March 16th 2006
Tournament: The Year of the Mid-Major?
Will 2006 be the “Year of the Mid-Major”? We shall see
shortly, but there are several factors pointing to a “yes” answer to this
question. The first being that #3 seed Gonzaga is technically a mid-major
team, since they play in the West Coast Conference. Behind Mr. Mustache
Adam Morrison the ‘Zags have a legitimate shot at making it to the Final
Four, assuming they can get by Memphis and UCLA. The second being the
much-hyped strength of the Missouri Valley Conference this year, which
placed 4 teams in the tourney.
Since the Big 12 started play in 1997, forming the 6th
head of the mighty power conference monster, a few mid-major’s have had a
pretty good run in the tourney. However, none have ever made it past the
Elite Eight. Here are some of the mid-major teams that have made the most
noise in the tourney.
1997 Chattanooga – Southern - #14 – (24-11) – Sweet
The Mocs did a great job repping the Southern Conference
in 1997, knocking off #3 Georgia in the first round and #6 Illinois
in the second. The clock struck midnight for them in the Sweet Sixteen when
they lost to another Cinderella squad, #10 Providence.
1999 Gonzaga – West Coast - #10 – (28-7) – Elite Eight
1999 was the season that the Bulldogs showed that they
were a major team that just happens to play in a mid-major conference.
Behind All-West Region Team honorees Casey Calvary & Quentin Hall’s play,
the ‘Zags knocked off #7 Minnesota, #2 Stanford & #6 Florida before being
stopped by the eventually national champions, UConn, one win away from the
Final Four. Gonzaga solidified their rep by making it into the Sweet
Sixteen the next 2 years also.
1999 was definitely the year of the mid-major, as #10
Miami (Ohio) and #12 Missouri State also made it into the Sweet Sixteen,
with Miami knocking off a #2 seed, Utah.
2002 Kent State – Mid-American - #10 – (30-6) – Elite
The Golden Flashes made a big splash in 2002, winning 3
games and getting into the Elite Eight. First they went through #7 Oklahoma
State, then crushed #2 Alabama, finally beating #3 Pitt in the Sweet
Sixteen. The #5 Hoosiers stopped their run in the round of 8 by going 15-19
from behind the three-point arc in the game. The Flashes Antonio Gates &
Trevor Huffman’s play earned them All-South Region Team honors. Kent State
hopes history repeats itself this year, as their first round opponent in the
tourney is none other than Pitt.
Southern Illinois also made a run to the Sweet Sixteen
that year, going through Texas Tech and Georgia in the process.
2005 Wisconsin-Milwaukee – Horizon - #12 – (26-6) –
Last year’s mid-major darling team was the Panthers, who
made their way to the Sweet Sixteen. #5 Alabama and #4 Boston College were
left in their wake before they succumbed to #1 Illinois in the round of 16.
The Panthers will hope to recapture the magic this year, starting with their
first round match up versus #6 Oklahoma.
All totaled, since 1997 eleven mid-major teams have made
it to at least the Sweet Sixteen, with two of them getting to the Elite
Eight. Will this be the year that one finally crashes into the Final Four?
I have Gonzaga making it into the Final Four in my bracket, so you never