I was going to call this the mid-major top 5, but I didn’t want to get murdered if I ordered them wrong, or left someone off, or whatever. So instead, we’ll just zip through a handful of mid major teams to watch:
The Cougars have jumped out to a 17-1 start, including an impressive win over Arizona State, and are ranked 14th in our latest poll. They can really bring it on offense, as they have the 5th best eFG in the country, better than, among many teams, #1 ranked Texas. The Cougars combine an ability to shoot the 2 and the 3 with a penchant for taking care of the ball. They are led by Jimmer Fredette, who shoots 45% from three and 93% from the line. Not bad.
I thought they were a top 15 team coming into the year, but other than a win over Ohio State, they’ve basically lost every big game they’ve had. Still, Butler has some things to like. After struggling momentarily, Matt Howard has been playing better as of late, getting to the line at a high rate and converting.
Speaking of getting to the line at a high rate and converting, Butler gets to the line the 11th most in the country, and they convert at the 17th best rate in the country. However, there are two huge things not to like about a potential Butler NCAA tournament run. For one, they can’t shoot the three very well (32.9%), and, while they draw a lot of fouls, I have serious doubts that they will be able to draw fouls at the same rate against a higher seeded team in the tournament.
They almost ended the longest home winning streak in the country, and have good wins at Alabama, over St. Johns and over LaSalle. They also played very well against Syracuse before the Orange ultimately pulled away.
They are led by two potential Ivy POY candidates: Louis Dale and Ryan Whittman. Dale isn’t shooting the ball terribly well, but the Senior has a sparkling 34% assist rate, which is 45th in the country and first in the Ivy League.
Whittman, on the other hand, gets it done shooting-wise. The Senior is shooting 42% from three, and he has been hoisting at a high rate.
Harvard boasts the 44th best defense in the country, a nice win over Boston College, and a near win against UConn. They have also, however, shown a remarkable inability to make shots at times. They put up only 53 points against Army in a 71 possession game.
Harvard’s best player is Jeremy Lin, the early favorite for Ivy player of the year. The 6’3″ Senior has the 74th best TS% in the country despite making only one of three from three point land. Lin is shooting a remarkable 62% from two point range, which is great for a guard. In fact, the Crimson are the 3rd best team in the entire country from two, but their inability from three makes it unlikely they will win a game in March.
Ben Jacobson for coach of the year? The Panthers weren’t on a lot of radars this year, even if they returned a lot of their key guys. UNI has beaten Iowa State, who should have beaten Texas, on the road, as well as a very good Siena team at home.
The Panthers don’t do anything terribly well, but don’t do anything poorly either. They’re a very good defensive rebounding team, and don’t put their opponents on the line very often, but that’s partially a product of who they have played.
Their most interesting player is 7 foot Senior Jordan Eglseder, who plays just over half the team’s minutes, but when he plays he is in the action quite a bit. He is the 3rd best offensive rebounder in the country (18.9%) and the 2nd best defensive rebounder (30%). He also takes 36% of the team’s shots when he is in there, the 7th highest mark in the country.
William and Mary
For a time, the Tribe had the best offense in the country. They’re 9th right now, but can still fill it up. The Tribe beat Maryland by 6 earlier this year in College Park.
William and Mary do have some problems however. They can’t rebound at all. They are just 304th in offensive rebounding and 256th in defensive. William and Mary gets 40% of their points from three, 3rd most in the country, and shoot just under 40% from three.
They have the offense to pull off a first round upset, but defensively I’m not so sure.
For the record, I like Butler the most out of all these teams.