- American won its second consecutive Patriot League championship, and is on to the NCAA Tournament once again.
- Dayton and Xavier, the two higher seeds, went down in the Atlantic 14 semifinals; this sets up an improbable 4/7 matchup between Temple and Duquesne.
- Other semifinal winners on Friday: Cal State Northridge and Pacific in the Big West; Morgan State and Norfolk State in the MEAC; Buffalo and Akron in the MAC; Texas-San Antonio and Stephen F. Austin in the Southland; Alabama State and Jackson State in the SWAC; Utah State and Nevada in the WAC.
- The America East holds its final, between UMBC and Binghamton, after six days off.
- There are five other title games today.
After a stellar ball control performance against Saint Louis, Xavier
played another slow game but turned it over on one of five possessions (13 of 64). That proved the difference in a statistical push against a Temple
team that is developing a knack for coming around at the right time. Dayton
played flatter than the A.C. Expressway all night, allowing Duquesne
to win its third game in three days: Melquan Boldin
and Aaron Jackson
scored 24 a piece for the Dukes. The really interesting part of all this is whether or not these results have firmly guaranteed an Atlantic 3 in the NCAA's. Xavier's team sheet
, which the Selection Committee is looking at right now,
is beyond reproach. Dayton's looks strong too
with three top 50 wins, but it remains to be seen if a 7-5 record in the Flyers' last 12 games is enough to turn a few key votes around against UD to create a shock snub. Not likely, but please be reminded that one's own RPI number is virtually insignificant (Dayton: 22) and that what matters is whom a team's beaten, and how lately. Temple 55,  Xavier 53
| GameFlo Duquesne 77,  Dayton 66
| GameFloBig West
Top seed Cal State Northridge moved into the final by holding off repeated UCSB runs in a fast-paced affair; big former MMBOW Tremaine Townsend
had a stellar game for the Matadors, scoring 14 points and grabbing 10 boards. Long Beach State
held the lead in the conference standings table for much of the regular season, but ended up playing from behind against No. 3 seeded Pacific
, which is trying to recapture its mid-decade NCAA glory after a turbulent 12 months
that required a roster cleanup. The Tigers sank 11 3-pointers in the win, including six from Chad Troyer
. Cal State Northridge 67,  California-Santa Barbara 60
| GameFlo Pacific 65,  Long Beach State 60
| GameFloMEACTywain McKee
, Coppin State's
league POY and official Mr. March, scored 30 points as the Eagles attempted a fifth straight MEAC miracle. Unfortunately for CSU, Morgan State
held everybody else down in single digits -- the Bears avoided another elimination upset at the hands of their hated crosstown rivals, and completed a season 3-0 sweep. They'll face Norfolk State
in the title game, which benefited from 21 South Carolina State
turnovers and tons of transition to engineer a come-from-behind victory. Corey Lyons
hit a 3-pointer with 16 seconds left to cap the charge. Morgan State 75,  Coppin State 67
| GameFlo Norfolk State 74,  South Carolina State 71
In a replay of and matched result to the American-football championship of this conference (and our 100th game of the season), Buffalo
shook loose from plucky Ball State
midway through the first half, dominated the boards to a 32-22 tune, and reached the title game for the first time since 2005. The Bulls received a gutty 21 from Max Boudreau
, and got a key shot from Rodney Pierce
whenever they needed to divest the Cardinals of comeback ideas. Bowling Green
players looked horrible out of the gate against Akron
and carried perpetually furrowed brows through the first half, a 17-point slump that the Falcons couldn't recover from. Nate Miller
knocked down a series of spectacular shots in the second half and finished with 27 points, but BGSU as a team only turned in five minutes' worth of effort. That's why they're eliminated. Buffalo 64,  Ball State 52
| GameFlo Akron 63,  Bowling Green 55
| GameFloPatriot League
After about 10 minutes of exciting nip-and-tuck basketball, American
put on an 18-9 run to close the half, then built a solid double-digit lead out of halftime to end any drama. Eagle senior Garrison Carr
-- whose stats took a slight dent after a phenomenal junior campaign in which he was PL player of the week just about every week -- turned in his best performance of the year, shooting 9-for-14 and collecting a game-high 24 points. R.J. Evans
, Holy Cross'
talented freshman guard, had 16 in his first title game appearance. With American losing three seniors, the door might be open for HC to play in a few more of these in Evans' last three collegiate seasons.at  American 73,  Holy Cross 57
A day after looking shaky in Katy against uptempo Texas State
, No. 2 Nicholls was given the slowdown treatment by a Texas-San Antonio
squad that kept the possessions long. The upstart Roadrunners shot just 39 percent but showcased Joey Shank
in the second half. The senior guard went scoreless for the first 20 minutes, but chipped in 19 of UTSA's 28 second-half points (including five 3's) as UTSA came from behind to win. It looked like the Southland was headed to another low seed final -- and a berth in the P.I.G. lottery -- until Stephen F. Austin
engineered a comeback in the final three minutes against Corpus Christi
. Matt Kingsley
, the Southland's POY, scored 26 points and made nine of his 12 shots. Texas-San Antonio 57,  Nicholls State 55
| GameFlo Stephen F. Austin 63,  Texas A&M-Corpus Christi 60
The SWAC gets its premier matchup after the top two seeds survived. Jackson State
ended Prairie View's
dream season -- the Panthers' hadn't had a winning record since 2003 -- by breaking out of a halftime tie and outscoring PVAM 33-20 in the second half. TMM SWAC POY Andrew Hayles
scored 16 points, double the next-closest Alabama State
player's haul, in the Hornets' easy win over Pine Bluff
. It was ASU's eighth straight win in the series. Jackson State 66,  Prairie View A&M 53
| GameFlo Alabama State 63,  Arkansas-Pine Bluff 55
| GameFloWestern AthleticUtah State's
NCAA margin of error is virtually nil, and the NIT looked to be a certainty after falling behind 47-34 at halftime in the Aggie-Off with New Mexico State
. But you can't keep the most efficient offense in the country (1.161 points per possession) down for long, and Utah State chipped away at the lead steadily for the duration of the second half. After a mascot fight
in which USU's bull ripped off the NMSU cowboy-Aggie's mustache off (need YouTube NOW
), Tyler Newbold
became a true March legend. The Aggies' fourth-leading scorer (9.2 ppg) nailed a baseline j with four seconds left to cap the comeback, and USU's dream survived. In the late game, Nevada
emphatically answered Lousiana Tech's
60-percent performance in Reno earlier this year with a 56 percent display of its own. Armon Johnson
and Luke Babbitt
combined for 47 points. Utah State 71,  New Mexico State 70
| GameFlo Nevada 77,  Louisiana Tech 68
| GameFloOn Tap TonightAmerica East
It's been a series dominated by the home team (10 of last 11 games), so BInghamton's hosting duties at the Mid-Majority Events Center is crucial here. The key to any hope for low-seeded defending champion UMBC is finding a way to stop TMM A-East POY D.J. Rivera
, the hot-shooting guard and league leading scorer who hung 28 on the Retrievers back in January. The Bearcats are on a 10-game streak and are trying to reach the NCAA Tournament for the first time in their short eight-year Division I life.
11:00 am ET -  Maryland-Baltimore County 15-16 (7-9) at  Binghamton 22-8 (13-3) | Preview
Recent: 02/26/2009 UMBC 51 @BING 71 01/28/2009 BING 78 @UMBC 84
Xavier, a No. 10 seed back in 2006, won four games in four days to claim the title, so this can be done. Duquesne has not been to the Dance in the 64/65-team era, last appearing in 1977. Temple, which has won five of the last six in this series, is just trying to find an excuse to print "Back-2-Back" t-shirts. We've gone from Atlantic 14 to 12 to eight, then from four to two. The winner will be serenaded by our new operatic deth-metal anthem "Atlantic One" tomorrow (including a debut tonight on Twitter), so don't miss that.
6:00 pm ET -  Duquesne 21-11 (9-7) vs.  Temple 21-11 (11-5) | Preview
Recent: 02/15/2009 TU 78 @DUQ 73 03/05/2008 DUQ 85 @TU 90
Cal State Northridge made it to the NCAA Tournament, but that was as a Big Sky member. The West is bigger than that, at least in basketball terms, but the conference has fallen on hard times since a two-bid season in 2005; the conference RPI (as well as its conference State rating) is 18 this year. This is also a rematch of the 2004 title game, which featured heroics from Guillaume Yango and a stifled Northridge rally in a 75-73 finish. Pacific is about as dangerous a lower seed as there can be in this situation, having a pair of wins over the No. 1 during the regular season. But here's the trend that's really important: in 2006, Tuffy the Titan won BWC Mascot Mayhem then led Cal State Fullerton to the 2008 title. In 2007, Matty the Matador won, and now has Northridge on the brink of a championship. If the two-year rule really applies, UC Irvine has a great campaign coming up in 2009-10, thanks to Peter the Anteater's 2008 win.
11:59 pm ET -  Pacific 19-11 (10-6) vs.  Cal State Northridge 16-13 (11-5) | Preview
Recent: 03/07/2009 CSN 55 @PAC 62 01/02/2009 PAC 84 @CSN 78
Part of the reason the MEAC's appeared in three straight NCAA Play-In Games is that the top seeds haven't won: the league has sent a No. 5 (Hampton 2006), a No. 2 (Florida A&M 2007) and a No. 7 (Coppin State 2008) the last three years. Morgan State has Red Line wins over Maryland and DePaul, something the teams on the bottom of the S-curve can't even come close to. But the teams have alternated wins in the last 10 meetings going back to 2003, which means it's Norfolk State's turn: the Bears won the last matchup back in January. If the Spartans survive, their sub-.500 record makes them a shoo-in for the P.I.G. party.
7:00 pm ET -  Morgan State 22-11 (14-3) vs.  Norfolk State 14-17 (10-8) | Preview
Recent: 01/12/2009 NORF 70 @MORG 74 01/14/2008 MORG 69 @NORF 71
While a low seed is absolutely guaranteed -- a letdown after a 2008 single-digit out of Kent for the first time in a decade -- this one's all about context. Akron made one NCAA appearance back in 1986, and Buffalo's never been. Both have been the recipients of hard title game heartbreaks recently, too. In 2005, Buffalo fell to Ohio in OT with a senior-laden team, a loss that took the program four years to recover from. A 26-win Akron team, after a premature celebration in the 2007 championship, was cut out of the national postseason altogether after Miami's Doug Penno hit a miracle 3 with 0:00.6 left. Either way, there will be happiness in Cleveland tonight.
8:00 pm ET -  Buffalo 21-10 (11-5) vs.  Akron 22-12 (10-6) | Preview
Recent: 02/26/2009 AKR 62 @BUFF 57 01/13/2009 BUFF 63 @AKR 61
With all the guarantee games SWAC teams play, it's tough to make .500 after the two-month fundraiser that usually opens the season. And a quick comparison between these teams' overall and league records shows how tough it's been for both. But Jackson State and Alabama State were clearly the two best teams in the conference, and they'll face off for the NCAA bid on ESPNU. It's a matchup between ASU's solid overall team play and Jackson's SWAC stars: 6-7 junior Grant Maxey (16.4 ppg) and senior guard Darrion Griffin (14.9 ppg) are as good an inside-outside combination as the league's seen in a decade. But many will be transfixed by 7-1 ASU Hornet Chief Kickingstallionsims and his hilarious name, and feel compelled to approach this game as some kind of joke. Just so you know, he doesn't play much.
9:00 pm ET -  Jackson State 18-14 (15-3) vs.  Alabama State 20-10 (16-2) | Preview
Recent: 03/05/2009 ALST 64 @JSU 67 01/03/2009 JSU 60 @ALST 66
In a one-bid WAC, this is for all the marbles and the jacks too. We've talked a lot about how the Aggies score points at will, but Nevada was the top defensive team in the conference and split the season series. And for a team that's won 29 games, USU has scored an average of 66 points on the road. It's a fantastic rivalry between adjoining states, one that was rekindled after a six-year break when USU joined the conference out of the Big West. Since the resumption, it's been an even 5-5 with the home team winning the last seven.
9:00 pm ET -  Utah State 29-4 (14-2) vs.  Nevada 20-11 (11-5) | Preview
Recent: 02/28/2009 USU 71 @NEV 84 01/29/2009 NEV 61 @USU 72