Mid-Major Takeaways: Week Fifteen

One of the more interesting trends in mid-major basketball is how programs rotate through supremacy. Coaches can get in a good core of players and dominate the mid-major level for a few years. More often than not, those mini-dynasties are broken up by graduating seniors and coaches that get lured away by major programs. A few of those schools were the highlights of this past week.

Mid-Major Week Fifteen Takeaways

Raiding the Patriot League

Colgate is having arguably its best stretch of basketball in school history. The Raiders defeated Boston University 79-63 on the road, building up a two-game lead in the Patriot League. The victory pushed Colgate’s record to 20-6 on the year. It is the second-consecutive 20-win season for the program. These are also the only two 20-win seasons in school history.

The scored was tied at 49 with 11 minutes remaining before the Raiders finished the game on a 30-14 run. Jordan Burns and Rapolas Ivanauskas each scored 15 for Colgate. Burns filled out the stat sheet with six assists, six rebounds, and five steals. The win gave Colgate their first season sweep of the Terriers in five seasons. The Raiders are now 14-0 when holding opponents under 70 points. Meanwhile, Colgate has 11 returning players on a team that pushed Tennessee to the buzzer in a loss in last year’s tournament as a 15 seed. Look out for the Raiders if they make it back this year.

Highlanders and Lows

Winthrop looked poised to run away with the Big South, having won their first 12 games in league play. However, Radford has something to say about that. The Highlanders went into Rock Hill, South Carolina and beat the Eagles 81-77 to hand them their first conference loss. More importantly, the victory pulled Radford back into striking distance for their own claim for the Big South championship.

The game was a slugfest, four technical fouls being assessed in the first half. Radford built up a 27 point lead before Winthrop battled back. However, the Highlanders outscored the Eagles 42-22 in the paint and held off their late run. Carlik Jones scored 20 points, 12 of which came in the second half and often were answers to key Winthrop buckets. Travis Fields Jr. added 19 points. Winthrop lost again to Gardner-Webb later in the week, pulling Radford within a half-game of first place. The Highlanders and Eagles have played two great games this year, and a third matchup with an NCAA Tournament birth on the line would be welcomed by all.

Zipping Along

After a dominate run by Buffalo in the MAC over the last five years, the conference is up for grabs this year. Bowling Green seemed poised to take over until Akron defeated the Falcons 74-59 on Tuesday. The victory vaulted the Zips into a tie for first with Bowling Green. Loren Cristian Jackson scored 28 points in the win and has been the catalyst for the Zips this season. He is averaging 23.5 points in MAC play and 19.4 overall, tied for second-best in the conference.

Akron used its defense to clamp down on a good Bowling Green offense. The Falcons shot just 35.4 percent from the floor. A 14-4 run by the Zips put them ahead for good with just under eight minutes remaining the game. Akron is looking to return to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in seven years. They will play Bowling Green again on February 25th in what may end up being a de facto regular-season championship game for the MAC title.

‘Ello Governors

A few weeks ago Murry State and Austin Peay made news by beating mid-major power Belmont in back-to-back games. On Thursday, they faced off against each other with Ohio Valley supremacy on the line. In the end, Austin Peay won a game that saw 14 lead changes 71-68. The Governors and Racers did not disappoint in primetime on ESPNU.

Austin Peay snapped a five-game losing streak to Murray State, and it was the first win against the Racers with the schools holding the top two spots in the standings since 2004. The defense was the key, with Austin Peay forcing 14 turnovers that led to 14 points. Jordyn Adams and Terry Taylor have been leading the Governors all year, and Thursday was no different. Adams led all Austin Peay scorers with 20 points while Taylor added 16. These two schools will rematch on the last day of league play on February 29th in what will more than likely end up being a regular-season championship game.

Mid-Major Top Performers

Our first mid-major top performer was our only 40-point scorer this week. Ade Murkey of Denver scored 42 points in a loss to South Dakota State on Valentine’s Day. The career-high total for Murkey was also a new single-game record for the Pioneers in the Division I era. He was also the first Denver player to score at least 40 points and grab at least 10 rebounds in the D-I era. Murkey went 15-27 from the field, 5-7 from three and 7-7 at the free-throw line.

Mike Smith of Columbia scored a career-high 38 points in a double-overtime loss to Harvard on Saturday. This was also the most points scored by a Lion in 29 years. Smith’s 37 field goal attempts broke a 64-year old school record. He scored 19 of Columbia’s 32 first-half points. Smith, a senior, will be a hot commodity on the graduate transfer market. Ivy League rules do not allow graduate students to play varsity sports, which will force Smith to a new school next year.

Delaware’s Nate Darling scored 36 points in a loss to William & Mary. Darling went 5-10 from the three-point line and set a new school record for made threes in a season. He has 89 made threes on the season with four games remaining as well as the conference tournament.

Finally, Nolan Taylor of Cal Poly scored a career-high 35 points in a quadruple-overtime loss to Cal State Fullerton on Saturday. Taylor scored all of his points off of the bench and had never scored more than 11 in a game before this outburst. All of his points came without any made threes.


Main Photo

Embed from Getty Images