Mid-majors are often defined as schools that do not belong to conferences that are affiliated with the BCS, which would therefore rule out all teams from the ACC, SEC, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, and Pac-10.
Kyle Whelliston, writer for the mid-majority, has a different idea though, and bases it off of school’s athletic budgets. His concept then rules out C-USA and Mountain West as well, leaving 24 conferences to be considered “mid-majors.”
I generally still consider the Mountain West to be a mid-major conference (for the most part), since it is not known to hold “dominant basketball teams”.
But since there is no clear idea for where to draw the line, it’s possible to sometimes fudge it a bit. Anyways, my mid-major conferences are all but those six listed above and this is generally what I focus my writing on.
Note: I didn’t include Memphis in this article because I still don’t consider them a mid-major school since they receive the same media coverage as the “major” schools, although they do belong to the C-USA.
Every year, there are a few mid-majors that tend to play above the average mid-major talent level and find their way into the top 25 poll. These teams dominate conference play and make deep NCAA tournament runs backed by experience, strong team chemistry, and an accustom to winning.
I refer to these types of teams as “giant-majors” because they are a little better than the ordinary mid-major.
Currently, there are three teams that fall into this category, with a few others on the borderline.
Xavier Musketeers (17-2)
The Xavier Musketeers top off the list with a No. 15 ranking and a 17-2 record.
They hold impressive wins over several “major” teams such as Missouri, Virginia Tech, Memphis, Auburn, Virginia, and most recently, LSU.
Although they certainly miss recent graduates Drew Lavender, Stanley Burrell, and Josh Duncan, the Musketeers have shown no signs of it with other players filling their roles.
Junior Derrick Brown and Seniors BJ Raymond and CJ Anderson combine for 36.3 points, 15.0 rebounds, and 5.3 assists per game, all of which account for a massive percentage of the team’s statistics.
They do commit a large number of turnovers though (15.4) and only gather around 5.4 steals per game mainly due to a lack of a consistent point guard. Thankfully, their strong defense makes up for this.
Xavier ranks ninth in the country defensively, allowing an average of only 86.3 points on 100 offensive possessions, and hold opponents to just 37.2 percent from the field (seventh nationally).
If there is a team to be afraid of from the Atlantic-10, it would be the Musketeers, who look to continue their A-10 dominance with matches this week against Charlotte and UMass.
Butler Bulldogs (18-1)
The next team on this list is Butler, who lost four of their five starters last year and yet somehow manage to have an 18-1 record and a No. 16 rank.
They are led in scoring (and everything else for that matter) by two freshmen and a sophomore, who all average at least 13 points per game.
Butler has taken a commanding lead over the Horizon League this past week, with wins over UW-Milwaukee and UW-Green Bay, the second and third place teams, and are now 9-0 in conference play.
A very low turnover percentage, and a defense that only allows 55.6 points per game certainly don’t hurt either, as Butler has glided through their schedule with an average winning margin of 13.0 points.
They have wins over Northwestern and UAB, while also defeating fellow “giant-major” Xavier by nine points at their place. Butler’s lone loss came at Ohio State (by three), something that they cannot possibly be upset about seeing that they have won every other game.
Looking at the remainder of their conference schedule, I seriously wouldn’t be surprised if they ran the table and finished 18-0 in the Horizon League.
Gonzaga Bulldogs (14-4)
The final qualifier is perhaps the most well-recognized of the bunch, No. 23 Gonzaga.
The Bulldogs are by far the most talented giant-major and have easily played the most challenging schedule, but they have been mildly disappointing thus far.
They were ranked as high as No. 4 in the nation, but following that devastating loss to UConn, everything seemed to go downhill as they went on to lose to Portland State and Utah.
An overtime win at Tennessee helped end that skid, and they have now won six straight and are 5-0 in the WCC.
The Bulldogs have four players scoring in double figures and have been pummeling conference opponents by an average of 28 points per game. They rank in the top 15 in both offensive and defensive efficiencies and display no apparent weaknesses other than some occasional foul trouble.
They also have a stunning 1.39-to-1 AST/TO ratio (eighth nationally) thanks to Pargo’s six assists per game, and have defeated a plethora of major teams such as Maryland, Oklahoma State, Tennessee (twice), and Washington State, NONE of which were played at home.
Gonzaga, however, have a big in-conference foe in St. Mary’s, a team that still has not broken into the AP Top 25 (currently 27) but should this upcoming week. Games against the Gaels will prove a lot about which team is the real giant-major.
The Rest: St. Mary’s (27), Davidson (34), Utah State (36), Dayton (42), George Mason (43).
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