Mid-major update: Davidson bounces back

Mike Huguenin

Admit it – you saw highlights of Davidson's upset of Kansas on Monday night and were waiting to see Stephen Curry drain a 3-pointer or two.

Instead, it was Nik Cochran going 4-of-5 from 3-point range to spark the Wildcats to the stunning victory. It was especially stunning because Davidson was coming off a 23-point beatdown at the hands of Charlotte.

The victory is one of the two or three most impressive by a non-Big Six program this season. But it's unlikely that it will have much of an impact on Davidson's NCAA hopes; that's because the Wildcats are extremely unlikely to receive an at-large bid out of the Southern Conference, which never has had one of its team get an at-large bid.

Nik Cochran scored 21 points and hit a big 3-pointer to seal Davidson's win over Kansas.
(Getty Images)

Top 12 non-Big Six schools so far

1. Xavier
2. UNLV
3. Harvard
4. Creighton
5. Wichita State
6. Gonzaga
7. San Diego State
8. Murray State
9. Temple
10. Ohio
11. Saint Louis
12. UCF

*— projected tournament team

[The Dagger: Something missing in Todd O'Brien transfer saga]

Still, given the apparent lack of depth in each of the Big Six conferences, there could be more at-large bids than usual going to non-Big Six programs. Seven non-Big Sixers received at-large bids last season, with eight getting bids in 2010, four in 2009 and six in '08 and '07.

Here's a look at where non-Big Six programs stand as we head into the holiday season.

You're better than we thought you'd be: Murray State. We admit it – we whiffed on the Racers. Coach Billy Kennedy left for Texas A&M in May, and new coach Steve Prohm (who was promoted from his job as an assistant) took over a team that had lost three starters. Three or four other Ohio Valley schools looked better on paper, but we should never have doubted the Racers' talent level. Junior G Isaiah Canaan has become the unquestioned go-to guy and he has responded in a big way, averaging 19.3 points and shooting 50.7 percent from the field and 48.1 percent from 3-point range. While Murray State (12-0) has three wins over non-Division I teams, the Racers also have road wins over UAB and Memphis and pounded Dayton at home. They also have a neutral-site win over Southern Miss, and they are the team to beat in the OVC.

You're in more trouble than we thought you'd be: Butler. A lot of schools fit here, like Memphis, Utah State, Drexel and Austin Peay. But Butler, which famously has played in the past two national title games, nudges everybody else out. The Bulldogs are 5-6, with losses to, among others, Evansville, Ball State and Valparaiso. Butler was mediocre for the first 2.5 months of last season, then turned it on down the stretch. But Shelvin Mack and Matt Howard, the two most important players from last season, are gone. Who is going to step up and provide leadership – and production – this season?

We're still not convinced: Southern Miss. The Golden Eagles have started 9-2 and were fourth in the RPI as of Tuesday morning. Obviously, the RPI is way off-kilter this early in the season and things will balance out as the season progresses. While Southern Miss owns back-to-back wins over "power conference" schools, those schools are Arizona State and Ole Miss, and neither looks to be a threat to make the NCAA field. Frankly, while the potential exists for Southern Miss to be 13-2 when Conference USA play begins Jan. 4, we still would be unimpressed. The Golden Eagles have a stretch in mid-January where they get Memphis, UAB and Marshall back-to-back-to-back; the results in those games are when folks will know whether Southern Miss is legit.

Top freshman so far: Central Connecticut State G Kyle Vinales. Vinales, a Detroit native who played at Malvern (Pa.) The Phelps School last season, is the leading freshman scorer in the nation at 20.6 points per game. He is shooting 42.7 percent from 3-point range and is part of CCSU's "Big Three" along with F Ken Horton (22.5 ppg, 9.3 rpg) and G Robby Ptacek (19.1 ppg, 92.9 FT%). While the Blue Devils' defense has been lacking, they obviously can score, and their offense makes them a big threat to challenge Long Island and Robert Morris for Northeast Conference supremacy.

[The Dagger: Ex-Davidson stars revel in upset of Kansas]

Where did he come from? American F Charles Hinkle. American lost its best returning player when F Stephen Lumpkins signed a baseball contract with Kansas City after being taken in the 13th round of the draft. Lumpkins' departure has led to a huge season from Hinkle, a senior who played the first two seasons of his career at Vanderbilt. Hinkle played in 23 games for American last season, averaging just 13.1 minutes and 4.4 points per game. Those numbers have skyrocketed this season, to 35.9 minutes and 21.8 points. He also is averaging 5.1 rebounds and shooting 84 percent from the line. His emergence means the Patriots have become a dark-horse contender in the Patriot League.

Where did he go? Harvard F Keith Wright. Wright received a lot of preseason acclaim, but while Harvard looks to have its best team in school history, Wright has been slightly disappointing individually. He is averaging 10.8 points, 6.8 rebounds and 1.4 blocks - solid numbers but each a drop from last season, when he averaged 14.8 points, 8.3 rebounds and 1.7 blocks. Wright remains the most talented player in the Ivy League, and perhaps his stats will increase once league play begins.

Best win: UCF 68-63 over Connecticut. Also: Davidson 80-74 over Kansas, Cleveland State 71-58 over Vanderbilt, Oral Roberts 64-42 over Xavier, Indiana State 61-55 over Vanderbilt, Dayton 74-62 over Alabama, Wichita State 89-70 over UNLV, BYU 79-65 over Oregon, Dayton 86-70 over Minnesota, Harvard 46-41 over Florida State, Long Beach State 86-76 over Pittsburgh

Worst losses by NCAA tournament contenders: Loyola Marymount 75-68 over Saint Louis, Bowling Green 67-64 over Temple, Denver 70-58 over Saint Mary's, Buffalo 84-55 over Dayton, Hofstra 63-53 over Cleveland State

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