In The Paint's All-American Hoops Blog

Booker Woodfox
Booker Woodfox/AP

Thanks Siena. Yes, your loss to Niagra last Friday night damaged your NCAA at-large hopes, but it turned out there was more at  stake. That loss ended up preventing perfection for last week's Mid-Major Power Rankings. The 10 teams went 19-1 for the week as they gear up for the most important stretch of the season.

For the purposes of these power rankings and other mid-major reports that appear in this blog, the  mid-major teams are schools from OUTSIDE the following conferences: ACC, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-10, SEC, MWC, WAC, A-10, CUSA.

1. Gonzaga (23-5) -- A 14-0 mark in the West Coast Conference is an accomplishment that should never be downplayed, no matter how weak a conference the WCC might be. The Zags are 9-2 in true road games this year and have played their way to a 5-6-7 seed, which means missing a potential No. 1 seed in Round 2.

2. Butler (25-4) -- To become the first coach to ever start his career with back-to-back 30-win seasons, Brad Stevens will need to lead Butler to the Horizon League title and the Elite Eight of the NCAA tournament. Possible? Mid-majors have reached the Elite Eight in two of the last three years (George Mason, Davidson).

3. Creighton (25-6)
-- The Bluejays are the flavor of the week in Bracketology Land, coming from nowhere a month ago to locks in a lot of places. The reason? A 10-game winning streak to close the season and earn a co-Missouri Valley championship.  Booker Woodfox leads the nation in three-point percentage at 50.9 percent.

4. St. Mary's (24-5) -- Patrick Mills is expected to be back for the West Coast Conference tournament, where the Gaels will start in the semifinals as the No. 2 seed. A win there, against an opponent that may be playing its third game in three nights, should set up a meeting with Gonzaga in the final and, more importantly, seal an at-large bid. St. Mary's went 6-3 after Mills went down, 6-4 if you count the Gonzaga game he left at halftime.

5. Siena (23-7) -- Siena was penalized with a three-spot drop after the 100-85 loss to Niagra last Friday night. The Saints may be in at-large trouble, but they will enjoy a homecourt advantage in Albany for the MAAC tournament and should eliminate any doubt regarding a bid by winning three straight next week.

6. Western Kentucky (21-8) -- Get used to seeing the Hilltoppers on this list -- they have just one senior among their top eight players in minutes played. To reach its fifth NCAA tournament in the last nine years, Western will have to get past Sun Belt co-champ Arkansas-Little Rock in Hot Springs, Ark.

7. Davidson (25-6) -- Wildcats fans may be a little nervous heading into an all-or-nothing Southern Conference tournament, but they don't have to be. Davidson has won this thing three years in a row, and Steph Curry appears to be getting his touch back. The junior has drained 10 of his last 18 three-pointers after his 2-for-13 disaster vs. Butler in his first game back after spraining his ankle.

8. North Dakota State (23-6) -- Congratulations to Brett Winkleman for winning the CoSIDA Academic All-America of the Year, an award that goes out to the best combo of athletics and academics. Winklejohn is averaging 18.2 points and 7.1 rebounds for the Bison. North Dakota State stands three wins away from earning a berth in the NCAA tournament in its first season of eligibility.

9. American (21-7) --  The Eagles will have homecourt throughout the Patriot League tournament after winning their final 10 games to go 13-1 in the league. The last three No. 1 seeds have won the Patriot League tourney, including American last season.

10. VCU (21-9)
-- Senior point guard Eric Maynor is one of two players ranked in the top 15 in both scoring (22.4) and assists (6.2). If the seeds hold true to form in the CAA tournament, VCU will face Georgia State, Old Dominion and George Mason, teams VCU went 4-1 against this season.


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