ESPN+ Week 14 college basketball viewers guide: Mid-majors in the spotlight

M. Anthony Nesmith/Icon Sportswire

ESPN+ is not slowing down after a week that featured three Power 5 games and an intriguing battle in the SOCON. While the next seven days might not feature any top-25 showdowns, the action looks just as entertaining with the Big 12 back at the top of our list and some of the better mid-majors in the country attracting our attention.

This week, ESPN's streaming service gives us an up-close look at the best of the Ohio Valley and Horizon conferences, and how an ubercompetitive Atlantic 10 is looking.

1. TCU Horned Frogs at Oklahoma State Cowboys (Wednesday, 8 p.m. ET, Big 12 Now on ESPN+)

Most talk in the Big 12 revolves around arguably the best team in the nation, Baylor, blueblood Kansas, "Press Virginia" and Chris Beard's ability to do more with less for Texas Tech. There are very few conversations about TCU despite an elite defense (63.3 points allowed per game) and a dominant veteran in Desmond Bane (16.3 points per game).

This road game against the Cowboys may not change the nation's opinion on coach Jamie Dixon's bunch, but it can serve as an early test before an arduous two-game stretch vs. Kansas and Texas Tech.

While Oklahoma State has proved to be one of the most disappointing teams in America, the Cowboys still possess experience and quality wins outside of the conference. If this squad can somehow find a consistent option offensively -- it hasn't had a 20-plus-point scorer since Dec. 4 -- it could pose an upset threat at home.

2. Murray State Racers at Belmont Bruins (Thursday, 7:30 p.m. ET)

Despite the departures of Ja Morant at Murray State and Rick Byrd and Dylan Windler at Belmont, everything has gone smoothly for the Ohio Valley Conference preseason favorites.

The Racers have zoomed out to a 10-0 league record and an 11-game win streak thanks to their new go-to scorer, Tevin Brown. It's not as if Brown doesn't have any help, though, as forward KJ Williams has led the Racers in scoring in five outings this season and Anthony Smith tops his teammates in field goal percentage.

On the flip side, Belmont's offense continues to operate at a high level and is led by Adam Kunkel, who is in the midst of a surprising breakout season. The guard averaged only 2.3 points in 9.4 minutes in his freshman campaign but is putting up nearly 17 per game one season later. Expect a high-scoring affair with Brown and Kunkel likely duking it out.

3. Duquesne Dukes at Saint Louis Billikens (Wednesday, 7 p.m. ET)

Duquesne is looking to break out of its mini slump while Saint Louis attempts to extend its win streak in an Atlantic 10 duel at Chaifetz Arena.

The Dukes' schedule has stiffened up as of late with games vs. Rhode Island and top-10 Dayton, and they have struggled mightily from beyond the arc. Meanwhile, the Billikens have continued to have massive offensive issues -- they've failed to put up 80-plus points since early January -- but have benefited from their opponents' own problems.

Will Marcus Weathers and Sincere Carry bring their A-games to get Duquesne back on track? Or will Jordan Goodwin and Hasahn French dominate enough to give SLU another win?

4. Harvard Crimson at Brown Bears (Saturday, 6 p.m. ET)

Harvard was the preseason favorite in the Ivy League, but the Crimson are not alone at the top of the standings, thanks to Princeton's improvements and Yale. Even Penn -- which is currently 2-2 -- has some monster nonconference victories and has already upset the Crimson.

A two-game losing streak and the current state of the league make this matchup even more critical for Tommy Amaker's bunch, as the Crimson travel to Providence, Rhode Island, to face an elite scorer in Brandon Anderson.

As point guard Bryce Aiken continues to deal with foot issues, it will be interesting to see who defends Anderson for the majority of the contest. Will it be Noah Kirkwood, who stands six inches taller than Brown's talented guard? Or will Harvard opt to increase the minutes of Justin Bassey to account for the loss of Aiken? This will likely be the deciding factor in the clash.

5. East Tennessee State Buccaneers at Chattanooga Mocs (Wednesday, 7 p.m. ET)

It flew under the radar following East Tennessee State's victory and season sweep of UNC Greensboro, but the Buccaneers were stunned in their own gym by Mercer last week. In fact, they didn't just lose, they were blown out by 16 points in a classic trap game.

That shouldn't impact ETSU's long-term outlook as long as it takes care of business on its current two-game road trip that begins with Chattanooga.

The Mocs are a middle-of-the-pack squad in the Southern and lost to ETSU by 11 in the first meeting, but Notre Dame and Vanderbilt transfer Matt Ryan is someone to keep an eye on after he dropped 28 points in a win over Samford. Chattanooga's ability to distribute the ball (14.7 assists per game, which is 78th in the nation) gives the Mocs a chance to win any game against the top of the league.

6. Bradley Braves at Drake Bulldogs (Wednesday, 9 p.m. ET)

Between an injury to second-leading scorer Elijah Childs and questionable road losses to Miami (Ohio) and Indiana State, Bradley has seemed to underachieve compared to preseason expectations. On paper, though, the Braves are still 15-8 overall -- good for fourth place in the MVC standings -- and possess an above-average defense.

Can Bradley right the ship and begin to resemble the team that nearly upset Michigan State in the first round of the NCAA tournament?

This clash vs. Drake is a perfect shot, as the Bulldogs look to take a step toward the top of the Missouri Valley. If Drake is going to even the season series vs. its opponent, 7-footer Liam Robbins will have to dominate the interior against a roster that is well suited to stop him.

7. Detroit Mercy Titans at Wright State Raiders (Thursday, 7 p.m. ET)

If you're looking to watch two mid-major superstars, this is the perfect matchup for you.

Wright State, which has won 12 of its past 13 games and is currently in control atop the Horizon League standings, features double-double machine Loudon Love. The 6-foot-8 junior missed five games earlier this season with injury but is nearly unstoppable when he receives the ball on the interior and is relentless on the glass.

On the other end, Detroit is led by one of the top scorers in America, Antoine Davis. The sophomore guard isn't always efficient and doesn't receive much help, but he has dropped 25-plus points in 11 games so far this season, including 31 against Gonzaga. Detroit might be able to keep things close against a top-tier Cinderella if Davis outduels Love.

8. UTSA Roadrunners at Charlotte 49ers (Saturday, 4 p.m. ET)

An unexpected contender for the C-USA title? Check. An intimidating one-two punch that could spoil the party? Check.

After winning just eight games in 2018-19, Charlotte has turned into the surprise of Conference USA this season. The 49ers have already posted 12 wins -- including a 6-4 record in league play -- behind the likes of Oklahoma transfer Jordan Shepherd, freshman Jahmir Young and ex-Providence guard Drew Edwards.

Charlotte's key to continuing its success is simple in this affair: Contain UTSA's dangerous duo of the nation's second-leading scorer Jhivvan Jackson (26.3 points per game) and Keaton Wallace (18.5 points per game) and the 49ers will likely walk away as a winner.

9. Richmond Spiders at Fordham Rams (Saturday, 2 p.m. ET)

With Dayton, Rhode Island and VCU starting to separate themselves from the pack in the Atlantic 10, Richmond cannot be forgotten. The Spiders lost back-to-back games recently, but they still don't have their leading scorer in Blake Francis and none of their losses is a true stain on their résumé.

That means coach Chris Mooney & Co. cannot afford to drop a matchup at Rose Hill Gymnasium vs. the Rams.

While Fordham currently sits in second-to-last place in the Atlantic 10, this is still an opportunity to see how much progress the Spiders have made without Francis.

10. Austin Peay Governors at Belmont Bruins (Saturday, 6 p.m. ET)

The second Ohio Valley Conference game on this list again features Belmont trying to hand an undefeated unit its first loss in league play.

Austin Peay is currently tied with Murray State atop the OVC and is led by star Terry Taylor. In fact, the Governors just faced the Bruins on Jan. 25, and while coach Casey Alexander's team was its usual crisp self on the offensive end of the floor, it couldn't stop Taylor on the glass or freshman guard Jordyn Adams.

If Adams, who had two games of 30-plus points in January, can provide more secondary help to the veteran Taylor, Austin Peay could maintain its perfect conference record for the remainder of the regular season.