Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks Southland Conference Record: 27-5With wins over regular-season opponents like Houston Baptist, Incarnate Word, and Abilene Christian, Stephen F. Austin’s strength of schedule reads more like that of an intramural church basketball team than a Division I conference champ. And judging by the point spreads in those games, Jesus was not in the starting five for SFA's opponents--and hopefully Judas wasn’t, either, because he obviously wasn’t going to pull his weight. So it’s no surprise that Stephen F. Austin rolled through the Southland tourney for a championship win, their third in a row. Will they beat West Virginia? Are lumberjacks and mountaineers the same thing? Because these teams are pretty evenly matched when it comes to forcing turnovers. West Virginia has the strength of the Big 12 behind it--they faced Kansas in the Big 12 tourney final--but Stephen F. Austin is no stranger to the upset, having pulled it off against VCU in 2014. My vote goes to whichever squad smells more strongly of musk, or has killed an animal to survive in the wilderness. SOUTH (Des Moines)
Austin Peay Governors Ohio Valley Conference Record: 18-17Matched up against 1-seed Kansas is Austin Peay, a Tennessee school so small that head coach Dave Loos was the the men’s basketball coach AND the athletic director for 23 years. Even my high school had two different people for that. The Governors haven’t been to the Big Dance since 2008. Their star is junior center/forward Chris Horton, and if you can’t be bothered to watch his highlight reel, just picture Kyle Barker of "Living Single," except now he lifts weights and averages nearly 19 points and 12 rebounds per game. Will they beat Kansas? Hell no. Not if senior forward Perry Ellis has anything to say about it. Or junior guard Wayne Selden Jr., or junior guard Frank Mason III, or freshman center Wisdom LeChambliss IV. Okay, maybe I made that last guy up, but this is a team with a 30-win season and a Big 12 championship under its belt. But Austin Peay could be a three-point threat, as they’ve been on a 6-0 run that culminated with a win over Tennessee-Martin to win the Ohio Valley Conference championship, in which they hit 16 threes. WEST (Providence)
UNC-Wilmington Seahawks Colonial Athletic Association Record: 25-7
Middle Tennessee State University Blue Raiders Conference USA Record: 24-9Truth be told, I thought Conference USA was the name of a telecom app. But if you like mid-major guards whose names sound like independently-owned home-and-garden centers in Portland, then MTSU’s Giddy Potts is your man. Averaging 15 points per game, the Blue Raiders sophomore is one of the best three-point shooters in the country. And considering the vast history of injustices thrust upon middle children, I expect the school repping the midsection of Tennessee to play with a chip on its shoulder. Will they beat Michigan State? I ALMOST laughed when I typed “Will they beat Michigan State?” My only hope is that they can get out of the way fast enough before the bullet train fueled by Tom Izzo’s coaching prowess steamrolls them, and senior guard Denzel Valentine dances on their freshly dug graves. Only a complete failure to defend the three-point line could allow MTSU a glimmer of hope. *** Natalie McGill is a University of Maryland graduate who thinks South Dakota State is the worst mid-major ever. You should follow her on Twitter.