A weekly look at the mid-major scene
Here's a look around the mid-major scene at the teams and players you might not know much about (but should):
What you might've missed
Have you heard of Cameron Moore?
He averaged around three points and three rebounds per game during the last two seasons for the UAB Blazers. In most preseason stories, Moore was barely mentioned as a key player.
Of course, if you hadn't heard of him, don't feel bad. I hadn't either until Kent State head coach Geno Ford filled me in on "the most improved player in the country." At 6-foot-10 and 230 pounds, the junior has gone from being just another guy at UAB to the go-to guy for coach Mike Davis.
He's putting up huge numbers with 19.7 points and 9.4 rebounds per game. He's also making 60 percent of his shots and has gone from being the eighth-leading scorer on the team last season to its top scorer in 2010.
In his last outing, a 75-59 win over Kent State, Moore had 28 points and 15 rebounds, his fifth double-double of the season. The Blazers are now 7-2 with a quality overtime win at Arkansas 70-65 to their credit. UAB's two losses are at Arizona State by three and at Georgia by two.
What you shouldn't miss
1. Wednesday: UC Santa Barbara at UNLV -- UCSB needs a few quality nonconference wins, and a victory at UNLV would be a good start. The Rebels dropped their first game of the season at Louisville 77-69 on Saturday night. Winning in Vegas will be no easy task, but with the Gauchos' dynamic duo of James Nunnally (21.9 ppg) and Orlando Johnson (21.4 ppg), coach Bob Williams knows he has weapons.
2. Saturday: Detroit at Central Michigan -- This game is the ESPNU Top 100 Bowl for the Class of 2010. For the Titans, Ray McCallum Jr. was the No. 17 player on ESPNU's Top 100 last season, turning away marquee programs to play for his dad, Ray McCallum, at Detroit. If you don't know the story, Trey Zeigler, who was ranked No. 33 on ESPNU's rankings, was set to commit to UCLA until he roomed with the younger McCallum at the Kentucky Derby Basketball Festival last spring. McCallum had already decided to play for his dad and convinced Zeigler to do the same at CMU, where his father, Ernie Zeigler, was the coach. The younger McCallum (14.6 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 3.7 apg) and the younger Zeigler (15.9 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 1.8 apg) have been posting good numbers. Now these good friends (fathers and sons) meet on the court for the first time. I'll be calling this game for ESPNU and I can't wait to see this much anticipated matchup in Mount Pleasant.
3. Saturday: Saint Louis at Missouri State -- SLU got hammered at Duke 84-47 on Saturday, while Missouri State lost at Oklahoma State 84-70. Both teams need a psychological bounce-back win (although the Billikens hope to get it against Jacksonville on Wednesday). Speaking of bounce backs, Bears coach Cuonzo Martin has bounced back from cancer and now fights hard to raise money for finding a cure.
4. Saturday: Western Kentucky at Murray State -- Kentucky fans should skip UK versus Mississippi Valley State on Saturday night to go see these two duke it out for regional bragging rights.
5. Saturday: UC Santa Barbara at San Diego State: The Aztecs are the hottest team out West -- and perhaps in the country. The Gauchos can make a strong impression if they play well UNLV on Wednesday and then follow it up in San Diego on Saturday.
Conference USA: C-USA is the No. 11 Ratings Percentage Index conference in the country. And guess who is leading the way? Hint: It's not Memphis. UCF is the No. 20 RPI-rated team in the nation, while the favored Tigers are No. 36. Also in the Top 100 from C-USA are No. 65 Marshall and No. 67 Southern Miss.
The Ivy League: The Ancient Eight is currently the No. 12 RPI conference in the country. The average RPI conference ranking for the Ivy over the last five seasons is a robust No. 23.6 overall (out of 32 conferences). Yale and Princeton are No. 68 and No. 80, respectively. Harvard is now No. 95. The Ivy is solid this season.
Atlantic Sun: Speaking of improved teams from top to bottom, let's talk about the A-Sun. Their collective conference RPI average over the past five seasons is 27.2 out of 32. That is not good. However this season, No. 48 Lipscomb, No. 82 Jacksonville, No. 89 Belmont and No. 100 East Tennessee State are leading the conference to greater respect with a No. 14 RPI for the league.
Colonial Athletic Association: Six members of the 12-team CAA are ranked in the Top 100 of the RPI, which sports a No. 9 conference ranking overall. No. 13 Old Dominion, No. 55 Drexel, No. 69 UNC Wilmington, No. 71 Virginia Commonwealth, No. 73 Delaware and No. 96 George Mason are the current power brokers in the Colonial. The league is setting itself up for a shot at multiple NCAA bids in March.
Cleveland State Carries the Horizon: The Vikings are 12-0 overall after Saturday's win at Sam Houston State. They're also 10-0 versus D-I competition and No. 17 in the RPI. CSU and dynamic scorer Norris Cole travel to Morgantown to take on West Virginia on Dec. 18. Butler is No. 74 in the RPI and Valpo is at 101. The Horizon League is No. 10 overall in the RPI.
Butler and Gonzaga: Give these two Bulldogs credit for playing anyone, anywhere, anytime. It's strange to see both teams struggling at this point of the season. While some talking heads might be jumping ship, I will remain patient and predict better things to come for both teams. Butler lost in ugly fashion at Xavier last week, but it still showed it can flat out guard people. And Gonzaga showed positive signs in the loss at Notre Dame on Saturday. Stay tuned.
1. Dec 5: Montana 66, UCLA 57
2. Dec 1: Northern Iowa 60, Iowa State 54
3. Dec. 1: UCF 57, Florida 54
4. Nov. 30: Florida Atlantic 61, Mississippi State 59
5. Nov. 26: VCU 89, UCLA 85
6. Nov. 22: St. Peter's 50, Alabama 49
7. Nov. 20: Bradley 64, USC 63
8. Nov. 16: Nicholls State 62, LSU 53
9. Nov. 16: Saint Mary's 76, St. John's 71
10. Nov. 15: Kennesaw State 80, Georgia Tech 63 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