NCAA Tournament 2014: Conference Champion and Automatic Bid Tracker

Bleacher Report College Basketball StaffFeatured ColumnistMarch 8, 2014

NCAA Tournament 2014: Conference Champion and Automatic Bid Tracker

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    Mark Humphrey/Associated Press

    Got your dancing shoes on yet?

    It's March, the best time of year to be a college basketball fan, as the 2014 NCAA tournament is just around the corner. But before the field of 68 is slotted and announced, all 32 Division I conferences have to determine their automatic qualifiers to the Big Dance.

    The first bid was awarded on March 7, when Harvard won the Ivy League regular-season title and qualified in lieu of a postseason tournament. There are just a few conference tournaments yet to conclude, and all the teams on the bubble nervously await the selection committee's final verdict.

    We've got you covered with results, analysis of the qualifiers and projections for how they might fare in the NCAA tourney.

Florida: SEC Champion

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    Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

    Title Game Recap

    The Gators faced their toughest test in weeks, nearly blowing a 15-point lead before holding off Kentucky 61-60 to win the SEC tournament title Sunday in Atlanta for their 26th consecutive victory.

    Florida (32-2) led 52-37 with less than 12 minutes remaining before Kentucky went on a 16-2 run over a five-minute span to turn what looked like a runaway into a tight finish. Florida never trailed, but after Willie Cauley-Stein hit a three-pointer for Kentucky to get within 61-60 the Gators missed a pair of one-and-one free throws to keep the game in doubt.

    Kentucky had two chances to win, but on its first possession had two missed field goals, while in the final seconds the Wildcats failed to get off a shot.

    Florida had 14 apiece from Michael Frazier II and Patrick Young in the victory.

    For predictions and results from all of Sunday's major conference tournament games, click here

     

    Season in Review

    Injuries and personnel issues had Florida's roster in a state of flux early in the season, lowering some expectations for the season. The Gators began 6-2 with losses at Connecticut and Wisconsin before running the table the rest of the way.

    Florida's 26-game win streak is a school record and includes three victories over Kentucky as well as wins over Kansas and Memphis.

     

    NCAA Tournament Projection

    Florida looks like the surest thing of the top seeds to make the Final Four, and with the blend of offensive talent and defensive intensity should be a favorite to reach the title game and possibly win Billy Donovan's third national title.

     

    March Madness Fact

    The Gators will be seeking their fifth trip to the Final Four but first since 2007. Florida fell in the Elite Eight in each of the previous three NCAA tournaments.

     

    Updated by Brian J. Pedersen

Michigan State: Big Ten Champion

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    Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

    Title Game Recap

    The Spartans put together one of their most complete efforts of the season, leading from the outset and never looking back in downing rival Michigan 69-55 on Sunday in Indianapolis.

    Michigan State (25-8) led 38-29 at halftime and kept the lead around double digits throughout the second half, limiting Michigan star Nik Stauskas to just 4-of-14 on field goal attempts and the Wolverines (25-7) as a whole to 31.5 percent shooting.

    Adreian Payne led MSU with 18 points and nine rebounds, while Branden Dawson and Gary Harris each had 15 points. The victory avenged a pair of regular-season losses to the Wolverines.

    For predictions and results from all of Sunday's major conference tournament games, click here.

     

    Season in Review

    Michigan State entered the year as one of the favorites to reach the Final Four, and it responded by starting 18-1 before a slew of injuries led to sluggish play during the second half of the Big Ten schedule.

    Payne, Dawson and Keith Appling all missed multiple games for the Spartans, who ended the regular-season losing seven of 12 before blowing through the Big Ten tourney field.

     

    NCAA Tournament Projection

    The Spartans are playing like the team everyone expected them to be, and it wouldn't be a surprise to see them get to Arlington, Texas for another Final Four.

     

    March Madness Fact

    Michigan State has reached the Sweet Sixteen in five of the previous six seasons.

     

    Updated by Brian J. Pedersen

Virginia: ACC Champion

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    Gerry Broome/Associated Press

    Title Game Recap

    Virginia continued its magical season, following up a regular-season title with its first ACC tournament championship since 1976, beating Duke 72-63 on Sunday in Greensboro, N.C.

    Virginia (28-6) also avenged one of its two league losses, holding Duke to 38.1 percent shooting and forcing Blue Devils star Jabari Parker to take 24 shots to score 23 points.

    Rodney Hood's layup with 6:08 left tied the game at 53, but the Cavs then took control with a 6-0 run and pulled away late as Duke (26-8) missed layups and couldn't stop Virginia.

    The Cavs got 23 points from Malcolm Brogdon, while Akil Mitchell had seven points and 15 rebounds.

    For predictions and results from all of Sunday's major conference tournament games, click here.

     

    Season in Review

    Virginia had an uneven nonconference slate noted more for its losses than anything else. The Cavaliers lost by 35 at Tennessee on Dec. 30 but picked up steam once the ACC slate started.

    The Cavs lost at Duke and then ran off 13 straight conference wins to wrap up the regular-season title, finishing 16-2 overall.

     

    NCAA Tournament Projection

    The Cavaliers' defense-first approach, combined with a slew of capable offensive players, makes them the kind of balanced team that can make a deep run. But Virginia also wasn't in the NCAA field last season, so it's hard to say how the players will respond to the atmosphere.

    Virginia should make the second weekend without much resistance, but getting beyond the Sweet 16 will depend on the draw.

     

    March Madness Fact

    Despite not much success of late, Virginia has made the Elite Eight five times (most recently in 1995) and reached the Final Four in both 1981 and 1984.

     

    Updated by Brian J. Pedersen

St. Joseph's: Atlantic 10 Champion

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    Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sport

    Title Game Recap

    St. Joseph's survived the havoc of VCU en route to winning its first Atlantic 10 title since 1997, pulling out a 65-61 victory Sunday in Brooklyn, N.Y.

    The Hawks (24-9) used 19 points from Langston Galloway and a defensive pressure normally found by VCU to lock up their first NCAA tournament bid since 2008.

    St. Joe's led 28-24 at the half, but the game stayed tight for most of the second half until Galloway's three-pointer with 2:30 left gave his team a 57-54 lead. It was the start of a 7-0 run that sealed the deal as the Rams (26-8) couldn't catch up.

    For predictions and results from all of Sunday's major conference tournament games, click here.

     

    Season in Review

    St. Joe's spent most of the season on the proverbial tournament bubble due to a nonconference schedule devoid of any quality victories, though an 11-5 mark in A-10 play kept the Hawks in the NCAA tourney discussion.

    The Hawks' best regular-season win was over VCU in early February, and they lost their last two games heading into the A-10 tourney before knocking off Dayton and St. Bonaventure as well as the Rams in the final.

     

    NCAA Tournament Projection

    The Hawks could end up anywhere from a No. 9 to a No. 12 seed, and the play of Galloway and Halil Kanacevic during the conference tournament shows this team is clicking on all cylinders right now.

    With the right draw, St. Joe's could make the second round of the tourney for the first time since the 2004 run to the Elite Eight.

     

    March Madness Fact

    Of the last 18 NCAA tourney games St. Joe's has played in, dating back to 1981, 15 have been decided by 10 points or less. The Hawks are 9-6 in those games.

     

    Updated by Brian J. Pedersen

Louisiana-Lafayette: Sun Belt Champion

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    Crystal LoGiudice-USA TODAY Spor

    Title Game Recap

    Louisiana-Lafayette earned its first NCAA tournament bid since 2005 by outlasting top-seeded Georgia State 82-81 in overtime to win the Sun Belt Conference tourney title Sunday in New Orleans.

    In a back-and-forth game featuring stellar offensive and rebounding performances, the Ragin' Cajuns (23-11) used six straight points from Elfrid Payton to turn a three-point deficit into an 80-77 lead with 44 seconds left.

    Payton had 19 points, while teammate Xavian Rimmer led ULL with 27 points. Shawn Long had 11 points and 14 rebounds as the Cajuns held a 46-30 rebounding edge, including 20-4 on the offensive boards.

     

    Season in Review

    ULL played a tough nonconference schedule that included wins over Houston and Louisiana Tech, but in Sun Belt play the Cajuns opened 3-5 before getting hot in the second half of the season.

    ULL won eight of 10 heading into the postseason tournament and then won three games in as many days while knocking off the league's top two seeds.

     

    NCAA Tournament Projection

    The Cajuns figure to earn a No. 13 or 14 seed when the field is announced Sunday evening. With skilled players like Long and Payton, though, they should be considered very dangerous and could be a trendy upset pick.

     

    March Madness Fact

    The Cajuns haven't won an NCAA tournament game since 1992, though their last three appearances (in 2000, 2004 and 2005) all ended in losses by less than 10 points.

     

    Updated by Brian J. Pedersen

Cal Poly: Big West Champion

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    Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

    Title Game Recap

    In one of the most closely fought games of conference tournament season, Cal Poly and Cal State-Northridge were within a possession of each other for most of the last 10 minutes of the Big West final. It took a Ridge Shipley three-ball with 13 seconds left (and a painful offensive foul called on the Matadors) to secure a 61-59 win for No. 7 seed Cal Poly, which had only gotten this far by knocking off top-seeded UC Irvine in the semifinals.

    Chris Eversley led the victorious Mustangs with 18 points, while Dave Nwaba added 17. Stephen Maxwell had 18 in defeat for the Matadors, who won the rebounding battle 42-32 but hit only a single three-pointer.

     

    Season in Review

    With a 6-10 record in the Big West, it’s safe to say even the Mustangs weren’t expecting to go dancing this year. They had lost their last three in a row before winning three straight in Anaheim to take the title.

    They hadn’t been any more impressive out of conference, where two of their four wins were against Division II squads. To their credit, they did put up a good fight at Arizona, losing by a respectable 73-62 margin.

     

    NCAA Tournament Projection

    With its 13-19 overall record, Cal Poly is a cinch for a No. 16 seed. With its 325th-ranked scoring offense, it’s not going to be the one that upsets a No. 1 for the first time ever.

     

    March Madness Fact

    The Mustangs are making their first trip to the Big Dance since joining Division I in 1995. The closest they’ve come to a national stage in the past was upsetting 11th-ranked UCLA on its home floor in 2012.

     

    Update by Thad Novak

New Mexico State: WAC Champion

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    Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sp

    Title Game Recap

    Although it held the No. 5 seed, Idaho (with its 7-9 conference record) was a significant underdog even to get to the title game. It looked the part against second-seeded New Mexico State, as the Aggies took over from the get-go in a 77-55 win.

    Titanic center Sim Bhullar did his usual damage with 14 points and nine rebounds for the victors. The Aggies shot 55.8 percent as a team while holding the Vandals to 38.3.

     

    Season in Review

    A season-opening loss to Western Michigan proved an unfortunate sign for NMSU, which lost all but one of its meaningful non-league games. That one was a biggie, though: a win at The Pit over archrival New Mexico, which won the MWC tourney earlier Saturday.

    In WAC action, the Aggies amassed plenty of wins but never really managed any protracted streaks. They finished 12-4 in conference, one game behind regular-season champ Utah Valley.

     

    NCAA Tournament Projection

    Playing in its third Big Dance in a row, New Mexico State will likely move in the wrong direction, landing a No. 14 seed after back-to-back 13s. For all the intimidation provided by the 7’5”, 355-pound Bhullar, the Aggies don’t have the perimeter weapons to support him, making a third straight one-game exit a high probability.

     

    March Madness Fact

    It doesn’t get recalled often outside of Las Cruces, but New Mexico State had a serious shot at the national title in 1970. Led by future NBA All-Star Sam Lacey, the Aggies made the national semifinals before losing to John Wooden’s UCLA squad.

    They then proceeded to beat St. Bonaventure (and its Hall of Fame center, Bob Lanier) in the third-place game.

    Lacey, sadly, passed away on Saturday at the age of 66.

     

    Update by Thad Novak

Iowa State: Big 12 Champion

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    Charlie Riedel/Associated Press

    Title Game Recap

    Having already knocked top-seeded Kansas out of the Big 12 tournament, Iowa State lived up to the uncharacteristic position of favorite by dispatching Baylor in the final, 74-65. Conference Player of the Year Melvin Ejim did a little of everything (10 points, nine boards, three assists, three steals) to help the smaller Cyclones hold off the towering Bears.

    Cory Jefferson managed just five points for Baylor, squandering a 16-point night from PG Kenny Chery. His opposite number, DeAndre Kane, led everybody with 17 points (eight of them from the free-throw line).

    For predictions and results from all major conference tournament games, click here.



    Season in Review

    Undefeated out of conference, the Cyclones had several outstanding wins, including then-No. 7 Michigan and then-No. 23 Iowa. Although both of those came at home, they went on the road to win a shootout with BYU.

    Big 12 play didn’t go as smoothly, thanks in large part to an early three-game losing skid. Still, the upset over KU in the conference semifinals added to a strong resume of victories over Kansas State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Texas.

     

    NCAA Tournament Projection

    With the conference title in hand, Iowa State looks to climb all the way up to a No. 3 seed. Given the Cyclones’ extraordinary combination of offense (No. 1 nationally in assists) and toughness (No. 22 in rebounding), they’re very much in contention for a Final Four berth.

    Likelier, though, is that their blazing speed will get them through the opening weekend unscathed before they run into a well-rested No. 2 seed that has the athletes to keep up with them. Still, even a Sweet 16 finish would be nothing to be embarrassed about.

     

    March Madness Fact

    If Iowa State does make the Final Four, it’ll be the program's first one for all practical purposes. Technically, the Cyclones made the 1944 Final Four, but in those days of an eight-team field, it only took one win to do it.

    They lost to eventual champion Utah in the national semis that year.

     

    Update by Thad Novak

Providence: Big East Champion

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    Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

    Title Game Recap

    Upsets filled the first tournament for the new-look Big East, and the title game was no exception. Doug McDermott and Creighton, the high-powered No. 2 seed (and the 14th-ranked team in the nation), fell to unranked No. 4 seed Providence, 65-58.

    Bryce Cotton played the nation’s leading scorer to a virtual standstill, tallying 23 points to McDermott’s 27. The Friars also held Blue Jays sniper Ethan Wragge (.484 from deep) to 1-of-7 three-point shooting.

    For predictions and results from all major conference tournament games, click here.

     

    Season in Review

    A soft nonconference schedule cost the Friars any signature wins early on, but their worst loss was on a neutral court against Maryland, and plenty of teams will have worse on their resumes. Big East play brought bigger trophies to bag (Georgetown, Creighton twice in three tries) and bigger missteps (Seton Hall).

    As he did in the conference final, Cotton has gotten plenty of help inside from rebounding specialists Kadeem Batts and LaDontae Henton, who combined to average 15.3 boards per game in the regular year. The Friars are also experts in overtimes, having played a staggering four double-OT contests along with two that “only” went one extra session.

     

    NCAA Tournament Projection

    With a scorer like Cotton on the floor, no opponent is safe. His three-point shot can erase deficits in a hurry, and he’s too deft a passer to double-team with impunity. Even assuming an ugly seed—say, No. 11—the Friars are entirely capable of making the Sweet 16.

     

    March Madness Fact

    Providence is one of the few Big East teams that made a real postseason impact before the Big East was born. The Friars’ first Final Four trip came way back in 1973, when future NBAers Marvin Barnes and Ernie DiGregorio lost to Memphis (then known as Memphis State).

     

    Update by Thad Novak

Stephen F. Austin: Southland Champion

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    Jim Cowsert-USA TODAY Sports

    Title Game Recap

    After a slow start, Stephen F. Austin pulled away from Sam Houston State in the second half for a 68-49 win. Thomas Walkup shot 8-of-10 from the field in scoring a game-high 19 points for the victorious Lumberjacks.

    None of SHSU’s 10 players who appeared scored more than nine points against the SFA defense. Stephen F. Austin also got a double-double from Jacob Parker in the victory.

     

    Season in Review

    Only two teams beat the Lumberjacks all season, both when SFA was on the road: Texas and East Tennessee State. For those of you keeping count, that means Stephen F. Austin heads into March Madness on a 28-game winning streak.

    For that matter, the last time any team even got within 10 points of the Lumberjacks was February 22, when Northwestern State (last year’s Southland champs) lost by two.

     

    NCAA Tournament Projection

    With a decent non-league schedule that included Marshall and Towson, SFA could parlay its gaudy record into a No. 12 seed, a remarkable achievement for any Southland team. With such a comparatively favorable starting seed (and one that’s famous for its upset potential), the deep Lumberjacks have a decent chance to slip into the Sweet 16 if the matchups fall out in their favor.

     

    March Madness Fact

    Stephen F. Austin has just one NCAA tournament game on its resume so far. In its 2009 debut, it got pummeled, 59-44, by Jonny Flynn and third-seeded Syracuse.

     

    Update by Thad Novak

Weber State: Big Sky Champion

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    Danny Moloshok/Associated Press

    Title Game Recap

    Much like the entire conference season, the Big Sky tournament final wasn’t all that close. Top-seeded Weber State mopped the floor with No. 2 seed North Dakota, 88-67.

    Even ND scoring machine Troy Huff got upstaged, with his 17 points looking puny beside the 27 that Wildcats center Kyle Tresnak put up. Weber State got another 19 points from its season-long scoring leader, Davion Berry.

     

    Season in Review

    Weber State got the job done against its Big Sky foes all year, winning the league by a two-game margin at 14-6. Remarkably, three of the teams that beat them needed overtime to do it.

    However, non-conference action had not been nearly so friendly for the Wildcats. They won just once against a Division I opponent (7-24 San Jose State) while losing handily to UCLA and BYU (among others).

     

    NCAA Tournament Projection

    A solid nonconference strength-of-schedule (107th nationally) will probably keep the Wildcats out of the absolute last line on the bracket, but not by much. As a 15th seed, they’ll still be well out of their depth and have only a minute chance of riding a hot scoring day from Berry to even a single win.

     

    March Madness Fact

    Although the Wildcats have their share of March Madness wins, the only time they won more than once in a given tournament was 1969, when the second victory came in the now-defunct regional third-place game. The closest they’ve come to a second meaningful win in one year was 1999, when Harold “The Show” Arceneaux helped them take Florida to overtime after beating North Carolina.

     

    Update by Thad Novak

Louisville: AAC Champion

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    Joe Murphy/Getty Images

    Title game recap

    Louisville completed its dominant run through the inaugural AAC tournament, jumping out to an early lead on Connecticut before cruising to a 71-61 win Saturday in Memphis.

    The Cardinals (29-5) got 22 points and 11 rebounds from Montrezl Harrell while Russ Smith added 19 points.

    Louisville won its three AAC games by an average of 33.3 points and head into the NCAA tourney on a five-game win streak, all by double digits.

    For predictions and results from all of Saturday's major conference tournament games, click here.

     

    Season in Review

    The defending NCAA champions began 11-2 but failed in their only matchups with a ranked opponent, losing at North Carolina and to Kentucky. That trend continued in AAC play, as the Cardinals lost their first four games against ranked teams before getting hot down the stretch.

    Louisville finished in a tie for first with Cincinnati for the regular-season title, but earned the No. 2 seed for the conference tournament by virtue of a coin flip.

     

    NCAA Tournament Projection

    Louisville could get seeded anywhere from No. 1 to No. 4, depending on how the selection committee judges the lack of high-value wins early.

    Whatever the seed and wherever they play, though, the Cardinals look like one of the best teams in the country right now and should be considered a serious national title contender.

     

    March Madness Fact

    Louisville has three national titles, 10 trips to the Final Four and 26 appearances in the Sweet Sixteen in 40 NCAA tournaments entering 2014.

     

    — Updated by Brian J. Pedersen

New Mexico: Mountain West Champion

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    Isaac Brekken/Associated Press

    Title game recap

    New Mexico won its third straight Mountain West tournament title, surviving a slugfest with top-seeded San Diego State to win 64-58 on Saturday in Las Vegas.

    The Lobos (27-6) built a 5-point halftime lead and then battled for every shot and loose ball to hold off the Aztecs (29-4), using a slight rebounding edge and slightly worse shooting to come out on top.

    New Mexico got 17 points from Cameron Bairstow and 16 from Kendall Williams, avenging a loss to San Diego State a week earlier in San Diego.

    — Updated by Brian J. Pedersen

    For predictions and results from all of Saturday's major conference tournament games, click here.

     

    Season in Review

    The Lobos went 9-3 in non-conference play, looking a bit uneven at first under new coach Craig Neal. New Mexico struggled at the start of Mountain West action as well, losing at home to UNLV before running off 11 of 12 until the season-ending loss at SDSU.

    New Mexico finished 15-3 in league play to take second place, then knocked off Fresno State and Boise State to reach the conference tournament final.

     

    NCAA Tournament Projection

    New Mexico figures to earn between a No. 3 and No. 6 seed and will look to avenge last year's upset loss to Harvard in the second round. Several Lobos from that team have returned for 2013-14, and the core group is talented enough for the Lobos to make a deep run.

     

    March Madness Fact

    This will be New Mexico's 15th trip to the NCAA tournament, and it is still looking for its first berth in the Sweet 16. The Lobos' best finish came in 1974 when they finished third in their regional.

     

    — Updated by Brian J. Pedersen.

UCLA: Pac-12 Champion

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    Julie Jacobson/Associated Press

    Title Game Recap

    Jordan Adams' three-pointer with 43 seconds left broke a lengthy tie with top-seeded Arizona, leading UCLA to a 75-71 win Saturday in Las Vegas for its first Pac-12 tournament title since 2008.

    Adams took a pass from Kyle Anderson off a screen and swished the 22-footer from the left side to break a 68-68 tie, ending a stretch where neither team scored for more than three minutes after UCLA (26-8) had hit a pair of free throws.

    Both teams turned the ball over numerous times down the stretch, and in the final minute Arizona (30-4) missed three potential game-tying three-pointers after hitting several early in the game.

    UCLA set a rapid pace to the game, leading 43-40 at the half, as it appeared neither team could miss. Arizona's defense slowed the game down in the second half, with the Wildcats taking a 61-60 lead on a T.J. McConnell three-pointer with 9:11 left.

    Anderson led the Bruins with 21 points and 15 rebounds, while Adams added 19 and Norman Powell had 15. The Wildcats got 22 points from Nick Johnson and 11 points, eight rebounds and eight assists from Aaron Gordon.

    For predictions and results from all of Saturday's major conference tournament games, click here.

     

    Season in Review

    UCLA began the season 8-0 before losing to Missouri and Duke in a two-week span. It finished second in the Pac-12 with a 12-6 mark, three games behind Arizona, suffering questionable losses at Oregon State and Washington State.

    Once the Pac-12 tourney began, though, the Bruins offense erupted for 82 points against Oregon, 84 against Stanford and then 75 against an Arizona team that hadn't allowed more than 70 in a game in its previous 17 contests.

     

    NCAA Tournament Projection

    UCLA projects to fit anywhere from a No. 3 to a No. 6 seed and could end up getting to play in nearby San Diego for its opening weekend of games. The Bruins have struggled in recent years in the NCAA tournament, falling in the second round last year and failing to make it out of the first weekend each of their last three trips.

    With the offensive explosiveness shown of late, look for UCLA to at least end that streak of bad tourneys and make it to the Sweet 16, if not further.

     

    March Madness Fact

    The Bruins made three straight Final Four appearances from 2006 to 2008 and all-time have the most NCAA titles with 11. The most recent came in 1995.

     

    Updated by Brian J. Pedersen.

Western Michigan: MAC Champion

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    Tony Dejak/Associated Press

    Title Game Recap

    Western Michigan turned a tight two-point game at halftime into a blowout, scoring 56 points in the second half to crush Toledo 98-77 in the Mid-American final Saturday in Cleveland.

    The Broncos (23-9) got 32 points from David Brown, 21 from Tucker Haymond and 20 from Shayne Whittington.

     

    Season in Review

    Western Michigan went 7-5 in non-conference play but finished 14-4 in the MAC, tying with Toledo for the East Division title.

     

    NCAA Tournament Projection

    The Broncos figured to be a No. 12 or No. 13 seed, and could be primed to pull off one of the upsets those seeds often generate in March. The MAC has had a few of those runs over the years, most notably Ohio's run to the Sweet 16 as a No. 13 seed in 2012.

     

    March Madness Fact

    Western Michigan is making its fourth overall trip to the NCAA tournament, but first since 2004. The Broncos lost to Vanderbilt as a No. 11 seed that year, while in 1976 and 1998 they won their opening games each time before falling the next time out.

     

    Updated by Brian J. Pedersen

North Carolina Central: MEAC Champion

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    Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports

    Title Game Recap

    North Carolina Central earned its first-ever trip to the NCAA tournament with a wire-to-wire 71-62 victory over Morgan State in Saturday's MEAC title game in Norfolk, Va.

    The Eagles (28-5) got 29 points from Jeremy Ingram in winning their 20th straight game.

     

    Season in Review

    NC Central went 10-4 in nonconference play, a mark far better than most low-majors put up annually. The Eagles lost to Cincinnati, Maryland and Wichita State but did earn an overtime victory at North Carolina State.

    NC Central dominated MEAC play after a 1-1 start, winning its next 15 league games before rolling through the conference tournament.

     

    NCAA Tournament Projection

    MEAC teams traditionally get a No. 15 or No. 16 seed, and that should be the case with NC Central. If the Eagles were to get a No. 15 seed, though, they could be the kind of team to pull off a shocking upset based on its confidence level from the 20-game win streak.

     

    March Madness Fact

    MEAC schools have pulled off three of the NCAA tournament's seven No. 15-vs.-No. 2 upsets, most recently in 2012 when Norfolk State upset Missouri.

     

    Updated by Brian J. Pedersen.

Texas Southern: SWAC Champion

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    David J. Phillip/Associated Press

    Title Game Recap

    Texas Southern earned its fifth bid to the NCAA tournament (and first since 2003) with a 78-73 win over sub-.500 Prairie View A&M in the Southwestern Athletic Conference final Saturday in Houston.

    The senior-laden Tigers (19-14) were paced by Aaric Murray—a transfer from West Virginia—who finished with 27 points, 10 rebounds and four blocks. TSU will enter the tourney on a nine-game win streak.

     

    Season in Review

    TSU, like most teams in the SWAC, played a hellacious nonconference schedule featuring several road games against power-conference opponents. The Tigers lost at Miami (Fla.), Stanford, Texas Tech and TCU but did manage to win at Temple, when Murray scored 48 points.

    Once league play began, TSU started 6-6 before winning its final six conference clashes to finish tied for second. The Tigers were the No. 3 seed in the SWAC tourney, but were considered the top-rated NCAA-eligible team because Southern and Alabama State were banned from the NCAA field because of academic issues.

     

    NCAA Tournament Projection

    TSU will most certainly be a No. 16 seed, so the only drama on Sunday is whether it will be playing in a First Four game or head immediately to a second-round matchup with a No. 1 seed.

     

    March Madness Fact

    This will be the third team Texas Southern coach Mike Davis has taken to the NCAA tournament. The man who replaced Bobby Knight at Indiana led the Hoosiers to the national title game in 2002, and also brought UAB to the Big Dance in 2011.

     

    Updated by Brian J. Pedersen.

Tulsa: Conference USA

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    Victor Calzada/Associated Press

    Title Game Recap

    One of the NCAA tournament's greatest heroes is back in the Big Dance, this time as a coach.

    Former Kansas great Danny Manning has Tulsa (21-12) in the tourney for the first time since 2003 after the Golden Hurricane rallied late to beat Louisiana Tech 69-60 in Saturday's Conference USA title game in El Paso.

    Tulsa trailed 51-50 with less than seven minutes remaining when it went on a 13-2 run, keeping Tech from earning its first bid since 1991.

    James Woodard had nine of his game-high 27 points during the final five minutes.

     

    Season in Review

    Tulsa began the season 0-4 with losses to Creighton and Wichita State and also fell twice to a TCU team that would go 0-18 in the Big 12. But once Conference USA play began, the Hurricane took off and finished in a four-way tie for first place at 13-3.

    Tulsa earned the No. 2 seed for the C-USA tournament and will enter the NCAA tourney on an 11-game win streak.

     

    NCAA Tournament Projection

    Tulsa figures to earn seed somewhere between 12 and 14, which would likely pit it against a power-conference opponent. The Hurricane are hot, though, and their defense—no opponent has scored more than 70 points during the 11-game win streak—could make for a tough matchup.

     

    March Madness Fact

    Tulsa has a rich NCAA tourney history, making the field for the 15th time, including a run of eight trips in 10 years from 1994-2003.

    The Hurricane have made it as far as the Elite Eight, getting there in 2000 under Bill Self, who used that run to land the Illinois job before moving over to Kansas.

    Tulsa has also gone to the tourney under the leadership of two other coaches who would go on to win national titles elsewhere. Nolan Richardson coached the team in the 1980s, while Tubby Smith was in charge in the mid-1990s.

     

    Updated by Brian J. Pedersen.

Albany: America East Champion

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    Kathy Kmonicek/Associated Press

    Title Game Recap

    Sometimes, familiarity works. Just ask Albany, which is headed back to the NCAA tournament for the second straight year after its 69-60 win Saturday at Stony Brook.

    In a game full of runs, the Great Danes (18-14) used a 19-4 streak in the final seven minutes to erase a six-point deficit. And they did it without leading scorer Sam Rowley, who had 18 points before fouling out with eight minutes remaining.

    Rowley's absence forced Peter Hooley to step up, scoring nine of his 15 points in the final 6:47.

     

    Season in Review

    Albany followed the same path as last season, when it hosted the first two rounds of the America East tournament, knocking off the top seed in the semifinals, then went on the road to upset the No. 2 seed to earn the league's automatic berth.

    The Danes went 9-7 in conference play, finishing fourth overall and losing at Stony Brook in the regular-season finale before going on their tourney run.

     

    NCAA Tournament Projection

    Albany figures to be no better than a No. 15 seed, which it was last year when it lost 73-61 to No. 2 Duke in a second round game in Philadelphia. If the Danes were to somehow get sent to nearby Buffalo for their game, though, a home crowd could become a factor.

     

    March Madness Fact

    The Danes are making their fourth trip to the tournament since 2006, but they still have no victories. They'll also be looking to be the first America East team to win a tourney game since Vermont upset Syracuse in 2005.

    Updated by Brian J. Pedersen.

American: Patriot League Champion

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    Greg Bartram-USA TODAY Sports

    Title Game Recap

    The American University Eagles went into Boston and took down Boston University, 55-36, in the final of the Patriot League tournament.

    The Eagles held the host Terriers to their lowest point total of the season on the way to their first NCAA tournament appearance since 2009. 

    Darius Gardner led the way for the Eagles with 18 points, while Tony Wroblicky scored 15 in the road upset. 

     

    Season in Review

    The Eagles lost three of their final five games to end the regular season, but they rebounded in spectacular fashion to win three consecutive games in the Patriot League tournament. 

    American defeated Boston University in blowout fashion back on January 22, which marked a sign of things to come in the postseason.

     

    NCAA Tournament Projection

    According to B/R's resident bracketologist, Kerry Miller, the Eagles should be a No. 15 seed in the Big Dance.

     

    March Madness Fact

    American has appeared in the NCAA tournament on two occasions, losing in the first round against Tennessee in 2008 and Villanova in 2009.

     

    Updated by Joe Tansey. 

Gonzaga: West Coast Conference Champion

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    Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

    Title Game Recap

    BYU is normally a top-flight offense, but the Cougars were no match for Gonzaga in the WCC final. Sparked by a hot start from big Sam Dower (who finished with 20 points and 13 rebounds), the Zags blitzed BYU for a 17-point halftime lead in what ended up as a 75-64 win.

    Cougars star Tyler Haws got his points, but the rest of the BYU roster had just 40 points in all (including scoreless games from four of 10 players who appeared). David Stockton, meanwhile, chipped in seven assists and three steals in staving off a BYU comeback.

    Gonzaga head coach Mark Few was quoted by the Associated Press after the game: 

    "It never gets old. Never gets old, It's obviously something we start talking about it and prepare for way back in the summer. For these guys to step up and make it happen, not only in the regular season but to win here and not share, is just an awesome, awesome accomplishment.''

     

    Season in Review

    Ranked No. 15 to open the year, Gonzaga quickly receded to the periphery of the national spotlight after losses to Dayton (at the Maui Invitational) and Kansas State. Even more surprisingly, the Bulldogs dropped an early league game to unheralded Portland on January 9.

    Since then, however, Mark Few’s team has turned it around, winning five in a row and 14 of 17. Although the Zags’ non-conference schedule wasn’t as loaded as it often is, they still beat Arkansas and New Mexico State.

     

    NCAA Tournament Projection

    Gonzaga’s stroll to the league title offers no reason to alter Kerry Miller’s assessment (in Bleacher Report’s bracket predictions) that they’ll land a No. 7 seed.

    With the physical Dower playing some of his best ball of the year, the Zags will be a serious threat to knock off a No. 2 seed in the third round and advance to the Sweet 16.

    Beyond that, though, it’s likely that they’ll be tripped up by the same inconsistent defense that cost them in upsets against San Diego and Portland.

     

    March Madness Fact

    Gonzaga hasn’t just become a guaranteed presence in the NCAA tournament—lately, it’s been one of the nation’s most consistent teams after getting there. In the last four years, despite seeds ranging from No. 11 to No. 1, the Zags have finished with exactly the same round-of-32 exit every time.

     

    Update by Thad Novak

North Dakota State: Summit League Champion

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    Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Spor

    Title Game Recap

    It wasn't nearly as easy as they would've liked, but the top-seeded Bison of North Dakota State squeaked past No. 2 seed IPFW by a 60-57 margin.

    Despite trailing for most of the game, NDSU scrambled ahead in the final minutes thanks to a sensational overall performance from TrayVonn Wright (19 points, four boards, three steals, two blocks).

    IPFW put on a ball-sharing clinic, getting between seven and nine points from seven different scorers in the loss. Defense proved to be the difference for the Bison, who forced 10 turnovers while committing just four.

     

    Season in Review

    Three early losses (including a bad upset at North Dakota) made NDSU's record look worse all year than it really was.

    In a strong non-conference schedule, the Bison recorded wins over several mid-major powers, from Delaware to Western Michigan, not to mention beating Notre Dame while Jerian Grant was still playing for the Irish.

    In spite of an early loss to IPFW, North Dakota State pretty much cruised through the Summit Conference, winning its last nine in a row and 14 of 15. They finished 25-6 overall.

     

    NCAA Tournament Projection

    Consistent with Kerry Miller’s latest bracket prediction for Bleacher Report, NDSU should land somewhere around a No. 13 seed.

    Considering that the Bison beat CAA champ Delaware, Notre Dame (in South Bend) and Western Michigan (also on the road), it’s no surprise that they’re in position to get some respect from the committee.

    The matchup against the Mastodons didn't exactly hammer this point home, but the Bison have one of the country’s most efficient offenses, posting the nation’s leading field-goal percentage (.513).

    They'll be one of the most promising Cinderella candidates in the field of 68, especially if leading scorer Taylor Braun (18.3 points per game) can shake off tonight's weak first half.

     

    March Madness Fact

    This season will be the second Big Dance appearance for the Bison. They certainly didn’t embarrass themselves the first time around, getting 37 points from Ben Woodside in an 84-74 loss to third-seeded Kansas in 2009.

     

    Update by Thad Novak

Milwaukee: Horizon League Champion

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    Mike McGinnis/Getty Images

    Title Game Recap

    Size and depth carried the day for the Horizon League's No. 5 seeds, as the Milwaukee Panthers went on the road to upset third-seeded Wright State, 69-63.

    Wright State's AJ Pacher did his best inside (16 points, four rebounds), but he was outnumbered by a Panthers front line keyed by senior Kyle Kelm (20 points, nine boards).

    As a team, Milwaukee outrebounded the Raiders by a 35-28 margin. The visitors roared out to a 10-point halftime lead and never trailed in the second half. 

     

    Season in Review

    Top-seeded Green Bay (which the Panthers eliminated in overtime on Saturday) dominated the regular season in the Horizon, leaving little room for anyone else to succeed.

    That emphatically includes Milwaukee, which went just 7-9 in league play before its conference tournament run. The Panthers did split with Wright State in the regular season, with each team winning at home.

    Outside the Horizon, Milwaukee's most impressive performance was a road win over 20-12 Davidson. It did, however, suffer a couple of ugly losses against Loyola (IL) and Northeastern in an otherwise outstanding 14-4 start.

     

    NCAA Tournament Projection

    Back before Green Bay got knocked out of this tournament, Bleacher Report's Kerry Miller had the Phoenix as a No. 12 seed in his bracket predictions. Suffice it to say, the committee won't do the same favor for Milwaukee.

    A No. 14 or even 15 seed seems a plausible landing spot for a team that ranks 139th in the RPI, depending on how many more upsets we get in the remaining conference tournaments.

    Considering that the Panthers didn't have the athletes to handle lowly DePaul (who beat them 80-71 in Milwaukee), it's unlikely they'll pose much of a threat to a No. 2 or No. 3 seed next week.

     

    March Madness Fact

    Although former coach Bruce Pearl got most of the credit for building the Panthers program, it was current head man Rob Jeter who was on the bench for Milwaukee's most recent NCAA tournament trip in 2006.

    As such, he has a .500 record and a win over Oklahoma in Big Dance action, which is a far better resume than most Horizon League coaches could boast.

     

    Update by Thad Novak

Mount St. Mary’s: Northeast Conference Champion

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    Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

    Title Game Recap

    Arena security apparently required both Mount St. Mary’s and host Robert Morris to leave their defenses at the door, because both teams were shooting over 50 percent from the field until the final minutes of an 88-71 romp for the Mountaineers.

    The top-seeded Colonials got 21 points from Karvel Anderson, but it wasn’t enough to survive a balanced Mountaineers attack that featured five scorers in double figures (led by Rashad Whack's 20).

    With Mount St. Mary’s hitting eight of its 18 three-point tries, the No. 4-seeded underdogs took over early and never looked back. Sam Prescott also added 15 points, six rebounds and four assists in the rout.

    Mount St. Mary's head coach Jamion Christian was quoted by the AP after the game about his team's effort: 

    ''You saw a team really connected, and really doing whatever they could to win a championship,''

    Prescott said that the victory was a result of the team's hard work, per the same report: 

    ''Every day, we challenge ourselves to get better. And this is the result - a championship.''

     

    Season in Review

    Like most of its NEC rivals, Mount St. Mary’s suffered through a painful non-conference season, with the Mountaineers losing their first five games against a group of opponents ranging from Villanova to Maryland-Eastern Shore.

    Their best non-league win, such as it was, came in a home defeat of American University (which finished 19-12).

    NEC action improved the team’s fortunes, but not much, as it went an unimpressive 9-7 to end up (with the conference tourney championship) at .500 for the season.

    The win over Robert Morris in the title game was the first in three tries for Mount St. Mary’s, which had lost by eight points in each of the regular-season meetings with the Colonials.

     

    NCAA Tournament Projection

    As the fourth-best team in a weak conference, Mount St. Mary’s seems destined for a No. 16 seed, and quite possibly a First Four trip (where they could certainly beat one of their fellow 16s with another hot shooting night).

    There’s no arguing with the momentum the Mountaineers can bring after a strong conference tourney—and four straight wins overall—but with a defense that hasn’t even been able to contain NEC offenses, it’s hard to see them having much of a chance at upsetting a higher seed.

     

    March Madness Fact

    Would-be 2014-15 contenders should be lining up to face the Mountaineers in the round of 64. In each of their three previous trips to March Madness, they’ve lost to the team that would go on to win the following season’s national title (Kentucky in 1995, Michigan State in 1999, North Carolina in 2008).

     

    Update by Thad Novak

Wofford: Southern Conference Champion

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    Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

    Title Game Recap

    Powered by the sharp shooting and a few clutch free throws by Karl Cochran, Wofford earned its third NCAA tournament bid in the last five years with a win over Western Carolina, 56-53.

    Cochran made two key free throws to clinch the three-point victory after his teammates missed three foul shots in the final minute of the game. 

    The junior guard drained five threes on his way to a game-high 23 points for the Terriers. 

    Western Carolina failed to get a clean look on its final possession and it came up just short of appearing in the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1996. 

     

    Season in Review

    The Terriers won 10 of their final 12 regular-season games and extended that run into the SoCon tournament with wins over The Citadel and Georgia Southern in the two previous rounds. 

     

    NCAA Tournament Projection

    Wofford is a mid-major team with a double-digit loss total, so expect it to receive a high seed on Selection Sunday. It would not be a shock to see the Terriers in Dayton for the First Four. 

     

    March Madness Fact 

    In their previous two NCAA tournament appearances, the Terriers have been a No. 13 and a No. 14 seed. The Terriers lost on both occasions.

     

    Updated by Joe Tansey

Manhattan: MAAC Champion

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    Stephan Savoia/Associated Press

    Title Game Recap

    Two rivals separated by 9.3 miles in New York squared off in Springfield, Mass., for the MAAC automatic bid. 

    Manhattan came out on top of its rivalry showdown with Iona by a 71-68 score. 

    The Jaspers return to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2004 thanks to 16 points from George Beamon in a game that featured a back-and-forth battle in the second half. 

    Iona, who reached the tournament in the last two seasons, received 15 from A.J. English in the loss.

     

    Season in Review

    The Jaspers were hot entering the MAAC tournament with just one loss after the start of February.

    Manhattan faced just one potential NCAA tournament team in nonconference play as it lost to George Washington on November 16.

     

    NCAA Tournament Projection

    While most bracketologists had Iona winning the MAAC, the seeding for the Jaspers should not differ much from the No. 13 projection that the Gaels had coming into the game. 

     

    March Madness Fact

    The Jaspers last entered the Big Dance in 2004, a year in which they beat Florida in the first round before barely losing to Wake Forest. 

    Current head coach Steve Masiello was an assistant on Bobby Gonzalez's staff that year.

     

    Updated by Joe Tansey

Delaware: CAA Champion

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    Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

    Title Game Recap

    Carl Baptiste scored 24 points for Delaware in the CAA final on Monday night, but no two points were more important than his bucket with 12.8 seconds left that clinched the Blue Hens' first NCAA tournament berth since 1999. 

    The Blue Hens earned their first bid out of the CAA with a 75-74 win over William & Mary, who was in search of its first-ever NCAA tournament berth. 

    Baptiste was one of three Delaware players in double figures as Jarvis Threatt scored 18 and Devon Saddler contributed 16. 

    The Tribe had a chance to win the game with the final shot, but Marcus Thornton's shot couldn't find nylon.

     

    Season in Review

    Monte Ross' Blue Hens went 14-2 in CAA play as they earned the No. 1 seed in the CAA tournament. 

    Delaware did not have an intense nonconference campaign, which is represented by its 22 regular-season wins. 

     

    NCAA Tournament Projection

    Delaware projects in most brackets as either a No. 13 or No. 14 seed, and it could be one of the best options to choose in your bracket as a Cinderella team.

     

    March Madness Fact

    The Blue Hens are 0-4 overall in NCAA tournament play. All four of their appearances came during the 1990s, with their most recent trip in 1999. 

     

    Updated by Joe Tansey

Wichita State: Missouri Valley Conference Champion

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    Bill Boyce/Associated Press

    Title Game Recap

    It was another quiet day of not losing, ever, for Wichita State. The Shockers captured their 34th consecutive victory by cruising to an 83-69 win over second-seeded Indiana State in St. Louis.

    Defensive ace Tekele Cotton, who had an uncharacteristic 10 points at halftime, finished with 20, including 4-of-6 long-range shooting. Fred VanVleet added 22 points and five assists.

     

    Season in Review

    Yes, this year’s Missouri Valley (in the first year of the post-Creighton era) was unusually weak, but the Shockers’ 18-0 mark still carries some weight. A true road win over a very strong St. Louis team means even more, as does the fact that nobody has come within 10 points of WSU since February 8.

    WSU's undefeated run would have been more impressive in a stronger league, but it's still the first time since 1991 (UNLV) that any team from any league has been perfect heading into the Big Dance.

     

    NCAA Tournament Projection

    A lock for a No. 1 seed (as anticipated by Bleacher Report’s Kerry Miller in his bracket predictions), the Shockers have to be considered favorites for the Final Four. They have postseason experience from last year’s Cinderella run, they have confidence to burn, and they have a first-class point guard in VanVleet to keep them calm under pressure.

    The last Missouri Valley squad to win a national title was Cincinnati, way back in 1962. The Shockers aren’t the favorites to cut down the nets—that honor goes to Florida at this point—but they’ve got a better chance than all but one or two other teams.

     

    March Madness Fact

    WSU had made a couple of other deep tournament runs before last year’s Final Four trip. Future NBA big men Antoine Carr and Cliff Levingston took the Shockers to the Elite Eight in 1981, and in 1965 (after winning the Midwest Regional) they had the dubious honor of allowing a Final Four-record 58 points to Princeton’s Bill Bradley.

     

    Update by Thad Novak

Mercer: Atlantic Sun Conference Champion

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    Brendan Maloney-USA TODAY Sports

    Title Game Recap

    Top-seeded Florida Gulf Coast had the home-court advantage and the national recognition, but Mercer had the rebounds in a 68-60 win. The Bears grabbed 18 offensive boards to make up for some iffy shooting, with big Daniel Coursey (13 points, seven rebounds, three blocks) staving off a furious second-half comeback by the Eagles.

    Florida Gulf Coast went cold from the outside, shooting just 2-of-16 from beyond the arc. Langston Hall and Anthony White Jr. shared the game's high-point mark with 15 apiece.

     

    Season in Review

    Mercer proved itself against power-conference opposition in the non-league portion of its schedule, beating Ole Miss (in Oxford) and Seton Hall after narrowly dropping its season opener at Texas. That set up a solid run in the Atlantic Sun—whose regular-season title it won last year, too—as the Bears finished in a first-place tie with Florida Gulf Coast at 14-4.

    They lost just one game at home all season, falling in overtime to North Florida at the end of February.

     

    NCAA Tournament Projection

    The chances are good that the Bears will fulfill our own Kerry Miller’s bracket predictions by landing a No. 15 seed. As rival FGCU proved, that’s no longer a death sentence.

    If Mercer draws an opponent without an elite point guard, 6’4” senior leader Hall could easily take over the game. As for a longer Cinderella run, it’s hard to imagine a 15th seed making it out of the opening weekend again so quickly, but stranger things have happened.

     

    March Madness Fact

    The last Mercer team to make the Big Dance was the 1984-85 squad, which lost to Mark Price and Georgia Tech. Those Bears were led by forward Sam Mitchell, who would go on to a 13-year NBA career after earning a roster spot on the expansion Minnesota Timberwolves.

     

    Update by Thad Novak

Coastal Carolina: Big South Conference Champion

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    Marilyn Indahl-USA TODAY Sports

    Title Game Recap

    Playing at home at the HTC Center, Coastal Carolina pounded the ball inside early and often against undersized Winthrop. With 6’10” El Hadji Ndieguene (10 rebounds, four assists) controlling the paint on both ends, the Chanticleers could focus on getting out to the three-point line: Winthrop hit just eight of its 26 three-point attempts.

    The 76-61 win was the first in three tries this season for Coastal Carolina against the Eagles, who have historically dominated the Big South tourney. Warren Gillis led the way for the Chanticleers offense with 22 points and seven assists.

     

    Season in Review

    The Chanticleers’ 21-12 record, already unremarkable for a small-conference champ, looks even less impressive if you discount three wins over Division II opposition. However, they also came within inches of a major upset when they lost a squeaker at home to Ole Miss, 72-70.

    In Big South action, Coastal Carolina’s length—including scoring leader Elijah Wilson, a 6’4” guard—and defensive acumen paid off in an 11-5 conference record. Only High Point (upset by Winthrop in the quarterfinals) had a better league mark.

     

    NCAA Tournament Projection

    Despite a gaudy rebounding average of nearly 40 boards per game, Coastal Carolina is pretty well guaranteed a 16th seed. In all probability, the Chanticleers will (like High Point in Kerry Miller’s latest Bleacher Report bracket projections) wind up in a First Four game, meaning that they would have a shot at one win before getting steamrolled by a No. 1 seed.

     

    March Madness Fact

    Coach Cliff Ellis has a good deal more tournament experience than his anonymous program, which hasn’t been to the Big Dance in two decades. Among Ellis' eight previous trips with three programs, he led Auburn to a school-record 29 wins and a Sweet 16 berth in 1999, when its March Madness run opened with a win over 16th-seeded Winthrop.

     

    Update by Thad Novak

Eastern Kentucky: Ohio Valley Conference Champion

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    Mark Humphrey/Associated Press

    Title Game Recap

    Eastern Kentucky jumped out to a 17-2 lead and then held off numerous Belmont rallies to win the Ohio Valley Championship Game 79-73 on Saturday in Nashville to clinch its first NCAA tournament berth since 2007. Junior guard Corey Walden had 29 points for the Colonels, who are heading to the Big Dance for the first time since 2007.

    Belmont was the defending champ and the OVC's No. 1 seed, while EKU was the No. 3 seed.

     

    Season in Review

    EKU (24-9) went 9-4 in nonconference play, including road losses to Wisconsin, VCU (in overtime) and North Carolina State. Once league play got going, the Colonels started off 1-2 but started to gain their footing with a Jan. 16 home win over Belmont. EKU will enter the NCAA tourney on a seven-game win streak.

     

    NCAA Tournament Projection

    Belmont was projected by Bleacher Report's Kerry Miller as a No. 14 seed, so it stands to reason Eastern Kentucky would end up no better than that. EKU is among the top 10 nationally in steals per game and had eight against Belmont, so with those kind of fast hands, the Colonels are capable of pulling off an upset.

     

    March Madness Fact

    This will be EKU's eighth trip to the NCAA tournament, and the Colonels are 0-7 in those previous appearances. EKU was a No. 16 seed in 2007 when it lost 86-65 to No. 1 seed North Carolina, and in 2005 the Colonels were a No. 15 seed but fell 72-64 to No. 2 Kentucky.

     

    Update by Brian J. Pedersen

Harvard: Ivy League Champion

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    Jessica Hill/Associated Press

    Title Game Recap

    Harvard won the Ivy League for the third straight season, winning 70-58 at Yale to clinch the regular-season title on Friday. The Ivy is the only league that doesn't have a postseason tournament, so the Crimson's first-place finish in conference play earned it the automatic bid.

     

    Season in Review

    Harvard (26-4) entered the 2013-14 season with high expectations after reaching the third round of last year's NCAA tournament (thanks to an upset of New Mexico). It got off to a strong start in nonconference play, suffering just an eight-point loss at Colorado in its first 14 games, which included a 21-point romp of TCU to win the Great Alaska Shootout.

    The Crimson also lost by five at Connecticut, but then a mid-January blowout loss at Florida Atlantic knocked them out of realistic NCAA tourney at-large contention, leaving the Ivy League title as the only way to get in. Harvard saw its 20-game home win streak snapped by Yale on Feb. 8, but that loss was its only in conference play.

     

    NCAA Tournament Projection

    Harvard was a No. 14 seed last season but could slide up to as high as a 12th or 13th seed this time around. Bleacher Report's Kerry Miller' most recent projection has the Crimson as a No. 13 seed in the South Region, facing No. 4 Iowa State in San Diego in the second round.

    Tommy Amaker's club has shown the ability to play tough against major programs and pull off big upsets. It wouldn't be a shock to see Harvard get as far as the Sweet 16, but the third round is a more realistic ceiling.

     

    March Madness Fact

    Prior to its current three-year streak in the field, Harvard's only other NCAA tournament appearance came in 1946. Back then the tourney was structured far differently, and the Crimson went 0-2 with losses to Ohio State and NYU.

     

    Update by Brian J. Pedersen