Larry Bird still has a special affinity for the guys who went to smaller schools.

Sounds like the rest of the NBA is starting to catch on to Bird's philosophy, too.

Whether it's All-Americans such as Jimmer Fredette or Kawhi Leonard, guys who emerged as solid players in the NCAA tournament such as Matt Howard or players with strong NBA genes such as Mychel Thompson, non-BCS players seem to be in vogue.

What's changed? Plenty.

Some say the coaching at those programs has become stronger, some believe it's all a matter of exposure, and Bird thinks much of it has to do with the success of the so-called "mid-majors" come tourney time.

The one thing Bird does know is that these guys can play.