This year, four conferences produced multiple bids to the NCAA Tournament: the MWC, WCC, A-10, and Sun Belt. These conferences are guaranteed one spot each in the Mid-Major Conference.
Four teams reached the Sweet 16, all from different conferences. Of these, Davidson and Memphis did not come from a multi-bid conference, while Western Kentucky and Xavier did. From the Mountain West Conference, one team won its first round game while the other did not; from the West Coast Conference, one team won its first round game while the other two did not.
This leaves two spots in the MMC to be determined by my discretion, with no conference restrictions.
Without further ado, the eight members of the 2008 Mid-Major Conference:
Xavier (Atlantic 10)
Western Kentucky (Sun Belt Conference)
Davidson (Southern Conference)
Memphis (Conference USA)
UNLV (Mountain West Conference)
San Diego (West Coast Conference)
Butler (Horizon League)
Drake (Missouri Valley Conference)
Honorable Mentions: Illinois State, Kent State, Akron
The NIT didn’t really produce much in the way of MMC contenders – the only teams to make the second round from conferences without automatic qualifying procedures were Illinois State, Southern Illinois, Creighton, and Akron. All lost. That’s barely further than any remaining team in the NCAA tournament, all but guaranteeing Butler a spot – but Drake bowed out in the first round of the NCAAs to Western Kentucky. Those NIT teams lost in a round one-fourth the size of the round Drake lost in. After such a strong performance all season, Drake very easily could have been passed over within its own conference. But the only other mid-major team to win in the first round was Siena, which falls under the Northwestern State rule (one lucky win doesn’t get you an MMC ticket). George Mason or Virginia Commonwealth would have made the honorable mention list if VCU wasn’t beaten by another mid-major (UAB) in the NIT first round or if Mason was as strong an at-large contender as Drake.
Kent State came the closest to knocking off Drake. Love it or hate it, teams that make long NIT runs can only compete for MMC bids with teams that were better in the conference tournament if they were robbed of an NCAA bid. Unlike Appalachian “upset-Michigan” State last year, Akron was nowhere near NCAA territory and Illinois was a bubble team when Drake was a lock. And since Drake and Kent State had the same level of tournament success, and Drake was a 5 seed to Kent State’s 9 seed, Drake pretty much has to get the nod (even though you could penalize it for losing to a 12 seed to KSU’s 8 seed, but even then Drake lost close while UNLV blew out Kent State).