Posted on: March 11, 2010 12:57 am
Now that was we have been waiting for! A great finish to a day full of games that would have excited even the most passive of fans. We punched two more tickets to the NCAA Tournament, saw one major conference upset and saw Rick Pitino and his merry bunch of Cardinals have a quick exit from Madison Square Garden. A quick overview:
BIG SKY CONFERENCE FINAL: Montana 66 Weber State 65
The game of Championship Week happened in, of all places, Ogden, Utah where Montana rose from the ashes on the back of the new Harold "The Show" Arceneaux, Anthony Johnson of Montana, who scored a Big Sky Tournament record 42 points, leading the Grizzlies to an unbelievable comeback against Weber State on their home floor. Johnson had eight points at halftime and then exploded for 34 in the second half, causing Bob Valvano to utter so many words of amazement that he forgot to plug his radio show and drop names of his famous friends. The Grizzlies were down 20 points at half and those of us watching at home (at the time me, Seth Davis, Mr. and Mrs. Johnson and the old guy who wears sweatpants to all of the high school games in your town), were ready to put the game to rest and go to bed. Johnson however took over, scoring on a variety of circus shots and making himself unstoppable in a 20 minute display that was as good of a performance as you will see in a major college basketball game. The Grizzlies now make their 8th trip to the NCAA Tournament and the boys from Weber State have to deal with the dual heartache of losing a game they should of won AND living in Ogden, Utah. Pray for them.
NORTHEAST CONFERENCE FINAL: Robert Morris 52 Quinniapac 50
Montana was not the only school to win on the road however, as Robert Morris made the trip to Quinniapac University and took out another conference favorite, 52-50. The game was a nailbiter throughout and came down to a late basket by Robert Morris that brought the masses to their feet and made them forget about the fact that they had no idea where they were or what a "Quinniapac" actually is. For Quinniapac, it was their chance to make the first NCAA Tournament in school history, and the loss ends one of the most successful seasons since the school went Division I. True story about Quinniapac. I once bet a girl I was dating in college whether or not "Quinniapac" was a real name of a college in the United States. She insisted it was not, we bet and I won. It was a great prize and one that I still remember fondly....making Quinnipac a secret favorite of mine for years to come. For Robert Morris, a loss to a #2 seed awaits.
TWO MAJOR CONFERENCE UPSETS: Missouri and Louisville
Two of the more perplexing teams in college basketball went down on Wednesday, as #5 seed Missouri was beaten by woeful Nebraska and Louisville lost to Cincinnati. For Missouri, the loss was more embarassing than hurtful, as they are safely in the tournament and Mike Anderson's moustache still has a chance to create postseason havoc. But the Tigers had dreams of making a run in the Big 12 Tournament and improving their seeding in the NCAA, and those dreams have been husked by the fighting Tommie Fraziers. As for Louisville, it was a tale of two halves, mirroring the sporaticness of the season thus far for the Cards. Louisville led by 11 at the half and seemed to have the game under control, when Cincinnati began a second-half offensive board domination that allowed it to take the lead and hold on down the stretch for the three point victory. The Cards only had 2 points scored in the second half from players not named Edgar Sosa or Samardo Samuels, and key missed free throws cost them the game and their pride. For the Bearcats, an NCAA berth likely requires a tournament win and their next task will be a battle against West Virginia and Bob Huggins' tracksuit.
Most of the other games held to form, with the best team winning and setting up a great day of Thursday action. A little peak ahead:
Big Day in the Big East
There are no finals in any conference on Thursday, which means it is all big boys going at each other in the beginnings of major conference tournaments. The biggest of the big will be in New York, where a great day of basketball is headed to the Garden. Georgetown and Syracuse renew their age-old rivalry to start the day, followed by Marquette vs Villanova, Pitt vs Notre Dame and West Virginia vs Cincinnati. If you could be anywhere in America to watch basketball on Thursday, you would choose New York City.
Tournament Play Kicks off in the SEC, ACC and Big Ten
Patiently waiting their turn after the start of all the other conference championships, the last three major conferences tip off on Thursday. Duke and Maryland are the favorites in the ACC Tournament, although teams like Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech need to quietly make a run to ensure their NCAA standing. Kentucky will bring its Big Blue powers to Nashville for a ticket that may be the toughest in the Tournament's recent history. While Ohio State and Michigan State will be attempting to create another rematch in the Finals in Chicago for Big Ten glory.
All told, Thursday will be the busiest of all days of Championship Week, with every major conference in action, and games coming from secondary conferences like the Atlantic Ten, WAC, Mountain West and Conference USA as well. We will have every moment covered here, and after Thursday's action, the entire scene for Selection Sunday will become much clearer.
Posted on: March 10, 2010 10:18 pm
Edited on: March 10, 2010 10:21 pm
Robert Morris wins the Northeast Conference Tournament for the second straight season, edging house-favorite Quinnipiac 52-50, setting the college basketball world ablaze.
Forward Dallas Green, he's from Indy, blocked a game-winning 3-point attempt from Quinnipiac's James Feldeine, then hit two free throws to seal another trip to the dance for the Pittsburgh based Colonials. Both teams entered the game 15-3 in conference play, though Quinnipiac won the regular season matchup, and with it, the regular season title.
This is the first home loss of the season for Quinnipiac, who played like the weight of the world draped their shoulders, and in many ways, it did. They had a chance to earn their first ever bid to the dance while shattering an important alphabetic ceiling. You see, no school beginning with the letter 'Q' has ever made the tournament, and since Quinnipiac is the lone DI Q, you can understand the tremendous pressure hoisted upon them. I suppose next year when EVERY TEAM GETS A TROPHY!!! and there are 96 spots to fill maybe the No-east will get 2 bids and we'll all be so thankful that another team from the Northeast gets an opportunity to win a national championship.
A 15-16 seed for the Northeast Champs, Robert Morris Colonials.
Posted on: March 7, 2010 10:02 pm
Edited on: March 7, 2010 10:06 pm
Long Island 78 Quinnipiac 83
Mt. St. Mary's 62 Robert Morris 80
Take a seat Canisius, Quinnipiac is the new "never knew that school existed until I filled out my bracket" sensation, and the Bobcats will be seeking their first trip to the dance in school history when they battle Robert Morris Wednesday night for the league crown.
It won't be easy.
Defending champ Robert Morris (22-11. 15-3) made quick work of a Mt. St. Mary's team riding an 11 game win streak, and appear more than ready to avenge an 87-79 loss to Quinnipiac (23-8, 15-3) on their home floor last month. The Bobcats, however, are undefeated at home this year and possess the conference's best duo in guard James Feldiene and forward Justin Rutty.
Rutty, the NEC Player of the Year, blue-collared his way to 22 points and 16 boards tonight against the boys from Brooklyn, a game in which they trailed by 5 with under 6 to play. An 11-2 run secured their spot in the finals and a chance to make school history.
To the winner of course, is a trophy, and a trip to the biggest gymnasium they've ever played in to be rag-dolled by a 1-seed, taking pictures and making lasting memories allthewhile.
If you understand the essence of college basketball then you will enjoy this game.
Two teams, equally talented, in a battle of heart, balls, and desperation for a couple more weeks of relevancy and a compassionate pre-game piece featuring triumph over tragedy and narrated by either Greg Gumbel or Jim Nantz.
Northeast Conference Championship Game
Robert Morris @ Quinnipiac
Wednesday, 7 PM, ESPN2
Posted on: March 5, 2010 12:31 am
Edited on: March 5, 2010 12:36 am
Welcome to the Northeast Conference, where the basketball may not be quite as elite as its populace, but damned if it isn't every bit as cutthroat.
The NEC Tourney has already been trimmed to four with a single goal in mind: 16 seed.
Most "experts" agree the eventual NEC champ is destined for sacrificial slaughtering from the only slot on the NCAA Tournament bracket to have never advanced, but even when your date to the dance has more neck fat than Beano Cook and visible backne, you're still hitching a ride in that limo. And that's what college sports are all about. Limos. (college life on the other hand, is certainly more about neck fat)
So without further ado, or really much ado at all, the NEC final 4. Like many of the low-major post-season extravaganzas, the higher seed gets rewarded with a home game.
#4 Long Island (14-16, 11-7) @ #1 Quinnipiac (22-8, 15-3)
#3 Mount St. Mary's (16-14, 12-6) @ #2 Robert Morris 21-11, 15-3)
From the beginning this tournament had the look of a two-horse race between the Bobcats of Quinnipiac and Robert Morris Nissan, and when you add in the fact both schools combined for a mere one loss at home in conference, it's hard to imagine any other outcome. But this is March, people. You don't need the zeal of Gus Johnson or the tranquility of Jim Nantz to commence the crazy. Amazing things happen when it's win or go home, and it's all about who's hot at the right time. Which is why you'd be foolish to write off Mount Saint Mary's, winners of 11 straight, gliding on the wings of The Great Virgin (Mary, not Tebow). And if you think a school located in Brooklyn (Long Island) is simply going lie down and take what's coming to them, then you my friend have never been to Brooklyn. Quinnipiac can expect to be tested, and at the least, gentrified. Official Conference Site
Stay tuned. More to come later, including: -Robert Morris: A Gentleman and a Baller? -LIU vs LIT: bracketology meets mixology -Quinnipiac: from struggling summer camp to the cusp of the Big Dance Plus, Andy Rooney.
Posted on: March 4, 2010 7:25 pm
Edited on: March 4, 2010 7:53 pm
Opening round action has already tipped in the Big South, Horizon League, Ohio Valley, Patriot League and Atlantic Sun, which means the madness is officially upon us.
Thirteen days of nothing but dream-fulfilling, career-ending, win-or-turn-in-your-jersey action. All the elements that draw casual fans so completely into the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament are inherent in each and every one of the 30 conference tournaments that will take place over the course of the next two weeks.
Quite simply, it's high drama that you can't find anywhere else in sport.
We've taken our shots at ESPN since the start of the season, but the fact remains that each and every one of us are enormously indebted to the worldwide leader for what it does during college basketball's postseason. Between Thursday and Selection Sunday, ESPN will air 152 conference tournament games on its family of networks. If it was possible for me to get sick of the sport, I would.
Mid and low-major D-I basketball is an acquired taste, and it's one that's especially difficult to attain when the team you love and follow plays in a conference like the Big East. So while I'm fully aware that the majority of you likely aren't interested in any of what you're about to read, allow me to say this: I don't care. This is my favorite time of the year, I'm currently smiling as I type, and this post is going to happen whether you like it or not.
For the rest of you, it's time to get briefed for Championship Week...sans, of course, the six major and four mini-major (A-10, WAC, MWC, C-USA) conferences.
YOUR COMPLETE CONFERENCE TOURNAMENT DATES AND LOCATIONS
It's the most logical, if not exciting, jumping off point, and we all know this blog has always been rooted in practicality.
Let's go ahead and include the big boys in this one just because we can.
Five is a good number. Agree? Agree.
FIVE SQUADS FOR THE BUBBLE BOYS TO PULL FOR
If you're a major conference fan still with us (me), we'll (I'll) humor you.
Rapidly aging fans of teams that haven't done enough yet to warrant "lock" status should adopt these squads as their own for the next couple of weeks.
1. Gonzaga (West Coast)
A perennial occupant of any such list, the 'Zags are merely playing for seed at this point.
2. Butler (Horizon)
3. Northern Iowa (Missouri Valley)
A team from the MVC was noticeably absent on this list a year ago. No more, as the Panthers have controlled the Valley from start to finish and have put themselves in position to snag a single-digit seed in the big show.
4. St. Mary's (West Coast)
No team has been helped more by the struggles of bubble teams from power conferences in recent weeks than the Gaels. They've lost three conference games in a down season for the WCC, but their RPI is strong enough (44) that winning a game in the league tourney and falling to Gonzaga in the finals might be enough to get them an at-large bid.
5. Siena (Metro Atlantic Athletic)
The Saints' 0-4 record against RPI top 50 teams means they'll likely have to win the MAAC tourney to get in, but the Notre Dames and San Diego States of the world should probably go ahead and don their gold and green this week just to be safe.
FIVE MORE BIG TIME FAVORITES
These runaway regular season champs are all expected to go dancing, but will be relegated to the NIT with an upset.
1. Murray State (Ohio Valley)
The Racers weren't the preseason favorite in the OVC (defending champ Morehead was), but they, ahem, raced out to a 15-0 start in conference play and finished the regular season at 17-1 and 28-4 overall.
2. Morgan State (MEAC)
Todd Bozeman's Bears are the three-time defending regular season MEAC champs and the defending league tourney champs. Their 14-1 conference record is best by four games.
3. Oakland (Summit)
The Rawle Marshall-led Golden Grizzlies went to the NCAA Tournament in 2005, but Oakland captured its first Summit League regular season title this season by virtue of its 17-1 league record.
4. Sam Houston State (Southland)
The Bearkats (it's right) have won 14 of their last 15 and have dominated opponents on their way to a 14-1 league record. SHS has won its last three games by a combined 71 points.
5. Jackson State (SWAC)
They've won 11 straight and sit at 15-1 in the conference but will still almost certainly be sent to Dayton for the play-in game if they can make it through the SWAC tourney unscathed.
15 PLAYERS WHO WILL BE HEARD FROM
1. Gordon Hayward (Butler/Horizon League)
By averaging over 15 points and rebounds a game, Hayward became the fourth Bulldog in five years to bring home Horizon League POY honors. He sat out the regular season finale with a back injury, but should be good to go when Butler takes the floor in the Horizon semifinals on Saturday.
2. Omar Samhan (Saint Mary's/West Coast)
The senior center broke the Saint Mary's single-season scoring record when he dropped 33 on Loyola Marymount Saturday. He went off for 31 and 12 against Gonzaga in the first of two losses to the 'Zags earlier this year.
3. Artsiom Parakhouski (Radford/Big South)
The 6-foot-11 repeat Big South Player of the Year averaged 21.6 points and 13.2 rebounds and led the nation with 24 double-doubles.
4. Ryan Wittman (Cornell/Ivy)
You won't get to see him until the big dance since the Ivy League doesn't have a little dance, but the son of ex-NBA head coach Randy Wittman is one of the best shooters in college basketball.
5. Reggie Holmes (Morgan State/MEAC)
Holmes, a senior, didn't become a full-time starter until this season, but has scored enough (22.0 ppg) to be just 42 points shy of 2,000 for his career. He's gone over 30 points five times this season, including a 34-point outburst in a November win at Arkansas.
6. Kenneth Faried (Morehead State/Ohio Valley)
Faried led the nation in rebounding again this season despite standing just 6-7. The reason for that being possible is simple: he plays harder than anyone else on the floor. His 22 double-doubles were second only nationally to Parakhouski.
7. Adnon Hodzic (Lipscomb/Atlantic Sun)
The A-Sun Player of the year averaged over 22 points per game for the top-seeded Bisons. His family fled war-torn bosnia when he was just a toddler.
8. Ronald Moore (Siena/Metro Atlantic Athletic)
Moore leads the nation in assists per game (7.7), has an assist-to-turnover ratio of more than 3-to-1 and has the Saints poised for another NCAA Tournament run. He almost single-handedly led Siena to a first round victory over Ohio State a year ago, and then handled Louisville's pressure as well as any point guard had all season as the Saints nearly upset the top overall seed in the tournament.
9. Marquez Haynes (UT-Arlington/Southland)
Haynes, a Boston College transfer, is the nation's third-leading scorer and one of the few true NBA prospects on this list.
10. Noah Dahlman (Wofford/Southern)
Despite leading the league in scoring, Appalachian State's Donald Sims lost out to Dahlman in a hotly contested race for SoCon Player of the year. The junior forward led the division champion Terriers and ranked fourth in the league in scoring at 17.4 points per game. He has scored in double figures 44 straight times.
11. Tyren Johnson (Louisiana-Lafayette/Sun Belt)
Johnson led the Sun Belt in scoring, was second in rebounding, steals and minutes played, was fourth in blocked shots and in the top 15 in field goal percentage (.503), assists and assists-to-turnover ratio. No other player in the league led his team in scoring, rebounding, assists, steals and blocked shots.
12. Chris Harris (Navy/Patriot)
The All-Patriot League selection led the league in scoring (21.1), three-pointers made (84) and steals (2.0).
13. Justin Rutty (Quinnipiac/Northeast)
Rutty, Quinnipiac's first NEC Player of the Year, is the prototypical dominant mid-major post player: strong, too short to play low in a BCS conference and extremely aggressive. He notched a league best 14 double-doubles in his junior season.
14. Larry Sanders (VCU/Colonial Athletic)
The departure of Eric Maynor has allowed Sanders to establish himself as his team's and the league's top post presence, averaging 14.8 ppg and 8.9 rpg. He's expected to be selected in the first round of the NBA Draft if he chooses to skip his senior year of college.
15. Osiris Eldridge (Illinois State/Missouri Valley)
He was the Arch Madness MVP a year ago despite playing for the runner-up, and has admittedly spent the past 12 months preparing for this week and a shot at redemption.
FIVE MORE BECAUSE I CAN
Marqus Blakely (Vermont/America East)
FIVE TITLE GAMES YOU WANT TO HAPPEN
1. Gonzaga vs. Saint Mary's (West Coast)
These two simply don't care for one another. The 'Zags swept the regular season series with relative ease, but the stakes will be higher with the Gaels - perhaps - playing for their NCAA Tournament lives.
2. Murray State vs. Morehead State (Ohio Valley)
The defending champs and preseason favorites squaring off against the team that surprisingly dominated the league from start to finish. The last meeting between these two ended with Morehead handing Murray its first OVC loss and snapping the nation's longest winning streak in the process.
3. Akron vs. Kent State (Mid-American)
Two words: identical records (22-8, 12-3).
4. Robert Morris vs. Quinnipiac (Northeast)
Robert Morris spanked the Bobcats by 27 in the NEC semifinals a season ago, but Quinnipiac exacted a bit of revenge in 2010 by knocking off the Colonials on Feb. 20 to earn the head-to-head tiebreaker and bring home the first regular season title in program history.
5. Stony Brook vs. Vermont (America East)
The Catamounts are back among the league's elite and head into the postseason winners of eight of their last nine. Their only loss over that span was an 82-78 decision at Stony Brook which proved to be the difference in a regular season title race that was ultimately decided by one game.
FIVE CRAZY COMPETITIVE CONFERENCE TOURNAMENTS
Parity reigns supreme and should make for some tremendous games in each of these leagues.
1. Atlantic Sun
Four teams tied for the regular season title, with Lipscomb ultimately earning the top seed by virtue of their 4-2 record against the other three teams. Perennial powerhouse Belmont wasn't one of the teams who finished 14-6, but the Bears enter the postseason as the hottest team in the league, having won eight of nine.
While Stephen Curry's decision to leave for the NBA a year early will likely have a negative affect on the SoCon title game's TV rating, the tournament itself should be more fun to follow. Or at least the games will be more competitive. Come back, Steph. Wofford (15-3), Charleston (14-4) and Appy State (13-5) are the most likely contenders to end the Davidson Invitational era.
3. Colonial Athletic Association
There was talk in late January of this league possibly producing multiple at-large bids, but inexcusable stumbles from the league's top dogs quickly brought it back down to win or go home status. Still, any one of the top five teams from this conference (Northeastern, Old Dominion, William & Mary, VCU, George Mason) are more than capable of springing a first round upset in the dance.
4. Patriot League
With the exception of American and Navy tying for fourth-place at 7-7, each spot in the final league standings is separated by a single game. Year in, year out, the Patriot produces the most competitive quarterfinal contests during the opening week of the postseason.
5. Sun Belt
Middle Tennessee, Troy and North Texas all finished with league-best records of 13-5. Still, Western Kentucky may (again) be the favorite here, riding a seven-game league winning streak into the Belt tourney.
FIVE CRAPPIER CONFERENCE TOURNAMENTS
There's been a growing trend in recent years of leagues starting their regular season champions, or top two seeds, in the semifinals of the postseason tournament. It makes sense in that it adequately rewards regular season performance and gives the league its best shot to be well-represented in the NCAA Tournament, but it's like, not as fun.
Here are five conference tournaments that hope the prince cheats on Cinderella in ten years.
1. Big Sky
Not only does the Big Sky automatically place its top two seeds in the semifinals, but it only includes six teams in the whole tournament. A conference tournament that has as many total games as a first round baseball playoff series is un-American. I said it.
2. Horizon League
The Horizon has been utilizing this practice for a few seasons, but two years ago they stepped it up a notch. Now the top two seeds get an automatic bye into the semis, while the other eight teams have to win four games in four days. Wright State earned the second seed over Green Bay by a mere game and now sits in the semifinals, while the poor Phoenix have to win a pair of games just to get there. Of course a year ago Cleveland State did make it to the NCAAs by winning four games from the No. 3 spot.
3. West Coast
Gonzaga and St. Mary's will both begin league play in the semifinals, making this the easiest championship game to predict in the history of college basketball.
4. Big West
The Big West gives its top two seeds a bye into the semis, but it's also one of the few leagues that employs the NHL style of having the highest remaining seed play the lowest remaining seed in each round. Smart? Sure. Annoying as hell for fans of postseason college basketball? You bet.
What have we learned so far? Conference tournaments west of the Mississippi are infinitely lamer than conference tournaments east of the Mississippi. The Big East has four games for three straight days. THREE STRAIGHT DAYS OF FOUR GAMES.
Grow up, left coast.
5. Ivy League
Say what you will about the other four, but at least they have tournaments. Also, studying: not cool.
FIVE TEAMS EVEN THOSE WHO STOPPED READING AN HOUR AGO SHOULD WATCH
1. VMI (Big South)
The highest scoring team in college basketball. That is all.
2. Sam Houston State (Southland)
Lots of pressing, lots of points, fairly high quality of basketball.
3. North Dakota State (Summit)
4. Morehead State (Ohio Valley)
Kenneth Faried should be taped and shown to any and all youth basketball players.
5. Portland State (Big Sky)
Capable of beating or losing to anyone in their conference because of their style of play. If you must watch the Big Sky Tournament, then be happy that the Vikings snuck in.
TEN POTENTIAL NON-TOP SEEDS WHO COULD GO DANCING
1. Mount St. Mary's (Northeast)
Losers of nine straight earlier in the year, the Mountaineers are now riding a ten-game winning streak into the postseason. They've already defeated both Quinnipiac and Robert Morris, who tied for the regular season title.
2. Eastern Illinois (Ohio Valley)
The Panthers have won eight straight, including a victory over league runner-up Morehead State on Feb. 11.
3. Western Kentucky (Sun Belt)
Sharing the wealth has never been Western's thing. Just when you think it's definitely going to be someone else's year the 'Tops run off seven straight and thump the league's regular season champ (Troy) by 18.
4. Belmont (Atlantic Sun)
See above. The Bears have dominated this tournament for the past decade and, despite finishing fifth in the final A-Sun standings, have won eight of their last nine.
5. Hofstra (Colonial)
A tough task lies in front of the seventh-seeded Pride, but they're playing as well as any team in the CAA. They closed the regular season by winning six straight and nine of their last ten, a run that included a Bracket Buster win over Rider and an 11-point triumph at Northeastern.
6. Milwaukee (Horizon)
Winners of six straight, the fourth-seed may have a better shot at knocking off Butler than anyone else.
7. Northern Colorado (Big Sky)
Not just for stab-happy kickers anymore. The Bears have won seven of eight, falling only to regular season champ Weber State on Feb. 13, a game which was their second on the road in as many days.
8. Vermont (America East)
Not exactly a sleeper pick. The Catamounts have won eight of nine and figure to get another shot at top-seed Stony Brook this weekend.
9. Norfolk State (MEAC)
I'll go ahead and say it: if anyone's going to upset Morgan State, it'll be the Spartans. They've won five of six and fell to the Bears by a single point on the road last week.
10. Portland (West Coast)
The odds of anyone outside of Gonzaga and Saint Mary's snagging WCC glory are slim, but the Pilots have won six of seven and knocked off the Gaels in ovetime on Feb. 13.
FIVE MORE BECAUSE I STILL CAN
Tags: america east conference, atlantic sun conference, big sky conference, big south conference, colonial athletic association, horizon league, ivy league, metro atlantic athletic conference, mid-american conference, mid-eastern athletic conference, missouri valley conference, northeast conference, ohio valley conference, patriot league, southern conference, southland conference, southwestern athletic conference, summit league, sun belt conference, west coast conference