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Opponent Watch: Day 2

The most exciting thing to ever happen in North Dakota.

The most exciting thing to ever happen in North Dakota.

In yesterday's edition, we speculated that the UConn men could play East Tennessee State or Cornell in the first round, while the UConn women could play Austin Peay, Central Florida, East Tennessee State or Western Carolina. Let's see how that changed.

Last night, seven teams clinched automatic bids to the dance. They, and their chances at playing mighty UConn, are below the jump:


  • North Dakota State (26-6, 16-2 Summit) clinched a bid in their first opportunity after transitioning from Division II four years ago. Ben Woodside, who looks like he could play on my high school basketball team, is in the top 10 in the nation in scoring, and hit the game-winning 17-foot floater with 1.3 seconds left.
  • Cleveland State (24-10, 12-6 Horizon), who you may remember from that time they clowned Syracuse in their football stadium, upset Butler to make someone's bubble pop.
  • Wait, you say you don't remember Syracuse's embarrassing loss to Cleveland State at the Carrier Dome? Weird. Maybe I should post the clip so you can remember:
  • Better?
  • Finally, Western Kentucky (24-8, 15-3 Sun Belt) also qualified by beating South Alabama. Western Kentucky, of course, was UConn's opponent in the second round of last year's NCAA Tournament in Tampa. I wonder why I don't remember that game.

Now, Porter admonished me today that UConn is a lock to be a No. 1 seed. The rational part of me wants to make this argument:

For purposes of this exercise, there are plenty of ways for UConn to drop to a No. 2 - a loss in the quarters, another loss to Pitt plus conference titles for two of Louisville, Oklahoma and Michigan State, another injury, or Coach Cal throwing spoiled milk at NCAA Tournament selection committe chair Mike Slive. A lot could still happen.

On the other hand, Porter is a huge homer who thinks Stanley Robinson is the best player in America. I like the first argument.

Anyway, none of the three teams who qualified last night are 16-seed material - they should all slot in somewhere around 12 or 13 - so the top five or six teams stay roughly the same.

So here are the Day 2 men's Opponent Watch rankings, comprising the automatic qualifiers through Tuesday. Remember, this is in order of likelihood of being a No. 16 seed (so theoretically, the top two teams would be headed for Dayton):

  1. Morehead State (19-15, 12-6 Ohio Valley)
  2. Chattanooga (18-16, 11-9 Southern)
  3. Radford (21-11, 15-3 Big South)
  4. East Tennessee (23-10, 14-6 Atlantic Sun)
  5. Cornell (21-9, 11-3 Ivy League)
  6. Cleveland State
  7. North Dakota State
  8. Northern Iowa (23-10, 14-4 Missouri Valley)
  9. Western Kentucky

Off the list: Siena (26-7, 16-2 MAAC), VCU (24-9, 14-4 Colonial), Gonzaga (26-5, 14-0 West Coast)

Current projection: UConn vs. East Tennessee State



Four teams added their name to the NCAA guest list Tuesday. Two of them are candidates for the dreaded 1-16 matchup in the Trenton regional, although if you read the blog last night, you see where I'm going with that.

  • Middle Tennessee State (28-5, 17-1 Sun Belt), one of the most successful mid-major programs in recent years, knocked off Arkansas-Little Rock last night. The Blue Raiders were a No. 5 seed in the tournament a few years ago, and they beat LSU and Indiana, a pair of middling BCS conference teams. They're probably looking at an 11 to 13 seed.
  • South Dakota State (31-2, 17-1 Summit) is like what the Gonzaga men should have been this year. The Jackrabbits played a semi-challenging schedule (they lost to Maryland, a potential top seed, and Oakland in-conference) and have risen to a top 15 ranking. The part of me that likes kicking children when they're down wants to see SDSU slotted as an No. 8 or 9 and shipped to Storrs. But they're likely to get somewhere around a 5 seed.
  • Dartmouth (18-10, 13-1 Ivy League) beat Harvard in its last regular season game to qualify last night. Now we're talking. UConn drew last year's Ivy champs, Cornell, in the first round, in a game that was competitive for well over 21 seconds.
  • UConn (33-0, 16-0 Big East) crushed Louisville last night. UConn is one of the few teams who could give UConn a game if they were to meet in the NCAA Tournament, although I see no one on this team who can match up with UConn's Maya Moore.

And now, the Day 2 Opponent Watch Rankings:

  1. Austin Peay (17-15, 10-8 Ohio Valley)
  2. Dartmouth
  3. Central Florida (17-16, 11-5 C-USA)
  4. East Tennessee State (20-10, 16-4 Atlantic Sun)

Off the list: Western Carolina (21-11, 14-6 Southern), Middle Tennessee and South Dakota State. They join Charlotte, Marist, Gonzaga, Vanderbilt, Ohio State and Maryland in the safe zone.

Current projection: UConn vs. Dartmouth