Another exciting night of college basketball wrapped up with 3 more teams punching their tickets to the Big Dance. Representing the Horizon league will be the Vikings of Cleveland State, who pulled off the upset of Butler in Hinkle Fieldhouse to take the conference crown. These two teams played a very tight season series with Butler being the victor in both regular season matchups, but with the Vikings playing for their tournament lives they delivered. The Bulldogs loss in the conference finals spells bad news for bubble teams, as the Horizon League just became a two bid conference with the Vikings claiming the conference crown, and Butler assuredly claiming an at-large bid.
In Summit League action, first year memeber North Dakota State demonstrated that they belong by knocking off Oakland in the championship game. Summit League player of the year Ben Woodside nailed the game winning shot on a leaning jumper, and completed the comeback bid for the Bison, who were down as much as 14 points in the first half.
No surprises from the Sun Belt conference tourney, as top-seeded Western Kentucky held off a pesky South Alabama team to earn their 21st NCAA tournament berth. A.J. Slaughter led the Hilltoppers with 18 points, helping WKU hold off the Jaguars after they squandered a 15 point first half lead by allowing South Alabama to go on an 18-4 run to start the second half.
The updated automatic bid list looks like this:
East Tennessee State (Atlantic Sun)
Radford (Big South)
Virginia Commonwealth (Colonial)
Cleveland State (Horizon)
Siena (Metro Atlantic)
Northern Iowa (Missouri Valley)
Morehead State (Ohio Valley)
North Dakota State (Summit)
Western Kentucky (Sun Belt)
Gonzaga (West Coast)
In Big East tournament action, play started off with a stunning upset as bottom seeded DePaul effectively ended whatever remote hopes the Cincinnati Bearcats had of making the Big Dance with a 67-57 victory. The Blue Demons will move onto the next round and matchup with the Providence Friars. Georgetown's chances of making the dance are also kaput, as the Red Storm of Saint John's used their comfortability of playing in Madison Square Garden to their advantage and posted a 64-59 win over the Hoyas. Saint John's advances to a second round matchup with the Golden Eagles of Marquette. In later action, both top seeds moved on as Notre Dame kept their Big Dance aspirations alive by defeating the Scarlet Knights of Rutgers by a 61-50 margin. The Irish will take on a scrappy West Virginia team in the next round. Seton Hall also moves on after defeating South Florida by a score of 68-54, earning a duel with the Orange in the nightcap of today's play.
In Big Sky play, Montana State shocked top seeded Weber State by handing them a 70-61 loss and dealing a severe blow to whatever minute chance the Wildcats had of making the tourney with an at-large bid (which is basically none). The Bobcats of Montana State provided the only blemish to Weber State's regular season conference record, and came back to bite the Wildcats again in the conference semifinals. The Bobcats advance to the conference tital game to take on the second seeded Portland State Vikings, who moved on with a 61-53 win over Idaho State. The Vikings made some noise earlier in the season with a near upset of the Washington Huskies, and followed up that performance a few days later by knocking off the Zags nine days later in Spokane.
The Big West conference tournament opens play in Anaheim today, with UC Irvine and UC davis squaring off, followed by UC Riverside and defending champion Cal State Fullerton matching up in the late action. Cal State Northridge captured the regular season crown for the first time in school history, with an 11-5 conference record.
The Conference USA tournament tips off today from the Fedex Forum in Memphis, with the first round matchups featuring Marshall and Rice, Central Florida and Southern Mississippi, Tuland and Eastern Carolina, and Houston and Southern Methodist. The top 4 seeds all received byes, with Memphis, Tulsa, Alabama-Birmingham, and Texas El-Paso all getting the first night off. The Tigers of Memphis at this point are the clear cut favorites at this point, and will enjoy a homecourt advantage throughout the tournament. Don't be surprised if they get pushed by Tulsa or Alabama-Birmingham in the later rounds though, as both teams are gonna try and claw their way into the Big Dance.
After the first round of MAC tournament play, Central Michigan advances with a win over Eastern Michigan, Kent State eeks out a win over Northern Illinois, Ohio knocks off Western Michigan, and the Zips of Akron survived a strong effort from bottom seeded Toledo. In today's action, Ball State will matchup with Eastern Michigan, Buffalo takes on Kent State, top seeded Bowling Green duels with Ohio, and the Redhawks of Miami of Ohio will take on Akron.
In MEAC tournament action from Winston-Salem, Hampton easily dispatched Delaware State by a score of 51-32, and Florida A&M defeated Howard by a score of 71-58. Today's action tips off with Bethune-Cookman taking on Maryland Eastern Shore, South Carolina State matching up with Hampton, North Carolina A&T taking on Coppin State, and top seeded Morgan State taking on Florida A&M. The winner of Bethune Cookman and Md Eastern Shore will advance to take on Norfolk State.
The Mountain West conference begins championship play today from Sin City as Colorado State and the Air Force Academy square off in the play-in game.
The Pac 10 begins play today from the Staples Center in Los Angeles, with Oregon State taking on the Cardinal of Stanford, and Washington State taking on bottom seeded Oregon, who is having an uncharacteristic down year. The winner of Stanford and Oregon State will advance to take on top seeded Washington, while the Oregon/Wazzu winner moves on to battle UCLA.
The SWAC kicks off play today with all eight teams meeting up in first round action. Top seeded Alabama State faces off with Alabama A&M, Arkansas-Pine Bluff meets with Southern, Prairie View takes on Mississippi Valley, and Jackson State will square off with Texas Southern.
The WAC kicked off action last night from Reno with the Warriors of Hawaii losing to Fresno State by a score of 62-58. The Bulldogs of Fresno will meet up with the top seeded Aggies of Utah State today.