Every Wednesday from now up until the final buzzer of the national championship, fellow College Pride Press writer Sean Bock and I will put together a weekly write-up of all big things going on in the Mid-Major conferences. This will include rankings and analysis of each team, players of the week, and must watch games. Here is the first edition of the Mid-Major Report…
Gonzaga (15-0, 3-0 WCC)
As the only unbeaten team left in the country, the ‘Zags are the unanimous number one for this week’s rankings. With a nice road win over San Francisco and a potential cake-walk against Loyola Marymount on Thursday, St. Mary’s comes to Spokane Saturday in a much anticipated showdown of WCC powers.
St. Mary’s (14-1, 4-0 WCC)
Jock Landale is making his case for West Coast Conference Player of the Year. The 6-foot-11 junior put up 26 points against BYU big man Eric Mika and the Cougars in a 81-68 home win on Thursday. The Gaels are looking to steal the top spot in the WCC this coming Saturday as they travel north to play Gonzaga.
VCU (13-3, 3-0 A-10)
Will Wade and the Rams have been getting the last laugh so far this year. VCU is off to a 3-0 start in conference play with victories against George Mason and Duquesne on the road and a surprising Umass team in Richmond. Jequan Lewis has been the catalyst for this squad and keeps getting better as the season progresses.
Wichita State (14-3, 4-0 MVC)
Five studs in, Five studs out. The Shockers have no holes up and down the lineup. Greg Marshall’s group knows how to play smart and play great team basketball. Traveling to Bloomington-Normal to play Illinois State on Saturday holds implications in the MVC race.
Dayton (12-3, 3-0 A-10)
Dayton has been very impressive this year despite dealing with injuries. The Flyers lost potential Atlantic-10 Player of the Year, Josh Cunningham, early in the season due to a torn ligament in his left ankle. UD has beaten solid teams such as Alabama, Vanderbilt, and a Rhode Island quad that was many people’s pick to win the Atlantic-10 Conference. The Flyers have won five straight and look to continue that streak tonight when they take on UMass in Amherst.
Illinois State (12-4, 4-0 MVC)
The Redbirds are flying under the radar with their 12-4 record. ISU has been getting the job done with balanced scoring. Four players for the Redbirds are scoring in the double digits each game. Like Dayton, Illinois State has won five straight and they look to add to that tonight when they travel to Carbondale to take on Southern Illinois.
Oakland (14-3, 4-0 Horizon)
Oakland is a team with lots of potential that has a chance to make the tournament come March. They have been playing excellent basketball lately and have a chance to contend for the Horizon League crown. Junior Guard Martel Walker has been putting up a sensational 17.5 points per-game. He has led them to impressive wins over Georgia, and Valparaiso. The Grizzlies take on Detroit, Friday, at home.
New Mexico State (15-2, 2-0 WAC)
New Mexico State has one of the most balanced scoring attacks in all of college basketball. All five starters for the Aggies average double-figures. This balanced scoring has helped them to rattle off 13 straight victories after a 2-2 start. The Aggies take on Grand Canyon Thursday night at home.
Just Missed the Cut: Boise State, BYU, IPFW, Nevada, UNC Wilmington
Players of the Week:
Jordan Caroline, Nevada
In arguably the greatest comeback in college basketball history, Caroline went OFF for a game high 45 points including the game-winner in overtime against New Mexico on Saturday. The Wolfpack are a legit contender in the Mountain West Conference.
Martez Walker, Oakland
Walker is a matchup nightmare and showed why he could give Alec Peters a run for his money as the best player in the Horizon League. The junior guard gave Valparaiso fits Friday night as he scored 25 points while leading his team to a big time road victory.
Jock Landale, St. Mary’s
You’ll be hearing this name quite often over the course of this season. Landale is averaging 19.7 points and 10 rebounds a game in conference play including a 26 point, 9 rebounds and 6 assists performance in the victory over BYU last Thursday. The junior has a tall task ahead of him when he goes head-to-head with Gonzaga big men Przemek Karnowski and Zach Collins on Saturday.
Must Watch Mid-Major Match-ups:
Wednesday, January 11th, 2017
Dayton @ UMass (7 PM ET, CBS Sports Network)
Saturday, January 14th
VCU @ Davidson (2 PM ET, CBS Sports Network)
Wichita St. @ Illinois St. (8 PM ET, ESPN2)
#21 St. Mary’s @ #5 Gonzaga (10 PM ET, ESPN2)
Monday, January 16th, 2017
Green Bay @ Valparaiso (8 PM ET, ESPN3)
Monmouth @ Canisius (7 PM ET, ESPN3)