Sizing Em’ Up: Atlantic Sun, Big South, Missouri Valley, Ohio Valley Auto-Bids

March 7, 2011

I did this segment last year, and it was one of my favorite segments that I did all year. To me, there is nothing better than analyzing and debating what teams, particularly from the small conference and mid-major conferences, have a legitimate shot at upsetting one of the big boys. This segment helped make it even more satisfying for me when Cornell made it to the Sweet 16 in last year’s tournament, because I had them pegged as a “good” chance of being a Cinderella prior to the bracket being released.

This year’s crop of small and mid-major conference teams should be very interesting to watch on college basketball’s biggest stage. Not a whole lot of them have wowed throughout the season, but there are definitely going to be ample opportunities for some of them to upset a higher seed, because college basketball as a whole is kind of one big mess. Other than the top four teams, give or take a few, almost anyone can beat anyone else on a given night.

Okay, enough of my rambling. Throughout the next few days as conference tournaments finish up, I will share with you my thoughts on these topics. I will try to predict which seed these small and mid-major conference teams will get, their likelihood of being a Cinderella, and whether or not any other teams from their respective conferences will make the Dance as well.

Atlantic Sun

Automatic Bid: Belmont

Projected Seed: 12 or 13

Probability of Being a Cinderella: Decent

The first Bruins’ team punched their ticket to the Big Dance on Saturday night, but don’t expect them just to be happy to be playing. Belmont beat North Florida by a whopping 41 points in the conference championship game, and rolled through the conference in the regular season as well, going 19-1. The Bruins aren’t particularly experienced (only two seniors on the team), but they are 11 deep and could tire teams out down the stretch. Whether or not they could truly be a Cinderella depends a lot on their seed and matchup, but you can’t ever count out a team that won 30 games and played Tennessee and Vanderbilt tough on the road.

Big South

Automatic Bid: UNC-Asheville

Projected Seed: 16

Probability of Being a Cinderella: Very Unlikely

The Big South officials have to shaking their heads. For the second time in as many years, Coastal Carolina, the top seed in the Big South tournament, was knocked off by a team that was perceived to be a heavy underdog. Had Coastal Carolina won, the Big South may be liking their chances of having a team that could make a splash in the NCAA tournament. With UNC-Asheville, the conference will likely be sent a “thank you for the warm-up” card from a top seed. Anything but a sixteen seed for the Bulldogs would be as surprising as an upset from the Big South representative.

Missouri Valley

Automatic Bid: Indiana State

Projected Seed: 14 or 15

Probability of Being a Cinderella: Unlikely

Larry Bird and the rest of the Indiana State alum are partying like it’s 2001. It’s been a decade since the Sycamores have made the NCAA tournament, and is only the fourth time ever that they have secured a bid. The Sycamores are a streaky team; they lost five straight from late January to early February, then finished the regular season winning five of their last six games. They also have a tendency to get behind early, which is something they can’t afford to do against a top team. If they can hit their threes and come out firing on all cylinders, they could surprise someone. Otherwise, Larry and the rest of the Indiana State faithful will have to be satisfied with just being in the tournament.

Ohio Valley

Automatic Bid: Morehead State

Projected Seed: 15

Probability of Being a Cinderella: Unlikely

Thanks to Kenneth Faried, Morehead State isn’t coming into the NCAA tournament a totally unknown team. Faried is a monster on the boards, and hold the NCAA record for most rebounds in a career. He is also the team’s leading scorer, and averages 2.4 blocks per game. However, the Eagles key to victory is their lockdown defense. Morehead State has allowed opponents more than 70 points only three times this season. If they can keep the score low, then Morehead State may be able to make their game interesting. They will have to have great guard play if they want to win though, as Faried will likely be double teamed the entire game and may not be able to carry them offensively.

– K. Becks

2 Responses to Sizing Em’ Up: Atlantic Sun, Big South, Missouri Valley, Ohio Valley Auto-Bids

  1. mancolepig on March 7, 2011 at 5:30 pm

    thank you! Belmont is for real

    • K. Becks on March 8, 2011 at 12:53 pm

      We’ll see…a lot has to do with the seed they receive. But at the very least, they should scare whatever team they face and make an interesting game.

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