2013 Cinderella Casting: America East, Conference USA, Mid-Eastern Athletic, Southwestern Athletic Auto Bids

March 16, 2013

By the end of Saturday, 13 teams will have punched their ticket to the NCAA Tournament. Many of those teams come from small or mid-major conferences, which means that my job of keeping up with all the action is a pretty difficult one this weekend.

Due to the number of upsets in the smaller conferences, some are starting to wonder whether rewarding the best team during one hectic weekend is really the best way to do things for a conference that is likely to only get one team into the Big Dance.

No, this is not a new issue. And no, I don’t think things should be changed. This is March Madness; get on board, or get out.

Here are four more teams that know they will be playing somewhere next week.

America East

Automatic Bid: Albany

Projected Seed: 16

Probability of being a Cinderella: Very Unlikely

The Albany Great Danes are a textbook example of the kind of team that benefits from the madness of March. Despite finishing in the middle of the America East Conference pack during the regular season, the Great Danes reeled off three straight victories in the tournament over teams they had lost to the previous time around. In fact, Albany had not beaten Vermont in its two previous matchups before today’s 53-49 victory.

Senior leadership is not an issue for this team, but from their record (24-10 overall) and strength-of-schedule (290th) combination, one can assume that Will Brown’s team could face an uphill battle against one of the tournament’s top teams. Almost surely headed for a No. 16 seed, the Great Danes should be proud of what they’ve been able to do during the past week, but should also take in the sights and sounds of the NCAA Tournament while they can because they won’t be there for long.

Conference USA

Automatic Bid: Memphis

Projected Seed: Anywhere from 5 to 7

Probability of being a Cinderella: N/A

The Tigers saved themselves any anxiety they would have faced tomorrow afternoon had they not won their conference tournament by outlasting Southern Mississippi in two overtime periods by a score of 91-79 to secure Conference USA’s auto bid. While this is not a team that would necessarily be considered a Cinderella with one or two NCAA Tournament victories, this is a team that I believe has the talent to make some noise.

Memphis hasn’t exactly played a very tough schedule, but didn’t get blown out in any of its losses, all to respectable opponents. Head coach Josh Pastner has been criticized as someone who is unable to win in the Big Dance, but this is the first time one of his team’s has had the combination of talent and experience to do so. The Tigers are one of the better teams in the nation in field goal percentage (47.9%), three point shooting percentage (37.9%) and essentially make up for their sometimes careless turnovers by forcing nearly as many takeaways (averaging 9 steals per game as a team). This is the first time since the days of John Calipari where you won’t need to worry about Memphis making it out of the second round, because they’ll be able to do it this year.

Mid-Eastern Athletic

Automatic Bid: North Carolina A&T

Projected Seed: 16

Probability of being a Cinderella: Very Unlikely

Ever heard of the North Carolina A&T Aggies? Probably not, because 2013 will mark the first time since 1995 that the school has played in an NCAA Tournament game. The Aggies benefited from the early conference tournament exits of MEAC favorites Norfolk State and N.C. Central, whom the Aggies actually beat 55-42 in the second round of the tournament.

At 19-16, it seems pretty likely that the Aggies will be playing their first tournament game in Dayton, and may not even survive that contest. If they do, a date with a No. 1 seed awaits, and North Carolina A&T isn’t going to do something like their conference brethren Norfolk State managed to do last year. Don’t expect these guys to ruin any brackets.

Southwestern Athletic

Automatic Bid: Southern

Projected Seed: 15 or 16

Probability of being a Cinderella: Very Unlikely

Although they too could end up as a No. 16 seed, the Southern Jaguars are probably the second best team listed in this article. The Jaguars are the representatives for one of college basketball’s weakest Division 1 conferences, but at least Roman Banks’s team has gotten the job done consistently throughout the season. At 15-3 in the SWAC, Southern was the second best team in the conference. However, that is almost like being called the second best looking pig at the farm.

Southern has had a good season by small conference basketball standards, but will probably have a very difficult time against a top seed, as the Jaguars have not faced much strong competition this season. They could be overwhelmed by a Duke or Indiana after having seen just one potential tournament team (Iowa State) all year.

– K. Becks

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *