The thrill of being a mid-major, or a "non-BCS conference" might be fading. Just three years ago, pundits were declaring that the field between David and Goliath had been significantly shortened. The Missouri Valley had four teams in the tournament and were 6th in the conference RPI rankings, George Mason threw everyone for a loop by winning the East Region, and VCU was breaking Blue Devil hearts.
Now, some are wondering what happens next. Yes, teams like Butler, Gonzaga and Xavier are always going to be kicking around, and are unfortunately handcuffed from not having a big-time football program that gives them clearance into a major conference. Memphis is sort of in their own world, a bit of an anomaly but a premier school when it comes to recruiting...at least when John Calipari was coach.
At best, the talent in small conferences is cyclical. After thumbing through the preview mags for this season, we may be looking at only a pair of non-BCS conferences that receive multiple bids (A-10 and C-USA). With that, we should still look forward to ESPN's BracketBuster Weekend. Tulsa could be a nice story, Siena will look to build off last season, and Oakland could play deeper into March than all the afroementioned schools. It's just a hunch we have.
Our breakdown is after the jump
Tourney teams (in a sort of order of importance)
- Butler (Horizon)
- Siena (MAAC)
- Dayton (A-10)
- Tulsa (C-USA)
- Gonzaga (West Coast)
- Memphis (C-USA)
- Xavier (A-10)
- Western Kentucky (Sun Belt)
- BYU (Mountain West)
- Oakland (Summit)
Top non-BCS players
- Gordon Hawyard, Butler
- Chris Wright, Dayton
- Matt Howard, Butler
- Matt Bouldin, Gonzaga
- Jerome Jordan, Tulsa
Most overrated - Josh Pastner. The thought of Xavier struggling w/o Sean Miller.
Most underrated - Oakland. Non-BCS teams come the 2010 NCAA Tournament.
Notable non-conference match-ups:
11/17 - Memphis vs. Kansas
12/2 - Siena @ Georgia Tech
12/8 - Butler vs. Georgetown
12/10 - Oakland @ Michigan State
12/19 - Butler @ Xavier
12/19 - Western Kentucky @ Louisville
1/6 - Memphis @ Syracuse
Five story lines to keep tabs on
- The Oakland Grizzlies. They have non-conference games against Wisconsin, Michigan State, Kansas, Syracuse and Memphis. Wins over just two of those teams could really propel them onto the national stage. This could be your surprise Sweet 16 squad.
- Josh Pastner. Can he deliver? Memphis fans don't seem too outspoken, but they haven't really had reason to get ticked off in recent memory. This could be the year drama ensues.
- Jerome Jordan. Can he stay focused? Will he just be another Patrick O'Bryant?
- Isiah Thomas. Will Florida International become another notch on his belt of failures?
- Jordan Crawford. How does he respond to Dunkgate? Will he distinguish himself for the Musketeers, or simply hang on to his brief stint of fame?