Teams that clinched spots to the NCAA Tournament on Friday and Saturday…
Cornell Big Red (27-4, Ivy League) – The Big Red coasted to 13-1 in the Ivy League regular season, winning the only at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament that is handed out without a conference tournament. Cornell was once upon a time a Top-25 team for a few weeks, but it is going to probably be a #12 or #13 in March Madness.
Winthrop Eagles (19-13, Big South) – The Big South was supposed to belong to Coastal Carolina this year, but the Eagles had other ideas. They bounced the Chanticleers 64-53 behind a huge second half run to pull the upset as nine-point underdogs. Look for Winthrop to be hanging out as a #14 or #15 come Selection Sunday.
Murray State Racers (30-4, Ohio Valley) – A 17-1 record in conference play and three relatively easy wins in the OVC Tournament later, and Murray State is racing into the NCAA Tournament. It captured the Ohio Valley crown on Saturday with a 62-51 victory that more than sufficiently covered the four-point college basketball spread. The Racers could be a great potential bracket buster this year out of a #12 or #13 position.
East Tennessee State Buccaneers (20-14, Atlantic Sun) – The Bucs were only the #5 seed going into the A-Sun Tournament, but they took three tough wins in as many nights, taking out Campbell, Kennesaw State, and Mercer to win the conference crown. ETSU is a candidate for the play-in game, but in all likelihood, it will stick around for the weekend without the extra game as a #16.
Teams vying for automatic bids on Sunday…
Northern Iowa Panthers (27-4, Missouri Valley) – The Panthers are the only team in a conference final tomorrow that knows that it has nothing to worry about come Selection Sunday one way or the other. UNI's stifling defense has held its first two opponents in the Missouri Valley Tournament to just 40 points apiece. In order to win the Valley once again, the Panthers are going to need a great effort out of C Jordan Eglseder, who has scored ten points in each of his first two conference tourney games this year and averaged 12.2 points per game on the season.
Wichita State Shockers (25-8, Missouri Valley) – Could the Shockers be the in the field anyway as well? Twenty-five wins in a tough conference suggests that it is a possibility, but in all likelihood a win is needed in Sunday's Missouri Valley finale to get the job done. Wichita State has coasted to win against Missouri State and Illinois State, both of which were very tough foes, to reach this point. The Shockers have scored at least 73 points in three of their L/4 games, and they'll need to find a way to crack Northern Iowa's stout defense to take down the Valley title.
Vermont Catamounts (23-9, America East) – Vermont is no stranger to playing in the America East Final. It feels like the Catamounts have been in this spot every single year for the past decade. They've got comfortable victories against Binghamton and Maryland-Baltimore County in this tournament, and thanks to the upsets going on around them, they won't have to face either Stony Brook or Maine to reach the NCAA Tournament. Watch for F Marqus Blakely to have a great final on Sunday, as he is leading the team in scoring (17.4 PPG), assists (3.7 per game), and rebounding (9.2 RPG).
New Hampshire Wildcats (13-16, America East) – If you're wondering where the Wildcats came from, hop on the boat. After going just 11-16 in the regular season, New Hampshire was the only lower seed to advance out of the first round of the America East Tournament. Now, it is on the verge of becoming a sub-.500 team that is going dancing. The Cats may have had an awful offense for this whole season (61.6 PPG), but they have scored 68 and 77 points in their two conference tourney games, and a similar effort may be enough to lift the conference crown come Sunday night.