They used to be called Cinderella teams, but after the recent stellar NCAA tournament performances of such schools as Butler, Gonzaga and Utah State, the fairy-tale moniker seems condescending. Now emerging basketball minipowers have their own classification: mid-major. Over the last three years the website collegeinsider.com has made a niche for itself by tracking these teams with its Mid-Major Top 25.
Each Sunday evening, College-insider posts its rankings, which are derived from a poll of 30 Division I coaches and the judgments of the site's five-person editorial team. To be eligible a school must rest outside the realm of the 10 so-called major conferences. If you'd followed the rankings last season, you might not have been shocked when Midwestern Collegiate power Butler—which finished the regular season unranked in the AP poll but second in the Mid-Major Top 25—waxed the ACC's Wake Forest 79-63 in the NCAA tournament's first round. The site also has chosen a preseason Mid-Major All-America team, headed by Gonzaga (West Coast) senior point guard Dan Dickau (right).
Collegeinsider editor-in-chief Joe Dwyer, a former music producer, watches as many as 15 games a day by means of satellite dish and videotape at his office in Norwood, Mass. He has given the site a lighter side: In the Fashionable Four, it selects the game's best-dressed coach (last year's winner: Bruiser Flint, then at UMass, now at Drexel). Collegeinsider even posts coaches' Recipes for Success. This week, for Thanksgiving, the dish is fried turkey with Louisiana hot sauce from Auburn's Cliff Ellis.