Bracket WrapPatriot: Bucknell 61, Holy Cross 57 (story)
- Congratulations to Bucknell, orange-clad kings of the Patriot League.
- Eight-seed Boise State continued to rip through the WAC bracket, knocking off Fresno State one day after dispatching 1 Nevada.
- Today marks the grand crescendo of the mid-major season. With finals in the America East, MEAC, Atlantic 10, MAC, WAC and Big West, we'll see six champions crowned.
Bucknell's shock win over Pittsburgh
on the first weekend of 2005 may have been the worst thing that happened to them this year - coach Pat Flannery had to take an exhaustion-related medical leave for a few games, in large part due to his inability to say "no" to the swarm of media requests. Holy Cross sped by the Bison in the standings during this time with 16 straight victories, and Bucknell basketball became as like yesterday's crumpled newspaper, blowing down a windswept and deserted alley.
But when it truly mattered, Flannery's Bison rose to the challenge. Early on in this game, they stormed to a long lead and sent the ESPN commentators scurrying for their media guides. Bucknell held a 20-point lead with 15 minutes remaining, then they bravely held off the Crusaders' late mad rush which included traps and presses that adhered to the Bison's "under armour." Two-guard Kevin Bettencourt took a key charge and made free throws down the stretch to provide heroics, and Bucknell is off to the Tournament for the first time since 1989.
Holy Cross' Dance chances present more of an intellectual exercise than anything - this, after all, was the only plausible two-bid Patriot League scenario. The PL has never received an extra invite in its 15-year history.Big West:
And then there were two, and it's the two we wanted. Tonight will see the final BWC battle for the two teams that have provided the greatest rivalry in the league's history.(1) Pacific 63, (4) Cal State Northridge 61 (story)(2) Utah State 84, (3) Cal State Fullerton 77 (story)
Pacific was a whole lot better than the rest of the league this year, but on this night they were just one bucket better than Cal State Northridge (just like last year's final, when they beat CSN 75-73); with free throws, the Tigers held the Matadors' late rally out of a 12-point deficit. Sure, UOP has a top-25 RPI and Hoops Nation's longest win streak (22), but at-large overconfidence going into the final game would be ill-advised. Utah State, their opponent this evening, was snubbed by the NCAA for being a Big West bridesmaid. At ESPN at midnight, you can see the third chapter in a season series that has seen two Tiger wins, but two of the most unforgettable games in mid-majorville this season. Whatever happens, USU will be moving to the WAC next season.Western Athletic:
Speaking of the WAC, it's wacky. In that eight-seed in the title game sort of way.(8) Boise State 86, (4) Fresno State 85 (story)(2) Texas-El Paso 85, (3) Rice 77 (story)
Coby Karl, one of the heroes of the Broncos' shock win over tourney hosts Nevada, made the decisive free throws with eight ticks left; the winning shot-maker from that game, Jermaine Blackburn, scored 22. UTEP, a team that has labored in Nevada's long shadow all year, eliminated former MMBOW Michael Rice
and his Owls, despite his 19 points. The final is tonight in Reno, and if the two in-season meetings are any indication, it will be a UTEP blowout. But the games are not played on paper, and you can watch along at 9:00 PM Eastern on ESPN2.Atlantic 10:
In Cincinnati, East-1 and West-1 will meet to decide who gets to go to the Dance out of the A-12.(E1) Saint Joseph's 73, (W2) Xavier 68 (story)(W1) George Washington 77, (E2) Temple 58 (story)
Pat Carroll, the co-player of the year in the league, scored a career-high 30 to down Xavier and keep the Hawks' roll going - they've won eight of nine heading into the title game. Temple's turbulent season, marked by John Chaney's use of blunt instrument Nehemiah Ingram in the last TU-Joe's game, came to an end after a lackluster performance against pre-season darlings GW. At 6:00 PM ET, you can watch the goon-free title game
The final pairing is set in a topsy-turvy tourney in the MAC, which can be seen on ESPN2 at 7:00 PM Eastern. More on these games a little bit later.(4) Ohio 63, (1) Miami (Oh.) 56 (story)(7) Buffalo 75, (3) Western Michigan 68 (story)Mid-Eastern:
The top two in the MEAC will meet for the Dance ticket after a true-to-form bracket played out in Richmond.(1) Delaware State 61, (4) South Carolina State 48 (story)(2) Hampton 62, (3) Coppin State 50 (story)
The top-seeded Hornets used the anonymous, everybody-pitch-in effort that has brought them so much MEAC success this year, and ground SCSU to dust. The 2 Pirates used the free-throw line to dismiss Coppin, making eight of their last 10 as they slowly pulled away down the stretch. The final, which will pit the team that led most of the regular season (Del-State) against the hottest team in February (Hampton), will play out at noon Eastern on ESPN2. Delaware State swept the two games this year: 66-64 at Dover and 64-54 at HAmpton.Southwestern Athletic:
It's an all-Alabama final in Birmingham. Fitting, too - in the league with the lowest average margin of victory, these were the two teams that won the most.(1) Alabama A&M 74, (5) Jackson State 56 (story)(2) Alabama State 54, (6) Southern 50 (story)
A 6'4" juco transfer for A&M named Joseph Martin, who won the conference's newcomer of the week award three times this season, scored 17 points and had 14 rebounds to lead the Bulldogs to victory. The aptly-named Hornets play stingy, buzzing defense, which stung the Southern Jaguars' season to death. A-State, the defending SWAC champions, will play their bitter in-state rivals tomorrow on ESPN2, at noon ET. A&M swept the season series in two clsoely-fought games.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.Eastern Kentucky
(21-8, 13-5 OVC) won the Ohio Valley tournament on March 5.Chattanooga
(20-13, 13-6 SoCon) won the Southern tournament on March 5.Central Florida
(24-8, 15-7 A-Sun) won the Atlantic Sun tournament on March 5.Creighton
(23-10, 13-7 MVC) won the Missouri Valley tournament on March 7.Niagara
(20-9, 15-5 MAAC) won the Metro Atlantic tournament on March 7.Old Dominion
(28-5, 18-3 CAA) won the Colonial tournament on March 7.UMPFN
(25-4, 14-2 WCC) won the West Coast tournament on March 7.Oakland
(12-18, 9-9 Mid-Con) won the Mid-Continent tournament on March 8.Louisiana-Lafayette
(20-10, 14-4 SBC) won the Sun Belt tournament on March 8.Wisconsin-Milwaukee
(24-5, 16-2 HL) won the Horizon tournament on March 8.Fairleigh Dickinson
(20-12, 14-5 NEC) won the Northeast tournament on March 9.Montana
(18-12, 12-5 BSky) won the Big Sky tournament on March 9.Bucknell
(22-9, 13-4 PL) won the Patriot tournament on March 11.