The mid-major landscape was euphoric after the Evansville Purple Aces downed the top-ranked Kentucky Wildcats this past Tuesday. The Purple Aces picked up their first win over a number one ranked team in program history. It’s a win that the school can build on for years to come. It’s the unexpected nature of upsets that make college basketball so exciting. Speaking of excitement, there were other items of note across the mid-major landscape in week two.
Mid-Major Week Two Takeaways
A-10 Out Of 10
The Atlantic 10 had a few teams that had some impressive performances over the past week. VCU came into the season projected as one of the best mid-majors in the country. They cemented their candidacy by upending LSU 84-82 last Tuesday. The havoc defense that the Rams have prided themselves on was in full effect, forcing 26 LSU turnovers. Marcus Santos-Silva dominated, finishing with 17 points and 11 rebounds. He was one of four VCU starters to score in double figures. This is a résumé building win for the Rams that should propel them back into the top-25.
Saint Joseph’s is far from the team they were 15 years ago. However, the Hawks looked fantastic on Wednesday, dispatching the Connecticut Huskies 96-87. They punched the Huskies in the mouth, taking a 16-point lead into the half. While Connecticut did make a bit of a run, they could never quite get back in it. Ryan Daly went 6-12 from behind the arc and led all St. Joe’s scorers with 30, while Rahmir Moore contributed 22 off the bench. There are still question marks about how good the Hawks will be this year, but this was an impressive win.
Finally, Richmond took down Vanderbilt in overtime 93-92 on Thursday night. While Vanderbilt isn’t the greatest team in the world, it’s still a road win against an SEC team. Jacob Gilyard, Blake Francis, and Nathan Cayo all had 20+ point performances in the win. The Spiders were able to get to the line seven more times than the Commodores and shot 87 percent from the charity stripe compared to 68 percent by Vanderbilt.
A Victory for the Ages
It can be tough sledding playing on a team in the MEAC or the SWAC. Teams in those leagues can spend their entire non-conference slate on the road. Getting paid to come out and often lose by large margins helps to keep their school’s athletic budgets afloat.
The Coppin State Eagles, got their check while getting a huge win last Tuesday, defeating Loyola-Chicago 76-72. It was the Eagles’ first win against a non-MEAC Division I opponent in almost six years. Free throws were the key, as Coppin State hit 9-10 over the final 32 seconds to ice the game. Dejuan Clayton led the Eagles with 21 points while going 12-14 from the free-throw line. There’s a good chance Coppin State doesn’t win another non-conference game this season, but they can hang their hat on this win for now.
Viewer Discretion Advised
If you tuned in to watch Lipscomb and Duquesne play on Friday night, you might have felt you were assaulting your eyes. Duquesne’s 58-36 victory was overshadowed by the putrid three-point shooting that took place. The Bisons and Dukes combined to go 1-40 from behind the arc. The only trey that dropped came from Duquesne’s Tavian Dunn-Martin with a little over nine minutes left in the game. Lipscomb’s 0-18 performance was the first time they had gone without making a three in 474 games as a Division I team. The Bisons 36 points were also their lowest point total as a Division I team as well.
Vermont is another mid-major program that will be making noise when March comes around. They have consistently been a threat out of the America East for the past couple of years. With all that success, the Catamounts 4-0 start is their best since the 1977-78 season. Three of their four wins have come on the road, including Saturday’s 70-68 victory over Big East foe Saint John’s. That was their first win over a current Big East member since 1924. Anthony Lamb is the catalyst for Vermont. The reigning America East Player of the Year is off to a fast start this season, averaging 18.3 points and 10.5 rebounds per game thus far. He has put up three double-doubles already and will continue to be a player to watch nationally.
A little further down I-95, the Delaware Blue Hens are off to a 5-0 start. It’s their best start since 1998-99. That record includes a three-game sweep while participating in the Sunshine Slam in Kissimmee, Florida over the season’s first weekend. Canadian Nate Darling, a transfer from UAB, is leading the charge. He took home the Most Valuable Player accolade from Sunshine Slam, putting up a career-high 37 points against UTSA. Darling is averaging 26 points per game on the young season while shooting a blistering 59.4 percent from behind the arc. The CAA is more wide open than it’s been over the last few seasons, and the door could be open for the Blue Hens to make a run.
For the second week in a row, there were some impressive scorers at the mid-major level. Jomaru Brown of Eastern Kentucky led all mid-major scorers this week with a 41 point performance against Western Kentucky. He was highly efficient from inside the arc, shooting 70.6 percent. Curtis Cobb of Wagner dropped 40 points against Division III Wesley. 30 of those points came from three-point land, as Cobb went 10-15. Finally, Adam Kunkel scored 35 in Belmont’s upset of Boston College on Saturday. Kunkel was a balanced scorer, as he scored 15 from distance, 10 from the free-throw line and 10 from inside the arc. It was a big win for a Belmont team looking to keep building on the success from last year.