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.
This week’s poll (team’s listed without conference records have not commenced league play):
Gonzaga (15-1, 2-0 WCC) – There’s a big gap between the Zags and the rest of the WCC.
Creighton (15-1, 4-0 MVC) – Wichita State is its only real competition in the MVC, it seems.
Wichita State (15-1, 4-0 MVC) – The Shockers have won six in a row without injured senior Carl Hall.
Bucknell (13-3) – The Bison went down fighting in a weekend loss at No. 10 Missouri.
Saint Mary’s (12-3, 1-0 WCC) – Gaels can make a huge statement with a Thursday win at Gonzaga.
Utah State (13-1, 4-0 WAC) – Aggies haven’t lost since Nov. 15 (67-58 vs. Saint Mary’s).
Belmont (11-4, 2-0 OVC) – Belmont continues to assert itself in its new league.
BYU (12-4, 2-0 WCC) – Cougars anxious to prove that Zags, Gaels not only contenders.
Middle Tennessee (12-4, 4-1 Sun Belt) – Arkansas State handed MTSU first league loss last week.
North Dakota State (13-3, 4-0 Summit) – The Bison have won five in a row.
(Tie) Murray State (11-4, 2-1 OVC) – Racers suffered home loss to Eastern Kentucky Wednesday. Stephen F. Austin (12-1, 3-0 Southland) – Seven-game winning streak includes ‘W’ over Oklahoma.
Lehigh (10-4) – This squad can only hope that C.J. McCollum is ready for Patriot League tourney.
Santa Clara (12-4, 1-1 WCC) – The Broncos have won seven of their last nine games.
(Tie) Eastern Kentucky (13-3, 3-0 OVC) – The Colonels crashed the OVC race with an upset at Murray State. Akron (10-4, 1-0 MAC) – The Zips, who’ve won six straight, will battle Ohio for MAC’s east title.
Player (s) of the Week: That honor goes to two players this week. Holy Cross guard Justin Burrell and forward Dave Dudzinski scored a total of 60 points in the Crusaders’ 78-69 win against Columbia Tuesday. Burrell finished with 29 points and Dudzinski led the program with 31 points. They combined to go 19-for-27 from the field. And their collective effort established a high mark for a duo in 2012-13.
Team of the Week: Eastern Kentucky is 13-3 overall and 3-0 in the Ohio Valley Conference after picking up a tough 77-65 road win at Murray State Wednesday night. Corey Walden and Mike DiNunno finished with 20 points apiece in a victory that changes the conversation about the OVC’s race in the East division. The Colonels have won four of their last five games.
-- C.J. McCollum’s foot injury is obviously a devastating blow for the Mountain Hawks. But there’s a chance that McCollum, an NBA prospect, will return in time for the Patriot League tournament. Until then, however, Lehigh will need its entire roster to step up as it deals with the void. Junior Mackey McKnight scored 25 points for Lehigh in a win over North Texas last month. But the guard has been inconsistent this season. He’s certainly a player that Dr. Brett Reed will identify as someone who has to give the Mountain Hawks a more consistent contribution.
-- Please help me figure out the Horizon League. Wright State is 3-0 in league play. Valparaiso has started 2-1 (loss to Loyola-Illinois) and my pick to win the conference, Illinois-Chicago, is 1-2. Detroit, however, is 2-0. The Titans have won four consecutive games, a streak that followed a four-point loss at Syracuse Dec. 17. That effort clearly boosted their confidence.
-- Kudos to Gregg Marshall and Wichita State for returning to the Associated Press poll this week. The Shockers deserve the honor. They’ve won six consecutive games without senior Carl Hall, who suffered a thumb injury last month. I still say that the Shockers will need Hall to compete with Creighton for the Missouri Valley title. But they’ve handled the early portion of their conference slate well, while anticipating his return.
Now let’s take a look at the top upcoming mid-major matchup: Thursday night’s tussle between Saint Mary’s and Gonzaga (11 ET, ESPN2):