Missouri Valley: Northern Iowa 67, Wichita State 66(story) - It's painful watching them keep losing, because it heightens the twin possibilities that the Valley will only get a single bid and the Big East will get (shudder) eight. Six-three Panther guard Ben Jacobsen lit up the scoreboard with 24 points, and hit the winning three-point shot on WSU's home floor. Wichita has lost five of their last six - the Shockers are now so off the bubble, they're chewing gum. "This really hurts," coach Mark Turgeon told the press.
With the end of February, we say goodbye to the Daily Dribblings format. From here until Selection Sunday, it's all about conference tournaments - seedings, matchups, brackets and upsets. Tonight we begin with first-round action in the Horizon, OVC and Big South (see right-hand panel), but there are some pairing matters to take care of first.
Let's Get Tournament-al!
Big Sky: Montana 77, Northern Arizona 69 - The Lumberjacks needed a win to qualify for the postseason, but they didn't get it. This result means that defending champions Eastern Washington will make it as the six-seed in the six-deep tournament, and will play these very same Montana Grizzlies in a Saturday quarterfinal. As for NAU, good night.
Colonial: Drexel 66, Towson 60 - Thanks to Kenell Sanchez' career-high 17 points, the Dragons clinch the four-seed in the CAA tournament and will get to wear white against 5 Hofstra on Saturday.
Northeast: Wagner 67, Fairleigh Dickinson 59 - If you're looking for a potential spoiler in the Northeast Conference, take a look at the Wagner Seahawks. They come into the tourney having won nine of their last 10, and will get a six-seed only because they'd lost 13 of their previous 14. In the past week, they've beaten the top two seeds and will get another crack against Monmouth or FDU if they can beat Robert Morris, a team that swept them during their two January meetings. More on the NEC in a couple of paragraphs.
Mid-Continent:(top 8 of 9 qualify) All action will take place in Tulsa, Oklahoma, which suits one-seed Oral Roberts quite nicely. They will play 8 Southern Utah in one of two quarterfinals on Saturday; the other is 2 Missouri-Kansas City versus 7 Oakland. Sunday's curtain-raiser is the 4-5 game between IUPUI and Western Illinois, and 3 Valparaiso against 6 Chicago State will wrap things up. No reseeding after the quarters, semifinals are on Monday evening. Good night, kind Gentlemen of Centenary, you finished 1-15 in conference and have to go home now.
Northeast:(top 8 of 11 qualify) After several years as a family gathering, the NEC championship is going "back to campus." (Fitting, as the conference gets about as much respect as the late and lamented Mr. Dangerfield received in Back To School.) The Monmouth Hawks enter the tourney as the one-seed, and will host 8 Central Connecticut State at comfy Boylan Gym. Fairleigh Dickinson is at the two-spot, and will get 7 St. Francis (NY). As mentioned previously, three-seed Robert Morris will take on 6 Wagner, and a four-five matchup between 4 Long Island and 5 St. Francis (PA) will round out quarterfinal Thursday. Teams will be reseeded going into Sunday's semifinals.
It's worth noting that the Blackbirds of Long Island will indeed get one more game at the storied Paramount Theater, so here's hoping they haven't converted it into a cyber café yet. But this is indeed the final curtain for Quinnipiac, Mount St. Mary's and Sacred Heart; I'm sure The Sound Of Music played at the Paramount at one time, so goodbye, farewell, auf wiedersehen, good night.
The Atlantic 10, Big West, Southland, Mid-American, SWAC and WAC are all still in-season and will conduct their tournaments during "Championship Week," and we'll post their brackets when they've finished up.