Latest Team Rankings
Free Text Alerts
|ShopMobileRadio RSSRivals.com Yahoo! Sports|
|College Teams||High Schools|
November 4, 2006
? Preseason Top 25
? Big Ten Preview
? The College Basketball Wire
Get the inside scoop on your favorite team:
Rivals.com selected the top 25 storylines for the upcoming 2006-07 college basketball season and will be releasing articles daily, counting down from No. 25 to No. 1. The No. 4 storyline focuses on the possibility of another mid-major making a deep NCAA Tournament run.
Mid-major schools have never been so confident. After watching three of their peers reach the Sweet 16 - and then seeing George Mason pull off its shocking run to the Final Four in the 2006 NCAA Tournament - it seems like everyone outside the major conferences believes they are the next Cinderella.
But who are the real candidates? Could there really be another George Mason?
Most of the candidates reside in the Missouri Valley Conference, and predictably so. After landing a record four NCAA Tournament bids, the premier mid-major conference looks capable of earning multiple invites to the Big Dance again.
Creighton appears much improved from an injury-riddled team that won 20 games and landed on the wrong side of the bubble last season.
Senior Nate Funk, who has been granted a fifth year of eligibility after missing most of last season with a shoulder injury, is one of the top shooting guards and 3-point shooters in the nation. He averaged 17.8 points per game and shot 47 percent from beyond the arc in 2004-05.
A healthy Josh Dotzler should provide a big boost as well. The point guard missed the last seven games with a knee injury and the team went 3-4 over that stretch.
Six other players who played significant minutes are back, and the addition of power forward Ty Morrison - one of the nation's top junior college prospects - could make them tougher on the inside.
Any conversation about possible Cinderellas must include Southern Illinois as well. The Salukis brings back all five starters from a team that won the 2006 MVC Tournament. The program has been to five consecutive NCAA Tournaments.
Defending regular-season champ Wichita State, who lost the MVC's 2005-06 player of the year Paul Miller, may best resemble the ultra-balanced Patriots. The Shockers bring back four starters that averaged between eight and 12 points per game, including one of the league's top guards, Sean Ogirri.
Missouri State also remains a contender after getting snubbed by the NCAA Tournament committee last season despite an RPI of 21, the highest of any team ever left out of the big dance. Guard Blake Ahearn (16.2 ppg) and most of their key players are back.
George Mason looks more like an NIT team with the loss of three starters, but that doesn't mean the Colonial Athletic Association couldn't produce another upset machine in March.
Hofstra, which beat the Patriots twice last season, looks very dangerous. It returns one of the nation's best backcourts from a 26-win squad. Guards Loren Stokes, Antoine Agudio and Carlos Rivera combined to average 46.3 points per game last season.
There are several other legitimate dark horses.
Winthrop, which nearly upset Tennessee as a No. 15 seed in the 2006 NCAA Tournament, brings back seven of its top eight scorers. Perhaps that's why coach Greg Marshall chose to return to the Eagles one day after accepting the head coaching job at the College of Charleston (former Georgia Tech coach Bobby Cremins was eventually hired).
Many are expecting a breakthrough year for Akron, which returns two of the MAC's best players. Guard Dru Joyce and big man Romeo Travis are back for an encore after leading their team to 23 wins last season.
A handful of high-profile transfers have made New Mexico State, which went 16-14 last season, more talented than many major programs. Guards Fred Peete (Kansas State) and Justin Hawkins (Utah) and 7-footer center Martin Iti (Charlotte) are all expected to make immediate impacts. The Aggies also get to play host to the 2007 WAC Tournament.
Eastern Washington could be the ultimate sleeper. The Eagles are coming off a 15-15 season, but have arguably the best player in the mid-major ranks - dynamic guard Rodney Stuckey. As a freshman, Stuckey averaged 24.2 points per game ? making him the leading returning scorer in the nation. The first-year player also earned Big Sky MVP honors.