Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Mid-Major Team(s) of the Week

Hello again to all you Bucky Channel fans out there! It is time for another edition of the Mid-Major Team of the Week. It has been almost a month since our last update, I will try to keep them a bit more regular going forward. The biggest reason that I have not posted is that I have not been able to watch too many mid-major games so far this year, and I do not want to just copy the Blue Ribbon Preview for these teams. The readers here at TBC deserve better than that. So to make a mends, I have thrown in a few bonus teams to make up for lost time.

OAKLAND GOLDEN GRIZZLIES

The Grizzlies have made headlines today after taking down Bruce Pearl and the #7 Tennessee Volunteers in Knoxville last night, but if you've seen the Grizz play at all this season the win is not exactly a shocker. They lost to Michigan State by a point on Saturday, and gave Illinois a helluva headache last week (including jumping out to a double-digit lead in the first half while playing with a women's ball). So how are they doing it?

The answer is just like the big boys do, play stout defense, control the tempo of the game, and get the ball to your big man in the middle. In this case it is center Keith Benson, who is a name that NBA fans may want to get familiar with. So far Benson has already notched 8 double-doubles this season on his way to averaging 18.1 pts and 11.7 reb per game. Benson is not doing everything on his own though, Oakland has four players that average 10 or more points a night. One of those players is senior forward and Wisconsin native Will Hudson from Verona. Hudson is currently averaging 13 and 7.

How does this affect your bracket?
Oakland was knocked out in the first round last year by Pittsburgh, but the did not go down without a fight. As long as Benson can stay out of foul trouble, the Golden Grizz should be in almost every game. If they have a weakness, it is their outside shooting (32.9% from 3). A team with height will be able to bang with them, but if they get a match-up against a small team in the first round, look for them to ride their big men into the round of 32.

CLEVELAND STATE VIKINGS

Let's bring things a little closer to home, and look at someone in the Horizon League. UWM fans know that Cleveland State is a team to be reckoned with after they put a 82-59 whipping on the Panthers earlier this month. Although their schedule hasn't been too tough, the Vikings are 12-0 to start the season, and will have their first true test on the road against West Virginia this Saturday. Given that Butler is showing signs of mortality, this team needs to be looked at as a serious contender for the Horizon Leage crown.

The name to know here is senior guard Norris Cole (#30). So far this season, Cole is averaging over 21 pts/game, but he can beat you even when he is not scoring. The game against UWM was a great example of that. Cole only scored 14 points against the black and gold, but was a perfect 6-for-6 from the field, and had 9 assists as well. Although he can shoot from the outside, Cole is at his best when he is attacking the basket and getting to the free throw line. He has attempted 10+ free throws in half of CSU's games this season.

How does this affect your bracket?
If the Vikings make the Big Dance, I do not see them getting out of the first round, because they are small. Their biggest contributing player is only 6'9" and I use the term contributing loosely. Come tournament time, if not before then, Cleveland State will be exposed as a team with a tremendous talent at guard and not much else.

WICHITA STATE SHOCKERS

I will admit my bias up front on this one. I am a long-time Wichita State fan, and not just because of the name. Now when I say 'fan' they aren't my favorite team, but I would consider them my favorite non-local mid-major. Over the years they have put together some decent squads and often contend for the Missouri Valley Championship, but this year I think that they can make a serious run. Why you ask? Experience. Depth. Efficiency.

There is not one name that you need to know on this squad (although they do have some nice individual talents), but this is a classic case of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts. WSU returned four starters from a year ago, and are one of the most experienced teams in the country. The Shockers have 10 players, that are averaging 14+ minutes/game through the first 9 games, 8 of whom average 5+ pts/game. As a team, they shoot 48% from the floor and 41% from 3-point range. Witchita also distributes the ball well, as they are ranked 19th in the country in team assists (17.3/gm). They do not play totally mistake-free, as turnovers were the cause of their two losses to UConn and San Diego State, but they will rarely beat themselves.

How does this affect your bracket?
Like Cleveland State, Witchita does have some size issues, but not quite as bad. Because they play a disciplined style of basketball the Shockers are tough on the glass, especially offensively (11.5 OReb/gm). As long as they are not up against a team like Pitt or Wisconsin in the first round, look for the Shockers to make some noise in March.

See you next week!

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