The college basketball season returned with much anticipation this week. As always, there were plenty of storylines surrounding schools in the power conferences. That doesn’t mean that the little guys can’t get in on the headlines. From crazy box scores to some standout performers, mid-major basketball created its own buzz over the first week of the season.
Week One Mid-Major Takeaways
Northeastern Has a Blooming Star
The Northeastern Huskies out of the CAA have a player to keep an eye on. Jordan Roland has been a one-man wrecking crew so far this year. The redshirt senior is averaging 40.5 points per game over the Huskies’ first two games. That averages out to an insane 62.7 points per 100 possessions. In Roland’s most recent game, he put up 42 against Harvard, which set a new school record for points in a game. While the sample size is small, it is still an impressive start for any player. If he can keep up the production, Roland could carry Northeastern to their second straight tournament appearance.
Parity Lives On
A large portion of non-conference games occur because power schools pay mid-major schools to come to their arena and take a loss. These “buy” games are supposed to be guaranteed, but that’s why you play the games. There were a number of schools that went in, got their check and also came home with a win this week. Nicholls State upset Pittsburgh 75-70, a few days after the Panthers beat Florida State in their ACC opener. UC Riverside and Southern Utah both came into Lincoln, Nebraska and dealt the Cornhuskers early season losses. The Penn Quakers started the Nate Oats era at Alabama off on the wrong foot, defeating the Crimson Tide 81-80 on opening night.
The biggest upset, though, belongs to Merrimack College. The Warriors moved up from Division II and are in the first of their four years transitioning to Division I. First year teams are not supposed to do well, and they may still have a long season ahead. However, there is nothing like getting your first win at the highest level. Merrimack got just that when they shocked the Big Ten’s Northwestern Wildcats 71-61 on Friday night.
On the flip side, there have been two mid-major schools who were on the wrong end of their own buy games. Howard lost by three to Washington Adventist, a member of the US Collegiate Athletic Association. Meanwhile, Grand Canyon lost to Division II’s Davenport University.
A SWAC-ky Friday
The SWAC had a Friday to remember or forget, depending on your alma mater. Mississippi Valley State lost to Utah 143-49. The 94 point margin of defeat was the largest in NCAA history between two Division I opponents. Utah’s Rylan Jones and Both Gach each had a triple-double, which research could neither confirm nor deny if two teammates had ever had triple-doubles in the same game before. The Delta Devils are 0-3 and have given up an average of 129 points per game to their opponents.
On the other hand, Grambling defeated non-Division I opponent Ecclesia by a score of 147-52. For those counting at home, that is a 90+ point loss and victory for a conference on the same day. The research was also unclear as to whether a conference had teams win and lose by 90 or more points on the same day before. Either way, that’s quite the spectrum of outcomes.
Outside of Jordan Roland, there are a few other mid-major players who had standout nights. Massachusetts-Lowell’s Christian Lutete scored 51 points against Long Island this past Friday. It’s the first 50+ point performance of the season across Division I. Lutete was 7-12 from behind the arc, while also lighting it up from inside the arc at a 69 percent clip. One night earlier, Idaho State’s Tarik Cool scored 42 against Air Force. That had been the most points scored this season before Lutete’s performance. Cool shot 65 percent from the field and went a perfect 15 for 15 from the free-throw line.
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