First Cut: NCAA Mid-Majors To Watch, March Madness

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Let’s see how things evolve, especially as teams compete in their respective post-season tournaments.


March 15 is a long way off. NCAA first-round games start that day. But it’s not too early to start following Mid-Majors that could spring first-round upsets and, perhaps, even take steps beyond that.

Following these “David’s” is something I really like to do, and each year I share my thoughts at TSC. 

Most of these teams will be seeded 14-16 in the tournament.

Teams in CAPS below are on my February Watch List. The ten teams in bold are teams I’m following closely. (I didn’t include St. Mary’s and Gonzaga in bold because they’re big-time teams playing in a mid-major conference.)

Twenty conferences are included here (mid-major conferences that have at least one team I think is capable of springing a tournament upset). Numbers positioned next to teams represent Jay Bilas’ February 7 ranking of the top 68 teams (from ESPN.com)

Atlantic 10: RHODE ISLAND (25), St. Bonaventure (67)

America East: VERMONT (64)

Atlantic Sun: Florida Gulf Coast

Big Sky: MONTANA

CJ Massinburg plays on the best UB team in years (photo, Buffalo News)

Big West: UC SANTA BARBARA, UC Davis

Conference USA: MIDDLE TENNESSEE (41)

Horizon: Wright State, Northern Kentucky

Ivy: Penn

Metro Atlantic: RIDER

Mid-American: BUFFALO

MEAC: North Carolina A&T

Missouri Valley: LOYOLA (IL)

Mountain West: NEVADA-RENO (30), Boise State (40)

Northeast: WAGNER

Ohio Valley: Belmont, Murray State (68)

South Dakota State’s Mike Daum (24) is a major talent. (photo, SB Nation)

Southern: EAST TENNESSEE STATE (62)

Summit: SOUTH DAKOTA, SOUTH DAKOTA STATE

Sun Belt: LOUISIANA (65)

WAC: NEW MEXICO STATE (56)

West Coast: ST, MARY’S (23), GONZAGA (19).

With that, here’s my early February Top Ten list with “best wins” over Power 6 teams listed in bold:

Gonzaga (22-4, best win, Ohio State)

Rhode Island (19-3, best win, Seton Hall)

Nevada (20-5, best win, Rhode Island)

St. Mary’s (24-2, best win, California)

Middle Tennessee (19-5, best win, tied, Ole Miss, Vandy)

New Mexico State (21-3, best wins, New Mexico, twice)

Buffalo (18-6, best win, UAB)

Loyola (20-5, best win, Florida)

South Dakota St. (21-6, best win, Iowa)

Rider (18-7, best win, George Washington)

Let’s see how things evolve, especially as teams compete in their respective post-season tournaments.

Stay tuned!

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About Frank Fear

I’m a Columnist at The Sports Column. My specialty is sports commentary with emphasis on sports reform. I also serve as TSC’s Chief Operating Officer and Managing Editor. In that role I coordinate the daily flow of submissions from across the country and around the world, including overseeing editing and posting articles. I’m especially interested in enabling the development of young, aspiring writers. I can relate to them. I began covering sports in high school for my local newspaper. In college I served as sports editor of the campus newspaper and worked in the Sports Information Director’s Office at St. John Fisher College. After finishing grad degrees at West Virginia and Iowa State I had a 35-year academic career at Michigan State. Now retired, it’s time to write again about sports. I strongly support TSC’s philosophy–democratizing voice by giving everybody a chance to write.



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