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THE OFFICIAL MID-MAJOR MADNESS BANDWAGON INDEX™

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We grade teams on how much fun it would be to bandwagon. The WAC holds it down.

NCAA Basketball: Grand Canyon at Arizona Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports

I, Ben Goren, am a man without a country.

I have decided to abandon my childhood team, Northwestern, and venture out into the wilderness of college basketball to find a new team to enjoy.

This venture is marked with peril. Many before me have ventured to hop on a bandwagon, only to find that wagon to be headed over a cliff, or already saturated with people, or, worse still, is Duke.

But we live in an era of rationality. Science is here to provide us answers to life’s most important questions. And to that effect, I have created a foolproof system for ranking how much fun a team would be to bandwagon. I have consulted with the nation’s top scientists* and they can confirm that this system is perfect.

*Actually just the Mid-Major Madness Slack

THE SYSTEM.

I have broken down the concept of fandom into seven distinct categories of varying importance. They are as follows:

QUALITY OF THE TEAM (20 possible points): This should be obvious. It’s no fun rooting for bad teams. However, it is possible for a team to be too good to be fun to root for. If a team is too dominant, they will suffer a penalty. Likewise, FUNBAD is a thing that is real, too. A team could be so bad they’re good, and would receive a bonus.

X-FACTOR (15 possible points): It’s hard to explain what it is about some teams, but some teams just have It. Mascots, stadiums, superfans, all that extra stuff that comes into play is allocated here.

WATCHABILITY (10 possible points): You have to be able to watch your team to enjoy your team. Hawaii, for example, would take a massive hit here, as would any team that frequently plays games with no good TV/streaming option (Ed. note: get your lives together, CBS Sports).

CULTURE (10 possible points): Certain teams, like 1980s Georgetown, are really cool. Some teams, like every Duke team, are really uncool.

JERSEYS (5 possible points): Swag factor is important.

HISTORY (5 possible points): It’s fun to flex on your Final Fours from the 1950s, sorry.

TWITTER PRESENCE (3 possible points): If you can’t tweet about the game with some Online friends, what’s the point?

A maximum score is 68 points. There is no minimum score. Duke is absolute zero: as bad as physically possible, but merely hypothetical.

I asked the good people of Twitter to sell me on their team. The good people responded. I’ve enlisted the help of Cam Newton and Chris Schutte to help me. We will grade all the Mid-Major teams (plus DePaul and Rutgers). Don’t see your team here? Post them in the comments/on Twitter and we’ll give it a grade.


WINNER:

Grand Canyon Antelopes

QUALITY OF THE TEAM: 14/20

The Antelopes are going to be one of the favorites in the WAC this season, and there’s no reason to think that they can’t continue to grow. They’re not “beat a solid power conference team” good just yet, but that’s not too far away.

WATCHABILITY: 8/10

The WAC has a surprisingly good streaming service, so if you can put up with those late start times on the west coast, you can watch your Antelopes play just about every game.

CULTURE: 10/10

The culture of Grand Canyon is what really sets it apart. There’s maybe no better stadium atmosphere in America. It’s rowdy as hell, and there’s no stodgy old fart culture to be found. If we could give extra points, we would.

HISTORY: 4/5

Giving Grand Canyon, a school that will be D-I postseason eligible for the first time in its history, a 4/5 history rating may be initially confusing, but hear me out: no history is the second best history there can be. They don’t have banners to hang, but there’s no ties to the old. Grand Canyon is the embodiment of the mythic American West. You can go and be untethered to the mistakes of the past.

JERSEYS: 3/5

Fine.

TWITTER PRESENCE: 1/3

Don’t think there’s GCU Twitter. Yet.

X-FACTOR: 15/15

GCU’s X-Factor comes largely from just how dope its culture is. GCU so clearly has It. The buzz around that program is incredible. Also, their willingness to be incredibly open about their use of basketball as a marketing tool is refreshing.

TOTAL RANKING: 55/68

— Ben Goren


Top Tier:


Gonzaga Bulldogs

QUALITY OF THE TEAM: 15/20
WATCHABILITY: 8/10
CULTURE: 8/10
JERSEYS: 5/5
HISTORY: 5/5
TWITTER PRESENCE: 2/3
X-FACTOR: 10/15

TOTAL RANKING: 52/68

Ben Goren: “But Ben, Gonzaga just played in a national championship! How can they only be a 15/20 on quality?”

Fair question. But consider this: they’re too good. They’re going to win the WCC for the next infinity and now they’ve made a Final Four. Where’s the drama? However, those phenomenal black jerseys, a gajillion straight conference championships, and cult heroes like Adam Morrison and Przemek Karnowski still make Gonzaga an incredibly good option.


Valparaiso Crusaders

QUALITY OF THE TEAM: 17/20
WATCHABILITY: 8/10
CULTURE: 8/10
JERSEYS: 0/5
HISTORY: 5/5
TWITTER PRESENCE: 1/3
X-FACTOR: 13/15

TOTAL RANKING: 52/68

Ben Goren: I think Valpo hits a great sweet spot. The Crusaders are in a one-bid league and they’re always in the hunt. Never going to dominate, but will always be interesting. They get high marks for team quality, and they just seem like a good place, what with the Drew family lineage, so the X-Factor is naturally high as well. The real tragedy is that those god awful uniforms are holding back the Crusaders from being the top option.


VCU Rams

QUALITY OF THE TEAM: 18/20
WATCHABILITY: 6/10
CULTURE: 3/10
JERSEYS: 4/5
HISTORY: 4/5
TWITTER PRESENCE: 3/3
X-FACTOR: 13/15

TOTAL RANKING: 51/68 - Has class, is a contender, is somebody

Cam Newton: Lots of mid-majors have one-and-done glimpses at success. VCU is one of the most consistently successful mid-majors in the country, no matter the coach.

Their fans, however, are some of the crazier ones in the country, as many had a complete meltdown when Will Wade left for LSU. Their team’s official press release regarding Wade’s departure read like the “I’m not owned” @dril tweet. It wasn’t a becoming look. Gotta dock points there. Also, they’re docked points for the A-10 having some of the country’s worst streaming availability. Come on.

VCU has its own Rothsteinism that has something to do with backpacking, and it’s clear that one of its die-hard fans worked very hard on the team’s Wikipedia page. It’s altogether a crazy amalgam of things I love.


Western Kentucky Hilltoppers

QUALITY OF THE TEAM: 16/20
WATCHABILITY: 4/10
CULTURE: 5/10
JERSEYS: 4/5
HISTORY: 4/5
TWITTER PRESENCE: 3/3
X-FACTOR: 15/15

TOTAL SCORE: 51/68

Ben Goren: Oh, you better believe I’m buying into the hype. Western Kentucky has somehow stocked a handful of legit power conference talent into an underdeveloped conference. This team could do some incredibly fun things this season and potentially going forward.

But what really kicks the Hilltoppers into top gear is its mascot, who is perfect, and real, and powerful, and my friend. He (it?) maxes their X-Factor, their Twitter presence, and possibly even the quality of their team. They’re a strong option.


BYU Cougars

QUALITY OF THE TEAM: 13/20
WATCHABILITY: 8/10
CULTURE: 8/10
JERSEYS: 3/5
HISTORY: 4/5
TWITTER PRESENCE: 2/3
X-FACTOR: 13/15

TOTAL SCORE: 50/68

Chris Schutte: You can always count on BYU to be Decent and Good. The Cougars’ home games usually seem rowdy too. They might not challenge Gonzaga all that often, but they’re a program with a high floor and no one is going to accuse you of being a glory hunter. Their jerseys are fine, they’ve had some good teams, and the WCC does a good job making its games available.

Also, I watch Jimmer highlights at least once a month. Huge X-Factor.


Good Tier:


Florida Gulf Coast Eagles

QUALITY OF THE TEAM: 13/20
WATCHABILITY: 4/10
CULTURE: 7/10
JERSEYS: 4/5
HISTORY: 2/5
TWITTER PRESENCE: 3/3
X-FACTOR: 15/15

TOTAL RANKING: 48/68

Chris Schutte: HIT THE DAMN MUSIC

You know the deal with Florida Gulf Coast. They’re Dunk City: a good team in a one-bid league. Three tournaments in five years. Probably ruined your bracket at some point. A basketball program centered around aerial acrobatics is pretty fun if you ask me.

Their run of success is still a little fresh, but they’re DUNK CITY. PLAY THE DAMN HITS.


Chattanooga Mocs

QUALITY OF THE TEAM: 11/20
WATCHABILITY: 7/10
CULTURE: 7/10
JERSEYS: 1/5
HISTORY: 3/5
TWITTER PRESENCE: 0/3
X-FACTOR: 12/15

TOTAL SCORE: 41/68

Cam Newton: They do a fine job of running through SoCon play only to be vanquished in the conference tournament. A poster team for the #EndConferenceTournaments movement I have started (Ed. note: this is a bad movement, do not join). They went to a Sweet 16 in 1997, they’ve got a good deal of NCAA Tournament appearances, and they’re usually a dominant force in their conference.

As an unexpected bonus, SoCon’s live network is actually not bad, and they’re usually on ESPN3!

Their old logo had a train on it, and I’ll never understand why. Also, I don’t want to know why either. Let me sit in blithe ignorance.

Plus, the city of Chattanooga is where Moon Pies come from. Strong.


San Francisco Dons

QUALITY OF THE TEAM: 6/20
WATCHABILITY: 8/10
CULTURE: 3/10
JERSEYS: 3/5
HISTORY: 5/5
TWITTER PRESENCE: 0/3
X-FACTOR: 15/15

TOTAL SCORE: 40/68

Ben Goren: Listen, you don’t know anything about San Francisco basketball. Neither do I. Neither does anyone. There are no San Francisco fans on Twitter, or in San Francisco as far as you, or I, or the universe knows. But I do know this: Bill Russell went there.

While that should technically just count for history, allow me to present the following hypothetical: you’re at a function. People are hanging out. You see some guy/gal in a throwback USF jersey. That’s a conversation starter. Turns out they’re big fans. The jersey they’re in is actually a Bill Russell jersey. That person is now the coolest person at the event. Huge X-Factor, huge points earned. This is the upset story of this experiment.


Fine Tier:


UC Irvine Anteaters

QUALITY OF THE TEAM: 12/20
WATCHABILITY: 6/10
CULTURE: 4/10
JERSEYS: 2/5
HISTORY: 2/5
TWITTER PRESENCE: 1/3
X-FACTOR: 12/15

TOTAL SCORE: 39/68

Ben Goren: UC Irvine only recently made its first ever NCAA Tournament. Yay. They’re the big dogs in the Big West conference. Cool. There’s not a real culture to speak of and their jerseys are ugly.

[Stephen A Smith voice] BUT!

Irvine, California is where large adult centers roam wild and free. That and their ridiculous and awesome mascot help them out a great deal. Sure, why not root for UC Irvine?

The best part: their mascot (the only person on UCI Twitter, as far as we know) LOVES to troll us.

Our incredibly handsome editor Russell Steinberg made the mistake of confusing the anteater and aardvark, leading to us now insisting that Peter the Anteater is now Arthur and no you cannot stop us.


Murray State Racers

QUALITY OF THE TEAM: 6/20
WATCHABILITY: 1/10
CULTURE: 10/10
JERSEYS: 2/5
HISTORY: 4/5
TWITTER PRESENCE: 3/3
X-FACTOR: 8/15

TOTAL SCORE: 34/68

Ben Goren: Here’s life in the OVC.

That’s really bad for the ol’ watchability rankings.

But people seem to love their Racer basketball. I can’t really point out why. They don’t seem to be super interesting. They’ve made the NCAA Tournament a fair amount! Isiah Canaan played there, which I guess is neat! So did an All-American named Popeye! they beat Vanderbilt once! Cam Payne went there!

Alright.


George Mason Patriots

QUALITY OF THE TEAM: 6/20
WATCHABILITY: 4/10
CULTURE: 5/10
JERSEYS: 2/5
HISTORY: 4/5
TWITTER PRESENCE: 0/3
X-FACTOR: 11/15

TOTAL SCORE: 32/68

Ben Goren: Plenty of modern mid-majors have made Cinderella runs, but I don’t think you’d be too far off if you called George Mason the OG. That earns them a lot of credit. The only bit of bandwagon apparel (aside from things I picked up while visiting colleges when I was applying to schools) I ever got was George Mason Final Four stuff.

Too bad that doesn’t cover up the rest of it.

George Mason is a very mediocre A-10 team. That’s not moving the needle. That’s not even FUNBAD. That’s just...boring.


Bad Tier:


Massachusetts Minutemen

QUALITY OF THE TEAM: 8/20
WATCHABILITY: 4/10
CULTURE: 5/10
JERSEYS: 3/5
HISTORY: 5/5
TWITTER PRESENCE: 1/3
X-FACTOR: 2/15

TOTAL SCORE: 28/68

Chris Schutte: John Calipari took them to a Final Four that got vacated. You can take their banner, you can take their wins, but you can’t take Marcus Camby’s jewelry, cars, and escorts. 5/5 points for paying the players.

Too bad they still have that Boston Sports Team stink on them.


Eastern Washington Eagles

QUALITY OF THE TEAM: 6/20
WATCHABILITY: 9/10
CULTURE: 2/10
JERSEYS: 4/5
HISTORY: 1/5
TWITTER PRESENCE: 0/3
X-FACTOR: 1/15

TOTAL SCORE: 23/68 – Better than Washington would have done

Cam Newton: Two CBIs and an NCAA Tournament in the past three seasons. They clearly ordered the John Becker special. For what it’s worth, they probably would have beaten Washington this year.

Good news: I have it on good authority that the Big Sky has an excellent streaming service! What a crazy world we live in where their’s is better than the A-10’s.

But Jim Hayford left for Seattle. And they are complete fools for not doing to their basketball court what they did to their football field.


DePaul Blue Demons

QUALITY OF THE TEAM: 4/20
WATCHABILITY: 4/10
CULTURE: 2/10
JERSEYS: 4/5
HISTORY: 5/5
TWITTER PRESENCE: 3/3
X-FACTOR: 0/15

TOTAL RANKING: 21/68

Ben Goren: I am from the Chicago area and have never willingly gone to a DePaul game. They have no swag. They have no fans. They are awful at basketball.

Good history though!


Rutgers Scarlet Knights

QUALITY OF THE TEAM: 4/20
WATCHABILITY: 10/10
CULTURE: 0/10
JERSEYS: 2/5
HISTORY: 0/5
TWITTER PRESENCE: 0/3
X-FACTOR: 5/15

TOTAL RANKING: 21/68

Ben Goren: BTN is great. Good coach.

Everything else is a giant fart sound.

Rutger.


DEAD LAST:


FIU Panthers

QUALITY OF THE TEAM: 1/20
WATCHABILITY: 2/10
CULTURE: 1/10
JERSEYS: 2/5
HISTORY: 1/5
TWITTER PRESENCE: 0/3
X-FACTOR: 7/15

TOTAL RANKING: 14/68 - Somehow worse than Rutger

Cam Newton: This team was barely over .500 when they had a Pitino coaching them. The only time you should watch this team next year is to count how many times Mitchell Robinson humiliates them with a behind-the-back 360º windmill dunk (shut up to me about physics).

Their jerseys are nothing special, but given their team’s willingness to experiment with bizarre designs, it’s clear they could look a lot worse. I personally think their floor is atrocious and an aesthetic disaster the likes of which have not been seen since Cézanne’s “The Card Players,” but I’m giving them seven free X-Factor points for being bold.

I was going to give them a zero in history for having only one NCAA Tournament appearance (which came before I, Cam Newton, was born), but apparently Raja Bell went here. Those late-2000s Suns teams were too fun to ignore.

Even the guy who suggested FIU to Ben is actually a UAB fan, so I refuse to believe there are any Panthers fans online.

Season tickets to FIU games are the cheapest beachfront property you’ll be able to find in Florida.

Drop your favorite/least favorite team in the comments and we’ll give them a rating.