January 11, 2010

Boyle's Bears move into top half of the Mid-Majors

CollegeInsider.com Mid-Major Top 25 (Jan. 11) | ESPN.com "Bracketology"

GREELEY, Colo. -- Ever since its debut in late November in the CollegeInsider.com Mid-Major Top 25, there's always been quite a bit of difference between Northern Colorado men's basketball and the weekly poll's upper tier of teams.

There's always been a pretty big chasm between the Bears and, say, the Gonzagas, the Butlers, or the Wichita States of the world.

Well, Northern Colorado (15-3, 4-1 Big Sky) has closed that gap considerably over the past couple months. And now, after moving up four more spots in this week's poll, to No. 12, THe Bears are starting to gain mention among teams that have historically been "Mid-Major Powers" or "NCAA Tournament Cinderellas."

Northern Colorado knocked off Big Sky-heavyweight Weber State last week by nine, 84-75, after leading the Wildcats by as much as 22 in the second half, and then followed that up with a 78-66 victory Saturday night against a battle- and road-tested Idaho State bunch.

It was enough for the Bears to tie their biggest improvement since debuting in the poll just before Thanksgiving and move its school-record streak of being ranked in an NCAA Division I poll to eight weeks.

Northern Colorado, which trails Kentucky (16 wins), BYU and Coastal Carolina for victories this season among Division I programs, received 377 points in this week's survey and comes in just behind Missouri State and William & Mary and just ahead of Akron, Murray State and Coastal Carolina.

Northern Iowa, number one for a second straight week, Gonzaga, Butler, Cornell and St. Mary's make up the top five teams in this week's poll. Cornell almost defeated Kansas last week in Lawrence, Kan.

Denver, which lost to Northern Colorado earlier this season in Greeley, comes in 26th in this week's poll, receiving 81 points, the most of all the nonranked teams.

Interestingly, Montana, which is 3-3 in the Big Sky Conference this season, received one point.

The poll of mid-major coaches is now in its eleventh season and is made up of teams from the following conferences: America East, Atlantic Sun, Big Sky, Big South, Big West, Colonial, Great West, Horizon, Independents, Ivy, Metro Atlantic, Mid-American, Mid-Eastern, Missouri Valley, Northeast, Ohio Valley, Patriot, Southern, Southland, Southwestern, Summit, Sun Belt and West Coast.

BRACKET RACKET: It's all conjecture at this point, but it's sure fun to think about. Northern Colorado, following its big victory last week against Weber State, also made its debut this week in ESPN.com weekly "Bracketology" report.

The Bears, who likely will need to win the Big Sky Conference tournament to advance to March Madness, are tabbed this week as a 13 seed and, in this scenario, would play 4th-seeded Pittsburgh in Spokane, Wash., in the first round of the tournament.

The biggest reason for the Bears potentially earning a 13 seed in the field and not a lower seed is the strength of the Big Sky Conference so far this season. The league comes in this week ranked 17th among Division I conferences in this week’s RPI report provided by Collegiate Basketball News. The Big Sky is just behind the Metro Atlantic and just ahead of the Southern Conference.