We know the feeling. Mid-major fan roots very hard for his team. Mid-major fan is ecstatic when his team makes the dance and hears its name called on Selection Sunday. Mid-major fan is suddenly disappointed when the bracket experts on ESPN or CBS hardly spare a mention for that team, once again pandering to the CBB casuals, often Kentucky or Duke fans.
The fact of the matter is, nobody knows what the hell is going to happen.
The people that do a terrible job of it are somehow revered in this industry (just ask mediocre bracketologist Joe Lunardi and the series of videos they let him record predicting how every team will fare in the tournament. He’s already an average at bracketologizing according to Bracket Matrix and now we are going to let him perform actual basketball analysis?).
There’s no time like the present, where the bracket is empty and all possibilities exist. Richmond to the Elite 8 and inking Mooney for life? Possible. Corpus Christi wins the natty on an alley-oop dunk all over Oscar Tshiebwe? There’s a universe where that exists, and it might be this one. The Mid-Major Madness writers and editors are going to go through all the reasons why your team might find some success this year, whether rooted in basketball or spiritual prophecy.
Without further ado, your Midwest mid-majors.
#8 San Diego State
San Diego State is the Syracuse of mid-major basketball, that is if you want to call the ACC a high-major conference. They always have an excellent defense and find a way to make the NCAA Tournament. A lot of the success this season was in part due to a six-game winning streak to end the season and the 2nd most efficient defense in the country. Not only do they allow the longest possessions in the country, the Aztecs have given up less than 60 points 20 times this season. TWENTY! That’s just insane. Player-wise, Matt Bradley is one of the best in the country. That shows with his 55.8% true shooting percentage and 41.6% 3-point percentage. Nathan Mensah is a defensive stalwart down low. - Nick Lorensen
This team is super old. They have four super seniors who came back for exactly this, a run in the NCAA Tournament. Richmond would have made it as an at-large in the 2020 tournament but it didn’t happen because of — well, you know that answer. They looked promising last season after a strong start that included a win against Kentucky, but the Spiders fell down a cliff. Chris Mooney and company finally got it done this season after an 11-year layoff, and have “Cinderella” written all over them. Jacob Gilyard is one of the best guards in this whole tournament, ranking first in the country in steals while also averaging 13.3 points per game. Grant Golden is entering his sixth season as a Spider, scoring 14.1 points per game while being ranked as the fifth best defensive player in the A10. Then there’s Nick Sherod who plays a key role off the bench but is the definition of resilience, coming back through two ACL tears. If Gilyard is able to get a couple steals off of Keegan Murray, this program could make yet another run. - Nick Lorensen
#13 South Dakota State
After soul-wrecking the Never Made the Tournament Club for yet another year, the Jacks now set their eyes on their first NCAA Tournament victory. Though they won 30 games this year and perhaps should have warranted more serious at-large talk, they were a bit surprisingly dropped to the 13 line, behind the likes of Richmond and NMSU. However, though they weren’t rewarded by the committee by being bumped up a seed or two, they were given the next best thing: a date with Providence. And no, not the kind you have to get on your knees for. The Providence Friars had a great season but may have a case for being the most over-seeded team in the tournament, at least in regard to metrics. Their KenPom is 49(!), by far the lowest rating of any four seed and lower than any other team seeded eighth or higher. They presumably attained said seeding with their on-court results, which is misleading due to seemingly every game being of the come-from-behind variety, usually because the opposing team suddenly caught the incompetence bug. But they have been exposed too, see: Big East semifinal, where they let Creighton shoot over 52%. Well I’ve got good news for our mid-major fans, this Jackrabbit team can shoot: they average 52.5%, second in the nation, and their 3-point percentage, at just a shade under 45%, is the highest in all the land. Baylor Scheierman looks like what would happen if the Sweatshirt Ear Kid had a growth spurt in high school and traded in the sweatshirt for a headband, but make no mistake, the Summit POY is an absolute killer, and he’s got a good cast around him, including Doug Wilson, who’s now known as the Kevin Durant of the Dakotas. Final tidbit, via Rodger Sherman: the average spread of 4-13 games last year was over nine points. This game? It ppened at TWO POINTS! Jackrabbits, this is your moment. - Garrett Lash
Winners of 15 straight games, this offense is lethal! They come into the tournament as the second best 3-point shooting team in the nation, scoring 80-plus points in 11 games. They have shown they can battle the big boys, nearly knocking off Arkansas in the tournament last year (Colgate was ranked 4th in the NET when the game happened, lmao) and beating Syracuse at the Carrier Dome this year. Ryan Moffett is one of the best offensive players in the country, ranking in the top 20 of offensive rating, effective field goal percentage, and true shooting percentage. Oliver Lynch-Daniels comes off the bench as the best 3-point shooter in the country. Keegan Records is automatic down low and can block a ball or two. They’re just a few of their many weapons as Wisconsin and anyone else they play will have its hands more full than a brand new tube of Colgate toothpaste. - Nick Lorensen
#15 Jacksonville State
Some will say that this team didn’t even deserve to be here, seeing as they did not win their conference championship tournament. I say to you, so big-brained are the 2021-22 Jacksonville State Gamecocks that they can manage to drop a game in their conference tournament final and still found a way to secure their league’s autobid. And now, the logic-defiers meet their next challenge, in-state foe Auburn. Let’s be clear about something — many times in the NCAA Tournament you somehow, randomly, get a team that actually finished .500 and wasn’t the best team in their league. The Gamecocks were the best team in their league this year, but they may feel like they need something to prove after the aftermath of the ASUN tourney resulted in people crying foul for Bellarmine being ineligible because of some old rule that spurred a whole ton of debate. They can shoot pretty dang well — top 10 at just under 39% from 3 — and they don’t give up too many points at the free throw line. They have the services of Darian Adams, an absolute stat sheet stuffer. And more importantly they have history on their side: every time Jacksonville State made the tournament in the past, Gamecocks reached the Final Four (don’t look too hard into that one, just accept that the statement is technically factual). And again I say, if this team can literally lose a win-or-go home game and advance, which should be impossible, there’s no reason they can’t commit similar sorcery a second time. - Garrett Lash
#16 Texas A&M-Corpus Christi
The Islanders were the No. 4 seed heading into Katy, but emerged victorious after knocking off favorites Nicholls St. and Southeastern Louisiana. As we know, there’s nothing more dangerous than a team playing with house money. Corpus Christi enters the Field of 68 as the 68 seed, playing in the First Four in Dayton. The Islanders will rely on the transfer duo of Isaac Mushila and Trevian Tennyson. Mushila leads the Corpus Christi offense with 13.5 points and 9.5 rebounds per game. Tennyson pours in 11.8 points per contest. With first-year head coach Steve Lutz at the helm, the Islanders were one of just two teams in the Southland to reach the 20-win mark. A tough matchup with tournament staple Texas Southern awaits, but this just gives the Island Boys a chance to get rolling (which sadly, is kind of false because the campus is technically on a peninsula, but Peninsulers doesn’t have the same ring). Bill Self has only beaten Corpus Christi twice since the school began playing basketball so anything can happen. Shakas Up! - Bryant Baucom
#16 Texas Southern
So, why can Texas Southern win in March? Let me point you to my favorite tell of a mid-major that wants to pull an upset and can do some damage even if it is an insanely long shot that would make even UMBC swoon. Texas Southern, which has to beat fellow Texas school Texas A&M Corpus Christi today, has held teams to just 29.5% from 3-point range — good for 17th in the entire NCAA on stat daddy site KenPom AND they hold teams to just 45.3% from 2 and, sure it isn’t their doing, but teams for some reasons forget how to shoot freebies against them going at just a clip of 65.6% from the lineTexas Southern doesn’t have any wins that really pop out at ya, EXCEPT JUST A 69-54 CLOBBERING OF SOME GATORS THAT IS. Texas Southern walloped Florida by 15 behind, you guessed it, a penchant for stopping the deep ball. Florida shot just 5 of 24 from 3 and, as everyone does, forgot how to shoot free throws for a measly 7 of 16. Replicate that game, and oh boy here comes Texas Southern. - Lance Hartzler