Mid-Major 2020-21 Takeaways: Week Two

The college basketball season feels like it’s kicking into full gear. There are still plenty of cancellations and postponements taking place. However, things march on. Teams are scheduling on the fly, with some match-ups getting set less than 24 hours before tip. The largest upset of the week came last Sunday when Richmond took down Kentucky in Lexington. That propelled the Spiders to 19 in the AP Poll before getting news of a positive COVID case. Alas, there was plenty of other notable mid-major outcomes over the first full week of the season.

2020-21 Week Two Mid-Major Takeaways

Navy Lays Anchor in Georgetown

The one thing that has come out of scheduling in the COVID era is more regional match-ups taking place. Look no further than Georgetown welcoming Navy to town last Tuesday. What the Hoyas didn’t expect was that the Midshipmen would march into their arena and take them down. Navy earned a 78-71 victory behind a stellar game from star Cam Davis, who scored 28 points, including 18 in the second half. This is Navy’s first win over Georgetown since 1977, and their first over a BIG EAST team since 1996.

“It’s a great win for us, our kids, and the Academy,” head coach Ed DeChellis said after the game. “We expected to win, and I told our guys that at halftime when we were up a couple of points.”

The game went back and forth in the second half. However, a 7-0 scoring burst by the Mids put them up 70-62 with three-and-a-half minutes left in the game. Navy wanted to make sure they finished the game after hanging with Maryland in the first half of that game earlier this season before losing steam in the game’s final 20 minutes. The Naval Academy is off to its best start over four games since 2008-09, and may just be warming up for a run in the Patriot League.

Historic Victory

UC Riverside has been dealing with scheduling changes just like every other team across Division I. The mid-major program worked the phones and found themselves playing the Washington Huskies in Las Vegas less than 24 hours after setting the game up. The Highlanders made the most of it, stifling their Pac-12 opponent to the tune of a 57-42 victory. Beating a power conference opponent is a huge accomplishment in and of itself. However, that was (rightly) overshadowed by a bigger milestone. UCR head coach Mike Magpayo not only earned his first career win but the first win by a head coach of Filipino and Asian descent in Division I basketball.

“I want to hold the door open for the next generation,” Magpayo said. “It’s my turn to pay it forward.”

Riverside’s defensive mindset trickles right down from its head man. The Highlanders led for most of the game and held Washington to just under 30 percent from the field on the night. They also outrebounded the Huskies 49-33. Jock Perry led all UCR scorers with 21 points while Arinze Chidom snagged 12 boards. The future is bright at Riverside, and the team has a chance to be a sleeper in the Big West this season.

Ramming the Pirate Ship

The Atlantic 10 has some quality mid-major teams this year. Richmond has already been touched on, and Saint Louis is shaping up to be a legitimate NCAA Tournament team as well. However, the league is deeper than that. Rhode Island is one of those teams that is trying to bring that to light. The Rams did just that with a solid 76-63 win over Seton Hall on Wednesday. This was URI’s third-straight win, and all three have come by double-digits. Rhode Island outscored the Pirates 15-2 over the game’s final six minutes, holding Seton Hall without a field goal during that span.

Fatts Russell (because who else would it be?) led the Rams with 17 points. The biggest difference this season is that he has help. Three other teammates scored in double-figures, including Makhi Mitchell recording his first career double-double with 11 points and 11 rebounds. Rhode Island’s defense stepped up, forcing 18 turnovers and turning them into 18 points. It’s because of teams like URI that the A-10 continues to be a quality league. Don’t be surprised if there are three or four representatives in the NCAA Tournament.

Embracing Bucky Ball

Samford appeared to be in a rebuilding mode heading into the 2020-21 season. The Bulldogs entered with a lot of new faces, including new head coach Bucky McMillan, who came from the high school ranks. After dropping their opening contest at home to Alabama A&M, it appeared a down season was the right call. However, the tables turned after the Bulldogs got a huge road win over Belmont on Saturday, 96-83. It was the program’s first win over the Bruins since 1999, and McMillan’s first win over a D-I opponent. This was also Belmont’s first non-conference home loss in a little over three years.

Samford jumped all over Belmont early. They held as much as a 19-point lead in the first half and maintained that kind of advantage through most of the second half. The Bulldogs survived a late push that cut their lead to three with five minutes to play. However, Belmont just couldn’t get over the hump. Defense was the name of the game for Samford. They held the Bruins to just 34.4 percent shooting for the game. They also held them to just 24.4 percent from three, an area that Belmont typically excels at. Myron Gordon led the way with 23 points and 10 rebounds. Samford’s win is a glimpse into just how deep of a league the Southern Conference has become.

Mid-Major Top Performers

Souley Boum of UTEP had a dominant game both as a scorer and a passer in an 84-65 win over D-III’s Sul Ross State on Saturday. He scored a career-high 34 points while also recording 11 assists in the win. Boum’s assist total was the most in a game by a Miner since 2017.

Isaiah Ross for Iona had himself a dominant Saturday performance as well. He scored 33 points and added seven rebounds in a big 82-74 road win over Hofstra. Ross’s 33 points were a career-high, and he also surpassed 1,000 career points during his time at the school. The Gaels will need plenty of games like this from Ross as they look to make a run in the MAAC.

Taevion Kinsey of Marshall carried the Thundering Herd in their 80-64 win over another solid mid-major in Wright State on Thursday. Kinsey dropped a career-high 31 points, 13 of which came from the free-throw line. This was his first game scoring at least 30 points, but his 14th straight in which he scored at least 10. Marshall’s success this season will depend on the continued development of Kinsey’s game.

Essam Mostafa did it all for Coastal Carolina in their 113-56 dismantling of NAIA foe Columbia International on Thursday. The native of Egypt scored 25 points and grabbed 15 rebounds in the win. Mostafa did most of his damage in the first half, as he already had a double-double at halftime with 18 points and 11 rebounds. Perhaps most impressive was his shooting efficiency, making 11 of his 15 shots for the game.

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