As we close in on March, I can’t help to examine several teams that have had great seasons thus far and could possibly earn automatic bids into the big dance. It’s going to be a wide open tournament too, so this year will be imperative for teams to get in, as honestly anything can happen!
A = Away, H = Home, N = Neutral
Team: Chattanooga Mocs
Best Win(s): Georgia Bulldogs (A), Dayton Flyers (A), Mercer Bears (H,A)
Bad Loss(es): Louisiana Monroe Warhawks (A), Furman Paladins (A)
Note: The Mocs are one of the more experienced teams, as they really only consist of juniors and seniors. When looking at their non-conference schedule, I think they did a decent job of adding marquee games. Obviously it could be better, but adding schools like Georgia, Illinois, Iowa St and Dayton aren’t the worst. Especially given, when you go on the road and beat three of the four. Unfortunately though, the Southern Conference is “turrible” as Charles Barkley would say. Only the Mercer Bears sprinkled in with the Furman Paladins and East Tennessee St. Buccaneers offer any threat. The Mocs upcoming schedule is rather easy, with only a road game against the East Tennessee St. Buccaneers being a “tough” game. However, I think Mocs finish the season strong and have a serious case of being an “At-large”!
Team: Monmouth Hawks
Best Win(s): UCLA Bruins (A), Notre Dame Fighting Irish (N), USC Trojans (N), Georgetown Hoyas (A), Siena Saints (H,A)
Bad Loss(es): Canisius Golden Griffins (A), Army Black Knights (A), Manhattan Jaspers
Note: The Hawks find a way to my heart, as they loaded up their non-conference schedule and beat some top notch teams. I mean, I bet when the UCLA Bruins booked the Monmouth Hawks as their season opener, they didn’t think they would lose. Also, they nearly beat the Dayton Flyers too, which would of been another solid name on the resume come March. The only knock on the Hawks is those three questionable losses to some lower mid-pack teams, which were on the road and I’m inclined to give the pass given that they played fourteen road games. That’s testing yourself and I can understand a few blemishes here and there. At this moment, I think the Hawks are worth an At-large should they falter in the conference tournament, but they can’t afford to lose more than once in a dismal Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference.
Team: Saint Mary’s Gaels
Best Win(s): UC Irvine Anteaters (H), BYU Cougars (H), Gonzaga Bulldogs (H), Stanford Cardinals (H)
Bad Loss(es): Pepperdine Wave (A)
Note: The Gaels have had a solid season, especially for a team that’s one of the least experienced (No seniors). When checking out their non-conference schedule, it’s alright, but nothing special. Perhaps, given the experience of the team, they didn’t necessarily think they were ready for a loaded non-conference schedule. However, playing the likes of the Manhattan Jaspers, UC Davis Aggies, Southern Utah Thunderbirds, Cal Poly Mustangs, Utah Valley Wolverines and a Division II school is pretty putrid. It’s a good thing they are in West Coast Conference because you got the Gonzaga Bulldogs, BYU Cougars and even the Pepperdine Wave to help boost your resume come March. At this very moment, I think they need to do more to earn an automatic bid. It’s hard to deny a team with a 19-3 record and some solid wins, but I can’t shake their non conference schedule and lack their of road games. I mean, only their one loss on their non-conference schedule was a loss to a good team in the California Golden Bears. I can dig that, but not playing ten games at home, mostly against the bottom dwellers of Division I. The Gaels have the Pepperdine Wave, Grand Canyon Antelopes and a big game against the Gonzaga Bulldogs to help not deny them of getting in the big dance.