Mid-major report: Contenders and pretenders

Mid-major report: Contenders and pretenders

Mid-major report: Contenders and pretenders
By Ben Burns

The Dance is just around the corner and several mid majors have already locked automatic bids. Let’s examine some of the participants and chances of them waking waves next weekend.

Cleveland State:
If you believe in Butler, then you must believe in Cleveland State.

After a pair of two-point losses, the Vikings finally got over the hump against Butler in the Horizon championship game.
In addition to that confidence-boosting win, Cleveland State also owns an earlier victory at Syracuse.

The Vikings are balanced, with three players averaging double figures, and exceptional on defense, allowing less than 60 points a game.

They also have a hot senior guard in Cedric Jackson, who averaged 15 points, eight rebounds and five assists in the Horizon tournament.

Jackson is one of three senior starters on team that goes eight deep.

Chances of pulling off a first-round upset: Strong

North Dakota State: The Bison have made the most of their first season in Division I.

They overcame a 10-point halftime deficit to beat Oakland in the Summit League title game.

Summit League player of the year Ben Woodside, who hit the game-winner with three seconds left against Oakland, has been sizzling, averaging 25 points in his last five outings.

But Woodside’s only one in a bevy of Bison sharpshooters. NDSU is fifth in the nation in 3-point percentage and eighth in the nation in scoring offense.

The Bison lack a signature win, but did put a scare in Southern Cal in December.

Chances of pulling off a first-round upset: Mediocre.

Siena:
Saints coach Fran McCaffery says this year’s team is better than last year’s squad, which upset Stanford in the first round of the NCAA tourney.

They looked like it in Monday’s MAAC championship game win over a solid Niagara team.

Siena also has the kind of emotional storyline that sometimes produces Cinderella runs.

Senior guard Kenny Hasbrouck overcame a calf injury to win tournament MVP honors. He celebrated by handing the trophy to his father, who is confined to a wheelchair, battling multiple sclerosis.

With four players averaging in double figures, the Saints have enough weapons to overcome any dry spells on offense. They also do a great job of creating turnovers and don’t commit any unnecessary fouls.

Chances of pulling off a first-round upset: Strong

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