The college basketball season is entering its first full month of play. This is usually a time when mid-major pretenders and contenders start to be determined. For example, San Diego State appears to be a contender, even after a loss to BYU earlier this week. Others, like UNC Greensboro, have the look of a pretender so far. This past week was no different, with a few teams supplanting themselves as teams to watch. Mid-major basketball is in good shape, even in a weird season.
2020-21 Week Four Mid-Major Takeaways
Mining in Arizona
A lot of teams from Conference USA are getting attention this season. Western Kentucky has some solid wins. Marshall, North Texas, and UAB have all had great starts as well. However, the first marquee win of the season for the league came from UTEP, as the Miners took down a reeling Arizona State Sun Devil group. UTEP’s 76-63 victory was just their second road win against a power conference team in the last 20 years. It was also their first win in Tempe in 37 years. One of the most eye-popping stats from the game is the job the Miners’ defense did on Sun Devil star Remy Martin, holding him to just nine points.
UTEP also owned Arizona State on the glass, outrebounding the Sun Devils 46-26. They overcame an eight-point deficit at the half and pushed their lead to ten with eight minutes left in the game, staying ahead for good. Bryson Williams led the Miners with 22 points, while Souley Boum added 18 points of his own. Head coach Rodney Terry was very happy with the result.
“I’m really proud of my team,” Terry said after the game. “Their preparation this past week had been good and spot on. It was a great road win tonight and a great win for our program.”
The Pac-12 took another hit this past week when Montana took their turn feasting on a league member. The Grizzlies defeated Washington last Wednesday 66-58, giving them their first win over a power conference school since defeating Pitt in November of 2017. It was the program’s first victory over a Pac-12 team since taking down Oregon State in December of 2010. Montana held the lead for most of the game, though they did face a Washington run that put the Huskies ahead at one point in the second half. However, the Grizzlies kept their composure, regaining control of the game with just under four minutes to go with a 10-0 run.
Montana was led in scoring by Kyle Owens, who dropped 13 points. Freshman Josh Bannan added in 10 points and 10 rebounds, the first double-double of his collegiate career. Their efforts led to Montana’s first win over Washington since 1994, when head coach Travis DeCuire was a senior for Montana.
“It’s hard to explain,” DeCuire said. “I go into the locker and I don’t really even have a post-game speech. So many guys did the things that we needed to win.”
Winthrop’s Winning Ways
The Winthrop Eagles took the Big South by storm last season, earning the league’s NCAA Tournament bid before the event’s subsequent cancellation. This season isn’t looking any different, and the Eagles made their own statement by taking down a fellow solid mid-major in the Furman Paladins 87-71 on Saturday. That win propelled Winthrop to their second 5-0 start in school history, with the first coming in 1983-84. They also have a 10-game winning streak dating back to last season, their second such streak in the 2020 calendar year.
The Eagles methodically built up their lead in the first half of this game, growing it to 20 by halftime. Winthrop was able to smother Furman defensively, with the Paladins shooting just 38 percent from the field for the game. They also forced 23 turnovers, and Winthrop’s bench scored at least 46 points for the third-straight game. Charles Falden led the Eagles with 18 points. Many thought Furman was the best mid-major in the state of South Carolina this season. However, that title appears to be Winthrop’s to lose from here on out.
Dayton Flying Once More
The 2020-21 Dayton Flyers have big shoes to fill given the program’s performance last season. However, this year’s team is certainly trying its best. Dayton is off to another quick start after taking down Ole Miss on the road on Saturday 65-62. That win gave Dayton the sweep over the major conference schools from Mississippi, as they defeated Mississippi State the Saturday prior. This felt like a game between two bubble teams. If that’s the case, this is the kind of win that could help Dayton stand out to the committee in March.
Jalen Crutcher had a big game for the Flyers, leading with 23 points. He is the guy that has had to step up in the absence of Obi Toppin. Rodney Chatman added on 21 points of his own. The key to Dayton’s success in this game was their torrid shooting in the second half, going 60.9 percent from the field. Dayton shouldn’t be counted out in the Atlantic 10, though they will have their work cut out for them given how well teams like Saint Louis and Richmond have looked so far.
Mid-Major Top Performers
Chandler Vaudrin of Winthrop leads off this section this week with a triple-double from the Eagles’ game last Sunday. Vaudrin had 13 points, 11 rebounds, and 14 assists in a blowout win over USC Upstate in Big South play. This is Vaudrin’s sixth career collegiate triple-double, and his second during his time at Winthrop. His 14 assists were one shy of his single-game record.
Tre Mitchell of Massachusetts had a monster game in the Minutemen’s conference-opening win over La Salle last Wednesday. Mitchell went off for 37 points on 13-17 shooting. This is his fourth game scoring at least 30 points in 34 tries for the sophomore. He was especially lethal in the second half, scoring 25 of those points.
DeVante Jones of Coastal Carolina had a big two-game swing this past week against Delaware State and Alice Lloyd. Jones set a career-high of 33 points against DSU on Wednesday, only to top that with 35 the next night against Alice Lloyd. That’s 68 points in two days, and he got it done efficiently, shooting 24-32 combined. He also scored his 1,000th career collegiate point in the win over Delaware State.
Josiah Allick of Kansas City had fun torching Kansas Christian in a rare college doubleheader. Allick scored 44 points between both games on Saturday on 19-26 shooting. He also grabbed 21 rebounds combined and did all of his damage inside of the arc. Kansas City’s doubleheader was the first double-dip in school history.
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