The NCAA tournament is always exciting and the last few years the mid majors have shown that they are capable of having their one shinning moment.
Butler’s Back to Back Title Game Appearances
When Butler made it to the national championship game in 2010 as a 5th seed, it sent shock waves through the college basketball landscape. When they made it back again the next year as an 8 seed, the basketball world had to stand up and show more respect to the mid-major conferences. Last year Loyola Chicago made it to the Final Four to further cement that point almost a decade later. In fact, since Butler’s historic run, another mid major team, Gonzaga, has made it back to the championship game.
Who Are This Year’s Mid Majors to Keep an Eye On?
This season has a mid major team ranked number 1 in the country so the obvious answer to that question is Gonzaga. The thing is, it’s hard to look at them as a traditional mid major team because they have been competing at a high level in their non conference schedule for over a decade. They would not be ranked number 1 in the country if they weren’t. They are the only team this season to beat Duke at full strength. With that being said we will leave them out of the conversation.
At the moment the best mid major team in the country that most people have never heard of is Wofford who are currently ranked 22nd in the AP polls. The casual college hoops fan may not have ever heard of them but that’s usually the case with at least one team in the tournament that ends busting most people’s brackets. They played a very tough non conference schedule that included North Carolina and Kansas. They lost by nine to the Tar Heels and looked very strong in that game. They did get blown out at Kansas although that’s something that happens to most teams that go to Allen Fieldhouse historically. They were only down by three at the half and looked like they could hang with the big boys for at least half of that game in one of college basketball’s toughest environments. In terms of what they do well, for starters they have the number nine ranked offense in the country. In Fletcher Magee, they have a player capable of scoring 30+ at any time. He takes 11 threes a game and shoots 43% from the behind the line which is prolific to say the least. He is the best shooter in the country and is only 15 threes away from being the all time leader in NCAA history in made threes. He scored 21 points against North Carolina and you can bet that the senior guard will want to end his college career with a bang.
The other mid major teams to look out for would be Nevada and Buffalo. Most casual fans will be more familiar with Nevada because of the run they made in the NCAA tournament last year when they eliminated the 2 seed Cincinnati before falling to Loyola Chicago who ended up making it all the way to the Final Four. They have had a solid season even finding themselves in the top 10 in the country before some tough in conference losses. This a veteran team that can score a lot of points in a variety of ways depending on the opponent and will be determined to go even further than they did last year come tournament time. Finally, we have Buffalo who have had the best season in their program’s history. This is the first time they have ever been in the AP top 25 and they’ve been there virtually all season. They also have very impressive wins against Syracuse and West Virginia who were ranked 13th in the country. They have been to the NCAA tournament three time but have never won a game. They will be hungry to make history for the second time this season by winning a game in the NCAA tournament.