The 2015 NCAA men’s basketball tournament is rapidly approaching, with many conference tournaments set to tip-off in the coming days. Teams will begin to punch their tickets to the big dance in rapid succession, but some schools have already secured their place in the big tournament.
Nearly half of the NCAA tournament field (32 of 68 teams) is composed of automatic bids earned by conference tournament championships. The list of automatic qualifiers will keep growing over the coming days, including three additions after Monday night's championship games for the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, Southern Conference and Colonial Athletic Association.
Below is a list of schools that have already earned their place in the field:
Northern Iowa (30-3): The Panthers won the Missouri Valley Conference with a 69-60 win over Illinois State to punch their ticket. The school will be making its seventh NCAA Tournament appearance and are ranked No. 11 in the country in the AP Poll. They split the season series with conference foe No. 8 Wichita State.
Belmont (22-10): The Bruins won the Ohio Valley conference to clinch their tournament spot with a thrilling 88-87 win over No. 25 Murray State. Belmont sophomore guard Taylor Barnette hit a fall-away three pointer with just 3.2 seconds remaining to beat No. 1 seed Murray State who had come into the game having won 25 straight.
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The Bruins are making their seventh appearance in the NCAA Tournament and have been a popular upset pick in years past.
Coastal Carolina (23-11): The Chanticleers (a rooster) won the Big South Conference with an 81-70 win over Winthrop. Coastal will be appearing in its second straight NCAA tournament and are led by senior guard Josh Cameron who averages 12.9 points.
North Florida (23-11): The Ospreys won the Atlantic Sun Conference with a 63-57 win over South Carolina Upstate. The 2015 contest will be the school’s first NCAA Tournament appearance. Sophomore guard Dallas Moore leads the team in scoring with 15.9 ppg.