Among the many beautiful things about March Madness is the notion that any team can make it. Every conference gets one automatic bid for the NCAA Tournament. Most automatic bids are awarded to the winner of each respective conference tournament. Each article will preview a different conference tournament with a full bracket breakdown.
4 California Baptist def. 5 Seattle
3 New Mexico State def. 6 UT Rio Grande Valley
1 Grand Canyon def. 4 California Baptist
2 Utah Valley def. 3 New Mexico State
1 Grand Canyon def. 2 Utah Valley
Grand Canyon is one of a handful of teams to have never made an NCAA Tournament appearance. The Antelopes have had a stellar season going 9-3 in conference and own close losses to Arizona State, San Francisco, and Colorado. The Lopes also have a 5-1 record away from Phoenix. They possess the best defense in the WAC only letting opponents make about 40% of their shots. Grand Canyon also makes 55.5% of two-points attempts, compensating for mediocre three-point shooting. No opposing conference team swept the Antelopes during the season so Grand Canyon can beat every team they come across. If Grand Canyon makes the Big Dance, they’ll be an entertaining 15 or 16 seed to watch.
The Lancers are fast-paced, sharpshooting offense paired with a bad defense. They have the 4th best three-point shooting percentage in the country and attempt about 23 triples a game. California Baptist also has a penchant for making games about free throws. Games with the Lancers average just under 45 combined free throw attempts from both teams. They split their series with both Seattle and Grand Canyon, the other opponents in their half. With such a small bracket, all it takes is three wins for a team to earn their automatic bid and the Lancers have a realistic chance at a run.
Matchup to Watch
Grand Canyon vs Utah Valley
These two teams have one stat category where they profile very similarly: rebounding. Both teams rank inside the Top 70 in Division I in rebounding rate both offensively and defensively. Each team also has a star center who leads them in rebounding. Wichita State transfer Asbjorn Midtgaard averages a double-double for the Antelops and is the leader in both points and rebounds. For the Wolverines, WAC Player of the Year Fardaws Aimaq averages 14 points per game and 15 rebounds. The two big men have combined for 25 double-doubles on the season. Besides the top two teams facing off for a tournament berth, a battle between these bigs in the paint should be awesome.
Featured Image courtesy of gculopes.com
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