The college basketball season has now seen three weeks (two full weeks) come and go. It is usually around this time that good mid-major teams start to establish themselves. San Diego State did that around this time last year, and it looks like they are doing it again. The Aztecs entered the AP poll this week and made another statement, knocking off fellow ranked foe Arizona State. It’s a great, profile-building win for SDSU, but it might not have been the most shocking. Over in Kansas, things are getting ugly in Manhattan.
2020-21 Week Three Mid-Major Takeaways
Division II Darlings
The term mid-major gets applied to any team that does not belong to the power conferences in Division I college basketball. However, the Fort Hays State Tigers, members of Division II, earned this title after downing Kansas State this past Tuesday. FHSU marched into the Wildcats’ home gym and beat them 81-68, and the score wasn’t even that close. This marks the Tigers’ first win over Kansas State since 1938, and it’s the first non-Division I team to beat a major conference team on the road since Texas A&M-Corpus Christi defeated Texas A&M back in 2000.
Fort Hays State never trailed in this game, and was never tied with Kansas State after the score was 6-6 early on. The Tigers had as much as a 21-point advantage at one point in the second half. All six players who recorded minutes for FHSU scored in double-figures, led by Jared Vitztum‘s 16 points. What’s even more impressive about this win is that the Tigers did it without their head coach and associate head coach, who were held out due to COVID-19 protocols. The only negative thing about this game is that it counted as an exhibition for them, as they are only allowed to play 22 official games this season, all of which are conference games for the program this season. Still, this will be a win remembered for the ages.
Piloting an Upset
The Portland Pilots have not had much to be excited about over the last few seasons. They have finished in the basement of the West Coast Conference over the last two seasons, winning just one league game in that stretch. The 2020-21 season has started differently, however. Portland improved to 4-1 after upsetting Oregon State 87-86 in overtime on Thursday. This is the Pilots’ second-straight win over the Beavers, with the last coming in December 2016. These teams battled back and forth in the extra period before Portland hit some clutch shots late.
Eddie Davis and Ahmed Ali were a dynamic duo for the Pilots in this one. Ali scored 26 points while Davis added 22. Each of their last points scored of the game were the difference, putting the game in a favorable position with 14 seconds left. Isiah Dasher came up big as well, scoring 16 of his 18 points in the second half. Portland’s defense and rebounding were huge, holding Oregon State to 41 percent shooting and outrebounding the Beavers 44-37. It remains to be seen how the Pilots will do in WCC play, but a result like this is promising that 2020-21 might go slightly better.
Eagles Soar Above The Hurricanes
Florida Gulf Coast might not have a superb mid-major team like their Dunk City squad from the early 2010s. However, the Eagles seem poised to contend in the Atlantic Sun once again this season. That feeling was confirmed when FGCU took down the Miami Hurricanes on the road Saturday, 66-62. The victory is Florida Gulf Coast’s first on the road in this series, but second-straight overall against the ‘Canes. The action was close throughout, with 10 lead changes and 10 ties.
The difference came from beyond the arc. Florida Gulf Coast made 13 triples in the game, their most ever against a power conference team. Caleb Catto, an Atlantic Sun all-conference candidate, led the way with 18 points. Dakota Rivers added 15 of his own points and recognized the importance of this game to him and his teammates.
“We came in with a must-win attitude,” Rivers said after the game. “But, our play was also impacted by doing all the little things right and having a gritty attitude.”
Coppin State Cops a Win
UNC Greensboro was picked by many to be the latest mid-major to be a threat out of the Southern Conference. However, the Spartans couldn’t have had a worse start to the season. That was exacerbated further by another stunning loss at the hands of Coppin State on Thursday. The Eagles picked up an impressive 86-80 victory, their first of the season. This was UNCG’s third-straight loss, putting them at 1-3 on the young season.
Coppin State got it done largely on the back of Anthony Tarke. Tarke was fantastic in just about every facet of his game in this one. He scored 34 points and had 10 rebounds, and came up two assists shy of recording a triple-double. If that wasn’t enough, he made his presence known defensively as well. He had four steals and four blocks. He is the first player at the Division I level to record a stat line like that in 10 seasons. Tarke scored 10 straight points a little over midway through the second-half to break the game open for the Eagles. His brother, Nendah Tarke contributed 20 points of his own in this one. This was a night that family won’t forget.
Mid-Major Top Performers
Stanley Umude of South Dakota had himself a night against their rivals at South Dakota State. Umude dropped a career-high 41 points against the Jackrabbits and added 11 rebounds in their 91-78 win on Saturday. His 41 points is tied for the most by a D-I player in a game this season with Iowa’s Luka Garza. It’s also the most in a game by a Coyote since 2005.
Hayden Brown of The Citadel had his way with Columbia International during the Bulldogs’ 96-57 victory last Monday. Brown scored 31 points, but the highlight of his stat line were the 21 rebounds he secured. That is the most by a Citadel player in the modern era, and the fourth-most in a game in program history. This is also just the second 30-20 game by a player in team history. He has helped The Citadel to their first 4-0 start since the 1984-85 season.
Max Abmas of Oral Roberts poured in a career-high 36 points in an 83-78 loss to Oklahoma State on Tuesday. He also added in nine assists, another career-high for Abmas. He was fantastic shooting the ball, going 7-12 from deep and 11-19 overall, also career bests. The result may not have been what the Golden Eagles wanted, but Abmas got to showcase his talent against a power team.
Richard Washington of San Jose State scored a career-high 38 points in a season-opening win over Fresno Pacific on Wednesday. Washington added 12 rebounds as well. His 38 points is the third-most ever by a Spartan player in a single-game. He scored 24 of those in the first half, including 11 of the team’s final 13 in that span.