Top 10 Mid-Major College Basketball Rankings: Week 15
Mid-Major College Basketball Rankings
You see the big names on television every night, playing in their big 20,000-seat arenas with all the banners in the rafters, and Dick Vitale on the sidelines. They're in the top 25 every season, featuring rosters full of All-Americans and routinely seeing their players advance to the NBA. However, some of us enjoy rooting for the underdogs -- the teams that do things the right way with players who actually stay in school all four years, and teams that win games with teamwork and determination rather than raw talent alone.
I'll admit, I'm a proud alum of a mid-major school (Charlotte). The school don't make the tourney every year, but when it does, it's oh-so sweet. Heck, it occasionally even makes a run for the roses (1977 Final Four). Other mid-majors have done it in recent years, with Wichita State having done so just last season. Virginia Commonwealth, Florida Gulf Coast, George Mason, Davidson, Memphis and of course, Butler. The list is as endless as it is memorable. When Duke or Kentucky goes deep in the tourney, that's what they're supposed to do. But when one of these other schools does, the whole country notices. One of these 10 teams will likely wear that ring just over a month from now.
This list is comprised of schools outside of the major seven conferences, which includes the ACC, Big East, Big 12, Big Ten, SEC, Pac-12 and American Athletic. That means teams like Creighton, Butler, Xavier, Memphis, SMU and Temple don't qualify as they would have in years past.
Gerrit Ritt is a college basketball columnist for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @GMadness1, “Like” him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google. You can also reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
10. Stephen F. Austin
Stephen F. Austin (22-2, 11-0) -- How do you not include a team that's won 19 straight games? The bigger question is whether the Tournament Selection Committee could turn down the Lumberjacks if they run the table, chalk up 31 wins, then lose in their conference title game. I say they'd have to, but two teams from the Southland Conference have never made the tourney together. They're hoping it won't come to that, of course.
9. Louisiana Tech
Louisiana Tech (20-5, 8-2) -- It's won 12 of 14, but have done it by beating nothing but the teams it should beat and losing to every team that's presented any real challenge. It doesn't have a completely empty war chest, having beaten Oklahoma in December. However, this is a team that might need 28 wins to get an at-large bid, considering that it has no more strong teams on its schedule, and its RPI is already so low. Only a perfect run to the conference championship game can save Louisiana Tech. Regardless, it's already been the best season the Bulldogs have had in more than 20 years.
UTEP (18-6, 8-1) -- The Miners have won 13 of their last 14 games, their only loss being at home to Charlotte. That came on the day that they suspended their best player McKenzie Moore and two others for gambling. Since then, they've recovered nicely and have been the hottest team in CUSA. They beat Tennessee and only lost by four to Kansas. Barring a total free fall, they should definitely be dancing come March.
7. Southern Mississippi
Southern Mississippi (21-3, 8-1) -- The Golden Eagles begin my run of three Conference USA teams most people probably aren't talking much about, but should be. Sure, Southern Miss doesn't have many big wins, but 21-3 speaks for itself. They're beating CUSA teams by an average of 16 points and have the strength to muscle up with almost any team in the nation ... except Louisville perhaps, who held them to 38 points earlier this season. One "oops" is allowed, though, right?
6. George Washington
George Washington (19-5, 7-3) -- Despite a loss to VCU this week, the return of the Colonials is official. Yinka Dare, Omo Moses and SirValiant Brown would be proud of what's going on in our nation's capital ... basketball-wise, of course. This program's been 13-17 and 10-21 the last two seasons, but can now count Creighton, Miami, Maryland and Georgia as wins in 2013-14. Welcome back, gentlemen. Looking forward to seeing what else you can do.
Gonzaga (21-4, 11-1) -- It used to be that the Zags played everybody and anybody they could, routinely chalking up the most difficult schedule in the country. This year, however, that hasn't been the case. The Bulldogs can only count West Virginia and BYU as solid wins, settling for a more conservative slate after more than decade of road-weary brutality. Their record is right where it should be, but this is by no means one of Gonzaga's best teams.
4. Virginia Commonwealth
Virginia Commonwealth (20-5, 8-2) -- Another team flying under the radar, this 2011 Final Four team has won 12 of its last last 14 games and just dominated a strong George Washington team this week, one it'd lost to just a month ago. The Rams are one of the nation's most fun teams to watch, and there's not a single team looking forward to seeing them in their tournament bracket.
3. Saint Louis
No. 12 Saint Louis (22-2, 9-0) -- You won't find a more underrated team in the country over the last five years than the Billikens. That remains the same this season. Despite their only losses being to Wisconsin and Wichita State, as well as a top-15 ranking, most people can't name a single player on this Saint Louis team. This is a shame, because this veteran team of Jordair Jett, Dwayne Evans, Mike McCall and Rob Loe are gonna surprise some people in March. Count on it.
2. San Diego State
No. 5 San Diego State (21-2, 10-1) -- This week's upset loss at Wyoming snapped the Aztecs' 20-game win streak, which was the third-longest in the country behind Wichita State and Syracuse. Their only other loss? To second-ranked Arizona. This is a long team, and one that should make a deep run through the tourney.
1. Wichita State
No. 4 Wichita State (26-0, 13-0) -- When you're 26-0 and ranked fourth in the country, it makes my job pretty easy. Of course, San Diego State's loss this week didn't hurt, either. Barring a bad loss, the Shockers will be a No. 1 seed heading into the NCAA Tournament. The only question is whether they'll be able to duplicate, or exceed last year's Final Four run.