March is upon us and the NCAA men’s basketball tournament is just around the corner. 32 schools will earn automatic bids for winning their conference tournament and 36 schools will be awarded at-large bids.
Selection Sunday is on March 15th, but before the show announces the full bracket, we’ll find out the first 32 teams to earn a bid. We know a lot of the at-large teams that will secure a spot, but they will not get final word on selection and seeding until Sunday evening.
For the week leading up to the selection show, we’ll have the 32 conference tournaments wrapping up. As we each tournament wraps, we’ll drop in the winner here so you know who has secured a spot in this March Madness betting season. On Sunday, we’ll add in all the at-large teams.
The Utah State Aggies stormed back from a second half deficit and defeated the 30-1 San Diego State Aztecs 59-56 on a Sam Merrill three with three seconds left. Utah State (26-8) was 43rd in the NCAA’s NET rankings, and climbed to 39 with the win.
The Belmont Bruins won a back-and-forth affair with the Murray State Racers, winning 76-75 on a Tyler Scanlon layup with three seconds left. Belmont ranked 99th heading into the game, and slipped to 101st with the win due to the impact on strength of schedule.
The Winthrop Eagles held off the surging Hampton Pirates 76-68 to advance to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2017. Hampton defeated the No. 1 seed Radford in the semifinals two days ago, which made the Eagles an even bigger favorite to win the title. DJ Burns came off the bench for 16 points to lead all scorers for the home team.
The Bradley Bears head back to the NCAA Tournament for the second-straight year. They were a No. 5 seed in the MVC tournament last year, and a No. 4 this year. Coach Brian Wardle and star guard Darrell Jones have shown they can do it in the postseason, and Jones even said how not being named First-Team All-MVC was an extra motivator to get the title.
The Flames head back for their second-straight NCAA appearance, and needed to win the A-Sun tournament to get there. Despite a 30-4 record during the season, they had one of the worst strength of schedule numbers in college basketball. Liberty defeated Mississippi State last year in the Big Dance, and look to go even further in 2020.
The Buccaneers waltzed through the regular season in the SoCon, going 16-2 in the league on the way to a 30-4 record overall. They beat Wofford for the third time in 2020 by the score of 72-58 to head back to the NCAA Tournament. Tray Boyd and his teammates will be a tough out for someone on opening weekend.
Well that was a bit anti-climactic. The Bulldogs were selected as the automatic bid after winning the regular season, as the conference tournament was cancelled due to the COVID-19 virus. They’ll safely avoid the First Four with their strength of schedule, but will be a double-digit seed in the tournament.
The Colonials were the No. 1 seed, and comfortably disposed of their Western Pennsylvania rivals St. Francis 77-67 in the final. It’s the ninth NCAA Tournament for the Colonials, who will be looking for their first win since 1983 in the Big Dance.
Behind 19 points and seven rebounds from senior Eli Pemberton, Hofstra returns to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2001. The Pride finish the conference season at 26-8, and will be a tough out for whomever they draw in the first round. The last head coach to take them to the NCAA’s? Villanova’s Jay Wright, who has won two national championships down I-95.
NKU got a bit of a gift when their opponent tonight, the UIC Flames, knocked off the No. 1 seed in this tournament Wright State the night before. Due to the double-bye format the Horizon League uses, they only had to win two games to cut down the nets in Indianapolis.
The No. 1 seed Bison probably didn’t expect to see their in-state rivals North Dakota in the final in Sioux Falls tonight, but they were clearly excited by the prospect. After a pair of upset wins for UND in the quarterfinals and semifinals, the No. 6 seed Mountain Hawks got smoked 89-53 in the final to send NDSU back to the NCAA Tournament.
On the heels of their 84-66 win over the Saint Mary’s Gaels in the WCC final, avenging last year’s loss to SMC in the same championship game, we have our first stone-cold lock of the NCAA Tournament. The ‘Zags will be the No. 1 seed in the West region, which means Gonzaga will play in Spokane for the first two rounds. The question now is will their fans be allowed to attend due to the Covid-19 virus.
Boston University Terriers, Patriot League Conference champion
No. 3 Boston University upset No. 1 Colgate to win the Patriot League title and secure a place in the NCAA tournament. Max Mahoney notched a double-double against the defending champs, recording 18 points and 10 rebounds in the contest. He helped his the Terriers become the first road team to secure a place in the tournament since 2016, when Holy Cross punched its ticket to the big show.