the 2021-22 college basketball season is complete. With that, a new edition of our Heat Check CBB mid-major Top 25 is hot off the digital presses. As always, these rankings were compiled by Lukas Harkins and Andy Dieckhoff.

Our biggest winners of the past two weeks were VCU and Boise State.

VCU has looked like a changed team over the past month. They are winners of seven straight and are undefeated with Ace Baldwin in the lineup. He missed their first eight games. VCU has improved by 32 spots on KenPom since the start of December.

Boise State has perhaps been even more impressive, though. The Broncos are winners of eight straight, including four of those victories coming over KenPom top-100 opponents. Their wins over Washington State and Fresno State, most notably, should continue to earn interest as the season continues. Head coach Leon Rice is guiding the 13th-best defense in the country by adjusted efficiency measures.

It is still early, but VCU and Boise State have both been raising their bracketology statuses. At-large bids will be in their reach this season.

Now, without any further introduction, let’s dive into another edition of the mid-major Top 25!

Ten mid-majors eyeing at-large March Madness bids
—Ranking most likely first-time NCAA Tournament teams
—DPI: Game Predictions | Team Grades | Player Rankings

25. Grand Canyon Antelopes (12-2)

Grand Canyon extended its winning streak to four this past week with a road victory over UT Rio Grande Valley. The Antelopes only have one win over the KenPom top 100 but their 12-2 record remains impressive. They rank tops in the nation in 3-point defense; GCU is both limiting opponent’s attempts (40th nationally) and efficiency (1st). They also rank fifth in offensive rebounding rate. -Lukas Harkins

24. Oakland Grizzlies (11-4)

Oakland has emerged as the Horizon League favorite this season and its intra-conference performances thus far have backed that up. The Grizzlies are an undefeated 5-0 in conference play, though, and their next four games will all come on the road. This will be a pivotal stretch for head coach Greg Kampe’s team to prove its strength. Jalen Moore and Jamal Cain are as good of a duo as there is in mid-major basketball. -LH

23. Saint Louis Billikens (10-5)

The Billikens are coming off an up-and-down week that featured a close win over Iona and then a close loss to their conference foes at Dayton. Saint Louis has had its issues with ball control of late, racking up 34 turnovers in the past two games (26.2 percent turnover rate) as compared to just 21 by the Gaels and Flyers (16.2 percent). Yuri Collins is amassing assists like wild, but he needs to clean things up if the Bills are going to compete for an Atlantic 10 title. -AD

22. Chattanooga Mocs (13-4)

Chattanooga suffered a disappointing road loss to Western Carolina without David Jean-Baptiste in its last game out that caused a drop in these rankings. The Mocs entered that contest as a double-digit favorite but fell by 11. The Mocs were a long shot to earn an at-large bid but that possibility seems far-fetched now. They are still one of the better offensive teams in the country and feature a superstar in Malachi Smith. Chattanooga is dangerous. -LH

21. South Dakota State Jackrabbits (13-4)

Another Summit League regular-season title could be on the way for the Jackrabbits, who are out to a 4-0 start in league play under Eric Henderson. SD State has beaten its top two competitors in the league already in Oral Roberts and North Dakota State. Through Wednesday, the Jackrabbits are the No. 1 3-point shooting team in the country at 42.9 percent. The defense has issues, though. -AD

20. Saint Bonaventure Bonnies (9-3)

Mark Schmidt‘s team was off for more than three weeks due to various COVID pauses and postponements. When the Bonnies came back, they got off to a slow start against La Salle. SBU pulled out the win in overtime, but at what expense? The starting five logged all but three of the team’s combined 225 minutes played against the Explorers, even as star big Osun Osunniyi nurses recurring back problems. -AD

19. North Texas Mean Green (9-4)

The Mean Green took a slight step back from the “Top C-USA Contenders” list after losing to UAB at home last Thursday, but this should still be at worst a top-five team in the league. In an uncommon twist, Grant McCasland‘s top scorer comes off the bench. Tylor Perry is averaging 15.1 points per game in just under 29 minutes nightly, and he is shooting 44.1 percent from deep. -AD

18. New Mexico State Aggies (13-2)

Make it eight straight wins for the Aggies, including a pair of non-D1 victories, following a 2-0 start to WAC play. New Mexico State hasn’t lost since Nov. 30, and the team sits just outside the top 50 nationally in both offensive and defensive effective field goal rate. Big man Will McNair has hit a career high of 18 points twice during the win streak, doing so against UTEP and UT Rio Grande Valley. -AD

17. Louisiana Tech Bulldogs (13-3)

Louisiana Tech has leaped out to a 4-0 start in CUSA play with victories over Marshall and Western Kentucky. The Bulldogs boast a strong overall record, and two of their losses to date are to nationally ranked opponents. Kenneth Lofton is one of the best players in the country and he is getting plenty of help from a supporting cast that includes Amorie Archibald. Archibald most recently posted 31 points in a win at UTSA; he is up to averaging a career-high 14.3 points per game. -LH

16. Wyoming Cowboys (11-2)

Wyoming has not played since Christmas and is thus steadily climbing up our rankings by virtue of the teams ahead of them losing. The Cowboys are still an impressive 11-2 on the year and their losses to Arizona and Stanford have aged pretty well. A lack of quality wins is keeping Wyoming from landing a higher spot in these rankings. Back-to-back road games against Utah State and Nevada could change that if they can find a way to win both. -LH

15. UAB Blazers (13-4)

It was all smiles for Andy Kennedy‘s team after they took out North Texas in Denton, but the feel-good tour was short-lived. The Blazers’ staunch defense couldn’t hold off a prolific Rice offense, and it raises some questions about whether UAB’s improved offense has come at the expense of its D. That is probably an overreaction to one game, though, considering the Blazers are still a top-50 team in KenPom. -AD

14. Iona Gaels (12-3)

All credit in the world to Rick Pitino and the Gaels for agreeing to go play Saint Louis on short notice, but it didn’t go all that well. Sure, it was just a one-point loss on the road, but for an Iona team that only has MAAC games left on the schedule, any extra loss will hurt the at-large resume. The Gaels would likely get a long look from the committee should they ultimately falter in the MAAC Tournament, though. -AD

13. Boise State Broncos (11-4)

Last year’s edition of the Broncos came in with massive expectations, but they fell short of a tournament appearance after a disastrous late-season finish. The outlook was not quite as rosy this season, but Leon Rice appears to have an even better product on his hands. Boise State has won eight straight, and the defense ranks among the country’s best in guarding both the perimeter and the post. -AD

12. Ohio Bobcats (13-2)

Ohio just continues to win games. The Bobcats are riding an eight-game winning streak and have leaped out to a 13-2 (4-0 MAC) record. They are not particularly loved by efficiency metrics but there is no denying their results to date. Ohio is among the favorites to win the MAC and features a star in Mark Sears. Once Ben Roderick finds his rhythm, this team will be all the more dangerous. -LH

11. Murray State Racers (12-2)

Murray State will face Tennessee State (No. 318 on KenPom) at home in its next game. While assuming a victory would be unwise, it does feel likely that the Racers will be 13-2 (3-0 OVC) by the time they travel to face Belmont this weekend. That is a circle-your-calendar mid-major matchup as both teams have at-large potential. Tevin Brown is putting on a show this season for Murray State as he and Justice Hill are combining to shoot 67-for-148 (45.3 percent) from three. -LH

10. VCU Rams (10-4)

VCU is rolling. The Rams started the season 3-4 but have since rattled off seven consecutive wins. They are an undefeated 6-0 with Ace Baldwin back in the lineup, who gives them an added dimension on both ends of the floor. VCU ranks third nationally in adjusted defensive efficiency. They have the rare combination of being able to force turnovers (3rd in defensive turnover rate) and also limit good looks (2nd in eFG% allowed). Five of their next six games come against KenPom top-100 opponents. -LH

9. Saint Mary’s Gaels (12-4)

The Gaels fell in their WCC opener to BYU in Provo, giving some tangible evidence to the idea that SMC will fall outside the league’s top two. Still, this team should be very much in the mix for an at-large bid, considering all four losses have come against teams currently listed in our latest bracketology update. They may need to pick up some wins over the other top teams in the league, though, to feel safe. -AD

8. San Diego State Aztecs (10-3)

Hello, Viejas! The Aztecs made a massive statement against Colorado State last weekend, crushing the Rams to the tune of a 79-49 beatdown. Before the season began, I was of the belief that the Mountain West still ran through San Diego. It was tempting to walk back those claims after CSU’s hot start, but Matt Bradley and SDSU reminded the country just how good they can be. -AD

7. Davidson Wildcats (13-2)

Davidson is riding a 12-game winning streak that now includes victories over Alabama and Rhode Island. The Wildcats have not played the toughest schedule in the country but their offense has been wildly impressive as they have soared up national ranks. There is a good argument to be made that this is the best perimeter shooting team in the country. They are also uniquely disciplined, ranking 10th in offensive turnover rate and 21st in defensive rebounding rate. Davidson won’t beat itself. -LH

6. San Francisco Dons (14-2)

The Dons played in a very fun matchup with Loyola Chicago at Salt Lake CC, but Todd Golden and the crew would have enjoyed a win much more. San Francisco got the WCC season started with a bang, too, beating San Diego by 15 at home. Jamaree Bouyea rightfully gets a lot of ink for his contributions, but USD transfer Yauhen Massalski has been awesome inside for San Francisco. -AD

5. Belmont Bruins (12-3)

Belmont’s at-large potential is real. Unlike last season, the Bruins have the benefit of superb quality metrics this year, already ranking 43rd on KenPom. Belmont is currently riding a seven-game winning streak and will play host to Austin Peay and Murray State in their next two games. Belmont ranks eighth nationally in effective field goal percentage, moving the ball well and creating excellent looks. -LH

4. Colorado State Rams (12-1)

As noted above, the Rams fell flat in their trip to San Diego State, but it would be too soon to write this team off. Colorado State went on a three-week pause, and the team has been slow to shake off the rust after returning. CSU struggled with Air Force on the road before the SDSU loss, but things are thawing out. David Roddy and Isaiah Stevens both went for 20-plus in a win over Utah State Wednesday night. -AD

3. BYU Cougars (14-3)

BYU is back! After losing three games in seven outings following Gavin Baxter‘s injury, the Cougars have jumped out to a 2-0 start in WCC play. A big home win over Pacific was expected, but BYU grabbed a much more impressive result by holding Saint Mary’s to just 43 points this weekend. With a top-20 defense and scoring threats like Alex Barcello and Te’Jon Lucas, BYU could get back to the Top 25 before long. -AD

2. Loyola Chicago Ramblers (12-2)

Loyola Chicago jumpstarted this past week with an impressive neutral-site victory over San Francisco. That type of victory can go a long way for a mid-major seeking an at-large bid. The Ramblers followed that up with two sub-par performances at home, but still managed to squeak out victories over Bradley and Valparaiso, requiring three total overtimes to win those games. The Ramblers are the overwhelming favorite to win the MVC. -LH

1. Gonzaga Bulldogs (12-2)

Gonzaga handled Pepperdine with ease during its lone game of the week. The Bulldogs are 12-2 (1-0 WCC) for the season and ranked in the AP top 5. It appears extremely likely that Gonzaga will go wire-to-wire at the No. 1 spot in our mid-major rankings, currently sitting head and shoulders above the rest of the field right now. However, can they cut down the nets in April? That is the biggest question the program needs to answer. -LH

Header image courtesy of Boise State Athletics.



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