2024 Hofstra vs Charleston - Men's

Mid-Major Power Rankings: March Arrives With Madness In Full Swing

Mid-Major Power Rankings: March Arrives With Madness In Full Swing

March arrives in college basketball with a flurry of upsets in the last week of February, bringing Madness to the Mid-Major Power Rankings.

Feb 29, 2024 by Kyle Kensing
Mid-Major Power Rankings: March Arrives With Madness In Full Swing

Basketball's most intense, exciting and unpredictable time of year arrives not a day too soon — and one later than usually in 2024. The leap into March is worth waiting an additional trip around the sun, however, as it means one extra day for an especially madcap season to deliver more chaos. 

For much of mid-major hoops, the first weekend of March is the last of the regular season. A few leagues begin their conference tournaments as early as Monday and Tuesday. 

In a season that each new week has defied conventions, making this weekly Mid-Major Power Ranking especially difficult to compile, the coming days and weeks provide the first real clarity. 

Of course, the picture only comes into focus after conference tournaments have been played and NCAA Tournament bids have been awarded. One or two weeks is plenty of time to usher in considerable more upheaval, particularly with some of the leading contenders in various leagues facing off to close the regular season. 

Some of the teams trending in the right direction going into March square off to begin the month, including in the Coastal Athletic Association. Reigning champion Charleston already clinched the No. 1 overall seed in Washington, D.C., for a second consecutive year.

How the Cougars arrive in the Capital could determine if they're headed back to the Big Dance, however, as they face off with the league's next-hottest team on March 2. 

Hofstra visits Charleston carrying a three-game winning streak, seven over the last eight, and 10-of-12. The Pride have played their way into contention for the No. 2 seed, embarking on the final weekend tied with Drexel — which Hofstra beat on Feb. 22 after losing to the Dragons a week earlier — and UNC Wilmington.  


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The month and weekend begin on Friday in another matchup pitting teams jockeying near the top of their conference together when Dayton visits Loyola Chicago on Friday. 

The Ramblers surged into a tie for first in the Atlantic 10 with Richmond, but a loss on Tuesday at St. Bonaventure dropped the Ramblers into a tie for second with Dayton. Falling to the Bonnies likely eliminated any momentum toward an already unlikely at-large berth Loyola Chicago was building when it was among the nation's hottest teams. 

Now, the Ramblers find themselves in a position where a loss could relegate them  from first-to-fourth by week's end; VCU, currently in fourth but just a game behind Loyola Chicago and Dayton, faces Richmond in a crosstown matchup on Saturday. 

VCU-Richmond is part of a huge Saturday lineup that also includes surprise American Athletic-leading South Florida visiting Charlotte. The Bulls and 49ers once shared the AAC lead before a 72-69 Bulls win in Tampa on Feb. 5, which kicked off a cold spell for last season's College Basketball Invitational-winners from the Queen City. 


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While the American regular-season title is out of the equation for Charlotte, snapping the nation's second-longest winning streak and making USF's first-ever stay in the AP Top 25 a short one provides the 49ers ample motivation. 

The nation's longest streak, meanwhile, is also at stake in another contest with both March Madness and FloHoops Mid-Major Power Rankings implications. Saint Mary's run of 15straight wins propelled the Gaels from seemingly dead as far as at-large NCAA Tournament consideration back in December, to the Power Rankings' No. 1 team and a potential top-four seed come Selection Sunday. 

Completing the ultra-rare regular-sweep of rival Gonzaga, which has built an impressive winning streak in its own right, could lock Saint Mary's in to favorable positioning when the bracket is announced on March 17. 

Feb. 29 Top 15

1. Saint Mary's 

Saint Mary's owes its nation's best winning streak to the stifling defense indicative of a typical Randy Bennett-coached team, as the Gaels hold opponents to 43 percent shooting on 2-point field-goal attempts (second-best in the country) and allow offensive rebounds at the third-lowest rate. 

However, the offense is more potent than most Saint Mary's teams. The 2023-24 Gaels have scored north of 70 points in 5-of-7 games beginning Jan. 31, a byproduct of boasting five scorers averaging 9.8 points per game or more. 

Saint Mary's topped Gonzaga in Spokane in the first meeting forcing the Bulldogs to play a style more conventionally associated with the Gaels. Saint Mary's held run-and-gun Gonzaga to only 62 points in that encounter. But with capable scoring both on the perimeter and inside, the Gaels can produce offense to keep pace with Gonzaga if the tempo picks up.  

2. Utah State 

Utah State's repeatedly defied expectations in 2023-24, so it should come as no surprise that the Aggies responded to a two-game swoon early in February with wins in 4-of-5, including a 68-63 defeat of San Diego State on Feb. 20. 

Big man Great Osobor's sensational play all season has buoyed Utah State into a tie for first-place with fellow Mountain West surprise Boise State, but it's the ability of multiple Aggies to step up in critical situations that makes this team dangerous. Case in point, Josh Uduje's 15 points to help USU escape a trap game with Fresno State. 


3. San Diego State

San Diego State was humming along so impressively that last year's national runners-up were forecast as a No. 4 seed in the Presidents' Weekend bracket reveal despite not being ranked in the AP Top 25 at the time. 

The loss at Utah State slowed the Aztecs' building momentum, but was reflective of how the Mountain West Conference title hunt has been all season. 

"We have seven losses, all quad one and all on the road," San Diego State coach Brian Dutcher. "It's not like we're being upset."

And the Aztecs emphasized that point with blowouts of Fresno State and San Jose State, taking care of business ahead of a final MW push against co-conference leader Boise State on March 8, and a trip to UNLV before that. 

UNLV has quietly rolled off 8-of-9 with the sole loss coming in a 69-66 heartbreaker against rival Nevada. While the Runnin' Rebels were likely in too deep of a hole midway through the season to warrant at-large talk, they're certainly emerging as dangerous spoilers both for the conference and the bubble picture overall. 

4. Gonzaga

Any concern that Gonzaga's NCAA Tournament appearance streak dating back to 1999 was in jeopardy earlier this season should be pretty well put to bed now that the Bulldogs have won 11-of-12. 

Still, a road swing to close out the regular season with a San Francisco team ranked No. 61 in KenPom.com overall analytics followed by the heavyweight tussle at Saint Mary's offers two impressive potential additions to the resume that would leave no doubt. 

Over its last 12 games, Gonzaga scored fewer than 81 points twice: In a 77-72 win over San Francisco on Jan. 25, and in the Feb. 3 loss to Saint Mary's. 

5. Dayton 

Among the more shocking results in an altogether chaotic previous week, Dayton's 71-67 setback may have been the most surprising. The defeat dropped the Flyers a game back of Richmond once again in the A-10 race. 

Of note, it marked the first time George Mason beat a Top 25-ranked opponent on the Patriots' home floor — a surprising tidbit in light of the program's Final Four history

Six Flyers scoring in double-figures the next time out in an 80-66 rebound vs. Davidson was a nice return to form ahead of the visit to Loyola Chicago. 

6. South Florida

South Florida continues to roll along, picking up its 13thconsecutive with a 79-68 win over SMU last weekend. Kasean Pryor's 19 points and nine rebounds coming off the bench helped keep the Bulls atop the American Athletic Conference heading into the home stretch of the season, and also helped make some program history with USF's first top 25 ranking ever. 

USF has no one statistical category that best encapsulates its breakout season. The Bulls shoot the 3-pointer effectively enough at 36.2 percent, with the two leading shooters — Selton Miguel and Chris Youngblood — each making better than 41 percent.

USF also isn't overly reliant on the 3-pointer. The team gets to the free-throw line with consistency, but isn't a particularly big lineup pounding the paint. On the contrary, the Bulls are among the smallest teams in the hunt for an NCAA Tournament. 

Fluid ball movement and unselfish distribution, consistent defense and being good in the clutch all combine to explain the team's 21-5 record and lead in the American Athletic Conference. 

7. Nevada

Losing 4-of-5 in January, Nevada looked like it was treading water as an NCAA Tournament hopeful. The Wolf Pack since ran off 7-of-8 with high-profile wins at Utah State, in overtime against San Diego State, and a road defeat of Colorado State. 

Nevada has successfully leveraged its length on both ends of the floor, particularly on defense. In the last seven wins, Nevada allowed more than 68 points just once and in five limited teams to fewer than 65. 

8. Boise State 

Back-to-back losses at Colorado State and Utah State early in February dropped Boise State to 16-8 overall, but the Broncos since rallied to take care of opponents they should beat. And BSU did so emphatically. 

Blowouts of Fresno State (90-66), San Jose State (82-50), Wyoming (92-72) and Air Force (79-48) send Boise State into its closing, three-game stretch tied for first in the Mountain West with an opportunity to really make hay as far as the selection committee goes. Each of New Mexico and Nevada on March 2 and March 5 at home, and March 8 at San Diego State pit the Broncos against other NCAA Tournament hopefuls (if not shoo-ins). 

9. New Mexico 

Life in the Mountain West this season has proven to be a roller coaster, but New Mexico's endured an especially up-and-down month. The Lobos are 3-4 since Jan. 31 without consecutive wins or losses at any point. 

The wins include a road defeat of Nevada and a gutty, 68-66 home victory against Colorado State. Losses at home to UNLV and more confounding, Air Force, put some uncertainty over the Lobos' NCAA Tournament outlook. 

Scoring one of either Boise State or Utah State on the road in the next two Saturdays would do wonders for New Mexico's solid but not necessarily ironclad resume. 

10. Indiana State

Riding high on a nine-game winning streak and the first Top 25 ranking for the program since the Larry Bird era, Indiana State crashed to earth with consecutive Missouri Valley losses to Illinois State and Southern Illinois. 

The Sycamores since recovered to win three straight and should make it four in the regular-season finale on Sunday against Murray State. Indiana State can leave no doubt about its postseason fate at Arch Madness, while joining the recent club of College Basketball Invitational participants that advanced to the NCAA Tournament a season later. 


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11. McNeese 

Few teams coming out of what could be labeled low-major conferences are more likely to make teams grimace on Selection Sunday when their name pops up on the bracket than McNeese. 

The Cowboys play a pestering style of defense that produces takeaways on almost a quarter of all possession. They shoot the 3-pointer with frightening accuracy, boasting a team-wide average of 38.7 percent and with each of the four most prolific shooters connecting on 40 percent or better. 

It's a style tailor-made to result in a 1st Round upset. 

12 & 13. Appalachian State and James Madison 

The Sun Belt Conference Tournament promises to be among the most intriguing in all of college basketball, featuring a pair of front-runners that boast resumes worthy of at-large consideration. Neither is likely to get in without the automatic bid, however, meaning it's pretty much win-or-go home for both Appalachian State and James Madison beginning this weekend. 

Appalachian State leads the Sun Belt at 15-2 overall, with includes an 82-76 defeat of James Madison on Jan. 27, and a 59-55 grinder against the Dukes two weeks earlier. 

The former is one of two wins for the Mountaineers scored in a perfect season at home thus far, along with a Dec. 3 win over Auburn, that underscore the potential of this Appalachian State team. 

James Madison roared onto the national stage with an opening-night win over Michigan State and since picked up a meaningful win over Akron on Feb. 10. The Dukes have scored 75 points or more in 24-of-27 wins behind a diverse quartet of leading offensive opponents Terrence Edwards Jr.; T.J. Bickerstaff; Noah Freidel; and Julien Wooten. 

14. FAU

Losses to Memphis and South Florida sabotaged FAU's hope of winning the American's regular-season championship. Perhaps there's some uncertainty over the Owls' likelihood of returning to the NCAA Tournament after reaching last year's Final Four, though the quality of their wins should have them safely in. 

Still, closing out a not-at-all easy final stretch with home dates against Tulane and Memphis bookending a visit to North Texas is a must if Dusty May's team doesn't want to sweat out Selection Sunday. 

15. Colorado State 

A Colorado State team that once looked like it might be the class of mid-major basketball hits the skids at a most inopportune time. The Rams plummeted to No. 15 in the Power Rankings after holding steady in or around the top five much of the last two months, a result of losing three straight and 4-of-5. 

Realistically, a team getting hot near the season's end like Charleston could occupy this spot. But Colorado State's season-long body of work deserves consideration. It's been less than two weeks since the Rams beat MW co-leader Utah State, after all, part of a resume that also includes wins over San Diego State, New Mexico, Colorado and Creighton. 

Nevertheless, Colorado State needs to handle Wyoming — which won the previous encounter in Laramie — and Air Force to go into Las Vegas with some positive mojo. 

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