The Pi-Rate Ratings

March 5, 2017

Conference Tournament Update–Sunday, March 5, 2017

First Ticket Punched

Welcome Jacksonville State to the giant Dance Studio of March.  The Gamecocks have been a small football factory at the FCS level, noted for upsetting Ole Miss and almost knocking off Auburn in recent years.  As a basketball member of Division 1, JSU has never been a contender for the NCAA Tournament.  In fact, in a score of seasons at the D1 level, the school has produced just four overall winning records with no conference championships.

Last year, the Gamecocks finished just 8-23 and parted ways with Coach James Green.  Enter Coach Ray Harper, who had just resigned from Western Kentucky following a WKU School suspension of three key players.  Harper came to JSU with two Division II national titles, two NAIA national titles, and two D1 NCAA appearances while with the Hilltoppers.

Even with such a stellar resume, not even Coach K himself could have made the so-called media experts select the Gamecocks to finish first in the Ohio Valley Conference this year, nor even make the upper half of the standings.  JSU was a consensus 12th-place pick out of 12 teams in the league.

Not only did Harper guide the Gamecocks well above last place, he took JSU to a winning record in the league and winning record overall.  Then, he upset top-seed Belmont to make it to the OVC Championship Game, where the Gamecocks looked like they were definitely the best team in the league at this point of the season.

Jacksonville State thus becomes team number one in the NCAA Tournament with an overall record of 20-14.  They are likely to be a #16 seed and at best a #15, but they will not lay down and allow a #1 seed to walk all over them.  Expect a tough fight from these Gamecocks.

 

Three More Tickets Issued Today

By the end of the day, there will be a quartet of teams in the Field of 68.  Surprise 7th-seed Campbell (17-16) faces a challenging task, as the Camels must go to top-seed Winthrop (25-6) to decide the Big South Championship.  That game will air on ESPN at 1:00PM Eastern Time.  If Campbell wins, the Camels are virtually assured of knowing they will have to go to Dayton for a First Four game.  If Winthrop wins, the Eagles just might move up to a 13-seed and should be no worse than a 14-seed, and a formidable one at that.

 

An hour later, the finale of Arch Madness (Missouri Valley Conference) tips off on CBS, and the top two seeds have made it to the championship round for their rubber game grudge match.  Top-seed Illinois State (27-5) is actually an underdog to second-seed Wichita State (29-4) and for good reason.  The Shockers look as strong at this point of the season as they did when they advanced to the Final Four a few years back.  Coach Greg Marshall’s WSU team has won 14 games in a row, including an incredible 41-point win over ISU four weeks ago.  Some bracketologists believe that the loser of this game could move outside of the good part of the bubble, but most of our Bracketology Gurus have the Valley sending both teams to the Dance.

 

At 3:00 PM Eastern today, the Atlantic Sun Title Game will tip off in a game between rivals from the Sunshine State.  3-seed North Florida (15-18) visits perennial league champion and top-seed Florida Gulf Coast (25-7).  The two teams played in Fort Myers at the end of January, and FGCU pulled away in the second half to win by 15 thanks to a hot night from guard Brandon Goodwin.  In a semifinal win at 2-seed Lipscomb, you might have been confused and thought that the names on the back of the UNF jerseys read, “Curry,” “Harden,” and “Korver,” as the Ospreys hit three-pointer after three-pointer to pull away from Lipscomb quickly.  They will have to have a repeat performance to have a chance to upset FGCU today.

 

Have We Got Offense For You

We are true hardwood junkies here on the PiRate Ship.  And, we keep a close watch on all the low and mid-major conferences, where there are teams operating under the radar and not getting any national publicity.  If you really love basketball and especially love the style of play that was prevalent in the 1960s and 1970s, when teams raced up and down the floor with 80-possession games, then there is a must watch game for you tonight.

In the Summit League, at 9:30 PM Eastern Time, Fort Wayne will take on Omaha in a quarterfinal match.  The last time these two teams squared off, Ft. Wayne won 108-101 in overtime, and there is no reason to think tonight’s game will be much different.  That 45-minute game saw both teams accumulate 91 possessions, and even if they only play 40 minutes tonight, they could easily top 80 possessions apiece.

 

The Inaugural Ivy League Tournament Is Finally Set

Call us snobbish or traditional, but most of us buckaroos and buckarettes here really like the Ivy League basketball season.  Our head Captain here can remember Bill Bradley playing at Princeton and Jim McMillan playing at Columbia, and he has followed this league like he is the commissioner himself.

Last night, Penn upset Harvard, while Columbia fell to Yale.  The Lions could not protect a five-point second half lead, and then after Yale took a four-point lead, Columbia fought back to tie the game with less than 90 seconds to go.  A missed three-pointer when there was a possible high-percentage two-pointer available led to Yale getting the rebound with the lead in the final minute, and the Bulldogs then held onto the ball, forcing Columbia to foul.  Unfortunately for the Lions, they had yet to put Yale in the bonus, and they did not force the seventh foul until there were less than five seconds remaining.  Miye Oni hit both foul shots for Yale to put the dagger in CU’s hopes.

So, the first ever Ivy League Tournament will feature top-seed Princeton, who went a perfect 14-0 in the league facing fourth-seed Penn in one semifinal match, while Harvard and Yale meet in the other semifinal.  If the Ivy League had wanted to script the perfect first ever tournament, they would have wanted it exactly like this.  Two sets of arch-rivals with the weakest of the four teams hosting the thing at the most venerable Eastern gymnasium, the Palestra.  Hey Ivy League brass–we are waiting for our media pass!  We’ll sit anywhere and even move the dust mop across the floor at halftime and during timeouts.

Today’s Tournament Schedule (by Conference)

Time Network Conference Team vs. Team
3:00 PM ESPN A_Sun TITLE Florida Gulf Coast vs. North Florida
1:00 PM ESPN B-South TITLE Winthrop vs. Campbell
2:00 PM Comcast SN Colonial UNC-Wilmington vs. William & Mary
4:30 PM Comcast SN Colonial College of Charleston vs. Northeastern
5:00 PM ESPN3 Horizon Green Bay vs. Illinois-Chicago
7:30 PM ESPN3 Horizon Northern Kentucky vs. Wright St.
4:30 PM ESPN3 MAAC Monmouth vs. Siena
7:00 PM ESPN3 MAAC St. Peter’s vs. Iona
2:00 PM CBS MVC  TITLE Illinois St. vs. Wichita St.
12:00 PM CBSSN Patriot Boston U vs. Lehigh
2:00 PM CBSSN Patriot Bucknell vs. Navy
5:00 PM ESPN3 SoCon UNC-Greensboro vs. Wofford
7:30 PM ESPN3 SoCon East Tennessee St. vs. Samford
7:00 PM ESPN3 Summit South Dakota St. vs. Denver
9:30 PM ESPN3 Summit Omaha vs. Fort Wayne

Schedule by Tip-off Time

Time Network Conference Team vs. Team
12:00 PM CBSSN Patriot Boston U vs. Lehigh
1:00 PM ESPN Big South Winthrop vs. Campbell
2:00 PM Comcast SN Colonial UNC-Wilmington vs. William & Mary
2:00 PM CBS MVC Illinois St. vs. Wichita St.
2:00 PM CBSSN Patriot Bucknell vs. Navy
3:00 PM ESPN Atlantic Sun Florida Gulf Coast vs. North Florida
4:30 PM Comcast SN Colonial College of Charleston vs. Northeastern
4:30 PM ESPN3 MAAC Monmouth vs. Siena
5:00 PM ESPN3 Horizon Green Bay vs. Illinois-Chicago
5:00 PM ESPN3 SoCon UNC-Greensboro vs. Wofford
7:00 PM ESPN3 MAAC St. Peter’s vs. Iona
7:00 PM ESPN3 Summit South Dakota St. vs. Denver
7:30 PM ESPN3 Horizon Northern Kentucky vs. Wright St.
7:30 PM ESPN3 SoCon East Tennessee St. vs. Samford
9:30 PM ESPN3 Summit Omaha vs. Fort Wayne

Coming Tomorrow: An updated Bracketology Gurus report plus all the tournament brackets and the schedule of games for Monday.

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