5 Mid-Major NCAA Basketball Teams That Could Make a Serious Run
5 Mid-Major College Basketball Teams That Could Make A Serious Run
A staple of the NCAA tournaments in recent years has been mid-majors making deep runs in the tournament. Schools from these lesser conferences have consistently made runs to the Sweet 16 and beyond. The George Mason Patriots shocked the field in 2006 and reached the Final Four. Since then, other mid-majors have followed suit. The Memphis Tigers were a buzzer beater away from a national title in 2008, the Butler Bulldogs went to back-to-back national championship games in 2010 and 2011, falling one shot short in the 2010 game. Meanwhile, the Virginia Commonwealth Rams joined Butler in the 2011 Final Four and the Wichita State Shockers made it to the Final Four last season.
When taking a look at this year’s candidates, the first question to ask is, what teams are still considered mid-majors? College basketball has undergone some drastic changes to the conference landscape and the line isn't as clear as it used to be. Any team outside the six power conferences used to be considered a mid-major, but that isn't the case anymore. The ACC, Big 10, Big 12, Pac-12 and SEC have all added new members, and the Big East has now split into two conferences, with the Catholic schools forming the new Big East and the others forming the American Athletic Conference.
Teams like the Creighton Bluejays, Xavier Musketeers, SMU Mustangs, Butler and Memphis would be strong candidates to be on a mid-major list like this, but they are now members of the conferences considered to be the powers.
In addition to that, the play of some conferences as a whole have changed their status. The Mountain West was considered a mid-major conference, but they have grown from that label now. Last season, the Mountain West had five teams receive NCAA tournament bids, and four of those teams were the higher-seeded team in their opening matchups.
There are plenty of talented teams outside of those conferences that are good enough to make a deep run in March. This list will look at the five with the best chances to accomplish that task.
5. Harvard Crimson
The Harvard Crimson are on the verge of making basketball program history Tommy Amaker has helped guide the Crimson to new heights since he arrived on campus. Sitting at 20-4, the Crimson have proven they can hang with the best of them. The Crimson have beaten the leaders in the American East, Horizon and Patriot leagues, and have played very close games with the pre-Spencer Dinwiddie injury Colorado Buffaloes and the Connecticut Huskies. Harvard has both the talent and experience to be a tough matchup in the tournament.
4. Virginia Commonwealth Rams
The Virginia Commonwealth Rams burst onto the national scene with their Final Four run in 2011 and haven't looked back. The Rams have two players from the Final Four team still on the roster in Rob Brandenberg and Juvonte Reddic, and they will lead the charge. VCU has shown their potential, beating top teams such as the Virginia Cavaliers, and should be a tough out at the tournament. While the Rams might not enter the tournament with as much hype as they've had in the past, they are still a team capable of big things.
3. Gonzaga Bulldogs
The Gonzaga Bulldogs are frequently among the best mid-major teams, and this year is no different. Gonzaga had a historic season last year, earning a no. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. This year's team hasn't had the same amount of success, but they still are capable of making a run. Gonzaga has been hampered by injuries this season, but the team is starting to get healthy now. Mark Few will have this Bulldogs team ready to go come March.
2. Wichita State Shockers
The Wichita State Shockers are currently one of just two unbeaten teams in college basketball and rank third in both the AP Poll and Coaches Poll. Although the Shockers' schedule has been weak, Wichita State does currently have the eighth-best RPI in the country. To the Shockers' credit, they did schedule some games against teams like the Alabama Crimson Tide that would be quality wins most years, but those teams are experiencing down seasons. The Shockers have handled every test they have faced.
1. Saint Louis Billikens
The Saint Louis Billikens might not be the highest-ranked Mid-Major right now, but they could be the most dangerous. Currently ranked 10 in the polls, Saint Louis has won 17 straight games and took care of business in a tough Atlantic 10 conference. The Billikens have a very experienced team with a decent strength of schedule (61), and has the no. 11 RPI in the country. Both of their losses have come vs. top-25 teams. The Billikens have been tested throughout the year and that bodes well for them in the tournament.