It's becoming more and more evident after each week that the "scary" or "dangerous" mid-majors just aren't out there in full force like they have been in years past. This will make for some really fun conference tournaments, but maybe a not-so-fun opening weekend of the NCAA Tournament.
Butler, Drake, St. Mary's and even Gonzaga have the potential to earn respectable seeds, and Davidson is going to be the 12 or 11-seed that the moron at work who knows you love college basketball constantly refers to as his "sleeper," which would be fine if he weren't so smug about it. VCU, Western Kentucky and South Alabama are also teams that have 12/5 upset written all over them. But aside from these "big names," I just don't see the teams that can pull off the 3/14 or 4/13 stunner this year, which means the first two rounds of this year's tournament will likely resemble 2007 more than 2006.
More evidence to support this comes from the fact that the haves were even more dominate over the have-nots than usual this season, winning 91% of the time in non-conference play. Still, there are sure to be some posers seeded between three and six (Texas A&M), and anything can happen in a single 40-minute game, so you might as well go ahead and watch.
Anyhow, here's this week's list:
25. Siena (NR) (16-8, 11-3 Metro Atlantic Athletic)
The Saints exacted some revenge by going on the road and knocking off a Rider team that had beaten them in Loudonville two weeks earlier.
24. Morgan State (NR) (15-8, 9-1 Mid-Eastern Athletic)
The Bears - who nearly won at Connecticut in the season opener for both teams - own a one-game lead in the MEAC with three weeks to play. Yes, this is Todd Bozeman's team.
23. Ohio (20) (16-8, 7-4 Mid-American)
Capable of beating or losing to anyone in the league, the Bobcats are without a doubt the most inconsistent team in the MAC.
22. Robert Morris (NR) (20-6, 11-2 Northeast)
Consecutive games against Wagner and Sacred Heart at the end of the month will likely decide who takes home the regular season title.
21. Sam Houston State (14) (18-5, 6-4 Southland)
A nine-point home loss to cellar-dwelling Nicholls State boggles the mind.
20. Akron (16) (17-7, 7-4 Mid-American)
The Zips are 3-4 after a 4-0 league start.
19. Rider (15) (18-7, 11-3 Metro Atlantic Athletic)
The Broncs saw their ten-game winning streak snapped by Siena last Friday. They play the first of three straight road games tomorrow at Fairfield.
18. Cornell (25) (14-5, 6-0 Ivy League)
We're almost halfway home and the Big Red own a two-game advantage in the 14-game tournament.
17. North Carolina Asheville (10) (18-6, 7-2 Big South)
Kenny George didn't play in the 29-point loss at Lipscomb, and he only played seven minutes in the nine-point loss at High Point.
16. Wright State (24) (18-6, 10-4 Horizon League)
They don't deserve this drastic a bump, but crazy things happen when everybody loses.
15. Cal State Northridge (23) (16-6, 8-2 Big West)
The Matadors bounced back from consecutive losses with a 20-point win at UC-Davis last Saturday.
14. Illinois State (19) (18-7, 10-4 Missouri Valley)
Three games out of first and two games ahead of third, the Redbirds appear poised to take the second seed into Arch Madness.
13. IUPUI (17) (10-5, 12-2 Summit League)
The Jaguars finally get a second crack at Oral Roberts tomorrow night at 7.
12. George Mason (9) (18-7, 10-4 Colonial Athletic Association)
The Patriots finish up with three-of-four at home (a Bracket Busters date at Ohio notwithstanding), but they still don't have much of a shot at catching 12-2 VCU.
11. Stephen F. Austin (12) (20-3, 8-2 Southland)
The lumberjacks have reeled off five straight since a two-point loss at Sam Houston State, a team they'll get another shot at on Thursday.
10. Oral Roberts (13) (18-5, 13-0 Summit League)
ORU is one of just four teams unbeaten in conference play, a distinction they hope to still be able to lay claim to after tomorrow's game at IUPUI.
9. South Alabama (6) (20-5, 12-2 Sun Belt)
Demetric Bennett was held to single digits for the first time all season in USA's 76-70 loss to Middle Tennessee State on Thursday.
8. Kent State (11) (10-5, 9-2 Mid-American)
The Golden Flashes are the best team in the MAC, but the league is too deep for winning three games in three days to be anything but a chore.
7. Davidson (7) (18-6, 6-0 Southern)
Stephen Curry's 41-points helped erase a 20-point deficit against Kyle Hines and UNC-Greensboro on Wednesday, as the Wildcats kept their perfect league record in tact.
6. Western Kentucky (8) (20-5, 12-1 Sun Belt)
Only a conference tournament being played on South Alabama's home floor stands between them and a terrified five seed in the NCAA Tournament.
5. Virginia Commonwealth (5) (19-5, 12-2 Colonial Athletic Association)
If the Rams don't make it to the big dance, turnovers and poor free-throw shooting will undoubtedly have been their downfall.
4. Gonzaga (4) (19-6, 8-1 West Coast)
The 'Zags must fight through a three-game road stretch before a rematch with St. Mary's at home on March 1.
3. Saint Mary's (3) (21-3, 8-1 West Coast)
SMU has to play four of its final five WCC games on the road, a stretch that will have an enormous impact on its NCAA Tournament seed.
2. Drake (1) (22-2, 13-1 Missouri Valley)
The Bulldogs look like an eight or nine seed to me, which is a shame because the term "death game" will never be more appropriate than it's going to be this year.
1. Butler (2) (23-2, 12-2 Horizon League)
The Bulldogs continue to win - albeit less-than-impressively - on the road. I'm far from the first person to say it, but A.J. Graves has got to get going for them to have any shot at making it back to the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament.