NCAA Brackets 2013: Ranking Top Mid-Majors Still in the Field

Joseph ZuckerFeatured ColumnistMarch 23, 2013

PHILADELPHIA, PA - MARCH 22:  Grant Gibbs #10 hugs Doug McDermott #3 of the Creighton Bluejays late in the second half while taking on the Cincinnati Bearcats during the second round of the 2013 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament on March 22, 2013 at Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Rob Carr/Getty Images

Doug McDermott better have something left in the tank for the round of 32.

He was by far the Creighton Bluejays' leading scorer in their 67-63 win over the Cincinnati Bearcats. McDermott went for 27 points and 11 rebounds.

Much was expected of the star forward, and he more than delivered in his first NCAA tournament game this season.

Creighton is one of the mid-majors that demanded attention coming into this tournament. The Bluejays have had a consistently strong program, and this year was no different.

Their tournament may hit a major stumbling block in the form of the Duke Blue Devils. Duke looked very strong in its 73-61 win over the Albany Great Danes.

The Bluejays might not be able to make it past Sunday in the Big Dance. Here are four mid-majors with much better odds of advancing to the Sweet 16.


4. La Salle Explorers

Until the Florida Gulf Coast Eagles won, it looked like the La Salle Explorers would have the biggest upset of the day on Friday. They knocked off the 13th-seeded Kansas State Wildcats, 63-61.

Jerrell Wright stepped up in a big way, going a perfect 6-of-6 from the field, scoring 21 points and bringing down eight rebounds. Ramon Galloway also had a good game, adding 19 points.

La Salle meets the Ole Miss Rebels in the third round. Therefore, the Explorers could benefit from the unpredictability of Marshall Henderson. He hits such a high volume of bad shots that it's bound to catch up with the Rebels sooner or later.


3. Virginia Commonwealth Rams

Virginia Commonwealth made it look too easy against Akron on Thursday. Against a Zips team that was hit with the flu bug and had its starting point guard suspended, the Rams won, 88-42. It was a dominating win but also comes with a grain of salt because of Akron's personnel issues.

Juvonte Reddic and Troy Daniels looked great, combining for 44 points. As a team, the Rams just smothered the Zips, forcing them into 21 turnovers. Akron just could not keep up with Shaka Smart's high-tempo offense.

The Michigan Wolverines could very well have the same issues. Of utmost importance is the play of Trey Burke. He was only 2-of-12 against South Dakota State. Burke can get away with a performance like that against the Jackrabbits, but the Rams won't let that happen.


2. San Diego State Aztecs

San Diego State may have the easiest third-round game of any mid-major. The Aztecs face off with the aforementioned Florida Gulf Coast University.

You have to wonder how the Eagles will respond to beating Georgetown. A win over the Hoyas is the best thing ever to happen to that program, and now the players must remained focused for San Diego State.

This season has been a bit of a disappointment for the Aztecs, but Steve Fisher has this team ready to advance to the Sweet 16. With its strong defense, San Diego State should be able to smother the overmatched Eagles, who aren't going to be a surprise this time around.


1. Saint Louis Billikens

How about Saint Louis? The Billikens looked like bona fide contenders in their 64-44 win over the New Mexico State Aggies. Any time you can hold a Division I basketball team to 16 points in a half, you're doing a good job.

It's incredible how well this team has managed to do following the departure and subsequent passing of Rick Majerus.

The Billikens were very strong defensively during the regular season, and they continued that play against the Aggies. They held New Mexico State just 27.9 percent shooting, including a horrid 2-of-16 from three-point range.

That strong defense will be vital when Saint Louis faces off with an Oregon Ducks team that looked great in the second round.


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