4GuysinBlazers

Mid Major Madness

It’s mid-major madness! VCU and Butler have punched their tickets to the Final Four and will find themselves fighting for a trip to the championship game this Saturday. It’s an astonishing fact that since 2005 the Horizon League has more Final Four victories than the Big East (one to none). Since 2006 the Colonial Athletic Association (George Mason and VCU) and Horizon League (Butler x2) have more Final Four appearances than the Big 12. The college basketball universe has been turned on its head. Suddenly, being a mid-major tells us more about the status of your football program and less and less about your chances on the hardwood in March.

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It seems no coincidence that this new world of opportunity and parity sprang to life with the advent of the one and done. In 2005 the NBA established new rules requiring non-international draftees to be one year removed from their high school education and at least 19 years old. The first season this effected the college basketball world was 2006, hello Cinderella, i mean George Mason. With major conferences suddenly having the opportunity to recruit athletes that would have otherwise headed straight to the NBA, the concepts of team chemistry and cohesiveness became luxuries that were seen as expendable for the chance to catch lightning in a bottle and achieve one shining moment of glory.

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This isn’t to say this philosophy hasn’t worked to the benefit of some high major programs. Many programs have reached the final four or even the national championship game with one and dones, see Ohio State (Greg Oden), UCLA (Kevin Love), LSU (Tyrus Thomas), and Memphis (Derek Rose). However, just as many have burned out early in the tourney leaving their teams to retool, rebuild, and hoping to one day replace their talents, see Texas (Kevin Durant), Kansas St (Michael Beasley), and USC (OJ Mayo). The fact of the matter is, for all a team sacrifices in the arena of team building and cohesiveness it is a tremendous gamble that much more often than not does not end with a national championship.

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What this system has created is an opening for mid-major programs, built around players that have bought into a system and developed the camaraderie of teammates striving for a common goal. Look at any of the interviews we conducted with Moore, Franklin, and Hasbrouck and they all discuss the importance the family atmosphere and environment that surrounded their teams played into their success on the court. The players were close on and off the court, a family unit striving for common goals. Kenny noted how the lack of a 20ppg player on those teams wasn’t a result of lack of talent, it was a result of 5 guys playing to win and not focusing on their personal stat line every night. They passed the ball, they worked together, they believed as a unit in what they were setting out to accomplish. I see that drive, determination, and atmosphere in this year’s Butler and VCU teams. Its a special relationship that jumps off the tv screen at you. Its the faith in one another’s game, absolute belief in their coach’s game plan, its an energy that allows them to transcend any gap in talent between themselves and their opponent.

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Its all of these factors that give me hope that Siena can once again climb that mountain back to the NCAA tournament and have a chance at one of these magical runs. The doorway for mid-majors has been blown wide open and I hope that the players and coaches returning to next year’s team are taking notes of what’s happening this season, because a script for success is being written. We have followed it before, we can and must follow it again.

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