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No autobids given out on Thursday, but high seeds fell like falling things. Texas-Arlington showed No. 2 Lamar the door in the Southland quarterfinals. In the Atlantic 14, No. 6 Charlotte defeated No. 3 UMass, and there was a six-over-three in the SWAC, as Arkansas-Pine Bluff dumped Alabama A&M.
Some upsets were less dramatic, but threw their conference brackets into disarray nonetheless. No. 5 UC Irvine took out No. 4 Pacific in the Big West. The A-14's No. 5, Saint Joseph's, trounced No. 4 Richmond in Atlantic City. Miami (Oh.), the MAC's No. 5, eliminated four-seed Ohio.
The Patriot League will determine a champion this afternoon, as Colgate takes on American.
Semifinals in the A-14, Big West, MEAC, Southland, SWAC and WAC tonight, leading up to the final weekend of league elimination.
That popping sound you heard probably wasn't your ears, it was the bubbles of Dayton and UMass getting all sorts of bursted. Fans of both teams will be constructing illogical and selective arguments all weekend, but the truth is that the Flyers and Minutemen need more help than the rest of the nation might be able to give them. Xavier broke open a close game in the fourth "quarter," and UMass found a way to blow a 17-point halftime lead. The surviving Philly representatives both won tough slogs.
Norfolk State knocked out the defending champs in their 1008 tourney debut. In the late game, it was a late shot that lifted the Hornets to a stirring victory over the "home" Aggies. Jarrett Carter from HBCSU Sports Blog wrote an excellent recap, wondering if Delaware State is becoming the Duke of black college basketball.
A day after nearly being bounced by 12-seed Buffalo, Miami showed shades of its 2007 championship form by eliminating Ohio. Michael Bramos, a former MMBOW, scored 25 in the win. The other three top seeds cruised to easy wins, but Akron had a few first-half problems.
Lamar's field goal defense, rated in the bottom 20 nationally, was taken advantage of at the absolute wrong time, as UTA shot 54 percent in its win. Sam Houston State shot just 29 percent, but its rebounding filled the gap in an overtime victory over McNeese. Northwestern, as is its custom, used 14 players to overwhelm Southeastern. Top seed SFA struggled in the first half but came away with an 11-point victory over the eighth-seeded Roadrunners.
Well-rested Pacific had its late chances, but couldn't convert and the Anteaters will play their third game in three days tonight. Another former MMBOW, Josh Akognon, scored 20 to help Fullerton top Riverside.
Perhaps the best series in the A-14 this season was between the X and the Joes, the best two squads on paper, who delivered two instant classics in a season split. The buzz around Boardwalk Hall is that Charlotte is on the highest emotional plane of any of the final four, and could darn well win this thing.
What looked like the league title game a month ago is now a sterling semifinal: the late-night battle between Northridge and Fullerton. UCSB, which came on strong late in the season, will play its first contest of the tourney against an upstart bunch of Anteaters who've already played two games in as many days. But UCI swept the season series.
For Norfolk, the hard-fought win over Coppin in January was one of the first signs that this perennially mediocre team was ready to make the jump. Two weeks ago, Morgan and Del-State put on one of the sludgiest slogs found anywhere in the country this season, a 39-36 game in which neither team converted more than a third of their shots.
The only meeting between Akron and WMU was the Bronco blowout in which Zip big Jeremiah Wood went down with a knee injury. He's back now, but Western's overall size will be an issue for Akron. Miami was the team that Kent took its frustration out on after a road loss at Bowling Green dumped them out of the national polls last week.
Sam State is an immediate beneficiary of Lamar's loss, as they match up a whole lot better against UTA. Stephen F. was able to force its pace against the speedy Demons in their only meeting, the only team in the league that was able to do that this year.
Pine Bluff has been .500 or below for the past three seasons, but will be making its third straight semifinal appearance. Southern managed 90 points against top seed Alabama State this season -- over two games.
One of the nation's hottest group of scorers, Boise State, was leading the league for most of the season but could exact double-revenge on top seed Utah State, which beat them twice this season. It's a clash of recent champions in the late game, and it'll come down to which advantage is more potent: NMSU's home court or Nevada's speed and shooting.