The powerhouse programs from the so-called “Power Five” conferences often steal the spotlight. However, mid-major programs are making waves in the NCAA landscape, and they deserve recognition for their impressive records and determination to achieve greatness. Here, we’ll take a closer look at the five best.
1. Gonzaga: A Dominant Force
Photo Cred: SI
Gonzaga, located in Spokane, Washington, has emerged as a powerhouse in the college basketball world. The Bulldogs have dominated the competition with a remarkable record of 223-24 over the past seven seasons. Although they have yet to claim a national title, the Zags, led by head coach Mark Few, are inching closer to that elusive championship. Gonzaga’s extraordinary success makes a compelling case for it being the best program in the country, not just among non-Power Six teams. The basketball world eagerly anticipates when they will cut down the nets and bring a championship home to Spokane.
2. San Diego State: A Decade of Excellence
Photo Cred: San Diego State
San Diego State’s rise to prominence has been a decade in the making. The Aztecs, based in California, have been a national contender since the arrival of NBA superstar Kawhi Leonard at the beginning of the 2010s. This marked the start of their incredible journey, which included six consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances. Under the guidance of coaches like Steve Fisher and Brian Dutcher, the program continues to thrive, maintaining its presence on the national stage. Their recent deep NCAA Tournament run is just a glimpse of what this program is capable of, and they remain a team to watch in the years to come.
3. Saint Mary’s: The Underrated Contender
Photo Cred: Saint Mary’s
Saint Mary’s, led by head coach Randy Bennett, has quietly emerged as a powerhouse in the West Coast Conference (WCC). While often overshadowed by Gonzaga, the Gaels have been far from irrelevant since the turn of the century. With consistent success, they have firmly established themselves as a force in the WCC. Saint Mary’s is missing a deep NCAA Tournament run, but their dedication and talent make it a matter of when, not if, they will make a breakthrough in March.
4. Dayton: A Tale of Resilience
Photo Cred: Dayton Dailey News
The University of Dayton was on the verge of a historic NCAA Tournament run in 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted their plans. As the top seed, they had the potential to make serious noise on the national stage. Despite the setback, they remain a regular in the NCAA Tournament, hailing from the Atlantic 10 conference. Looking ahead to the 2023-24 season, they boast one of the most promising rosters on our list. Dayton’s resilience and determination make them a program to watch in the years to come.
5. VCU: A Cinderella Story That Continues
Photo Cred: VCU
Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) captured the nation’s attention with a remarkable Cinderella run to the Final Four in 2011. Since then, the Rams have maintained their position as a consistent contender, with only three NCAA Tournament misses in 12 seasons and just one losing conference record. As they set their sights on the 2023-24 season, VCU is poised to compete at the top of the Atlantic 10 alongside Dayton, promising many more years of thrilling basketball action.
With dedicated coaches, talented players, and a relentless pursuit of excellence, Gonzaga, San Diego State, Saint Mary’s, Dayton, and VCU are all on the cusp of achieving greatness on the national stage. Keep an eye on these rising stars!