March 11, 2008 8:47 am ET by Kyle Whelliston
The Tribe put on a great run with three improbable late buckets to win three games, but in the end it was no match for the Spirit of 2006. Will Thomas and Folarin Campbell, sophomores during the Final Four run, combined for 38 points and GMU pulled away in the second half for the title.
Rider didn't have second-leading scorer Ryan Thompson due to a concussion in the quarterfinal win, and brother Jason (22 points, 12 rebounds) couldn't singlehandedly lift the team. Tay Fisher hit 3 after 3 (on his birthday, no less) in a second-half pullaway. The Broncs, which tied for the MAAC regular-season title but lost out to Siena on a tiebreaker, will now wait to see if the NIT lets them in.
Elon hung around for most of the first half, but Davidson -- a team on the far outer meniscus of the bubble -- didn't want to take any chances. Stephen Curry scored 23 in a game that was quickly over with a second-half push, and Davidson (victorious in 22 straight games) now awaits its inevitable single-digit seed.
San Diego overcame 52 percent Gonzaga shooting with superior board work (36-23), and turned the ball over just eight times in a similar result to the 2003 title game. The Torero win presents us with one of the more intriguing at-large scenarios in recent memory.
Last week on ESPN.com, we sketched out a three-bid WCC that had Gonzaga losing in the semis, and San Diego winning a title game with Saint Mary's. This one, with SMC losing in the semis, is a tougher sell. Gonzaga is in anyway, but what happens to the Gaels now? They lost three of five to close the season. But they have big wins over Oregon and Gonzaga, and a 25-6 record overall. Do they deserve to go? Absolutely. Will they? That's unclear.
In the interest of pragmatism, here's the biggest obstacle to a first-ever three-bid WCC. The bottom of this league is incredibly weak, with four teams below 200 in the RPI and 11 or fewer overall wins. None of the top three WCC teams lost to any of the bottom five, inflating their records considerably. It's just hard to believe that the committee would accept 3/8ths of a league with a second division as soft as the WCC's, it really is. They say that they don't look at conference affiliation when evaluating teams, but the weak-bottom theory is what took away the Colonial's third bid in 2006.
The top two seeds survived and advanced easily in the Badlands Conference, setting up a championship game we saw coming back in January.
South Alabama, one of the most well-rounded teams at this level, have two weaknesses: turnovers and 3-point shooting. MTSU exploited both last night, holding the host Jaguars to 23 percent from long distance and under-turnovering them by three. A balanced Blue Raider scoring attack (four in double figures) helped too. Western Kentucky cruised in the other semifinal.
On Tap Tonight
Butler is in anyway, this is about seeding for the Bulldogs and a second bid for the conference. Butler took one of their two league losses at CSU but held court in February, holding the Vikings to 46 points on 36 percent shooting. But despite shooting 43 percent on the year, Cleveland State has shot better than 50 percent in their last two games.
It's a series that produced two Game! Of! The! Night!s this season, and two of the better back-and-forth contests at this level. IUPUI is one of the best-shooting teams in the nation, and ORU presents the league's toughest defense.
Only Nashville and a few miles of interstate separates these two schools, and this was one of the best local rivalries in the Belt in the mid-nineties before WKU started dominating the series, winning seven of the last eight.
The top four seeds go at it with semifinals in Portland. The Vikings won the right to host the final two rounds after winning the regular-season championship.
8:30 pm ET -  Weber State 16-13 (10-6) vs.  Northern Arizona 20-10 (11-5) | Preview
Recent: 02/28/2008 WEBER 71 @NAU 74 01/25/2008 NAU 69 @WEBER 56
11:00 pm ET -  Idaho State 12-18 (8-8) at  Portland State 21-9 (14-2) | Preview
Recent: 02/14/2008 IDST 58 @PDXST 81 01/13/2008 PDXST 71 @IDST 61
What is likely the final MEAC tourney in Raleigh kicks off with a pair of quarterfinals. The conference has always had a different theme and slogan, but this year it's reusing the one from 2007: "United We Jam."
6:30 pm ET -  Coppin State 12-20 (8-9) vs.  Howard 6-25 (3-15) | Preview
Recent: 02/25/2008 HOW 45 @COPP 68 01/28/2008 COPP 69 @HOW 73
9:00 pm ET -  South Carolina State 12-19 (9-9) vs.  Bethune-Cookman 11-20 (6-12) | Preview
Recent: 03/01/2008 SCST 85 @BETH 81 02/02/2008 BETH 48 @SCST 51
1,945 miles is a long way to travel for a conference play-in game. They don't do that anymore in the WAC. This game is at Las Cruces like the others.
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