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Mailbag! Which mid-major could make a deep tournament run next year?

Hint: Look at the picture

UCF v Virginia Commonwealth Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

No one likes those days between the first and second weekends of the NCAA Tournament. They’re even longer and drearier when Cinderella seems to have been snubbed from the Sweet 16 entirely.

So let’s do a mailbag to pass the time. Here’s what’s on your mind as the season winds down and the offseason storylines begin to swirl:

We often get some variation of this question, but if you’re looking for the NEXT school to make a deep run, start by looking at who the contenders will be in 2019-20. Assuming there are no surprise departures, VCU is the team that looks poised to make a great run next March. The Rams were one of the best mid-majors in the country and won the Atlantic 10 regular season this year.. .and they return virtually everyone next year. Marcus Evans, Issac Vann, and De’Riante Jenkins will all be seniors, and Marcus Santos-Silva made a massive leap from his freshman to sophomore seasons. Aside from them, a few more candidates to watch are New Mexico State, Liberty and Dayton.

This is along the same lines as the question above, and lucky for you, we’ve written an entire article about this exact topic. As you’d expect, this is really tough to do, even if you have the right ingredients. You definitely need a certain amount of luck, but it starts with two things: an athletic department willing to invest in the program and a coach willing and able to maintain success rather than jump at the first high-major offer.

This should have happened a few years ago when, um, a certain Big East job opened and it instead chose to hire a prominent alum with no head coaching experience who has gone on to underachieve, even with perhaps the best roster in the conference. Anyway, Cluess is 60 now and has done pretty darn well for himself at Iona. Of course everyone has a price, but it’s not like he’s eager to get out of New Rochelle.

Have fans turned on Lottich that quickly? Give the guy a chance! He won 24 games in his first season, then was dealt an impossible hand by having to coach a team that was upgrading conferences while losing its best player from the previous year (Alec Peters). They had a young team this season that will be even better the next. Focus on that, not on bringing in a guy who just went winless in the SEC.

I think a step back is inevitable considering Saint Louis is losing two guys like Tramaine Isabell and Javon Bess. Throw in an Atlantic 10 that should be better as a whole, and the Billikens might fade even more. But Travis Ford has a good recruiting class coming in to go alongside a couple solid returners. I think long-term the program is in a much better spot than will be reflected on the court in 2019-20.

For the time being, I think so. The university is committed to keeping him, as demonstrated through some private fundraising to get him a few more bucks, and the team is set up to be really good for a while. Here’s the scary part: There are a ton of job openings west of the Mississippi and most of them can still offer more money. He’s succeeded everywhere he’s been and is going to be a candidate for some big-time jobs moving forward.


He can’t leave! Not with so much more Rick Byrd fan fiction for Cam to write!