1. McNeese Cowboys
Will Wade. American Gangster.
Wade, who is back on the college basketball scene after being fired by LSU in March 2022 following numerous NCAA Level I violations, is no stranger to winning. Love him or despise him (I don’t think there is much of an in-between), McNeese stands at an impressive 15-2 on the year despite Wade serving a 10-game suspension to start the year.
For a program that hasn’t had a winning record since the 2011-2012 season, it's been a near-perfect couple of months in Lake Charles for a program that hopes to find themselves in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2002.
Although it may be hard to keep Wade in Lake Charles for long, the Cowboy's success stems from the portal. UT Arlington/TCU transfer Shahada Wells was a tremendous find, leading the Cowboys in scoring at 19.7 PPG. UTSA transfer DJ Richards (10.9 PPG), Ole Miss/Cal State Bakersfield transfer Antavion Collum (10.1 PPG, 4.7 RPG) and UMass transfer Jahvon Garcia (10.5 PPG) have all chipped in while Christian Shumate (12.3 PPG, 9.8 RPG) remains a near double-double player for the Cowboys.
McNeese has played an interesting schedule to date -- including four games against non-Division I opponents -- but they do own two convincing road wins over VCU and Michigan with solid metrics, such as a NET ranking of 65 and a KenPom ranking of 88 -- 162 spots ahead from the next-best team in the Southland Conference.
I would be surprised if we do not hear McNeese’s name on Selection Sunday given the clear separation they have created from the rest of the Southland Conference.
If McNeese can get through the Southland unscathed, this would be a trendy 12-5 upset pick and given Wade’s history, it would be a tough matchup for whoever draws the Cowboys.