Almost half of the auto bids have been claimed as of Wednesday morning, after LIU Brooklyn, Valparaiso and South Dakota State captured berths into the NCAA Tournament.
Long Island Brooklyn Blackbirds
Northeast Conference – (20-13, 12-6) – Coach Jack Perri – RPI 185 – KenPom 184
Earning their third straight NEC title, Long Island rolled through Mount St. Mary's, 91-70, thanks to 31 points from senior C.J. Garner. The Blackbirds had an open bracket after number one seed, Robert Morris, dropped its game to MSM in the round prior.
Long Island overcame a lot of adversity this season between injuries and suspensions to earn a date with a power program (the Blackbirds previously played Michigan State and North Carolina the last two seasons in the NCAAT); this time it is probably Louisville.
Horizon League – (26-7, 13-3) – Coach Bryce Drew – RPI 60 – KenPom 67
It's been nine years since the Crusaders were in the tournament, and this year couldn't have set up any better for them. The senior-laden team, coached by Bryce Drew, didn't have Butler staring at them on the other side of the bracket and weren't being forced to play against a Detroit team they've had plenty of trouble with over the past two seasons. But Wright State didn't make it easy. Valpo needed a late second half 16-0 run to take control and punch its ticket with a 62-54 win over the Raiders.
The Crusaders will be an interesting upset pick, depending on who they face. They have trouble with pressing defenses or teams with ultra-quick guards, but they have the right personnel to make a run.
South Dakota State Jackrabbits
Summit League – (25-9, 13-3) – Coach Scott Nagy – RPI 75 – KenPom 103
The Jackrabbits are back and they're hungry for more. South Dakota State was the best team in the Summit this year and used a majority of veteran contributors (2 seniors, 2 juniors and a sophomore take up the majority of the team's possessions) to get to 25 wins this season. They'll be rewarded with a likely 13 seed and a chance to bust some brackets.
SDSU runs a highly efficient offense, getting good shots and taking care of the basketball, which you look for in a mid major. But their defense isn't exactly elite (210th in the country), and that could hurt them in their first round tilt.
Patriot League: Lafayette vs. Bucknell
And a whole lot of first and second round action. So get your couch nice and warm or fire up your laptop. Make sure to hydrate.