The Other 26: A PreviewPosted by rtmsf on November 18th, 2010
Kevin Doyle is an RTC contributor.
Navigating the world of mid-major basketball is a daunting task for not only the average fan, but any college hoops fan. There are numerous smaller conferences and teams throughout the nation that receive little if any media coverage; most of these conferences are a complete mystery when sifting through who the dominant teams are come tournament time. I realize it is hard to get excited about a Colgate vs. Army game on a Wednesday night in January at Cotterell Court in Hamilton, NY, but there are certain years where a team from a smaller conference—like the Patriot League, for example—comes out of nowhere and catches the entire nation by surprise (see: Cornell in 2009-10). In recent years, however, many of these mid-majors have proven to be not so “mid” after all—they are often every bit as strong as the perennial powers throughout the nation. In writing my weekly column, The Other 26, I hope to shed some much-needed light on those teams from the non-BCS conferences. If North Carolina happens to be your team, then you will obviously follow the Tar Heels, the teams who comprise the ACC, and some of the other BCS teams. If you do not have a particular team to follow, then you will most likely strictly pay attention to the “big boys”—the teams who play in the six major conferences (ACC, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-10 and SEC). Yet, there are still 26 other conferences out there (plus the Independent teams) who deserve some attention too. Here at Rush the Court this season, I hope to steer you through the complex world of mid-major hoops each and every Friday.
Before delving into some of the most impressive mid-major squads, players, and conferences, it is imperative that I answer a question that will be frequently asked: “What classifies a team as a mid-major?” Kyle Whelliston, the college basketball guru for mid-major teams and founder/author of midmajority.com, is a reliable and accurate source when discussing mid-major hoops; he may have put it best when deciphering what classifies a conference that way. Whelliston uses what he calls the “Red Line” to distinguish what conferences are considered are mids, and what ones are not. The red line divides those whose teams have an average annual athletic budget of more than $20 million and those below that threshold. Consequently, there are eight conferences that he classifies as “major”—the aforementioned six conferences plus the Mountain West and Conference USA, while he refers to the remaining conferences as mid-majors.
Even with Whelliston’s commonsense definition of a mid-major, there are still other definitions to classify the non-BCS schools. Everyone has an opinion on this. To some, any team that lies outside of the aforementioned six major conferences is deemed a mid-major. For others, the basketball emergence of conferences such as the Atlantic 10, Mountain West and Conference USA has catapulted them to major status. Others believe that if a conference averages less than two bids to the NCAA Tournament over a period of time (a decade? a generation?), then they should be categorized as a mid-major. Still others think that a mid-major is any team that plays in an run-down arena where there isn’t a light show while introducing the home team’s starting lineups.
When brainstorming the best and most efficient way to construct these articles, I found myself hitting a predictable roadblock every time—how do I, personally, define what a mid-major is for the purposes of this article? Ultimately, I came to the realization that it is not necessarily vital to have a concrete definition. While my weekly article will certainly be built around the traditional mid-major teams (those that Whelliston and others easily classify as mids), it will absolutely not be exclusive to them. Even though there are arguments for and against the inclusion of leagues such as the A10, MWC and others, there are more reasons to include them than not, so I finally came to this conclusion: Every team that does not play in one of the six major conferences will be a part of the discussion.
In discussing the 272 teams that are not part of a BCS conference, it would be foolish of me to refer to some of these schools as mid-majors. Surely, no one believes that big-money programs such as Memphis, Xavier, BYU, Gonzaga and so on are mid-majors. These schools, along with several others, operate under fairly large basketball budgets, recruit the same caliber of player as many BCS schools, and are at the same competitive level as the elite—simply put, they are not mid-major teams. Another term was needed when referring to and identifying this collective group of non-BCS schools. Thus, I arrived at the name of the column: The Other 26.
The focus of this column will be to review the 26 non-BCS conferences each week. Here are several aspects of the article you can come to expect every Friday:
- Top 20 teams with a brief commentary on each.
- Team who had the best week.
- Best individual performances of the week.
- Looking ahead to March: Whose stock is rising/falling.
- Notable teams defeating BCS teams.
- What coach impressed the most during the last week, along with a brief profile of that coach and what he has done for his team’s program.
- Tracking the conferences. What conferences have been doing well as whole, and who have been disappointing. Furthermore, comparing conferences of similar stature and/or geographic footprint and how they have been performing against one another. For instance: Atlantic 10 vs. Conference USA, Mountain West vs. WAC, Horizon League vs. Colonial Athletic, Ivy League vs. Patriot League, etc.
- Most important games of the upcoming week.
I envision these articles to have the preceding eight points as a mere base for how the article will be constructed. I fully expect, however, that there will be a continual flux in terms of how the article is shaped as we move through the season. Each week brings a new story and theme, and I would not allow the format of the article to dictate how these stories are conveyed. See you on Fridays.