Sizing Em’ Up: Horizon, Summit, Sun Belt Auto-Bids

March 9, 2011
By K. Becks

It’s official; after this shot, a three pointer that gave Arkansas-Little Rock a one point lead over North Texas with 1.5 seconds left, and eventually sent A-LR to the NCAA tournament, “March Madness” had arrived. Three more teams secured a bid to the Big Dance last night, and here’s a look at them.

Horizon

Automatic Bid: Butler

Projected Seed: 12

Probability of Being a Cinderella: Good

You’re not considered a visionary anymore for predicting that Butler has a good shot at upsetting some higher seeds in the NCAA tournament. In fact, if you don’t take Butler seriously is when you’ll typically get weird looks nowadays. This isn’t last year’s Butler Bulldogs, who were a half court bank shot away from completing possibly the greatest upset in NCAA tournament championship game history, but they aren’t bad either. The Bulldogs are led by senior Matt Howard and junior Shelvin Mack, who were contributors on last year’s team and thus have lots of tournament experience. Howard assures that Butler won’t be bullied on the blocks, and Mack is good at creating opportunities off the dribble. The Bulldogs are also a good three point shooting team, and have the ability to claw back into games if they get down. Butler may not go as far as they did last year, but they are still a decent bet to play multiple games.

Summit

Automatic Bid: Oakland

Projected Seed: 13

Probability of Being a Cinderella: Decent

The Grizzlies love to score. In fact, they are second in the nation in points per game, with 85.6. Oakland entered many people’s radar in December after playing Michigan State to a one point game, then beating Tennessee three days later in Knoxville, when the Vols were still ranked. Those wins don’t look as impressive anymore, but they are an indication that the Grizzlies can hang with the big conference teams. If Oakland’s opponent allows the Grizzlies to play their signature high octane offensive game, then Oakland could overwhelm them. A team that normally has multiple seniors on the floor at all times, this is a team to keep an eye on, regardless of whom they play.

Sun Belt

Automatic Bid: Arkansas-Little Rock

Projected Seed: 15 or 16

Probability of Being a Cinderella: Very Unlikely

The Sun Belt has had teams that surprise in the NCAA tournament before, but it would be something else completely if Arkansas-Little Rock made anything more than an “appearance” in the Big Dance. The Trojans were the five seed in their own conference tournament, and had a sub-.500 conference record (7-9). Advice to the team making its first NCAA tournament appearance in 21 years: enjoy it.

- K. Becks

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