So now that most of us are in full college hoops mode, it is time to do a little more catch-up on what teams may be sliding under the radar. We get so much Big 10/Big East/ACC/SEC games shoved down our throat during the week, it is easy to miss out on some of the mid-majors that can certainly make a splash. Butler,, Gonzaga, and others have shown that mid-majors can make deep runs in March.
Most of us are now aware of San Diego State and BYU’s outstanding start, but here is a look at some other teams that you may want to write in for a win or 2 when filling out brackets:
1) Belmont (18-4) – The notoriously bad Atlantic Sun has a team that can do some damage this year in Belmont. Coached by legend Rick Byrd, the Bruins shoot lights out and if hot, can beat a lot of teams. They played at and lost by 1 earlier in the year, and fought Vandy hard as well, losing by 9. Amazingly, Belmont leads the A-Sun in scoring (82+) without a player averaging more than 12 ppg, and leads the A-Sun in rebounding (37+), without a player averaging more than 5.5 rpg.
2) Coastal Carolina (18-2) – This could be a team entering the tournament with an unblemished conference record. An experienced team, Coastal has solid guard play and has good wins against Charlotte and LSU.
3) Virginia Commonwealth (16-5) – VCU has played a very tough non-conference schedule, and it has paid off with an 8-1 start in the CAA. They own wins over and Wake, while playing Tennessee, Richmond, and UAB on the road down to the wire.
4) Wichita State (17-4) – Another mid-major that has played a good schedule, the Shockers had UConn beat back in November before melting down late in the 2nd half. They currently lead the almost high-major MVC and should be a major player in March.
5) Oakland (14-8) – Oakland lights it up offensively (82.6 ppg) and owns a great win over Tennessee. The Golden Grizzlies also played Illinois and Michigan State extremely well and have an RPI in the top 60.
6) St Mary’s (17-3) – The Gaels don’t have a bad loss, losing to MWC powers SDSU and BYU along with at Vanderbilt. They also blew out Texas Tech by 20, beat Mississippi State, and St Johns. With a current RPI of 40, St Mary’s has good shot at an at-large bid should they not win the WCC.
7) Utah State (18-2) – USU is on a tremendous run since losing at Georgetown on December 4th. The Aggies have started off 7-0 in conference play and put up a strong showing in a loss to BYU. A win over in-state rival Utah has also helped the resume and RPI, which stands at 41.
8) UNLV (16-5) – The Rebs have been lost in the shuffle in the MWC with BYU and SDSU getting off to such great starts. But, the Rebs have another shot at the top 2 and have a 31 RPI by beating Wisconsin, Virginia Tech, and Murray State. Look for UNLV to knock off one of the top 2 sometime the next few weeks.
As for the big boys, I was very surprised to see Pitt go down at home earlier this week. But that is the life in the Big East, which is as strong as ever. My new bandwagon team for now is Texas, as they have shown they are as talented and athletic as anyone. Their mix of experience, guard play, and athleticism has #1 seed written all over it.
Top 15 for 1/26
1. Ohio State
3. San Diego State
12. Notre Dame