By Jesse Kramer
Five automatic bids to the NCAA tournament were secured this weekend. Florida Gulf Coast won the Atlantic Sun, Harvard won the Ivy League, Belmont won the Ohio Valley, Liberty won the Big South, and Creighton won the Missouri Valley.
Here is where I am projecting these teams to be seeded right now:
Florida Gulf Coast: 15 seed
Harvard: 15 seed
Belmont: 11 seed
Liberty: 16 seed (First Four play-in game)
Creighton: 7 seed
A bunch of games impacting the NCAA tournament bubble were played this weekend:
—Akron’s loss to Kent State on Friday night forces the Zips to win the MAC tournament if they are going to make the NCAA tournament.
—I think Belmont probably would have been an at-large team had it lost to Murray State, so the Bruins’ going as an automatic qualifier opens up a spot for a different team to sneak in.
—That team could be Baylor. The Bears have been in need of a big win all season, and they blew out Kansas on Saturday. They still have work to do, but they get another huge opportunity against Oklahoma State in the Big 12 quarterfinals on Thursday.
—Kentucky also got a huge win on Saturday, defeating Florida. The Wildcats still do not have a good win on the road, but home wins over Missouri and Florida along with a win in the SEC tournament should be enough to at least get them into a First Four game.
—Also in the SEC, Tennessee got a big win over Missouri. I currently have the Volunteers as a No. 12 seed.
—By defeating San Diego to reach the WCC title game, St. Mary’s should be a lock for the NCAA tournament.
—Temple knocked off VCU to essentially secure a spot in the field of 68. The Owls now have a 10-5 record against top-100 teams and a 4-3 record against the top 50.
—On Sunday night, Virginia made a huge comeback to knock off Maryland in overtime. I have Virginia as my first team out of the field, but now Maryland will likely have to win the ACC tournament to receive a bid.
—Florida International upset Middle Tennessee in the Sun Belt quarterfinals. The Blue Raiders will be in the mix for an at-large bid, but the fact that they have only two top-100 wins could doom them.
Conference Tournament Cinderellas
We have already had a bunch of Cinderella runs in conference tournaments:
—Liberty’s Big South run makes them the second team to ever appear in the NCAA tournament with 20 losses.
—Loyola Marymount won only one WCC game all season but strung together three victories to reach the conference semifinals, where it lost to Gonzaga.
—Manhattan, a No. 6 seed which was picked to finish second in the MAAC in the preseason, knocked off Loyola (MD) and Fairfield to reach tonight’s title game against Iona. The Jaspers are 9-3 in their last 12 games but have an overall record of 14-17.
—As the No. 5 seed in the NEC, Mount St. Mary’s won at Bryant in the quarterfinals and at Robert Morris in the semis to reach the conference title game. The Mountaineers will face two-time defending champion LIU-Brooklyn on Tuesday night.
—New Mexico’s chances for a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament took a big hit with a loss at Air Force on Saturday, but I think the Lobos could still earn a top seed if they win the Mountain West tournament.
—The final Syracuse-Georgetown was fantastic to watch. As someone who has been pushing Otto Porter as a first-team All-American since November, it was nice to see the Hoyas earn the No. 1 seed in the Big East tournament.
—As much as I love Porter, I think Creighton’s Doug McDermott has to be the Player of the Year right now. Although he struggled in the conference title game against Wichita State, he scored 23 points against Drake in the quarterfinals and 25 against Indiana State in the semis on 8-of-10 shooting.
—Don’t sleep on Louisville! The Cardinals’ rough stretch in January is well behind them, and they have been as hot as anyone in the country. They are back up to No. 1 in adjusted defensive efficiency and No. 3 overall on KenPom.