Answers From The Barn: Who is this year’s_____________?

Snimm asks:


Which unheralded mid-majors are the most dangerous and most likely to upset somebody come Championship Week or NCAA time?

I’m not talking about those mid-majors that don’t fly under the radar – Butler, Gonzaga, even Murray State (since by now everybody knows who Isaac Canaan is). Which mid-majors do you think nobody is talking about but could make some noise?”

From The Barn answers:

College basketball is one of the few sport’s when the completely unexpected, nearly impossible happens on a yearly basis. In professional sports, teams are often too competitive for real surprises to happen, and when the playoffs are played in a series format, the more talented team has more time to overcome a poor performance or two. It might be a bit too early to identify what will be the “it” team in March, since those teams come out of nowhere. However, there are few early candidates:

  • Boise State: It would be appropriate that the school that brought “mid-major” madness college football could make their mark on March Madness. They have a win over mid-major darling Creighton, a win over LSU, and a four point loss at Michigan State. Their only other blemish is a blow-out loss to Utah when the Utes shot 67% from the floor and 56% from behind the three-point line. The Broncos have a high-scoring back court, excellent three-point shooting, and just enough size to hold their own against the big boys if they make the tournament.
  • Illinois-Chicago was one of the worst teams in the country the last three seasons, never winning more than eight games. This season they are already 8-1 with wins over Northwestern and Colorado State. They can struggle shooting from the field, but they make their free-throws and don’t commit turnovers. Teams have to beat them because they don’t beat themselves. They also have the 10th best field goal percentage defense in the country, so they can stay in games even if they can’t score.
  • Belmont is often the trendy pick among nerdy types to win a game or two in the NCAA tournament. Unfortunately, their remarkable efficiency tends to run into a brick wall once they play a three-seed. This season they are at it again with the 15th best offense and 44th best defense. This year they are 7-2 with a win over Stanford. They play Kansas this afternoon, so they might be really trendy in March if they can play the Jayhawks close.