Everyone’s favorite time of the year is here once again. Each season, the beginning of March, except this year (thanks Big Ten), marks the start of conference tournaments throughout college basketball with the NCAA tournament officially kicking off on March 13th.
Brackets are filled out, money is wagered, and millions across the nation watch each game on the edge of their seat as the 68-team field narrows until a champion is crowned.
March also begs one big question — who will it be this year?
Whether it’s George Mason’s historic run to the Final Four, Butler coming a few inches short of beating Duke in the National Championship, or 15-seed Florida Gulf Coast dunking their way to the Sweet 16, one thing is always true — America loves a Cinderella story!
With tournament season now in full swing, let’s take a look at four “mid-major” schools that could make some noise in this year’s tournament.
Led by Head Coach Dan Hurley, the Rams find themselves ranked 17th in the latest rankings with a 23-5 record. The Rams have played a tough schedule this season with both wins and losses against tournament-caliber teams.
Their best two wins came early in the season when Rhode Island found themselves in the win column against Seton Hall and Providence, two teams coming out of the Big East. The Rams also have two quality losses on their resume, with a early season 15-point loss to Virginia (1-seed) and a 4-point loss to Alabama (9-seed).
Rhode Island’s worst loss came in the regular season finale when they lost by 30 to a sub-.500 St. Joe’s team at home. The Rams are led by senior guards Jared Terrell ( 17.6 ppg) and E.C. Matthews (13.2 ppg) and a defense that gives up 68 points per game.
Keep an eye out for Rhode Island after a big win over Trae Young-led Oklahoma earlier today.
The Bonnies finished the regular season 2nd in the A-10 with a 23-6 record. Their best win of the season came against in-conference opponent Rhode Island, while also having key wins against Syracuse (11-seed), Buffalo (13-seed), and Vermont.
St. Bonaventure took home some tough losses coming against Niagara at home in the season opener and a conference loss to St. Joe’s. The Bonnies are led by Jaylen Adams (20.8 ppg) and Matt Mobley (18.4 ppg), a pair of senior guards who are top-10 in scoring in the A-10.
Watch out for the Bonnies, who already have a tournament victory over UCLA on Tuesday.
South Dakota State
The Jackrabbits enter March with a 25-6 overall record thanks to an explosive offense that ranks 7th in all of Division 1 (85.3 ppg). While the offense brings the house down in Brookings, the defense finds itself struggling, giving up 74.6 ppg which is only good enough for 235th in Division 1.
South Dakota State’s best win came against Buffalo (13-seed). But, thanks to down years from both Ole Miss and Iowa, wins against them don’t hold as much weight as they typically would. The team’s quality losses include a blowout loss to Kansas (1-seed) on the road, and a 10-point loss to Wichita State (4-seed).
The Jackrabbits have three players averaging double digits in scoring. Junior forward Mike Daum leads the Summit League with 23.6 ppg while freshman guard David Jenkins Jr. is averaging 15.9 ppg.
The Jackrabbits are going to look to shoot their way through the tournament, as they are slated to play Ohio State in the first round later today.
Despite losing in the Mountain West Championship game to San Diego State (11-seed), Nevada managed to grab a spot in the big dance. The Wolf Pack have big wins over Rhode Island (7-seed) and Davidson (12-seed).
They are also battle-tested, with tough losses to Texas Tech (3-seed) and TCU (6-seed). Nevada is led by forwards Caleb Martin (19.1 ppg) and Jordan Caroline (17.9 ppg), who both shoot close to 50% from the field.
The Wolf Pack average 83.1 points per game and are poised to make a splash in this year’s tournament starting with a first round matchup against Texas.