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Mid-Major Tournament Previews: Week Two

After one week of mid-major conference tournament action, five teams have punched bids. Utah State, Belmont, Winthrop, Bradley, and Liberty captured mid-major auto-bids. This week, ten more leagues begin their tournaments this week, while two just started this past weekend. By next Sunday, there will be 32 guaranteed bids to the NCAA Tournament.

Mid-Major Week Two Tournament Previews

Mid-Major Tournament Preview: America East

Favorite: Vermont Catamounts

Vermont has been the most consistent team in the America East over the last few years. The Catamounts are led by senior playmaker Anthony Lamb, who could singlehandedly beat a team. Vermont will host every game they play, giving them a home-court advantage. They already defeated Maine in a quarterfinal game on Saturday. The 107 wins by the senior class are the most in conference history. Watch out for this squad if they make the NCAA Tournament.

Sleeper: UMBC Retrievers

UMBC also won their quarterfinal game against New Hampshire on Saturday. The Retrievers are two years removed from their historic 16-1 upset. However, they are looking to upset top-seeded Vermont in their next game. UMBC already has one win over the Catamounts in Vermont this season. The Retrievers are one of the few conference foes that have given Vermont trouble, so keep an eye out for an upset here.

Big Sky

Favorite: Eastern Washington Eagles

Eastern Washington won an outright Big Sky title while winning a school-record 16 conference games this season. The Eagles have also won seven in a row coming into the conference tournament. They have lost in the last two Big Sky championship games, so they are looking to change their fortune this time around. Conference player of the year candidate Mason Peatling is a player to watch.

Sleeper: Portland State Vikings

Portland State enters the Big Sky tournament as the four seed. The Vikings went 2-1 against Northern Colorado and Montana this year while playing Eastern Washington close. They come into the tournament winning six in a row, their longest streak since winning the title in 2009. Holland Woods averages 17.7 points per game for the Vikings.

Big West

Favorite: UC Irvine Anteaters

UC Irvine upset Kansas State last year and seemed poised to advance to the Sweet 16 before running out of gas against Oregon. The Anteaters are not quite as good of a mid-major as last year but were still the best team in the Big West this season. They earned back-to-back outright conference titles for the first time ever. Two of their three conference losses came to the second and third place finishers this season.

Sleeper: Long Beach State Sharks

Long Beach is the eighth seed out of eight teams in the Big West tournament. However, they are the other team that defeated UC Irvine this season. They also beat them last year. In short, Long Beach will not be intimidated by the Anteaters and might cause an upset right off the bat.

Conference USA

Favorite: North Texas Mean Green

North Texas took control of the conference before the beginning of pod play but went just 2-2 against the top pod to end the season. Still, they captured an outright title and are the favorite to represent Conference USA in the Big Dance. The Mean Green did take a loss to every other top-four seed this year.

Sleeper: Charlotte 49ers

Charlotte is the biggest surprise in the conference this year. The 49ers were voted 12th in the preseason poll but find themselves as the four seed and with a bye to start the tournament. Charlotte won double-digit conference games for the first time in 15 years. They beat league favorite North Texas a week ago and could ride a wave of confidence to a tournament title.

Ivy League

Favorite: Yale Bulldogs

Yale appeared as though they would be a top mid-major before taking more stumbles in league play than expected. However, Yale still overcame being swept by rival Harvard to win an outright Ivy League title. When the Bulldogs are playing well, they can be dangerous. They need two wins in the Ivy tournament first to do that.

Sleeper: Penn Quakers

Penn picked up one win over Yale this season and will rematch with the Bulldogs in their Ivy League semifinal game. They also beat Harvard this year should they make it to the championship game. A.J. Brodeur leads three senior starters with 17.3 points and 8.9 rebounds per game.

Metro Atlantic

Favorite: Siena Saints

Siena used a nine-game winning streak to end the season to capture their first conference title since 2009-10. The Saints will now have to survive what has historically been a wacky conference tournament. Siena may end up with a 16-seed if they make the NCAA Tournament but could be one of the hottest teams entering it.

Sleeper: Niagara Purple Eagles

Niagara finished in sixth place in the MAAC but own wins over Siena and Saint Peter’s this season. The Purple Eagles are playing on the first day of the tournament, but sometimes that can kickstart a team to a run. Former Duke standout Greg Paulus is in his first year as the head man for Niagara.


Favorite: Akron Zips

Akron is another mid-major that could make noise if they can make it through their conference tournament. The Zips won an outright title but took losses to each of the top-four seeds during league play. Loren Jackson is their star player, averaging 19.8 points per game this year.

Sleeper: Buffalo Bulls

You cannot talk about the MAC without discussing Buffalo. The Bulls are nowhere near last year’s mid-major success, but still won 20 games and were in the race for a conference title. The defending champions defeated Akron, Bowling Green, and Kent State this season.


Favorite: North Carolina Central Eagles

North Carolina Central finds itself as the MEAC champions once again. LeVelle Moton is building a conference powerhouse at his alma mater. Jibri Blount averages 19.2 points and 9.2 rebounds per game for a team looking to make it back to the NCAA Tournament.

Sleeper: Norfolk State Spartans

Norfolk State enters this tournament as a three seed. The Spartans will have to find a way to defeat the North Carolina schools to earn a title. However, the tournament is being played in their backyard, which may give them extra crowd support.


Favorite: Prairie View A&M

Prairie View won the SWAC title for the second straight year. The Panthers want to make a second straight appearance in the NCAA Tournament as well. However, the come into the SWAC tournament on a two-game losing streak, including a loss to second-place finisher Southern. Devonte Patterson leads a group of five seniors.

Sleeper: Alcorn State Braves

Alcorn State is the five seed in this tournament, but they have wins over conference powerhouses Prairie View and Texas Southern. The Braves swept Texas Southern for the first time since 2005-06. Alcorn State could cause some damage in this one.


Favorite: Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks

Stephen F. Austin is most well-known for upsetting Duke this season. However, the Lumberjacks quietly went 19-1 in Southland play as well. Some think they could be a mid-major bubble team if they slip up in Katy, Texas. Major teams will not want to see them as their tournament matchup.

Sleeper: Sam Houston State Bearkats

Sam Houston State was denied an NCAA Tournament appearance after being the best team in the league a season ago. Now, the Bearkats are looking to be the team to pull the upset. They are rivals with Stephen F. Austin which could make them a threat to the Lumberjacks.

Sun Belt

Favorite: Little Rock Trojans

Picked 11th in the preseason poll, Little Rock surprised to win their first Sun Belt title since 2015-16. The Trojans did finish the season 3-3 but will get some rest having earned a bye straight to the semifinals. Markquis Nowell is a conference player of the year candidate.

Sleeper: Georgia State Panthers

Georgia State finds itself in unfamiliar territory in its first year without Ron Hunter. Still, the Panthers are a threat in this tournament. They ended the season with a victory over conference-winner Little Rock. This team is seasoned with their previous NCAA  appearances and could make another run.

Mid-Major Tournament Preview: WAC

Favorite: New Mexico State Aggies

New Mexico State is once again a dangerous mid-major team. The Aggies were a perfect 16-0 in WAC play this year, becoming the first team in conference history to achieve that feat. They own the nation’s longest winning streak at 19 games heading into Las Vegas. This tournament is New Mexico State’s to lose and will give someone fits in the NCAA Tournament.

Sleeper: Kansas City Kangaroos

Kansas City played New Mexico State the toughest this season, losing both games by a combined nine points. The Kangaroos also beat second-place finisher Seattle in their only matchup. They enter this tournament on a five-game winning streak.


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