Yeah, this is a Wake Forest blog, and Wake Forest is nowhere near a mid-major, but it is also February, meaning that some mid-majors are going to be coming to the forefront and making some noise in about a month.
From here on out, I'm going to try to have a quick, weekly update on some teams that I think could make some noise come March. I think that it's important because, while we all know Wake is one of the top teams in the nation, we also all know that in March, anything can happen, and Wake's uptempo style of game provides more possessions for teams, which is something that could open the door for some squads with a little less talent, but are quick and can shoot. I think Wake is too athletic and long for this to happen, but I still think its fun to hear about these teams first and to impress your friends in your bracket pools.
Check it out after the jump.
I am going to try and stay away from the teams that we all know about. I might mention the Davidsons, Gonzagas, Saint Marys, and Butlers of the world, but I'd like to look a bit deeper.
1) Cleveland State
This is a team that is vastly overshadowed in their conference by Butler. They are 58th in the Pomeroy ratings, which is alright at this point in the season. These good mid-major teams within the 50-70 range in early February often end up within the 30-40 range at the end of the season after beating up on some teams in conference. They have 2 top-100 wins, one over #33 Syracuse and #70 Wright State. Their losses have come to #s 14, 37, 27, 7, 70, 74, 156, and 249. Those last two losses are poor, poor losses, but both were on the road. They have two very good players in J'Nathan Bullock (O-Rating of 108.7, 16 points, 7 rebounds, a block and an assist a game) and Norris Cole (105.44, 12.6 points, two and a half assists, 3 rebounds and a steal a game).
2) Virginia Commonwealth
We have all seen what VCU can do in the tournament. And we all love to talk about good point guards, and believe it or not, this team has one of the best in the nation. VCU is rated 59th in the Pomeroy ratings, and Maynor is first in the CAA in O-efficiency, and 149 in the country. They have played some solid squads, losing at #56 URI, #182 ECU (their only real poor loss), #85 Vandy, #12 Oklahoma, and suffering their only home loss to #76 Northeastern (who is a very good team and I'll probably cover them next week). As for Maynor...23.2 points, 6 assists, 4 rebounds, and 1.7 steals a game...he's a shoo-in for his second CAA player of the year and should be a first round pick. Also, I'm impressed with sophomore Larry Sanders, who scores 10 points, grabs 7 rebounds, and blocks 2.6 shots a game.
3) North Dakota State
Surprised? The Bison are a relatively new addition to D-1 basketball, and are putting up respectable numbers this year, and are just plowing through the summit league with a 10-1 conference record. They are 65 in the Pomeroy ratings, with Oral Roberts coming in at 67. Now the Pomeroy ratings is NOT the RPI, but I look at it as a better judge of the quality of the team, and based on this, if both teams win out (they play each other the last game of the year) and both get to the conference finals...we COULD see two Summit teams in the NCAAs...which would be all too weird. The Bison are undefeated at home and have lost on the road to #141 Idaho, #34 Minnesota, #97 Stephen F. Austin, #28 USC, and #127 Oakland. They have beaten Oral Roberts once, but that is their only top 100 win. So that's a knock, but undefeated at home and no losses worse than #150 are plusses. They have two studs in Ben Woodside and Brett Winkelman--Woodside at 121.53 and Winkelman at 116.65 in O-efficiency, 5th and 6th in conference. But check this out, #2-#6 are all NDSU players in the Summit....find that in another conference....that's nuts. Woodside is 95th in the country in efficiency and drops 23.7 points, 6.4 assists, 3 rebounds, and 1.5 steals a game. Winkelman is 114 in the country in O-rating and drops 18.3 points, 1.4 assists, 7.3 rebounds, and 1.6 steals a game...They have the 95th, 114th, 52nd, 80th, and 94th most efficient guys in the country...and 4 of those are starters.
Also should be mentioned (and probably will be expanded on next week)
Siena, Wright State, Miami (OH), George Mason, Northeastern, UNC-Wilmington (just kidding, we suck).