Four More Automatic Bids Tonight. We’re combining this feature tonight because every game of interest involved a conference tournament final. The CAA, MAAC, SoCon and WCC all crowned champions tonight, and only one of the four would be considered a surprise. The other three will all be very tough outs for whichever team(s) have to face up against them in the first round of the NCAAs next week.
#6 – VCU (24-9, 14-4) – Anthony Grant’s VCU Rams rode a home crowd to a 71-50 obliteration of George Mason for its second CAA championship in the last three seasons. You already know Eric Maynor from his game-winner over Duke in 2007′s first round; also keep in mind his 6’9 frontcourt mate Larry Sanders (not the host of a dated HBO show), who dominated GMU with 18/20/7 blks tonight – this talented duo will make any higher seed nervous on Selection Sunday.
Projected Seed: #10
Something to Remember: VCU wasn’t a good road team this year, going 7-6 compared to 11-3 two years ago when the Rams last made the Dance, but they were 2-1 against the RPI top fifty (an 11-pt loss against Oklahoma).
#7 – Chattanooga (18-16, 11-9) – This is exactly why conferences are moving away from penalizing high seeds from playing on opponents’ home floors in conference tournaments – instead of having a Davidson in the NCAAs with a chance to win a game or two, the SoCon will send Chattanooga to become cannon fodder for a #1 seed. Chattanooga came into the SoCon Tourney three days ago as a team with a losing record – tonight they left it with more than a winning record; they also got a ticket to the Big Dance by virtue of their 80-69 win over College of Charleston (who may have still been feeling the effects of knocking out Davidson yesterday). The Mocs used a 20-0 run bridging the half to build a commanding lead that left CofC shellshocked.
Projected Seed: #16
Something to Remember: Chattanooga started the season 2-8, and has one of the worst defensive efficiency ratings in the nation (#296). Take the over.
#8 – Gonzaga (26-5, 14-0) – The Zags made quick work of a St. Mary’s team that still looks a little lost while Patty Mills tries to return to form from his wrist injury, defeating the Gaels 83-58. Six players reached double figures for the Zags, led by Josh Heytvelt’s 17/6. Gonzaga won its nineteenth in twenty tries, with the only defeat coming at the hands of a red-hot Memphis team in February. It’s definitely difficult to ascertain whether the ‘potential Zags’ have crossed over into actualization, but if things are clicking and they continue to play strong defense (#5 nationally), the Zags are a darkhorse for the Final Four.
Projected Seed: #4
Something to Remember: The Zags are the #1 team in America in 2-pt defense (38.9%), but when the Zags struggle (and lose), they also have a tendency for poor shooting – Memphis, Arizona, Utah and Portland St. all held them under 43% shooting from the field.
#9 – Siena (26-7, 16-2) – Siena was the best team in the MAAC, and after what the Saints did to Vandy in last year’s first round of the NCAAs, nobody is going to want to see Fran McCaffery’s team in their pod. Tonight they held off a good Niagara team that had given them one of their two conference losses behind Kenny Hasbrouck, who shook off a 1-10 first half to score 17 second-half points on his way to 19/6/3 stls. This is a dangerous team – they return the bulk of last year’s squad, and they were competitive early in the season in losses at Kansas, Tennessee and Pittsburgh.
Projected Seed: #9
Something to Remember: Siena is an offensively balanced team, with six players averaging between 8-15 ppg, and all six of those players having at least one game of 20+ this year. Who do you stop?
QnD Conf Tourney Update.
The Big East, MAC, MEAC and WAC begin their tourneys tomorrow, but there are three more auto-bids in store.
- Horizon League Championship – Butler vs. Cleveland St. RTC Live will be there.
- Summit League Championship – North Dakota St. vs. Oakland. Here’s hoping Ben Woodside makes the Dance.
- Sun Belt Championship – Western Kentucky vs. South Alabama. WKU goes for its second straight trip to the dance against the upstarts from S. Alabama.
It’s the last chance saloon for Georgetown, Notre Dame and possibly Cincinnati beginning tomorrow. Who wants to keep playing?