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Mid-major basketball preview: Drew Timme and Gonzaga, Houston both looking like legit title contenders

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There are two days left until the 2022-2023 college basketball season. Check back every day this week as we cover the biggest conferences, teams and more ahead of the season. Check out our conference announcements at Big 12, ACC, big ten, Big East as well as SPK.

For the sake of this preview, we consider any program outside of the six major conferences to be “average majors”, but there is nothing “average” about them.

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At least two of them are legitimate contenders for the national title and should be treated accordingly.

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Gonzaga and star Drew Timm are well positioned to claim another No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament and finally take home the title they’ve been hunting for. Calvin Sampson also has a healthy team in Houston and is just behind the Bulldogs in the top five. San Diego State could also easily make a deep breakthrough in March.

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Here’s what you need to know about the Intermediate Majors this season:

Rating teams

For For the full Associated Press Top 25 pre-season poll, click here.

No. 2. Gonzaga

No. 3. Houston

No. 19. San Diego State

No. 24. Dayton

Others received votes: St. Louis (36), Wyoming (25), Toledo (1), UAB (1), Memphis (1)

Known chances of participating in the national championship, via BetMGM (as of November 3)

North Carolina and Gonzaga are preseason favorites at +900.

Gonzaga +900

Houston +1000

San Diego State +6600

Dayton +8000

Drew Timm and Gonzaga open as preseason favorites

Drew Timm is back and ready to be the best player of the year.

This fall, Timme will return for a fourth season with the Bulldogs after making two Final Four appearances. A two-time All-American will be central to Gonzaga, especially without Chet Holmgren, and he should thrive. While he averaged 18.4 points and 6.8 rebounds last season, both lower than his sophomore year, expect them to rise significantly this year.

“I knew he was going to be in trouble when we played against him in his freshman year,” St. Mary’s Coach Randy Bennett. said at the WCC media day. “He has the chance to be the top center in college basketball three years in a row, which is something you don’t see very often.”

However, it’s not just about Tim. He will be joined by Chattanooga transfer Malachi Smith, Rasir Bolton and former five-star recruits Nolan Hickman and Hunter Sallis. Smith will be a great addition to manager Mark Few after averaging 19.9 points and 6.7 rebounds per game last season.

Gonzaga also has a busy schedule, although this is nothing new. The Bulldogs must play Michigan State, No. 12 in Texas, and No. 4 in Kentucky before the Zags get into the conference. No. 5 Baylor and No. 20 Alabama.

This is an incredibly complex sheet that no one else in the country has. But given Gonzaga’s conference schedule, it’s the best way to prove it belongs to March. And if they can make it through the end of December with minimal losses, then there’s no reason why Mark Few can’t take first place in the tournament again, or even finally win the national title.

After all, there’s a reason why Zags have become a betting favorite in Las Vegas.

Healthy Houston can be dangerous

Calvin Sampson has turned Houston into something of a basketball powerhouse that should have no problem thriving once it moves into the Big 12.

However, for now, the Cougars will dominate the mid-range category.

Houston brings back Marcus Sasser, who is undoubtedly one of the best guards in the country. Last season, Sasser averaged 17.7 points and shot nearly 44% from the three-point line, although he missed the second half of the year with a toe injury.

The Cougars will also have Jamal Shed available, while Tramon Mark is back after missing most of last season with a shoulder injury. They will also have five-star recruit Jaras Walker, who is being drafted by Sportzshala Sports’ Kristen Pick in the middle of the first round of the NBA draft next summer.

Despite losing perhaps two of his best players, Sampson still brought Houston back to the Elite Eight.

If he can keep his group healthy, Sampson could win the national championship. Even if he doesn’t, the Cougars can still play at the end of March.

“I want you to think of the basketball team as a big pot of gumbo,” Sampson said. via Daily Cougar. “Someone has to be an okra. Someone has to be tomatoes. Someone has to be this crab leg, this piece of sausage, this shrimp, this chicken. You can’t have a pot full of just chicken.”

Houston guard Jamal Shed celebrates with head coach Kelvin Sampson.
Houston defenseman Jamal Shed and coach Calvin Sampson are well-placed to make it to the Final Four for the third time in five years. (AP/David J. Phillip)

Don’t count San Diego State, Dayton

The state of San Diego tends to be in a state of contention late in the season, and this year should be no exception.

The Aztecs, who have dominated the Mountain West in recent years, brought back four rookies this year, including fifth-year graduate Matt Bradley, a former California transfer who had 16.9 points and 5.4 rebounds last season. . They also received a transfer from Seattle to Darrion Trammell, a defenseman who lost 17.3 points and five assists.

While the Aztecs haven’t made it out of the first round of the NCAA Tournament since 2015, this team is more than capable of making it to at least the second weekend of dancing.

Dayton is a team worth keeping an eye on too, thanks in large part to Daron Holmes II.

The 6-foot-10 forward averaged an incredible 20 points and six rebounds in the Flyers’ last five games last season, well above his season average. If he can keep up that level of play, the Flyers, who got all of their starters back from last year, should make a fuss.

Notable early games

Michigan at number 2 Gonzaga * | Friday, November 11

No. 2 Gonzaga at No. 12 Texas | Wednesday, November 16

No. 3 Houston to No. 21 Oregon | Sunday, November 20

No. 2 Gonzaga vs. No. 4 Kentucky | Sunday, November 20

No. 2 Gonzaga vs. No. 5 Baylor* | Friday, December 2

* Neutral Court


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