Mid-Major Report: Top 5 Returning Forwards/Centers

Mid-majors are an integral part of college basketball, moreso than virtually any other sport. Responsible for magical Cinderella runs in March, stunning upsets, and – as shown by Monmouth – some of the best bench antics in the country, mid-major stars can either explode (like Obi Toppin), or run quietly under the radar, putting up big game after big game while the spotlight shines elsewhere. So, that led us to consider, who are the top returning mid-major players in the country. As we did yesterday in our Big 10 and ACC lists, this is covering Forwards/Centers, as we will rank returning guards in another article. Without further ado, here are the top five returning mid-major big-men. 

#5. Gaige Prim, Missouri State

Despite only playing a little over 21 minutes per game, Prim became a consistent scoring threat for Missouri State in his first season at the NCAA level. A JUCO product, Prim showed out early in some non-conference action, dropping 18 points on Miami, although some of his early-season results were inconsistent, as was his playing time. However, as the season wore on, Prim’s consistency improved greatly, as he finished his 2019-2020 campaign by scoring at least 10 points in their final 13 contests, and in 18 of their last 19. Prim dropped a season-high 23 points in two different games, including a 23 point, 12 rebound effort against Drake. In a critical late-season victory over Loyola-Chicago, who finished second in the Missouri Valley Conference, Prim showed out with 16 points, 9 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 blocks and a steal. Prim’s steady improvement as he got adjusted to the college game is a great sign for the Bears heading into next season, as he already is looking like one of the best post players in the MVC, and potentially one of the best post players in the country. 

#4. Ahsan Asadullah, Lipscomb

Playing 14 minutes a game his freshman year, Asadullah’s numbers were solid, if pretty modest. However, in his sophomore season, Asadullah became the primary post player for Lipscomb, and he became a monster in the paint for the Bisons. After averaging a little over 7 points and 4 rebounds per contest in his rookie year, Asadullah’s number skyrocketed to over 18 points and 10 rebounds per game, joining a short and exclusive list of players to average a double-double for the whole season. Asadullah scored more than 20 points on twelve different occasions, including a 40-point explosion against Florida Gulf Coast in the Atlantic-Sun quarterfinals. Asadullah didn’t back down from the spotlight, following his monster game against FGCU with a 27-point, 19-rebound onslaught, leading Lipscomb to a semifinal upset of North Florida. Although the Bisons ultimately fell short in the conference championship, it was hardly due to Asadullah, who dropped another 22 points and collected nine rebounds. Asadullah showed out all season, and he upped his game as the lights got brighter, so look for him to be one of the top big men at the mid-major level, and in the country, as Lipscomb looks to go dancing. 

#3. Douglas Wilson, South Dakota State

Another JUCO product, Wilson played his first collegiate season last year, although you would hardly know it from his numbers. Shooting 63% from the field, Wilson averaged 18.6 points and 6.4 rebounds per game, exceeding double digits in scoring in his final 19 games of the year, topping 30 points several times. He came out of the gate strong, posting 15 points against Power-5 programs USC, Nebraska, and #14 Arizona. In Summit League play, Wilson consistently put up huge numbers. The Jackrabbits were firmly entrenched in the top three in the Summit League, and facing fellow tournament favorites North Dakota State and South Dakota, Wilson scored 20 points in each contest, along with a 25-point, 10-rebund performance against Oral Roberts, the fourth-place team in the Summit League. With a bevy of strong performances already under his belt, it’s scary to think of what Wilson will be doing next year, having already played a full collegiate season. 

#2. Michael Hughes, Duquesne

In terms of experience, few can match Hughes on this list, as the Duquesne star has played three seasons, including over 24 minutes per game in his past two campaigns, shooting close to 60% in both his sophomore and junior years. Entering his final year, Hughes looks primed for an explosion in a very strong A-10, especially with Dayton stud Obi Toppin leaving the conference for the draft. Hughes’ battles against Toppin showcased some of his potential, as Hughes didn’t back down from one of the top players in the country, posting 29 points and 14 rebounds in two clashes with the Flyers. He posted a season-high of 23 points, and if Hughes can avoid the falls (7 foul-outs last season), I fully expect him to be one of the top mid-major players, and the best post player in the Atlantic-10. 

#1. Filip Petrusev, Gonzaga

Save your debates about whether Gonzaga should count as a mid-major for another day. They are not in a power-6 conference, so Petrusev qualifies for this set of rankings, the Serbia native was a relatively easy choice to claim the #1 spot. After being a role player in his freshman season, Petrusev began to truly showcase his abilities last season, averaging 17.5 points per game, paired with 7.9 rebounds. The Bulldogs traditionally load their non-conference schedule to make up for their lackluster West Coast Conference slate, so Petrusev got a chance to show out in some high-profile games, and he didn’t fail to rise to the occasion. In an overtime victory over #11 Oregon, Petrusev went off for 22 points and 15 rebounds, and in back-to-back contests against ranked Arizona and Washington squads, the Gonzaga star combined for 33 points and 17 rebounds. In the regular season finale and conference championship clashes with St. Mary’s, Petrusev posted 37 points and 20 rebounds, putting up elite numbers through the season’s end. Gonzaga figures to be a national title contender next season, and expect Petrusev to be a major factor in their championship chase.

This Day in March Madness History: UCLA’s Huge Comeback Stuns Gonzaga

This Day in March Madness History

March 23, 2006
UCLA vs. Gonzaga

  • The Setup
    When UCLA and Gonzaga met in a Sweet 16 matchup, it was an anticipated matchup between the 2 and 3-seeds in the Oakland region. UCLA was coming off their first 30-win season since their 1995 national championship run, and as the 2-seed in their region, they had high hopes for their postseason aspirations in 2006. To get past Gonzaga, the Bruins would need to get rid of their Sweet 16 demons, as they had lost their prior four appearances in the regional semifinal.
    Meanwhile, Gonzaga was back in the NCAA Tournament for an eigth consecutive year, but for the first time since 2000, the Bulldogs had escaped the opening weekend and moved on to the Sweet 16. Against UCLA, they hoped to march on to their first Elite Eight since their Cinderella run in 1999. 
  • How it went down
    Throughout the first half, it looked like it would be another Sweet 16 dud from UCLA, as the Bruins failed to hit a field goal for the first 8 minutes and 43 seconds of game time. Although they scraped together seven free throws in that time, their five turnovers and 0-7 start from the field allowed the Bulldogs to carve out an 18-7 lead. It didn’t get much better from there, as UCLA didn’t get closer than nine points during the half, twice trailing by 17 points, including with 58 seconds left in the half, as Gonzaga’s Derek Raivio drilled a three. UCLA scratched out the last four points to close the gap to 13 points, but it was an uninspiring half at best.
    UCLA did well to close the gap at the beginning of the half, polishing off a 15-4 run that spanned both halves to draw within six points at 46-40. However, Adam Morrison came in clutch, knocking down a triple and free throw to push the lead back to ten. With 3:26 remaining in the game, Morrison got a pair of shots from the charity stripe to fall, and Gonzaga led 71-62, with a berth in the Elite Eight almost inevitable.
    UCLA didn’t exactly fire on all cylinders down the stretch, but they made a few shots, and that was more than Gonzaga could say. Luc Richard Mbah hit a pair of threes and then a layup, bringing the Bruins within 71-66 and causing Gonzaga to take a timeout with 1:48 to go. On their ensuing possession, the Bulldogs got two shots off and missed them both, including a layup. Two offensive possessions later, UCLA got a jumper to fall to bring the deficit to three points, the first time they were within a possession since trailing 5-2.
    With 20 seconds to play, UCLA drained two more free throws, narrowing the deficit to a single point. They put on the full-court press and got a steal, which led to an easy layup for Mbah and a 72-71 lead. A UCLA steal and free throw extended the lead to two points. Gonzaga’s full court pass connected, but their attempt at a game-tying jumper did not. When it was all over, Gonzaga missed their last eight field goal attempts, not making a shot from the field in the final 5:13, allowing UCLA to end the game on a 14-2 run, including the last eleven points, and bring home the victory.
  • The Aftermath
    UCLA’s stunning victory brought them to the Elite Eight, where they upset top-seeded Memphis, 50-45, to advance to the Final Four. They took down LSU in the semifinals, but the Bruins could not finish the job, finally succumbing to Florida in the national championship. It was the first of three consecutive Final Four appearances, but UCLA never was able to grasp the championship trophy. They haven’t been past the Sweet 16 since 2008.
    Gonzaga’s struggles to get past the Sweet 16 continued far past 2006. The Bulldogs were bounced in the opening weekend of 7 of their next 8 tournament appearances, before they finally cracked the code in 2015, reaching the Elite Eight. 
  • NBA Notables (Teams they played 100+ games with)
    Gonzaga –  Adam Morrison (Hornets)
    UCLA – Luc Mbah-A-Moute (Bucks, Clippers), Ryan Hollins (Clippers, Hornets), Jordan Farmar (Lakers, Nets), Darren Collison (Pacer, Spurs)

This Day in March Madness History: “Gonzaga! The Slipper Still Fits!”

This Day in March Madness History
March 19, 1999
Gonzaga vs. Florida

  • The Setup
    Gonzaga was making just their second NCAA Tournament appearance in program history, and they’d already experienced far more success than their initial run. Their first tournament ended in the Round of 64, and, handed a 10-seed, it didn’t seem that Gonzaga was destined to go much further than that in 1999. The Bulldogs notched their first NCAA Tournament win by surprising Minnesota in the first round, but they captured the nation’s attention when they stunned second-seeded Stanford in the Round of 32, topping the Cardinal by a score of 82-74.
    Florida was making their first tournament appearance since 1995, and they had secured their first tournament win since 1994, when they made the Final Four. As the sixth seed in the region, the Gators handled #11 Pennsylvania in the opening round, and they were the beneficiary of #14 Weber State shocking third-seeded North Carolina. Florida had few issues with Weber State and advanced to the Sweet 16. 
  • How it went down
    Gonzaga appeared to be one of the few teams that could match and even exceed Florida’s depth. Florida got at least 15 minutes of playing time from eight different players, but Gonzaga saw nine players play at least ten minutes, while ten different players scored. Richie Frahm led the offensive attack with a 5-8 shooting performance from beyond the arc, leading him to 17 points on the night. The Bulldogs jumped out to a 26-13 lead, and they led throughout the half, but they allowed Florida to climb back within a point at 35-34 at halftime.
    Although Florida rarely led, they stayed right with Gonzaga, and they occasionally surged into the lead on the strength of 6’9 Greg Stolt, who was a force both inside and outside the arc. It was one of Stolt’s four three-pointers that gifted the Gators a 59-58 lead with a little over six minutes to play. With 45 seconds to play, he snapped a 69-69 tie with another triple, but it was the last time Florida scored.
    After a Gonzaga layup, Florida would travel, giving the Bulldogs a chance to win it. Quentin Hall put up a runner in the lane with six seconds left and it bounced off the back rim. However, Casey Calvary got up over everyone, sprinting in to leap and tip in the rebound with 4.4 seconds to go. Florida charged down the court, and their attempt at a game-winner from the right shoulder clanged off the rim. As the play-by-play announcer screamed: “GONZAGA. The slipper still fits!” 
  • The Aftermath
    Gonzaga’s slipper did shatter in the Elite Eight, as they lost to the region’s top seed in Connecticut, which went on to claim its first national title. Gonzaga has not missed an NCAA tournament since their Cinderella run, but they did not make it back to the Elite Eight until 2015.
    Florida actually did exceed their 1999 success very quickly, making the national championship the following season, and eventually winning back-to-back titles in 2006 and 2007.
  • NBA Notables (teams they played 100+ games with)
    Gonzaga – Richie Frahm (5 teams, 5 years)
    Florida – Mike Miller (Grizzlies, Magic, Heat), Udonis Haslem (Heat, 2004-Present)

West Coast Conference Tournament Predictions: The road to the title runs through Gonzaga

The West Coast Conference tips off their tournament tonight, and with Gonzaga and BYU having virtually secured at-large bids, they’ll need a darkhorse to come out of nowhere and take the title if the West Coast wants more than those two teams punching their ticket to the Big Dance. Here’s our bracket breakdown and our full picks!
Breakdown
Champion Picks: Gonzaga (2), BYU (1)
Runners Up Picks: BYU, Gonzaga, Saint Mary’s
Most Common Upset: No upset picked more than once

Nathaniel’s Bracket
7. Santa Clara def. 10. Portland
8. LMU def. 9. San Diego
Second Round
5. San Francisco def. 8. LMU
6. Pepperdine def. 7. Santa Clara
Third Round
3. Saint Mary’s def. 6. Pepperdine
4. Pacific def. 5. San Francisco
Semifinals
1. Gonzaga def. 4. Pacific
2. BYU def. 3. Saint Mary’s
Championship
1. Gonzaga def. 2. BYU

Andrew’s Bracket
7. Santa Clara def. 10. Portland
8. LMU def. 9. San Diego
Second Round
5. San Francisco def. 8. LMU
7. Santa Clara def. 6. Pepperdine
Third Round
3. Saint Mary’s def. 6. Pepperdine
4. Pacific def. 5. San Francisco
Semifinals
1. Gonzaga def. 4. Pacific
2. BYU def. 3. Saint Mary’s
Championship
2. BYU def. 1. Gonzaga 

Nathaniel’s Bracket
7. Santa Clara def. 10. Portland
9. San Diego def. 8. LMU
Second Round
5. San Francisco def. 8. LMU
6. Pepperdine def. 7. Santa Clara
Third Round
3. Saint Mary’s def. 6. Pepperdine
4. Pacific def. 5. San Francisco
Semifinals
1. Gonzaga def. 4. Pacific
3. Saint Mary’s def. 2. BYU
Championship
1. Gonzaga def. 2. BYU

February 18, 2020: NCAA Basketball Power Rankings

One of the raging debates in our Power Rankings is who is better: Kansas or Baylor. Although Baylor, and their road win over Kansas, has the better resume, our ballots reflect a split on who we believe is the more talented team. Those debates could be put to rest when these two powerhouses, undoubtedly the class of the Big 12, square off for one more regular season match-up. For now, our rankings continue to reflect a lot of turmoil, as a tough week from Louisville sent them plummeting, but for the second straight week, four teams got first-place votes. Check out the biggest fallers, risers, and then the full Power Rankings below.

Biggest Risers: Dayton, Maryland

Biggest Faller: Louisville 

Joined the Rankings: Penn State, Kentucky, 

Dropped Out: West Virginia, Seton Hall

Honorable Mention

  • Villanova
  • Penn State
  • Kentucky 

#10 – Louisville Cardinals (Last Week: 4) 

  • The week before, Louisville slid from the #2 slot to #4 after a shaky home win against lowly Wake Forest. A general feeling that the Cardinals were slipping manifested itself in two ugly losses this past week, losing on the road to a bad Georgia Tech team and then being manhandled by an unranked Clemson team that is just 13-12 on the year. The enormous struggles resulted in a 6-spot slip for Louisville, who hosts Syracuse and UNC this week with a chance to regroup. 

#9 – Auburn Tigers (Last Week: 9)

  • Auburn has an amazing ability to win close games, as they demonstrated with yet another overtime victory versus Alabama this week, at the time their third extra-time win in a row. However, the clutch Tigers followed it up with a miserable showing in Missouri, dropping an 85-73 decision that drops Auburn one spot this week. They’re still in second in the ACC and have just three losses, so they stay in the rankings, but they have to watch these blowout road losses. 

#8 – Maryland Terrapins (Last Week: 10)

  • Maryland was a popular pick to be upset by Michigan State last week, but they handled the Spartans en route to their eighth straight victory, leading them to be our co-biggest riser of the week. The Terrapins are cruising, and they could see themselves rising more in the future if they survive a big road test against Ohio State this weekend. 

#7 – Dayton Flyers (Last week: 9)

  • The other biggest riser of the week, Dayton locked down two more wins last week, taking down a shaky UMass team on the road as well as dismantling Rhode Island, the second-place squad in the Atlantic 10, in a game which the Flyers led by double-digits the whole way. That, combined with a couple losses from Top-10 teams boost the Flyers to #7 in this week’s rankings. 

#6 – Florida State Seminoles (Last Week: 7)

  • FSU beat a decent Syracuse team at home, holding off a valiant comeback from the Orange to stay unbeaten on their home court. The Seminoles are pretty much out of the running for a #1 seed, but a home game versus Louisville gives them a chance to prove themselves once more. They rise up one spot this week, largely due to Louisville’s collapse. 

#5 – San Diego State Aztecs (Last Week: 6)

  • This team refuses to lose, and they tacked on two more impressive victories last week, turning a stiff challenge from New Mexico into a 23-point blowout, and visiting Boise State – a 12-1 team at home – and decimating the Broncos 72-55. They’re the standard in the Mountain West, and it’s not close. This team is for real. 

#4 – Duke Blue Devils (Last Week: 5) – 1 First Place Vote

  • After losing a home contest to Louisville, our podcast spent time discussing whether Duke was in trouble. Since then, Duke has won seven straight including a ranked win over Florida State, a rivalry comeback versus UNC, and two 30+ point victories. Duke had just one game since our last Power Rankings and they manhandled Notre Dame, a team whose last seven losses were by a combined 15 points, by a stunning 94-60 score. This team is looking a serious threat to go all the way. 

#3 – Gonzaga Bulldogs (Last Week: 3) – 1 First Place Vote

  • As per usual, Gonzaga gets a first-place vote, but they are unable to gain ground on their Power-6 counterparts atop the rankings. The Bulldogs played just one game last week and cruised past a solid Pepperdine squad on the road. It was a good victory, but Gonzaga won’t be able to truly prove their legitimacy until the NCAA Tournament. 

#2 – Baylor Bears (Last Week: 2) – 1 First Place Vote

  • The Bears, despite their 23-1 record and 22-game winning streak, stay at #2. Our ballots were split, with two putting them above Kansas, and two placing them below. They got one first-place vote, as did their Big 12 rival, and ultimately a razor-thin 1-point margin separated the squads. The gap should be more definitive after they play each other this weekend. 

#1 – Kansas Jayhawks (Last Week: 1) -1 First Place Vote

  • Once again, the Jayhawks reign supreme in the power rankings. The rankings are based off how good we think the teams are, not necessarily our resume, and, albeit by a tiny margin, our ballots reflect that Kansas is the better team. After a big road win over West Virginia and blowouts versus Oklahoma and Iowa State, the Jayhawks have a chance to back up that belief and improve on their 23-3 record when they visit Baylor this week.

February 12, 2020: NCAA Basketball Power Rankings

NOTE: Although this article was published late, these rankings reflect games played through Monday, February 10.

We’re back with this week’s power rankings and we have some major shakeup within our top-10 and honorable mention. Slotting teams into the honorable mention and high single digits slots were tough, as many of these squads took brutal losses in the past week or two. Ultimately, after combining our ballots, we came up with another list of 13 teams, so we will summarize some of the biggest movement here, and then read on for the full rankings (and to see our new #1). 

Biggest Riser: Auburn

Biggest Faller: Oregon

Dropped out: Oregon

Joined the Rankings: West Virginia

Honorable Mention

  • Seton Hall
  • West Virginia
  • Villanova

#10 – Maryland Terrapins (Last Week: Honorable Mention)

  • Maryland has won seven straight to rejoin the Top-10, both in the AP Poll and in our Power Rankings. The Terrapins are now a 2-seed in Joe Lunardi’s latest Bracketology after an impressive week in which they took down Rutgers and then went on the road to defeat #22 Ilinois.

#9 – Dayton Flyers (Last Week: #8)

  • Dayton suffers from the sad fact that they are the ‘ other’ elite mid-major. With San Diego State stealing the headlines, it’s been tough for Dayton to draw attention to their remarkable season. These Power Rankings were assembled before last night’s impressive win over Rhode Island, so they could still have room to rise. But last week saw Dayton play and win just one game, which isn’t enough to keep their #8 slot. 

#8 – Auburn Tigers (Last Week: Honorable Mention)

  • Our biggest risers of the week, Auburn is once again red-hot after crashing out of our top-10 with consecutive blowout losses. Auburn isn’t dominating, but they are passing the gut-check test after a series of tight victories, including an overtime 91-90 win over #25 LSU this past weekend.

#7 – Florida State Seminoles (Last Week: #5)

  • The Seminoles lose to Duke, and so they slip behind them in the power rankings. Two games out of the conference lead, Florida State is virtually out of the regular season title chase, but they still can beat Louisville at home to help their chances for a top-2 seed in the NCAA tournament. 

#6 – San Diego State Aztecs (Last Week: #6)

  • In their third straight week at #6, San Diego State continues to play excellent basketball, but it also is coming against less-than-excellent teams, so our ballots still reflect our general distrust of the Aztecs. Their only game last week was a road contest at a sub .500 squad in Air Force, making it very difficult to climb at all in this week’s rankings, even as they are 24-0. 

#5 – Duke Blue Devils (Last Week: #7)

  • Duke escaped disaster against BC, engineered an incredibly gutsy comeback at UNC, and then earned a statement victory over #8 Florida State to cap off an impressive three-game stretch. Their winning streak is at six, and the Blue Devils hope they’re not out of the hunt for a #1 seed in the NCAA tournament just yet. 

#4 – Louisville Cardinals (Last Week: #2) – 1 First Place Vote

  • The top of our ballots differed incredibly, as all of us have different opinions on who the best team in college basketball. Louisville gets a first place vote, but they ultimately drop two spots after needing a huge comeback to beat Wake Forest at home. After escaping Georgia Tech, it was their second close-call win at home in two weeks. They’re walking a tight-rope, but they’ve also won ten straight so they slot in at #4. 

#3 – Gonzaga Bulldogs (Last Week: #4) – 1 First Place Vote

  • For some people, including AP voters, Gonzaga is the best team in the country. Not all of us feel that way evidently, but they do rise a spot in this week’s rankings. Why? Well, Gonzaga travelled to St. Marys to face the consensus second-best team in the West Coast Conference and beat them by thirty points. Especially with a weak conference schedule, wins don’t get much more impressive than that for the Bulldogs. 

#2 – Baylor Bears (Last Week: #1) – 1 First Place Vote

  • It’s probably our most controversial ranking. But Baylor has won three straight games by single digits over unranked teams, and they’ve displayed some of the red flags that had us concerned about the Bears in the early going. These red flags included scoring just 52 points in a recent game at Texas and needing to go down to the wire at home to beat Oklahoma State, who are 2-9 in Big 12 play. They’re still an elite team, but these close calls aren’t inspiring confidence. 

#1 – Kansas Jayhawks (Last Week: #3) – 1 First Place Vote

  • Each of our ballots reflected a different team that we felt was #1, but Kansas was the only team that was Top-3 in each of our ballots. They beat Oklahoma State by 15 on the road, handled Texas by double digits, and they’ve won eight straight since losing to Baylor. Yes the head-to-head loss makes this ranking difficult, but overall, the Jayhawks just feel like the closest thing to a sure thing in a year where turmoil has reigned supreme.

January 20, 2020: NCAA Basketball Power Rankings

After a crazy week in college basketball, Cal, Nathaniel, Andrew, and Aidan put together the second version of our NCAA Basketball Power Rankings. Florida State was one of several risers, while Auburn very nearly crashed out of the rankings. Butler dropped from #8 to off the list entirely, and Ohio State fell from honorable mention to not mentioned as their Big 10 slump continued.

POWER RANKINGS

Biggest Riser: Florida State 

Biggest Faller: Auburn

Dropped out: Butler, Ohio State

Honorable Mention: Kentucky (Last Week: Honorable Mention)

The Rankings

#10 – Auburn Tigers (Last week: #4)

  • The Tigers are far less scary than they were a week ago, having been blown out twice by unranked SEC teams in Alabama and Florida. The Tigers are still 15-2, but they have some major questions to answer, and another loss could very well drop Auburn out of the rankings. 

#9 – Oregon Ducks (Last Week: 9)

  • Oregon lost a tough road game to Washington State, but they had a big comeback at Washigton to win 64-61 in overtime. That, plus a crazy week in college basketball, keeps the Ducks in the rankings. They’ll be home both games this week with a chance to start climbing. 

#8 – Michigan State Spartans (Last Week: 6)

  • As mentioned last week, the Spartans were given the #6 slot right before they got ripped apart by Purdue. A win at home over Wisconsin kept them in the rankings, but they slide nonetheless. This team is too dependent on Cassius Winston, and they’ll look to find a secondary source of scoring. 
San Diego State guard KJ Feagin (10) celebrates during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Nevada, Saturday, Jan. 18, 2020, in San Diego. (AP Photo/Denis Poroy)

#7 – San Diego State Aztecs (Last Week: 10) 

  • The Aztecs won two more times this week and took advantage of all the losses at the top of the rankings to move up three slots to #7 this week. In this past week’s Mid-Major report, we identified San Diego’s biggest trap game as their road game at New Mexico, which may be the game that prevents them from going unbeaten. 

#6 – Florida State Seminoles (Last Week: Honorable Mention)

  • The Seminoles are quietly establishing themselves as a top ACC contender. They won two close ones this week, taking down Virginia at home and Miami on the road. They are now 6-1 in ACC play, which was enough to be our biggest riser of the week. 

#5 – Duke Blue Devils (Last Week: 1)

  • It was quite the dropoff from last week for the Blue Devils. Last week, we were discussing that if not for the Blue Devils’ upset loss to Stephen F. Austin, they would be undefeated and potentially could stay that way throughout the year. One week later, and Duke is nursing a two-game losing streak, to Clemson and Louisville, and have fallen four spots in this week’s power rankings. 

#4 – Louisville Cardinals (Last Week: #7) – 1 first place vote

  • The Cardinals were another big riser this week, largely courtesy of their huge road upset of the Blue Devils. It was their third straight conference road victory, and their fourth straight overall. The Cardinals are rising in the ACC and national picture, with their recent upset, they’re looking like a bona fide Final Four contender. 
Kansas guard Devon Dotson (1) brings the ball up court against Texas guard Matt Coleman III (2) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Saturday, Jan. 18, 2020, in Austin, Texas. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

#3 – Kansas Jayhawks (Last Week: #2)

  • Kansas didn’t lose this week, but they looked less than impressive in closing out a mediocre Texas team, resulting in their slight slip in the rankings. The Jayhawks are still an elite team in this country, and their defense has looked the part, but their shooting woes may plague them down the stretch. 

#2 – Baylor Bears (Last Week: #5) – 1 first place vote

  • The Bears may have caught a little disrespect from our ranking last week coming off their big win against Kansas. They responded this week with an easy win over Iowa State and a gutsy comeback versus Oklahoma State. Their offense, a prior concern, has established some small level of consistency, and their defense remains elite. 

#1 – Gonzaga Bulldogs (Last Week #3) – 2 first place votes

  • BYU gave Gonzaga their biggest challenge of the past two weeks – and they lost by 23 points. Gonzaga has been absolutely dominant, possibly exemplified no more than in their 50-point win over a 15-3 Santa Clara team. West Coast Conference or not, this team is legit, and they’re our #1 squad this week.

Mid-Major Report: Trap Games For San Diego State and Other Headlines

In a lull between the rush of conference games last night and the customary large slate of games this weekend, we pause to take a look at mid-majors around the country. Here are a few headlines to keep in mind as the season rolls on. 

Should Gonzaga even count as a mid-major?

Get this team out of the West Coast conference. The Bulldogs have to load their non-conference schedule, because they play a ridiculous number of non-contenders for the bulk of the season. Take tonight for example; Gonzaga hosts Santa Clara –  a 15-3 team in the West Coast conference, and quite possibly the second best squad to the Bulldogs. Gonzaga enters the game as 19.5 point favorites. I know the logistics of this are quite likely impossible, but labeling Gonzaga a mid-major, when they’ve been to the Sweet Sixteen five straight years, winning three times and progressing to the Final Four once? It feels wrong. 

Photo by Mike Tedesco/Getty Images

Trap Games For San Diego State?

The Aztecs continue to roll, boasting their best offense in 20 years that, along with an elite defense, has led them to an 18-0 record, including a 7-0 mark in Mountain West play. This has evolved from a surprising blistering hot start into a legitimate run at an undefeated season. Can anyone stop the Aztecs, or will they roll into the NCAA tournament without a blemish on their record? We looked at San Diego State’s remaining game, which all come against unranked opponents; they will be favored in each game, but is there a trap lying in wait for the Aztecs. If there is, I don’t believe it will be on their home court, as the Aztecs are the only team in the conference with a winning record. However, one game to me particularly stands out as a challenge: The Aztecs visit New Mexico on January 29. New Mexico is 15-4 on the year, a mark that includes a scorching 12-0 record at home. They are not easy to take down in their own building, and their home-court advantage may be the toughest thing standing between San Diego State and an unbeaten season. The Aztecs still have Nevada on the road, which is a potential spoiler to this showdown, but I still predict that the Aztecs will roll into New Mexico unbeaten for their biggest remaining test of the year. 

The Best of the Rest

Obviously Gonzaga with their #1 ranking, and San Diego State and their undefeated season have stolen the headlines from mid-majors thus far this season. However, three other mid-major squads are ranked, and they all look to have the potential of making a run. Potentially the most lethal of these squads is the Dayton Flyers, who come in at #13. They have two losses to ranked teams and are undefeated in all other games, going 15-0 with an average margin of victory of 20 points against unranked squads. Not far behind the Flyers are Wichita State and Memphis. The Shockers were upset by Temple yesterday, but it was just their second loss of the season. They recently beat Memphis and took down a solid UConn team on the road to solidify themselves as a NCAA tournament contender. Memphis has been surprisingly impressive without James Wiseman, although they’ve been skidding recently. The Tigers lost to Georgia and Wichita before needing a big comeback to beat an 8-9 South Florida squad. They could still be really good, but they’ll need to snap out of their current skid to be taken more seriously.

(Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images)

Keep an eye on…

Liberty, Furman, Northern Iowa, and Yale. The Liberty Flames are a very quiet 18-1, with their lone loss coming at LSU. Their biggest win is only a road win over Vanderbilt, but 18-1 says something, so be sure to keep an eye on Liberty if they crack the tournament field.

 Furman leads the Southern Conference with an 8-1 conference mark and a 15-4 overall record. They have no signature wins, but a pair of their losses say something significant about this team, as they went to Alabama and lost by just 8 (ask Auburn how difficult playing Tuscaloosa is). Speaking of Auburn, Furman visited them as well, and they fell just three points shy of the Tigers there as well. Two gutsy and close losses against quality SEC teams is nothing to sneeze at; if Furman falls as a 12 or 13 seed, nobody will want to play them.

Northern Iowa always seems to be in the mix of quality mid-majors, and they have a history of pulling upsets in March. As a 9-seed in 2010, Northern Iowa took down #1 Kansas, and as an #11 seed in 2016, the Panthers took down #6 Texas on a buzzer beater. They’re currently on a five game winning streak, and they already boast a win over South Carolina and a road victory over #20 Colorado. Will we see another big March upset from the Panthers in 2020?

Yale is more of a gut-feeling call right now. They haven’t played a conference game, but they’ve looked pretty good this season, and they always seem to be in the mix. They beat Clemson on the road, a win that looks way more impressive now than it did at the time. They will probably need to win the Ivy League to make the tournament field, but they have a habit of playing good teams close, so teams will be hoping to avoid a first round matchup with these guys.

NCAA Basketball Roundtable: Addressing Major Questions and Predictions

NCAA basketball is back and conference play is in full swing, and we’ve already seen a bevy of headlines take the college basketball by storm. Whether it be James Wiseman and Memphis, Auburn and their winning streak, the revolving door at #1, or any other storyline, there’s been a lot to keep track of. With college football season wrapping up, the boys decided to sit down and try to answer some of the major questions early in the basketball season heading into the stretch run. 

Conference play has just started, what is your best guess at the Final Four right now?

Nathaniel Lapoint: Kansas, Ohio State, Butler, and Auburn

Cal Christoforo: Duke, Kansas, Auburn, Ohio State

Andrew Degeorge: Kansas, Baylor, Auburn, Oregon

Aidan Thomas: Louisville, Auburn, Butler, Texas Tech

Name your Top-5 mid-majors, ranked by potential to make a deep run in March

Lapoint: Dayton, UCSB, Yale, Northern Iowa, Furman

Christoforo: Gonzaga, Liberty, Dayton, San Diego State, VCU

Degeorge: San Diego State, Wichita State, Dayton, St. Mary’s, Liberty

Thomas: Gonzaga, Dayton, Liberty, Furman, Northern Iowa

Which Top-10 team do you trust the least? 

Lapoint: Gonzaga

Christoforo: Baylor

Degeorge: Ohio State

Thomas: Oregon

Preseason #9 UNC is down to less than a 1% chance of making the NCAA tournament. Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Who is the biggest surprise and the biggest disappointment of the season so far?

Lapoint: The biggest surprise has been the Big-East leading Butler squad, ranked #5 in the nation and on a 6-game winning streak. Their one loss was a one point road loss to #2 Baylor; they’ve been impressive all year long and I believe they have Final Four potential. 

The biggest disappointment has been Kentucky. A team that looked to lock down the #1 spot in the nation has since lost three times, twice at home, and twice to unranked teams as well. Many speculated the Wildcats would be unbeaten heading into SEC play, but they have not looked the part yet. 

Christoforo: For me, the biggest surprise has been San Diego State. They’ve finished fourth, fifth, and sixth in their past three seasons in the Mountain West. Last year, they finished 21-13. This year, they’re unbeaten and #7 in the nation. They’ve also showed up for their big games, beating #25 Creighton by 30 points, and going on the road to beat a Utah squad -who beat Kentucky – by 28 points. 

The biggest disappointment, meanwhile, has been UNC. Roy Williams has an outstanding freshman in Cole Anthony and more blue chip talent than most schools could dream of, but he’s 8-8 on the year after being ranked #9 in the preseason AP Poll. 

Degeorge: Baylor basketball has been a huge surprise to this point in the season. Ranked #2 in the most recent poll, the Bears have been on fire. After an early season loss to Washington, Baylor has not stopped winning, with wins over 3 top-15 teams, including a road victory at Kansas. I could absolutely see this team being one of the last standing in a few months.

I’ll agree with Cal here and go with UNC for the biggest disappointment. I don’t think you can fall from a preseason top-10 team with one of the top freshman players in the country and a legendary coach to unranked without being labeled a major disappointment. 

Thomas: I think the biggest surprise has been Auburn. I know they finished last year hot, but ultimately, the Tigers lost a lot of contributors, and I don’t think anyone expected to stay undefeated this long. Their recent 22-point win over Georgia legitimized them in my eyes, and I absolutely expect a deep run from this team. 

I’ll piggy-back off Cal and Andrew and take UNC as my most disappointing team. When my beloved Irish lost to the Tar Heels in the season opener, I thought it was a competitive loss to a top-10 team. However, since then, UNC has gone 7-8 and their chances of making the NCAA tournament are under 1%. It would be only the second time under Roy Williams they’ve failed to go dancing, and that has to qualify for the biggest disappointment of the year. 

And finally, pick your conference champions:

Lapoint: 

SEC: Kentucky

ACC: Virginia 

Pac 12: Oregon 

Big 10: Ohio state 

Big East: Butler 

Big 12: Kansas

Christoforo:

SEC: Auburn 

ACC: Duke

Pac 12: Colorado 

Big 10: Michigan 

Big East: Villanova 

Big 12: Kansas

Degeorge:

SEC: Auburn

ACC: Duke

Pac 12: Oregon

Big 10: Michigan State

Big East: Villanova

Big 12: Kansas

Thomas:

SEC: Florida

ACC: Florida State

Pac 12: Colorado

Big 10: Maryland

Big East: Villanova

Big 12 : West Virginia

NCAA Men’s Basketball Power Rankings – January 13, 2020

With the launch of our website comes the first of our weekly NCAA Men’s Basketball Top 10 Power Rankings. Aidan Thomas, Nathaniel Lapoint, Andrew Degeorge, and Cal Christoforo all voted to create this week’s edition. We will offer three honorable mentions in no particular order before jumping into the top 10:

Honorable Mentions

Florida State – 14-2, 4-1 in ACC

Ohio State  – 11-5, 1-4 in Big 10

Kentucky –  12-3, 3-0 in SEC

The Rankings

#10 – San Diego State (17-0, 6-0 Mountain West)

  • The mid-major program has thoroughly impressed in their unbeaten start to the season. Massive wins over #25 Creighton and Utah were very impressive, as well as their domination in Mountain West play earned them the tenth spot this week. 

#9 – Oregon (14-3, 3-1 Pac-12)

  • The Ducks slipped up at Colorado to start Pac-12 Play, but they have rebounded with three straight wins to earn their spot in the Top 10. One of their losses was a 1-point road loss to Gonzaga, and they have ranked wins over Michigan and Seton Hall. 

#8 – Butler (15-1, 3-0 Big East)

  • Despite their gaudy record, the Bulldogs slot in at #8 due their lack of a statement victory. Their win over #25 Creighton is their only ranked victory. While their only loss was a 1-point defeat to Baylor, the Bulldogs have been led by their defense, with their offense scoring 71 or less points 12 times already. They’ve been impressive here, but the boys are a little cautious about putting them higher than this. 

#7 – Louisville (13-3, 4-1 ACC)

  • Two recent slip-ups versus Kentucky and Florida State took the Cardinals off the national radar a little bit, but they’ve still been very impressive of late. They boast a signature win – a 58-43 thumping of Michigan, and outside of the FSU loss, they’ve been impressive in ACC play, cruising past Miami twice, routing Pittsburgh, and pulling off a gutsy road win at Notre Dame. If they continue to slip against ranked teams, they won’t stay here, but for now they earn the #7 spot in our rankings. 

#6 – Michigan State (13-4, 5-1 Big 10)

This slot was determined right before Michigan State went in and laid an absolute dud at Purdue yesterday. So they’ll need to rally in impressive fashion to keep their #6 spot next week after their 71-42 setback. However, that loss did snap an impressive 8-game win streak for the Spartans, who racked up blowout wins over ranked opponents in Illinois and Michigan during the run. The Spartans are a good team, but they’ll need an answer for when opponents key in on Cassius Winston. 

#5 – Baylor (13-1, 3-0 Big 12)

  • This may be a touch too low for the Bears, but they’re facing some tough competition at the top. Their win over Kansas was very impressive, but we’re keeping the Jayhawks above them due to their overall body of work to this point. Christoforo listed Baylor as the team he trusted the least in the Top 10, and a lot of that may be due to inconsistencies offensively. While they’re defense is elite, having given up just one game of over 70 points, they’ve been held under 60 points three times, and under 70 three additional times. In their wins over Butler, Texas Tech, and Kansas, Baylor averaged just 59 points per game. The Bears are finding ways to win and could rise further up this list, but for now they slot in at #5. 
Auburn freshman Allen Flanigan (Mike Kittrell/AL,com)

#4 – Auburn (15-0, 3-0 SEC)

  • On Feburary 23, 2019, the Auburn Tigers were run out of Kentucky by the Wildcats, losing an embarrassing game, 80-53. Since then? The Tigers have lost exactly one game – a controversial 63-62 Final Four loss to Virginia. The streak last year was impressive, but after losing several key contributors, the Tigers were supposed to return to the pack this year. But they’ve done anything but so far, and they land at #4 in this week’s power rankings. A recent 22-point beatdown of a tough Georgia team cemented their status as national contender. 

#3 – Gonzaga (18-1, 4-0 West Coast) – 1 first place vote

  • The Bulldogs have finally locked down the #1 spot in the AP Poll for several straight weeks, after the slot was a revolving door to start the year, with several teams moving in and out, including Duke and Kentucky suffering unthinkable upsets. A takedown of Oregon is their only ranked win to date, and their ugly home loss to Michigan prevents them from moving further up in the rankings. It’ll be tough for them to overtake the two teams ahead of them with a lack of quality opponents ahead of them on their schedule. 

#2 – Kansas (12-3, 2-1 Big 12) – 1 first place vote

  • We’re well aware that Kansas just lost to Baylor. But before that, Kansas had lost two games by a total of three points to Duke and Villanova. They just beat the life out of Iowa State on the road, and they boast impressive ranked wins over Colorado and West Virginia. Their record may be a little less than Baylor, but we are still convinced their style of basketball is more sustainable than Baylor’s approach. Kansas takes the #2 slot and eyes their February 22nd rematch with the Bears. 

#1 – Duke (15-1, 5-0 ACC) – 2 first place votes

  • The Blue Devils, outside an absolutely shocking loss to Stephen F. Austin, have been the best team in basketball this year. Coach K lost one of the best core group of guys he’s ever had in Cam Reddish, R.J. Barrett, and Zion Williamson, but his team has come back and performed as well and possibly even better. Since their upset loss, Duke is winning by nearly 23 points a game, including 3 ACC wins by over 30 points. Wouldn’t want to face this team at all right now, and they’re our pick for #1 in the debut of the Top 10 Power Rankings.

Come back next week to see the updates after another week of conference play!