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. 6:
Gonzaga (17-2, 4-0 WCC) -- Zags will face BYU Thursday after tough loss at Butler last weekend.
Wichita State (18-2, 7-1 MVC) -- Carl Hall's return elevates the Shockers’ ceiling.
Creighton (17-3, 6-2 MVC) -- The Bluejays have lost two consecutive tough games.
Belmont (15-4, 6-0 OVC) -- The Bruins are ranked 34th in adjusted offensive efficiency.
Saint Mary’s (15-4, 4-1 WCC) -- The Gaels have won seven of their past eight games.
Bucknell (16-4, 3-1 Patriot League) -- Suffered a three-point loss to rival Lehigh on Wednesday.
BYU (15-5, 5-1 WCC) -- A win at Gonzaga would change the WCC title conversation.
Middle Tennessee (16-4, 8-1 Sun Belt) -- The Blue Raiders are 31st in the nation in defensive efficiency (among nearly 350 schools).
Lehigh (14-4, 4-0 Patriot) -- Without star senior C.J. McCollum, Lehigh beat Bucknell to ascend to first place in the conference.
Stephen F. Austin (16-1, 7-0 Southland) -- The Lumberjacks haven’t lost since Dec. 5.
Murray State (14-4, 5-1 OVC) -- Defensive gaps could prove to be problematic going forward.
Akron (14-4, 5-0 MAC) -- Zips have four players averaging 9.0 points per game or more.
North Dakota State (16-4, 7-1 Summit) -- Bison still fighting without injured star Taylor Braun.
Valparaiso (16-5, 6-1 Horizon) -- The Crusaders are in first place after winning six in a row.
Utah State (14-3, 5-2 WAC) -- Crucial injuries will make Aggies’ pursuit of a WAC title difficult.
Team of the Week: So many possibilities. Wichita State knocked off Creighton in a major Missouri Valley Conference showdown. And Drake, a squad that hasn’t even amassed a .500 record, dropped the Bluejays on Wednesday night. But I’ll go with Lehigh, which proved that it’s still a contender in the Patriot League by knocking off Bucknell 65-62 on Wednesday night. A few weeks ago, the Mountain Hawks lost talented guard C.J. McCollum, a serious NBA prospect who led the program to an upset over Duke in last season’s NCAA tournament, to a broken foot. Early reports suggest that the program would be lucky to have him back in late February/early March. McCollum, however, may also decide to enter the draft without playing another minute for Lehigh. The bottom line is that Lehigh won’t have its star in Patriot League play. So a road win over its top threat in the conference was a major victory for a program that is still fighting for the title. B.J. Bailey led Lehigh (10-for-18 from beyond the arc) with 18 points. Mike Muscala finished with 16 points, eight rebounds and six blocks for Bucknell (2-for-14 from beyond the arc). The Mountain Hawks have won five in a row without McCollum.
Player of the Week: Corey Hawkins, a sophomore guard at UC-Davis, registered 40 points (8-for-9 from beyond the arc), 12 rebounds, two assists and a steal in a 93-82 win at Hawaii on Sunday. He recorded 17 points, six rebounds, five assists, four steals and a block during a 74-71 victory at CS Northridge on Jan. 17.
The WAC race has changed. Recent injuries to Preston Medlin (fractured wrist) and Kyisean Reed (torn ACL) were serious blows to a Utah State program that looked like the league favorite entering league play. Reed is out for the season but Medlin might return. By then, however, New Mexico State or Louisiana Tech may have control of the conference.
Give Drake full credit for Wednesday night’s win over No. 17 Creighton. Yes, Creighton star Doug McDermott got sick at halftime and struggled in the second half. But he scored 17 points in the first half, which ended with Drake leading 44-28.
On Saturday, two teams that represent statistical extremes will battle in the Southland. Stephen F. Austin, which owns the nation’s top scoring defense in the country at 49.4 PPG allowed, will travel to face Northwestern State, No. 1 nationally in scoring offense (85.0 PPG).