Congratulations are in order for Florida Gulf Coast, UNC-Asheville, and Northern Iowa, as all three earned their league's automatic bid to the NCAA tournament on Sunday. The biggest item of note in that trio for Marquette fans is FGCU prevailing over Stetson in the Atlantic Sun title game. Had the Hatters pulled off the upset, regular season champ North Florida would have received the autobid since Stetson is banned from the NCAA tournament for APR reasons this season. Instead, Dunk City (with less dunking) returned to the field of 68 with a 80-78 win over Stetson in overtime.
It is kind of funny to see UNC-Asheville in the field by way of the Big South autobid. You'll remember that current Marquette guard Andrew Rowsey attended Asheville for the past two season before transferring to MU and sitting out this season. The Bulldogs went 32-31 during Rowsey's tenure and went 1-1 in both Big South tournaments. I'm not trying to badmouth Rowsey here; the glimpse of him that we saw at Marquette Madness was enough to understand that he definitely belongs at Marquette's level. It's just funny to see a guy jump up to a high major squad and then his old team makes a run to the NCAA tournament without him.
We're going to see three more bids handed out today, and all three - CAA, MAAC, & SoCon - have #1 vs #2 matchups. If I had to wager, I'd bet that at least one regular season champ falls and ends up cashing in their NIT automatic bid. So far, every tournament that's finished has ended without the regular season champ winning the conference tournament. That means that with 27 more tournaments to play out, the NIT is already down to just 28 at large bids.
You're probably going to want to tune into the MAAC title game. There was a bit of a scuffle after one of their regular season meetings this season, and while the second game went off without a hitch, I'm fairly certain that emotions will still be running high in this one.
NCAA Automatic Bids: Austin Peay (OVC), Florida Gulf Coast (Atlantic Sun), UNC-Asheville (Big South), Northern Iowa (MVC), Yale (Ivy)
NIT Automatic Bids: Belmont (OVC), Bucknell (Patriot League), High Point (Big South), North Florida (Atlantic Sun)
All times Central
AMERICA EAST SEMIFINALS (WatchESPN)
6pm: #7 Hartford (10-22) at #1 Stony Brook (24-6)
6:30pm: #3 New Hampshire (19-11) at #3 Vermont (20-12)
CAA CHAMPIONSHIP GAME (NBC Sports Network)
6pm: #1 Hofstra (24-8) vs #2 UNC Wilmington (24-7)
HORIZON LEAGUE SEMIFINALS (ESPNU)
6pm: #1 Valparaiso (26-5) vs #4 Green Bay (21-12)
8:30pm: #2 Oakland (21-10) vs #3 Wright State (21-12)
MAAC CHAMPIONSHIP (ESPN)
6pm: #1 Monmouth (27-6) vs #2 Iona (21-10)
MAC OPENING ROUND (WatchESPN)
6pm: Bowling Green (14-17) at Kent State (19-12)
6pm: Miami (12-19) at Ball State (19-12)
6:30pm: Toledo (17-14) at Eastern Michigan (17-14)
7pm: Western Michigan (13-18) at Northern Illinois (20-11)
MEAC OPENING ROUND (WatchESPN)
4pm: #5 Savannah State (14-14) vs #12 Delaware State (7-24)
6:30pm: #6 North Carolina A&T (10-21) vs #11 Coppin State (8-21)
SOCON CHAMPIONSHIP (ESPN2)
8pm: #1 Chattanooga (28-5) vs #2 East Tennessee State (23-10)
SUMMIT LEAGUE SEMIFINALS (WatchESPN)
6pm: #1 IPFW (24-8) vs #5
8:30pm: #2 South Dakota State (24-7) vs #6 Denver (16-14)
WEST COAST SEMIFINALS
8pm: #1 Saint Mary's (26-4) vs #4 Pepperdine (18-12) (ESPN)
10:30pm: #2 Gonzaga (24-7) vs #3 BYU (23-9) (ESPN2)