- Kenneth Cotterill
NCAA Automatic Bid Team Breakdowns - Part 4
Sixteen teams are down, with 15 more to go when it comes to automatic bid teams. These five teams qualified yesterday, but their rankings are all across the board, ranging from the one seed to the five seed in their respective conferences.
Patriot League Conference Champion - Colgate (13-1)
Last NCAA Tournament Appearance: 2019
Tournament Seed: 14
Colgate will represent the Patriot League for the second year in a row. Despite playing just 14 total games, Colgate won 13, including the championship game 85-72 over Loyola (MD). Tucker Richardson had a solid 17 point day to lead the way for the Raiders. Colgate shoots the three-ball well and is tied for ninth in the country for field goal percentage. They also are absolute terrors on the glass, tied for sixth in the country in that category. The numbers will tell you that they are sound on both ends of the floor, but they do have half the sample size as most teams. With no real competition, it makes it tough to take them over an established team like Arkansas. The Razorbacks are great in all the same areas so that tells me that they should win. No matter what, Colgate had a great season and deserves all the credit in the world for making it this far.
Atlantic Coast Conference Champion - Georgia Tech (17-8)
Last NCAA Tournament Appearance: 2010
Tournament Seed: 9
Georgia Tech, despite playing in the ACC, which is a predominantly solid basketball conference, is making their first appearance since 2010 in the big dance. There was a bit of luck involved, getting to avoid Virginia in the conference semi-finals, but they also knocked off a good Florida State team in the final. This is one of the hottest teams heading into March Madness, as the Yellow Jackets are winners of eight straight games. They will be in tough though right out of the gate, landing Loyola-Chicago in their first game. The question I have in regards to this team is whether or not they peaked too soon. March Madness is an absolute grind and I wonder whether or not this team will struggle due to being too spent mentally. No matter what happens, Georgia Tech even making the tournament is a major accomplishment for the program and is something they can build off of moving forward.
Big Sky Conference Champion - Eastern Washington (16-7)
Last NCAA Tournament Appearance: 2015
Tournament Seed: 14
The second-best team in the Big Sky conference gets to represent in a big way this year, as they will have a tough first-round matchup with Kansas. This Eastern Washington team will be a ton of fun, as they shoot the ball well in all aspects. They make threes efficiently and they are tied for ninth in the country in free-throw shooting percentage as well. Tanner Groves will need to be a major player in their game with Kansas for them to keep it close. It is not just Groves though, as Kim Aiken, Tyler Robertson and Michael Meadows all support him on the scoring front as well. If this team had a better defensive rating I might like them a lot more to upset Kansas, who I am not very high on. But in order to beat Kansas, you have to defend well, so this could be a high-scoring affair on both sides.
Western Athletic Conference Champion - Grand Canyon (17-6)
Last NCAA Tournament Appearance: N/A
Tournament Seed: 15
This is the first appearance for Grand Canyon at the NCAA tournament (at the division one level) and I am incredibly excited to see it. This is the best part about March Madness and I really hope that they play one hell of a game against Iowa. They defeated New Mexico State in their conference championship final 74-56 thanks to 19 points from Jovan Blacksher. This group shoots, passes and rebounds incredibly well across the board, which is a recipe for success as a massive underdog. What makes them even more terrifying is they are tied for ninth in the country in defensive rating, so they will cause fits for Iowa. If this group can contain Luka Garza, the National Player of the Year in my opinion, then they have a chance for sure. Do I truly see this upset happening? That would be a no, given picking a 15 seed is always risky, but if there is one out there this year, this is the one for me.
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