2013 Cinderella Casting: Horizon, Northeast, Summit Auto Bids

March 13, 2013

As some of the bigger conference tournaments get underway tonight, the interest in watching the smaller tournaments will begin to wane. However, what makes the smaller title games exciting is that, unlike the first round of a major conference tournament, you know that the winner of the small conference title game is actually going to end up in the NCAA Tournament.

So while most of you will probably opt to watch the first round of the Big 12 tournament over the Patriot League final, I’ll still be here typing away about the little guy. Keep coming back if you want to read about the champions after the fact.

For now, let’s take a look at a few more teams that punched their ticket to the Big Dance last night.


Automatic Bid: Valparaiso

Projected Seed: 13 or 14

Probability of being a Cinderella: Unlikely

Bryce Drew and the Valparaiso Crusaders are headed back to the NCAA Tournament. Only this time, Drew is on the sideline at the head coach. The Crusaders are a dangerous team, starting five seniors but also having plenty of bench depth with nine players averaging double digits in minutes played per game. In addition, Valpo is one of the best shooting teams in the country, hitting an astounding 48.9% of its shots taken (good for sixth best in the nation).

There isn’t a whole lot on the schedule to go off of other than fairly competitive games on the road against St. Louis and New Mexico, but chances are the Crusaders will be prepared for tournament action with Drew as their leader. This isn’t a team that I normally would think would have a great chance to knock off a higher seed, but they definitely have the ability to surprise someone because of their senior leadership. A lot will depend on the seed they receive; if it’s a 13, watch out. Anything lower, and they’ll probably be outmatched.


Automatic Bid: LIU Brooklyn

Projected Seed: 16

Probability of being a Cinderella: Unlikely

For the third straight season, the Blackbirds will be making an NCAA Tournament appearance, which is very impressive considering the nature of the conference in which they play. While I usually give very little chance to the Northeast Conference representative, I have taken a liking to this team. LIU Brooklyn may play less than stellar defense, but they are one of the most exciting offensive teams that I have had the privilege to watch this season. Make no doubt about it, this team’s guards can get to the rim against anyone.

Due to the fact that they only have 20 wins, they will almost surely be a No. 16 seed and be matched up against one of the tournament’s best. But I would not be surprised at all…check that…I expect the Blackbirds to give their opponent significant trouble, at least for a half. Louisville head coach Rick Pitino thinks that this could be the year that a No. 16 seed could possibly upset a No. 1 seed, and although I don’t necessarily agree with that, I’ve bumped the Blackbirds’ chances of being a Cinderella from “very unlikely” to “unlikely”. Be careful what you wish for, Coach Pitino, because your Cardinals could be the No. 1 seed that LIU Brooklyn plays.


Automatic Bid: South Dakota State

Projected Seed: 12 or 13

Probability of being a Cinderella: Good

While watching the Summit League final last night, I knew that whichever team won the game (South Dakota State played North Dakota State) was going to be one of my favorite mid-major teams heading into the NCAA Tournament. The Jackrabbits have it all; solid shooting inside and behind the arc, a low turnover rate, a go-to scorer in National Player of the Year candidate Nate Wolters, NCAA Tournament experience, upperclassmen leadership (all five starters are juniors or seniors) and a marquee win (a 70-65 road victory over New Mexico).

Teams will definitely be trying to contain Wolters, but one of the nice things about the senior guard is that he knows when to pass it off to teammates. In addition to leading the team in points, he also averages 5.8 assists per game and has a very good eye for finding the open man. Assuming that the Jackrabbits hit from three point range (they are No. 10 in the nation, hitting 39.4% from behind the arc), they have the ability to milk the clock and finish off opponents. There is not a team in the nation that would like to see South Dakota State opposite their name on the bracket.

– K. Becks

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