We are getting to the time of the year where quality mid-major programs are about to have a door slammed in their faces. While the known mid-majors like Wichita State, San Diego State and UMass are safely in the NCAA Tournament, others are not so lucky. These schools cannot count on an at-large bid from a selection committee that typically favors the 8th best team in the Big-10. As much fun as a Nebraska as an 11th seed might be (God help us) here are some mid-majors that should take their place instead. They are deserving of a spot even if they come up short for the automatic bid from their conference tournament.
Toledo: Record 23-4, 11-4 Mid-American Conference. RPI No. 30
The MAC is always on the border of achieving an at-large bid but the best team in the league rarely wins the tournament. The result is a one-bid league that sends multiple teams to the NIT and CBI.
Toledo should break this mold. The Rockets only loss one game out of conference and that was at Kansas. It won at Boston College who just beat Syracuse. Wins against Cleveland State and Robert Morris are quality victories as both hover around the RPI-Top 100.
Toledo is No. 1 in the MAC in offense, field goal percentage, 3-point percentage, and assists. The Rockets are also No. 2 in rebounding and free throw percentage.
The MAC should get respect too as it has had four teams in the RPI-Top 100. Losing games at Eastern Michigan, Ohio, and Western Michigan should not keep Toledo out.
Bottom line, Toledo is too good to not have in the big dance, even if loses in the MAC tournament.
Southern Mississippi: 23-5, 10-3 Conference USA. RPI No. 41
While Middle Tennessee State has been the darling of Conference USA, Southern Miss has a better RPI.
Sure, it was blown out at Louisville but that was the only egg the Golden Eagles have laid this season. Sorry, couldn’t resist.
Wins over Georgia State, North Dakota State are huge as both are leading their conferences. Morehead State is great victory too.
Southern Mississippi is No. 1 in Conference USA in defense and is No. 2 in field-goal percentage, assists, rebounds, and steals. That is a complete team.
Their success is another excuse to show their game day video from last year. Bet you can’t make it passed the 10 minute mark of this.
Mercer: 22-7, 13-3 Atlantic Sun. RPI 68
Final: Mercer 73, Stetson 50 | Bears move to 22-7 (13-3 #ASunMBB) | Bears now 1 win short of tying school record for A-Sun wins
— Mercer Basketball (@MercerMBB) February 23, 2014
The Atlantic Sun gave us Florida Gulf Coast last year and Mercer appears ready to carry on the Cinderella tradition. Mercer has yet to lose at home and defeated Seton Hall and Ole Miss. It darn near won at Texas in the season opener as it lost by three.
It is tough to win on the road in any league so you can’t hold a road loss at North Florida against them too much. The Bears were willing to play people on the road out of conference and that should be rewarded.
Mercer is No. 1 in the Atlantic Sun in offense, defense, field goal percentage, 3-point field goal percentage, rebounding, blocks, and assists. Translation: a bracket-buster waiting to happen.
Problem is Florida Gulf Coast is still a good basketball team and might win the conference tournament to steal the automatic bid. Will the committee let in an Atlantic Sun team in as an at-large? History says no, but Mercer should be an exception. Don’t blow it selection committee.
Honorable mentions: North Dakota State, Belmont, Stephen F. Austin, and Indiana State.