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Non-BCS schools inching closer to routine ‘upsets’

Jan 2, 2012, 11:45 AM EDT

spt-120101-fairfield AP

Want to know the formula to how a non-BCS school pulls off that upset against a Big East, Big Ten or ACC school? Of course you do. So does every “mid-major” coach in the country.

Those coaches are working on it, though. Soon that blueprint will be easy to read and easier to execute. It’s just a matter of time.

“I think college basketball is getting to the point where mid-majors are beating Big East teams,” Fairfield coach Sydney Johnson told Kevin Duffy of the Connecticut Post. “I don’t think there’s a lot of room for moral victories anymore. I think these guys know that.”

That’s the opening to a solid story by Duffy, who details what schools like Wagner and Long Beach State have done this season to pull off upsets. (The obvious answer? Play Pitt.) But it went a little deeper than that, too, focusing on how teams make the transition from the “near upset” to ensuring those final few minutes don’t play out as we’ve become accustomed to.

Namely, where the big boys always win.

Wagner coach Dan Hurley says much of it relies on a team’s mental toughness and attitude. But Duffy notes that a team such as Long Beach State (or ’06 George Mason) is often filled with experienced, more physically developed players who can handle younger players, even if those younger players have more “talent.”

But in the end, it just comes down to making shots and keeping cool. It’s not easy, but it can be done.

“You get butterflies, but once you see that first basket drop, it all goes away, and it’s back to basketball,” LBSU forward T.J. Robinson told Duffy. “Because at the end of the day, we all just play basketball.”

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