2014 NCAA Tournament: The 15 Mid-Majors That Can Make A Deep Run

15 Mid-Majors That Could Make A Deep Run

Wichita State Shockers
Chadrack Lufile-Getty Images

The best part of the NCAA Tournament is the Cinderella story. What No.12 seed will take down the No. 5 seed in your bracket?

There are few isolated cases where the big boys wore the glass slipper (NC State '83, Villanova '85). However, it's typically the small schools that capture our hearts, grab the headlines and get movies made for them. They create anticipation, which is what March Madness ultimately is all about.

15. North Dakota State Bison

North Dakota State ncaa tournament
Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports

15. North Dakota State Bison

North Dakota State ncaa tournament
Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports

The Bison come into the NCAA Tournament with a nine-game winning streak. I actually think they have a legitimate shot at taking down Oklahoma, which would be a huge win. Could they parlay that into a second win against either San Diego State or New Mexico State? I think that would be a stretch. Even one win would be the biggest thing that's happened in Fargo since their football team won their last of eight Division II national titles in 1990.

14. Dayton Flyers

Dayton Flyers atlantic 10
Robert Leifheit-USA TODAY Sports

14. Dayton Flyers

Dayton Flyers atlantic 10
Robert Leifheit-USA TODAY Sports

Dayton has all the tools to pull off an upset in their first game over Ohio State. However, if they manage to do that, they'll still likely have to face off with Syracuse in the Round of 32. How many teams would you favor in back-to-back games again those two teams? Probably not too many, and Dayton certainly isn't one of them. I have love for the Atlantic 10 and getting six teams in the Big Dance is huge, but I don't see many of them advancing.

13. Massachusetts Minutemen

Massachusetts Minutemen umass atlantic 10
Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

13. Massachusetts Minutemen

UMass Massachusetts Minutemen atlantic 10
Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

UMass was just the No. 6 seed in the Atlantic 10 Tournament, but they turned that into a No. 6 in the NCAA Tourney, too, which was an accomplishment in itself. Now they'll have to look ACC Player of the Year T.J. Warren and NC State in the face just days after the Wolfpack already notched a tourney win over Xavier. I don't like this spot for UMass. Even if they do win, a game against Duke would immediately follow, which isn't promising.

12. New Mexico State Aggies

New Mexico State Aggies wac
Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

12. New Mexico State Aggies

New Mexico State Aggies wac
Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

The Aggies had a great season, winning the WAC for the third straight year. However, they've lost their last seven NCAA Tournament games, the most recent win coming in 1993 against Nebraska. This year, though, they have a pretty decent draw, with a game against San Diego State, then likely Oklahoma. It wouldn't be a shock to me to see NMSU pull off a pair of wins. In fact, they're the first team on this list I believe can make that happen.

11. Mercer Bears

Mercer Bears
Spruce Derden-USA TODAY Sports

11. Mercer Bears

Mercer Bears
Spruce Derden-USA TODAY Sports

Mercer is the most perfectly crafted team to pull an early upset in this year's tournament. They have all the pieces a Cinderella team requires to make a run: 1) A dominant PG in Langston Hall who's been an All-Conference pick four straight years, 2) Five of the team's top-six scorers are seniors and 3) A proven coach in Bob Hoffman, who's won 24+ games three seasons in a row, finally culminating in the school's first NCAA appearance since 1985.

10. BYU Cougars

Brigham Young Cougars byu west coast conference
Chris Nicoll-USA TODAY Sports

10. BYU Cougars

Brigham Young Cougars byu west coast conference
Chris Nicoll-USA TODAY Sports

Thanks to several players going on two-year Mormon missions, BYU's consistently the oldest and most mature team in the nation. That always plays into their favor in the NCAA Tournament. Tyler Haws is one of the best scorers in the country, and having a go-to guy wins games this time of year as well. Add in very winnable games against a reeling Oregon team and a Wisconsin squad the Cougars match up very well against, and I can see BYU going deep.

9. Saint Louis Billikens

Saint Louis Billikens atlantic 10
Rafael Suanes-USA TODAY Sports

9. Saint Louis Billikens

Saint Louis Billikens atlantic 10
Rafael Suanes-USA TODAY Sports

Three weeks ago, if I wrote up this same list, Saint Louis would be at the very top. However, since their 19-game winning streak ended, they've now lost four of their last five. Thus, having to face one of the hottest players (T.J. Warren) and teams (NC State) in the country couldn't come at a worse time. The good news is they are a veteran team with extremely good leaders (Jordair Jett and Duane Evans) who have proven they can win big games.

8. St. Joseph's Hawks

St. Joseph's Hawks atlantic 10
Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports

8. St. Joseph's Hawks

St. Joseph's Hawks atlantic 10 champion
Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports

The Hawks aren't even in the same league as Saint Louis, but what they do have is a much better tandem of games in their way to the Sweet 16. Don't get me wrong -- it won't be easy as they'll get Connecticut and Villanova. But it's still easier than NC State and Louisville. The way St. Joe's is playing (they won the Atlantic 10 tournament), I wouldn't put it past them. They're a team on a mission.

7. Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks

Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks
Jim Cowsert-USA TODAY Sports

7. Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks

Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks
Jim Cowsert-USA TODAY Sports

The Jacks were one of my upset specials going into the tourney, then the selection committee stuck them against the run-and-gun Rams of VCU, which has me doubting myself. The Lumberjacks have the third-longest winning streak in the country (28 games), and nothing teaches you how to win like winning. This team doesn't remember what it's like to lose. If they do win their first one, they're looking at either UCLA or Tulsa in the Round of 32.

6. Tulsa Golden Hurricane

Tulsa Golden Hurricane conference usa
Ivan Pierre Aguirre-USA TODAY Sports

6. Tulsa Golden Hurricane

Tulsa Golden Hurricane conference usa
Ivan Pierre Aguirre-USA TODAY Sports

Despite being one of four C-USA teams to finish the league tied for first, Tulsa's easily the least heralded. It was supposed to be Southern Miss, LA Tech or Middle Tennessee State. Instead it's the Golden Hurricane. Former tournament MVP Danny Manning has his team playing the best they have all year, and games against UCLA and VCU/Stephen F. Austin shouldn't phase them. There's no pressure on them, which I imagine is how they like it.

5. Virginia Commonwealth Rams

VCU Rams atlantic 10
Mike Lawrie-Getty Images

5. Virginia Commonwealth Rams

VCU Rams atlantic 10
Mike Lawrie-Getty Images

Coach Shaka Smart and his Rams have danced this dance before, and they've got a Final Four banner back in Richmond to prove it. VCU won't have it easy with a 31-2 Stephen F. Austin team in the first round, but if they get by them, I like where they could be headed with UCLA and Florida potentially in their path in the South Region. With their end-to-end pressure, this team can dictate the action of any game, and that's a proven winning formula.

4. Gonzaga Bulldogs

Gonzaga Bulldogs west coast conference
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

4. Gonzaga Bulldogs

Gonzaga Bulldogs west coast conference
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

They're the best mid-major in the business the last 10-15 years, and they're in no hurry to give up that title any time soon. Unfortunately, the Zags didn't have their usual brutal out-of-conference schedule this season, so despite once again winning the WCC, they only got a No. 8 seed, which will see them go up against Oklahoma State and Arizona the first two rounds. The Bulldogs can pull off that daily double, but I don't see it happening.

3. San Diego State Aztecs

San Diego State Aztecs mountain west conference
Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

3. San Diego State Aztecs

San Diego State Aztecs mountain west conference
Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

They haven't exactly impressed the last two years in the tourney, going 1-2 despite being highly seeded. But I trust coach Steve Fisher. The Aztecs made the Sweet 16 three years ago, and I love their bracket this week. New Mexico State could be a test, but they should win that game. After that will be Oklahoma or North Dakota State, either of whom SDSU would be favored over. There's no reason this team shouldn't make a return Sweet 16 appearance.

2. Wichita State Shockers

Wichita State Shockers missouri valley
Peter Aiken-Getty Images

2. Wichita State Cyclones

Wichita State Cyclones missouri valley
Peter Aiken-Getty Images

How can a 34-0 team NOT be the No. 1 team on this list? They should, but they easily have the most difficult draw of any team in this year's tournament. They'll surely get past the No. 16 seed but their possible schedule after that could read as one of the more brutal stretch of games in tournament history: Kentucky, Louisville, Duke, Arizona and Florida. That's five of the most successful programs in the annals of college basketball. Ridiculous!

1. New Mexico Lobos

New Mexico Lobos mountain west conference
Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

1. New Mexico Lobos

New Mexico Lobos mountain west conference
Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

The Lobos have been overshadowed all year long. However, this team is set up perfectly to do some damage. Getting past Stanford should be easy, which leads us to Kansas. Thanks to Joel Embiid being out of the lineup, I'm predicting the Lobos pull off that upset. Then they could be looking at a Syracuse team that lost five of their last seven games. You want your Cinderella? New Mexico could be the one wearing that glass slipper in 2014.

Around the Web

  • makayli verran

    my Aunty Amelia got a new blue Land Rover LR4 only from
    working part time off a home computer… helpful hints C­a­s­h­D­u­t­i­e­s­.­ℂ­o­m