In the basketball world, it’s amazing what one year can do for a team in terms of their scheduling.
“Mid-major” programs often have a hard time scheduling power conference opponents on a regular basis, due to a stigma that these teams aren’t as strong as others and don’t do as much for tournament resumes come March. However, smaller programs have shown that they can hang with the big boys in recent years.
Take the N.J.I.T. Highlanders last season for example. The Highlanders faced their first-ever ranked opponent, in the Michigan Wolverines, and won on the road. The Highlanders beat the Wolverines on their home floor, and proving to everyone that you can never underestimate smaller programs in today’s basketball world.
Another team who surprised many with their play was the Maryland-Eastern Shore Hawks. Coming off an 11 – 5 record in MEAC play, the Hawks made an appearance in the 2015 CIT. They finished with 18 wins overall on the season, which was more than the previous three seasons combined.
With their strong season fresh in the minds of others in the NCAA, the Hawks were able to put together a strong non-conference slate for the 2015-16 season that features games against several power conference foes. The Hawks also take on a slew of talented teams from smaller conferences, all of which will be equally big tests.
Every off-season provides its own list of unique story lines and changes across the NCAA landscape. From players transferring to new schools, to programs constantly looking for new head coaches, the landscape of NCAA basketball is constantly changing.
The coaching carousel, as it is commonly referred to amongst the basketball community, sees a large number of coaches constantly looking for new jobs year in and year out. While it’s tough to predict how things will play out in the off-season following the 2015-16 season, it’s a safe bet that there will be a few high-profile job openings up for grabs.
In the past few years, power programs are turning their attention to mid-major programs for their new head coaches. This past off-season, Bobby Hurley left his job at Buffalo for Arizona State, capitalizing on leading the Bulls to the NCAA Tournament. Iowa State tabbed former Murray State bench boss Steve Prohm as their new head coach, replacing Fred Hoiberg who made the leap to the NBA.
Mid-major schools have talented coaches who are more than capable of making the leap to the big-time, and power programs are starting to use their “star power” to their advantage.
Leading up to the 2014-15 season, if you would have said that the Maryland-Eastern Shore Hawks would be one of the better, more surprising mid-major programs in the country, most people would have doubted you.
When reality hit, and the dust settled, the above statement would be one of the best predictions anyone could have ever made.
Last season, the Maryland-Eastern Shore Hawks had one of their best seasons on the hardwood. The 2014-15 edition of the Hawks compiled an 18 – 15 record overall, and advanced to the 2015 CollegeInsider.Com Tournament due to their strong play in MEAC action.
New head coach Bobby Collins turned around the program in just one season, but the 2015-16 season will provide the second-year bench boss with a tougher challenge.
Stars like Ishaq Pitt, Devon Walker, and Mike Myers, Jr are all graduated, which means the program is without two of its top three scorers. Devin Martin is back to lead the charge, but he will need support from others on his team to keep the Hawks in contention in the MEAC.
One player who was expected to step up and take on a bigger role in 2015-16 was Iman Johnson. However, the forward decided to graduate from Maryland-Eastern Shore and hit the transfer market.
On the heels of the NCAA Tournament coming to an end, and the off-season beginning, we didn’t want to see the energy from the 2014-15 season come to an end.
In an attempt to keep school spirit alive over the course of the off-season, we launched the 1st Annual #CCRFanFavourite contest, in conjunction with RabbleTV, to see which school in the NCAA had the best fans in the country.
We started out with all 351 schools vying for the title of “Best Fans in the NCAA”. After two weeks of voting, the field was narrowed down to the top 32 vote-getters, regardless of conference. It was a bit of a surprise to us, but the majority of the teams were mid-major programs.
From there, another two weeks of voting helped to narrow the field down to the final eight teams, who would then go on to compete for the title. The eight finalists were:
Dartmouth Big Green
Maryland-Eastern Shore Hawks
After a plethora of votes came in over the course of the last 24 hours, the front-runner at the start of the round found themselves looking up in the standings at our eventual champion.