2014 Automatic Bids

Elfrid Payton

NCAA Tournament Primer: Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin’ Cajuns

Leave a comment

Get to know all of the NCAA Tournament’s automatic bids here.

Conference: Sun Belt Conference

Coach: Bob Marlin

Record: 23-11 (11-7 Sun Belt)

Rankings and Ratings:

– Kenpom: 118
– RPI: 100
– AP/USA Today: Not ranked

Seeding?: As of Dave Ommen’s bracket update he had Georgia State, the regular season champion, as the automatic bid from the Sun Belt. The Panthers were projected as a 14-seed.

Names you need to know: Elfrid Payton (19.1 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 6.0 apg, 2.3 spg); Shawn Long (18.9 ppg, 10.4 rpg, 2.8 bpg); Bryant Mbamalu (12.5 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 1.3 apg)

Stats you need to know: The Ragin’ Cajuns can score, averaging 81.4 points per game — good for 13th nationally. They are top 100 in adjusted offensive efficiency and effective field goal percentage while holding a top-30 offensive rebounding percentage rate according to kenpom.com.

Tendencies: Louisiana-Lafayette will run deep with nine guys averaging at least 16 minutes per game.

Big wins, bad losses: Louisiana-Lafayette lost to Baylor by nine, Arkansas by 13 and Louisville 39. In two losses to Georgia State, the defense let the Panthers shoot 16-of-31 from beyond the arc. In the Sun Belt title game, Georgia State only 5-of-19.

How’d they get here?: After beating Texas-Arlington by six in the conference quarterfinals, Louisiana-Lafayette saw its NCAA tournament hopes almost end, but T.J. Price’s couldn’t convert on the last-second shot as the Ragin’ Cajuns survived Western Kentucky, the two-seed, 73-72. Georgia State nearly went dancing as former Kentucky point guard Ryan Harrow went off in overtime. However, offensive rebounding saved the Cajuns season when Mbamalu sent the game to overtime with a putback with 1.4 seconds left.

Outlook: The Ragin’ Cajuns will head into the tournament with a seeding somewhere in the teens, but look out, this team is dangerous.

How do I know you?: Elfrid Payton and Shawn Long are a great one-two punch and Payton can really play. He was a member of the the USA Basketball Under-19 team, which won the gold medal at the FIBA World Championship this summer in Prague, Czech Republic.

NCAA Tournament Primer: Western Michigan Broncos

AP Photo
Leave a comment
AP Photo

Get to know all of the NCAA Tournament’s automatic bids here.

Conference: Mid-American Conference

Coach: Steve Hawkins

Record: 23-9 (14-4 MAC)

Rankings and Ratings:

– Kenpom: 112
– RPI: 82
– AP/USA Today: Not ranked

Seeding?: As of Dave Ommen’s bracket update on Saturday morning, Toledo, who Western Michigan beat in the MAC title game, was a No. 12 seed. Western Michigan, whose RPI is 50 spots lower, will likely be closer to a No. 13 or 14 seed.

Names you need to know: David Brown (19.0 ppg), Shayne Whittington (16.1 ppg, 9.0 rpg), Connar Tava (12.0 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 2.8 apg)

Stats you need to know: There are three things that mid-majors need to be able to do if they want to pull off an upset in the NCAA tournament: hit a lot of threes, protect the ball offensively and get to the foul line. WMU’s free throw rate is 52.0, which is top 15 nationally. But they turn the ball over on 20.9% of their possessions (which is really bad) and shoot just 33.0% from three.

Tendencies: The Broncos aren’t deep, relying on their five starters for the most part, and their offense largely runs through star guard David Brown, who was the leading scorer in a strong MAC this season.

Big wins, bad losses: The Broncos actually have a pretty strong profile. They have a pair of top 50 wins (both Toledo) and an 8-4 record against top 100 opponents.

How’d they get here?: The Broncos earned a share of the MAC regular season title before knocking off Toledo in the MAC tournament title game.

Outlook: The Broncos ended the season as hot as anyone in the mid-major ranks. They’ve won 12 of their last 13 games with the only loss being in overtime to Toledo, who they beat twice this season, on the road. They won’t be a trendy upset pick, but this is a team that you’ll want to take a long look at when the brackets are released.

How do I know you?: You probably don’t. This is the first time in a decade that WMU has reached the NCAA tournament. That was Hawkins’ first season in Kalamazoo.

NCAA Tournament Primer: New Mexico State Aggies

AP Photo
Leave a comment

Get to know all of the NCAA Tournament’s automatic bids here.

Conference: WAC

Coach: Marvin Menzies

Record: 26-9 (12-4 WAC)

Rankings and Ratings:

– Kenpom: 72
– RPI: 78
– AP/USA Today: Not ranked

Seeding?: As of Dave Ommen’s bracket update on Saturday morning, New Mexico State was a No. 15 seed.

Names you need to know: Daniel Mullings (16.7 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 3.5 apg, 1.9 spg), Sim Bhullar (10.5 ppg, 7.8 rpg, 3.5 bpg), Tshilidzi Nephawe (11.1 ppg, 7.9 rpg, 1.5 bpg)

Stats you need to know: The Aggies can score. They’re top 50 in offensive efficiency because they hit threes, they have post scorers, they get to the offensive glass and they have Daniel Mullings. They aren’t all that good defensively, however, because they don’t force turnovers and they can’t clean the defensive glass.

Tendencies: There are things that the Aggies do quite well. They can score, they have size and they have a playmaker offensively that can go for 20 on any given night. They chase teams off the three point line and they have the length and athleticism to contest shots inside the arc. Where they struggle is on the defensive glass. Too many second chance points on a team that doesn’t gamble for steals is not a good combination.

Big wins, bad losses: New Mexico State swept UTEP and also picked up a win over New Mexico in The Pit, one of the toughest places in the country to play.

How’d they get here?: The Aggies finished second in the WAC during the regular season, but they won the league tournament thanks, in part, to Idaho upsetting Utah Valley in the semifinals.

Outlook: New Mexico State beat New Mexico at New Mexico. That’s not an easy thing to do, and it should be proof that they can give whoever they draw in the first round some issues. The problem? A watered-down WAC combined with four ugly league losses means that they’ll likely end up playing a No. 2 or a No. 3 seed in their first game makes it tough to predict an upset.

How do I know you?: Because they have this guy, who is 7-foot-5:

AP Photo

And they played in a game where this happened:

NCAA Tournament Primer: Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks

AP Photo
Leave a comment
AP Photo

Get to know all of the NCAA Tournament’s automatic bids here.

Conference: Southland

Coach: Brad Underwood

Record: 29-2 (18-0 Southland)

Rankings and Ratings:

– Kenpom: 60
– RPI: 63
– AP/USA Today: Not ranked

Seeding?: The Lunberjacks were a No. 13 seed in Dave Ommen’s most recent bracket projected.

Names you need to know: Desmond Haymon (14.6 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 2.8 apg), Jacob Parker (14.3 ppg, 6.9 rpg, 2.0 apg, 1.3 spg), Thomas Walkup (12.7 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 2.1 apg), Deshaunt Walker (12.0 ppg)

Stats you need to know: The Lumberjacks are third in the nation in defensive turnover percentage, but it comes at a price. They’re also one of the most foul prone teams in the country, with a free throw rate that ranks among the worst in Division I despite playing just a single NCAA tournament team.

Tendencies: The Lumberjacks are a bit unique. They force a ton of turnovers and commit a lot of fouls, but they’re one of the most patient offensive teams in the country. They don’t start anyone taller than 6-foot-6, all of whom shoot at least 35.3% from three, yet their offensive rebounding percentage is 38.5%, 11th nationally.

Big wins, bad losses: Stephen F. Austin has only lost twice this season — at Texas and at East Tennessee State, both in November. They’ve won 28 straight since then, but only one of those 28 teams ranked in KenPom’s to 150. That’s Towson.

How’d they get here?: SFA rolled through the Southland Conference and then rolled through the Southland tournament.

Outlook: If SFA is going to win a game in the dance, they’re going to have to get lucky with a matchup. A team with solid, turnover-free point guard play and a big front line might embarrass them. If they can catch a break and draw a team like Ohio State or Villanova, there might be some potential there.

How do I know you?: The Lumberjacks have made one NCAA tournament in their history. You probably don’t know much about them unless you read Scott Phillips’ feature on the team from last month.

NCAA Tournament Primer: North Carolina Central Eagles

North Carolina central
Leave a comment

Get to know all of the NCAA Tournament’s automatic bids here.

Conference: MEAC

Coach: LeVelle Moton

Record: 28-5 (15-1 MEAC)

Rankings and Ratings:

– Kenpom: 78
– RPI: 104
– AP/USA Today: Not ranked

Seeding?: Likely 13 seed

Names you need to know: Jeremy Ingram, 6-foot-3 senior guard (2o.3 ppg, 3.8 rpg), Jordan Parks, 6-foot-7 junior forward (10.3 ppg, 5.7 rpg), Jay Copeland, 6-foot-7 junior forward (8.3 ppg, 5.9 rpg), Emanuel Chapman, 6-foot-1 senior guard (6.8 ppg, 6.5 apg)

Stats you need to know: North Carolina Central has won 20 consecutive games after last losing to Florida A&M on January 11th. Senior guard Jeremy Ingram is 19th in the country at 20.3 points per game. Senior point guard Emanuel Chapman is seventh in the nation in assists at 6.5 assists per contest and 33rd in the nation in steals at 2.06 per game.

Tendencies: North Carolina Central’s offense relies heavily on the shot-happy Ingram, as he nearly doubled any other member of the roster in field goal attempts and free throw attempts. Although the Eagles can rely a bit too much on Ingram, they also move the ball pretty well and take high-percentage looks a fair amount of the time. North Carolina Central is not a particularly good three-point shooting team as well. Defensively, the Eagles love to get out and pressure the ball and average eight team steals a game, good enough for top-20 in the nation. North Carolina Central is also good at taking away interior looks by packing the paint and daring opponents to hit shots after pressuring the ball.

Big wins, bad losses: The Eagles picked up a huge in-state road win at North Carolina State on November 20th. It’s the only top-150 RPI win for North Carolina Central on the season, but they have respectable road losses to Cincinnati, Wichita State and Maryland. The Eagles have two bad losses on the year at IUPUI and at Florida A&M.

How’d they get here?: The Eagles won easily against Howard and Norfolk State before defeating Morgan State, 71-62, in the MEAC Tournament title game.

Outlook: North Carolina Central will have something to prove in the NCAA Tournament as the Eagles were also 15-1 in the MEAC last season before a shocking first-round loss to North Carolina A&T in the MEAC Tournament ended their NCAA Tournament hopes. Now, after another 15-1 MEAC season, this is a dangerous North Carolina Central team that has a big-time scorer in Ingram and a defense that can really get out and pressure the ball. If the Eagles face a higher-seeded team that has difficulty scoring in droves or handling pressure, they could be an upset pick to watch.

How do I know you?: North Carolina Central was a Division II power for many years and won a national title in 1989 and this is the first season they’ve made it to the NCAA Tournament at the Division I level.. Head coach LeVelle Moton is an interesting story because he’s one of the best players in Eagles’ program history and became an assistant coach in 2007 and the head coach in 2009. Moton has seen North Carolina Central transition from Division II as a player, to Division I Independent as a coach and finally as a member of the MEAC.

NCAA Tournament Primer: Albany Great Danes

Albany Great Danes head coach Will Brown shouts instructions to his team while playing against the Duke Blue Devils during the first half of their second round NCAA tournament game in Philadelphia
1 Comment

Get to know all of the NCAA Tournament’s automatic bids here.

Conference: America East Conference

Coach: Will Brown

Record: 17-14 (9-7 America East)

Rankings and Ratings:

– Kenpom: 195
– RPI: 199
– AP/USA Today: None

Seeding?: 16

Names you need to know: Peter Hooley (15.7 ppg, 40 percent from three); Sam Rowley (11.3 ppg, 6.8 rpg); DJ Evans (11 ppg, 2.8 apg); John Puk (5.7 percent block rate)

Stats you need to know: Albany flew under the America East radar this season thanks to seven conference losses (though only two of those losses were by double-digits). Brown’s squad isn’t an offensive juggernaut — 1.03 points per AE possession — and the Danes’ goal is to consistently attack the bucket. Nearly 50 percent of their shots are at the rim, with many of those attempts taken by Rowley and Gary Johnson, a 6-foot-6 senior who leads the squad in two-point field goal percentage (53.1 percent). Similar to the Albany team that danced last season, a stout defensive effort is demanded by Brown each time the SUNY school takes the floor. The Danes’ defensive efficiency rating is second in AE play, and their constant switching between man, 2-3, and 3-2 defenses kept Stony Brook off-balance during Albany’s AE final win.

Tendencies: The offense flows through Hooley and Rowley, two of Albany’s several Australians on the roster. The duo leads the team in percentage of shots attempted, and while Rowley prefers to work within the paint, using his heft to bully opposing defenders, Hooley’s game is a bit more diverse — the sophomore made 40 percent of his threes. But because the Danes aren’t going to offensively overrun teams, Albany needs to control the game’s pace, using a glacial strategy that involves going deep into the shot clock before unleashing their attempt — Albany uses just 63 possessions per game, 317th slowest nationally — and since their defense is so stingy and yields few offensive rebounds, additional possessions, and easy buckets, fail to materialize for Albany opponents.

Big wins, bad losses: Save for a late January win at home against Stony Brook, Albany did not have any big wins until the league tournament tipped. Perhaps a close lose to Pitt could be counted as a moral victory, but dropped games to UMass-Lowell and Duquesne weren’t great. The Danes didn’t begin to roll until the AE tournament semis, beating top seeded Vermont, a win which catapulted Albany to their match-up, and eventual victory, over Stony Brook.

How’d they get here?: Handcuffing Stony Brook (.89 PPP) in the America East final, winning 69-60.

Outlook: The America East representative has won just two tournament games within the past decade, and both wins were secured by Vermont (2012, over Lamar; 2005, over Syracuse), so while Albany lost only two players from s squad that won the league’s auto bid last season, it is hard to see Albany advancing past their first contest. However, the combination of NCAA tourney experience, a slow pace, and continuously switching defenses might confuse their opening round opponent.

How do I know you?: Brown has been Albany’s head coach for much of the 21st century, taking the bench’s first seat for the 2001-02 season. He’s led the Danes to four NCAA tournament appearances — 2006, ’07, ’13, and now ’14 — and is regarded as one of the nation’s most underrated coaches.