Over the past decade or so, the term mid-major has come to prominence. It symbolizes the hard-working, low budget school with a small gym, rabid fans who come March is the trendy upset pick in the tournament. But the mid-major label does a disservice to those teams, not only because it cheapens their achievements, but also because it implies that every major conference team is better than them, even though that is patently false. In fact, many major conference teams have disinterested fanbases and players who, while playing hard, are simply not up to snuff against good competition. With that in mind, its time to look at the worst of the worst in the major conferences. Join me after the jump as I count down the worst major conference teams from 5 to 1.
How is the major conference team with the worst record (2-5) only the fifth-worst team? Schedule, schedule, schedule. Of Depaul’s five losses, three are to very good teams; Kansas, Vanderbilt, and Creighton. With that said, Depaul is still a terrible basketball team. They’ve lost to Illinois Chicago, and most damning of all, to North Carolina A&T. Depaul has been in free-fall since the middle of last year, and it doesn’t appear to get any better, with games against undefeated Mississippi and Clemson on tap.
Northwestern edges out Depaul for the dubious honor of 4th place on this list because they actually lost to Depaul, 54-53. They have also lost to the immortal Brown Bears, who were picked to finish well down in the Ivy League. Northwestern hasn’t beaten a team with a winning record or a sub-200 RPI yet this season, and is one of the most boring teams to watch in the land. The Princeton offense can sometimes be tedious when run well, but when run poorly, it is positively horrendous. The Wildcats haven’t had a winning season in 6 years, and this year does not figure to break that trend.
Don’t let Iowa’s 6-6 record fool you, this is an absolutely atrocious basketball team. Iowa has had a good run this decade, but the departures of Adam Haluska to some league in Europe and former coach Steve Alford to New Mexico have left the cupboard bare. After winning their first four games against cupcakes with a combined record of 12-30, Iowa proceeded to lose 4 of its next 6, including losses to Utah State, Louisiana-Monroe, and almost every other Division I basketball team in the state of Iowa (Drake and Iowa State). Giving credit where it is due, Iowa did beat Northern Iowa, but that illustrates how far the program has fallen when a win over a fairly mediocre Northern Iowa team is their best win. Perhaps Iowa misses Steve Alford after all.
Sensing a pattern? No, it’s not just you, the Big Ten (especially the bottom) really is that terrible. Having lost their coach and three starters,Michigan in particular was expected to be bad, but not this bad. Perhaps new coach John Belein’s labyrinthine schemes don’t work well with a younger team. Whatever the reason, the results don’t lie; Michigan was curbstomped by Duke, and lost handily to Virginia Tech and Butler. They also lost to Western Kentucky and by 12 to a bad MAC team, Central Michigan. But perhaps the worst loss was to Harvard, who is led by Michigan’s former coach, Tommy Amaker. I’m sure that coach Belein will bring the Wolverines back, but at least for this season, they are simply terrible.
1. Oregon State
And we have finally reached the worst of the worst, the Beavers of Oregon State, whose play is almost pitiful. Oregon State has the best record on this list, 6-4, but that is extremely misleading. They have played the 2nd worst schedule in the land, and have only beaten teams with sub-200 RPIs. They were blown out 79-62 by Tennessee Tech at home in a game attended by 3,000 people. They also lost to a Division II team, Alaska-Anchorage. Normally it is unwise for a college team to fire a coach mid-season, but Jay John might be the exception. In a Pac-10 league where nine out of ten teams have a legitimate shot at an NCAA tournament berth, Oregon State will be lucky to win a single game.