The Beauty of Mid-Major March Madness

While of course it would be sacrilegious to call Championship Week my favorite part of the NCAA season (since, you know, they have that big tournament at the end of the year), I have to say that I like it nearly equally as much as the tourney, but for different reasons. Obviously the NCAA Tournament is an all out basketball blitz and offers excitement at a breakneck pace, as well as dramatic buildup and epic storybook upsets. There’s no matching this, I know. For basketball purists, however, Championship Week allows for nationally televised non-major conference games, which give us a glimpse at teams and players we wouldn’t otherwise be able to see.

Before we dig deeper into the awesomeness that is mid-major championship games, allow me to debunk two common college basketball fan assumptions:

“Who cares? These conferences are ‘non-major’ for a reason. Give me the Big East, ACC, Big Ten, and I’m set, that’s the best basketball anyway.”

True. I will not dispute that the major conferences are where the highest level of basketball reside. But doesn’t it get boring to watch the same 20-25 teams all year every year? If you want to pay attention to a smaller amount of teams, why not just watch the NBA? The main draw of college basketball is that there are 100+ teams and that different ones rise into relevance every single year. Having access to a greater volume of basketball is the single greatest thing about college basketball.

“Why bother watching the non-major championship games? Won’t I just see the winners in the tournament?”

Here’s the difference: By watching the non-majors play against each other, you’ll often be able to see guys who are supremely skilled before they get pooped on by the overwhelming talent/athleticism at the highest level of Division 1. Also, with guys who aren’t necessarily used to the big stage, you’ll see more upsets, more missed late-game free throws, and more guards panicking while being pressed, which leads to more exciting games. Wouldn’t you rather see the non-majors play against each other in a close game before they get annihilated by a top seed?

Two More Reasons to Watch These Games:

  • Nearly every single team in the non-major conferences has one gigantic, gumpy white guy whose sole assignment is to be big.It’s awesome.
  • Watching these games is a great way to find possible upset teams to put in your bracket and then brag about for an entire year.

With those issues out of the way, here are the attractions of Championship Week that you’ve already missed out on:

Lamont “Momo” Jones – Iona

After transferring from Arizona two years ago, Momo did exactly what you would expect an Arizona transfer playing in the MAAC to do. He’s averaging 23 points per game and doing these kinds of things (since he plays for Iona, there’s no recent footage of him, but this is the best I could do):

Oh, and his season high this year is 40.

Nate Wolters – South Dakota State

His career high is 53 points. They’re playing their conference championship game as I write this. You’d better hope they win.

UPDATE: The color commentary guy on this game just considered the question, “Would an NBA team be willing to build around Nate Wolters?” I’m still awake, right?

UPDATE UPDATE: SDSU won. We can all breathe now.

Davon Marshall – Liberty

I know Liberty is probably the worst NCAA Tourney team ever, but for better or worse, Marshall has absolutely no conscience which can be very entertaining. Also, he did this once:

So tune in the rest of this week…

Because you’ve already missed some great stuff. With the Patriot League, America East, Big Sky, Big West, Conference USA, Mid-American, Mid-Eastern, Mountain West, Southland, Southwestern Athletic, and Western Athletic conference championship games yet to be played (oh my God this week is going to be awesome), there’s plenty more non-majorage to enjoy. As the championship games are set for each league, I’ll try to dig up the players to check out, but your best bet will be to just watch the games and see these guys for yourself.

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