Teams that are already in the NCAA Tournament…
Cornell Big Red (27-4, Ivy League), Winthrop Eagles (19-13, Big South), Murray State Racers (30-4, Ohio Valley), East Tennessee State Buccaneers (20-14, Atlantic Sun), Northern Iowa Panthers (28-4, Missouri Valley), St. Mary's Gaels (26-5, West Coast), Siena Saints (27-6, Metro Atlantic), Old Dominion Monarchs (26-8, Colonial), Wofford Terriers (26-8, Southern), Oakland Golden Grizzlies (26-8, Summit), Butler Bulldogs (28-4, Horizon), North Texas Mean Green (24-8, Sun Belt), Robert Morris Colonials (23-11, Northeast), Montana Grizzlies (22-9, Big Sky)
Teams that clinched automatic bids on Friday…
Lehigh Mountain Hawks (22-10, Patriot): The Mountain Hawks reached March Madness for the fourth time in school history when they took out Lafayette without any real consequence on Friday afternoon. This is a team that can rain down three pointers like it's no one's business (40.2% on the season), but unless there is an upset of absolutely epic proportions, this team won't make it to see the weekend. Expect to see Lehigh either as a #16 seed or in the play-in game.
Teams vying for automatic bids on Saturday…
Boston Terriers (19-12, America East): The Terriers were slight favorites against the top team in this conference, Stony Brook, in the America East League semifinals, and they didn't disappoint. Now, leading scorer, F John Holland (19.3 PPG) will look to lead the way for BU to make it to its first NCAA Tournament since 2001. This will be the Terriers' first appearance in the America East finale since 2003.
Vermont Catamounts (24-9, America East): Vermont has one of the most well-rounded players in the entire nation in F Marqus Blakely. Not only is Blakely leading the team in scoring (17.2 points per game), but he is also one of the best defensive players in the conference, as he is averaging 9.1 rebounds, 2.5 steals, and 2.0 blocks per game, all team highs. The Catamounts haven't been dancing since HC Tom Brennan was on the sidelines, but they're the clear choices to go to March Madness this year.
UTEP Miners (26-5, Conference USA): UTEP already knows that it's got its spot to the NCAA Tournament on lock down, as it is probably going to be a middle seed in the dance thanks to a great season in C-USA play. G Randy Culpepper is one of the elite scorers in the entire nation, and he has the ability to take over an entire game very, very quickly. He put up 21 points as his team bounced Tulsa from the conference tournament on Friday, and his scoring average over the L/8 games is a solid 22.4 points per game.
Houston Cougars (18-15, Conference USA): G Aubrey Coleman put on a heck of a show in the Conference USA semifinal against Southern Miss on Friday, scoring 27 points. He's the conference's leading scorer at 25.9 points per game. No one expected the Cougs to reach this point in the season, but after pulling off the upset of Memphis and taking down Southern Miss, they'll have an improbable chance of making the NCAA Tournament.
Sam Houston State Bearkats (24-7, Southland): The Bearkats are going to have their hands full in the Southland final. SHSU has limped to a pair of victories in the conference tournament, which is uncharacteristic for a team that is now 16-2 against divisional foes. F Gilbert Clavell will have to do a better job staying out of foul trouble than he did in the Southland semis. Even though he only played 24 minutes though, the team's leading scorer (17.6 points per game) still managed 16 points.
Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks (23-8, Southland): Playing second fiddle to a crosstown rival never sits well, but that's where Stephen F. Austin found itself all season in relation to the Bearkats. The Lumberjacks will get their chance to use their fantastic defense to make their way to the NCAA Tournament out of the Southland Conference. Four of the team's L/5 foes have been held under 55 points. With another effort like that, SFA will be dancing next week.
Akron Zips (24-9, MAC): There aren't any real prolific scorers on this team, but what the Zips do well is spread the scoring options around. Eight scorers are putting up at least five points per game. Now that Kent State is out of the MAC Tournament, there's no reason for Akron, who was clearly one of the top two teams in this conference all season long, to not grab the automatic bid from this conference.
Ohio Bobcats (20-14, MAC): At the beginning of the MAC Tournament, you probably didn't have the Bobcats in the finals. Alas, after going just 7-9 in conference play this year, Ohio is here, just one step away from dancing. The Bobcats picked a great time to have their best defensive half of the season, as they held the Redhawks to just 12 points in the first frame in Friday's semifinal. It's going to take another Herculean effort to take care of the Zips to go to March Madness.
Arkansas Pine Bluff Golden Lions (16-15, SWAC): This hasn't been a great year for SWAC basketball, but the Golden Lions did go 14-2 in conference and are deservedly playing for a right to play in the play-in game in the NCAA Tournament. Senior F Terrance Calvin put up a double-double with a dozen points and a dozen rebounds in the semifinals. The team's leading scorer is averaging 10.6 points per game this season.
Texas Southern Tigers (17-15, SWAC): If the Tigers are going to find a way to make it to March Madness, they're going to need a great game out of their big three. G Deandre Hall, G Whitworth Treasure, and F Travele Jones combine to average a whopping 44.5 of the team's 69.1 points per game. Texas Southern caught a major break when Jackson State was bounced out of this tournament, as eliminating Grambling was significantly easier than beating a team that went 17-1 in conference would've been.
Morgan State Bears (26-9, MEAC): The Bears have been the best team in the MEAC all season long, and anything less than a conference crown and a ticket to the NCAA Tournament would be brutally disappointing. G Reggie Holmes has been off of his game in this tournament, scoring just 28 points in two conference tournament contests, which would be great if not for the fact that he averaged 22.1 points per game during the regular season. He'll need to pick it up to the get the conference's automatic ticket.
South Carolina State Bulldogs (18-13, MEAC): Whatever has gotten into the Bulldogs' defense had better keep up for one more game to get SCSU into the NCAA Tournament. The Dogs would've kept five straight foes under 65 points, if not for the fact that they had to play overtime against Delaware State to reach this point of the MEAC Tournament. This is a miserable three-point shooting team though, as 30.4% just isn't going to cut it for a team that is hoping to make it to the dance.
Georgetown Hoyas (23-9, Big East): Many were down on the Hoyas coming into the Big East Tournament, but if there were any doubts about how good this team is, those were erased over the past few days. Blowing out South Florida and Marquette and sandwiching a win over Syracuse between them took this team from a potential #5 seed up to possibly a #2 with a win at MSG in the finale of this tournament on Saturday night.
West Virginia Mountaineers (26-6, Big East): Could West Virginia earn a #1 seed to the NCAA Tournament with a win on Saturday night? It's not likely, but it's certainly a possibility. The Mountaineers have stormed through the Big East tourney at Madison Square Garden thanks in large part to the play of leading scorer F Da'Sean Butler. WVU's star scored 24 in the semifinal against the Fighting Irish, and he'll look to carry that momentum into Saturday's finale.
Kansas Jayhawks (31-2, Big XII): The #1 team in the country continues to get up off the mat when it is down. On both Thursday and Friday, Rock Chalk not only stormed back from a deficit, but they ultimately put away their foes by double digits. Now, HC Bill Self's team has its sights set on another conference title, but the top seed in the Midwest Region has virtually already been wrapped up.
Kansas State Wildcats (26-6, Big XII): Kansas State is one of at least seven or eight teams that believes that it can be a #1 seed when Sunday rolls around. The Wildcats have looked awfully impressive on the offensive side of the court in this tournament, rolling up 80+ points against both Baylor and Oklahoma State. It's going to take a very similar performance to be able to stick with the Jayhawks on Saturday night in Kansas City.
San Diego State Aztecs (24-8, Mountain West): The Aztecs were one of the teams that was sitting firmly on the NCAA Tournament bubble before conference tournaments started, but when other teams fell flat, they excelled. The win against New Mexico absolutely sealed the deal. There's going to be a question about motivation for this team, but it's hard to go against a team that just stopped the squad with the longest winning streak in the MWC.
UNLV Rebels (25-7, Mountain West): UNLV has seemingly been the forgotten team in the MWC all season long, but it has a chance to take down the conference crown after both New Mexico and BYU bit the dust in the league semifinals. No one has crossed 70 points on this team since February 10th. Considering the fact that this is the host team for this tournament, the Rebels are going to be hard to take out, no matter how hot the Aztecs are.
Utah State Aggies (27-6, WAC): All of the carnage around the bubble has probably made the Aggies a tournament team for certain, but don't tell that to them! Utah State came out and absolutely annihilated Louisiana Tech on Friday night, which sets the stage for it to take the league's automatic bid to the tournament and save a slot on the bubble for someone else. The Aggies ride into Saturday night on a 17-game winning streak and don't look to be stopped.
New Mexico State Aggies (21-11, WAC): The odds were stacked up against the Aggies in the WAC semifinals on Friday night, as they had to play in Reno against the host school, Nevada. However, a gritty performance down the stretch led New Mexico State to the conference final with an 80-78 victory. The question is going to be whether or not a team that largely relies on just six players can find a way to win the battle of the Aggies in the WAC Championship.
California Golden Bears (23-9, Pac-10): For the duration of the season, the Golden Bears have looked like the only team that really could make the NCAA Tournament without the league's automatic bid. However, the Pac-10 crown is up for grabs at this point, and Cal is the favorite for the title. After a pair of double digit victories in the conference tourney, is anyone going to pick against this team? Leading scorer G Jerome Randle has had a great tourney, scoring 20+ points in both games.
Washington Huskies (23-9, Pac-10): The Huskies did what the Sun Devils couldn't do: Get rid of Stanford. There's still a big question whether or not U-Dub really needs to win the Pac-10 to make the NCAA Tournament. If the bubble shrinks any more, it's plausible to think that the Huskies could get left home if they get blown out by Cal. Still, this team has too good of a resume to ignore right now. Washington has won six straight games and takes one of the highest scoring marks in the land into the Pac-10 finale (79.8 points per game).
Santa Barbara Gauchos (19-9, Big West): The Gauchos took advantage of a first round bye in the Big West Tournament and bounced UC-Davis with ease on Friday night to get within one step of the NCAA Tournament. This can be a lethal three-point shooting team, as it is shooting 37.9% from downtown this year. Leading scorer G Orlando Johnson is the main candidate for long balls, as he shot a shade under 40% from beyond the arc. That's why he's averaging 18.0 points per game.
Long Beach State 49ers (17-15, Big West): No one really saw the 49ers making it to the finals of the Big West Tournament, but they stepped on the gas pedal right from the get go and dismissed the top seeded Tigers on Friday night. Now, after going just 8-8 in conference play this year, leading scorer and rebounder F TJ Robinson (15.7 points, 10.2 rebounds per game) will lead Long Beach State into battle in the Big West Championship.