Which Mid-Majors Helped Their NCAA Tournament Chances In Week 16?
Mid-Majors Who Helped Themselves in Week 16
With Selection Sunday only four weeks away, teams need all the victories they can pile up before D-Day arrives. For some, every game matters at this point. Others have a little more room to breathe. Either way, if there's anything the Tournament Selection Committee continually stresses, it's that the last 10 games of the season matters more than any other.
Some leagues are in a good position in that they have 4-5 games remaining on their schedules, giving them some time to make up ground and add some wins to their portfolio. Other teams have only a week left until their conference tournaments begin.
Regardless, the tournament bubble seems to get bigger and bigger every year, even now that 68 teams are invited instead of 64. That gives every game more weight, especially for the mid-major teams who often have to do more to make themselves look better than a major conference school with a similar resume.
Some of those teams stepped up to the plate this weekend, while others crashed and burned. Here's a look at some mid-majors who helped their chances in Week 16.
Boise State Broncos (18-9, 8-6)
A dramatic overtime win at home over UNLV kept alive the Broncos' slim hopes of making the tournament. Originally declared a winning basket for the Runnin' Rebels, the shot was overturned by video replay, giving Boise the win. It catapulted them into a tie for third in the Mountain West Conference, which could manage to squeeze three teams into the Big Dance. All four of their remaining games are against teams below them in the standings, which could bump them up to 22-9 heading into the postseason. That will surely improve their 54th-ranked RPI into one the Tournament Selection Committee will have to take notice.
Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles (23-5, 10-3)
The Golden Eagles were already safely in the tournament, but a huge win over UTEP knocked the Miners out of first place in Conference USA and raised USM's RPI to a more-than respectable 41. They have three very winnable games remaining in the regular season. You can pretty much bet on them being in the tournament this year.
Richmond Spiders (18-9, 8-4)
Their RPI of 43 is nice, but the Atlantic 10 is as tough as it's ever been this year. This is a conference that could legitimately see five teams make the tourney. If the Spiders are to be one of them, they needed the win over LaSalle to maintain the pace and remain in a logjam for third in the conference. They end the season with games against Virginia Commonwealth and Dayton, which will ultimately determine their fate.
Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders (21-7, 11-2)
Their true make-or-break game is this coming Thursday at Louisiana Tech, but they needed Saturday's road win at Marshall to keep them in sole possession of first in Conference USA. With Southern Mississippi an odds-on favorite to make the NCAA tournament regardless, it would go a long way for the Blue Raiders to finish ahead of them in the conference standings. It may force committee members to overlook their otherwise sketchy RPI (78).
Louisiana Tech Bulldogs (22-6, 10-3)
It may seem like there's nothing but CUSA teams on this list, but that's because it's as top-heavy a conference as there is in the country, and only two teams will likely get into the NCAA tournament. The Bulldogs are clearly in that hunt, and their road win at Old Dominion on Saturday was crucial to keep them there. Their RPI is only at 82, so their next two games against Middle Tennessee State and at UAB will be make-or-break contests.
Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks (25-2, 14-0)
Could the committee seriously turn down a team that ends the season 30-3 and 20-1 in their conference? That's a possibility if the Lumberjacks sweep the rest of their schedule, but somehow lose in the conference championship game. Their RPI currently sits at just 98, but 30 wins would be tough to reject. That's why this weekend's last-second steal and dunk at the buzzer by SFA's Jacob Parker to beat Northwestern State was so crucial. They can't afford any slip-ups before putting win No. 30 on the board.