Before the 68-team bracket is unveiled on March 14, college basketball writer
Scott Richey weighs in on his favorite sport. Today’s topic: Four true mid-major teams (Gonzaga and Houston don’t really qualify) that could make a run in March.
The Ramblers are the mid-major darlings of KenPom, boasting the No. 1 defense in adjusted efficiency terms. That Loyola coach Porter Moser has seniors Cameron Krutwig and Lucas Williamson from the team’s 2018 Final Four run doesn’t hurt the Ramblers’ NCAA tournament chances, either. Krutwig was in the thick of things as a freshman starter.
San Diego State
This isn’t the the same caliber of team the Aztecs boasted last season — a 30-win group led by an NBA-bound point guard in Malachi Flynn — but coach Brian Dutcher isn’t without weapons. Namely senior forward Matt Mitchell. The Riverside, Calif., native is posting career-highs across the board, averaging 15 points and shooting 40 percent from deep.
A lengthy COVID-19 pause meant a bit of a stumble when the Billikens returned to action in late January. They appear to have found their footing again and have the type of talent necessary for a tourney run. The backcourt of Jordan Goodwin (a walking double-double) and Javonte Perkins (a 42 percent three-point shooter) is dangerous.
Perhaps you’ve heard that defense wins championships. The Aggies have that covered in 7-foot junior center Neemias Queta, who’s averaging 3.1 blocked shots to go along with 12.5 points and 9.1 rebounds per game. Queta’s at the heart of Utah State’s top-15 defense that the Aggies pair with a balanced offense featuring seven players averaging at least six points.
Scott Richey is a reporter covering college basketball at The News-Gazette. His email is email@example.com, and you can follow him on Twitter (@srrichey).