Saturday, 26 January 2008

Who is the best Mid-Major?

One of the best parts of college basketball is the Mid-Major... the teams that seem to come out of nowhere (mostly because people don't know a lot about them) to make major impacts in March. Now it's time to assess who is the best among them. For the purposes of this post, I am included all teams that are not in a BCS Conference and are not Memphis. The candidates are:

Butler - I've written about them before, but I love watching these guys play. Fundamentally, they're excellent. They're unselfish with the ball, don't turn it over, and shoot the ball well from downtown. They're not athletic (other than Mike Green), but the aforementioned attributes allow them to compete with anyone.

Xavier - Their domination of Dayton seems to establish them as the team to beat in the A-10 (if they weren't already). They're deep, experienced, and very well-balanced. They have 6 guys that score between 10.2 and 12.0 PPG, which is pretty remarkable. With Drew Lavendar's steady hand at PG, they can play any tempo.

St. Mary's - Has Gonzaga's reign over the WCC ended? Perhaps. They've got solid wins over Drake, Oregon, and San Diego St., which will help come Tourney seeding time. You've probably heard of frosh Patrick Mills by now, but if not, you should. Diamon Simpson provides a presence down low.

Drake - They're not extremely talented or athletic, but they just play very well together. They turn the ball over just 13 times per game, and shoot the ball efficiently. They don't really have any overly impressive victories, which makes it hard to know just how good they are, but as of this writing they're 17-1, which isn't too bad.

Dayton - They've lost 2 in a row, but they still stand at 14-3 right now. They're led by senior Brian Roberts, who might be fighting Drew Lavendar for A-10 Player of the Year. Freshman Chris Wright is one of the most athletic players in the conference.

Gonzaga - They have 5 losses already, but they're all (well, almost) to good teams. Their win over Connecticut is looking better and better after UConn beat Indiana. They might not have the star power they've had at times in the past, but this might be their deepest team in a while. 10 guys average at least 10 minutes per game.

VCU - They give up only 58.8 PPG, which is pretty good. Eric Maynor gained fame when he hit the game-winner in the Tourney against Duke, but he really is one of the best PGs in the country. His scoring is way up this year, he's still distributing the ball, and he's very good defensively. With Jamal Shuler as a second scoring option, VCU is just as good this year as they were last year.

Who do you think is the best Mid-Major? Right now, I lean toward Butler by a smidgen over Xavier. It'll be interesting to watch these teams the rest of the way to see who can make some noise come Tourney time.