Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The Mid Majors Baker's Dozen - February 9, 2010

It's time for the tastiest thirteen mid major teams in the country. And remember, no artificial fillings, meaning it's A-10 free.

1) Butler - The Bulldogs have won thirteen straight. The only thing that potentially stands in their way to a sixteen game winning streak before facing Siena is a road game at Cleveland State on Saturday. The Vikings are the last team to defeat Butler in the Horizon, which was in last year's Horizon championship game. The key is keeping Matt Howard out of foul trouble (22 last night vs. Loyola Ill).

2) Gonzaga - All the Zags did last week was easily dispatch Portland on Thursday then travel all the way to Memphis and beat a pretty good Tigers team. And that was with Elias Harris only scoring 6 points in the game, which broke an 11 game double figures scoring consecutive streak. Thursday night's home game with St Mary's is for all the marbles in the WCC.

3) Northern Iowa - It's all over in the Missouri Valley. Despite struggling mightily at home vs. Southern Illinois, the Panthers still found a way to eek out a win over the Salukis. NIU has a three game lead with five games in conference left to play. Only a meltdown of North Carolina proportions could deny the Panthers the Valley regular season crown. NIU needs the Bracketbuster win over ODU to strengthen their seeding for the NCAA Tournament.

4) Cornell - The Big Red dispatched Harvard, Yale and Brown and are nationally ranked for the first time since 1951. However, Cornell faces its toughest Ivy League stretch, four consecutive road games. It starts Friday against Penn, then comes the big game the next night vs. the other undefeated team in the Ivy, perennial Ivy power Princeton. If the Big Red can survive the weekend vs. the Quakers and the Tigers, it could be then just a question of Cornell's seed in the dance.

5) St Mary's - The Gaels' Omar Samhan made sure San Francisco was not going to get another upset. Samhan had 24 points, 10 rebounds and 7 blocks in a 16 point drubbing of the Dons. That was Samhan's fourth double-double game in a row and his fourteenth on the season. St Mary's will need a huge double-double from Samhan Thursday night at the Zags. It's an absolute must win for St Mary's, who could have really used a Bracketbuster game this season.

6) Siena - The Saints struggled to get by Fairfield at home but clinched a tie for the MAAC regular season championship with a win over the Stags. Siena has a four game lead over Iona with four games to play in conference and Siena swept Iona in the regular season. Thus Siena has clinched the number one seed in the MAAC Tournament. The Saints end the regular season with four road games including the Bracketbuster at Butler.

7) Northeastern - Watching live the second half dismantling of the Pride at the Mack Center, the Huskies have convinced me that they are the best team in the CAA right now. Matt Janning had a terrific game vs. Hofstra, but Chaisson Allen and Manny Adako both had a terrific second half. The Huskies are very patient on offense and very tough on defense (they held Charles Jenkins to four second half FG attempts). The rest of the regular season schedule features road games at W&M, the home Bracketbuster game vs. Louisiana Tech and ending the CAA regular season at George Mason.

8) Old Dominion - The Monarchs are now looking up at the Huskies in the standings after losing at VCU on Saturday. ODU needs to get Gerald Lee more touches. Lee only had four field goal attempts on Saturday for eight points. It was the second consecutive game for Lee with less than ten points (Lee had seven vs. William and Mary on Wednesday). Outside of their Bracketbuster road game vs. UNI, the Monarchs' remaining difficult games vs Mason and VCU are at home.

9) Wichita State - The Shockers close loss at UNI basically ended their hopes of finishing first in the Valley. Wichita State now must concentrate on winning out the rest of their regular season games, including winning at Utah State in their Bracketbuster game. A potential letdown game could be three days later after the Bracketbuster game vs. Bradley. If the Shockers could enter the Valley Tournament with 25 wins, and then get to the Valley finals, they should look very appealing to the NCAA Tournament committee.

10) VCU - In the CAA, Northeastern might be the best team, Old Dominion might be the team with the best at large resume, but the Rams might be the most dangerous team. Think about this, the Rams are so deep, the 2007-08 MAAC Co-Rookie of the Year, Marist transfer Jay Gavin left the team seemingly due to lack of playing time. This might be due to nine other players averaging at least eleven minutes per game. Larry Sanders is making a serious push for CAA Player of the year as he averages 15 points, 9 rebounds, 2.6 blocks and 54 percent shooting from the field. VCU has won four in a row and if they win at Mason tonight on ESPNU, they may not lose again until they play at ODU to end the season.

11) Murray State - I honestly thought the Racers got hosed on Bracketbuster Saturday. Yes they have a nationally televised game vs. another team that's undefeated in conference in Morgan State. But I thought a William and Mary vs. Murray State game would have brought a lot of press to a very underrated Racers team (due to the fact that William and Mary has been one of the more celebrated Cinderella stories this year). Racers are one of the top teams in the country in FG percentage at 50.7 percent. And it's a team effort. Six players average 10 or more points per game. And ten players average 10 minutes per game. Murray State's scoring margin of +18 points per game is outstanding.

12) Utah State - Another good season for perhaps the most underrated mid major team in the country. Year in and year out the Aggies are at the top of the WAC standings. In the previous seven seasons, Utah State has made four NCAA Tournaments and three NIT tournaments. The Aggies have averaged nearly 25 wins per season in those past seven seasons. The Aggies are well on their way to another 20 plus win season with an 18-6 record and are tied with New Mexico State for first in the WAC and have a signature home win over nationally ranked BYU. Tai Wesley is averaging 13 points per game and is shooting 56 percent from the field to lead the Aggies who are shooting 48 percent from the field..

13) Kent State - After having their ten year streak of 20 or more wins broken by just one win last year (Kent State finished 2008-09 at 19-15), the Golden Flashes are just three wins away from starting a new streak. And they have done most of their damage in the MAC with an 8-2 conference record (plus the win over UAB doesn't hurt either). What's really impressive about Kent State is that their record on the road (7-4) is nearly as good as it is at home (9-2), always the mark of a good team. That may come from the fact that they have four players who average between 11 and 13 points per game. Spreading the wealth is always good.

Honorable Mention - New Mexico State, Louisiana Tech and William and Mary (those two losses vs. UNCW and James Madison probably killed an at large bid for the Tribe)

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