Mid-Major Top 25: Murray State Racers Reclaim Top Spot with OVC Championship

Jesse KramerCorrespondent IMarch 5, 2012

Mid-Major Top 25: Murray State Racers Reclaim Top Spot with OVC Championship

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    Conference tournaments are underway, and a few have even ended already. Among the top 25, Belmont, Creighton, and Murray State punched NCAA tournament bids, and additionally UNC-Asheville defeated VMI in the Big South championship.

    This week, Valparaiso, Cleveland State, Texas-Arlington, and Loyola Marymount fell out of my rankings, and in their places are Long Island, Penn, South Dakota State, and Montana.

    Here are the top 25 mid-majors in the nation based on my evaluation.

    Please note that I consider a mid-major team to be any team that is not from the ACC, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, SEC, Pac-12, Mountain West, Atlantic 10 or Conference USA.

    *Follow Jesse Kramer on Twitter @Jesse_Kramer for more college basketball news and information.

25. Wagner Seahawks

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    Record: 25-6, 15-3 NEC

    RPI: 87

    Previous Ranking: 20

    Wagner's NEC championship run ended with a 71-64 loss to Robert Morris in the conference semifinals. 

    Notable Wins: Pitt (Road), Robert Morris (Home)

    Notable Losses: Lehigh (Home), Central Connecticut State (Road)

24. Long Island Blackbirds

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    Record: 24-8, 16-2 NEC

    RPI: 93

    Previous Ranking: Not Ranked

    Long Island responded to its regular-season-ending loss at Monmouth with wins over Sacred Heart and Quinnipiac, advancing to the NEC championship game. The Blackbirds will play Robert Morris on Wednesday with a NCAA tournament bid on the line.

    Notable Wins: Wagner (Home, Road)

    Notable Losses: Hofstra (Road), Columbia (Road), Monmouth (Road)

23. George Mason Patriots

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    Record: 24-9, 14-4 CAA

    RPI: 77

    Previous Ranking: 19

    George Mason struggled down the stretch, losing its final two games of the regular season and then losing again to VCU in the CAA semifinals on Sunday. The Patriots have no chance at a NCAA tournament bid, but they still have an outside shot at going to the NIT.

    Notable Wins: Bucknell (Home), Charleston (Road), ODU (Road), VCU (Home)

    Notable Losses: FIU (Neutral), FAU (Road), Delaware (Road), Northeastern (Road)

22. Penn Quakers

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    Record: 19-11, 11-2 Ivy

    RPI: 94

    Previous Ranking: Not Ranked

    Penn received some national recognition after defeating Harvard two weeks ago, but this past weekend the Quakers did some more damage by beating both Brown and Yale. With a win at Princeton on Tuesday, they will force a one-game playoff with Harvard for the Ivy League championship.

    Notable Wins: St. Joe's (Home), Harvard (Road)

    Notable Losses: James Madison (Home), Yale (Road)

21. South Dakota State Jackrabbits

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    Record: 25-7, 15-3 Summit

    RPI: 54

    Previous Ranking: Not Ranked

    South Dakota State easily defeated IUPUI to advance to the Summit League semifinals. Tonight, the Jackrabbits will play their semifinal game against the Southern Utah Thunderbirds.

    Notable Wins: Washington (Road), Oral Roberts (Home)

    Notable Losses: North Dakota (Road), South Dakota (Road)

20. Ohio Bobcats

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    Record: 24-7, 11-5 MAC

    RPI: 71

    Previous Ranking: 22

    Ohio fell out of second place in the MAC East with a loss at Kent State, but the Bobcats rebounded with a win over Miami (OH) to hold on to third place in their division.

    Notable Wins: Marshall (Road), Akron (Home), Buffalo (Road)

    Notable Losses: Bowling Green (Road), Toledo (Road), Eastern Michigan (Road)

19. Montana Grizzlies

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    Record: 23-6, 15-1 Big Sky

    RPI: 83

    Previous Ranking: Not Ranked

    Montana defeated Weber State in the final game of the regular season to snag the Big Sky regular season title. As the No. 1 seed in the conference tournament, the Grizzlies will play Eastern Washington in the semifinals on Tuesday.

    Notable Wins: Long Beach State (Home), Weber State (Home)

    Notable Losses: North Dakota (Road), San Francisco (Home)

18. Akron Zips

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    Record: 21-10, 13-3 MAC

    RPI: 62

    Previous Ranking: 16

    Akron warded off Kent State on the road to win the MAC regular season championship outright. The Zips are looking to go to the NCAA tournament for the third time in the last four seasons.

    Notable Wins: Mississippi State (Road), Detroit (Home), Marshall (Road), Ohio (Home)

    Notable Losses: Duquesne (Neutral), Buffalo (Home)

17. Belmont Bruins

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    Record: 27-7, 16-2 A-Sun

    RPI: 58

    Previous Ranking: 18

    Belmont defeated Jacksonville, East Tennessee State, and Florida Gulf Coast in the Atlantic Sun tournament to win its second consecutive Atlantic Sun championship. Entering the NCAA tournament, the Bruins have won 14 straight games.

    Notable Wins: Middle Tennessee (Road), Marshall (Home)

    Notable Losses: Miami-Ohio (Road), Lipscomb (Home), USC Upstate (Road)

16. Davidson Wildcats

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    Record: 24-7, 16-2 SoCon

    RPI: 66

    Previous Ranking: 17

    Davidson advanced to the SoCon championship after defeating Elon in the semifinals on Sunday. The Wildcats will play Western Carolina tonight, which went 8-10 in league play during the regular season.

    Notable Wins: Kansas (Road), Penn (Home)

    Notable Losses: Charlotte (Road), Samford (Road)

15. Weber State Wildcats

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    Record: 23-5, 14-2 Big Sky

    RPI: 72

    Previous Ranking: 12

    Weber State lost to Montana in the regular season finale, but the Wildcats will still be the No. 2 seed in the Big Sky tournament. Their semifinal opponent will be Portland State.

    Notable Wins: Montana (Home), UTA (Home)

    Notable Losses: Idaho State (Road)

14. Iona Gaels

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    Record: 25-7, 15-3 MAAC

    RPI: 38

    Previous Ranking: 14

    For the second consecutive year, Iona fell short in the MAAC tournament, losing to Fairfield in Sunday's semifinal. The Gaels will most likely not go to the NCAA tournament as an at-large, but they will get a bid to the NIT.

    Notable Wins: St. Joe's (Home), Denver (Road), Nevada (Home)

    Notable Losses: Hofstra (Road), Manhattan (Home), Siena (Road)

13. Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders

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    Record: 25-6, 14-2 Sun Belt

    RPI: 43

    Previous Ranking: 11

    Middle Tennessee's NCAA tournament hopes were crushed after the Blue Raiders were upset by Arkansas State in the Sun Belt quarterfinals on Sunday.

    Notable Wins: LMU (Road), UCLA (Road), Akron (Home), Belmont (Home)

    Notable Losses: UAB (Road), WKU (Road), Arkansas State (Neutral)

12. Nevada Wolf Pack

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    Record: 25-5, 13-1 WAC

    RPI: 47

    Previous Ranking: 15

    Nevada swept its final home stand, beating New Mexico State and Louisiana Tech. The Wolf Pack will play San Jose State in the WAC quarterfinals on Thursday.

    Notable Wins: Washington (Home), Montana (Road), New Mexico State (Road)

    Notable Losses: Missouri State (Home), Idaho (Home)

11. Brigham Young Cougars

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    Record: 25-8, 12-4 WCC

    RPI: 44

    Previous Ranking: 13

    Brigham Young was eliminated from the WCC tournament after a semifinal loss to Gonzaga. The Cougars remain on the bubble and will most likely be sweating on Selection Sunday.

    Notable Wins: Nevada (Neutral), Oregon (Neutral), Weber State (Home), Gonzaga (Home)

    Notable Losses: Utah State (Road), LMU (Home)

10. Oral Roberts Golden Eagles

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    Record: 27-5, 17-1 Summit

    RPI: 39

    Previous Ranking: 10

    Oral Roberts survived a tough fight with IPFW in the Summit League quarterfinals. Tonight, the Golden Eagles will play the Western Illinois Leathernecks in the semifinals.

    Notable Wins: Xavier (Road), South Dakota State (Home), Akron (Home)

    Notable Losses: UTSA (Neutral)

9. Harvard Crimson

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    Record: 26-4, 12-2 Ivy

    RPI: 37

    Previous Ranking: 9

    Harvard defeated Columbia and Cornell in close games this past weekend to finish 12-2 in the Ivy League. With those wins, the Crimson are guaranteed to have at least a one-game playoff for the conference championship.

    Notable Wins: LMU (Road), Florida State (Neutral), UCF (Neutral), St. Joe's (Home), Penn (Road)

    Notable Losses: Forhdam (Road), Princeton (Road)

8. Virginia Commonwealth Rams

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    Record: 27-6, 15-3 CAA

    RPI: 59

    Previous Ranking: 8

    Virginia Commonwealth held off George Mason in the CAA semifinals to advance to the conference championship game, where the Rams will play No. 1 seed Drexel. 

    Notable Wins: South Florida (Home), Akron (Road), ODU (Road), George Mason (Home, Neutral)

    Notable Losses: Georgia Tech (Neutral), Georgia State (Home)

7. Drexel Dragons

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    Record: 27-5, 16-2 CAA

    RPI: 69

    Previous Ranking: 6

    Drexel defeated Old Dominion in the CAA semifinals for its 19th win in a row. The Dragons will play VCU tonight in the conference championship game.

    Notable Wins: VCU (Home), George Mason (Home), Cleveland State (Road), ODU (Road)

    Notable Losses: Norfolk State (Neutral), Delaware (Road)

6. Long Beach State 49ers

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    Record: 22-8, 15-1 Big West

    RPI: 35

    Previous Ranking: 4

    It took 16 games, but someone finally beat Long Beach State. The 49ers were upset by Cal State Fullerton yesterday, but they are still the No. 1 seed in the Big West tournament, which starts Thursday.

    Notable Wins: Pitt (Road), Xavier (Neutral)

    Notable Losses: Cal State Fullerton (Road)

5. Gonzaga Bulldogs

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    Record: 25-5, 13-3 WCC

    RPI: 19

    Previous Ranking: 7

    Gonzaga beat Brigham Young on Saturday night to advance to the WCC championship game. Regardless of the outcome of that game, the Zags will go to the NCAA tournament.

    Notable Wins: Notre Dame (Home), Oral Roberts (Home), Xavier (Road), St. Mary's (Home), BYU (Home, Neutral)

    Notable Losses: San Francisco (Road)

4. St. Mary's Gaels

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    Record: 26-5, 14-2 WCC

    RPI: 31

    Previous Ranking: 5

    St. Mary's defeated San Francisco, 83-78, in the WCC semifinals on Saturday to advance to the WCC championship.

    Notable Wins: Weber State (Home), BYU (Home, Road), Gonzaga (Home)

    Notable Losses: LMU (Home)

3. Creighton Bluejays

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    Record: 28-5, 14-4 MVC

    RPI: 25

    Previous Ranking: 3

    Creighton outlasted Illinois State on Sunday in the MVC championship game to earn the MVC's automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. 

    Notable Wins: San Diego State (Road), Northwestern (Home), Wichita State (Road), Long Beach State (Home)

    Notable Losses: Missouri State (Home), Evansville (Road) 

2. Wichita State Shockers

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    Record: 27-5, 16-2 MVC

    RPI: 14

    Previous Ranking: 1

    Wichita State's nine-game winning streak and MVC tournament championship hopes ended together with a 65-64 loss to Illinois State in the MVC semifinals on Saturday. Despite the disappointing loss, the Shockers will still go to the NCAA tournament as an at-large team.

    Notable Wins: UNLV (Home), Creighton (Road), Davidson (Road)

    Notable Losses: Drake (Road), Illinois State (Neutral)

1. Murray State Racers

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    Record: 30-1, 15-1 OVC

    RPI: 20

    Previous Ranking: 2

    Murray State came from behind on Saturday afternoon to defeat Tennessee State and earn the OVC's automatic bid to the 2012 NCAA Tournament. Thanks to accomplishing that feat and Wichita State's loss, the Racers are back to the No. 1 team among mid-majors. 

    Notable Wins: Southern Miss (Neutral), Dayton (Home), Memphis (Road), St. Mary's (Home)

    Notable Losses: Tennessee State (Home)

Just Missed the Cut

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    Bucknell (24-8, 12-2 Patriot)

    Denver (22-8, 11-5 Sun Belt)

    Detroit (21-13, 11-7 Horizon)

    Fairfield (19-13, 12-6 MAAC)

    Kent State (20-10, 10-6 MAC)

    Loyola-Maryland (23-8, 13-5 MAAC)

    Lehigh (25-7, 11-3 Patriot)

    Old Dominion (20-13, 13-5 CAA)

    New Mexico State (23-9, 10-4 WAC)

    Robert Morris (24-9, 13-5 NEC)

    Stony Brook (22-8, 14-2 A-East)

    Tennessee State (20-12, 11-5 OVC)

    Texas-Arlington (23-7, 15-1 Southland)

    UNC-Asheville (24-9, 16-2 Big South)

    Valparaiso (22-10, 14-4 Horizon)