- Jordan Brenner, ESPN The Magazine contributing writer
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.
Officially, this column is known as the Mid-Major Power Rankings. But you could really consider it the Mid-Major Efficiency Rankings. What's the difference? We know everyone on this list is good. But why? The efficiency component helps us to measure that question, and more importantly it helps us project what may happen come tournament time.
While there are more rigorous ways to study teams mathematically (which you'll see when we launch this year's version of Giant Killers), if you're discarding efficiency evaluations because, say, Creighton beat Wichita State or because you're pumped that Nevada is 19-4, you're really just hurting your bracket. Because as the students of uber-efficient Faber College understand, when it comes to March Madness, Knowledge is Good.
Wichita State Shockers (20-4, 11-2)
After back-to-back wins pulled the Shockers into a first-place tie in the MVC, they now embark on a rough five-game stretch that includes trips to Creighton and Davidson. You have to love the fact they control the defensive backboards, limit opponents' free throws and lock down teams from 3-point land, a combination that forces foes to be incredibly efficient from 2-point range. As Wichita State's record shows, that bodes well for success over the long haul.
ESPN Insider uses advanced metrics to track teams that might bust your brackets come March. In this week's edition of the Mid-Major Rankings, Jordan Brenner writes that the Saint Mary's Gaels are excelling at both ends of the floor.