<
>

A weekly look at the mid-major scene

Here's a look around the mid-major scene and the teams and players you might not know much about (but should):

What you might've missed

Butler's Hahn takes and makes big shots: Zach Hahn is confident and has a history of taking and making big shots to open Horizon League play. In December 2008, his 3-pointer at the buzzer beat Cleveland State on the road in the conference opener. Hahn did it again Wednesday night. He made a pair of free throws with seven seconds remaining to give Butler a three-point lead and a 65-63 victory at Loyola of Chicago, which dropped two in a row at home after a 7-0 start.

"I already have a lot of confidence as a shooter because my teammates show confidence in me by giving me the ball to take those shots," Hahn said. "When you practice and work hard, it gives you confidence in that situation."

He shoots between 300 and 500 shots per day in the offseason, while his fiancée, Lindsey Fox, rebounds for him. Fox played soccer at Butler.

ODU is building a résumé: In a battle of two Commonwealth basketball powers now fighting for conference bragging rights (CAA versus A-10) and RPI style points, Old Dominion overcame an eight-point deficit to beat Richmond on Wednesday, 77-70. Kent Bazemore scored a career-high 22 points to go with 6 rebounds, 5 steals and 3 assists. Frank Hassell scored 15 points and grabbed 12 rebounds for ODU. The Monarchs lost 75-67 at Delaware on Saturday in their CAA opener, but they now have wins over Clemson, Xavier and Richmond as well as a near-miss in a 62-59 loss to Georgetown.

Don't overlook Northern Iowa in The Valley: The Panthers (4-2) lost a lot from last season, including MVC player of the year Adam Koch, KU assassin Ali Farokhmanesh and big man Jordan Eglseder. But Anthony James, Jake Koch and Johnny Moran are filling in quite nicely. They each scored 12 points in a 60-54 win over previously undefeated Iowa State on Wednesday. Kwadzo Ahelegbe and Lucas O'Rear added 10 points each for the Panthers. UNI has now won 18 straight games at home and has beaten the Big 12's Cyclones in four of their past five meetings. UNI followed that up with a road win at TCU on Saturday, the Valley's only win in the MWC/MVC Challenge.

Miami (Ohio) downs Xavier: Charlie Coles can coach and Julian Mavunga can score. Mavunga scored a career-high 24 points in Miami's 75-64 win over Xavier in a big win for the MAC over the A-10 in Oxford, Ohio. Nick Winbush scored 15 of his 17 points in the second half, and a late-game desperation 3-pointer as the shot clock expired and with 1:45 left in the game from Chris McHenry all but sealed the victory.

ETSU snaps Dayton's 40-game nonconference home winning streak:
Before the Flyers got drilled in Cincinnati this past weekend (a 68-34 final), Dayton coach Brian Gregory told me how concerned he was about playing East Tennessee State. Gregory was rightfully worried, as Dayton's 40-game home winning streak against nonconference opponents was snapped with a 73-68 setback to the Bucs on Wednesday night at the UD Arena. Senior Justin Tubbs led all scorers with 26 points.

Montana stuns UCLA at Pauley Pavilion: In a preseason ESPN.com entry, I described Montana in this way: "Coach Wayne Tinkle's Montana Grizzlies will create a matchup challenge. Six-foot-11 Brian Qvale and 7-foot Derek Selvig both can play, and I don't mean just in the Big Sky. Pac-10 coaches would now kill for these two guys."

Count UCLA's Ben Howland as one of those Pac-10 coaches after Sunday night. Qvale and Selvig led the Grizzlies to a 66-57 victory over UCLA at Pauley Pavilion, combining for 21 points, 18 rebounds and 3 blocked shots. The combination of Qvale (13 points, 10 rebounds) and Selvig (8 points and 8 rebounds) was too much for the Bruins inside. UCLA shot a miserable 31 percent from the field because of Montana's superior size and wingspan. The Grizz blistered the UCLA defense by shooting 52 percent from the floor, led by Will Cherry's 18 points.

What you shouldn't miss

Wednesday: Vermont vs. BYU -- The Catamounts are a surprising 6-1 and could gain national attention with a win over Jimmer Fredette in his hometown of Glens Falls, N.Y.

Thursday: Butler at Xavier -- Remember last season's game? I hope the game clock in Cincinnati works better than the late-game confusion that occurred in Indianapolis last season. By the way, Butler won that one 69-68.

Saturday: VCU at Richmond -- The CAA versus the A-10. Style points for both teams and conferences.

Saturday: Dayton at Old Dominion -- See above. Round 2 on the same night.

Saturday: Boston at Harvard -- Two potential conference champions (America East and Ivy) going head-to-head in a crosstown rivalry. Cheers.

Saturday: Jackson State at North Texas -- My preseason SWAC pick versus my Sun Belt West Division pick. I have the Mean Green in this one.

Gonzaga at Washington State (Wednesday), Gonzaga at Notre Dame (Saturday) -- Coach Mark Few has guts.

Who's hot: North Texas (7-1)

I like the Mean Green nickname, but I love the way they play even more. Last season in the Sun Belt championship game, North Texas beat Troy 66-63. It has carried its winning ways into this season. Tristan Thompson can score (21.6 points per game) and can really shoot it (43 percent on 3-pointers). Coach Johnny Jones loves the up-tempo game he learned as an assistant to legendary LSU coach Dale Brown. His Mean Green have averaged just less than 80 points per game.

Others to watch

Portland (7-2): The Pilots' two losses are to Kentucky and Washington State. Everyone picked Gonzaga in the WCC with a nod here and there to Loyola Marymount and Saint Mary's, but coach Eric Reveno's team looks like a contender. Jared Stohl is one of the best long-range marksmen in the country. He's draining 53 percent of his 3-point attempts while averaging 15 points per game.

Hampton (7-1): The Pirates have won seven consecutive games since a season-opening loss to Wake Forest and are 1-0 in the MEAC. Hampton struggles offensively, shooting only 37 percent overall, 26 percent on 3-pointers and 65 percent on free throws. So how does it win? The answer lies with a stingy defense, which is holding opponents to 53.9 points per game.

Cleveland State (10-0): Norris Cole is putting up player of the year numbers with 21 ppg, 4.3 apg and 4.9 rpg. Cleveland State is 2-0 in the Horizon League after sweeping Green Bay and Milwaukee on the road. CSU will visit West Virginia on Dec. 18. Stay tuned.

Vermont (6-1): The Catamounts' lone loss is at UConn, a game in which they led in the second half. Vermont is very efficient offensively, as it makes 49.5 percent of its shots. The Catamounts are led by Evan Fjeld, who has improved his scoring average from 4.7 points per game as a sophomore to 10.7 last season to 20.9 so far this season. Vermont has the best nonconference record in the America East, and fond memories of the Taylor Coppenrath era abound.

UCF (7-0): The Knights defeated then-No. 16 Florida and knocked off Southeastern Louisiana last week. Michael Jordan's son, Marcus, made 6 of 11 shots and shut down Florida's leading scorers, Kenny Boynton and Chandler Parsons. Jordan's biggest shots came at the free throw line, as he made two with 24 seconds remaining to put the Knights up 55-52. I think I've seen that clutch gene in action before. Don't crown Memphis in the C-USA just yet. UCF will be heard from.

Coastal Carolina (7-2): The Chanticleers have now won five in a row and are 1-0 in early Big South play. Desmond Holloway has put up some big numbers -- 18.4 points and 7.1 rebounds per game while knocking down 52 percent of his shots.

Belmont (5-2): The Bruins lost at Tennessee and Vandy by identical 85-76 scores. Let's talk about spreading the wealth. Coach Rick Byrd has 10 players who play between 15 and 25 minutes per game, and Belmont averages 17 assists per game. The Bruins are 1-0 in the Atlantic Sun.

Drexel (5-1): The Dragons are a surprising 5-1 and 1-0 in the CAA after winning at Northeastern 63-58 on Saturday night. Chris Fouch averages 21.7 ppg and makes 44 percent of his shots from beyond the arc. Coach Bruiser Flint has a dark horse in the CAA.

Who's not

Bradley (4-4): The Braves opened the season at 4-0 but have since dropped four in a row. The reason: Senior guard Sam Maniscalco is done for the season because of a recurring ankle injury. Maniscalco was an iron man for the Braves and had played in 111 consecutive games. He played in Bradley's first six games and averaged 9.7 points and 4.3 assists, but his on-the-court savvy and leadership will be greatly missed. He will apply for a medical redshirt season. Bradley also lost junior forward Taylor Brown earlier this season thanks to "precautionary medical reasons."

Tussle at the top

Saturday: Morehead State at Northern Iowa
Northern Iowa knocked off Iowa State, and Morehead State beat preseason OVC pick Murray State 75-65 on Saturday. You all know -- or should know -- about Kenneth Faried. If you don't, please read last week's article.
I want to see UNI's Lucas O'Rear , who is the Ted Nugent of college basketball with those muttonchop sideburns, focused on blocking off Faried. That will be a battle of the boards worth watching.

Mark Adams is a contributor to ESPN.com. He is a game analyst on the ESPN family of networks and was a college basketball coach for 17 years, including a head-coaching stint at Central Connecticut State and assistant jobs at Idaho State and Washington State. For more of his insight, check out www.enthusiadams.com