This year, six conferences produced multiple bids to the NCAA Tournament: the MWC, A-10, West Coast, C-USA, MAAC, and MVC. These conferences are guaranteed one spot each in the Mid-Major Conference.
Two teams reached the Sweet 16, from different conferences. Ohio did not come from a multi-bid conference, but Xavier did. New Mexico was the only team from the Mountain West to win their first game; ditto for Creighton and the Missouri Valley, and Gonzaga and the WCC, not counting the “First Four”. No team from the MAAC or C-USA won a game in the NCAA Tournament. Memphis and Southern Miss split their regular season games but Memphis won the conference tournament while Southern Miss was upset before reaching the final; Loyola (MD) has a similar advantage over Iona, with the added bonus of not having to play the “First Four”.
This leaves one spot in the MMC to be determined by my discretion, with no conference restrictions.
Without further ado, the eight members of the 2012 Mid-Major Conference:
Xavier (Atlantic 10)
Ohio (Mid-American Conference)
Creighton (Missouri Valley Conference)
New Mexico (Mountain West Conference)
Gonzaga (West Coast Conference)
Memphis (Conference USA)
Loyola (MD) (Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference)
Murray State (Ohio Valley Conference)
A record number of mid-major conferences producing multiple bids (matching the first year I did this in 2007) leaves me with only one discretionary pick, and there was no way I was going to leave Murray State’s two-loss season out. As with Memphis last year, Loyola received an MMC pick solely because Iona received an at-large they might not have deserved, and this one is a bit less defensible. The CAA could have used a spot for VCU or Drexel, and Harvard might have gotten a discretionary spot if Murray State weren’t so strong. Combined with the problem the “First Four” poses for determining tourney distance, I may have to change my rules for how I treat the “First Four” (which didn’t exist in its current form when I made them) in future years. I’ll also need to keep an eye on whether conference realignment affects which conferences are considered “major”. Speaking of which, give an honorable mention to Colorado, who would have qualified for the MMC this year if the Pac-12 were considered what they were this year: a mid-major.