Saturday, March 20, 2010

Mid Majors Make Major Statement In Tournament

Tourney Brackets           Round 2 Preview               President Obama's Bracket                

The Mid Major Conferences made major statements in the first round, certifying that they belong.  With the field of 65 represented mostly by the 6 power conferences in America, the Big East, ACC, SEC, Pac 10, Big 10 and Big 12.  It was the Ivy League, OVC, A10, Horizon, MVC, MAC, MWC, WCC and Colonial that was stealing headlines and making the key plays down the stretch to gain the attention of college basketball fans around the bars, pubs, offices, living rooms and internet.  The Mid Major conferences won 11 of the 32 (8 Thursday and 3 Friday) opening round games in this year's NCAA Basketball Tournament.  At a glance some would say that's a reasonable percentage until you recognize that there are 31 conference, 25 mid-majors and 6 power conferences.  Of the field of 65, there are 6 automatic bids to power conferences and 25 automatic bids to the mid-major schools, after that the at-large bids were given to 8 other mid-major conferences.  The 6 power conferences received the remaining or additional 26 bids (Big East 7, Big 12 6, ACC 5, Big 10 4, SEC 3 & PAC 10 1).

With all the discussions about the teams that were snuffed from primarily power conferences, the elite of these conferences had all they could handle with the elites of the mid-major leagues.  Not to mention a few near misses in the upset category by Robert Morris a 15 seed, taking 2 seed Villanova to OT and 4 seed Wisconsin needing heroics late in the ball game to salvage a 53-49 nail bitter against Wofford, a 13 seed, with less than 2000 students.

The first round would end with victories by a 14 Seed Ohio University, the lone participant from the MAC over #3 Georgetown (Big East), #13 Murray State of the OVC over #4 Vanderbilt (SEC),  #12 Cornell from the Ivy League defeating Temple of the A10, the Colonial's only entry, #11 Old Dominion was victorious over #5 Notre Dame (Big East), #10 St. Mary's of the WCC shocked #7 Richmond of the A10 to round out the mid-major upsets in round one.  In all 9 mid-major or lesser conferences, as some would say, would be responsible for over a third of the first round wins, 11.

Next, round two, which now has 16 games deciding the field of 16 for next week's count down, "The Sweet 16", which offers teams advancement towards the ultimate goal, The Final Four, the final stage for College Basketball's National Championship.  10 of 16 games involve at least one mid-major school, which leaves increased potential in at least one, if not several mid-major teams in the "Sweet Sixteen".

Teams to watch, #12 Cornell is long, can shoot, defend and control the pace of a game.  #4 Wisconsin just got by Wofford of the Southern Conference, don't know if they can struggle against the elite squad from the Ivy League, a league that hasn't won a NCAA tournament game until Thursday, in twelve years.  Tennessee may match up better with the Ohio transition game, but can they survive the kind of shooting this team dished out against #3 Georgetown on Thursday in the biggest shocker so far in the tournament.  Then there is #10 St. Mary's who has been catching analysts eyes gradually as the season came to an end, playing against #2 Villanova, a "Jekyl & Hyde" elite team that is ripe for the Cinderella upset, with their late season slump.  #5 Butler is a really good team, but no one realizes yet how good the #13 Murray State club plays, even after their thriller against #4 Vanderbilt.  Look for Murray State to be in the filed of 16 next week.  In another battle of two mid-majors, #11 ODU will have their hands full with #3 Baylor, but proved what they can do with a very poised victory against #6 Notre Dame in  round one, should be a very competitive contest.  #9 Northern Iowa is in the must see position, playing the top #1 Kansas, after a convincing victory over a talented #8UNLV.  #8 California can pound and shoot with physical teams, and defends the perimeter well, but this is #1 Duke, a disciplined ball club playing its' best basketball late in the season, appears to be the least of the likely upsets, but this is the search for "One Shining Moment.  #8 Gonzaga will try to take advantage of the #1 Syracuse, that recently lost in the opening round of the Big East Tournament and placed the "curse" of first round tourney losses.  No team has ever lost the opening game of their conference tournament and gone on to win the National Championship, that being said,  Syracuse sits in the right line of sight for being shot out of the picture by a mid-major.  #9 Wake Forest will not blow anyone but they are capable of staying around to steal a game against any team in the field, as they try to end the dream season for the #1 Kentucky.   The parity in college basketball is evident and the mid-majors are maximizing their opportunities to display their talent and skills and this dance is still up for grabs, even if the President of the United States has named the winner, the NCAA says we have to play the games to see who really will live that "One Shinning Moment".

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