Sizing Em’ Up: Atlantic 10, Mid American, Mountain West, Southwestern Athletic, Western Athletic Auto-Bids

March 14, 2011

Now that the bracket has officially been set, this type of article doesn’t have much relevance anymore. Like last year, I’m running a little bit behind in my analysis of the mid-major and small conference teams that are in the tournament. However, also like last year, I still feel compelled to give those teams a little coverage. So, in my last “Sizing Em’ Up” segment, here are the rest of the “mid-major” and small conferences that I have yet to break down.

Atlantic 10

Teams in: Richmond, Temple, Xavier

Seed: 12 (Richmond), 7 (Temple), 6 (Xavier)

Second Round Opponent: Vanderbilt (Richmond), Penn State (Temple), Marquette (Xavier)

Probability of Being a Cinderella: N/A (Temple and Xavier), Good (Richmond)

Xavier is in the tournament every year, and on top of that, is a six seed, which makes it absurd to call them a Cinderella, regardless of how many games they win. Temple is in a similar boat, although beating a potential two seed in San Diego State if both teams were to make it to the third round would be a notable upset. Richmond is a pretty good bet to be a Cinderella, however. The Spiders are a senior-laden team with prior tournament experience, and are tough defensively. Plus, they go up against a Vanderbilt team that has underachieved in the NCAA tournament recently. Do not be surprised if all three A-10 teams make it to the third round.

Mid American

Teams in: Akron

Seed: 15

Second Round Opponent: Notre Dame

Probability of Being a Cinderella: Very Unlikely

The MAC has been better. Although Akron is led by three seniors, it goes up against a Notre Dame team that also has great senior leadership, and is playing very well. As Georgetown can attest, it would be unwise for the Fighting Irish to completely shrug off their battle against the Zips (see Ohio U. vs. Georgetown). However, unless Akron has a similar performance that the Bobcats had last year (that is, hitting over 50% of their three point attempts), then Notre Dame will likely be too much for the Zips to handle.

Mountain West

Teams in: BYU, San Diego State, UNLV

Seed: 3 (BYU), 2 (SDSU), 8 (UNLV)

Second Round Opponent: Wofford (BYU), Northern Colorado (SDSU), Illinois (UNLV)

Probability of Being a Cinderella: N/A (all)

Due to their high seeding, anything that either BYU or San Diego State accomplish would not be particularly out of the ordinary. The only team who could claim “Cinderella” status would be UNLV, and that’s only if they happen to knock off Kansas. Good luck with that, Rebels.

Southwestern Athletic

Teams in: Alabama State

Seed: Play-in Game

First Round Opponent: UT-San Antonio

Probability of Being a Cinderella: Very Unlikely

Just so that I can watch Ohio State cruise to an easy win on Friday, I hope that Alabama State can pull off a win against UT-San Antonio. However, I don’t see that happening. If the Hornets can win on Wednesday night, that in itself is a pretty big upset.

Western Athletic

Teams in: Utah State

Seed: 12

Second Round Opponent: Kansas State

Probability of Being a Cinderella: Decent

Utah got the shortest of the stick in the NCAA tournament, considering that they finished 30-3, won their conference tournament, and were ranked in the top 25 most of the season, yet only managed to receive a twelve seed from the committee. Worse yet is that they have to play Kansas State, one of the hotter teams in the nation entering the tournament. The Aggies have had trouble in the NCAA tournament in prior years, possibly because their strength of schedule often lacks the kind of competition that can prepare a team for the rigors of postseason play. That isn’t the case this year. Utah State beat St Mary’s on the road, played BYU tough in Provo when the Cougars were at full strength, and were only blown out once this season, at Georgetown. With a team led by three seniors, two of which have been named WAC Defensive Player of the Year, the Aggies have the tools to take down a fiery Wildcats team. It will be extremely difficult, though.

– K. Becks

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