Commentary

Mid-major rankings: Belmont rising

The Bruins move up a spot, while Wichita State maintains its No. 1 position

Originally Published: January 17, 2012
By Jordan Brenner | ESPN Insider
Ian ClarkDon McPeak/US PresswireIan Clark is averaging nearly 12 points per game for Belmont this season.

All season long, Insider will be keeping a close eye on teams from conferences that haven't usually produced multiple NCAA tournament bids to see which squads outside of the spotlight look the strongest come tournament time. To that end, we'll be ranking the top performers from all conferences outside of the A-10, ACC, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, Mountain West, Pac-12 and SEC. One new caveat for this season: With the movement of BYU to the WCC, we will not be including the Cougars because of their established performance record. Likewise, Gonzaga and Memphis will not be considered in these rankings.

Here's what's great about efficiency stats: They're the perfect tonic to gross overreactions. If these rankings were, say, a poll, we'd be hard-pressed to keep unbeaten Murray State out of the top spot. And how could we not reward Saint Mary's after its dismantling of Gonzaga this past week?

The thing is, both teams still trail Wichita State in the standings, because there's a lot more to a résumé than recent success or plowing through a weak schedule. So keep that fact in mind not only as you plow through the latest top 10, but also as you start to target teams as potential first-round upset picks for the tournament.

Wichita State Shockers (15-3, 6-1)
Ho-hum wins against the MVC's bottom-dwellers (Bradley and Indiana State) were enough to keep the Shockers up top for the second straight week. With top-21 rankings in both offensive and defensive efficiency, they're actually the 15th-best team in the country according to Kenpom.com.

But if you're looking for warts, you can harp on this: Wichita State has lost three of its four toughest tests -- against Alabama, Temple and Creighton. Only a 19-point win against UNLV serves as a positive omen for the Shockers against tourney-quality competition.

Jordan Brenner | email

ESPN The Magazine contributing writer
Brenner writes for ESPN The Magazine and ESPN Insider. He covers the NBA and college basketball.