Saturday, March 4, 2017

3-MAR Bracket Projection: First Timer's Club, OVC Edition

The first autobid will be passed out tomorrow via the Ohio Valley Conference Championship, and we are guaranteed to be moving at least one team from the 48 teams on the Futility list.  #1 seed Belmont ran over the OVC this year going 15-1, but they go 0-1 in post season and will instead join the NIT field as an automatic bid.  Instead the title game will feature Tennessee Martin, the #2 seed, for the second straight year.  The Skyhawks joined Division I in 1991.  Their opponent will be #4 seed Jacksonville State, who joined Division I a few years later in 1995 and are led by coach Ray Harper who twice took the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers to the NCAA tournament. 

Speaking of the list, The Citadel won their first round game against Western Carolina and will play on another day.  On the other end of the spectrum Gardner Webb will remain on the list for at least another season as they drop a semi-final game at Winthrop in overtime to bow out of the Big South Tournament.

One new conference will start post season tomorrow.  The Summit begins with half of its quarterfinal games on Saturday.  Oral Roberts has the most NCAA trips with five, and they won’t add to that as they didn’t qualify for the postseason.  South Dakota State and North Dakota State have three and lead the teams who made it this far, and only IUPUI also has a trip, with one.  5 teams in the field have never been to the NCAAs.  Western Illinois’s drought is the longest of the group, having joined Division I in 1981 without accomplishing the feat.  South Dakota joined in 2008, however they have a legitimate shot after earning the #1 seed.

In all, tomorrow's schedule has 23 post season games, plus the Southland, Ivy, and SWAC will all finalize their brackets with some teams missing out based off how the games play out.  277 remain...

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