The “one year removed from high school” rule has given more teams more opportunities to advance in the NCAA Tournament than ever before. It’s eye-opening to count the number of mid-majors in the RPI 50. Mid-Majors consist of 20 of the RPI 50 and 52 of the RPI 100. The latter is a five-year high. Not surprisingly, the impressive RPI numbers have translated into impressive seeds in the NCAA Tournament. All told, 32 Mid-Majors* received bids in the 2010 NCAA Tournament which is the highest total ever. The average seed for the 32 Mid-Majors was 11.56 which is also the best total ever. It’s not just that there are more Mid-Majors than ever before; it’s that there are more “good” Mid-Majors than ever before. Keep in mind that Memphis significantly reduced the average Mid-Major seed with its run under John Calipari. Memphis didn’t even make the tournament this year and there wasn’t a Mid-Major anywhere near as dominant as Calipari’s crew. Yet, this crop still produced the best average seed on record. That mark was achieved by a litany of single seeds including #3 New Mexico, #5 Temple, #5 Butler, #6 Xavier, #7 BYU, #7 Richmond, #8 Gonzaga, #8 UNLV, and #9 N. Iowa. That group doesn’t even include some of the more “dangerous” Mid-Majors in the tournament like Siena, Cornell, San Diego St., Old Dominion, Houston, UTEP, Utah St., St. Mary’s, and New Mexico St.
Of course, your guess is as good as mine in determining who out of this group is going to be a national news story a week from now. I’m not even going to venture a guess. Just beware that there are more obstacles to a perfect bracket than ever before and those obstacles are more dangerous than ever before. Unless you’re in a 500 person pool, all that matters is picking the elite eight anyways and you can rest assured that I’m not brave enough to pick any of the above cats to make it that far.
* Conference status is not static. Before Louisville, Cincinnati, Marquette, and DePaul left for the Big East in 2006 and Charlotte and St. Louis left for the A-10 the same year, they were all members of Conference USA. C-USA received a total of 14 bids in 2003, 2004, and 2005 including six in 2004. Before the mass exodus, C-USA was hardly a Mid-Major conference. I did not count it as one until 2006. Likewise, the A-10 routinely received 3+ bids in the 90’s and was hardly the 14-team monstrosity of a Mid-Major conference that it is today.