Submitted by Jim Hurley on Tuesday, January 29, 2013 at 10:21 PM
As handicappers and sports bettors approach the stretch run for the college basketball regular season, it’s going to be very critical that they familiarize themselves with the top mid-major programs. That’s been obvious in recent years, with both George Mason and Virginia Commonwealth making Final four runs, and Butler making a pair of astonishing trips all the way to the national finals.
A busy Wednesday seemed like the perfect time to post this reminder. Let’s take a look at who the most dangerous mid-major teams are this year according to the publicly available computer ratings we’ve been monitoring for you…as well as a list of teams who could sneak up and surprise even if their schools don’t have that recent history.
BEST MID MAJOR COMPUTER RANKINGS
Gonzaga (WCC): #12 with Pomeroy, #9 with Sagarin
Creighton (MVC): #14 with Pomeroy, #15 with Sagarin
There are only two teams right now from mid major conferences that are sitting in the top 20’s of both Ken Pomeroy and Jeff Sagarin of USA Today. Goznaga of the West Coast Conference is seen as a team that may earn a #3 or #4 seed. Creighton may be more in line for a #4 or #5 seed because they’ve cooled down a bit in Missouri Valley Conference action.
You longtime readers know that we think Gonzaga is generally overrated when it comes to the Dance. When they first made a name for themselves, they were a legitimate threat. But, that was as a team coming off the radar who wasn’t getting enough respect. Over time, they turned into a mini-version of Duke…a team that had trouble playing to its seed because they usually weren’t as good as the media was suggesting. Given Gonzaga’s recent blown game at Butler, we will stay skeptical of them for Dance purposes until they prove otherwise.
We’ll also note here that our proprietary in-house rankings don’t have Creighton this high. We think they’re going to be soft inside defensively when matched up vs. quality, which happened in their recent loss to Wichita State.
The MEDIA and possibly the selection committee will likely be too enthusiastic about those two. Let’s go further down the computer rankings to see who YOU should be paying attention to.
Virg. Common. (A10): #18 with Pomeroy, #33 with Sagarin
Colorado St. (MWC): #19 with Pomeroy, #34 with Sagarin
Wichita St (MVC). : #21 with Pomeroy, #29 with Sagarin
San Diego State (MWC): #23 with Pomeroy, #22 with Sagarin
UNLV (MWC): #24 with Pomeroy, #27 with Sagarin
Butler (A10): #28 with Pomeroy, #28 with Sagarin
These six teams all have a composite average ranking in the 20’s, which is right in the sweet spot for being good enough to do damage while not being overrated by the media. Not coincidentally, you see some teams listed in there who have good recent histories in the Dance.
*Butler already has wins over Indiana and Gonzaga, and you know they peak at the right time.
*VCU is once again talented enough and well coached enough to go deep in the Dance.
*San Diego State and UNLV are the toughest physical teams from the Mountain West, and often use their defenses to spring Dance upsets. We will certainly be looking for value spots with those teams in the postseason.
*Wichita State and Colorado State are certainly capable of taking out a power, though they’ll probably need a hot shooting day to accomplish that rather than brains or physicality. Wichita State was stunned Tuesday Night at home by Indiana State, meaning their computer ratings will be dropping.
It’s THIS group of six that has JIM HURLEY’S attention right now, much more than Gonzaga and Creighton based on past tournament history, and NETWORK’S success handicapping for or against the head coaches involved.
Belmont (OVC): #30 with Pomeroy, #41 with Sagarin
So. Miss (CUSA): #31 with Pomeroy, #54 with Sagarin
St. Mary’s (WCC): #33 with Pomeroy, #45 with Sagarin
BYU (WCC): #40 with Pomeroy, #43 with Sagarin
New Mexico (MWC): #43 with Pomeroy, #38 with Sagarin
Middle Tennessee (SB): #44 with Pomeroy, #57 with Sagarin
Akron (MAC): #47 with Pomeroy, #63 with Sagarin
Bucknell (Pat): #48 with Pomeroy, #62 with Sagarin
If you consider a “Cinderella” to be any mid-major that’s capable of pulling off at least one shocker in the tournament, then this is a list you should be paying attention to. Based on the computer ratings, these teams will be underdogs in their first game…but they’ll be within striking distance of whoever they’re lined up against. You may remember Bucknell knocking off Kansas. Belmont took Duke to the wire. The Sun Belt and MAC champs traditionally have decent histories no matter who ends up representing their leagues.
Now…you do have to be wary of expectations. We’ve documented often that St. Mary’s and New Mexico are often pretenders compared to their seeds. St. Mary’s has ridden on Gonzaga’s coattails in the selection process…meaning that BOTH teams from the West Coast Conference have been getting too much respect. And New Mexico has a knack for turning great home court results in the regular season into lame no-shows on neutral courts in the Dance. The teams listed above are worthy of consideration as underdogs when being underrated, but NOT as favorites when they’re being overrated.
We know you love watching the major conference TV games on ESPN and the other networks. We do too! Just be sure you’re doing the proper research on these potential Cinderella stories for March. Many of the teams from the Big East, ACC, SEC and Big 12 that you’re watching on TV right now won’t even make the Dance! If you want to win come Dance time…you need to know something about the teams who actually earned invitations.
JIM HURLEY has a huge slate on tap for Wednesday. The schedule is so busy, it’s like a Saturday on a weeknight. Among the possibilities:
*A Big 10 special involving either #1 Michigan or #3 Indiana as they play tune-ups on TV before squaring off in prime time this Saturday.
*An ACC shocker with both #5 Duke and #14 Miami of Florida laying points on the road in conference action.
*A Mid-Major MONSTER involving one of the teams we’ve already talked about today…as many are on the schedule.
*A rivalry sleeper in a game like USC/UCLA, Dayton/Xavier, or even Houston/Rice.
*An NBA knockout from matchups like Sacramento/Boston (as the Celtics deal with Rajon Rondo’s injury), Miami at Brooklyn (a potential playoff preview, even a potential Eastern Conference championship preview!), Houston at Denver, and the LA Lakers at Phoenix as Kobe Bryant and company start a crucial seven-game road trip.
You can purchase game day releases right here at the website with your credit card. If you have any questions about tonight’s games or extended basketball service, call us in the office at 1-800-323-4453. Be sure to ask how you can add the Super Bowl to any basketball offer. You owe it to yourself to keep building your bankroll these next few days so you can really attack Vegas in the biggest betting game of the year.
Back with you tomorrow for more baskets. Thursday will see #7 Gonzaga, #8 Arizona, and #9 Butler all playing on the road against teams looking to take them out. Plus TNT will be showing Memphis at Oklahoma City in the NBA in a possible Western Conference playoff preview. Be sure you’re with us EVERY DAY in the NOTEBOOK so you know what’s REALLY going on in the world of sports. And, link up daily for BIG, JUICY WINNERS from JIM HURLEY’S NETWORK!