Cinderella Casting 2016: Colonial Athletic, Mid-Atlantic Athletic and Southern Auto Bids

March 8, 2016

In case you’re still on the fence about whether this year’s NCAA tournament will be full of surprises, listen to this: nine teams that were the top seed in their conference tournament have lost, and only one No. 1 seed has punched its bid to the Big Dance.

The parody in college basketball this season starts at the top and trickles all the way down to the little guys.

Let’s take a look at a few more teams that have earned an automatic bid to this year’s madness.

Colonial Athletic

Automatic Bid: UNC Wilmington

Projected Seed: 13 or 14

Probability of being a Cinderella: Unlikely

Despite not earning the No. 1 seed in the CAA tournament because of a tiebreaker, the Seahawks were the cream of the crop along with Hofstra in the conference, and even beat the Pride twice. However, nothing really stands out about North Carolina’s second team to punch its ticket to the NCAA tournament.

Guard play is extremely important to this team, as the top four scorers are all perimeter players. Craig Ponder will lead the scoring charge for the Seahawks, but he will need to get some help from his perimeter mates in order to play spoiler to a higher seeded opponent. Kevin Keatts’s team is at its best when it scores a lot of points, so at the very least expect UNC Wilmington to provide some excitement.

Mid-Atlantic Athletic

Automatic Bid: Iona

Projected Seed: 14 or 15

Probability of being a Cinderella: Unlikely

Team(s) that could earn an at-large bid: Monmouth

With all due respect to Iona, the first thing that was talked about after the Gaels clinched the MAAC’s automatic bid is whether runner-up Monmouth would receive an at-large invitation to the Big Dance. But Iona has worked hard for this moment as well. The Gaels made it to the conference title game the previous two seasons, only to be beaten by Manhattan both times. This time a tough, senior laden team was able to make it back to the tournament for the first time in four years.

Senior guard A.J. English is a do-it-all talent for the Gaels, averaging 22.4 points per game and 6.2 assists. Iona can keep pace with anyone offensively and the presence of English opens things up for the rest of the team. Solid ball movement will be the key for this team in the NCAA Tournament. If they can get a solid scoring effort from a few guys besides English, the Gaels will not be an easy out for a top seed.


Automatic Bid: Chattanooga

Projected Seed: 13

Probability of being a Cinderella: Decent

The original Cinderella is back in the Big Dance for the first time since 2009 and just the fourth time since that magical run in 1997. The Mocs may be a hidden gem this year, considering their overall resume and impressive record. By playing a challenging non-conference schedule with victories over Georgia, Illinois and on the road against Dayton, the Mocs prepared themselves for Southern Conference play nicely. It worked out, as to date Chattanooga is the only No. 1 need in a conference tournament to earn an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.

We can throw all the figures and numbers at you, but at some point everyone has to accept that some of what happens in the Big Dance comes down to dumb luck. By KenPom’s measures, the Mocs are the ninth luckiest team in the country. It takes a little more than that to reach 29 victories in a single season, but it’s not a bad thing at all to be lucky and good.

Leave a Reply

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