Cinderella Casting: Atlantic 10, Big West, Mid-American, Mountain West, Southwestern Athletic, Western Athletic Auto Bids

March 12, 2012

I have accepted the fact that my final article in this segment will always be a day after the tournament is officially set, which makes this information irrelevant to some. However, it also allows me to judge a team’s chances of being a Cinderella on who they have to play and who they might get to play, which is something I cannot say about teams included in earlier articles.

So if you’re still interested (and I assume that if you’re still reading then you are), here are the rest of the mid-major and small conferences that I have left to break down.

Atlantic 10

Teams in: Temple, St. Bonaventure, Saint Louis, Xavier

Seed: 5 (Temple), 14 (St. Bonaventure), 9 (Saint Louis), 10 (Xavier)

Second Round Opponent: Cal/South Florida (Temple), Florida State (St. Bonaventure), Memphis (Saint Louis), Notre Dame (Xavier)

Probability of Being a Cinderella: N/A (Temple), Decent (Xavier), Unlikely (St. Bonaventure and Saint Louis)

As a five seed, Temple has to worry more about being upset by a potential Cinderella in Harvard than being one itself. Xavier would have been a popular pick to sneak into the Sweet 16 had it finished off the A-10 tournament in style, but losing to St. Bonaventure will make people a little more apprehensive to go ahead with the Musketeers. However, a game against Notre Dame, who routinely flames out in the NCAA Tournament, helps matters.

As the inspiration behind my confirmation name, I’m thrilled to see the Bonnies making their first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2000. St. Bonaventure has a solid player in forward Andrew Nicholson, but will likely be overmatched by the physical Seminoles in their first tournament game. If you really want to consider Saint Louis as a nine seed, they’re also an unlikely fit for the glass slipper. In addition to having to play a Memphis team that is hot, the Billikens would face number one seed Michigan State in the third round if they were to win in round two. I don’t like the Billikens chances in either of those games.

Big West

Teams in: Long Beach State

Seed: 12

Second Round Opponent: New Mexico

Probability of Being a Cinderella: Decent

Beware of falling into the trap of picking the 49ers simply because you heard they are a good pick to upset a couple of teams. While Long Beach State did beat a ranked Pittsburgh team early in the year that caught the eye of fans, the Panthers turned out to be a pretty mediocre team. That said, the 49ers best win has to be against Xavier, who was already sliding down a slippery slope by the time Long Beach State got to them.

As a 12 seed, the 49ers are definitely a team to think long and hard about axing in the second round. However, a lot will hinge on whether senior guard Larry Anderson is available for the Big West champs. If he is, they have a lockdown defender capable of slowing down New Mexico’s Drew Gordon.


Teams in: Ohio

Seed: 13

Second Round Opponent: Michigan

Probability of Being a Cinderella: Good

The probability says “Good”, but that doesn’t mean that the Bobcats have the best shot of any mid-major team to move on to the second weekend. It simply means that Ohio has the tools necessary to take down the teams they might play in the first two rounds.

The Bobcats are led by senior guard D.J. Cooper, who will have the task of slowing down Michigan’s Trey Burke in round two. Cooper is integral to the success of the Bobcats and fans of the team will hope he can have a game similar to that of the one he played against Georgetown in the 2010 tournament. Ohio forces a lot of turnovers and is strong defensively against the three point shot, which is how Michigan will attempt to beat the Bobcats. The Bobcats’ success will come down to two factors: how well Cooper plays, and how well Michigan shoots the ball. Ohio should be feeling good about its chances with that in mind.

Mountain West

Teams in: Colorado State, New Mexico, San Diego State, UNLV

Seed: 11 (Colorado State), 5 (New Mexico), 6 (San Diego State and UNLV)

Second Round Opponent: Murray State (Colorado State), Long Beach State (New Mexico), N.C. State (San Diego State), Colorado (UNLV)

Probability of Being a Cinderella: N/A (New Mexico, San Diego State, UNLV)

Based on seeding, the top three teams in the Mountain West Conference cannot be considered a “Cinderella”. That leaves Colorado State, whose inclusion in this year’s tournament is a head scratching decision to some. The Rams were slaughtered by a lot of the quality teams they played this year, and although they did manage to pick up a few good wins in-conference, it left some wanting a little more.

Regardless, Colorado State has a chance to send the darling mid-major of the regular season, Murray State, home early. The Rams shoot from three extremely well, which should help its chances of knocking off the Racers, also a great shooting team. With that said, the game almost appears to be a toss-up, making the Rams a viable threat to be a “Cinderella”. Proving they belong in the tournament may also fuel the fire. 

Southwestern Athletic

Teams in: Missouri Valley State

Seed: 16

First Round Opponent: Western Kentucky

Probability of Being a Cinderella: Very Unlikely

Delta Devils coach Sean Woods may face his alma mater in the second round if Mississippi Valley State can win its first round game in Dayton on Tuesday. That’s as far as they will make it, however.

If we were even to entertain the idea of a 16 seed upsetting a one seed for the first time in NCAA Tournament history, the Wildcats seem like the least likely top seed to go down.

Western Athletic

Teams in: New Mexico State

Seed: 13

Second Round Opponent: Indiana

Probability of Being a Cinderella: Decent

The Aggies should be very pleased with their draw, as they will go up against an Indiana team that not only has no tournament experience but lost guard Verdell Jones III to an ACL tear in the Big Ten tournament last Thursday. New Mexico State may not have been the best team all year in the WAC, but seems to be peaking at the right time and can trade punches for a full forty minutes with even the best offenses.

If the Aggies can get by the lights out three point shooting of Matt Roth (who leads the Big Ten in three point shooting percentage), they could find themselves staring down the number one overall seed in the bracket come weekend number two of the tournament. Led by big man Wendell McKines (who is averaging a double-double), this is a team with the talent and experience to make some noise in the tourney.

– K. Becks

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