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NCAA Automatic Bid Tracker: Part Two

by Photo of Ross Bernhardt

All of the automatic bids have been earned with St. Bonaventures, Florida St., Vanderbilt and Michigan St. winning today.

NCAA Automatic Bid Tracker: Part Two

The previous Automatic Bids post was getting a little large, and it was about to get a whole lot longer with 12 conference championship games taking place today.  For the sake of convenience, we'll split up the madness and put the final 16 conference championship winners in this post.

Big Ten Conference: Michigan State Spartans (27-7) - Tom Izzo does it year after year, and because he coaches up his teams so well it doesn't seem out of the ordinary.  Izzo's group, led by senior Draymond Green, does it all.  They score efficiently, they defend incredibly well, and they are deep up front and in the backcourt.  The loss of freshman forward Branden Dawson hurts, but big men Adreian Payne and Derrick Nix have done an awfully good job of late filling in down low.  Michigan State looks primed for another deep March run.

SEC: Vanderbilt Commodores (24-10) - I really like this Vanderbilt team.  They have experienced players (Jeffery Taylor, Festus Ezeli) and one of the country's best shooters (John Jenkins).  When they put it all together like they did today against top-ranked Kentucky, Vanderbilt is incredibly tough to beat.  Obviously their win today proves they can play with anyone in the country, and this kind of victory could spring Vanderbilt forward to a nice run in the tournament.    

Atlantic Coast Conference: Florida State Seminoles (24-9) - These aren't the same Seminoles that lost to Harvard early on this season while only scoring 41 points.  These Seminoles still defend like mad men, but now they have found their rhythm on the offensive end.  These players are also cold-blooded.  Florida State has the late-game experience you love and Michael Snaer is an assassin with the game on the line.  With multiple wins over both Duke and North Carolina, this Seminoles team is definitely one to be reckoned with.

Atlantic 10 Conference: St. Bonaventure Bonnies (20-11) - Bubble teams everywhere were probably rooting extremely hard for Xavier to take the automatic bid, but Andrew Nicholson and St. Bonaventure had other plans.  The Bonnies took down Xavier easily and are back in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2000.  If you don't know about St. Bonaventure's forward Andrew Nicholson, you're about to hear a lot about him.  He put up a ridiculous 26-point, 14-rebound, 8-block performance against Xavier.  He's big (6'9", 240 pounds), can score in a myriad of ways, can rebound, and can defend.  Add the strong guard play that the Bonnies have had over the last week, and St. Bonaventure doesn't look like a second round pushover.

Big XII Conference: Missouri Tigers (30-4) - The Tigers handled Baylor with ease in their last go-around in the Big XII, winning the conference title 90-75.  Missouri is one of the more interesting tournament teams.  They have one of, if not the, most potent offenses in the country.  They rated first in adjusted offense in Ken Pomeroy's rankings of any Division 1 school.  But their offense is very guard-dominated, and if they rely too much on perimeter shots and aren't hitting, they can get into trouble.  Conversely, their defense doesn't come close to matching their offensive output.  Missouri lacks a lot of size and also isn't very deep (they only play seven).  Either way, Mizzou is a dangerous team going forward, and their big win over Baylor says just as much.

Big East Conference: Louisville Cardinals (26-9) - Peyton Siva is stepping his game up for Louisville over the last couple weeks.  When he plays with the poise and control he showed during the Big East Tournament, Louisville is one of the more dangerous teams in the country.  Rick Pitino's squad has a trip of quick backcourt scorers and defenders in Siva, Russ Smith and Chris Smith, a sharp shooter in Kyle Kuric, and an emerging big man in Gorgui Dieng.  With the way Louisville is rolling right now, I wouldn't want to be matched up with them in the tournament.

Pac-12 Conference: Colorado Buffaloes (23-11) - In their first year as a Pac-12 school, Colorado makes the tournament as the automatic bid.  Carlon Brown led the way with 13 points in the 53-51 win and powered Colorado the last few games with some electric dunks.  Here's his dunk from the semifinals against Cal:

What can we expect from Colorado in the tournament?  Above average defense and an inconsistent offense.  They are talented enough to win a game, but it will probably depend on the matchup.

WAC Conference: New Mexico State Aggies (26-9) - Wendell McKines dropped 29 for the Aggies in their blowout 82-57 win against Louisiana Tech.  New Mexico State took down in-state rivals New Mexico earlier in the season, but don't have any other marquee wins to their name.  I don't see the Aggies as a major threat in the tournament.

Mountain West Conference: New Mexico Lobos (27-6) - New Mexico took down regular season co-champion San Diego State, which features the Conference POY in Jamaal Franklin and the Coach of the Year in Steve Fischer, in convincing fashion with a 68-59 win.  UCLA transfer Drew Gordon is the man for the Lobos, and his 12 points/12 rebounds paced New Mexico last night.  New Mexico has a stingy defense and can score enough to give opponents trouble, plus they've won their last four games against ranked teams.  New Mexico is very dangerous.

Big West Conference: Long Beach State 49ers (25-8) - In addition to owning the coolest jerseys of any team in the field, the 49ers also own the tournament bid from the Big West Conference.  Guard Casper Ware can score with anyone in the country (33 last night, 17.4 average on the season) and head coach Dan Monson knows how to win in March.  He's the same coach that led Gonzaga to their magical elite eight run.  LBSU is battle tested (early season wins over then-ranked Pitt and Xavier plus close losses to Louisville and UNC) and this team is more than capable of a couple upsets.

SWAC Conference: Mississippi Valley St. Delta Devils (23-11) - The Delta Devils took down Texas Southern in another close title game 71-69.  They scheduled very tough out of conference (North Carolina, Florida, Notre Dame, Wisconsin, Northwestern) but never really came close in any of those games aside from a two-point loss to Iowa State.  A lot would have to go right for this team to pull an upset in the second round.

MAC Conference: Ohio Bobcats (27-7) - The Bobcats took down the Akron Zips in a tight 64-63 championship game.  The man for Ohio is junior guard D.J. Cooper, who went off for 23 points, 6 assists, and 4 steals in the final.  Cooper was just a freshman when Ohio upset Georgetown in the 2010 NCAA Tournament, but he still scored 23 points in that contest.  He will be the catalyst for this dangerous team.    

Conference USA: Memphis Tigers (26-8) - Is it just me or is that a really quiet 26-8 for Josh Pastner and Memphis?  Maybe I haven't been paying close enough attention, because they are rated 10th overall in Ken Pomeroy's rankings (including 12th in adjusted defense).  They destroyed Marshall in the Conference USA title game 83-57, but they don't really have any real signature wins (unless you count two against Tennessee and a win against a reeling Xavier team).  

Memphis always has talented playmakers, and this group is no exception.  Willie Barton can light it up and can really rebound the basketball.  Tarik Black is an incredible physical presence inside.  Joe Jackson is a solid floor general up top.  Memphis could definitely make noise in the tournament with the right draw.

America East Conference: Vermont Catamounts (23-11) - Vermont is dancing yet again after taking down 1-seed Stony Brook.  Stony Brook has never made the NCAA Tournament and they will have to wait another year.  The Catamounts were powered by a 5-point/15-rebound performance from sophomore forward Brian Voelkel and 14 points off the bench by Four McGlynn.  Yes, they have a player on their team named "Four".  I'm not expecting much out of Vermont in the tournament though, seeing as how they gave winless Binghamton their first victory of the season.

Southland Conference: Lamar Cardinals (23-11) - Maybe more coaches should call their players losers and shame their entire senior classes.  After Pat Knight's epic rant after a loss a couple weeks ago, I thought his seniors would quit on him.  Turns out the opposite was true.  They've ripped off six straight wins, including the conference title game today against McNeese State 70-49.  One of those seniors Knight called out, Mike James, exploded for 29 points and 9 rebounds in the win.  Credit definitely goes both ways, but that was one ballsy stunt Knight pulled back in February.

Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference: Norfolk State Spartans (25-9) - The Spartans are headed to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in school history after their 73-70 win over Bethune-Cook. University.  Norfolk State is paced by senior center Kyle O'Quinn, who led the team in scoring and rebounding on the year (15.9/10.5) and this team took Marquette to the wire earlier in the year.  Don't completely sleep on Norfolk State, but also don't expect much.

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