Mid Major Ramblings on the Eve of the Buster

Mid Major Ramblings on the Eve of the Buster
Feb 16, 2007, 01:20 am

-The Bracket Buster gets underway tonight, and although the majority of games are tomorrow, one of the most interesting is tonight. WINTHROP AT MISSOURI STATE features two teams that are likely to make the NCAAs. Missouri State is of at this moment a very solid at-large caliber team, whereas Winthrop is the hands down favorite to win the Big South Tournament, which they will have home court advantage throughout if they can end up finishing first in the league. A win for Winthrop in this game could even get them some serious at-large consideration if they were to need it. They have no bad losses, and this would be a nice quality road win for them. Missouri State is coming off a close loss against Southern Illinois from the other night, and is looking to rebound from that.

-In the Ivy League tonight, Penn is hosting Columbia. Penn is 6-1 in the league, with just a one game lead over Cornell and Yale. They’ll be hosting Cornell on Saturday in a hugely important game that will impact the Ivy League title.


-The term “mid-major” has always irked me somewhat. Maybe it’s not so much the term itself as the way it’s so often used. It basically takes about 260+ teams that don’t play in the ACC, SEC, Big East, Big Twelve, Big Ten or Pac Ten and throws them all into the same category as if they all must be similar in make-up. Canisius, Columbia, Southern Illinois, East Tennessee State, Weber State and Butler don’t really have much of anything in common with one another. However, in the world of the media, they’re all “mid-majors” and are often talked about interchangeably. Canisius isn’t really a major of any sorts, be hit high, mid or low. Southern Illinois is a top 20 team this season who has been to five straight NCAA Tournaments with a seed of #11 or better each year, and is well on their way to their sixth. The majority of the teams in “major” conferences have not been able to match that success every year for six straight seasons. However, they’re often referred to as a mid-major in the same manner in which someone would refer to Weber State as a mid-major.

One of the things I like about the Bracket Buster is that you really do get to see a wide variety of teams with different make-ups and different styles of play face off against one another in high stakes games. Some will impact the NCAA selection process as far as who gets in as an at-large. Other games just offer exposure to teams who are among the best in their conference and have a very good chance of getting into the dance via the automatic bid.

When you really look at the term “mid-major” you’ll notice that it is really an adjective, not a noun. Calling a team a mid-major, is like calling a team a “good.” Well, what does that really mean?? It isn’t all that descriptive when it comes to portraying what kind of a college basketball team it’s talking about.

Come to think of it, could Purdue, Iowa or Syracuse be a mid-majors?? They’re a mid-level teams (mid) in a major conferences (major). Mid, and Major…makes about as much sense to me as referring to everyone else as mid-majors.

-In looking at some of the Bracket Buster match-ups, it’s a shame they pair them up three weeks in advance. At the very least, they should wait another week, and I’d actually like to see them wait until a week before the games. I know that teams need time to get ready and make travel plans, but the NCAA Tournament is announced less than a week in advance, and that doesn’t seem to screw things up too much. Besides, the teams that are scheduled to play on the road know they’re going to be the visiting teams. They just don’t know exactly where. If all the host teams know they’re playing at home, travel arrangements should be very easy to make. The hotel that visiting teams generally stay at know that SOMEONE is coming into town, and will hold the necessary number of rooms to accommodate a basketball team.

-The Southern Illinois vs Butler game is the most interesting match-up, but another take on it is that both of those teams are pretty safe as far as making the NCAAs. If anything, those teams are challenging for the pod system, not just a spot in field. If the idea was to get as many “mid-majors” into the field as possible (and I realize that really isn’t the sole idea, but for the sake of argument, lets just say it is), those two teams shouldn’t be facing each other. Teams on the bubble such as VCU and Old Dominion would have much more to gain from playing opponents such as Southern Illinois and Butler than the opponents that they got.

-Another team that could really benefit from a better opponent would be Nevada. They are not in any danger of missing the tournament, but one thing that could use some upgrading is the quality of their resume. They have no solid wins against high RPI teams, and although there are plenty of good RPI teams participating in the Buster, Nevada was paired with Northern Iowa, who isn’t any better than many of the teams the Wolfpack face in their conference. Playing their Buster game home does limit them, but if the games were being assigned a week in advance rather than three weeks in advance, they would have probably been paired with someone else. This game is going to do less for them than winning their regular season conference games against Fresno State and New Mexico State.

-Two conferences that I believe would benefit from this event more times than not, but don’t participate, are the Atlantic Ten and the Mountain West. We may not notice it as much with the Mountain West because they appear to have three solid NCAA Tournament teams this season in Air Force, BYU and UNLV. San Diego State is also beginning to make quite a case for themselves. But in most years one gets the idea that the teams at the top of this league would benefit from playing a quality out of conference opponent late in the year. That has been especially true for the Atlantic Ten these past few years as well. George Washington was given a #8 seed by the committee last year due to not having any big time wins. It’s very possible that this year’s regular season champion could receive a much poorer seed than that, or be left out altogether. Xavier is right on the bubble, and if they were given the opportunity to play BYU, Air Force or UNLV at this point in the year, it would give them a huge opportunity to make a better case for themselves. Even playing current Bracket Buster teams such as Nevada or Missouri State or even another bubble team such as Old Dominion would be a much better statement win than any other opponents they face between now and the end. For the Mountain West teams, they face some pretty good competition in conference this season and don’t need it as much, but at the very least it’s a nationally televised game late in the year against a quality opponent. I don’t see how an opportunity like that would be a bad thing for anyone.

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