Last Week, I ranked and examined the NCAA Tournament prospects for each of the nine high-major men’s basketball conferences and their members. I figured I would do the same for the mid-major conferences this week.
Most, if not all, mid-major and low-major conferences will only get one NCAA Tournament bid. I identified the teams most likely to earn the league’s automatic bid and squads who could receive an invitation to other postseason tournaments such as the NIT, CBI, and Basketball Classic.
The Atlantic-10 is the mid-major conference most likely to receive multiple NCAA Tournament bids, although there is no guarantee. Conference USA, MAC, and the Sun Belt could also steal a bid.
No. 11 Conference USA
Conference USA is having its best season in the league’s modern era, although the conference will likely get just one NCAA Tournament bid. CUSA, which dropped to 11 teams this year, last got multiple Big Dance bids in 2011-12 with Memphis and Southern Miss.
C-USA has the fifth highest-winning percentage of .607 and ranks 10th in the nation in NET and ninth in RPI. The conference finished 32 games above .500 (64-32) in nonconference DI games, which tied the American Athletic for the ninth-best mark.
Led by Florida Atlantic’ (21-1), 10 conference teams have a .500 record, with eight squads over that mark. However, that number drops to six when considering only DI games.
Florida Atlantic, ranked in the AP and Coaches poll, is having a historic season and is the only surefire NCAA team. On a 20-game winning streak, the Owls are 19-1 in DI games, including 2-0 in Quad I contests and 4-1 in Quad I & 2 contests. Their biggest wins are over Florida, and their lone loss is by 13 to Mississippi on the road.
FAU is ranked in the top 25 in the nation in both offensive and defensive ratings. With no stars, the Owls use a nine-man rotation, and they get contributions from everyone. Sophomore Johnell Davis leads six players who average seven points and two rebounds a contest.
North Texas (18-5) is having another strong season under head coach Grant McCasland. The Mean Green has accumulated at least 18 wins in their six seasons under McCasland, although they have only made one NCAA Tournament appearance during this span. They have also appeared in the NIT and CBI during this stretch.
UNT should head to the postseason for the fourth time with McCasland in charge. However, it won’t be in the NCAA Tournament unless they win the CUSA Tournament. The Mean Green are 16-5 against DI opponents, including an impressive 10-3 away from home, though no signature wins.
Rice (15-6) and UAB (15-8) are also candidates for a postseason berth. Charlotte (13-8) needs to do some work down the stretch but could earn an invite.
No. 12 Atlantic-10
The Atlantic-10 is having a good, but not great, season. The conference added Loyola-Chicago this summer, but the Ramblers have been a major disappointment.
The A-10, which went a combined 31 games over .500 during nonconference play, has a cumulative .532 winning percentage. However, they may get only one or two NCAA Tournament bids this year. The conference has gotten multiple bids every year since 2004-05.
VCU (17-6) holds a one-half game lead over St. Louis (15-7) and owns the A-10’s best resume. The Rams are 5-4 away from home and 1-1 in Quad I games. Their best win is against Pitt, and they have a few bad losses.
St. Louis still has some work to do, as they are 14-7 in DI games and 5-5 on the road/neutral contests. SLU has two pretty good wins over Pitt and Providence. The Billikens also have a couple of bad losses.
Dayton (15-8) is next in line, but they are just 3-7 away from home and 0-3 in Quad I games. The Flyers are 7-3 in A-10 play and one game in back of the Rams.
Fordham (18-4) has matched its most victories since joining the A-10 for the 1995-95 season, although they still have work to do to get on the NCAA bubble. Fordham is just 2-2 in Quad I and 2 contests. Duquesne (14-8) and UMass are the conference’s other postseason hopefuls.
No. 13 Western Athletic Conference
The WAC is having a bounce-back season in year two of their expansion. The conference, which added four teams in the summer of 2021, finished five games over .500 in nonconference play and has a cumulative .575 winning percentage. The WAC ranks 11th in NET and 12th in RPI.
The WAC will get one NCAA Tournament berth in 2023 for the 13th straight year. Like last year, the battle for conference supremacy is tight as 10 of the 13 teams own a .500 or better record.
Ten of the 13 teams have at least a .500 record, led by Utah Valley at 17-6.
UVU and Southern Utah (16-7) sit first in league play at 8-2. Seattle (16-7), Sam Houston (17-5), and Stephen F. Austin (15-8) are tied for second at 7-3 in the conference. Sam Houston and Utah Valley own the conference’s best resumes.
While extremely unlikely, it is conceivable that the WAC gets six postseason berths. In addition to the five teams mentioned above, Grand Canyon is also in contention for a spot.
No. 14 Sun Belt
The Sun Belt mightily benefitted from Southern Miss (19-4) and Marshall (18-5) from jumping from CUSA. The Sun Belt, which went six games over .500 (73-67) in nonconference games, has its highest cumulative winning percentage at .565 since the 1985-86 season.
As a result of the overall stellar play of the top of the conference, the Sun Belt is in a position to land multiple NCAA Tournament bids for the first time since 2013. Southern Miss, which has the best chance of obtaining an at-large bid for the conference, is tied for the conference lead with Louisiana (18-4) with an 8-2 record. The Ragin’ Cajuns have won eight straight games.
Marshall is the second-most likely conference team to get an at-large NCAA berth, although they have a lot of work to do. However, James Madison and Louisiana are the only other teams likely to receive any postseason consideration.
No. 15 Missouri Valley Conference
The Missouri Valley Conference, like the Sun Belt, is top-heavy. Southern Illinois (17-7), Belmont (16-8), Drake (18-6), and Bradley (16-8) are all tied with a 9-4 record atop of the conference standings.
SIU and Drake have the conference’s best resume though the MVC will only get one team into the Big Dance. Bradley and Indiana State (15-9) are other candidates for a postseason berth.
No. 16 Ivy League
The Ivy League is ranked 13th in NET and 16th in RPI. The Ivy League went 49-48 in nonconference DI games and has a cumulative winning percentage of .542, the conference’s best in the past three seasons and the second-best mark since the 1966-67 campaign.
Cornell (15-5) and Princeton (14-6) are tied atop of the standings at 5-2. Those two are the leading candidates to earn a postseason berth, with Yale (14-6) also a candidate. The Ivy League has never gotten more than one NCAA Tournament bid, which won’t change this year.
No. 17 Big West
UC Santa Barbara (17-3) is the leading candidate to nab the Big West’s lone NCAA Tournament bid. The Gauchos hold a one-half game lead over UC Riverside (15-7) in conference play.
Hawai’i and UC Irvine could also land postseason berths. Long Beach State and UC Davis are long shots to extend their season.
No. 18 Mid-Atlantic Conference
Kent State (18-4) has been the cream of the crop in the MAC all season long. The Golden Flashes, who suffered their first conference loss a little over a week ago to Northern Illinois, lost three close games to Gonzaga, College of Charleston, and Houston in nonconference play. While Kent doesn’t have signature wins, if they were to win out and reach the conference tournament finals, there is a chance they could earn an NCAA Tournament bid.
Akron (16-6) is also an outstanding team and tied for the conference’s top spot with Kent State at 8-1. Toledo (16-6) and Ball State (15-7) also could pick up postseason invitations.
No. 19 MAAC
Siena (15-7) looks to end its NCAA Tournament drought. The Saints, who last participated in the NCAA Tournament in 2010, hold a one-game advantage over Rider (11-9). Iona (14-7) and Quinnipiac (16-6) are just a little behind and are the two most likely teams, in addition to Siena, to play beyond the conference season.
The Liberty Flames (18-5) look to continue their run as king of the ASUN. The Flames have won the conference regular season title in the last four years and have captured the tournament title twice.
Liberty is tied with Kennesaw State (17-6) atop the leaderboard at 9-1. Florida Gulf Coast (14-9) is the only other program likely to earn a postseason berth from the conference this year.
No. 21 Big Sky
The Big Sky is Eastern Washington (15-7, 10-0) to lose as the Eagles hold a two-game lead. Montana State (15-8) is the only other team likely to earn a postseason berth.
No. 22 Southern
Furman (18-6) is possibly the conference’s lone postseason team. Furman is tied with Samford (15-9) for the top spot in the league at 9-2. UNC Greensboro (14-9) is next in line and is the only other team with a winning conference record.
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