NCAA Basketball Rankings 2013: Mid-Major Rankings for Week 17
We have had a bit more craziness in mid-major college basketball over the past week. On Wednesday night, Wichita State was upset by Evansville for the second time this season, with this one occurring in Wichita.
Also, Akron came from behind at Ohio in the second half to win in overtime and climb within one win of clinching the No. 1 seed in the MAC tournament.
Gonzaga is still undoubtedly No. 1 among the mid-majors, especially considering that the Bulldogs could be ranked No. 1 in the entire nation when Monday comes around.
Read on to see the complete Mid-Major Top 10.
(Note: For the purpose of this analysis, a mid-major is defined as any team that does not compete in the ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Big East, SEC, Pac-12, Atlantic 10, Conference USA or Mountain West.)
10. Valparaiso Crusaders
Record: 23-7, 12-3 Horizon
Notable Wins: Murray State (Road), Detroit (Road), Eastern Kentucky (Home)
Valparaiso has not been a dominating force at the mid-major level this year, but it is still among the most successful. The Crusaders are ranked only No. 71 on www.kenpom.com, but their strong offense has led them to a pair of top-100 road wins.
Valpo holds a one-game lead over Detroit in the Horizon League, and with a win at Green Bay or a Detroit loss to Illinois-Chicago on Saturday, it would clinch an outright conference championship.
9. Bucknell Bison
Record: 24-5, 11-2 Patriot
Notable Wins: La Salle (Home), New Mexico State (Neutral), Loyola-MD (Road), Purdue (Road)
Bucknell is 11-2 in the Patriot League, and its two losses are in close games to the two teams tied for second place in the league. The Bison lost to Lehigh, 65-62, on January 23, and on February 16 they lost at Lafayette, 63-62.
In nonconference play, the Bison won at Purdue, and they nearly defeated Missouri. They also knocked off La Salle (a NCAA tournament bubble team), MAAC leaders Niagara and Loyola-Maryland on the road, and New Mexico State, one of the top teams in the WAC.
8. Creighton Bluejays
Record: 23-7, 12-5 MVC
Notable Wins: Wisconsin (Neutral), Akron (Home), Cal (Road), Arizona State (Neutral), St. Joe's (Home), Indiana State (Home), Northern Iowa (Home)
Creighton looked in danger of falling out of the NCAA tournament field after three straight losses earlier in February, but since then the Bluejays are 3-1 with the only loss coming at St. Mary's. The Bluejays' status as a NCAA tournament team is still not certain, but with the weak bubble it appears they have done enough damage to have a spot in Dayton at the very, very least.
A win over Wichita State on Saturday would put all of that doubt to rest.
7. Wichita State Shockers
Record: 24-6, 12-5 MVC
Notable Wins: VCU (Road), Southern Miss (Neutral), Creighton (Home), Iowa (Neutral), Air Force (Road), Northern Iowa (Home), Indiana State (Road), Detroit (Home)
Wichita State's five-game winning streak ended with a loss at home to Evansville. The Shockers have now been swept by the Aces, and with the loss, they dropped back into a tie with Creighton for first place in the Missouri Valley.
The Shockers' game at Creighton on Saturday will decide the regular-season conference champion and the No. 1 seed in the conference tournament.
6. Louisiana Tech Bulldogs
Record: 24-3, 14-0 WAC
Notable Wins: Southern Miss (Home), Denver (Home), New Mexico State (Home), Utah State (Road)
Louisiana Tech is ranked No. 25 in the AP Top 25 poll, but there are other mid-majors who deserve that honor more than the Bulldogs.
Louisiana Tech does have a 3-1 record against the RPI Top 100 and a 12-3 record in games away from home, but it has not defeated any good teams on the road. Their best road win came at Utah State after the Aggies had already lost a pair of starters to season-ending injuries.
The Bulldogs will have a chance for two road wins against the top 100 with games at Denver and New Mexico State next week.
5. Akron Zips
Record: 23-4, 13-0 MAC
Notable Wins: Mid. Tenn. (Home), Ohio (Home, Road), North Dakota State (Home)
Akron's win streak was extended to 19 games on Wednesday night with a huge win at Ohio. The Zips now need to win only one of their last three games to earn the No. 1 seed in the MAC tournament. With two wins, they would win the conference title outright.
Watch out for this team if it winds up in the NCAA tournament. Although it has only one top-50 win, it did lose to Oklahoma State by only four points this season.
4. Belmont Bruins
Record: 23-6, 13-2 OVC
Notable Wins: Mid. Tenn. (Home), Stanford (Road), South Dakota State (Home), Eastern Kentucky (Road, Home), Ohio (Home)
Belmont's chances for an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament suffered with February losses to Murray State and Tennessee State, but the Bruins still have a chance to earn a bid even if they do not win the OVC tournament.
The Bruins are 6-4 against the RPI Top 100, and all six of their losses have come away from home. To keep at-large hopes alive, they must beat Jacksonville State at home to finish the regular season.
3. St. Mary's Gaels
Record: 24-5, 12-2 WCC
Notable Wins: Creighton (Home), Harvard (Home), BYU (Road, Home), Santa Clara (Road), Utah State (Road)
St. Mary's has a good chance to make the NCAA tournament as an at-large team thanks to its win over Creighton during BracketBuster weekend. The Gaels desperately needed a top-50 win, and they were able to get one.
Their only conference losses came to Gonzaga, but they would likely have to defeat the Zags if they want to win the WCC tournament and get the league's automatic bid to the Big Dance.
2. Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders
Record: 25-4, 17-1 Sun Belt
Notable Wins: UCF (Road), Ole Miss (Home)
Middle Tennessee has been too good for the Sun Belt this year. The Blue Raiders' only league loss came on January 3 in overtime at Arkansas State, the third-best team in the conference.
The Blue Raiders are ranked No. 21 on www.kenpom.com, and they also have the No. 11 defense.
1. Gonzaga Bulldogs
Record: 27-2, 14-0 WCC
Notable Wins: Oklahoma (Neutral), Kansas State (Neutral), Oklahoma State (Road), St. Mary's (Home, Road), Baylor (Home)
There is no doubt that Gonzaga is the best mid-major in college basketball this season. The Zags have 10 wins against the top 100, and they will likely be ranked No. 1 in the entire nation on Monday if they take care of business against Brigham Young and Portland this week.
If Gonzaga wins its games this week and then wins the WCC tournament, it will be a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament.
Jesse Kramer is the founder of The Catch and Shoot, a blog dedicated to college basketball news, observations and insights on nationwide topics. You can follow Jesse on Twitter at Jesse_Kramer, and you can follow The Catch and Shoot at Catch_N_Shoot.