Mid Major Madness: State of the Smaller Conferences
[lead align=”default”]These past few weeks, we’ve spent a lot of energy reviewing the cases of major conference bubble teams. Now it’s time for a little mid major madness.[/lead]
Over 30 conferences will send automatic qualifiers to the NCAA Tournament. We only talk about 20-25 of them when the Dance begins and we’re filling out brackets. Those smaller conference tournaments can really be hidden gems of the whole process, and if you can catch some of them, do it.
It makes no sense to do a full-on “bubble watch” for the vast majority of these. Almost all are one-bid conferences. Here’s who they’re likely sending to the tournament as of now.
Mid Major Madness: Multi-Bid Conferences
A-10. VCU and/or Dayton are good enough right now to get at-large bids on their own merits. Were Richmond or Rhode Island able to win the tournament, a bubble bid could get stolen.
West Coast. Gonzaga and Saint Mary’s are both lead pipe locks to make the tournament. And more likely than not, Gonzaga will win the conference tournament for the jillionth time.
Mid Major Madness: One-Bid Conferences
America East. Vermont leads the way here by several games over last year’s tournament champ, Stony Brook. UMBC also appears to be a contender.
Atlantic Sun. Dunk City might be back in the dance again with Florida Gulf Coast in front. Lipscomb has also played well in the Atlantic Sun.
Big Sky. Weber State looks like it may make a repeat trip to the NCAA Tournament. Eastern Washington and North Dakota are hot on their tails, however.
Big South. Winthrop, UNC-Asheville, and Liberty are all deadlocked at the top of this conference. Only one of them makes the tournament.
Big West. UC-Davis has a narrow lead, but UC-Irvine, Cal State Northridge, and even last year’s champion Hawaii all have a shot.
Colonial. The CAA has both UNC-Wilmington and Charleston at the top. College basketball fans may also know UNCW has gotten votes in recent AP and coaches’ polls. They will probably only get in by winning the tournament, but if they get close to 30 wins (doable), it’s a maybe.
Conference USA. Middle Tennessee figures to go back to the tournament again this year. Louisiana Tech is right behind them.
Horizon. Valpo and Green Bay have traded places near the top, while Oakland is in striking distance.
Ivy. Princeton leads the only conference that doesn’t have a tournament.
MAAC. Monmouth leads the MAAC again, but Iona ruined their season in the conference tournament last time. Iona is in second and will contend.
MAC. Ain’t much MACtion in basketball. Akron is clearly the best team, however.
MEAC. North Carolina Central has a narrow lead, but this is a competitive conference. Morgan State, Norfolk State, and Savannah State could all come in first.
Missouri Valley. The MVC used to have a few teams in the running, but now, just one. Wichita State could be the one going back to the tournament. Illinois State is decent as well, and tied with the Shockers. This could maybe be a two-bid conference if both the Shockers and Redbirds finish strong. Should be some interesting mid major madness (or “Arch Madness”) here.
Mountain West. Boise State is just barely in front of Nevada at present. It will probably be one or the other dancing, not both. San Diego State may be going to the NIT again this year as they haven’t appeared to be a serious contender.
Northeast. The NEC is one of the weaker leagues you’ll find. Mount St. Mary’s has pulled away a little from the pack.
Ohio Valley. Belmont once again rules supreme in the OVC, and they’ll be heavy favorites to win their conference tournament.
Patriot League. Bucknell is comfortably ahead in the regular season race to the finish. This was one of the craziest conference tournaments of all last season, so watch out.
Southern. Furman leads a tight four-way race in this conference.
Southland. Sam Houston State is currently ahead, but New Orleans and Stephen F. Austin can win conference tournament games.
SWAC. Texas Southern is probably the best team in this league, but are heading for a 16 seed.
Summit. North Dakota State, Denver, and South Dakota are tightly clustered near the top of this conference. Fort Wayne is in the middle of the pack, but did manage to beat Indiana.
Sun Belt. Arkansas State, Georgia State, and Georgia Southern are all tied for first.
WAC. New Mexico State is certainly the best team in the WAC this year.