The college basketball season is about halfway through. Naturally, fans are already looking ahead to the NCAA Tournament. One of the best things about the event is the number of upsets. Who could pull of a Cinderella run this season? Here are five Mid-Majors to watch out for in March Madness.
1. Saint Louis Billikens
The Saint Louis Billikens have had a good season up to this point. They have a 7-1 record, with several of their games being postponed due to COVID. Their only loss on the season came to Minnesota, who looks like a tournament team. Saint Louis has some good wins over LSU and NC State. The Tigers rank 23rd in the NET, while the Wolfpack are 72nd.
To win in the NCAA Tournament, teams need good guard play. The Billikens have two really good guards who can be x-factors in March. Javonte Perkins leads the team in scoring with 17.8 points per game, while shooting a scorching 54.8 percent from 3-point range. Jordan Goodwin helps with the scoring punch at 16.9 points per game.
Outside of their two-leading scorers, Yuri Collins contributes with 7.8 assists per game. Gibson Jimerson shoots 42.5 percent from 3-point range and averages 11.3 points per game. Hasahn French gives them a little bit of an inside presence with 8.8 points and 7.3 rebounds per game. With all of the talent on the roster, Saint Louis could go on a run in March.
2. Boise State Broncos
Boise State has one of their best seasons in recent memory. They are 13-1 and are currently on a 13-game winning streak after losing their season opener to Houston. The Broncos do have an impressive win in the nonconference schedule which came on the road over BYU. They are undefeated in conference play, but still have all of the toughest teams in the conference to play in Colorado State, Utah State, Nevada and San Diego State.
Derrick Alston Jr. leads the team in scoring with 16.8 point per game. Four other players score in the double digits on a per game basis in Abu Kigab, Marcus Shaver Jr., RayJ Dennis and Devonaire Doutrive. With so many players that can beat another team, it is hard for teams to gameplan effectively against the Broncos.
While they have some tough games left, the Broncos’ ability to be really balanced means they should do well in those games. If they make the NCAA Tournament, Alston Jr. and company will be a tough out.
3. Loyola-Chicago Ramblers
There are still some key pieces around from the Ramblers’ Final Four team in 2018. They are 11-3 this season, which has set them up well. The Ramblers did have two losses in the nonconference schedule, which came to Richmond and Wisconsin. Their loss in conference came at the hands of Indiana State on the road.
The leader of the team is Cameron Krutwig, who was a key member of the Final Four team. He leads the team in scoring and rebounding with 15.0 points and 5.8 rebounds per game. Krutwig is a throwback player who plays with his back to the basket, but it is very effective. Tate Hall is the other double-digit scorer on the team who averages 10 points per game.
Their offense isn’t the most powerful, but their defense is very effective. They hold teams to 57 points per game, which ranks third in the country. Their pace of play will be a great changeup for teams to deal with in the NCAA Tournament.
4. Utah State Aggies
Utah State lost a great scorer in Sam Merrill this offseason, but have handled it well. They are 12-4 on the season after struggling out of the gate. The Aggies dropped three out of their first four games, which included losses to VCU, South Dakota State and BYU. In conference play, the Aggies have rebounded well with just one loss to Colorado State, who is one of the best teams in the Mountain West. They do have an impressive win over Colorado State, plus they swept San Diego State this year.
Neemias Queta is the star player for Utah State. He averages 12.6 points, 9.3 rebounds, 1.3 steals and 2.8 blocks which all lead the team, which is amazing for someone playing the center position. Marco Anthony and Justin Bean are also double-digit scorers for the Aggies, who are adept at getting to the basket.
Like Loyola-Chicago, Utah State has a suffocating defense. They allow 59.6 points per game, which ranks ninth in the country. With their inside presence and defense, Utah State can pose a matchup problem for teams in the NCAA Tournament.
5. Richmond Spiders
Richmond likely would’ve made the NCAA Tournament last season, had it happened. This year, they have a chance to make the big dance again. They lost to Hofstra and West Virginia in their nonconference schedule, but picked up wins over SEC teams in Kentucky and Vanderbilt. The wins aren’t over great teams this season, but they are still impressive. In their conference schedule, they are 3-1 with a loss to the Atlantic-10 leaders, the St. Bonaventure Bonnies.
The Spiders have an undersized backcourt, but they are stars. Blake Francis and Jacob Gilyard create a great duo that average 16.1 and 12.8 points per game. Gilyard also leads the team with 5.5 assists per game. Their forwards are also talented. Grant Golden averages 14.8 points, while shooting 53.8 percent from 3-point range. Tyler Burton and Nathan Cayo also score in double figures and shoot over 40 percent from 3-point range.
With Francis and Gilyard leading the way, it will be hard for opponents to stay in front of them. If the Spiders make the NCAA Tournament, they could give teams fits.
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