March 13, 2009 9:24 am ET by Kyle Whelliston
Rhode Island really needed to win this tourney to get into the NCAA's. But the Rams fell short against a hungry Duquesne team that held them at bay, beating them at their own game with an uncharacteristically great 3-point shooting day (10-for-24). No. 1 seed Xavier had no trouble busting up slow-motion Saint Louis during the regular season, and even fewer problems yesterday -- if anything, the clock-milking pace gave the Musketeers an opportunity to work on their Achilles issue, which has been turnovers. They turned the ball over just 12.6 percent of the time (seven total), their best figure of the season. Temple is gathering strength for a possible bracket-busting repeat run at the title, stringing together a 15-6 run early on and ending the suspense against city rival and 2008 championship game partners Saint Joseph's. Unless the Hawks are invited to the GalleryFurniture.Com tournament, A-14 POY Ahmad Nivins' college career ended with an emphatic 21-point, 14-rebound performance. In the late game, Dayton destroyed Richmond on the boards 44-25, which helped overcome lousy foul shooting and 13 turnovers.
The semis are set in Anaheim, as two rounds of play have yielded the Nos. 3 and 4 seeds for the top two to play. Bryan LeDuc was Pacific's scoring leader at 11.1 ppg during the year, and the 6-8 senior had a team-high 17 for the Tigers as they stayed perfect in the series with UC Davis (10-0 since both have been in the BWC). Josh Akognon, the league POY, scored 23 in what was likely his last college contest, and his Fullerton Titans ended their improbable title defense with a loss against the solid-shooting Gauchos (50 percent from the floor). The score was tied at the four-minute mark, but CSF scored 16 points the rest of the way to pull out the win.
Here we go again? Coppin State won four games they shouldn't have (from a No. 7 seed) to emerge from the 2008 tourney with an improbable title. Tywain McKee, the hero of each of those games and the 2009 MEAC POY, stole a cross-court pass with less than 30 seconds left, converted the layup on the runback, and added an and-one to change a one-point CSU lead to a more comfortable four. Norfolk State couldn't shake pesky No. 6 Bethune-Cookman, but ended the Wildcats' best Division I season ever on the strength of senior guard Corey Lyons' 28 points. The Spartans avenged an embarrassing February loss to BCC on its home court.
Akron ended Miami's star-crossed season, with four double-figure Zips and a pullaway run against the RedHawks in the final 10 minutes. Despite a 15-point, 13-rebound exit performance from Jerome Tillman, Ohio couldn't pull off an upset against top seed Bowling Green. The surging Falcons shot 60 percent, held an eight-rebound glass advantage, and scored a three-game sweep over the Bobcats. Ball State will carry the West division's banner into the semis, dropping Central Michigan in a painfully slow slog that lasted five extra minutes. Chris Singletary returned to the Kent lineup after his sucker-punch suspension, and led the Golden Flashes with 13 points -- it wasn't enough against a Buffalo team with a title in its sights. Since the CBI has 13-17 Oregon State on its "radar screen," 19-win Kent will likely get a shot at a win that could keep the decade-long 20-win streak alive. Asterisk!
Texas State improved this season and made the tourney for the first time in four years, but had problems maintaining 40-minute efforts. A second-half Bobcat lead dissipated once again, as Nicholls State moved on to the semis. A mild upset in the second game, as athletic UTSA overcame balanced Bearkat scoring with bursts fueled by lightning-fast transition play. Top seed Stephen F. Austin shot just 38 percent and looked vulernable until Josh Alexander went 3-crazy, dropping six bombs on the tame Lions on his way to 25 points. But the strongest individual performance of the day belonged to Texas-Arlington's Marquez Haynes, who scored 36 and mounted a one-man Maverick comeback. But it was in a losing cause, as the defending champions were erased by the 2007 titlists. Corpus Christi, coming back from a 9-win crash, shot 53 percent and ruled the boards with its hardnosed play.
 Nicholls State 80,  Texas State 75 | GameFlo
 Texas-San Antonio 83,  Sam Houston State 74 | GameFlo
 Stephen F. Austin 67,  Southeastern Louisiana 56 | GameFlo
 Texas A&M-Corpus Christi 79,  Texas-Arlington 72 | GameFlo
The top four seeds haven't reassembled in the semifinals since 2002... it's traditionally the most upset-riddled tourney in Hoops Nation. But Nos. 1 through 4 survived the two-day quarterfinal round, with traditional SWAC underachievers Prairie View and Arkansas-Pine Bluff moving on to meet the top two. PVAM sped out in front after 10 minutes, landed four in double figures, and held the defending titlist Delta Devils to 35 percent shooting. Gavin Montgomery led all scorers with 14 and hit timely free throws as the Golden Lions made their fourth straight semifinal round. UAPB has only one winning record in that stretch, and has been responsible for a lot of those aforementioned upsets.
New Mexico State avenged its 2008 title game loss and broke a three-game losing streak to Boise State, led by junior Jonathan Gibson's 22 points and sophomore Wendell McKines' 12-and-13 double-double. Top seed Utah State wasn't challenged much by bottom seed Fresno State, which had sent No. 8 Hawaii to the exits two days previous. Backup junior guard Stavon Williams far exceeded his season high with 22 for the Aggies. Nevada survived an injury scare to top assist-man Armon Johnson, while freshman Luke Babbitt scored 30 points on 8-for-14 shooting in his first WAC tourney game of what will certainly be many. In the late game, upstart Louisiana Tech never looked back after a 5-5 tie. The Bulldogs shot 54 percent and pulled off the 6-over-3 upset, ending Idaho's turnaround season.
On Tap Tonight
While we have to reiterate that leagues don't win NCAA bids -- teams do -- there's still a three-bid scenario left in this conference. Xavier's done what it needs to do and Dayton's numbers are super-strong. But a pair of wins over both would indicate another great finish for Fran Dunphy's squad; Temple has a lot of solid talent and beat Tennessee badly in nonconference, but the Owls squandered plenty of chances to back it up and build a strong rÃ©sumÃ©, including the Feb. 5 meeting with X in Cincinnati.
6:30 pm ET -  Xavier 25-6 (12-4) vs.  Temple 20-11 (11-5) | Preview
Recent: 02/05/2009 TU 74 @XU 83 01/16/2008 XU 59 @TU 78
9:00 pm ET -  Dayton 26-6 (11-5) vs.  Duquesne 20-11 (9-7) | Preview
Recent: 03/07/2009 DUQ 61 @UD 74 01/17/2009 UD 78 @DUQ 69
The top seeds swept both season series with their semifinal opponents in a league that's far off the peaks of its mid-decade highs. Pacific's won a pair of titles (2004 and 2006, as well as an at-large bid in 2005), while Long Beach (2007) and Santa Barbara (2002) have also Danced out of this conference since the century turned. Northridge joined up out of the Big West in 2001-02, and reached the title game in 2004.
8:30 pm ET -  California-Santa Barbara 16-14 (8-8) vs.  Cal State Northridge 15-13 (11-5) | Preview
Recent: 02/25/2009 UCSB 57 @CSN 62 01/29/2009 CSN 72 @UCSB 70
11:00 pm ET -  Pacific 18-11 (10-6) vs.  Long Beach State 15-14 (10-6) | Preview
Recent: 02/07/2009 PAC 80 @LBSU 81 01/08/2009 LBSU 74 @PAC 64
It's Baltimore on the Yadkin, as the title game participants from 2008 meet again in a semi-surprise semifinal. Morgan State has ground out a couple of regular-season wins over the Eagles since being shocked in that championship contest. S.C. State and Norfolk State are making their first semifinal appearances since 2006, when both were eliminated emphatically by Delaware State and Hampton, respectively. Both of those programs have fallen on hard times, and the current Nos. 2 and 3 represent what looks like the future of the league.
6:00 pm ET -  Morgan State 21-11 (14-3) vs.  Coppin State 13-18 (10-7) | Preview
Recent: 03/05/2009 MORG 68 @COPP 62 12/06/2008 COPP 48 @MORG 62
8:00 pm ET -  South Carolina State 17-13 (11-7) vs.  Norfolk State 13-17 (10-8) | Preview
Recent: 02/21/2009 SCST 76 @NORF 66 01/24/2009 NORF 68 @SCST 62
No. 5 has been a lucky seed lately: there's now been a five-spot in the MAC semifinals three of the last four years. Limited luck, though: none made the title game. Thirteen days ago, Bowling Green won a tight contest at Akron's LeBron James Center -- that's not what it's called, but thanks to a sponsorship deal, there are L23 logos everywhere. Now, the Falcons will try to top the university that LeBreezy swore he would have chose in the man's own rented house. Western division danger lurks in the first game, where the Cardinals own a pair of recent wins over Buffalo and get to wear their white jerseys thanks to an automatic No. 2 for the West winner.
7:30 pm ET -  Ball State 14-16 (7-9) vs.  Buffalo 20-10 (11-5) | Preview
Recent: 02/15/2009 BUFF 51 @BSU 53 02/13/2008 BSU 76 @BUFF 67
9:30 pm ET -  Bowling Green 19-12 (11-5) vs.  Akron 21-12 (10-6) | Preview
Recent: 03/01/2009 BGSU 50 @AKR 46 01/17/2009 AKR 62 @BGSU 52
There was a time when one of the primary Patriot League storylines was American having a strong season, then being cut down unmercifully by Holy Cross in the playoffs -- it happened in 2002, 2003 and most recently in 2007. The Eagles also lost three straight title games from 2002-04, before the Bucknell era, before the breakthrough title last season. American roars into this game on a 12 game win streak. Holy Cross won on this floor back on Jan. 26, 2008, but it was a much different squad. This purple gang is led by a freshman, hot guard R.J. Evans, who led the team with 13.3 ppg and 5.1 rpg.
SFA, despite winning 26 Southland regular-season games in the past two seasons, is hardly a traditional league power -- the Lumberjacks are seeking their first-ever NCAA bid, and can get one step closer with a win over a Corpus Christi team it's beaten three straight times. And if you like numerology with your hoops, SFA has scored exactly 71 points in each game. UTSA came from behind to beat Nicholls in their only meeting of the season. Josh Bonney was a key figure in that Roadrunner win with his 15 points and 13 rebounds; it was his only double-double of the year, and he's only scored in double figures four times since then (18 games).
7:00 pm ET -  Nicholls State 20-10 (12-4) vs.  Texas-San Antonio 18-12 (8-8) | Preview
Recent: 01/14/2009 UTSA 62 @NICH 55 02/16/2008 UTSA 54 @NICH 52
9:30 pm ET -  Stephen F. Austin 22-7 (13-3) vs.  Texas A&M-Corpus Christi 18-14 (11-5) | Preview
Recent: 02/28/2009 SFA 71 @TAMC 66 03/05/2008 TAMC 56 @SFA 71
If the chalk continues, we'll get a matchup of the best two-team combination in this league in 15 years. Alabama State and Jackson State lost just five regular season SWAC games between them; the last time that happened was 1994, when Texas Southern (15-2) and Jackson (11-3) fought it out. One of the Tigers' three losses happened at their own building at the hands of these upstart Panthers. PVAM is looking for its first title-game berth since 1998, when it beat top-seeded Texas Southern as a No. 7 seed. Pine Bluff last made the title game in 2006.
3:30 pm ET -  Jackson State 17-14 (15-3) vs.  Prairie View A&M 17-15 (12-6) | Preview
Recent: 02/16/2009 PVAM 61 @JSU 62 01/19/2009 JSU 59 @PVAM 70
9:00 pm ET -  Alabama State 20-9 (16-2) vs.  Arkansas-Pine Bluff 13-17 (11-7) | Preview
Recent: 02/07/2009 UAPB 59 @ALST 65 01/10/2009 ALST 71 @UAPB 66
It's Utah State's fourth year in the WAC after moving up from the Big West; the Aggies have two regular-season titles and an at-large bid, but haven't won this event yet. Their chances just got better after some disruptions in the quarterfinal round -- they've ducked a Boise State team that beat them last month, and instead get New Mexico State, a squad that USU handled easily in their two meetings. The upsets seem to indicate an even clearer path to a showdown that's been seen coming from all the way back in November, but Nevada has drawn one of the teams that led to a lot of Wolf Pack short-selling. Back in early February, The Man Techsters scored a giant win on this very Reno hardcourt, shooting 30 for 50 from the floor (60 percent).
9:00 pm ET -  New Mexico State 17-14 (9-7) vs.  Utah State 28-4 (14-2) | Preview
Recent: 02/05/2009 NMSU 59 @USU 78 01/10/2009 USU 77 @NMSU 67
11:30 am ET -  Louisiana Tech 15-17 (6-10) vs.  Nevada 20-11 (11-5) | Preview
Recent: 02/05/2009 LTU 78 @NEV 75 01/10/2009 NEV 67 @LTU 64
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