Cinderella Casting: Colonial Athletic, Metro Atlantic, Missouri Valley, Southern, West Coast Auto Bids

March 6, 2012

The automatic bids will continue to pour in throughout this week, and hopefully the intensity of the games will continue to be as high as they were last night. Those who did not tune in last night missed out on pair of great games. The West Coast Conference final between St. Mary’s and Gonzaga went into overtime and, not wanting to be outdone, the Southern Conference final between Western Carolina and Davidson had to be settled in double OT.

Not very many bubbles have been burst yet, as several teams that were going to be in the NCAA Tournament regardless won their respective conference tournament. However, teams such as Drexel will have to hold their breath come Selection Sunday. Here is a look at five teams that won’t have to cross their fingers and hope.

Colonial Athletic

Automatic Bid: Virginia Commonwealth

Projected Seed: 12 or 13

Probability of Being a Cinderella: Decent

Other teams from the conference that will probably get in: Drexel

VCU and the coach with the best name in college basketball (SHAKA Khan, anyone?) are headed back to the NCAA Tournament for a second consecutive year after making it all the way to the Final Four last year. However, while this team will likely be a popular pick to again be the tournament darlings, this is not the same Rams team that fans became familiar with last season. Shaka Smart should be commended for an excellent job taking this group of young players back to the Big Dance.

The Rams will be a tough out for any team because of their stingy defense. VCU leads the nation with 10.7 steals per game and have a defensive weapon in freshman Briante Weber. The question about this team will be whether they can play at a high level for an entire 40 minutes against a top team. The Rams have a tendency to start strong then let opponents back into the game. Without the four seniors that led last year’s team, it will be hard to duplicate the success of last season.

Metro Atlantic

Automatic Bid: Loyola (MD)

Projected Seed: 15

Probability of Being a Cinderella: Very Unlikely

The Greyhounds are amidst somewhat of a dream season, as it has been 18 years since the school’s last NCAA Tournament appearance and the team set a school record for number of wins in a season as a Division I program. However, Loyola may have to settle for simply making the Big Dance.

The Greyhounds finished second in the MAAC during the regular season, but the conference’s best shot at having a Cinderella would have been Iona, thanks to a pair of senior guards. More than likely, Loyola will be matched up against an athletically superior squad and receive a “Thanks for Playing” card at the end of the day.

Missouri Valley

Automatic Bid: Creighton

Projected Seed: Anywhere from 5 to 8

Probability of Being a Cinderella: N/A

Other teams from the conference that will probably get in: Wichita State

Anyone who believes that Creighton is a Cinderella before they make it to the Sweet 16 has not been following the Bluejays this season. Doug McDermott’s team has been ranked in the Top 25 for most of the year, and other than a rough patch at the beginning of February, has taken care of business both out-of-conference and in-conference. The Bluejays are the rare mid-major team that feels they can keep up with the power conference teams that want to score a lot of points.

The Bluejays are deadly from behind the arc and have a very versatile player in forward Doug McDermott (the coach’s son), who has both a post and outside game. McDermott is one of only two players that average double-digits in scoring for Creighton, but the Bluejays are also very unselfish, ranking third in the nation in assists per game. Teams that try to pace with Creighton are going to have trouble doing so, because the Bluejays are one of the best teams in the nation at what they do. Don’t be surprised if the Missouri Valley Conference has a couple of representatives in the Sweet 16.


Automatic Bid: Davidson

Projected Seed: 13 or 14

Probability of Being a Cinderella: Decent

Last night Davidson played in what has been up to this point the most exciting, hard fought conference tournament game of the year. They showed a toughness that was probably gained as a result of playing a pretty difficult out-of-conference schedule, which included trips to Duke and Kansas and home dates against Vanderbilt and Wichita State. The experienced gained from those games, all of which Davidson was competitive in, will serve them well in the NCAA Tournament.

This is the first time since Seth Curry led the Wildcats to the Elite 8 that Bob McKillop’s team has made the Big Dance. Davidson is led by a trio of juniors in Jake Cohen, JP Kuhlman and Nik Cochran, and five players average double-digits in scoring. Regardless of who they draw, the Wildcats are a team that will be very dangerous because several players can step up on any given night.

West Coast

Automatic Bid: St. Mary’s

Projected Seed: Anywhere from 5 to 7

Probability of Being a Cinderella: N/A

Other teams from the conference that will probably get in: Gonzaga, BYU

It’s hard to get an accurate read on the St. Mary’s Gaels. Looking at their record, one could assume that they are a very strong mid-major team. Upon closer inspection however, it is hard to pick out a great win other than the two against conference rival Gonzaga. More than likely, the Gaels will receive a relatively high seed and will have a good chance to move on to the later rounds. I would not consider them a Cinderella at any point in the tournament, though.

Junior point guard Matthew Dellavedova could be the breakout player of this year’s tournament. He has great court vision and also has a deadly floater that could come in handy if the Gaels find themselves in a tight game. St. Mary’s isn’t the kind of team that lives and dies with one player, but Dellavedova will play a pretty major role in determining how far his team goes. Don’t be ashamed if you find yourself picking the Gaels to go pretty far; they’re worth the risk.

– K. Becks

Leave a Reply

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