No finals yesterday, four tonight.Bracket WrapMissouri Valley:
The Missouri Valley, as expected since the beginning of the season, was no cookie-cutter cakewalk for top seeds. Both 1 Southern Illinois and 2 Wichita State went down, but the Salukis remain bulletproof on Selection Sunday.
Two defending conference champions won't be going back: Monmouth of the NEC, Lehigh of the Patriot League.
An SMS-Saluki shockah is the big headline, but both higher seeds are out - this almost assuredly means we'll be getting two teams from the Valley in the Tournament.(5) Southwest Missouri State 65, (1) Southern Illinois 61 (story)(3) Creighton 70, (2) Wichita State 60 (story)
Isn't foreshadowing fun? SMS has been pockmarking the Salukis' sides with thorns lately, knocking them out of the 2004 semis and giving them their second MVC loss of the regular season back on January 26, a 92-77 decision at the Bears' den. Reigning MMBOW Darren Brooks
had 25 points and eight rebounds, but it was an 11-2 run that did the Salukis in. Despite this result, Southern Illinois (26-7, 16-4 MVC) will get an at-large bid (again), and you can take that to the bank.
In a tight and physical game, Creighton (22-10, 12-7 MVC) put themselves in line for a shot at their ninth-ever Valley crown, and will play SMS - a team they've already lost to twice in the regular season. With the win, the Bluejays sent WSU into a weeklong state of bewildered limbo. It would probably take a few double-forfeits in the Big East and ACC to get the Shockers into the Tournament, but hold out a tiny candle for them. If they sneak in for any reason, then that's the official signal that this really is
the year of the mid-major.Colonial:
The final matchup is finalized as two remain to Jam On the James.(1) Old Dominion 72, (5) Hofstra 58 (story)(2) Virginia Commonwealth 55, (3) North Carolina-Wilmington 46 (story)
Neither result is surprising, and despite some daily standings snapshots to the contrary, these were the two best teams in the league this year. The final will be a rematch of ODU's (27-5, 17-3 CAA) first conference loss of the season (a 75-71 decision in Richmond, which was later avenged), defending league champions VCU (19-11, 15-5 CAA) will be the virtual home team once again at the Coliseum.Northeast:
Campus-site semifinals are in the books, on to the campus-site final on Wednesday. Wagner will visit FDU one final time to decide the champion; they won at each others' houses during the regular season.(6) Wagner 63, (1) Monmouth 60 (story) (story)(2) Farleigh Dickinson 70, (4) Long Island 62 (story)
Anyone who would apply the term "stunning" to this six-over-one upset obviously didn't see the 2003 NEC champions' 60-53 road win over MU two weeks ago... and granted, very few did. Sean Munson, the leading point-getter and glass-cleaner for the Seahawks 13-16 (10-8 NEC), left the game early with back problems, but Wagner threw all their guards at them and pulled out the victory. Helping matters was Monmouth's cold outside shooting in the second half (0-for-14 3-PT FG's) - Blake Hamilton had 17 points, but a buzzer-beating trey wouldn't go... a fitting end to the season, considering the title of the first 100 Games Project entry
that featured Monmouth.
As several readers pointed out to me on Friday, there was still a chance that there could have been one game left in the old Brooklyn Paramount, that it hadn't seen its "absolutely final last game ever." But a late 27-3 run by FDU (19-12, 13-5 NEC) in a game of runs ended the Blackbirds' upset dreams. The Blackbirds will be back - I've often said that it takes one rangy 6'7" guy to win this league (like the aforementioned Hamilton), and LIU is growing one in Finnish sophomore Esa Maki-Tulokas.Metro Atlantic:
The top two seeds have beat the bracket so far, and will play tonight at 9:00 PM in the MAAC's thrilling conclusion.(1) Niagara 69, (5) Iona 66 (story)(2) Rider 76, (3) Fairfield 74 (story)
The two surviving teams have both won high-scoring, high-intensity affairs with scores that hit triple digits. Niagara (19-9, 14-5 MAAC) will have a strong home crowd behind them in Buffalo tonight, as they attempt to move past Rider (19-10, 15-5 MAAC) and into the Tournament for the first time since 1970.Patriot:
The collision course that the top two teams in the league have been on all year will result in an actual collision, which will take place on Friday afternoon at 4:30 PM Eastern in Worcester. Make a date now to spend your happy hour with the Patriot League, don't forget to ask your server about any "Last Amateurs" drink specials. (recaps)(2) Bucknell 53, (3) American 35(1) Holy Cross 57, (4) Lehigh 53 (OT)
Bucknell has given their two early-round opponents no quarter, and only allowed weary AU two bits and a dime after destroying 7 Lafayette
70-34 on Friday. Holy Cross looked decidedly less dominant, fending off a game squad of defending champion Mountain Hawks in overtime - almost every statistical category was even, and as Chris over at Hoop Time says, "the difference in the box score was Holy Cross' 16-14 edge in field goals."West Coast:
The league's bracket strategy of protecting its top two seeds until the semifinals worked, and both advanced to the championship game. All you other six WCC teams, thanks for playing.(1) UMPFN 90, (4) San Diego 74 (story)(2) St. Mary's 69, (4) Santa Clara 64 (story)
Saint Mary's College of California (25-7, 12-3 WCC), darlings of the national media for a couple weeks back in November, erased the memories of two regular-season losses to Santa Clara last night. So it's win and they're in for the Gaels... and they'd add a couple of digits to the Unnamed Major Program's (24-4, 13-2 WCC) seeding number and snap their 11-game win streak to boot. The two teams split this year - an UMPFN victory tonight wouldn't necessarily send SMC to the NIT, but it would be nice to limit the number of Selection Sunday conundrums.Sun Belt:
The quarterfinals took all weekend to play, but we now have two two-seeded semifinalists.(E2) Western Kentucky 78, (W3) New Orleans 67 (story)(W2) Louisiana-Lafayette 71, (E3) Middle Tennessee State 57 (story)
When you have a wide array of offensive options, there are a few scenarios: all may click on a given night, a few may, or perhaps none at all will. That's been the Hilltoppers' up-and-down season so far, but two stepped up on this evening: Antonio Haynes (22 points) and Anthony Winchester (19). Now they face a semifinal rematch of the best game in the Belt all year, a Tops win over the Denver
at Diddle. So it's W1 and WKU in one semi, and Lafayette against upstart Florida International
in the other. FIU shocked E1 Arkansas-Little Rock on Saturday.Let's Get Tournament-al!Mid-American:
The march to Cleveland begins this evening as all seeds with numbers four and lower are involved in campus-site clashes. 7 Buffalo
hosts 10 Northern Illinois
and 11 Eastern Michigan
goes to 6 Akron
. Ninth-seeded Ball State
squares off against 8 Bowling Green
. Kent State
, the five, welcomes 12 Central Michigan
, and 4 Ohio
entertains 13 Marshall
- the winners of these two matchups will provide the late game on Thursday at the Gund.
The top seeds await Monday's results: 1 Miami (Oh.)
gets the Ball State-BGSU winner, and two-seeded Toledo will play either EIU or Buffalo. The survivor of EMU-Akron gets 3 Western Michigan
.What's On Tap
The Colonial, Missouri Valley, Metro Atlantic and West Coast decide their champions tonight - if you're following along on the ESPN family of networks, the CAA is at 7 ET, the WCC is at midnight, and you have to decide between the Valley on the self-described "Mothership" or the MAAC on the "Deuce." While tickets are being punched, the Sun Belt will determine its final two. The MEAC (the subject of a recent Pat Forde piece
) kicks off in Richmond. Tomorrow, we'll examine the Atlantic 10, WAC, Southland and Big West, as brackets have now been set.Automatic BidsPennsylvania
(19-8, 12-1 Ivy) clinched the Ivy League regular season title on February 27.Winthrop
(27-5, 18-1 BSC) won the Big South tournament on March 5.Chattanooga
(20-13, 13-6 SoCon) won the Southern tournament on March 5.Eastern Kentucky
(21-8, 13-5 OVC) won the Ohio Valley tournament on March 5.Central Florida
(24-8, 15-7 A-Sun) won the Atlantic Sun tournament on March 5.
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