Here are the latest mid-major power rankings for ESPN.com, as voted upon by our national panel. I also vote in this poll, which DOES NOT include any teams from the Atlantic 10, Conference USA or Mountain West.
Another quick look at the panel:
Rob Demovsky (@RobDemovsky) covers Horizon League basketball for the Green Bay Press-Gazette.
Richard Kilwien (@smcgaels) is the associate athletic director for external affairs at Saint Mary's College.
Dusty Luthy Shull (@DustyLuthyShull) covers Murray State athletics for The Paducah (Ky.) Sun.
John Templon (@nybuckets) writes about New York City and East Coast mid-major college basketball for his website, nycbuckets.com.
Thomas Chen (@thomasmchen) is in his third year as director of athletic communications at Stony Brook University.
Terry Vandrovec (@terryvandrovec) covers South Dakota State basketball for the Argus Leader in Sioux Falls, S.D.
Mid-Major Power Rankings No. 5
Gonzaga (16-1, 3-0 WCC) -- This might be the best Bulldogs team in Mark Few’s tenure.
Creighton (17-1, 6-0 MVC) -- Doug McDermott should top your ballot for national POY.
Bucknell (15-3, 2-0 Patriot) -- Does Mike Muscala (19.7 ppg, 10.9 rpg) deserve consideration, too?
Wichita State (16-2, 5-1 MVC) -- Carl Hall returns in time for weekend clash against Creighton.
Belmont (13-4, 4-0 OVC) -- Bruins have won six of their past seven games.
Saint Mary’s (14-4, 3-1 WCC) -- Matthew Dellavedova. Buzzer-beater. That’s all.
BYU (14-5, 4-1 WCC) -- Suffered tough loss to Gaels, but thanks for the drama.
Utah State (14-1, 5-0 WAC) -- Somehow, Aggies have quietly won 13 in a row.
Stephen F. Austin (14-1, 5-0 Southland) -- Taylor Smith (15.3 ppg, 8.7 rpg, 2.4 bpg) is underrated.
Middle Tennessee State (14-4, 6-1 Sun Belt) -- Blue Raiders have won three in a row.
North Dakota State (15-3, 6-0 Summit) -- Taylor Braun changes everything for Bison.
Akron (12-4, 3-0 MAC) -- Zips have won eight in a row via Zeke Marshall’s D (3.4 bpg).
Murray State (12-4, 3-1 OVC) -- Isaiah Canaan (21.9 ppg) still one of America’s best guards.
Eastern Kentucky (14-3, 4-0 OVC) -- Big battle with Belmont on Thursday night.
Lehigh (15-3, 2-0 Patriot) -- Mountain Hawks won first two league games without C.J. McCollum.
Team of the week: Utah State continues to dominate the WAC. The Aggies (ranked 65th in adjusted offensive efficiency per Ken Pomeroy) won their 13th consecutive game this past Friday (66-60 over San Jose State). They’re led by Preston Medlin (16.4 ppg, 39.7 percent from the 3-point line), who is ranked first in the WAC among players with a minimum usage rate of 20 percent (121.3 offensive rating).
Player of the week: Savannah State guard Preston Blackman scored 41 points (8-for-15 from the 3-point line) in a 78-70 double-overtime win at Morgan State on Monday. The senior played 46 minutes, hit all five of his free throw attempts and recorded two steals.
Taylor Braun, North Dakota State’s top scorer (15.2 ppg), was diagnosed with a stress fracture in his right foot earlier this week. The junior could miss up to six weeks. He suffered the injury during a weekend victory over Oakland. It’s a significant development in the Summit League. Braun’s production was critical for a program that’s ranked 45th in adjusted offensive efficiency per Pomeroy. Now, a Western Illinois team with a 6-0 conference record and a South Dakota State squad that’s won three of four since suffering a loss to NDSU in its Summit League opener could move to the top of the standings in the coming weeks.
We’ll know more about the Horizon League in the next week. Wright State, No. 1 in the conference with a 4-0 record, travels to Detroit, Valparaiso and Youngstown State for its next three games. Valpo plays Detroit on the road Thursday night.
So Matthew Dellavedova nailed a 3-pointer at the buzzer to beat BYU 70-69 on Wednesday night? Just more proof that those late-night West Coast Conference matchups on ESPN are worth the sleep deprivation.
Surprises? Northeastern on top of the CAA (Towson in second place at 4-1????), Long Beach State’s early surge to the top of the Big West and Bryant’s 4-0 start in the NEC. Disappointments? Illinois State’s 0-6 record in the Missouri Valley Conference, Illinois-Chicago’s 2-3 record in the Horizon League despite nonconference wins over Northwestern and Colorado State, and Canisius, which defeated Temple by 10 on the road last month but is currently riding a 1-3 stretch in the MAAC.
Now that we've gone over the best of the best, here's my take on the top game this weekend involving mid-major teams ...