Cinderella Casting 2017: Patriot, Summit and West Coast Auto Bids

March 9, 2017

College basketball is on for 12 hours a day, and I’ve been able to catch my breath with regards to reporting on the mid-major auto bids.

Can this week get any better?

No more tickets will be punched to the Big Dance until Saturday, when a flurry of conferences will crown a champion, leaving me to scramble on Sunday to cover all of the new additions prior to the Selection Show. I’ll actually be at the MAC title game on Saturday evening – a personal victory that is part of a larger trip to visit The Land with friends.

Before that happens, though, it’s time to wrap up coverage for the work week by taking a look at the teams that punched their bid on late Tuesday and Wednesday.


Automatic Bid: Bucknell

Projected Seed: 13

Probability of being a Cinderella: Decent

Last time we saw the Bison in the NCAA Tournament, 6’11” center Mike Muscala was the linchpin of a squad that many thought could out-muscle No. 6 seed Butler in the first round. Fast forward four years to 2017 and Bucknell is a bit smaller but still smart offensively, indicating this will be a tough out for a higher seed. Nathan Davis’s team shoots over 48 percent from the floor and have four players averaging double-digits in scoring this season. Depth is also a strength, with Davis utilizing a nine man rotation that averages at least 10 minutes per game.

The Bison were able to get past Lehigh in the conference final for the first time in three tries this season, yet Bucknell still won the regular season title by three games over the Mountain Hawks. This team played above its league’s caliber all season and will be able to hang with anyone it is matched up against.


Automatic Bid: South Dakota State

Projected Seed: 16

Probability of being a Cinderella: Very Unlikely

If the Jackrabbits do end up earning a No. 16 seed, they may be one of the tougher ones to ever enter the NCAA Tournament. South Dakota State is no joke despite being just two games over .500 for the season. Forward Mike Daum is a man among boys on the court and will be the only player in the tournament that finished the regular season in the top five nationally in points per game. Daum does it all for the Jackrabbits, including from behind the arc (41.6 percent) and at the line (87.1 percent). Expect Daum to get extra attention from the opposition next week.

If it wasn’t for the 16 regular season losses, South Dakota State may be a more dangerous team in this year’s Big Dance. That being said, no No. 1 seed will want to see this team across from its name come Sunday. The Jackrabbits have been to the tournament three times in the past six years and have been competitive every time. Even though they may come in against astronomical odds to win, I wouldn’t count out the possibility of another close contest.

West Coast

Automatic Bid: Gonzaga

Projected Seed: 1

Probability of being a Cinderella: 1

Team(s) that could earn an at-large bid: Saint Mary’s

Stop me if you’ve heard this before. But actually, don’t, because you definitely have. The ‘Zags come into the 2017 tournament with just a single blemish on their regular season record, asserting their talent but also opening the door for conversations about the competition level of the West Coast Conference. However, it’s very difficult to argue with the combination of size, inside and outside scoring ability and experience that Gonzaga possesses this season.

Naturally, Mark Few’s team will be judge on one thing this Tournament – whether or not it makes it to the Final Four. This may be Few’s best team in his 18 years in Spokane and college basketball doesn’t have a clear No. 1 team. If the Bulldogs don’t finally break through, it may be the first time that you could truly label it as a disappointment. But do I think it is going to happen? As much as I would like to support the former bracket busters, I do not.

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