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Mid-Major Power Pyramid: Week Three

By Matt Norlander | College Basketball Writer

Another week, here we go. Just go with the flow and feel free to continue lashing me over my choices. It makes for good discussion, and I value your opinion. One more reminder: Atlantic 10 teams do not qualify this year. The majority of the A-10 is now considered by people in basketball circles as a major conference. (How long that lasts with looming realignment, thanks to the Catholic 7, remains to be seen.)

Here's how the building was erected in the past seven days.

Top Tier

1. Creighton (10-1).
Why it's here: We'll keep it simple. Creighton was No. 1 last week, got a good road win at Cal on Saturday night, so the reasoning is self-explanatory.

Something you should know: "In his last 102 minutes of basketball, [grant] Gibbs has 27 assists and just one turnover, which is probably why his assist-to-turnover ratio right now is 7.4:1." That from Rob Dauster a week ago. Add in the Cal game, though, and Gibbs' rate is now at an even 7:1, with 28 assists and four turnovers in his past 138 minutes of hoop.

Up next: Wednesday vs. Tulsa.

2. Gonzaga (10-1).
Why it's here: Gonzaga's getting better and better because Elias Harris seems to be rising with each game. He's averaging a career-best 15.9 points per game, leading the team, and also snaring eight boards and almost two steals per. Harris is a coach's dream so far: as a senior, playing well, improving his draft stock and playing within the team's formula.

Something you should know: The Bulldogs have played seven games against the KenPom.com top 100, winning six of them. That's better than any other team on this list both in games played and games won.

Up next: Wednesday vs. Campbell.

3. UNLV (8-1).
Why it's here: I almost demoted Las Vegas after playing some woman named La Verne this past week.

Something you should know: Teams should be looking to score in the interior against UNLV these days. One, because Mike Moser is still out for a few more weeks with a dislocated elbow injury. Two, because Anthony Bennett is really good but still raw and susceptible to freshman fouls. Three, because UNLV's defending 3-point shots to a 24-percent rate, among the elite 3 Ds in the nation.

Up next: Monday at Texas-El Paso; Wednesday vs. Northern Iowa; Saturday vs. Canisius.

A Cut Below

4. New Mexico (11-0).
Why it's here: Still unblemished, still waiting for one slip-up from a team ahead of them to make a jump. Also, I have no idea why New Mexico is playing back-to-back games against New Mexico State. I want to know the last time that happened in college hoops and wasn't due to end-of-season -- conference tournament matchup.

Something you should know: SI.com's Andy Glockner wrote a piece last week that surmised Mike Krzyzewski could very well retire with an unbreakable all-time wins record in men's coaching. We then discussed this on Friday's podcast. But then a reader/listener pointed out to me a great stat. Steve Alford, in fact, has three more wins through 20 years of coaching than Mike Krzyzewski did, and Alford began coaching at the age of 26, one year earlier than K. The catch: Alford's career started at Manchester College in Indiana, meaning 78 of his D-III wins don't count toward his total (now at 445). Still, Alford's easily going to cruise to 700, and after that, we'll see. Goes to show you how lack of Final Fours/Elite Eights overshadow the macro accomplishments of one's career.

Up next: Wednesday at New Mexico State; Saturday vs. South Dakota State.

5. San Diego State (8-1).
Why it's here: Aztecs remain a good defensive team and had no issue at all with San Diego on Saturday.

Something you should know: SDSU plays its next game against a D-II school located here. C'mon now, Steve Fisher.

Up next: Tuesday vs. D-II Point Loma; Saturday vs. San Francisco.

The Aztecs are again among the better teams outside the big leagues. (US Presswire)


6. Wichita State (9-1).
Why it's here: It was a tough 69-60 loss at Tennessee for Wichita State, but I've said before and want to remind you again that this Pyramid doesn't operate like polls. Teams are not tethered to wins or losses in a given week. I still think between resume and personnel that WSU is deserving of No. 6 here.

Something you should know: The Shockers have not lost back-to-back regular-season games since November 2011 and haven't lost three straight since January 2009.

Up next: Thursday vs. Charleston Southern; Saturday vs. Southern Mississippi.

7. Wyoming (10-0).
Why it's here: Did not play any games last week, so I do have a hard time moving teams up when they don't offer recent evidence. Let's keep 'em snug in the middle of the list.

Something you should know: This is the best start for the Cowboys since the 1987-88 season, which had an 11-0 start. The '50-51 team has the best start in program history with a 12-0 mark.

Up next: Tuesday vs. Denver; Friday vs. UC Santa Barbara.

8. Boise State (7-2).
Why it's here: LSU is still good and young and transitioning under new coach Johnny Jones, but the Tigers didn't have a loss this season until they went up against Boise State on Friday. That counts for something solid.

Something you should know: The Broncos' four biggest contributors are 6-feet-6 or shorter. Derrick Marks, Mikey Thompson, Anthony Drmic and Igor Hadziomerovic (I triple-checked the spelling there) are doing good things, but the defense can't sustain this over the long haul. BSU's undoubtedly a tough out, but teams are able to score near the rim all too easily so far.

Up next: Thursday vs. Idaho; Sunday vs. New Orleans.

9. Bucknell (9-1).
Why it's here: A big week forthcoming with three games in five days. I'm prone to give teams some slack when the schedule jams like this. Go 2-1, Bucknell, and you're unlikely to drop below No. 10 a week from now.

Something you should know: Wow, is the turnover defense alarming. Namely because Bucknell has none. According to KenPom.com, the Bison are forcing turnovers only 13.6 percent of opponents' possessions. That's second-worst in the country.

Up next: Monday at St. Francis (Pa.); Wednesday vs. Marist; Saturday at Princeton.

10. Murray State (8-1).
Why it's here: Steve Prohm's team got a good test from Western Kentucky on Sunday, ultimately holding off the Hilltoppers 75-70. Because there's no zero attached to the loss column, Murray State's not getting the same attention it did starting around this time last season. But there stands a chance this group is almost as good as the 31-2 team from a year ago.

Something you should know: The Racers are another program that doesn't drop two in a row so easily. If they win their games this week, they'll ensure themselves of a full two years removed from the last time they endured a losing streak.

Up next: Wednesday at Arkansas State; Saturday at Dayton.

Base Blocks

11. Lehigh (8-2).
Why it's here: Similar to Wyoming in that it played no games so there's no room for movement.

Something you should know: With only 28 games scheduled (that's what happens when you beat Duke as a 15 seed and bring back an NBA player; no big boys will play you), Lehigh is further along into its schedule than any other Pyramid team.

Up next: Thursday at North Texas; Saturday vs. Bryant.

12. Illinois-Chicago (9-1).
Why it's here: You've probably seen the tweets or posts about the undefeated teams left, but what about the one-scratch squads? As of Sunday afternoon, there were 29 of them. Illinois-Chicago just one of the bunch, but that bunch is mostly major-conference powers or teams higher in the Pyramid than UIC. Flames belong because they're winning convincingly. Only three of their victories are single-digits, and none are one-possession.

Something you should know: Let's send along this link. Learn a bit more about Mr. Moore and his road to getting UIC to this point.

Up next: Tuesday at Western Illinois; Saturday at Miami (Ohio).

13. Saint Mary's (7-2).
Why it's here: The Gaels swoop in at 7-2 because I think the team's actually got the talent more than the resume to warrant it. Matthew Dellavedova, he of the 2012 Olympics, is quietly having another really good season.

Something you should know: SMC's wins are not good. The best one is against Utah State, and the second-best one is against Drexel, which is pretty bad. But the team's offense is so good, I can't help but take a flier on this group right now.

Up next: Wednesday vs. Pacific; Saturday at Northern Iowa.

The Tigers are hanging by a string. (US Presswire)

14. Memphis (6-3).
Why it's here: You know, what do you want me to say? Memphis had Louisville on Saturday. It was up by 16 in the first half. But again, the Tigers folded against a better opponent. This happened last year in the Pyramid as well. Because it's Memphis, you give it the benefit of the doubt. By January, I was fed up with the team. No more chances. Tigers will have to stave off loss No. 4 for at least a month, if not longer, to avoid getting the boot.

Something you should know: Josh Pastner has never coached his team to a win over a ranked team. It's surprising in some ways for guys like me, but at this point it has to be beyond stressful for vested Memphis honks.

Up next: Thursday vs. Lipscomb.

15. Utah State (6-1).
Why it's here: I can't deny, the Pyramid all of the sudden seems pretty thin, overall. I don't recall many editions last season that had teams Nos. 13-15 feel unworthy. Kind of get that vibe here. But the Aggies do have a win over Pyramid fringe team Santa Clara, plus are proving to win in a variety of ways. Stew Morrill's team has also had a scare with a player who stopped breathing during practice.

Something you should know: USU has won in the 50, 60s, 70s and 80s already and it rates top-10 in both offensive and defensive rebound percentage.

Up Next: Thursday vs. Nicholls State; Friday vs. UC Davis; Saturday vs. Southern Illinois.


Outside the Pyramid:

-- Ohio was easily done after losing to Winthrop and giving Winthrop its first D-I win of the season in the process.

-- Eastern Kentucky's undefeated campaign ended at the hands of also-untoppled Illinois on Sunday, a 66-53 outcome. Given EKU's weak slate, it was enough to slip the team out of the Pyramid.

-- Teams under consideration for next week: Eastern Kentucky, SMU, Santa Clara, Central Florida, Colorado State.

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