The State of Mid-Major Basketball: Part II

Yesterday we looked at the state of financials and competitive balance in mid-major hoops. Today lets look at some of the top story lines as we enter the 2012-13 season. Here are the top players, teams and conferences to look out for this season.

50 Players to Watch (alphabetically):

  • O.D. Anosike, F, Siena
  • Brian Barbour, G, Columbia
  • George Beamon, G, Manhattan
  • Antonio Bostic, G, Stephen F. Austin
  • Julian Boyd, F, LIU Brooklyn
  • Tommy Brenton, F, Stony Brook
  • Ryan Broekhoff, F, Valparaiso
  • De’mon Brooks, F, Davidson
  • Alec Brown, C, Green Bay
  • Isaiah Canaan, G, Murray State
  • Jackie Carmichael, F, Illinois State
  • Will Cherry, G, Montana
  • Rotnei Clarke, G, Butler
  • DJ Cooper, G, Ohio
  • Jake Cohen, F, Davidson
  • Robert Covington, F, Tennessee St.
  • Torrey Craig, F, USC Upstate
  • Matthew Dellavedova, G, St. Mary’s
  • Kevin Dillard, G, Dayton
  • Ella Ellis, G, Army
  • James Ennis, G, Long Beach State
  • Shane Gibson, G, Sacred Heart
  • Juan’ya Green, G, Niagara
  • Ian Hummer, F, Princeton
  • Anthony Ireland, Loyola Marymount
  • Kerron Johnson, G, Belmont
  • Lamont “Momo” Jones, G, Iona
  • Velton Jones, G, Robert Morris
  • Vander Joaquim, C, Hawaii
  • Andrew Lawrence, G, College of Charleston
  • Damion Lee, G, Drexel
  • Zeke Marshall, C, Akron
  • Frank Massenat, G, Drexel
  • Ray McCallum, G, Detroit
  • C.J. McCollum, G, Lehigh
  • Javon McCrea, F, Buffalo
  • Doug McDermott, F, Creighton
  • Preston Medlin, G, Utah State
  • Kwamain Mitchell, G, Saint Louis
  • Tony Mitchell, F, North Texas
  • Mike Muscala, F, Bucknell
  • Jake Odum, G, Indiana State
  • Stan Okoye, G, VMI
  • Keith Rendelman, F, UNC-Wilmington
  • Colt Ryan, F, Evansville
  • Devon Saddler, G, Delaware
  • Chris Udofia, F, Denver
  • Chaz Williams, G, UMass
  • Nate Wolters, G, South Dakota St.
  • Khalif Wyatt, G, Temple

8 Teams (well… 13) for March:

  • Creighton – Led by Doug McDermott the Blue Jays are going to be a Top 25 team all season. The schedule isn’t a cakewalk either. Creighton faces North Texas, Wisconsin, Saint Joseph’s, Nebraska and Cal before getting into MVC play. The conference should be much improved this season as well.
  • Saint Louis – Wow is this offense good. The questions are how much time will Kwamain Mitchell miss and what’s going to be the impact of Rick Majerus not being on the sideline. Those are two big question asterisks that are causing some people to pick newcomer VCU or Saint Joseph’s as the conference favorite. According to Ken Pomeroy’s ranking the Billikens were the 14th best team in the country in 2011-12, so of course they got a nine seed. If Mitchell’s injury causes them to drop a few spots it wouldn’t be the worst thing in terms of advancing further into the tournament.
  • Ohio – The Bobcats have a new coach, since John Groce left for Illinois, but it turns out that Jim Christian knows a thing or two about winning in the MAC. He’ll have some help too as D.J. Cooper, Nick Kellogg and Walter Offutt are an impressive trio to deploy. Look for Clark’s boy to take on some more of the offensive load during his junior season. It’s worth noting that Ohio went 11-5 in MAC play last season, which is why they ended up playing Michigan in Rd. 1. The MAC East with Akron, Kent State and Buffalo is always tough.
  • Northern Iowa/Illinois State – The MVC has the talent to be a two-bid league this season and these two teams are the likely contenders. The Redbirds received two first-place votes and edged UNI 327-316 for second in the preseason poll, but both have NCAA potential. ISU does it by going through Jackie Carmichael, while UNI has stars like Anthony James and Seth Tuttle. While Tuttle didn’t make the 50 Players to Watch list, it’s likely the sophomore will be on there next season. His development as a go-to scorer will make UNI an even tougher out in 2012-13.
  • Murray State/Belmont – It’s very unlikely that Murray State will run the table for as long as it did in 2011-12, but the Racers should still make some headway in the OVC. Unfortunately, the Bruins are going to be there to get in the way. Belmont has bigger things to worry about, including games at Stanford, VCU and Kansas. If Rick Byrd’s team was able to navigate some of that mess maybe we’d see a two-bid OVC?
  • Bucknell/Lehigh – It’s unlikely that the Patriot League will receive two bids to the NCAA tournament, so we have to hedge our bets here. Even though Lehigh pulled a shocking upset of Duke last season, it could be Mike Muscala and the Bisons that advance in 2012-13. The combined score of the three games these two teams played last season? 199-198 in favor of the Mountain Hawks. The battle between these two teams should be excellent and provide everyone with at least one Cinderella to root for come March.
  • Drexel – One of the last bubble teams left out of the NCAA tournament this season the Dragons should make it easier for the Selection Committee in 2012-13. Led by Damion Lee and Frank Massenat the expectation is that Bruiser Flint’s team will dominate the CAA and earn the at-large bid. Once they get there they’ll be looking to get revenge for what could’ve been last season. The Dragons could help themselves by playing someone this season too, but you can’t have everything.
  • Robert Morris/Wagner/LIU Brooklyn – If you’re looking for the next Norfolk State the NEC is the conference with the best chance of providing it. Assuming one of these teams does enough to escape the 16-seed line, then they’ll have a chance to pull off a monumental upset. All of them have the pieces necessary to compete with a BCS conference team given the right match ups.

5 Conferences Rising:

  • Atlantic 10: Welcomes Butler and VCU, has Temple for another season.
  • Ohio Valley: Belmont vs. Murray State (and Tennessee State is underrated!)
  • MAAC: Multiple title contenders due to a deep top six, but will lose Loyola (MD) at the end of the season.
  • NEC: Three stud teams at the top, even the bottom is getting strong. Though there are still a few easy wins.
  • Patriot League: McCollum vs. Muscala gives league two legit NCAA contenders. Also will add Boston University and Loyola (MD) in near future.

5 Conferences Falling:

  • Ivy League: Lost a dominant senior class, questions throughout.
  • America East: Questions abound and play on court has slipped recently. Losing BU to the Patriot League.
  • Summit: The loss of Oral Roberts is a big blow, considering ORU won regular season title in 2011-12. South Dakota State is the standard bearer now.
  • Atlantic Sun: The loss of Belmont is a crippling blow to the league’s relevancy. Need USC Upstate or Mercer to step up.
  • Big West: League is preparing for a bit of down season, but will get San Diego State starting in 2013-14.

The Impact of Realignment:

The one big question currently facing all of mid-major basketball is the whirlwinds of realignment. Whether it is the Horizon League sending out rumors of adding Oakland, the MAAC looking to add a new 10th team, or the CAA grabbing the College of Charleston it doesn’t look like alignment is going to let up anytime soon. It’s ending natural rivalries and putting coaches in some awkward positions. This isn’t going to settle down soon. The one benefit thus far has been that previously unwanted independents are starting to find homes. Cal State-Bakersfield will make its way to the WAC and former Great West schools are finding inviting homes. If the standard of inclusion continues at least all Division I schools will have the ability to make the NCAA tournament, which is what every player and coach ultimately wants.

One thought on “The State of Mid-Major Basketball: Part II

  1. Some good names I didn’t mention in the Top 50 that people have noted to me: Ian Miller, Cornell; Walter Offut, Ohio; A’uston Calhoun, Bowling Green; Ceola Clark III, Western Illinois; and Tyler Brown, Illinois State. All good suggestions!


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