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NCAA Tournament: College hoops full of mid-majors masquerading as major schools

College basketball is not six major conferences, trying to be brought down by giant-killers. College basketball's class system is about six, eight, 10 blue-blood schools, with anywhere from 80 to 140 schools belonging in the mid-major category.
by Berry Tramel Published: March 23, 2013

This is basketball. Not football. On the gridiron, Boise State really is the little engine that could and Tulsa really is an underdog to Iowa State and Houston really doesn't have the necessary resources to keep up with Texas A&M.

But in hoops, resources aren't nearly as vital. Extra money go for luxuries that don't win games or to hire or keep a coach, who may or may not be worth it. Mid-majors might not have the television exposure or the budget largesse of the teams in the major football conferences, but a savvy and quick point guard, combined with a sharp or hungry coach goes a lot further.

If bracket busting doesn't get it through our skulls, conference realignment should have. We were taught that football is king and basketball doesn't matter. The reason? Football is about money. Basketball is just about playing.

So on the hardwood, Harvard can beat a New Mexico. On the gridiron, Ivy League champ Penn would get pulverized every time by a Texas Tech.

The Catholic 7 learned that lesson the hard way. The Big East formed 30 years ago as a basketball league and found unmatched success, then lost its bearings when football became involved. Syracuse and St. John's woke up one day in a league with TCU and South Florida. The original remnants look at the Atlantic 10 and the Missouri Valley and say, hey, that's what we want.

And it's charming as heck. Mid-majors play with a freedom, an absence of burden. We saw that with Florida Gulf Coast. Not that FGCU — sounds like a federal agency of some kind — is a mid-major. But the Eagles soared with a joy.

The mid-majors masquerading as majors should embrace that attitude. All those blue bloods? The Kansas/Duke/Kentucky crowd? Basketball schools all.

Hard for a football school to attain such hoops success. Michigan State. Ohio State. Florida. That's about it recently.

The Cowboys and Sooners — and Ducks and Seminoles and Huskies and Nittany Lions and Volunteers and dozens more — should embrace the mid-major persona. Play with hard hats on their head and chips on their shoulder. Play with the freedom of knowing your fan base cares more about the Insight Bowl than the Midwest Regional. Play liked the hunter, not the hunted.

Play like the name on the front of the jersey doesn't matter, because the truth is, except for a precious few teams with a certain standard of tradition, it doesn't.

Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at

by Berry Tramel
Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The Oklahoman,...
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