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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Wednesday, January 21, 2015 at 7:00 AM

On a night where there aren’t any truly dream matchups in college basketball, it’s probably a good time to check in with two of the most dangerous mid-majors who are on the floor in Missouri Valley Conference action.

#14 Wichita State visits Missouri State

#20 Northern Iowa hosts Indiana State

Hey…that’s two teams in the top 20! Most mid-majors can’t even dream of something like that. Wichita State isn’t quite as highly regarded as last season, when they stormed through league play only to earn the draw from Hell in the Big Dance. They probably were a bit overrated nationally last year (teams who never lose while playing softer schedules are notoriously hard to rate). This season’s team may be more dangerous because they’ll seem less intimidating entering the brackets.

Speaking of the brackets, where does Joe Lunardi of ESPN currently project these teams to sit?

Wichita State is currently projected to be a #4 seed

Northern Iowa is currently projected to be a #7 seed

Lunardi is mostly in synch with the rankings. Though, that may not mean much because he’s probably using the rankings to help seed the upper part of the brackets. For now, both teams like virtual locks to make the Dance. One will win the regular season crown. Neither is likely to endure such a dramatic slump that they’d fall all the way out of the mix.

What do respected computer rankings say?

Wichita State is currently #11 with Ken Pomeroy, #17 with Jeff Sagarin

Northern Iowa is currently #20 with Ken Pomeroy, #26 with Jeff Sagarin

Similar ranges, though Sagarin is less fond of the Missouri Valley to this point. He has both teams six spots behind Pomeroy. Again…both seem safe to get into the Dance because Top 40 teams are virtually locks to get in either automatically or by invitation.

You may not have seen either team play yet this season. Here’s how Pomeroy rates the offenses and defenses…

Wichita State is #22 in offensive efficiency, #34 in defensive efficiency

Northern Iowa is #46 in offensive efficiency, #15 in defensive efficiency

Wichita State has more balance, while Northern Iowa has the better defense. Both are capable of playing spoiler against a highly regarded Dance opponent. Northern is more likely to do that in grinder fashion because of that defense. Wichita Stat can get hot from long range, or just beat you clean straight up.

Note that both teams play very slow basketball. Wichita State ranks #311 in pace factor, while Northern Iowa ranks #348. Slowing down the game will help them hang with anybody in the country over 40 minutes. They won’t get run out of the gym by whoever they face in March.

It’s too bad these teams aren’t playing each other tonight. Those meetings won’t happen until January 31 at Northern Iowa, and then on the final weekend of the MVC regular season on February 28 in Wichita. Who knows which games we’ll be previewing those days?! We wanted to get these teams on your radar when we had a chance. One or both could matter very dramatically in the Big Dance. YOU need to be handicapping them now…to the degree that’s possible in a less competitive conference like the Missouri Valley.

JIM HURLEY makes it his business to know every conference inside and out. The true power of the exclusive TEAM HANDICAPPING approach really comes into play in college basketball. Our scouts…our sources…our statheads…our computer programmers…and our Wise Guy connections really know the conferences, teams, players. Oddsmakers can only put soft estimates up on the board. We get to cherry-pick their mistakes and cash winning tickets!

You can purchase game day BEST BETS right here at the website with your credit card. Make this your home for BIG, JUICY WINNERS all the way through MARCH MADNESS! If you have any questions, call the office at 1-888-777-4155. Be sure to ask how you can include the Super Bowl in any basketball package.

Big game previews resume tomorrow and Friday in the NOTEBOOK. Here’s what’s ahead this week…

Thursday: College Basketball Preview…#7 Arizona at Stanford

Friday: College Hoops Early Look…#11 Kansas at #17 Texas

Saturday: College Basketball Preview…#6 Wisconsin at Michigan

Sunday: NBA Preview…OKC Thunder at the Cleveland Cavaliers (Durant vs. LeBron!)

Monday: College Basketball Preview…#17 Texas at #8 Iowa State

We still have several powers we haven’t looked at yet this season because the stars haven’t aligned in the schedules. Virginia, Gonzaga, and Villanova will become a top priority whenever they play in a marquee matchup. Or, we may devote a quiet day to Gonzaga because they play so few marquee matchups! The Road to March Madness is shaping up to be very exciting this season. Kentucky may have a historically great team…but is just vulnerable enough to get stunned by somebody on an off-night. The traditional powers are hovering in their usual spots. Business is ready to pick up!

Time for YOU to take care of business by linking up with the potent handicapping force that is JIM HURLEY’S NETWORK!


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Jim Hurley on twitter @vsm_hurley

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