Folks who have loitered around here for a while - despite constant threats to call the cops once my lunch break rolls around - have become somewhat familiar with my unhealthy college basketball obsession outside the world of the Louisville Cardinals. I struggle to keep it under wraps because I'm well aware that nobody reading cares, but if the little guy isn't permitted any sort of outlet at all then he turns evil and starts talking like HAL from 2001. It's not really all that scary and I never actually listen to anything he says, but it gets pretty annoying.
There's usually not a whole lot happening on Friday, so I thought it'd be a good opportunity to start doing a weekly Mid-Major Top 25. Sure Monday would appear to be the most logical day of the week to do something like this, but the Cards have several Big Monday games from here on out, and if I reveal the rankings on Friday then that gives them the best opportunity to be rendered completely useless in the shortest amount of time.
It's impossible to get into the first installment without first tackling the ineffectual issue of what exactly defines a "mid-major." First things first, I don't believe in "low majors" or any sort of variation, so I consider every team that isn't in a "major" conference to be a mid-major.
Kyle Whelliston - who's sort of the authority on matters like this - agrees, and makes the assertion that any school playing in a conference where the average athletic budget is under $20 million is a mid-major. Well I don't do math, so this system is automatically out for me. To me, the major conferences in college basketball - or at least the ones that have no business being lumped into the mid-major category - are the six BCS leagues, the Atlantic 10, Conference USA, the WAC and the Mountain West. As it is with most things in my life, I don't have any real reasons to back up this system, I've just never felt right speaking names like UMass and BYU in the same breath as Holy Cross and Siena.
So we're working with 21 conferences here (sorry Independents). No math, no computers, just the opinion of a guy who misses Jared Jordan like Little Ann misses Old Dan (you cried).
Without further delay, here is your first Card Chronicle mid-major top 25...feel free to go ahead and watch the Jim Spanarkel video again instead if you want to, it won't hurt my feelings.
25. Lafayette (13-6, 4-0 Patriot League)
The Leopards find themselves the lone unbeaten in a Patriot League that has been dominated by Holy Cross and Bucknell for the better part of this century. After dispatching the latter by 12 on Wednesday, they hit the road to take on hated rival Lehigh at 7 p.m. on Saturday.
24. UC Santa Barbara (14-5, 3-3 Big West)
The Gauchos are back to .500 in league play after a disappointing double-digit home loss to surging Pacific. I still haven't had the opportunity to see Alex Harris play, but it's something I'm looking forward to.
23. Valparaiso (14-6, 5-3 Horizon League)
The Crusaders have dropped all three contests against the league's top dogs, but they're still adjusting to life in the Horizon far better than most had predicted.
22. Texas-Arlington (13-4, 3-2 Southland)
After dropping its first two league games, the Mavericks have won three straight to pull into a first-place tie in the loaded West division of the Southland Conference.
21. Oral Roberts (13-5, 8-0 Summit League)
The name change and the Valpo departure seem to be suiting the Golden Eagles just fine.
20. Ohio (12-6, 3-2 Mid-American)
The Bobcats are the only team in the MAC to beat Kent State, and they lost road games at Akron and Bowling Green by a combined four points.
19. Pacific (14-5, 5-1 Big West)
The perennial league powerhouse may be playing the best basketball in the Big West. The Tigers get the chance to avenge a 17-point road loss to Northridge when the Matadors come to Stockton on Feb. 7.
18. North Carolina-Asheville (15-4, 4-0 Big South)
You want Kenny George in your NCAA Tournament, you need Kenny George in your NCAA Tournament.
17. Stephen F. Austin (15-3, 3-2 Southland)
The Lumberjacks dropped into a three-way tie for first in the Southland's West division after falling by a bucket to Sam Houston State on Thursday.
16. Cleveland State (14-6, 7-1 Horizon League)
Wisconsin-Green Bay became the first team to knock off the Vikings, prevailing 59-50 on Thursday night. The game was the first of four straight on the road for Cleveland State.
15. Sam Houston State (15-3, 3-2 Southland)
The Bearkats haven't lost a game by more than three points all season. They host fellow West division leader Texas-Arlington on Jan. 30.
14. Cal State Northridge (13-4, 5-0 Big West)
The Matadors were rolling along before falling on the road in a non-conference game against lowly Independent Chicago State. The loss was likely a bigger blow for the Big West than it was for Northridge.
13. Western Kentucky (15-5, 7-1 Sun Belt)
The Toppers get a second crack at South Alabama on Feb. 21 in Bowling Green.
12. Illinois State (14-5, 6-2 Missouri Valley)
The Redbirds followed their loss to Drake in the battle of the Valley unbeatens with a heartbreaking one-point loss at Bradley.
11. Davidson (12-6, 10-0 Southern)
After a difficult but disappointing non-conference run that saw them go just 2-6, the Wildcats have become the first team in the country to win ten league games, and have won each of the last five by at least 15 points.
10. Creighton (14-4, 5-3 Missouri Valley)
The Jays have won five-of-six since starting out 0-2 in the Valley, and were one made shot away (hi Chad) from becoming the first team in the league to knock off Drake.
9. Akron (14-4, 4-1 Mid-American)
The Zips blew a 10-point halftime lead in the showdown with Kent State on Wednesday.
8. George Mason (14-5, 6-2 Colonial)
The win over Dayton was nice, but the Patriots are still probably going to have to take the conference tournament to get back to the Dance for the first time since 2006 (didn't they beat someone good in the first round or something?). Tuesday's lone regular season meeting with VCU is at home and nationally televised (ESPN2).
7. Kent State (15-4, 4-1 Mid-American)
The Golden Flashes (awesome) bounced back from a nine-point loss to Ohio four days earlier to knock off previously unbeaten Akron 75-69 on Wednesday.
6. South Alabama (16-3, 8-0 Sun Belt)
The Jaguars are rolling through the Sun Belt, and the only blemishes on their overall record come from three-point losses at Vandy and Ole Miss, and a five-point loss to then-promising Miami of Ohio.
5. Virginia Commonwealth (14-4, 7-1 Colonial)
Eric Maynor and company have reeled off six straight since a one-point loss at James Madison on Jan. 2, and they'll get national attention when they play at George Mason on Tuesday.
4. Gonzaga (15-4, 4-0 West Coast)
The 'Zags have yet to land that marquee victory, but they'll certainly have a chance on Saturday when they hit the road to take on No. 1 Memphis.
3. Saint Mary's (16-2, 3-0 West Coast)
A home win over Gonzaga in two weeks would be nice, but it's the game in Spokane on March 1 that could result in them moving up or down two seeds in the NCAA Tournament.
2. Butler (18-2, 7-2 Horizon League)
The Bulldogs continue to roll despite A.J. Graves failing to hit double figures in five of BU's last seven games.
1. Drake (17-1, 8-0 Missouri Valley)
Despite the gaudy record, Drake doesn't have any non-conference wins of note, so it won't take many Missouri Valley losses for them to quickly go from a respectable seed to squarely on the bubble. Keep winning, and it's not an issue.