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Power mid-majors with Final Four potential
Posted By HOOPSWORLD On September 27, 2013 @ 7:15 pm In Wirenews | Comments Disabled
by Scott Gleeson, USA TODAY Sports
Is it March yet? Hardly. With the NCAA tournament far in the rearview mirror and Midnight Madness creeping up, USA TODAY Sports examines several story lines for every major conference heading into the 2013-14 college basketball season.
The term “mid-major” gets tossed around loosely in college basketball and oftentimes it’s synonymous with common March Madness language such as “Cinderella” and “bracket buster.”
Wichita State’s Final Four run last season continued a trend of mid-major schools breaking through. George Mason’s run in 2006, Davidson’s run in 2008, and most recently Florida Gulf Coast’s storybook tournament provide memories, sure, but every once in a while we witness a school transform from more than just a one-hit wonder.
For instance, five years ago Butler was a mid-major residing in the Horizon League. Two NCAA championship game appearances later and the Bulldogs have transitioned into the newly-restructured Big East Conference. And Gonzaga’s 1999 Elite Eight appearance has spiraled into 15 consecutive tournament appearances. Simply put, a two-week span can change everything.
While the Shockers look to ride the momentum of last season, here’s a look at the top power mid-majors with Final Four potential next season, all of them hailing from a separate league.
1. Virginia Commonwealth (Atlantic 10): Shaka Smart’s “Havoc” defense proved to be just as agonizing in the Rams’ inaugural season in the A-10 after years of causing headaches in the Colonial. VCU loses key players but returns a nucleus of Rob Brandenburg, Treveon Graham and Juvonte Reddic. The team’s X-Factor will be Florida State transfer Terrance Shannon, who is immediately eligible and his aggressive style at 6-8 will fit in perfectly with the Rams’ up-tempo pace. Size could again be a concern, as it was during the NCAA tournament when Michigan’s big men spearheaded a 78-53 rout of VCU. Pressure, of course, will remain the team’s calling card after leading the nation in steals (11.7 spg) and forced turnovers (plus 8.0) last season. Atlantic 10 challenger: Saint Louis, last year’s champion, will again make it difficult for VCU to walk away as the top team in the conference.
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