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  • Kenneth Cotterill

NCAA Automatic Bid Team Breakdown - Part 3

As more teams begin to qualify through conference championships, the more the NCAA tournament field begins to take shape. Saturday features countless title games, and so it is time to look at the teams who got it done. This list will feature quite a few double-digit seeds, but those are the most important teams to learn about if you want to win your office pool.

American East Champion - Hartford (15-8)

Last NCAA Tournament Appearance: Never

Andy Katz Tournament Seed Ranking: 16

The Hartford Hawks will be making their first appearance in the NCAA tournament in program history. They defeated UMass Lowell 64-50 led by 20 points and eight rebounds from Austin Williams. The Hawks will be the dreaded 16 seed in the tournament, so this could be a short lived run. That being said this Hawk's team does have six players that average eight or more points per game, so they are very balanced. Hartford has also won five games in a row heading into the tournament, so they have a ton of momentum. Their toughest matchups were the UConn Huskies and Villanova Wildcats to start out the year. Those resulted in 12 and 34 point losses, so when they have played elite competition they have really struggled. Congratulations on a great season, but do not pick the Hawks to be the second 16 seed to win in your bracket.

Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Champion - Iona (12-5)

Last NCAA Tournament Appearance: 2019

Andy Katz Tournament Seed Ranking: 15

The Iona Gaels are heading to their fifth straight NCAA tournament and this time it is with college legend Rick Pitino at the helm. In his first season with the Gaels, Pitino found a way to win six straight games down the stretch and win their conference. Iona was at a major disadvantage, having six straight games in February or March cancelled or postponed due to COVID concerns. This is my 15 seed to watch when it comes to the bracket, because they have upset potential for sure. Pitino coaching is a major advantage, but this is a team that shoots 36% as a team from three this season, so they can shoot themselves back into a game if they fall behind. Defensively this is a sound team, but their major weakness is their 15.8 turnovers per game, so that will be the difference maker. Taking a fifteen seed is always a major risk, but if you are thinking about one this is your team.

Mid-Eastern Atlantic Conference Champion - Norfolk State (16-7)

Last NCAA Tournament Appearance: 2012

Andy Katz Tournament Seed Ranking: 16

The Spartans are heading back to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2012. That last trip resulted in an upset win as the 15 seed over Missouri. This years team defeated Morgan State in the MEAC final 71-63, led by 17 points from Joe Bryant. Bryant, along with leading scorer Devante Carter are the motor for this team and they love to push the pace. They scored over 70 points in five of their last six games, so they can pour it on offensively. My concerns with Norfolk State, outside of being a 16 seed, is that they do not distribute the ball. Outside of those two scorers, there is very little ball movement, which is why they sit at 254th in the nation in assists per game. Hero ball will not get them far and they must take care of the basketball and move it quickly against whatever giant they get in their bracket.

Southwest Athletic Conference Champion - Texas Southern (16-8)

Last NCAA Tournament Appearance: 2000

Andy Katz Tournament Seed Ranking: 16

The name Texas Southern is becoming far more familiar in college basketball, as the Tigers are making their fifth appearance since 2014. The tough part for Texas Southern is that because they never play any quality opponents, they are often a sixteen seed. They have been in three of their last four appearances and that is likely to continue this year as well. They did get to play Oklahoma State, BYU and Saint Mary's this year, losing all of them by double digits, but they also had to cancelled games against USC, LSU & TCU. The Tigers won nine straight games to end the year, so they are absolutely rolling into the NCAA tournament. Michael Weathers will need to play the game of his life to get out of the first round. The reason I believe they will get knocked out easily in the first round is that they make under five three pointers per game, which is not good in todays game.

Mid-American Conference - Ohio (16-7)

Last NCAA Tournament Appearance: 2012

Andy Katz Tournament Seed Ranking: 13

The Ohio Bobcats are making their first appearance since 2012 and they are playing phenomenal basketball. The Bobcats defeated Buffalo 84-69 in the final, led by Jason Preston's 22 point performance. This is a team that could make it out of the first round, due to their depth. It is not just Preston either, as Dwight Wilson, Ben Vander Plas and Ben Roderick all average over 12 points per game, so they can beat you in many different ways. They score the ball efficiently, make a ton of threes and distribute at an elite level as well. Whoever plays Ohio will need to be on offensively cause this game will be an absolute shootout.

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