Atlantic Sun: Gardner-Webb 67, Belmont 58 (OT) (story) - G-Webb (15-9, 12-5 ASun) used a five-minute rally to storm back from a 12-point deficit late in the second. The homestanding Bruins controlled the flow for 35 minutes, and that included a 12-0 run midway through the second half to break the game open. GWU's momentum carried through to the extra period - they scored the first five points, and that was all she wrote. The Bulldogs, winners of four straight, are now two games up on a group of four 10-7 teams (Belmont, Jacksonville, Central Florida and Georgia State).
Shootaround!Big Sky: Portland State
(18-6, 10-2 BSky) clinched a bye to the Big Sky semifinals, because they can't finish worse than second. The Vikings stand a single magic number away from clinching their first-ever regular-season conference championship as they topped Idaho State
79-58. Former MMBOW Seamus Boxley
had another monster dub-dubber, scoring 22 and grabbing 14.Sun Belt:
A small bit of clarity emerges in the Western division: Louisiana-Lafayette
(16-7, 10-2 SBC) gave New Mexico State
a regularly-scheduled creaming, while Denver (15-9, 9-3 SBC) took a tough 68-66 loss to middling North Texas
at the Denton Super Pit, home of the conference tournament and buzzer-beating excitement. Less than a week after Western Kentucky
took down the Mean Green with a desperation heave, North Texas' Leonard Hopkins sunk the Pioneers with a jumper with 0.3 seconds remaining.Game! Of! The! Night! Monmouth
(13-10, 12-2 NEC) and Fairleigh Dickinson
(14-10, 10-3 NEC) duke it out for the top slot in the Northeast Conference. These are clearly the two elite teams in this league, and it's mostly because of their (relatively) big guys, MU's 6'7" Blake Hamilton and FDU's 6'8" Gordon Klaiber. Both can shoot, both can rebound, and both can move well. They met at FDU's Teaneck home last month
, and Hamilton did the Knights in with 20 points. These two look to meet again in the conference finals, so home-court advantage in that game (remember, this is a "campus sites" league) would really help. The game will be on MSG-TV at 8:00 PM Eastern, and you can listen along here
. Games! Of! The! Weekend!
Three weeks ago, it was Shakedown Saturday. The next weekend saw Really, Really Exciting Saturday. Last week's version was Hot Sh*t Saturday. Tomorrow will be... Bracket Buster Saturday. What a letdown! And when it comes down to it, the games tomorrow won't have much of an impact on Selection Sunday's selections. I graded the matchups a couple weeks ago based on their projected impact on the bracket, and upon review, you can pretty much downgrade most of them to "F." Except for a handful.
Vermont (America East) at Nevada (WAC) [TV]
It's the marquee television event of the day, and a convincing Catamount win at the Wolfpack's gym may help to sneak them in should they fail in the America East tourney, but that loss to Boston University last weekend really hurts. If Nevada can't win their conference tournament on their own floor, then no sympathy there.
Texas-El Paso (WAC) at Pacific (Big West) [TV]
UTEP's profile is just too battered, and the Selection Committee has already showed how much they love they have for Big West runner-ups with last year's Utah State snub. But it will be a great game between multi-dimensional teams with complicated weapon systems. I, for one, will be TiVoing it.
Wichita State (Missouri Valley) at Miami (Ohio) (Mid-American) [TV]
Southern Illinois (Missouri Valley) at Kent State (Mid-American) [TV]
Western Michigan (Mid-American) at Northern Iowa (Missouri Valley) [TV]
Wins for the Valley teams would give profiles an extra little boost, but losses would hurt at-large chances immeasurably. The only remaining two-bid scenario for the MAC is a Miami win here and a Miami loss in the MAC Madness final. Teams in both these leagues have been beating the hell out of each other in the regular season - it makes for an great pulse-pounding basketball and increased attendance/interest, but none of that matters to the Committee one bit.
Because it's not how well you cut a rug, and it's not what you wear - everything hinges on the vehicle that takes you to the ball. This is a television event for television teams, and television teams will make it in, no matter what. (Knock, knock. Who's there? Indiana. Come on in!) I've said all this before, but I'm a proponent of a 32-team Tournament of conference winners only, but it's never going to happen again. I'm sick of worthless power-conference tournaments with meaningless games, where everyone knows there are six bids coming - the difference between a Tournament 5-seed and a seven is much less interesting than the gap that separates life and death.
If I was King Of Basketball, the conference tournaments would act as sub-sub-sub regionals, just like the old days. (You want some real March Madness? Duke- Carolina, ACC title game, loser goes to the NIT). Conferences allow all - or in some cases, most - affiliate schools onto their tourney brackets with placement based on regular season success. They start March with an equal chance: just win a theoretical set of ten or eleven straight games, and you're national champions. Under this model, the strongest and most well-equipped for the journey will always survive the series of gauntlets, and outside "expert" opinions are removed from the equation for good.
So kids, wanna really bust the bracket? Win your conference tournament. The last time I checked, that's the best way to get on the Big Grid. Once you're there, anything can and will happen. Remember Siena's 2002 streak that won the MAAC Dance ticket out of a six-seed? Now that's what I call bracket bustin'.