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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Tuesday, January 24, 2012 at 12:23 PM

Last week we ran through the major college basketball conferences, outlining the bracketology picture and generally pointing toward the teams you should be paying most attention to. We’re going to devote as much space as we can this week to doing the same in the most important mid-majors. We’ll try to tie those to the nightly schedules…so we’re talking about conferences just as they’re about to take the floor. We won’t get to all the mid majors this week (the college board is too big!). But, we’ll be able to tell a large part of the story.

In this report, we’re going to focus on:

*The MOUNTAIN WEST conference, because this league has a real chance to make a statement this year in March. UNLV already has an upset of North Carolina on its resume, and is currently projected to earn a very high #3 seed according to Joe Lunardi’s Bracketology. San Diego State is also in line to be favored in a first round game. They visit Wyoming Tuesday Night, which gives us a good reason to approach this conference today.

*The MISSOURI VALLEY conference, which well known as a hiding place for Cinderella. A couple of teams in particular are getting a lot of respect from the computers. Those teams will be in action soon. Bradley and Southern Illinois kickoff MVC action this week on tonight’s card.

*The MID AMERICAN conference has fallen on hard times lately. But, we try to include them when we can. Akron is the current consensus choice to be the sole representative from the MAC come Dance time. They visit Ball State tonight…so it makes sense to try and squeeze them into a Tuesday report as well.

Let’s start with the Mountain West. Jimmer Fredette is gone. Heck, BYU is gone! BYU left the Mountain West to go Independent in football and play in the WAC in basketball. But, this league has a strong history for a mid-major…and the champ may be ready to displace Butler as the king of the mid-majors now that the Horizon League has fallen back a bit this season.

 

MOUNTAIN WEST NOTES

Let’s start with Joe Lunardi’s Bracketology over at ESPN:

#3 UNLV

#5 San Diego State

#10 New Mexico

For now, that’s three teams who are close to being safely in. Well, UNLV and San Diego State are virtual locks with seedings that high. The bubble doesn’t really start until #12 in the Dance, or #11. So, New Mexico has some margin for error at this point in the game. Is there a chance for anyone else to crash the party?

Also deserving of respect:

Wyoming: 43rd in Pomeroy, 56th in sagarin

We’ll be using the national rankings from Ken Pomeroy’s respected college basketball website, and Jeff Sagarin’s numbers from USA Today in our posts this week. Wyoming isn’t currently listed on the Lunardi bubble. But, it’s interesting to note that they have the same computer profile as San Diego State!

Wyoming: 43rd in Pomeroy, 56th in Sagarin

San Diego State: 55th in Pomeroy, 42nd in Sagarin

If San Diego State can make a case for an upper half seed, Wyoming may be able to close strong and work their way into the mix between now and March. Of course, it’s possible that an outside wins the conference tournament and forces an extra MWC team into the process as well.

Offensive/Defensive Profiles (Adjusted Efficiency at Pomeroy’s website)

UNLV: 12th on offense, 38th on defense

New Mexico: 35th on offense, 36th on defense

Wyoming: 90th on offense, 24th on defense

San Diego State: 84th on offense, 45th on defense

UNLV is a legitimate danger seed with that profile, though the win over North Carolina told you that already. New Mexico has the potential to play spoiler, basically grading out as an 8th to 10th seed with that balanced ledger. Wyoming and San Diego State may have offensive issues once their within the smaller sample size of tournament caliber teams. They do have defenses that will keep them competitive. It’s hard to win with ONLY defense these days in this sport.

Unfortunately none of the top teams play each other this week. But, all have road tests from now through the weekend…so stay on top of those. Road performance is a great indicator for big neutral site games in March.

 

MISSOURI VALLEY NOTES

There are currently two teams who seem very safe for the Dance, with Creighton currently projected for a Sweet 16 seeding in Joe Lunardi’s numbers.

Missouri Valley Bracketology

#4 Creighton

#8 Wichita State

Wichita State is more highly though of by the respected computers. So, Lunardi may have those reversed! Pomeroy has Wichita State way up at #9 in the nation thanks to their 17-3 record this year vs. a decent schedule for a mid-major. Sagarin is in basic agreement, with Wichita State sitting at 13th. Either of these teams can play with anybody over 40 minutes. Either could be this year’s version of Butler as well. In fact, the computers have them WELL ahead of where they had those surprise Butler teams at this point in the season. Heck, they have Wichita as a possible frontrunner in the ACC!

Also deserving of respect:

Northern Iowa 58th in Pomeroy, 58th in Sagarin

Missouri State: 71st in Pomeroy, 67th in Sagarin

Those numbers aren’t currently in the range of the Dance. And, the Missouri Valley is such this year that Wichita State and Creighton are hurting people (both 8-1 so far in league play), while everyone else keeps beating themselves up (five teams at 5-4 or 4-5 in the battle for third place). Be sure you give the Missouri Valley credit to do damage in the NIT this year too.

Note that Creighton and Wichita State have already played once this year, with Creighton springing an upset on the road. The rematch will be on February 11th.

The best teams we’ve discussed today aren’t on TV much. But, you really should consider the likes of UNLV, Creighton, Wichita State, and San Diego as measuring up with anyone you’ve been watching from the Big East, ACC, Big 10, or Big 12. Neutral site pointspreads just wouldn’t be very high for any major conference champion against any of those four teams just listed. Do what you can to research those teams now (reading boxscores, studying stat rankings) so you’re not caught unprepared in the Dance. Big East fans lost big money last year because they assumed their teams would crush all the mid majors. Didn’t happen!

 

MID AMERICAN NOTES 

As of now, only one MAC team is likely to reach the Big Dance…and that’s the eventual conference tournament champion. Lunardi currently projects that team to be a 14th seed. That’s not even the best seed for mid major tourney champs! Should there be an upset in the MAC tourney, the league could get stuck with a seed as low as #15 this year.

Akron and Ohio are currently the most respected computer teams…with Akron getting the nod from Lunardi right now as most likely to survive. We’d call it a coin flip between those two teams ourselves. And, this just isn’t going to be a year where more than one MAC team has a chance to wear a slipper.

We’re not going to spend a lot of NOTEBOOK time this year on crappy conferences. We will tell you that Bowling Green has been great against the Vegas spread this year with an 11-4 mark ATS. The biggest moneyburner has been Kent State at 5-11 ATS. Again, Akron visits Ball State Tuesday Night if you want to start digging into this conference yourselves.

We’ll take a look at the Atlantic 10 on Wednesday, as that league continues a gradual return to prominence. Saint Louis at Xavier Wednesday Night is one of the most important games this year in that league. We’ll also study the Colonial Conference, as that group has its standard busy Wednesday Night schedule. Virginia Commonwealth and George Mason have both made the Final Four from a Colonial launch in recent memory.

Thursday we’ll head West for some of the late night leagues. We’re currently scheduled to update the Horizon on a busy Saturday.

You can tell that JIM HURLEY’S NETWORK studies every TEAM, every CONFERENCE, and every BOARD GAME to find you the best bets. We can only touch the tip of the iceberg here with our web analysis. All the COLD, HARD CASH is ready for those of you who sign up for service. You can try out our service every night here at the website with your credit card. We also have great rates for the rest of the season. If you have any questions, call the office at 1-800-323-4453.

There’s no football until a week from Sunday. But, you can start building your bankroll now for the SUPER BOWL with nightly baskets. IT’S TIME TO HOOP IT UP WITH JIM HURLEY!

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