A bid stealer is a team that without winning their conference tournament, probably would not be in the field of 68 teams. Some of these teams come from the top-mid major conferences where they could be awarded an at-large bid, but they’re on the cusp of the bubble. Others are teams in smaller conferences where there is an obvious runaway team who has performed so well this season that they will deserve a bid regardless of the result of their respective conference tournaments.
Memphis was supposed to be one of the top teams in the country outside the major six conferences. But their players just haven’t been able to figure it out alongside head coach Penny Hardaway.
Sometimes their defense is elite and they don’t need to score all that much to win. But on other occasions, when their defense isn’t suffocating, their offense is unable to pick up the slack. Freshman Jalen Duren has been everything they hoped for defensively and on the boards, and they have another three or four guards who have length and great defensive capabilities. Reclassified forward Emoni Bates has struggled with injuries, but when he plays he is a unique force on the offensive end.
They can get it together in a week and they’ve proven that with multiple three or more win streaks in conference play. Their biggest challenges will be passing SMU and Houston, the latter of who is a lock for the tournament regardless of their play in championship week.
Fellow Atlantic 10 member Davidson has all but cemented a spot in the tournament field. But they aren’t totally consistent enough to easily win a very difficult conference.
With the likes of Dayton, VCU, St. Bonaventure, Saint Louis, Richmond, and more, Davidson will have to beat multiple quality teams during championship week to secure the automatic bid. There aren’t any other teams that are going to be locks, so the remaining programs are all in bid-stealing contention.
Dayton is young, and they don’t score a whole lot. But their defense is seriously dangerous. They frequently go on long winning streaks against solid teams, and they have an impressive early-season resume with wins versus Miami (FL), Kansas, Belmont, and Virginia Tech. This Flyers team is very well-coached by Anthony Grant and they have a fantastic opportunity for March experience with the conference tournament next up.
For some time UAB has been on the outside looking in when it comes to bubble conversation. Their resume won’t be enough to grant them an at-large bid, but they definitely are the closest threat to North Texas in Conference-USA.
They already beat The Mean Green once, to pair alongside a very close loss to San Francisco and a win at Saint Louis. Their other meeting against North Texas was a one-point loss at home, further proving that this Blazers team is capable of consistently competing with the best.
They have what few teams in the country have, a top 30 offense and defense. This team has seemingly no weaknesses, and I actually favorite them to win the conference tournament and steal a bid.
Monmouth (Metro Atlantic)
Iona is the clear favorite in this conference and has dropped very few in regular-season play. Even though it’s not a great conference in terms of depth of quality teams, Iona will likely receive an at-large bid as a bubble team should they fall in championship week.
Monmouth might be the only team that has any chance at beating the Gaels. They’re sort of a wildcard team, known for covering the betting spread at one of the highest rates in the country. They have three guys who can put up fifteen a game, making their offense a dangerous one that could explode on any given night.
Drake (Missouri Valey)
As usual, the Missouri Valley has had another great year with multiple teams who could do some damage in March. Loyola will of course be the favorite, and will likely be in the field of 68 regardless of how they perform in Arch Madness. But, they are very beatable this year, as even when their defense is elite, their offense stumbles.
Northern Iowa got off to a bad start but has really picked it up over the last month. Missouri State has also had one of their best teams in the last decade. Bradley always performs well in Saint Louis and Southern Illinois can give any team a run for their money.
This conference tends to have upsets in their tournament, and Drake is best equipped to make the desired run to the title. They have experience playing a tough schedule from earlier in the season, and they brought back some players from last year’s March Madness team.
They also have some new guys who have stepped up to help them score the ball better. Drake has already beaten Loyola Chicago twice this year, so clearly they are capable of an upset.
Belmont (Ohio Valley)
Similar to UAB, Belmont has been under consideration for the bubble for most of the season, but with now-ranked Murray State at the top of the conference, they just couldn’t squeeze their way into serious contenders for an at-large bid. But, they do have some impressive wins this season including Chattanooga, Iona, Saint Louis, and Drake.
This is an amazing shooting team and one of the best passing teams in the country. They have size and speed and I wouldn’t be shocked if their season culminated in a conference tournament win and at least one win in the Big Dance, maybe even two.
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