In college basketball, and all college sports for that matter, there are six power conferences: the ACC, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 and the SEC. These conferences are considered to be the BCS conferences, or the Big Six.
The teams in the BCS conferences have a lot going for them: They generally receive the most national exposure, have the most money to spend on athletics and therefore land the best recruits.
So that leaves all the other conferences in America, 25 to be exact, in the non-BCS category. These conferences, and the teams within these conferences have been labeled mid-majors. Many consider the relatively unknown conferences to be low-major conferences.
The NCAA does not officially recognize the term mid-major, as they consider all 31 conferences to be major conferences. Of course the NCAA makes this statement so they seem unbiased, but in reality the BCS conferences are favored greatly.
Mid-majors have many challenges they must deal with in order to have similar success to a major program. Mid-majors struggle to schedule games with major teams because major teams for the most part have no desire to play a mid-major, especially not on the road.
Many mid-major teams have to win their conference tournament, or they will not make the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament, plain and simple. That’s just the way it is. Hopefully, with the NCAA tournament’s recent expansion to a 68-team field, more mid-major teams will have a chance to make the cut.
College basketball is full of parity. Each year in the NCAA tournament a David slays a Goliath. The little guy beats the big guy. Many of these teams unfortunately are one-hit wonders, and they fall back into obscurity.
But, it needs to be realized the little guy is getting bigger. The gap between a major program and mid-major program is shrinking. The Final Four this past season consisted of Connecticut, Kentucky, VCU (a team many said did not deserve to make the field) and Butler. That is two, count them two mid-major teams in the Final Four.
That’s enough of the pity party. A number of mid-major programs have overcome these challenges and found consistent success. Here are five programs that have shattered any tie to the label “mid-major."