Cinderella Casting: Horizon, Ivy, Summit, Sun Belt Auto Bids

March 7, 2012

As the automatic bids continue to trickle in, some of the major conference tournaments begin tonight. With that said it may be tempting to watch the first round games of the Big East and Big 12 tournaments rather than watch the finals for tournaments such as the Big Sky Conference.

While I can’t tell you which games to watch, I can at least urge you to keep coming back to the site to see which teams will be representing the small and mid-major conferences in the Big Dance. These teams are what make March so exciting.

Here is a look at four more teams who punched their ticket to the NCAA Tournament.


Automatic Bid: Detroit

Projected Seed: 15

Probability of Being a Cinderella: Unlikely

After the two year run that Butler made in the NCAA Tournament, most people probably wouldn’t have expected that the Detroit Titans would come out of the Horizon League in 2012. However, Ray McCallum’s team built off of a productive team last year and secured the first tournament berth for the program since 1999.

Although Titans fans will be partying like its ’99, they will likely have to settle for a one game celebration. The Titans will probably find themselves with a very low seed, and even a team that has won 10 of its last 11 games will have trouble knocking off a two or three seed. One bright spot could be the coach’s son, Ray Jr., who leads the team in scoring and is capable of producing some highlight worthy moments.


Automatic Bid: Harvard

Projected Seed: Anywhere from 10 to 13

Probability of Being a Cinderella: Decent

The prohibitive monkey is finally off of Harvard’s back. The Crimson will be making their first NCAA Tournament appearance since 1946 (that was 66 years ago for you non-math types) and it is the first time that the team has won the Ivy League title outright. This isn’t your father’s (or your grandfather’s) Harvard; these boys can play.

The Crimson are a typical Ivy League representative, with experienced players in both the frontcourt and backcourt who work well together. Harvard doesn’t have a true center, which could bode trouble if they hit a team with strong inside play. However, the Crimson did go on the road and beat Florida State back in November, a team with one of the most physical frontcourts in the country. Harvard’s deep bench and veteran leadership make them a tough out and a prime candidate to do some damage in this year’s tournament.


Automatic Bid: South Dakota State

Projected Seed: 13

Probability of Being a Cinderella: Decent

Had Oral Roberts won the Summit League tournament, they would’ve been one of my favorite choices to upset a higher seeded team. However, upon further inspection, the South Dakota State Jackrabbits could also fit nicely into the glass slipper.

The Jackrabbits will be making their first ever appearance in the NCAA Tournament, but do not let that deter you from picking this team. South Dakota State is one of the better teams in the nation from behind the arc, and has an absolute marksman in forward Jordan Dykstra. This is a team who for all intents and purposes will live and die by the three point shot, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing when your tallest starter is also your best shooter. Harvard and St. Mary’s will be popular picks to upset teams, but picking South Dakota State will definitely make you seem like you know something everyone else doesn’t.

Sun Belt

Automatic Bid: Western Kentucky

Projected Seed: 16

Probability of Being a Cinderella: Very Unlikely

Western Kentucky has done damage in the NCAA Tournament before (as recently as 2008 they reached the Sweet 16), but this probably isn’t going to be one of those years. The Hilltoppers are the first team since 2008 to make the tournament with a losing record, which almost assures them a 16 seed (and likely a spot in a play-in game).

It would be quite a story if the Hilltoppers were to knock off a number one seed for the first time in tournament history, but that just isn’t going to happen.

– K. Becks

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