While it’s hard to imagine certain teams, like Indiana and Duke, not making it in to the NCAA Tournament even if they fail miserably in their conference tournament, for others, from the smaller conferences, winning their conference tournament might be the only way to make it into the big dance.
So far, right before the beginning of the major conference tournaments, we have 10 teams that have already made it into the tournament, thanks to winning their conference tournament.
Gonzaga Bulldogs, WCC
The Bulldogs finish the 2013 regular season by winning both the regular season and the conference title in the WCC, making their 15th consecutive appearance in the NCAA tournament. They’re ranked #1 in the AP Poll, and they have possibly the best front-line in the nation with Kelly Olynyk (17.5 points, 7.2 rebounds) and Elias Harris (14.9 points, 7.4 rebounds), which still might not be enough to be a number one seed in the tournament.
Western Kentucky Hilltoppers, Sun Belt
The Hiltoppers didn’t have the greatest of seasons, going only 10-10 in the Sun Belt conference. They’re ranked 169th in the nation in BPI, but they won the conference tournament for the second straight time, making it their 23rd time in the tournament. T.J. Price is the team’s leading scorer with 15.3 points per game.
Davidson Wildcats, Southern
Davidson were probably going to make it in without the tournament, but it’s better to be on the safe side, making it in to their 12th tournament, winning both the regular season and the conference tournament for a second consecutive season, going 17-1 in conference play. Jake Cohen, with 14.8 points per game, is the team’s leading scorer.
Belmont Bruins, Ohio Valley
Belmont are another team that are ranked pretty well in the BPI, and their dominance (14-2) in the conference might have been enough. They’ve won the conference in both the tournament and the regular season three times in a row, making the NCAA tourney for the sixth time in eight seasons. Ian Clark, with 18.1 points per game, is their top scorer.
Creighton Bluejays, MVC
It’s the 18th time Creighton make it into the NCAA tournament, winning the MVC in both the regular season and the tournament after beating Wichita State in the final. They’re 12th in the BPI according to ESPN, and seem to be a better team than last season, hoping to make it past the first round for the first time since 1974. Doug McDermott is the team’s undisputed star, averaging 23.1 points per game.
Iona Gaels, MAAC
Iona didn’t have the best of seasons, going 11-7 in the MAAC, but upsetting Niagra in the semifinal before beating Manhattan paved the way for their second consecutive tournament appearance, something that hasn’t happened in over a decade. They are led by Lamont Jones, averaging 23 points per game.
James Madison Dukes, Colonial
The Dukes were only fourth in the regular season with an 11-7 record, placing them 186th in the ESPN BPI. However, they stunned Northeastern in the final of the tournament, making it into the big dance for the first time since 1994. The team doesn’t have a player scoring over 13 points per game.
Liberty Flames, Big South
Another team with a bad regular season, going only 6-10, ranked 260th on the ESPN BPI. They upset both High Point and Charleston South in the conference tournament, making it to the NCAA tournament for the third time and first since 2004. John Caleb Sanders is their top scorer with 14.2 points per game.
Florida Gulf Coast Eagles, Atlantic Sun
For the first time ever, the Eagles make it into the tournament thanks to a win over Mercer, the regular season conference champions, in the final. Sherwood Brown, with 15.3 points per game, is the team’s leading scorer.
Harvard – They won the Ivy league, which doesn’t have a tournament, and are ranked 113th on the BPI. They’re likely to get a #14 seed after an 11-3 season in the conference, and even have a 7-foot player this time, their 3rd in the NCAA tournament and second in a row. Wesley Saunders, averaging 16.5 points per game, is the team’s leading scorer.