March 7, 2009 10:56 am ET by Kyle Whelliston
Hartford, the league runnerup in 2008, salvaged a two-win regular season by beating Maine for the second time (Albany was the other). TMM icon Drake U'u played three minutes and scored a basket.
ETSU gained revenge for last year's controversial playoff exit by ending Belmont's streak of Atlantic Sun titles at three. The Bucs held league player of the year Alex Renfroe to nine points on 3-for-11 shooting, and got a combined 60 points out of its Big Three of Mike Smith, Courtney Pigram and Kevin Tiggs. Well-rested Jacksonville and five double-figure scorers made quick work of homestanding Lipscomb, whose nine-game win streak came to an abrupt end on its home floor.
Towson scored the first 15 points of the game and kept Drexel at bay with punishing D... the Dragons shot just 33 percent in the upset loss. There were a lot of poor conversion rates during the CAA's opening round: UNC Wilmington made only 18 of 57 attempts (33 percent) as Hofstra cruised, and 2008 finalist William & Mary managed just 35 percent shooting as James Madison pulled away. But no team shot as badly as Delaware, which went 14-for-50 from the floor (28 percent) to allow Georgia State's 35 percent rate beat them in the opener.
UIC's run ended on the Hinkle Fieldhouse floor against Cleveland State, but not without a fight: the Flames were behind for the first 20 minutes but led for most of the second, thanks to 19 second-half points from Josh Mayo (24 overall). The Vikings were able to steal and seal the game with late free throws. In the first game of the evening, Wright State eliminated Milwaukee, as Cory Cooperwood registered a strong 14-and-10 double-double for the Raiders.
Both lower seeds emerged from the MAAC's version of Pillowfight Friday. Loyola opened strong but ran out of gas after 17 minutes, and the Golden Griffins of Canisius shot 53 percent in order to march on to face Siena. In a tough game to watch or even think about, Marist and Iona combined for 33 field goals as the Gaels were eliminated in the 7/10 game for the second straight year. Unfortunately for Iona, it's been the No. 7 seed both times (Canisius, 2008).
In a controversial game that will be remembered around the Valley and Hoops Nation for years, Creighton survived Wichita State. The Bluejays allowed a 22-point lead to dissipate in 14 minutes, and the shocking Shocker comeback was capped by a clean 3-pointer by Toure' Murry with 7.2 seconds to go. Antoine Young's rushed shot didn't go on the other end and time expired, setting off screaming yellow zonkers by the WSU fans, but 1.9 ticks were put back on the clock after a Wichita deflection sent the ball out of bounds. But a timing error on the inbound gave Booker Woodfox an extra dribble to clear space, and he sank a jumper as time expired. The officials refused Wichita's request for a review, and a stopwatch-aided review later by MVC brass determined that the time difference between inbound and clock start wouldn't have mattered.
In the first matchup, Northern Iowa barely survived the lowest surviving seed, No. 9 Indiana State. The Sycamores, wearing sweet vintage 1979 Bird-style threads for the occasion, presented the Panthers problems all season and clung to a slim lead for the middle part of the second half. Bradley outslugged Southern Illinois in the type bruising battle that's defined that series for years. And in the late game, Illinois State did everything it needed to do to remove Evansville and Shy Ely's 29 points, and nothing more.
 Northern Iowa 73,  Indiana State 69 | GameFlo
 Bradley 67,  Southern Illinois 55 | GameFlo
 Creighton 63,  Wichita State 62 | GameFlo
 Illinois State 78,  Evansville 68 | GameFlo
The NCAA Tournament will not be a showcase for Done Ruthless after all. Three-time MMBOW Lester Hudson scored 34 points, many of which were immediate sensations on the ESPNU highlight-reel, but Tennessee-Martin missed so many late free throws that Morehead State was able to edge away and gain revenge for the thumping the Skyhawks delivered in their regular-season clincher. UTM is the first school to make use of its guaranteed NIT ticket. Defending champion Austin Peay, overshadowed for most of the regular season by Morehead and Martin, is the highest seed in the title game again after dragging Murray State into a slowdown slog.
The Appalachian State backcourt came alive in a pullaway win over Georgia Southern, which was a participant in the very first game of the 2008-09 season back on Nov. 10. The Eagles' season is over. Elon's Monty Sanders shot 7-for-8 and collected 21 points in the Phoenix's win over Wofford, a squad that won five more regular season games than Elon did. South 3 Charleston, a 24-win team forced to play opening-round ball thanks to The Citadel and Davidson's strong seasons, outrebounded UNC Greensboro by nine and dumped the Spartans from the tourney. Samford won its first SoCon tourney game after moving up from the A-Sun last year, mercifully ending Furman's 6-24 campaign.
[N4] Appalachian State 86, [S5] Georgia Southern 75 | GameFlo
[S3] College of Charleston 69, [N6] North Carolina-Greensboro 56 | GameFlo
[N5] Elon 62, [S4] Wofford 55 | GameFlo
[N3] Samford 57, [S6] Furman 52 | GameFlo
At least Loyola Marymount and San Francisco fans will get to catch Criss Angel's Believe tonight at the Luxor. Both higher seeds survived the WCC's Vegas-style first round: San Diego won a messy matchup with the two-win Lions, while Pepperdine put six in double-figures in a high-scoring late game -- the 93 points was something of a mindfreak, because the Waves averaged just 62 points all season.
On Tap Tonight
The second-seeded Vermont Catamounts received an assignment at the No. 7 team in this predetermined-site tourney. The home team plays first in today's quarterfinal quad, and showed the ability to beat UVM earlier this season. There's been at least one quarterfinal upset every year in the A-East since 2000. Last year, it was in the 6/3 game, where Boston University beat Albany in OT.
12:00 pm ET -  Vermont 23-7 (13-3) vs.  Albany 14-15 (6-10) | Preview
Recent: 02/07/2009 UVM 79 @ALB 70 01/11/2009 ALB 82 @UVM 77
2:30 pm ET -  Maryland-Baltimore County 13-16 (7-9) vs.  Boston University 17-12 (11-5) | Preview
Recent: 02/02/2009 BU 82 @UMBC 65 01/22/2009 UMBC 77 @BU 80
6:00 pm ET -  Hartford 7-25 (2-14) vs.  Binghamton 20-8 (13-3) | Preview
Recent: 02/18/2009 BING 62 @HART 44 01/19/2009 HART 59 @BING 66
8:30 pm ET -  Stony Brook 16-13 (8-8) vs.  New Hampshire 13-15 (8-8) | Preview
Recent: 03/01/2009 SB 57 @UNH 58 01/28/2009 UNH 71 @SB 60
The final matches the fast-paced, hot-shooting, ball-sharing ETSU squad with the efficient, methodical Dolphins. Or rather, don't expect much defense. ETSU is attempting to go to the NCAA's for the first time since 2004 and the first since dropping from the SoCon to the A-Sun due to the removal of the football program. Jacksonville, embarrassed in the 2008 title game by Belmont, will attempt its first Dance ticket since 1986, when the Dolphins were Sun Belt members. Whichever team wins, it will be only the third among the current league membership to claim the title (Belmont 3, Mercer 2).
The Large Canopy eliminates two tonight at campus locations. This is the first appearance in the playoffs for Northern Colorado, which has only been Division I for five seasons and a Big Sky member for three. It's a long way since that 4-24 campaign in 2006-07 for the Bears. A heated in-state rivalry in the 3/6 game, where the homestanding Montana Grizzlies have dominated the series lately, winning the last three against Montana State and eight of the last 10. MSU will try to win its first BSC tourney game in a decade.
9:05 pm ET -  Northern Colorado 14-17 (8-8) at  Idaho State 12-18 (9-7) | Preview
Recent: 02/07/2009 IDST 74 @NOCO 79 01/01/2009 NOCO 61 @IDST 62
9:05 pm ET -  Montana State 13-16 (6-10) at  Montana 17-11 (11-5) | Preview
Recent: 02/07/2009 UMT 78 @MTST 63 01/03/2009 MTST 59 @UMT 73
Either way, the Big South will send an intriguing upset possibility to the Big Dance. Radford has quality scoring size with league POY and former MMBOW Artsiom Parakhouski, and dynamic 6-7 Joey Lynch-Flohr (combined 29.6 ppg). VMI is all about style: they'll put up 100 points on just about anybody -- including Kentucky -- and have much better ball control than most small-college up-tempo teams.
Since the CAA moved to a four-day event in 2002, quarterfinal day has always been good for a surprise. The No. 5 has beaten the No. 4 five of seven times, so look out Old Dominion. No. 11 Towson is the lowest seed ever to make it this far, but old hats will recall the massive upset in those 2002 quarters, when Hofstra made a statement in its first Colonial year by knocking off George Mason in a 2/10 matchup.
12:00 pm ET -  Georgia State 12-19 (8-10) vs.  Virginia Commonwealth 21-9 (14-4) | Preview
Recent: 02/28/2009 GSU 41 @VCU 69 01/21/2009 VCU 65 @GSU 50
2:30 pm ET -  Hofstra 21-10 (11-7) vs.  Old Dominion 20-9 (12-6) | Preview
Recent: 02/10/2009 ODU 51 @HOFS 60 01/02/2008 HOFS 54 @ODU 75
6:00 pm ET -  James Madison 19-13 (9-9) vs.  George Mason 20-9 (13-5) | Preview
Recent: 02/07/2009 GMU 66 @JMU 68 01/17/2009 JMU 57 @GMU 71
8:30 pm ET -  Towson 11-21 (5-13) vs.  Northeastern 18-11 (12-6) | Preview
Recent: 01/10/2009 TOWS 53 @NU 68 01/02/2008 NU 71 @TOWS 77
The Nos. 3 and 4 survived the two-stage opening rounds, and the Horizon is down to a final four. Butler and Green Bay have both been off for a week; the TS-22 No. 1 Bulldogs were last seen clinching the regular season title at home last Saturday against Cleveland State, and Wright State lost its slate-closer at home against UWGB. Either could end up as the final pairing on Tuesday, which will be held at the higher remaining seed.
7:00 pm ET -  Wright State 20-12 (12-6) at  Butler 25-4 (15-3) | Preview
Recent: 02/07/2009 BUTL 69 @WRIG 51 01/08/2009 WRIG 48 @BUTL 64
9:00 pm ET -  Wisconsin-Green Bay 22-9 (13-5) vs.  Cleveland State 23-10 (12-6) | Preview
Recent: 02/14/2009 UWGB 75 @CLST 83 01/15/2009 CLST 65 @UWGB 80
Siena opens its title defense in mid-afternoon against Canisius, a team that put a scare into the Saints during its Buffalo-area swing that closed the regular season. Four of the last 12 MAAC tourney hosts have won the event, so it's not an automatic gimme mulligan that Siena will cruise to an easy title. The other games are all replays of season-series splits -- even the 2/10 game. Marist held Niagara to 30 percent shooting back during a blowout win in January.
2:30 pm ET -  Fairfield 16-14 (9-9) vs.  Manhattan 16-13 (9-9) | Preview
Recent: 02/27/2009 MAN 55 @FAIR 56 01/26/2009 FAIR 60 @MAN 65
5:00 pm ET -  Canisius 11-19 (4-14) vs.  Siena 23-7 (16-2) | Preview
Recent: 03/01/2009 SIE 78 @CANI 74 01/29/2009 CANI 73 @SIE 91
7:30 pm ET -  Marist 10-22 (4-14) vs.  Niagara 24-7 (14-4) | Preview
Recent: 03/01/2009 MAR 72 @NIAG 80 01/11/2009 NIAG 68 @MAR 86
9:30 pm ET -  Saint Peter's 11-18 (8-10) vs.  Rider 18-11 (12-6) | Preview
Recent: 02/13/2009 SPC 65 @RID 64 01/25/2009 RID 78 @SPC 67
The Bizarro Valley could become even more so this afternoon -- both top seeds looked very shaky in quarterfinal action, and No. 4 Bradley certainly looked the hungriest of the surviving quartet.
2:35 pm ET -  Bradley 18-13 (10-8) vs.  Northern Iowa 21-10 (14-4) | Preview
Recent: 02/03/2009 UNI 61 @BRAD 58 01/21/2009 BRAD 61 @UNI 66
5:05 pm ET -  Creighton 26-6 (14-4) vs.  Illinois State 23-8 (11-7) | Preview
Recent: 02/28/2009 ILST 70 @CREI 74 01/03/2009 CREI 64 @ILST 86
Anybody who hasn't followed the OVC this year is probably wondering what a No. 4 seed is doing in there, but Morehead was running this league until a four-game losing streak dropped the Eagles from the top spot to a disadvantageous position. It's a very good defensive and rebound team, which swept the defending champs in the season series. Peay is virtually perennial (OVC titles in 1996, 2003 and 2008), but Morehead will be looking to Dance for the first time since 1984. Donnie Tyndall, a former Eagle player, returned to town with his family three years ago and has his alma mater on the brink of glory.
Davidson fans and Hoops Nation romantics will want to watch this again to get pumped up for the Curry show's quarterfinal tilt with App State. The Wildcats handled recent rival App very well this season, but the two middle games come off tense season splits. The Citadel dealt Samford a January blowout, one of the first games that signaled that Ed Conroy's team was for real.
2:00 pm ET - [N4] Appalachian State 13-17 (9-11) vs. [S1] Davidson 25-6 (18-2) | Preview
Recent: 01/12/2009 DAV 70 @APST 52 02/27/2008 APST 55 @DAV 68
4:30 pm ET - [S3] College of Charleston 24-7 (15-5) vs. [N2] Western Carolina 16-14 (11-9) | Preview
Recent: 02/11/2009 WCU 67 @COFC 78 02/05/2009 COFC 68 @WCU 70
7:00 pm ET - [N5] Elon 11-19 (7-13) vs. [N1] Chattanooga 15-16 (11-9) | Preview
Recent: 02/12/2009 ELON 54 @CHAT 76 01/24/2009 CHAT 85 @ELON 86
9:30 pm ET - [N3] Samford 15-15 (9-11) vs. [S2] The Citadel 20-11 (15-5) | Preview
Recent: 01/26/2009 CITA 70 @SAMF 45
Badlands Bedlamâ„¢ gets under way this evening, with the first pair of quarterfinals. The other two are played tomorrow -- this gives everybody a chance to spend the day seeing the sights of Sioux Falls. Both top seeds are in action today against opponents they had little trouble with during the regular season; the appearance of dangerous Oakland at No. 3 makes this something less than a collision course.
7:00 pm ET -  Centenary 8-22 (6-12) vs.  North Dakota State 23-6 (16-2) | Preview
Recent: 02/26/2009 NDST 89 @CENT 79 12/06/2008 CENT 53 @NDST 68
9:30 pm ET -  South Dakota State 12-19 (7-11) vs.  Oral Roberts 16-14 (14-4) | Preview
Recent: 02/26/2009 SDST 58 @ORU 63 12/06/2008 ORU 85 @SDST 76
The second stage of Sin City scintillation occurs tonight... not only is this conference's bracket pretty, they sure know how to milk the suspense out of it. Two more seeds step out on the floor tonight to take on last night's survivors. Portland swept Pepperdine back before the Waves suddenly started scoring tons of points, while San Diego and Santa Clara created an entertaining split. The question is: will any of these teams be around for Monday's championship? In the past decade, only three seeds No. 3 or below have played in the WCC title game (No. 3 San Diego, 2008; No. 3 Santa Clara, 2001; No. 4 Santa Clara, 1999).
9:00 pm ET -  San Diego 16-15 (6-8) vs.  Santa Clara 15-16 (7-7) | Preview
Recent: 02/05/2009 SCL 64 @USD 62 01/11/2009 USD 55 @SCL 50
11:30 pm ET -  Pepperdine 9-22 (5-9) vs.  Portland 18-11 (9-5) | Preview
Recent: 02/19/2009 PEPP 45 @PORT 74 01/24/2009 PORT 73 @PEPP 58
Photo: Cornell/Patrick Shanahan
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