Mid-Major Top 25: Murray State, Wichita State Hold On To Top 2 Spots

Each member of the top five begins postseason play this weekend, and each has its sights set on more than just appearing in the NCAA Tournament.

Every member of this top 25 is still an active member of the 2011-12 season. We won't be able to say the same thing a week from now.

1. MURRAY STATE (28-1, 15-1) (1)

It would seem like Murray State has everything to lose and nothing to gain in this week's Ohio Valley Conference Tournament, but I don't know — a couple of wins would make them 30-1, which looks pretty cool. I'd definitely be a little bit more likely to pick a team in my bracket with a 30-1 record than I would a 29-2 squad. It's just good science.

2. WICHITA STATE (26-4, 16-2) (2)

Win the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament title and you'd have to think that it will almost be impossible for the committee to seed the Shockers any worse than fourth. With the right draw, Wichita State is completely capable of becoming (at least) the fourth mid-major to crash the Final Four in three years.

3. SAINT MARY'S (25-5, 14-2) (3)

The Gaels took care of business against Portland and San Francisco to snap Gonzaga's crazy streak of 12 consecutive West Coast Conference regular season titles. They'll play their first postseason game in the WCC semifinals Friday night.

4. CREIGHTON (25-5, 14-4) (7)

Creighton's appearance in both sets of national rankings means that the Missouri Valley will have two ranked teams at the time of its conference tournament for the first time in league history this week. A bit of a surprising stat considering the relative success of the conference.

5. GONZAGA (24-5, 13-3) (6)

Seeing its streak of consecutive WCC titles end was obviously a blow for Gonzaga, but adding insult to injury is the fact that now the Zags will likely have to face BYU in the conference tournament semis, a team which might be playing for its NCAA Tournament life.

6. LONG BEACH STATE (22-7, 15-0) (8)

All of the resume talk is going to end up being moot. No way Long Beach State doesn't roll to the Big West title. The team is too experienced, talented, focused and well-coached to be upset by an inferior squad with so much on the line.

7. MIDDLE TENNESSEE (25-5, 14-2) (5)

LaRon Dendy added to MTSU's historic season by becoming the first Sun Belt Player of the Year in program history this week. The Blue Raiders head into the postseason boasting 25 wins for the first time ever.

8. HARVARD (24-4, 10-2) (4)

That first NCAA Tournament appearance since 1946, which has seemed like such a certainty since the start of the season, is suddenly in jeopardy after the Crimson's loss to Penn last weekend.

9. IONA (24-6, 15-3) (9)

It would be a college basketball travesty if the Gaels were left out of the field of 68, but that's exactly what will happen if they don't take care of business in the MAAC Tournament this weekend/next Monday.

10. DREXEL (25-5, 16-2) (12)

The Dragons head into the postseason owners of a 17-game winning streak and a mascot I thought actually existed until I was 17.

11. ORAL ROBERTS (26-5, 17-1) (11)

The top of the Summit League is as strong as it's been in many years. While ORU's record makes it seem like the runaway favorite to earn the conference's auto-bid, both South Dakota State and Oakland have talent you don't ordinarily see at this level.

12. VCU (25-6, 15-3) (13)

If VCU does end up making the field of 68, brace yourself for a throng of "this is actually Shaka Smart's most impressive accomplishment" stories. We both know it's going to happen, so let's plan out a synchronized eye roll ahead of time. Also, download a cartoony "womp womp" sound to play when the eye roll goes down.

13. BYU (24-7, 12-4) (10)

An appearance in the WCC title game would almost certainly lock down an at-large bid for the Cougars, who don't have any awful losses to hide from.

14. GEORGE MASON (23-8, 14-4) (14)

It's CAA title or bust for the 2006 national semifinalists.

15. DAVIDSON (22-7, 16-2) (17)

The Southern Conference needs to follow the SEC's lead and do away with the outdated divisions system. The result, more times than not, is an unbalanced conference tournament.

16. UT-ARLINGTON (23-6, 15-0) (19)

It's already been the most successful regular season in the history of the UT-Arlington program, as the Mavericks locked up just their second Southland crown last week.

17. BELMONT (25-7, 16-2) (21)

The Bruins opened postseaosn play with a 14-point win over Jacksonville in the Atlantic Sun quarters, and now sit just two victories away from a return trip to the big dance.

18. MONTANA (23-6, 15-1) (23)

The Grizzlies are your surprising Big Sky champs after ending the regular season with a surprisingly easy 66-51 win over Weber State.

19. WEBER STATE (23-5, 14-2) (15)

All-American candidate Damian Lillard will be out for revenge next week after going a dismal 2-for-11 from three in the de facto Big Sky regular season title game against Montana.

20. LIU BROOKLYN (22-8, 16-2) (18)

The Blackbirds could make a 15/2 or 14/3 game far more entertaining than it would be otherwise. You want these guys to take the NEC crown.

21. SOUTH DAKOTA STATE (24-7, 15-3) (24)

I think they beat Oral Roberts. Just saying it. Last mid-major top 25 of the season. No point in holding anything back.

22. VALPARAISO (21-10, 14-4) (25)

If Valpo could somehow get to the tournament and win a game in its first year under Bryce Drew, the story would have significant movie potential.

23. WAGNER (24-5, 15-3) (20)

The powers that be at Wagner have to feel like they need to capitalize on this success quickly, because Dan Hurley is not going to be around much longer.

24. AKRON (20-10, 12-3) (16)

The Zips are now riding a two-game losing streak heading into their regular season finale at Kent State. They'll still be the top seed in the MAC Tournament with a win or a Buffalo loss.

25. PENNSYLVANIA (17-11, 9-2) (NR)

The world needs another Ivy League championship game. It's on you to make it happen, Quakers.

DROPPED OUT: Ohio (22)

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