College basketball predictions are an exciting way to start the season. Mid-major programs are making leaps and bounds in recent years in men’s college basketball. The Cinderella stories of mid-major programs like Dayton, Davidson, or Loyola have captivated the nation in the past. However, this year there are five programs on the rise that I will highlight.
Top-Five Men’s Basketball Mid-Majors Programs 2021
Loyola Chicago Ramblers
Loyola has eight seniors or grad students on their roster, a wealth of experience for a mid-major program. They lost their head coach this offseason, but the core they bring back, led by Aher Uguak and Lucas Williamson, are experienced. Williamson was the defensive player of the year and is on the Julius Erving watch list. They also added a transfer in Chris Knight to help their frontcourt depth. Loyola has an impressive non-conference schedule: They play in the Bad Boy Mowers Classic which includes, Michigan State, Auburn, Connecticut, Syracuse, VCU, Arizona State. In addition, they will play Michigan State and either Auburn or Connecticut. Playing against these teams will help prepare them for a great conference season and a possible tournament run.
Western Kentucky Hilltoppers
Western has four seniors and a new 7 foot 5 transfer Jamarion Sharp that will help this team get back to national prominence this season. Sharp’s height is a huge factor and will be hard for teams to gameplan for. They also scheduled well this year. They play Minnesota, South Carolina, Memphis, Ole Miss, and Louisville. The Louisville game is the biggest challenge. If they go above .500 in that stretch, they will have an excellent case for an at-large bid. The C-USA has some good teams, but Western has the most potential because of their experience and superior frontcourt play.
San Diego State Aztecs
SDSU has four seniors returning and three new transfers that add depth to their rotation. Their best pickup is Cal star Matt Bradley who averaged 17.5 ppg in the Pac-12 last season. SDSU also created a great schedule for this season, including BYU, Arizona State, Georgetown, USC, Michigan, and Saint Mary’s. Playing these great teams will allow SDSU to build a great resume come tournament time. The Mountain West has gotten better, but SDSU has the most experienced team in the league and should be the favorite this season.
Richmond’s roster contains six grad students and three seniors, including last year’s star Grant Golden. They have a robust schedule, including Utah State, Maryland, Louisville/Mississippi State, and NC State, which are great opportunities to bolster their tournament resume! The Atlantic ten is intensely challenging this season. St Bonaventure should be excellent, and Dayton is back with another good squad this year. This league should have three or four tournament teams, and Richmond has the schedule to be one of them.
The Gaels have critical players, including Jean-Louis Berrick and Nelly Junior Joseph returning from last year’s NCAA tournament team, and they have a demanding non-conference schedule. This schedule includes Liberty, Alabama, Belmont/Drake, Kansas or Maimi, and Seton Hall. In addition, these games include the ESPN Events invitational. The MAAC is always up for grabs, but this year Iona is the favorite. At the end of last year, they made a run to the NCAA tournament as the nine seed in the MAAC tournament. This run gives them significant momentum to have another good season.
Mid-major programs help create more excitement throughout the season. I can’t wait to see the madness that these mid-major programs generate this year.