Mid-Major Takeaways: Week 17

Welcome to March, where madness reigns. A handful of mid-major conferences have finished regular season play. Titles have been handed out, but not automatic bids. Many teams will see their NCAA Tournament hopes ended over the next few weeks. However, each of the traditional mid-major leagues is hoping that their best teams will represent them in the Bid Dance.

Mid-Major Week 17 Takeaways

Warriors of the Northeast

Merrimack was voted to finish in last in the preseason NEC poll. However, as this season has shown, polls do not matter. The Warriors clinched a share of the league title when they defeated Central Connecticut State on Thursday. They won the league outright when St. Francis PA lost to Robert Morris on Saturday.

Merrimack became the second first-year Division I program ever to win their conference, joining Birmingham Southern in 2003-04. However, they became the first to ever win their league outright. They also set the record for most wins by a team playing its first season at the DI level. Due to NCAA rules about transitional teams, the Warriors cannot participate in NCAA-sponsored postseason tournaments for four years. That means no NCAA or NIT appearance this year. Furthermore, the NEC decided not to let the team participate in its conference tournament. Therefore, Merrimack will await an expected invite from the CBI or CIT to play postseason basketball. What a first year it has been for Joe Gallo’s program.

Bison Bounce Jackrabbits

North Dakota State and South Dakota State are more than just rivals on the gridiron. These two teams have been battling for Summit League crowns for the past few years. The Bison got the best of the Jackrabbits on Thursday 71-69 in overtime. The win put North Dakota State in position to share a league title with their rivals, which the accomplished by defeating Omaha on Saturday. The Bison won the tiebreaker to earn the top seed in the conference tournament.

Tyson Ward led all North Dakota State scorers with 24 points while also grabbing seven rebounds. His last two points of the game came on the game-winning shot with 20 seconds remaining in the extra period. This is the 12th win in the last 15 games for the Bison at home against South Dakota State. Anything less than a rematch between these two programs in the Summit League championship game would be a letdown.

Saints on Fire

The MAAC had been clumped together for most of the season. That was until Siena got on its hot streak. The Saints defeated Marist 52-50 on a buzzer-beater on Friday to win their seventh game in a row. Siena has now won 10 of its last 11, with the only loss coming to second-place foe St. Peter’s.

Jalen Pickett knocked down a long-range two-pointer as time expired to win the game for Siena. Pickett finished the game with 14 points, five rebounds, and five assists. Donald Carey led all Saint scorers with 16 points. The win secured a top-two seed for Siena in the MAAC tournament. If they can win out, they will claim an outright conference title and the number one seed.

Eagles Soar into First

Eastern Washington and Northern Colorado entered Saturday’s matchup in a three-way tie for first place with Montana in the Big Sky. When the game was over, Eastern Washington escaped with a 68-64 road win and a one-game lead over the Bears. The Eagles relied heavily on their defense, holding a Northern Colorado team that averages 10.3 made threes per game to only seven.

Jacob Davison led all Eagles with 24 points while Mason Peatling added 20 points. Eastern Washington pushed their conference record to 14-4, with the 14 Big Sky wins tying the most league wins they have ever achieved in the mid-major conference. They have already been swept by Montana this season, so they need the Grizzlies to lose once more while winning out to secure the top seed in the Big Sky tournament.

Mid-Major Top Performers

There were a pair of 43 point scorers in mid-major action this week. Taveion Hollingsworth of Western Kentucky scored a career-high 43 points in an overtime victory over Louisiana Tech on Thursday. 17 of his points came over the final few minutes to help the Hilltoppers erase a 15-point deficit to force overtime. He went 17-19 from the free-throw line, and it is the most points scored by a Western Kentucky player since 1971.

Antoine Davis of Detroit scored a season-high 43 points in a win over IUPUI on Saturday. He became the fifth player in school history to score 40 or more points in a game twice or more in his career. He scored 22 points in the first half and finished the season leading the Horizon League in scoring at 23.7 points per game.

Chauncey Hawkins of St. Francis Brooklyn scored a career-high 38 points in a win over Central Connecticut State on Saturday. He scored 19 of his 38 from the charity stripe, going 19-20. The 19 made free-throws tied a school record that was set in 1961.

Sam Sessoms of Binghamton is back here again after scoring 38 points in a loss to New Hampshire on Saturday. Sessoms scored 30 of those points in the second half, the most ever scored in a half in Bearcats history. The sophomore has been a bright spot for a team that will miss the America East tournament.

Jhivvan Jackson of UTSA and Yoeli Childs of BYU also scored 38 points this week. These two players have been outstanding mid-major players all season.


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