The NCAA Tournament is just around the corner, and here at Bang the Book, we’re off and running with some of the top mid-major teams in the nation that can blow apart your brackets this season if you’re not careful!
San Diego State Aztecs: We’re really not so certain that the BYU Cougars are really going to be able to compete this season in the dance after kicking one of their top scorers off of the team just two weeks before Selection Sunday. However, San Diego State is still definitely in play this season, knowing that it has beaten every other team it has run across this year not named BYU. The Aztecs play some great defense and definitely have the depth to make some major noise, and you don’t want to be caught in a tussle with this team down the stretch, or you’re likely going to end up watching your season come to a close.
Xavier Musketeers: The X-Men really wouldn’t be a surprising team to much of anyone in the NCAA Tournament, as it feels like they do a ton of damage every single year in the dance. However, this could be a legit Final Four team this season even though there are some losses to teams that just make you scratch your head. There are also some fantastic wins as well, and even though the A-10 is down this year, a 14-1 record to date in conference play in this conference is always earned. Tu Holloway is one of the most dangerous players that you have never heard of in this country, but he is going to surely be making a name for himself this season in the dance.
Old Dominion Monarchs: The CAA is legit this year, and this is a conference that is just chock full of amazing teams. Sure, the George Mason Patriots are going to be a trendy selection for some upsets based upon their history in the Final Four from a few years ago, but ODU is the real team to watch out for. This defense ranks No. 3 in the land at 58.0 points per game allowed, and this came against a very legitimate schedule. Frank Hassell is a tremendous enforcer on the inside, and he can really clog up the middle. There’s a reason that this team is averaging a whopping 15.3 rebounds per game more than its foes. If the guards can hang with some of the best in the game, the Monarchs can go a long, long way into March Madness.
St. Mary’s Gaels: Sure, this is Gonzaga’s conference. We understand that. However, both of these teams went dancing last year, and it was St. Mary’s, not Gonzaga that was still alive in the Sweet 16. Omar Samhan isn’t around any longer, but guys like Mickie McConnell still are. Many are down on the Gaels after they suffered a three game losing streak to the San Diego Toreros, the Zags, and the Utah State Aggies in BracketBusters, but they are definitely still a team that can do a ton of damage offensively. Teams that try getting into a shootout with this squad are going to hate life, as there aren’t many teams that have as many pure scorers as these Gaels do.
Missouri State Bears: The Missouri Valley continues to make a name for itself, and this season is really no exception. SMS really should be in the field of 68, but we know that it probably needs to win the MVC crown just to make sure. Again, just like so many other mid major teams, the Bears really shoot lights out from beyond the arc, as the top four scorers on this team that have a regular amount of attempts at three pointers have drained over 40 percent of those shots on the campaign. Parlay that with some great defense and some of that mid major magic, and Missouri State could be giving teams fits above it in the dance.
Cleveland State Vikings: The Vikings had a paper thin out of conference schedule this season, but they are definitely going to be a team to watch out for if they get into the field of 68. They performed admirably in a relatively tough Horizon League this year, and though they did finish with three more wins than anyone else in this fold, they certainly don’t have anywhere near the best resume in the bunch. Norris Cole would be the best player on a lot of top notch teams in this country, as he is averaging 21.8 points, 5.4 assists, and 6.0 rebounds per game, and he seemingly does some remarkable things every single night. The problem here is that CSU is probably going to be stuck in the NIT if it doesn’t win the Horizon auto bid, but if it does go dancing, it will be a team that no one wants to face.
Harvard Crimson: Head Coach Tommy Amakar knows what it takes to win in the NCAA Tournament, and if by chance he takes his Crimson there this year, it could be a hard task for anyone else to bounce them from the field of 68. Harvard has never been here before, but with two wins this weekend, it will force a playoff for the Ivy League crown with the Princeton Tigers. The difference between these two teams is that Harvard has some tremendous three point shooters, and it seemingly never miss from the foul line. Hey, if the Cornell Big Red got to the Sweet 16 last year, why can’t Harvard do it this season?
Charleston Cougars: Just like Harvard and Cleveland State, if Charleston goes dancing this season, the SoCon probably has its best chance of a big time tourney team since Stephen Curry left the Davidson Wildcats. Don’t kid yourself about just how good Andrew Goudelock really is. This young man is averaging 23.0 points per game this season, and he can score with anyone in the country. The Cougs will be a tough out from the SoCon Tournament, and an even tougher team to oust from March Madness if they get there.