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. 3
Creighton (11-1) -- Five-game winning streak includes convincing road win over Cal. All the victories have been by double digits.
Gonzaga (11-1) -- Saturday’s rout against Kansas State (68-52) helped Zags recover after Illinois loss.
Murray State (9-1) -- Racers, a remarkable 40-3 over the past two seasons, will take a six-game winning streak to Dayton on Saturday.
Belmont (8-3) -- Bruins have defeated Stanford, Middle Tennessee and obliterated Nate Wolters and South Dakota State on Wednesday.
Bucknell (11-1) -- Mike Muscala anchors a team that just keeps winning with an offense ranked 38th in efficiency.
Lehigh (8-2) -- Speaking of the Patriot League, the Mountain Hawks haven’t lost since Nov. 13 (78-53 at Pitt).
Saint Mary’s (8-2) -- Matchup at Northern Iowa on Saturday is one of the Gaels’ few nonconference tests.
Illinois State (8-3) -- The Redbirds, winners of three in a row after a victory at Dayton, should make the MVC race interesting.
Middle Tennessee (8-3) -- Inconsistent offense has been the biggest hurdle for the Blue Raiders.
BYU (8-3) -- Sophomore Tyler Haws has scored 66 points in the team’s past three games, all wins.
Stephen F. Austin (8-1) -- The Lumberjacks are actually 12th in the RPI after Tuesday’s win at Oklahoma.
Illinois-Chicago (9-2) -- Tuesday’s loss to Western Illinois snapped an eight-game winning streak.
Utah State (6-1) -- Jarred Shaw (14.3 ppg) is one of three players averaging double figures for the Aggies.
Ohio (7-4) -- The schedule has been tough, but the disappointing Bobcats have lost four of their past five games.
Team of the Week -- Sure, Belmont lost to Kansas by 29 points Saturday. But it came after the Bruins had defeated Middle Tennessee by 15 points 64-49 on Dec. 13. And the Bruins destroyed South Dakota State 76-49 on Wednesday (Trevor Noack finished with 24 points) after outscoring the Jackrabbits 50-27 in the second half.
Player of the Week -- Mike Muscala is in beast mode right now. The 6-foot-11 senior finished Wednesday’s 71-65 win over Marist with this ridiculous stat line: 26 points, 13 rebounds, 5 blocks, 4 assists and 3 steals. He had 12 points and 7 rebounds in 21 minutes during Monday’s 76-49 victory at St. Francis (Pa.). And Saturday, he had 18 points, 7 rebounds, 6 assists and 3 blocks in a 74-66 win over La Salle.
Is UW-Green Bay the best team in Wisconsin? Probably not. But Wednesday’s 49-47 win over Marquette, which defeated Wisconsin earlier this season (the Phoenix, however, have already lost to the Badgers), was a great win for the program. Biggest surprise? They beat the Golden Eagles and 7-1 Alec Brown didn’t record a block.
North Dakota State is the best team in the Summit League. The 9-3 Bison are ranked 64th and 60th in offensive and defensive efficiency, per KenPom.com. Meanwhile, preseason favorite South Dakota State has struggled in recent weeks. After squeezing out a double-overtime win against Montana on Saturday, the Jackrabbits were crushed by Belmont on Wednesday night 76-49. SDSU star Nate Wolters has gone 14-for-46 in his past three games after suffering an ankle injury earlier this month.
Don’t judge Long Beach State yet. Once again, Dan Monson assembled one of the toughest nonconference slates in the country (12th in the strength of schedule per RPI). That’s a significant component in its 4-7 start. But the addition of three transfers could change everything for the program. Keala King (Arizona State), Tony Freeland (DePaul) and Edgar Garibay (Loyola Marymount) -- who are all expected to be eligible in time for the start of Big West play -- could have a major impact in the second semester and turn the 49ers into the league’s top contender again.
Now that we’ve covered the week that was, here’s my take on the top games this weekend involving mid-major teams