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Handicapping 2009 NCAAB Mid Majors

NCAAB MID SEASON TOP 5 MID MAJORS (01-18-2009)

MREAST takes a look at the Top 5 Mid Majors that could spring some March Madness surprises.

Don’t look now but the Big Dance is just 2 months away. It is getting to be the time we start looking at the teams with the impossible dream, that can spring the upset come tourney time, and take down the big name programs. This season does not seem particularly strong in terms of mid-majors, but there is a couple of months for someone to emerge as the Cinderella come March Madness. For now, let’s look at the top 5 candidates to do some damage come tourney time.

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BUTLER: 16-1 RPI: 8

Butler was supposed to be down from last year’s tourney team that saw them take Tennessee to overtime, before losing by 5. Gone from that team are players that combined to play 173 of 225 minutes in that game, or 77% of all minutes. What could they possibly have left? It’s called recruiting! Despite the loss of all 5 starters, Brad Stevens has brought in some quality players. Shelvin Mack and Gordon Hayward are both averaging 13+ points a game. Matt Howard is the leading scorer, and was the Horizon newcomer of the year last year. The Bulldogs have already beaten Drake on the road, and Xavier on the road, and lost to Ohio St. by just 3, their only loss. They may be too young to go far in the tournament, but the Bulldogs are going to be there, when they were picked to finish 6th in the Horizon.

DAVIDSON: 14-3 RPI: 23

Davidson finished last season 26-6, and were the only team that went undefeated before the tournament after January 1st. Davidosn has lost just 1 conference game in 2 years, and made a deep run in the tournament beating Gonzaga,Wisconsin, and Georgetown, before losing a heartbreaker to Kansas by just 2. This team might not quite be on the same level, but anytime you have a player the magnitude of Stepen Curry, they can find themselves in any game. They miss Jason Richards, and that may be the biggest difference between this year’s team, and last year’s, but I can guarantee you one thing, noone is going to want to play this team come tourney time. It would sure make a great bracketbuster game, if they pair up Butler vs Davidson.

ILLINOIS ST. 15-2 RPI: 43

It seems that each year a team from the MVC rises above the rest, comes into the tournament and knocks down a major power. The most likely team to wear that label this season is Illinois St. The fate of Illinois St. changed with the hiring of Tim Jankovich. He led the redbirds to a 25 win season in his first year at the helm. The win total was the most ever for the Redbirds, and his team will be challenging that mark again. This year they have the top scorer in MVC play from a year ago in Osiris Eldridge, but he is not the top scorer. The Redbirds got a big time player in Oregon transfer Chamberlin Oguchi. Oguchi is putting up 16.2ppg and pulling down 6.2rpg. 

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It has given the Redbirds that second big scorer, and will make them tough, as they are a very balanced team with the starting 5 all averaging 9+ a game. The redbirds have not faced a big test yet, so the jury is still out, but Tim Jankovich is a top coach, and I would think the best is yet to come.

ST. MARY’S 16-1 RPI: 46

Gonzaga has had their way in the West Coast Conference for the most part, but the Gaels are poised to give them a challenge this year. The Gaels knocked off Gonzaga during the regular season a year ago, went to the dance, but bowed out to Miami,Fla in the first round. That may be the experience this team needed to make a run this year. Damon Simpson, the West Coast Conference defensive player of the year last season, is on his way to achieving the same status this season. Simpson is averaging 12.4ppg, and 11.7rpg. He has also blocked 29 shots, as well as coming up with 24 steals. Center Omar Samhan has elevated his game and is scoring 15ppg as well as pulling down 10.3rpg. Then there is the playmaker in Patrick Mills who is scoring 20ppg, has 60 assist, and 39 steals. This is a team that hasn’t faced a top team but has beaten a couple good ones. The true test of where they are comes up on the 29th of this month when they head to seattle to face Gonzaga. Stay tuned.

Utah St. 16-1 RPI: 55

The Aggies have been around the tournament a few times, so they aren’t the new kid on the block. The Aggies have probably the best front-court in the WAC Conference. Forwards Gary Wilkinson, and Tai Wesley are combining for 29ppg and 14rpg, as well as 74 assist. Jared Quayle has been admirable replacing Jaycee Carroll the all-time leading scorer in Aggie history. Quayle has stepped in and has provided 12.3ppg, and 52 assist. The Aggies loss was also their biggest test, as they dropped a 5 point decision to a very good BYU team, on a neutral court. The Aggies have tourney experience, and could be a factor come March Madness

HONORABLE MENTION:

George Mason: Already 7-0 in the Colonial

VMI: 14-3 knocked off Kentucky with their frenetic style.

The time is inching closer, and we will keep an eye on these teams, and see just how they fare the rest of the way, and if their is a Cinderella in the house.

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