For the second year in a row, I’ll be covering the mid-major scene for ESPN.com. But unlike last year, we’ve switched up the format.
One of the major changes is a new top-15 poll that will be compiled by a panel of folks (writers, SIDs) who are plugged into the mid-major scene. They’ll join me in ranking the best of the mid-major circuit -- which does not include the Mountain West, the Atlantic 10 or Conference USA -- each week.
So without further ado, here’s the panel for ESPN.com’s Mid-Major Power Rankings for the 2012-13 season:
Rob Demovsky (@RobDemovsky) has worked at the Green Bay Press-Gazette since 1997. He covers the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay and the Horizon League.
Richard Kilwien (@smcgaels) is the associate athletic director for external affairs at Saint Mary's College. He has worked in college athletics for the past 25 years, and has been involved with the West Coast Conference since 2000.
Leslie Wilhite (@Leslie_Wilhite, @MT_MBB) is in her second season as an Assistant Director of Athletic Communications at Middle Tennessee State University, serving as the primary contact for men's basketball, baseball and women's golf. Wilhite, a 2006 graduate of the University of Kentucky, has also worked in media relations with Alabama-Birmingham, the University of Illinois and the Houston Astros.
Dusty Luthy Shull (@DustyLuthyShull) is a sports writer for The Paducah (Ky.) Sun and is in the middle of her sixth season covering Murray State athletics. Luthy Shull is a graduate of the University of the Missouri School of Journalism.
John Templon (@nybuckets) writes about New York City and East Coast mid-major college basketball at Big Apple Buckets using a stats based, tempo-free slant.
Thomas Chen (@thomasmchen) is in his third year as Director of Athletic Communications at Stony Brook University. He has six years of experience serving as a primary media contact for mid-major men's college basketball teams.
Terry Vandrovec (@terryvandrovec) has been the South Dakota State beat writer for the Argus Leader newspaper in Sioux Falls, S.D., since 2006. Prior to that, he spent nine years at The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead in his home state of North Dakota.
Poll No. 1 (Dec. 6)
Gonzaga (9-0) (7) -- Beat Washington State on Kevin Pangos' late layup Wednesday night. Now 9-0 for the first time in its D-I history.
Creighton (7-1) -- Suffered first loss of the season last week against Boise State, but bounced back with an 80-51 wipeout of Saint Joseph's.
Wichita State (8-0) (1) -- Has wins against VCU, Iowa and Air Force in what was supposed to be a rebuilding season.
Bucknell (8-1) -- Behind a monster season from Mike Muscala, the Bison already have wins over Purdue, George Mason and Kent State.
Belmont (6-2) -- Losers in two of its past four games, but owns impressive wins at Stanford and against Oral Roberts.
Murray State (6-1) -- Isaiah Canaan is doing Isaiah Canaan things and the Racers' only blemish of the season is a neutral-site loss to Colorado.
Lehigh (7-1) -- On a six-game winning streak behind All-American candidate C.J. McCollum.
Ohio (6-2) -- Suffered an 84-58 loss at Memphis on Wednesday night, the Bobcats' second straight loss since a 6-0 start.
Saint Mary’s (6-2) -- Winners of two in a row after a disappointing performance at the DIRECTV Classic in Anaheim.
Middle Tennessee (6-2) -- Beat UAB by 20 points Wednesday night after a heartbreaking OT defeat at Akron.
Illinois State (5-3) -- Lost to No. 5 Louisville by three Saturday, but then blew a huge lead against Wyoming at home.
BYU (5-3) -- Winners in three of its past four games, but doesn't own a quality win yet.
Davidson (4-4) -- Off to a surprisingly lukewarm start, including Wednesday's home loss to Charlotte.
Akron (4-2) -- On a three-game winning streak and plays at Creighton Sunday.
Illinois-Chicago (7-1) -- Beat Northwestern Saturday, plays Colorado State this weekend.
Player of the Week: Gonzaga’s Kelly Olynyk had 22 points, seven rebounds, two assists, one block and a steal in the Bulldogs’ 71-69 road win against Washington State on Wednesday night.
Team of the Week: Illinois-Chicago upset its crosstown foe, Northwestern, in Evanston, 50-44, Saturday. The Flames are on a six-game winning streak entering Saturday’s home matchup against Colorado State.
Ohio missed its best chance to boost its at-large resume when it suffered an 84-58 loss to Memphis on Wednesday night. The Bobcats gave up 84 points for the second consecutive game.
Portland’s Ryan Nicholas had a career night (15 points, 19 rebounds and six assists) in the Pilots’ 68-60 home loss against No. 21 UNLV.
Drexel’s 2-6 start is beyond surprising. The Dragons’ struggles began before senior guard Chris Fouch suffered a season-ending injury in the third game of the season. Their greatest challenges are on defense, where they’re slotted at No. 172 in defensive efficiency (they finished 61st in 2011-12).
Now that we've covered the week that was, here's my take on the top games this weekend involving mid-major teams ...