In like a lion roared March, marking the end of the journey for some and, for others, the procession toward something even bigger. The 2021-22 regular season in mid-major college basketball has been both captivating and competitive, filled with drama and intrigue and fans -- not to mention unforgettable milestones and moments. (Reluctant side note: That's probably been the case in the so-called "power conferences," as well.)
What self-respecting mid-major fans will ever forget where they were when UC Riverside saw its prayer answered against Arizona State on a 79-footer from J.P. Moorman II? Or which of their 217-inch 8K micro-LED TVs they were watching when Dayton toppled Kansas or Saint Mary's slayed Gonzaga? Or which hand-crafted, tufted leather-upholstered, mahogany-accented, sophisticated wing-backed armchair they were sitting in when Coastal Carolina's Cliff Ellis won his 800th career game or Detroit Mercy's Antoine Davis moved into the top 30 on the all-time scoring list?
Fortunately for you, KC's Column of Complete Excellence is here to recap some of the top individual and team accomplishments from the regular season. The list is extensive; the exploits exemplary. Enjoy.
North Texas established a new program record with 15 conference wins, powered by a current 14-game win streak, longest in program history.
San Francisco's 23 wins mark the most in school history since the program was reinstated from its self-imposed shutdown in 1982.
Murray State became the first team in Ohio Valley Conference history to finish 18-0 in conference play. The Racers are just the sixth team in league history to finish a season undefeated in conference play.
South Dakota State became the first team in Summit League history to finish conference play with an undefeated record of any kind, going 18-0!
Texas Southern became the first team in Southwestern Athletic Conference history to defeat a ranked SEC opponent when it toppled No. 20 Florida 69-54 on Dec. 6.
Vermont won its sixth consecutive America East regular season title, the second-longest current streak in Division I behind Gonzaga's 10 straight WCC titles. The Catamounts' 17 conference wins are the most in America East play since Boston University won 17 in 1996-97.
Montana State on Tuesday clinched at least a share of its first Big Sky Conference regular-season title since 2001-02 with a win over Southern Utah.
Saint Louis coach Travis Ford won his 100th game with the Billikens on Jan. 15 when SLU defeated Fordham 63-45.
Prairie View A&M coach Byron Smith won his 100th career game on Feb. 19 when the Panthers beat Arkansas-Pine Bluff.
Norfolk State coach Robert Jones won his 100th Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference game on Feb. 14 when the Spartans defeated Delaware State 69-66.
Montana coach Travis DeCuire won his 100th Big Sky Conference game on Jan. 29 when the Grizzlies beat Eastern Washington.
New Orleans coach Mark Slessinger became the winningest coach in Privateers history when he won his 147th game on Feb. 19 against McNeese.
Colgate coach Matt Langel guided the Raiders to a Patriot League regular-season title for the third time in four seasons. Langel also became the program's all-time wins leader (173) this season.
North Carolina Central coach LeVelle Moton won his 200th career game on Dec. 9 in a 102-50 decision over Carver.
Weber State coach Randy Rahe won his 300th career game on Nov. 21 in a 68-58 triumph over Green Bay. Rahe also is the all-time Big Sky Conference wins leader with 198.
Santa Clara coach Herb Sendek won his 500th career Division I game on Jan. 13 in the Broncos' 84-70 victory over Pacific.
Coastal Carolina coach Cliff Ellis won his 800th career Division I game on Nov. 23 in the Chanticleers' 64-61 decision over Valparaiso. Ellis became the 13th Division I coach to achieve the milestone.
Iona coach and Basketball Hall of Famer Rick Pitino won his 800th career Division I game on Jan. 30 when the Gaels beat Saint Peter's 85-77. Pitino became the 14th Division I coach to reach the mark.
Retiring Lafayette coach Fran O'Hanlon coached his final game Tuesday when the Leopards fell at home to Bucknell in the Patriot League tournament. O'Hanlon is one of five head coaches at the same Division I program since the start of the 1995-96 season, joining Jim Boeheim, Mike Krzyzewski, Bob McKillop and Tom Izzo.
Individual milestones (scoring)
Detroit Mercy senior guard Antoine Davis moved into third place all time in Horizon League scoring with 2,693 points. Davis also is 27st all time in the history of Division I, after passing Wayman Tisdale, David Robinson, Bo McCalebb and Jermaine Marrow in the Titans' opening-round tournament win over Green Bay on Tuesday.
Liberty senior guard Darius McGhee posted the two highest-scoring games in Division I this season (48 points at FGCU on Jan. 15 and 47 versus Kennesaw State on Feb. 26). McGhee's 765 total points were the most in Division I all season.
Missouri State junior guard Isiaih Mosley became just the third player in the past 30 seasons to shoot 50% from the field, 40% from 3-point range and 90% from the free throw line, while averaging 20.0 points or better, joining Utah State's Jaycee Carroll (2007-08) and Nevada's Luke Babbitt (2009-10).
Individual milestones (shooting)
Hofstra senior Omar Silverio posted the greatest shooting day in Colonial Athletic Association history on Feb. 15 when he connected on 11 3-pointers in a 40-point effort at Elon. Silverio broke the conference record of 10 made 3s set in 2008 by George Mason's Dre Smith.
Murray State junior Tevin Brown set the Ohio Valley Conference career record for made 3-pointers on Jan. 29, breaking the previous mark of 319 that had stood since 1998. Brown entered the OVC tournament with 342 made 3s for his career.
Nicholls senior guard Ty Gordon set a Mackey Arena record for made 3-pointers with nine against Purdue on Dec. 29.
Individual milestones (assists)
Belmont senior Grayson Murphy became the all-time Ohio Valley Conference leader in assists on Jan. 24, breaking a mark that had stood since 1981. Murphy also tied the OVC career record for steals (279) that was established 1992.
Drake redshirt junior Roman Penn became the all-time leader in Bulldogs history in assists (484) this season, surpassing Glenn Martin's mark of 384 set in 1988.
Saint Louis sophomore guard Yuri Collins became the Billikens' all-time assist leader this season (519 in just three seasons), while also establishing SLU's single-game assist record when he dished out 19 in a Dec. 11 win over Boston College.
Individual milestones (rebounds)
Utah Valley redshirt sophomore Fardaws Aimaq leads Division I with 25 double-doubles this season. The Wolverines star led the nation in rebounding a season ago, and he will almost certainly finish second this season (13.9) to Kentucky's Oscar Tshiebwe (15.3).
Drexel senior James Butler eclipsed 1,000 career rebounds this season (1,010), becoming just the 11th player in Colonial Athletic Association history to achieve the milestone. Coach Zach Spiker's star forward enters CAA tournament play just seven boards shy of 10th place all time in league history.
Boston University senior Sukhmail Mathon became the 10th player in Patriot League history to reach the 800-rebound plateau when he did so earlier this season. Mathon also was named Patriot League player of the year.
Individual milestones (miscellaneous)
Wagner senior guard Alex Morales became just the fourth player in Northeast Conference history to repeat as NEC player of the year this season. Morales also won NEC defensive player of the year honors, becoming just the second player all time to win both in the same season.
Southern Utah senior guard Dre Marin broke the Big Sky Conference career record for games played this season (146).
Richmond senior guard Jacob Gilyard became the all-time Division I leader in steals earlier this season, a mark that now sits at 449 with one game remaining in the regular season. Gilyard also set the Atlantic 10 record for career assists this season (756) and the Richmond record for career 3-pointers made (312).
Morehead State sophomore forward Johni Broome recorded 123 blocked shots this season, tied for the third most in Ohio Valley Conference history.
Western Kentucky freshman center Jamarion Sharp recorded 130 blocked shots this season, fourth most in a season in Conference USA history.
KC's Mid-Major Top 10 for this week:
1. Saint Mary's Gaels (WCC)
Last week: 3
As the clock hit zero and Moraga, California, turned into mid-major mecca, Ole KC retreated to his barrel-vaulted, hand-laid Italian tile-ceilinged wine cellar and uncorked a bottle of 1941 Inglenook Cabernet Sauvignon to toast coach Randy Bennett's men. Saturday's unforgettable takedown of AP No. 1 Gonzaga -- the biggest win in the history of University Credit Union Pavilion -- capped the first undefeated season at home in Saint Mary's history. It also served as the exclamation point to the first day in AP Poll history when all top six teams lost. (KC's mid-major top four teams went 4-0 on Saturday, just sayin'.)
The historic win locked the Gaels into the 2-seed and a double-bye into the semis of the West Coast Conference tournament next week in Las Vegas. SMC has the roster, the résumé (five Quadrant 1 wins, top 20 in both KenPom/NET) and the ritzy claim to the No. 1 spot in America. Enjoy the full-bodied aroma, Gaels fans.
Next up: WCC semifinals (Monday, 11:30 p.m. ET, ESPN 2)
T2. Murray State Racers (Ohio Valley)
Last week: 1
Not sure anyone scripted things to go down to the final seconds in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, on Saturday, but coach Matt McMahon's men found a way -- as they did 18 times in 18 tries in league play -- and toppled Southeast Missouri 70-68. The victory capped a perfect Ohio Valley Conference regular season, just the sixth in league history, and the first since the Racers did it with Cameron Payne in 2014-15. Lest the folks in Murray, Kentucky, seek comfort in the arms of another mid-major suitor, allow us to explain the "drop" to No. 2 in KC's Top 10: It's merely an earnest tip of the cap to Saint Mary's for its Secretariat-esque win. Fear not: The Committee would hitch its ride to Dunker every day and twice on Selection Sunday.
Next up: OVC semifinals (Friday, 8 p.m. ET, ESPN U)
T2. North Texas Mean Green (Conference USA)
Last week: 2
No group has enjoyed the dedicated VIP hosts and custom leopard print ottomans of Club KC quite like the Mean Green, who closed out the Super Pit portion of their schedule this week in style. On Thursday night, coach Grant McCasland's squad leveled Southern Miss 85-61 behind 21 points from Abou Ousmane. Then on Saturday, North Texas clinched the C-USA West Division in a smothering 56-49 victory over Louisiana Tech. Defensively, North Texas has set the standard this season, holding 12 opponents under 55 points while allowing a Division I low of 55.3 points per game. A 14-game win streak and 15-1 mark in conference play have the good folks in Denton poised for a legit run in the NCAA tournament. For now, they're enjoying the good life inside the velvet ropes of the most opulent joint in mid-major hoops.
Next up: at UTSA (Thursday)
4. Boise State Broncos (Mountain West)
Last week: 4
Another week of mineral-rich medicated mud masks and seaweed eucalyptus salt scrubs for coach Leon Rice's squad, which has more than earned the pampering inside Le Spa de Midmajoria. The Broncos capped off a magical season on Tuesday with a 73-67 win over Nevada, securing the program's first outright regular-season Mountain West Conference championship since 1987-88. A sweep of San Diego State accounts for the Broncos' signature wins -- and if road victories at Fresno State and at Utah State remain Quadrant 1 wins and Boise State acquits itself well in Las Vegas, we could be looking at the higher rent district of the 6- to 8-seed range in the NCAA tournament.
Next up: at Colorado State (Saturday)
5. Colorado State Rams (Mountain West)
Last week: 6
Bucolic Fort Collins ... the seat of Larimer County, situated on the banks of the Cache la Poudre River, in the shadows of the Rocky Mountains, overlooking the idyllic mid-major landscape from the fifth-grandest perch in college basketball.
Riding the momentum of last Wednesday's enormous win over Wyoming, coach Niko Medved's men backed it up Saturday with a convincing 66-55 victory over Utah State in Logan behind a game-high 23 points from senior guard Kendle Moore. CSU has more Quadrant 1 wins than UCLA and more Quadrant 2 victories than Duke and Villanova. Put some "respeck" on the Rams' name.
Next up: vs. Boise State (Saturday)
6. San Diego State Aztecs (Mountain West)
Last week: Unranked
Not since Thornton Melon was forced to endure a grueling 27-section oral exam in the Rodney Dangerfield classic "Back to School" have we seen such battle testing. Coach Brian Dutcher's team played its 11th Quadrant 1 game of the season on Monday and landed its own version of the Triple Lindy, lassoing a road win at Wyoming, 73-66. Couple that with a neutral-site win over Saint Mary's in December as well as victories over Colorado State (home) and Fresno State (away) in league play and the Aztecs are currently on the right side of the bubble. Avoiding a belly flop in the Mountain West tournament would be wise.
Next up: vs. Fresno State (Thursday)
7. Loyola Chicago Ramblers (Missouri Valley)
Last week: 5
Hard to say it any other way: It was a puzzling final three weeks of the regular season for coach Drew Valentine's club. The Ramblers went 4-3 in beating Northern Iowa by 27 and Evansville by 51 but losing at Bradley and at home to Drake. Saturday's overtime defeat in Cedar Falls, Iowa, cost Loyola the Missouri Valley regular-season title and actually dropped the Ramblers to the 4-seed in the MVC tournament due to head-to-head tiebreakers favoring Missouri State and Drake. Still, the neutral-site win over San Francisco happened, as did the road wins versus Missouri State and Vanderbilt and the two-point loss to Michigan State in the Bahamas. Sister Jean knows there's work to be done in Arch Madness, but if that happens, this team is still amply capable of making noise in March Madness.
Next up: vs. Bradley, MVC quarterfinals (Friday, 3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN+)
8. San Francisco Dons (WCC)
Last week: 8
Coach Todd Golden's group closed the books on a sparkling regular season on Saturday with a win at San Diego, the Dons' seventh road victory this season (7-2), most in the WCC! Earlier in the week, San Francisco dropped its finale inside the Sobrato Center to Gonzaga, 89-73, the final game for fifth-year senior Jamaree Bouyea in front of his home fans. One of the greats to ever wear the green and gold, Bouyea & Co. head to Las Vegas as the 4-seed in the WCC tournament, on a collision course with the Zags for a possible semifinal showdown. From this committee to the NCAA tournament committee: three Quadrant 1 wins (vs. Davidson, at BYU, at Santa Clara) and a 5-2 record in Quadrant 2 games (including a neutral-site win against UAB) warrant an at-large bid. Don't overthink this.
Next up: vs. TBD, WCC quarterfinals (Saturday, 10:30 p.m. ET, ESPN 2)
9. Davidson Wildcats (Atlantic 10)
Last week: Unranked
Want a team with about as pristine a résumé as there is in college basketball, at any level? Meet our old friends from the suburbs of Charlotte, North Carolina. The Wildcats finished off another perfect week, including a 73-62 win over George Mason on Wednesday, ensuring Davidson of at least a share of the A-10 regular-season title. An uncharacteristic curveball in the form of a mid-February defeat at Rhode Island made The Committee look like Pedro Cerrano. But for the love of Bob McKillop, let's get real. This team has two losses since Nov. 18, and its lone home defeat came by two measly points against a ram-tough VCU team. That record, with at least a share of that league title and that dapper coach roaming the sidelines ... we're welcoming the Cats back with a sheepish "I'm sorry" and an "it won't happen again."
Next up: at Dayton (Saturday)
10. South Dakota State Jackrabbits (Summit)
Last week: 10
The Jackrabbits made history on Saturday with their 86-75 win at Kansas City, becoming the first Summit League team to go unbeaten in regular-season play. Coach Eric Henderson's squad now enters the postseason tied with Murray State for riding the longest win streak in Division I, at 18.
With the knowledge that three consecutive weeks inside KC's Poll of Perfection -- and the utter transcendence that comes with it -- doesn't fit inside a trophy case, the Jacks now turn their attention to the Summit League tournament and the pursuit of a fourth championship in seven years.
Next up: vs. Omaha, Summit quarterfinals (Saturday, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN+)
Others receiving votes: Wyoming, UAB, Dayton, BYU
Dropped out: Wyoming (No. 7), Belmont (No. 9)
ESPN Stats & Information researcher Jared Berson contributed to this article.