Is March the greatest month of the year or what? I have been holed up in my apartment for the past week or so watching every single game on ESPN, ESPN2, CBS and the ESPN Full Court basketball package and I couldn’t be happier to do so. Today we are going to address the teams that have clinched automatic bids and tomorrow we will tackle those teams who are still hanging on the bubble.
-Atlantic Sun: Belmont; For a second straight year, the Belmont Bruins are heading to the NCAA Tournament. The Bruins should receive something in the neighborhood of a 15 seed and enter the tournament red hot winning 7 straight and 10 out of their last 11. While it is hard to deem them a bracket buster, Belmont is the type of team that can hang around with the big boys for the first half before letting it slip away.
-Big South: Winthrop; Winthrop celebrated their 7th tournament berth in 9 years by entering the Top 25 for the first time in school history, ranking #22 in the ESPN/USA Today poll and 24th in the Coaches poll. Winthrop is a team that is extremely dangerous and could wreak havoc in the tournament. Winthrop should be a #11 seed and has their sights set on a trip to the Sweet 16.
-Colonial: Virginia Commonwealth; Congrats to a friend of mine as well as the VCU Strength and Conditioning coach, Danny Vega, for making it to the big dance. The Rams were a potential at-large team but deciding not to chance things and took care of business. VCU is looking like a #11 or #12 in the tournament and could pose serious issues for their opponent.
-Ivy: Penn; The Quakers were the first team to seal a bid by winning the Ivy League regular season championship. The league is the only without a postseason tournament and as a result, Penn and Princeton essentially rotate as league champs. Penn blew through the Ivy League this year but didn’t fare well against the big boys and since they are looking like a #13 or #14 seed, they should be one and done.
-MAAC: Niagara; Niagara overcame quite a bit this season, having to deal with off the court issues and suspensions early on but still managed to reach the tournament. Niagara in all likelihood is looking at a #15 or #16 seed and like Belmont, they might be able to keep it close for a little bit but I wouldn’t count on them advancing.
-Missouri Valley: Creighton; By winning the tournament, the Bluejays assured that they will be in the tournament alongside Southern Illinois, but that might be it as far as MVC representatives go this year. The Valley needed for Missouri State or Bradley to win the tournament if it wanted more than two bids, but as of now it appears they will only get two teams in. Creighton is one of those teams that just wins and as a #7 seed, is a team I would not want to see in the 2nd round.
-Ohio Valley: Eastern Kentucky; No Travis Ford, no problem for the Colonels. Eastern Kentucky had a nice showing in the tournament two years ago against Kentucky but I don’t think they will be as fortunate this time. They appear to be a #15 seed and should receive some lovely parting gifts for their participation.
-Southern: Davidson; Stephen Curry and company emerged from nowhere this year to take home an NCAA tournament bid. Curry, the son of former NBA sharp-shooter Del Curry, single-handedly carried this team on his back all season long. As a #13 or #14 seed, the Wildcats should be a tough match-up in the first round.
West Coast: Gonzaga; Much like Virginia Commonwealth, the Zags decided not to leave their fate at the hands of the selection committee and assured themselves a bid by knocking off Santa Clara. Gonzaga has played surprisingly well since the departure of Josh Heytvelt but it is hard to get a read on them as to what they can do versus the big boys. Gonzaga should be somewhere in the 10-12 range in terms of seeding and as of right now they are one of the bigger question marks in the tournament.
The Horizon League and Mid-Contintent Conference will crown their champions tonight and will be addressed in tomorrow’s issue.
That’s all for now, be sure to come back tomorrow as the bubble teams get broken down.