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  • Get ready for filing out your bracket with everything you need to know about teams that earned an automatic bid, from Ja Morant and Murray State to the Power 5 champs.
By The SI Staff
March 17, 2019

Ahead of March Madness, conference tournament season is here, and there are 32 automatic bids ready to be handed out for the 2019 NCAA tournament. The rest of the field of 68 will be determined via at-large bids, with the majority of those spots coming from the power conferences. A few mid-major teams like Nevada, Wofford and Buffalo have put themselves in position to go dancing even if they fall short in their respective conference tourneys, but for most, all hope likely rests with the automatic bid.

Last March, we saw plenty of noise from mid-majors, from UMBC making history as the first No. 16 seed to beat a No. 1 seed to Loyola-Chicago making a stunning run to the Final Four as a No. 11 seed. Will anyone make waves in 2019? We're tracking every automatic bid as it happens, complete with what you need to know about each team ahead of the Big Dance.

This post will be updated.

Every Team With an Automatic Bid for the 2019 NCAA Tournament

Ohio Valley: Murray State

Last NCAA tournament trip: 2018
Coach: Matt McMahon
Key player: Sophomore guard Ja Morant
KenPom and NET ranking: 51 and 45
SI.com projected seed: No. 12

What You Need to Know: Ja Morant is the headliner here, as the spindly sophomore point guard is one of the best players in the country and will likely be a top pick in June's NBA draft. Morant had 36 points to help knock off top-seeded Belmont in the OVC championship game and is averaging 24.2 points, 10.3 assists, 5.5 rebounds and 1.8 steals this season with the nation's No. 1 assist rate. With Morant leading the way, Murray State (27–4) has a top-50 efficient offense on kenpom.com and ranks fifth as a team in two-point percentage. The Racers live up to their name and love to push the pace and get out in transition, where they score more points per possession than all but three teams (per Synergy Sports).

Morant is the clear focal point of the Murray State offense, but three other players are averaging double figures: senior guard Shaq Buchanan, freshman guard Tevin Brown and junior forward Darnell Cowart. Defensively, the Racers are holding opponents to just 28.9% from the perimeter, which is the fourth-best mark in the country. They faced two SEC teams in non-conference play, Alabama and Auburn, and lost both by single-digits on the road. Murray State is projected to be a No. 12 seed in SI.com's latest Bracket Watch.

Big South: Gardner-Webb

Last NCAA tournament trip: Never
Coach: Tim Craft
Key player: Senior guard David Efianayi
KenPom and NET ranking: 168 and 173
SI.com projected seed: No. 16

What You Need to Know: The fourth-seeded Runnin' Bulldogs earned their first-ever NCAA tournament berth by knocking off both of the Big South's top two teams on the road: Campbell and Radford. Since a 2–4 start to conference play, Gardner-Webb has won 11 of 13, culminating in last Sunday's championship. It's led by senior guard David Efianayi (18.5 ppg), freshman guard Jose Perez and senior forward DJ Laster, the last of whom scored 32 against Radford in the final. The Bulldogs are a good shooting team that ranks 32nd nationally in three-point shooting and 56th in two-point percentage, and they excel in their half-court offense. They're also one of the country's most undersized teams, with Laster being the tallest starter at 6'6" (and no one in the rotation is taller), which can hurt them on the defensive end and on the boards. Back in non-conference play, Gardner-Webb beat a pair of bottom-tier ACC teams, Georgia Tech and Wake Forest.

Missouri Valley: Bradley

Last NCAA tournament trip: 2006
Coach: Brian Wardle
Key player: Sophomore forward Elijah Childs
KenPom and NET ranking: 164 and 174
SI.com projected seed: No. 15

What You Need to Know: After a wild MVC championship game, which saw Bradley rally back from an 18-point deficit to beat Northern Iowa 57–54, the Braves are dancing for the first time in 13 years. They got to the conference final by knocking off No. 1 seed (and last year's March darling) Loyola-Chicago in the semis, making the run to the title as the No. 5 seed. Bradley has had an up-and-down season, having started the year by picking up wins over Penn State and SMU in non-conference, then losing 9 of 11 games in a span that ranged from late November to January. Since then, they've been much better, using their defense to power a 9–2 run down the stretch. That defense came up big again in Arch Madness, as they held all three of their opponents under 60 points and locked down on the Panthers during their comeback in the final. On the season, the Braves' effective field goal defense ranks 47th on kenpom.com, and they boasted the best three-point defense in MVC play. Offensively, Bradley is led by 5'10" junior guard Darrell Brown (14.9 ppg, 3.1 apg) and sophomore forward Elijah Childs (12.1 ppg, 7.9 rpg).

Atlantic Sun: Liberty

Last NCAA tournament trip: 2013
Coach: Ritchie McKay
Key player: Junior forward Scottie James
KenPom and NET ranking: 63 and 60
SI.com projected seed: No. 12

What You Need to Know: A back-and-forth, testy Atlantic Sun championship game was won by the Flames, as the conference's clear two best teams fittingly went down to the wire. Liberty is perhaps best known to the casual fan this season as the team that beat UCLA by 15 on the road back in late December, which was the straw that broke the camel's back and soon got Steve Alford fired. The Flames have only lost twice since then, once to Lipscomb (which it beat in the A-Sun final) and once to North Florida. They're led by junior big man Scottie James, who hit Sunday's game-sealing free throws, as well as junior guard Caleb Homesley and senior guard Lovell Cabbil Jr. Liberty shoots the three at a fairly high clip, its best perimeter shooter being junior Georgie Pacheco-Ortiz, who makes 48.3% on the season and hit a pivotal triple against the Bisons. Its biggest strength is inside the arc, however, where it's eighth nationally in two-point percentage (James himself hits 70.3%). The Flames are also an excellent free-throw shooting team, sitting seventh nationally.

Southern: Wofford

Last NCAA tournament trip: 2015
Coach: Mike Young
Key player: Senior guard Fletcher Magee
KenPom and NET ranking: 20 and 13
SI.com projected seed: No. 6

What You Need to Know: Wofford is one of this year's best mid-majors—so good, in fact, that it would've almost certainly earned an at-large bid had it lost the Southern final to UNC-Greensboro, and will likely be the higher-seeded team in its first-round NCAA tournament game. So don't be alarmed if you see the Terriers as a No. 7 or No. 8 seed in the bracket, or shy away from them just because they're lesser known. The SoCon had one of its best seasons ever in 2018–19, yet Wofford didn't lose a single conference game, and it will ride into the Big Dance on a 20-game win streak. It's the second-best three-point shooting team in the nation, which is a prime reason why its so dangerous. Four different Terriers shoot over 40% from three, including Fletcher Magee, the team's star who averages 20.5 points per game. Wofford is also second nationally in points per possession in transition, and ranks fifth in PPP in the half-court offense, per Synergy Sports. Despite its success in transition, it's not a team that plays fast and will be fine with a slower game. Keep a closer eye on the Terriers heading into March Madness.

MAAC: Iona

Previous last NCAA tournament trip: 2018
Coach: Tim Cluess
Key player: Junior forward Tajuan Agee
KenPom and NET ranking: 198 and 202
SI.com projected seed: No. 16

What You Need to Know: The Gaels have become the MAAC’s powerhouse program in recent years, locking up a spot in the Big Dance for the sixth time in nine seasons under Tim Cluess by winning their fourth consecutive conference tournament, but they had to overcome more than usual to cut down the nets in Albany this season. Iona went 2–9 in nonconference play and had to rebound from a four-game skid in the middle of the MAAC slate; now it has won 10 games in a row, scraping past St. Peter's in its first tournament test before turning on the afterburners in a 73–57 win over Siena and an 81–60 win over Monmouth. The Gaels are happy to bomb away from three-point range, as their conference tournament victims learned the hard way, and they’ll likely need the long ball against any high-major opponent they encounter in the bracket; they gave up 94, 93 and 89 points in their three most recent first-round exits. Don't take your eyes off point guard Rickey McGill, the team's lone senior, who has won a title each year of his career and fills up the stat sheet with 15.5 points, 4.6 rebounds, 5.0 assists and 2.3 steals per game. McGill's irrepressible sideline energy while in foul trouble late in the MAAC championship game is what March is all about.

Northeast: Fairleigh Dickinson

Last NCAA tournament trip: 2016
Coach: Greg Herenda
Key player: Senior guard Darnell Edge
KenPom and NET ranking: 20 and 203
SI.com projected seed: No. 16

What You Need to Know: The Knights of Teaneck, N.J., return to the NCAA tournament after a two-year absence thanks to their NEC title game win on the road over St. Francis (PA). They won that game thanks to what they do best, and that’s shooting. Fairleigh Dickinson ranks sixth nationally in three-point percentage at 40.1%, and led the NEC in both outside shooting and effective field-goal percentage. The Knights also force a decent amount of turnovers on defense and turn it into offense, as they’re particularly good in transition. Leading scorer Darnell Edge is the team’s best three-point shooter at a whopping 46.4%, and will be the biggest concern for the Knights’ first-round NCAA opponent. Fairleigh uses a very short bench and will be hoping guard Xzavier Malone-Key comes back for the Big Dance after missing the NEC tourney.

Horizon: Northern Kentucky

Last NCAA tournament trip: 2017
Coach: John Brannen
Key player: Senior forward Drew McDonald
KenPom and NET ranking: 102 and 115
SI.com projected seed: No. 14

What You Need to Know: Seven years into their Division I history, the Norse are dancing for the second time in three seasons. (In 2017 they kept No. 2 seed Kentucky within reach until the final minutes.) Northern Kentucky will kill you with balance—four players averaged double figures, led by senior forward Drew McDonald, who put up 14 double doubles this year, including 18 and 11 in the last-second win over Oakland in the Horizon semifinals. Fourth-year coach John Brannen’s Air Raid-inspired baseline play that iced a January win over Wright State made his team a brief viral sensation, but the Norse have been a trendy mid-major riser for a few years now.

CAA: Northeastern

Last NCAA tournament trip: 2015
Coach: Bill Coen
Key player: Senior guard Vasa Pusica
KenPom and NET ranking: 77 and 78
SI.com projected seed: No. 13

What You Need to Know: The Huskies return to the Big Dance without any returning players from their previous appearance. Coen has turned Northeastern into a perennial CAA contender, with the Huskies’ conference crown coming in their sixth Colonial title game in seven years. The program once focused on developing freshmen classes, but have recently mixed a heavy dosage of transfers into solid mid-major recruiting classes.

Pusica is the perfect example of that formula. The 6’5" Serbian completely overhauled the Huskies’ offense after transferring from San Diego. A 38.5% three-point shooter, he can catch fire from deep, as evidenced by his seven three-pointers in the CAA title match. Jordan Roland, a transfer from George Washington, became the perfect perimeter complement to Pusica, knocking down 40.5% of his own triples this season.

Northeastern plays a motion offense, heavy on outside shooting around a big man platoon of senior Anthony Green and sophomore Thomas Murphy. The last time the Huskies danced, Northeastern nearly knocked off Notre Dame in the 14–3 matchup in Pittsburgh. If the Huskies can find their stroke from the outside, Northeastern could emerge as one of this March’s Cinderellas. It also boasts an often-injured-but-now-healthy Shawn Occeus, a 6’4" wing with interminable arms who can lock up even the nation’s most talented scorers.

West Coast: Saint Mary's

Last NCAA tournament trip: 2017
Coach: Randy Bennett
Key player: Junior guard Jordan Ford
KenPom and NET ranking: 31 and 32
SI.com projected seed: No. 11

What You Need to Know: The Gaels stunned the nation on Tuesday night by upsetting heavy favorite Gonzaga, a team it lost to by 48 points a month ago. The wildest part, though, is that they held the Zags, who entered with one of the most efficient offenses of the kenpom era, to just 47 points in the final. Saint Mary's was not in line for an at-large bid before winning the WCC tournament, but it's now going dancing after a one-year absence in 2018. It's led by junior Jordan Ford, who averages 21.4 points and shoots 43.3% from three. Randy Bennett's Gaels are known for their offenses, and this year is no exception, with them ranking 20th in kenpom's offensive efficiency. They're a strong outside shooting team and take good care of the basketball and rebound well on the boards (center Jordan Hunter had 15 against the Zags). Saint Mary's is excellent in transition, ranking first nationally in PPP, per Synergy Sports. Its defense is more of a question mark, but if it can hold Gonzaga to an effort like Tuesday's, this team could make some noise in March.

Summit: North Dakota State

Last NCAA tournament trip: 2015
Coach: Dave Richman
Key player: Junior forward Tyson Ward
KenPom and NET ranking: 202 and 222
SI.com projected seed: No. 16

What You Need to Know: The Bison check a few different boxes for the ideal Cinderella candidate: They don’t turn the ball over (28th in D-I in turnover percentage), take a lot of threes (48.9% of their shots, a top-10 mark nationally) and make their free throws (76.2% from the line, 20th nationally). After losing three of its last four regular-season games, North Dakota State got off the mat once the Summit League tournament started and profited from South Dakota State’s stunning first-round exit, avenging a season sweep at the hands of Omaha in the tournament final. The Bison were led by 20-plus-point efforts from three different players in their three Summit tournament games, a testament to the balance that ultimately prevailed in a league dominated by South Dakota State star Mike Daum.

Patriot: Colgate

Last NCAA tournament trip: 1996
Coach: Matt Langel
Key player: Junior forward Rapolas Ivanauskas
KenPom and NET ranking: 129 and 131
SI.com projected seed: No. 15

What You Need to Know: The Raiders have been one of the nation's hottest teams since the start of February, and will enter the Big Dance on an 11-game winning streak after taking down Bucknell in the Patriot League final. Despite being a likely low seed in the NCAA tournament, Colgate could be a team to watch due to its three-point shooting ability. As a team, it ranks in the top 20 nationally at 38.6%, including making 41.7% in conference play. Teams that can get hot from behind the arc should always make a high seed nervous in March, and the Raiders have multiple weapons on offense. Junior 6'10" center Rapolas Ivanauskas is the team's leading scorer (16.5) and rebounder (7.9) and can stretch opposing defenses out to the arc, where he shoots 43.5%. Additionally, 6'8" Will Rayman (44.9%) and guard Jack Ferguson (40.9%) are also strong shooters, while point guard Jordan Burns averages 15.1 points and poured in 35 with six threes in Wednesday's final.

America East: Vermont

Last NCAA tournament trip: 2017
Coach: John Becker
Key player: Junior forward Anthony Lamb
KenPom and NET ranking: 79 and 75
SI.com projected seed: No. 13

What You Need to Know: One year after their NCAA tournament dreams ended on a UMBC buzzer beater (and we all know what happened next), the Catamounts exacted revenge in the 2019 America East final to earn their second March Madness trip in three years. Vermont's case starts with junior Anthony Lamb, the conference player of the year who averages 21.1 points and 7.8 rebounds and shoots 52.2% from the floor. Limiting the 6'6" Lamb will be key for any team matched up with the Catamounts in the Big Dance, as he's plenty capable of carrying this team on his shoulders and takes a whopping 35% of its shots when on the floor. He missed one of Vermont's only two America East losses (both to UMBC) this season, and his rebounding ability is key for a team that ranks fourth nationally in defensive rebounding rate. The Catamounts also have sharpshooting senior Ernie Duncan, who shoots 42.9% from three, and sophomore point guard Stef Smith, who runs an offense that thrives in the half-court. On defense, Vermont was the conference's most efficient team in America East play and is best at limiting opponents inside the arc.

MEAC: North Carolina Central

Last NCAA tournament trip: 2018
Coach: Levelle Moton
Key player: Senio forward Raasean Davis
KenPom and NET ranking: 303 and 305
SI.com projected seed: No. 16

What You Need to Know: The Eagles, who won the Division II national championship in 1989, came from the No. 3 seed in the conference considered the weakest in Division I by kenpom.com’s efficiency metrics to win their third straight tournament title under the direction of school legend Levelle Moton. NC Central doesn’t shoot it great, but they go get their misses, sitting 21st in Division I with an offensive rebound rate of 34.6%. That toughness inside has become a program trademark, and senior Raasean Davis, the tallest player on the team at 6’9”, sets the tone. Davis notched his fourteenth double-digit rebound performance of the season in a 50–47 rock fight of a MEAC championship game over top seed Norfolk State, and he is one of the several juniors and seniors looking to avenge back-to-back First Four exits in the past two years.

Big 12: Iowa State

Last NCAA tournament trip: 2017
Coach: Steve Prohm
Key player: Senior guard Marial Shayok
KenPom and NET ranking: 17 and 22
SI.com projected seed: No. 6

What You Need to Know: The Cyclones turned around a rough end to the regular season by winning the Big 12 tournament, including beating both Kansas State and Kansas. Iowa State has been one of the more intriguing teams this year, and has one of the higher ceilings among teams not considered a leading Final Four contender. It beat every team in the Big 12 aside from TCU, yet also closed the regular season losing six of eight amid frustration and inconsistency. If Iowa State makes a run in the NCAA tournament, it will come on the back of its offense, which is one of the nation’s best when it’s clicking. Marial Shayok leads the way with 18.7 ppg and a 40% mark from three, but Lindell Wigginton, Talen Horton-Tucker, Michael Jacobson, Nick Babb and Tyrese Haliburton are all offensive threats as well. If it plays like it did in the conference tournament, it could be an ideal candidate as a team under-seeded.

SWAC: Prairie View A&M

Last NCAA tournament trip: 1998
Coach: Byron Smith
Key player: Senior guard Gary Blackston​
KenPom and NET ranking: 216 and 207
SI.com projected seed: No. 16

What You Need to Know: The Panthers rolled through the SWAC, losing only one conference game all season (to Texas Southern, which it avenged in Saturday’s championship) to go dancing for the first time in 21 years. They thrive on forcing turnovers, doing so on nearly a quarter of opposing possessions (24.5%), which ranks second nationally. Offensively, Prairie View A&M plays at a fast tempo and looks to draw fouls, ranking fourth in free throw rate. A quarter of their shots come in transition, and they’re more efficient there than in the half-court, so opponents would be wise to try to slow them down and force them into uncomfortable shots. Senior guard Gary Blackston and junior forward Devonte Patterson lead the way for the Panthers, combining for 28.7 points and 11.9 rebonds.

Mountain West: Utah State

Last NCAA tournament trip: 2011
Coach: Craig Smith
Key player: Junior guard Sam Merrill
KenPom and NET ranking: 33 and 30
SI.com projected seed: No. 10

What You Need to Know: The Aggies were strafed by Nevada in Reno to open conference play but won the return engagement to split the regular season title and coasted through the Mountain West tournament to take their Big Dance bubble case off the table. Led by junior guard Sam Merrill, the Mountain West Player of the Year, Utah State doesn’t play at a blistering pace but still averages just under 80 points per game. Thanks to 6’11” freshman Neemias Queta, the Aggies are the best defensive rebounding team in the country, grabbing 78.3% of rebounds in their own end. Craig Smith’s first Aggies team heads into the NCAA tournament having won 17 of its last 18 games.

Big East: Villanova

Last NCAA tournament trip: 2018
Coach: Jay Wright
Key player: Senior guard Phil Booth
KenPom and NET ranking: 26 and 26
SI.com projected seed: No. 5

What You Need to Know: The Wildcats’ 2019 trophy case will not be representative of just how many trials they have endured during a season spent defending a historically great national title run. The two major contributors who remained from the 2017–18 team, senior guard Phil Booth and senior forward Eric Paschall, revealed early on during a brutal non-conference slate that they could not do it alone. The Wildcats were gifted a Big East regular season title by Marquette, which took a four-game losing streak into the conference tournament, and then grinded their way past Seton Hall in the tournament final despite Booth's last-second travel that gave the Pirates another shot at the win. Still, Jay Wright’s teams always know what time of year it is. And this roster, with time, has become more than Paschall and Booth: Saadiq Bey and Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree have taken on important scoring and rebounding roles inside, respectively.

MAC: Buffalo

Last NCAA tournament trip: 2018
Coach: Nate Oats
Key player: Senior wing CJ Massinburg
KenPom and NET ranking: 23 and 16
SI.com projected seed: No. 6

What You Need to Know: Last year, Buffalo snuck up on America as a No. 13 seed, blowing out Arizona with their fast-paced, three-point flowing style in one of the first-round’s most entertaining games. The Bulls won’t sneak up on anyone this year, because they A) returned the bulk of that roster, B) beat both Syracuse and West Virginia on the road and have lost just three games and C) have spent the vast majority of the season in the AP Top 25 and will be a single-digit seed this year. Buffalo’s style remains the same—ultra-quick offensive possessions, lots of threes and a punishing transition game, though there are some key differences. This year’s team isn’t as good from the outside, shooting 33.3% vs. 37.1%, but its defense is markedly improved, sitting at 28th in kenpom.com’s efficiency rankings (its offense ranks 20th). CJ Massinburg, Nick Perkins and Jeremy Harris are a dynamic senior trio looking to end their careers on a high note.

Big Sky: Montana

Last NCAA tournament trip: 2018
Coach: Travis DeCuire
Key player: Senior guard Ahmaad Rorie
KenPom and NET ranking: 137 and 123
SI.com projected seed: No. 15

What You Need to Know: The Grizzlies are dancing for the second straight year after winning 16 of their last 18 games and beating Eastern Washington in the Big Sky championship. Montana is one of the most experienced teams in the country and led seniors Ahmaad Rorie and Michael Oguine and junior Sayeed Pridgett, though it did lose leading scorer and rebounder Jamar Akoh to injury back in February. The Grizzlies’ strength is their shooting ability, as they rank seventh in kenpom’s effective field goal percentage, 32nd in three-point percentage (37.9%) and 12th in two-point percentage (56.4%), with three different players who shoot better than 40% from the arc. As a No. 15 seed last March, Montana hung with No. 2 Michigan for a half before the Wolverines’ suffocating defense won out.

C-USA: Old Dominion

Last NCAA tournament trip: 2011
Coach: Jeff Jones
Key player: Senior guard B.J. Stith
KenPom and NET ranking: 116 and 101
SI.com projected seed: No. 14

What You Need to Know: The Monarchs are back in the Big Dance after an eight-year absence, despite being one of Conference USA's most consistent teams in recent years. As is typical for them under Jeff Jones, they make their bones on the defensive end, where they rank seventh in two-point D and are strong in stopping opponents both in transition and the half-court. Old Dominion isn't a big threat offensively outside of being a decent three-point shooting team and collecting a third of its misses, so it will look to grind teams down and take away fast-break opportunities. Senior duo B.J. Stith and Ahmad Caver are the keys on offense, as the two combine for 33.7 points per game.

ACC: Duke

Last NCAA tournament trip: 2018
Coach: Mike Krzyzewski
Key player: Freshman forward Zion Williamson
KenPom and NET ranking: 3 and 3
SI.com projected seed: No. 1

What You Should Know: We won't go into much detail here, as no team has been talked about more in college basketball this season than Duke. But the Blue Devils, after looking shaky at times in Zion Williamson's three-week absence, proved something by winning the ACC tournament back at full strength, and will head to the NCAAs looking like a true national title contender again. No, Duke doesn't shoot the three-ball well at all, and free throws remain a bit concerning. But it's going to take a special performance by an opponent to beat this team, even though it's certainly not impossible, even with Williamson—just ask Gonzaga.

Southland: Abilene Christian

Last NCAA tournament trip: Never
Coach: Joe Golding
Key player: Senior forward Jaren Lewis
KenPom and NET ranking: 152 and 155
SI.com projected seed: No. 15

What You Should Know: This is the Wildcats' first NCAA tournament berth at the Division I level, after only moving up from D-II in 2013–14. Like fellow Southland team Stephen F. Austin, a name March Madness fans should know, Abilene Christian plays a defensive style that generates turnovers, where their rate ranks ninth nationally. They also seek to limit opponents' attempts from beyond the arc, instead forcing teams inside, where they give up a lot of free throws. The 'Cats don't take a lot of threes themselves but knock them down at a healthy 38.4% clip, and do a good job sharing the ball and finding the open man. Abilene doesn't have one lead guy on offense but has three players (Jaren Lewis, Payten Ricks and Jaylen Franklin) averaging between 10.0 and 13.5 points.

WAC: New Mexico State

Last NCAA tournament trip: 2018
Coach: Chris Jans
Key player: Junior guard ​Terrell Brown
KenPom and NET ranking: 57 and 41
SI.com projected seed: No. 12

What You Need to Know: The WAC’s reigning dynasty continues unchallenged: For the seventh time in the last eight seasons, New Mexico State is headed to the Big Dance. The Aggies have won 19 consecutive games since losing their conference opener and swept through WAC tournament play with three victories by a combined 76 points. For the uninitiated, they present a unique matchup in a tournament setting. They are relentless on the glass at both ends, sitting in the top seven nationally in offensive and defensive rebounding rate. Only Gonzaga and Towson get a lower percentage of their shots blocked. New Mexico State also tries to kill you with balance: Thirteen players average more than 10 but less than 26 minutes per game, and the team’s five leading scorers average between 7.8 and 11.3 ppg. For lack of a better term, the Aggies are weird, but that’s not always a bad thing in March.

Pac-12: Oregon

Last NCAA tournament trip: 2017
Coach: Dana Altman
Key player: Junior guard ​Payton Pritchard
KenPom and NET ranking: 49 and 56
SI.com projected seed: No. 12

What You Need to Know: The Ducks haven't had the season they were hoping for, but they earned an NCAA tournament bid they weren't otherwise in line to get by winning the Pac-12 championship as the No. 6 seed. Oregon's year took a hit back when 7'2" center Bol Bol was lost for the season with injury, but it does have fellow five-star recruit Louis King and junior point guard Payton Pritchard to lead the offense. The Ducks, however, win with their defense, which was on full display when they held Washington to 48 points in Saturday's Pac-12 final. Sophomore big man Kenny Wooten anchors the paint with the nation's 13th-best block rate, while Pritchard is third in the conference in defensive win shares. Four of Oregon's starters stand at 6'9", and their length makes them a nightmare to get good looks against and score on, especially when they're as locked in as they've been of late. If they can carry that defense over to the Big Dance, they could be a tricky matchup for a high seed.

Big West: UC-Irvine

Last NCAA tournament trip: 2015
Coach: Russell Turner
Key player: Junior guard ​Max Hazzard
KenPom and NET ranking: 81 and 73
SI.com projected seed: No. 13

What You Need to Know: The Anteaters dominated the Big West, going 15–1 in conference play before running through the league tournament for the first time in four seasons. Their best win of the year came on the road at Saint Mary's in November, though they also beat Texas A&M in College Station. UC-Irvine's main calling card is its defense—especially inside the arc. It runs opponents off the three-point line and forces them into tough shots inside, where it leads the country in both defensive two-point percentage and field-goal percentage at the rim. Per Hoop-Math, only 33% of opponents shots' against the Anteaters come from beyond the arc, while another third come on two-point jumpers, which is exactly what a defense wants to force. Irvine could cause some trouble for a No. 4 or 5 seed in the tournament, though it's going to need its offensive weapons like Max Hazzard and Evan Leonard to do enough scoring on the other end to pull an upset.

Ivy: Yale

Last NCAA tournament trip: 2016
Coach: James Jones
Key player: Junior guard Miye Oni
KenPom and NET ranking: 84 and 86
SI.com projected seed: No. 13

What You Need to Know: These Bulldogs play significantly faster than the 2015–16 team that ended the school’s 54-year NCAA tournament drought, then knocked off Baylor in the first round before putting a late scare into Duke. Their top-20 effective field goal percentage was on full display in the Ivy League tournament, where they dropped 97 points on Harvard—and made 27 of their 29 free throws, after a perfect day from the stripe in the semifinal against Princeton. Oni, Yale’s third-ever Ivy League Player of the Year, scored double digits in every regular season game except one, including three 30-point nights in conference play, but it was senior guard Alex Copeland who took over the title game, strafing Harvard with midrange jumpers and finishing with 25 points.

SEC: Auburn

Last NCAA tournament trip: 2018

Coach: Bruce Pearl

Key player: Sophomore forward Chuma Okeke

KenPom and NET ranking: 15 and 18

SI.com projected seed: No. 6

What You Need to Know: The Tigers live and die by the three, and they leaned into their affinity for the long ball during a four-game run through the SEC tournament from the No. 5 seed in which they made 53 three-pointers. That offensive barrage in Nashville also represented the most success Auburn has enjoyed away from home this season; its last loss of the season came by 27 points to Kentucky, and six of its other eight losses came away from Auburn Arena. But when the Tigers are hot, they’re a dizzying matchup, complementing the eighth-most efficient offense in the country, per KenPom, with a steal rate second only to Auburn. Chuma Okeke contributes to the shooting gallery, but he’s also one of the SEC’s top rebounders and shot-blockers. The Tigers are always one bad 10-minute stretch away from losing by 20 (as Clemson showed in last year’s second round), but they can run with anyone in the field.

Atlantic 10: Saint Louis

Last NCAA tournament trip: 2014

Coach: Travis Ford
Key player: Senior guard Javon Bess
KenPom and NET ranking: 105 and 103
SI.com projected seed: No. 14

What You Need to Know: It wasn’t pretty, but the Billikens emerged from a chaotic A-10 tournament with a hard-earned bid to the Big Dance after arriving in Brooklyn as the No. 6 seed. Saint Louis might be the worst shooters in the entire field—its 46.8 effective field goal percentage ranks 322nd out of 353 teams—but rebounding, especially on the offensive glass, has become a teamwide point of pride hammered home by Ford, and it shows: 6’3” sophomore guard Jordan Goodwin had 16 points and 14 rebounds in the 55–53 win over St. Bonaventure that sent SLU dancing. Michigan State transfer Javon Bess has set the pace in his final season of eligibility, playing 91.8% of the team’s minutes and averaging just over 15 points per game. One glaring red flag for those betting on the Billikens to keep the magic coming: They are the second-worst free throw shooting team in the nation, shooting it at a 59.8% clip almost unheard of in high-major college hoops.

Sun Belt: Georgia State

Last NCAA tournament trip: 2018
Coach: Ron Hunter
Key player: Junior guard D'Marcus Simonds
KenPom and NET ranking: 114 and 121
SI.com projected seed: No. 14

What You Need to Know: The Panthers' brief NCAA tournament stay last season wasn't as eventful as their previous most recent one in 2015, but Ron Hunter's team is back dancing after winning the Sun Belt championship. Georgia State is another good mid-major three-point shooting team, with five different players shooting 40% or better from the arc. D'Marcus Simonds takes the lion's share of the team's shots and isn't a big threat from the outside (29.3%) despite taking the most three-pointers on the team, but the junior is a talented player who can get to the rim and leads the Panthers in both points (18.7) and assists (3.7). Georgia State takes good care of the ball and generates a good amount of turnovers, though its lack of size inside (none of its starters are taller than 6'6" and just one rotation player, 6'9" Jordan Tyson, is) could be taken advantage of by an opponent with a bigger frontcourt.

American: Cincinnati

Last NCAA tournament trip: 2018
Coach: Mick Cronin
Key player: Junior guard Jarron Cumberland
KenPom and NET ranking: 35 and 25
SI.com projected seed: No. 7

What You Need to Know: This Cincinnati team appeared to have been exposed down the stretch in AAC play, losing to fellow Big Dance–bound teams UCF and Houston to close the regular season, but the Bearcats’ hallmark toughness shone through in the conference tournament, where they held off upset bids from SMU and Wichita State before coasting past Houston in the final on the strength of an AAC championship game record 33 points from Jarron Cumberland, who is far and away the team’s most dangerous weapon. When Cumberland is not ranged in, things can get pretty bleak on the offensive end, but Cincy is built to demoralize opponents with their defense and rebound like crazy, and that’s exactly what it does. Keep an eye on former Sacred Heart transfer Cane Broome, the senior sixth man who was supposed to bring a jolt of long-range shooting when he arrived last season but could change the ceiling for the 2018–19 team if he gets hot.

Big Ten: Michigan State

Last NCAA tournament trip: 2018
Coach: Tom Izzo
Key player: Junior guard Cassius Winston
KenPom and NET ranking: 4 and 8
SI.com projected seed: No. 1

What You Need to Know: The Spartans overcame multiple key injuries this year to sweep the Big Ten regular season (co-champ with Purdue) and tournament titles, thanks largely to the All-America-level play of point guard Cassius Winston. But MSU is more than just its junior leader; center Nick Ward is back after a late-season absence, while big man Xavier Tillman has emerged down the stretch as another key option down low. Meanwhile, seniors Matt McQuaid and Kenny Goins are both perimeter threats to lead a team shooting 38.5% from the outside. And as is custom for the Spartans, they’re dominant on the offensive boards and excel at limiting opponents in the paint.

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