As we have talked about in this space before, TMM has always been a celebration of the wonderful basketball that goes unnoticed by most. With that in mind it is only fitting to give out the occasional Mid-Major Baller of the Week to a player that isn't necessarily a star on his own team labors in the smallest corners of the NCAA.
Mitch Bruneel is the classic undersized overachiever. I covered him game to game in the 2011-2012 season when he was with Utah State. Following the season his scholarship was not renewed and he reemerged this season at Utah Valley this season.
Bruneel started the season pretty slowly, he hit double figures in only six of 15 non-conference games despite being consistently in the starting lineup. In conference play however, Bruneel has hit double figures in all four games and has the Wolverines at the top of the WAC in their first year in the conference. At Idaho on Thursday Bruneel led the team with 18 points and 7 rebounds in a 71-66 victory over the Vandals and then followed it up with a 20 point nine rebound effort in a 52-51 win at Seattle. The effort at Seattle helped UVU overcome 29% shooting from the field and win a grind of a game that featured just 58 possessions for the road team. For that Bruneel is the 10th Mid-Majority Baller of the Week for the TMMX Season.
Under Dick Hunsaker the Wolverines have steadily been a quality program despite being independent from 2005 to 2009 and then in the bid less Great West Conference from 2010 to 2013. Despite being stuck in the purgatory of D-I, the Wolverines have hit at least 15 wins in six of the last eight seasons and look solidly on the way again this year.
No conference was hurt as badly as the WAC in the realignment carousel. The once mighty conference is now made up of former independents, Great West refuges and other castaways. Despite it falling near the bottom of the DI rankings, it carries an automatic berth to the NCAA Tournament, something that the Wolverines and most of the conference have never had a real shot at before. Utah Valley still has plenty of work to do if they want to go dancing for the first time in school history, including two games with league favorites New Mexico State, but starting out 4-0 in conference play isn't a bad start.
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