The National: A Look at Mid-Major Autobids (Part Two)

Welcome to part two of this look at who we might reasonably expect to emerge from the ranks of the mid-majors, shining a light on just what these teams have and haven't done so you know what to expect from the ones that do get into the tournament. Part one, if you missed it, is here.

Continuing where we left off yesterday:


COLONIAL
The CAA is in a strange place this season. They are almost certainly only getting one bid unless Drexel meets Virginia Commonwealth in the final; that might be enough to let two teams squeak into the field, but it's still unlikely. On the other hand, this is looking like one of those "whole bunch of CAA teams in the NIT" years, as it's likely the league will have five 20-win teams, and Delaware would also get to 20 if they were to win their final conference game and the conference tournament. (The fifth 20-win team should be Georgia State, but they've been mediocre in conference, didn't really beat anyone out of conference, and I don't see them as any threat at all to win the tournament.)

The problem is that, in a rare twist for the league, they have done almost nothing outside the conference. The leaders have all basically picked up 10 wins against the bottom five of the conference, making their records somewhat empty. Drexel and VCU are both solidly on the bubble, and if last year meant anything at all VCU would definitely get a boost. It doesn't, though. The four leaders all play one another tomorrow: Drexel at Old Dominion, Mason at VCU. Drexel will win the regular season title outright and solidify their spot on the bubble with a win. Mason would play themselves onto the bottom of the bubble with a win, but would probably nudge VCU off in the process. Old Dominion has no shot other than to win the tournament, but they've been strong enough in conference to consider them a threat.

Drexel
24-5, 15-2
best win: 69-49 at Cleveland State in Bracketbusters; also swept VCU and Mason
worst loss: 61-56 to Norfolk State at the Paradise Jam
interesting losses: none. Drexel's other four losses were all double-digit stumbles.

Virginia Commonwealth
24-6, 14-3
best win: 69-46 over South Florida at home
worst loss: 69-54 to Seton Hall at the Charleston Classic
interesting loss: 72-64 at Alabama

George Mason
23-7, 14-3
best win: 84-76 at College of Charleston
worst loss: depending on your viewpoint, either 68-48 at Virginia or losing in overtime to both Florida International AND Florida Atlantic
interesting losses: none, really

Old Dominion
19-11, 13-4
best win: 68-66 in OT over South Florida at the Hall of Fame Tipoff
worst loss: 63-46 to Northern Iowa at home in the season opener
interesting losses: 62-52 to Kentucky at HoF Tipoff; 65-63 in OT to Vermont at home, 75-68 to Missouri at home

CONFERENCE USA
It's one of those years for CUSA. They might get three bids. They may only get one. Two is likely, but not guaranteed. I've included Tulsa here because they've stepped their game up in conference, but there is no way they're getting in without winning the conference tournament. Memphis still has to visit Tulsa and hosts UCF, so things could shake out even further. As things stand right now, Southern Mississippi is in the best shape for an at-large as they shouldn't have any trouble winning out. They close out with Rice and SMU at home, and Marshall on the road. On the other hand, they managed to play themselves onto the bubble from "should be in" status with back-to-back losses last week to Houston and UTEP. This followed back-to-back wins over UCF and Tulsa which seemed to solidify their invitation. C'est la vie.

Memphis
20-8, 10-3
best win: 97-81 over Belmont at home; also took down Tennessee twice, and Xavier at home
worst loss: 73-61 to Michigan at Maui
interesting losses: 91-88 in OT to Georgetown at Maui, and again at Georgetown 70-59; 76-72 to Murray State at home; 95-87 at Louisville

Southern Mississippi
22-6, 9-4
best win: 79-58 at Colorado State
worst loss: 73-71 at Houston (really)
interesting losses: 59-52 at Denver, 90-81 in 2OT to Murray State at Alaska

Tulsa
16-11, 9-4
best win: 68-62 over Mercer at home
worst loss: 83-64 to Creighton at home
interesting losses: 69-65 to Northwestern and 79-75 to Saint Joseph's at the Charleston Classic; 69-64 in OT at Missouri State; 59-56 at Oklahoma State; 67-64 to Arizona State at home; 77-67 to Wichita State at home

Central Florida
19-8, 8-5
best wins: 74-63 over College of Charleston and 68-63 over UConn at Battle for Atlantis
worst loss: 73-50 at Florida State
interesting losses: 59-49 to Harvard at Atlantis; 61-60 at Louisiana-Lafayette

GREAT WEST
Haha, just kidding. They have no autobid, and no threat of an at-large. To the NIT, even. Utah Valley should, however, skate into the Collegeinsider.com tournament as the GWC champion.

HORIZON
We eat ourselves. The Horizon has been victimized this year by two things, one typical and expected, the other somewhat jarring. They beat themselves up brutally, which is normal, and Butler has fallen off the mountain, which isn't. Valparaiso has clinched the regular season title, but is absolutely no threat for an at-large. Cleveland State is the only hope the conference has of pulling that off, but they'll have to take care of Wright State tomorrow and at least get to the conference final for that to be realistic.

So in all likelihood, the most underrated mid-major conference in the country, one which has quietly gotten multiple bids more often than not over the last 15 years, is probably only going to get one invite this year. And while five of the following six teams are completely out of the running for an at-large bid, all of them have a legitimate shot of winning the conference tournament.

Valparaiso
20-10, 13-4
best win: nothing in non-conference. Swept Cleveland State and Detroit, and beat Butler once.
worst loss: 80-47 humiliation at Ohio State
interesting losses: none, really

Cleveland State
21-9, 11-6
best win: 71-58 at Vanderbilt
worst losses: 70-55 at South Florida; 69-49 at home to Drexel in Bracketbusters
interesting losses: none, really

Butler
18-12, 11-6
best win: 67-65 over Purdue (neutral); 71-66 at Stanford
worst losses: 69-53 to Louisville at home; 75-59 at Indiana; 71-55 at Gonzaga
interesting losses: 73-61 to Xavier at home

Wisconsin-Milwaukee
18-12, 10-7
best win: 57-55 at Valparaiso, or 86-84 over Cleveland State at home
worst loss: 67-51 at Northern Iowa
interesting loss: 60-54 to Wisconsin at home

Detroit
17-13, 10-7
best win: let's not even go there.
worst loss: 81-63 at Akron
interesting losses: 59-53 at Notre Dame; 62-54 at Alabama; 80-75 at Mississippi State

Youngstown State

15-13, 10-7
best win: nope, nothing worth mentioning
worst loss: 88-62 at Akron
interesting losses: 82-71 at Penn State

IVY LEAGUE
Let's get this out of the way: Harvard is in. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise. The only question is whether they're going to slip up just enough to let someone else get in alongside them. Since there's no conference tournament, Harvard can actually clinch a share of the conference title tonight with a win over Princeton (which would also eliminate the Tigers from contention), if Penn loses to Dartmouth as well. If Harvard and Penn both win, the Crimson would still clinch a share of the title the following night with a win over Penn. However, as of right now, all three schools (plus Yale) are still technically alive, so:

Harvard
23-3, 9-1
best wins: 46-41 over Florida State and 59-49 over Central Florida at the Battle for Atlantis; 55-48 at Vermont
worst loss: 67-53 at Connecticut
the other losses: 60-54 at Fordham in a true WTF moment, and 70-62 at Princeton

Pennsylvania
15-11, 7-2
best win: 69-60 over Delaware at home
worst loss: 85-55 at Duke
interesting losses: 73-67 in OT to Temple at home; 73-65 at Villanova; 77-73 at UCLA; 75-70 at Davidson

Yale
17-7, 7-3
best win: 68-52 over Vermont at home
worst loss: 65-35 to Harvard at home
interesting losses: 73-62 at Seton Hall; 72-71 at Wake Forest

Princeton
15-10, 6-3
best win: 75-73 in 3OT at Florida State
worst loss: 73-57 at home to Wagner
interesting losses: 60-58 at North Carolina State; 64-60 at Drexel

METRO ATLANTIC
Iona may well have an invitation locked up at this point, based on a pretty impressive litany of non-conference wins. Nobody else is getting in the back door, of course, but Iona has a good list of challengers who could force them into that at-large bid. Fairfield is the biggest threat, having shown quite a bit of moxie playing UConn fairly close on the road.

Iona
22-6, 13-3
best wins: 89-63 over Maryland at Puerto Rico; 104-99 in 2OT over Saint Joseph's at home; 80-78 in OT at Denver; 73-72 at Vermont; 90-84 over Nevada at home in Bracketbusters
worst loss: 82-63 at Marshall
interesting loss: 91-90 to Purdue at Puerto Rico

Loyola (MD)
20-7, 12-4
best win: meh. 69-56 over Boston University in Bracketbusters... or 87-81 over Iona at home.
worst loss: 87-63 at Kentucky
interesting losses: none, really

Fairfield
17-11, 12-4
best wins: 55-44 over Arizona State at Old Spice; 59-51 over Old Dominion (neutral)
worst loss: 73-60 at Siena, their only loss by more than 10 points
interesting losses: 56-49 to Dayton and 72-66 to Indiana State at Old Spice; 79-71 at Connecticut; 77-69 at Drexel; 67-63 at Milwaukee in Bracketbusters

Manhattan
19-10, 11-5
best win: move along, nothing to see here
worst loss: 92-56 at Syracuse, although 59-41 at Columbia may be more embarrassing
interesting loss: 91-86 in OT at Colorado State

MID-AMERICAN
Akron played a rough non-conference schedule, and while they performed well, they didn't perform well enough. Three three-point losses to other bubble teams sealed their fate even before losing in Bracketbusters. Ohio, on the other hand, didn't play much of anyone. They'll face off tonight in a game which means absolutely nothing to Akron at this point, but is critical for Ohio. Kent State and Buffalo, who are tied with Ohio at the moment for second place in the East, are also credible threats to win the conference tournament. Nobody's getting in any other way now, though.

Akron
20-8, 12-1
best win: 68-58 at Mississippi State
worst losses: 77-56 at West Virginia; 77-53 at Middle Tennessee State
interesting losses: 62-59 at Valparaiso; 69-66 at Cleveland State; 76-75 in OT to Virginia Commonwealth at home; 67-61 at Oral Roberts in Bracketbusters

Ohio
22-6, 9-4
best win: 81-62 over UNC-Asheville in Bracketbusters
worst loss: 68-55 at Eastern Michigan
interesting loss: 59-54 at Louisville

Kent State
19-8, 9-4
best win: 70-60 at West Virginia
worst loss: 81-62 at Utah State
interesting losses: 57-53 to Cleveland State at home; 80-73 to College of Charleston at home in Bracketbusters

Buffalo
16-9, 9-4
best win: 84-55 steamrolling of Dayton IN Dayton
worst losses: 93-78 at Brigham Young; 86-65 at San Diego State in Bracketbusters
interesting losses: 61-53 at Princeton; 87-85 in OT at Temple

MID-EASTERN
Obviously, this is a one-bid league; only two teams really stand out as favorites to win the conference tournament.

Savannah State
18-10, 11-2
best win: 75-45 over Stetson at home
worst loss: umm, a bunch. Savannah got wrecked by Georgetown, Indiana, Butler, Georgia Tech, Wisconsin, and Arkansas.
interesting losses: 65-63 at Tennessee-Chattanooga, I guess

Norfolk State
19-9, 10-3
best wins: 61-56 over Drexel and 66-53 over TCU in the Paradise Jam
worst losses: 69-57 to Division II Elizabeth City State, 68-36 at Illinois State, and a season-opening 99-68 loss at Marquette, which is funny because:
interesting loss: 59-57 to Marquette in the Paradise Jam final

MISSOURI VALLEY
Wichita State and Creighton are both probably already in, and the rest of the conference is hovering around the .500 mark. You all know Arch Madness, though: hell, anyone could win that.

Wichita State
25-4, 15-2
best wins: 68-46 romp over Alabama-Birmingham at home; 75-60 over Cal State-Fullerton at home; 89-70 over Nevada-Las Vegas at home; 77-67 at Tulsa; 91-74 at Davidson in Bracketbusters
worst loss: 70-60 to Alabama at Puerto Rico
the other losses: 78-74 in OT to Temple at Puerto Rico; 68-61 to Creighton at home (but won on the road); 93-86 in 3OT at Drake

Creighton
24-5, 13-4
best wins: 70-60 at Alabama-Birmingham; 82-59 over Iowa (neutral); 85-83 at San Diego State; 76-66 over Nebraska at home (okay, kidding); 83-64 at Tulsa; 87-79 over Northwestern at home; 81-79 over Long Beach State at home in Bracketbusters
worst loss: 89-68 to Wichita State at home
the other losses: 80-71 at Saint Joseph's; 77-65 to Missouri State at home; 65-62 at Northern Iowa; 65-57 at Evansville

Tomorrow: the rest.

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