Cinderella Casting 2016: Atlantic 10 and Sun Belt Auto Bids

March 13, 2016

We are so close to the brackets being released that I can taste it.

This is the last article of the Cinderella Casting series for 2016. Because it is being published prior to 6 PM ET, probable seeds are still being predicted.

Atlantic 10

Automatic Bid: Saint Joseph’s

Projected Seed: 8 or 9

Probability of being a Cinderella: Decent

Team(s) that could earn an at-large bid: Dayton, St. Bonaventure, Virginia Commonwealth

The Atlantic 10 is really only a mid-major by reputation, but by sending four of five teams to the NCAA Tournament each year, operates more like a major conference in this day and age. The A-10’s conference champion this season is certainly playing like a major conference squad as well. Saint Joseph’s ripped through the Atlantic 10 tournament, going from Bubble Team to potential giant killer in a matter of days.

The Hawks have a number of players that can step up big, several of which put their talents on display during the impressive run in Brooklyn. Isaiah Miles is a physical specimen at 6’7″, 227 pounds – a forward that has the athleticism of a guard. Teams that face Saint Joe’s are facing a mid-major only in name, because there are power conference capable players littered throughout the roster. It looks like the Hawks may have a chance to face a No. 1 seed if they can win their second round contest, and this is a squad that could send one of the top line teams packing early.

Sun Belt

Automatic Bid: Arkansas-Little Rock

Projected Seed: 12 or 13

Probability of being a Cinderella: Decent

The most improved team in college basketball over last season will be represented in the NCAA Tournament. Arkansas-Little Rock won a total of 13 games last season and this season has won 29 (and counting?). The change since first year head coach Chris Beard has arrived on campus is astonishing, starting on the defensive end. According to KenPom the Trojans were No. 281 in adjusted defense in 2014-2015 – this year they are No. 42. Offensively the ball movement has improved, and there is not just one guy you can focus on stopping.

Despite all of the accomplishments and gains the Trojans have made, there is a feeling that something else is to be desired. Only Kansas has more victories this season, so to assume that UALR would be satisfied with a one-and-done performance in the Dance is foolish. This is a team that has been resurrected from the depths of the Sun Belt Conference in just one year. At this point, at least one more victory doesn’t seem impossible.

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