These teams need to win their conference tournament to get an automatic bid, but if they do, watch out
It's conference tournament time across the country for the mid-majors which means it's time for the common college basketball fan to get to know the Cinderella who could knock their alma maters out in the Big Dance. There's actually a ton of potential teams for this list as it is one of the best years we've seen in awhile from the mid-majors. I do want to recognize Buffalo and Wofford, but it looks like both teams would be in even with a loss in their tournament. I want to list the teams who need to win to get in most likely.
Conference: Atlantic Sun
Conference Tournament: Campus sites March 4, 7, 10
Non-Conference Results of Note: W at UCLA 73-58, L at Georgetown 88-78
Leading Scorers: Scottie James (12.6 ppg), Caleb Homesley (12.1 ppg)
Reasons for Worry: Yes, I chose Liberty over Lipscomb because the Flames have already proven they can win in their gym, which they may have to do if both teams continue to win. Liberty has depth and plays awesome defense. You look at a lot of their scores and you see them holding down their opponent and good defense is rare to find come March. Richie McKay's team has the pieces to win the A-Sun and scare your favorite team.
Conference: Big South
Conference Tournament: Campus sites March 5, at Campbell March 7-8, at highest seed March 10
Non-Conference Results of Note: L at Georgetown 93-85, L at Miami 73-62
Leading Scorers: Chris Clemons (30.1 ppg), Andrew Eudy (11.7 ppg)
Reasons for Worry: Radford or Winthrop also could have gone in this category, but they don't have Chris Clemons. Just ask Harold Arceneaux and Ali Farokhmanesh about mid-major teams with superstars. A guy like Clemons is capable of winning games by himself. Now we just have to get him into March in his final season so the nation can see how good this kid is.
South Dakota State (24-7)
Conference Tournament: Denny Sanford Premier Center, Sioux Falls, South Dakota, March 9-12
Non-Conference Results of Note: L at Memphis 88-80, L at Nevada 72-68
Leading Scorer: Mike Daum (25.6 ppg), David Jenkins (19.4 ppg)
Reasons for Worry: Much like Campbell's Chris Clemons, Mike Daum is a game-changer. The problem is that this team is a 15- or 16-seed in a lot of bracketology, but UMBC last year proved that didn't matter. Daum's size is going to be a problem plus he's got some NCAA Tournament experience himself.
Murray State (25-4)
Conference: Ohio Valley
Conference Tournament: Ford Center, Evansville, Indiana, March 6-9
Non-Conference Results of Note: L at Alabama 78-72, L at Auburn 93-88
Leading Scorer: Ja Morant (24.1 ppg, 10.3 apg), Shaq Buchanan (13.3 ppg)
Reasons for Worry: The Racers do have some competition in the much tighter OVC as Belmont and Jacksonville State also are in the mix. I hope you are beginning to notice a pattern though as Ja Morant joins Mike Daum and Chris Clemons as superstars capable of stealing a game. This team can play stifling defense, but can also play at an accelerated pace as evidenced by their near-win at Auburn.
UC Irvine (25-5)
Conference: Big West
Conference Tournament: Honda Center, Anaheim, California, March 14-16
Non-Conference Results of Note: W at Texas A&M 74-73, W at St. Mary's 80-75
Leading Scorer: Max Hazzard (11.9 ppg), Evan Leonard (10.5 ppg)
Reasons for Worry: Unlike most of the teams on this list, the Anteaters have won some of their tough road non-conference tilts. Irvine is a deep team that also plays very good defense. They run a style that's going to be difficult to study in a short time while prepping for the tourney.
Other teams that were considered: Vermont (America East), Montana (Big Sky), Hofstra (CAA), Old Dominion (C-USA), Northern Kentucky (Horizon), Georgia State (Sun Belt)
— Written by Matt Josephs, who is a part of the Athlon Sports Contributor Network. Follow him on Twitter @MidMajorMatt.
(Top photo by Dave Winder/Murray State Athletics, courtesy of goracers.com)