College Basketball Mid-Major Report: Breaking Down Santa Clara, Towson & North Texas
Photo by Emilee Chinn/Getty Images. Pictured: Pat Skerry (Towson)
With the season in full swing, the best mid-major programs have started to separate themselves from the rest of the pack. Some have done so with a slow, methodical pace. Others have a few resume-building victories under their belt already.
There are a few teams flying under the radar of the typical college basketball fan, and they have a legitimate shot at an NCAA Tournament berth, if they work out their most glaring weaknesses.
|Current Overall Record||11-6|
|Current ESPN Bracketology Seed||N/A|
The Santa Clara Broncos are the 87th-ranked team in KenPom at the moment.
Not many people have paid them much attention, mostly because the West Coast Conference has transformed into a power-like league this season. The Broncos have taken a back seat to Gonzaga, BYU, San Francisco and Saint Mary’s, but they are right in the mix.
This team has an extremely efficient offense. They hit 37.7% of their 3s and 54% of 2-pointers, along with hitting 77% collectively from the strike. These rank 25th, 52nd and 31st, respectively, in all of college basketball, and it is no fluke.
The Broncos have four players averaging in the double digits this season: Jalen Williams, Keshawn Justice, Josip Vrankic and PJ Pipes. Pipes recently returned from an injury, while their backup center Jaden Bediako is still out for the time being.
In the latest WCC State of the Conference, I dove into why Bediako’s impact is much more significant than the numbers he puts up in the scorebook.
Santa Clara’s most notable weakness is rebounding, and Bediako, although only averaging 17.6 minutes before his injury, hauls in four boards per game.
This matters because he ranks fourth on the team in the rebounding category.
|Name||Rebounds Per Minutes Played|
Of the best rebounders on the Broncos, Bediako is the most efficient. His return will propel this team to better numbers and depth in the rebounding department.
|Current Overall Record||13-5|
|Current ESPN Bracketology Seed||14|
The Towson Tigers rank second in the Colonial Athletic Association behind the UNC Wilmington Seahawks. They have a well-rounded offensive attack that features Cameron Holden, Nicolas Timberlake, Jason Gibson and Terry Nolan Jr., who all average at least 10 points per game.
The Tigers shoot 3-pointers when given the opportunity and they are efficient at doing so. They rank 46th in college hoops from 3 (36.8%) and feature multiple threats from beyond the arc.
They also crash the glass far better than the competition. They rank 14th in the NCAA in offensive rebounding (36.3%). Most of their rebounding is not necessarily a size discrepancy. They have length from their guards, who help propel them to second chances consistently.
For example, Holden is a 6-foot-5 wing nearly averaging a double-double at 9.1 rebounds per game. Charles Thompson and Timberlake are the next best on the glass, averaging around five per game.
Either way, they have the tenacity on the boards to potentially win the CAA.
Their issue resides on the defensive end. They allow more opponent rebounds (27.2%) and provide open opportunities from the outside (32.4% defensive 3-point percentage). They will need to shore up these shortcoming to potentially make a run in the Big Dance — if they even can obtain a bid.
After all, they are 13-4-1 ATS, so the market has not caught up to the Tigers.
|Current Overall Record||11-4|
|Current ESPN Bracketology Seed||N/A|
Now, here is one of the most interesting mid-majors to bet.
North Texas is notoriously slow. They are 3-9-1 on overs this season. The only team with a slower adjusted tempo, per KenPom, is Virginia, and every basketball fan knows how the Cavs play. North Texas is on a similar playing field.
They currently rank 72nd in KenPom. They occupy 20.7 seconds per possession on offense with the 36th-rated defensive efficiency in the country.
This is their signature. They put pressure on opponents, especially from beyond the arc. Opponents are only shooting 27.8% from deep against the Mean Green on the season, which is pivotal in the modern scope of basketball.
They also are not necessarily elite at turning their opposition over, but the Mean Green maintain a turnover rate of 20.2% on the defensive end. They also can rebound 30.4% of the time offensively and 26.5% on defense. For a relatively small and short-handed team, they do well for themselves.
They can rebound from every position, which gives them a leg up on the competition. In fact, seven players on the team average at least three boards per game. Thomas Bell and Abou Ousmane are the best at crashing the glass, but it does not end with the posts.
The Mean Green took down Purdue in last year’s NCAA Tournament Round of 64. They have some stiff competition in Louisiana Tech and UAB in the C-USA, but should have an edge on the rest of the league.
UAB is the second team in the conference listed on Joe Lunardi’s Bracketology page, so North Texas should find itself in the tourney conversation again.