New Dance Partners
UNC-Wilmington won the Colonial Athletic Association once again, and the Seahawks seem to have recovered from their February swoon that saw them lose four times. UNCW will be a formidable seed, be it from the 11, 12, or 13 hole. Coach Kevin Keatts has established himself as a future star in the business, destined to end up at a power conference school.
Steve Forbes is quickly developing into a top-flight coach as well. The former assistant at Tennessee under Bruce Pearl guided his East Tennessee State Buccaneers to the Southern Conference title last night, and this ETSU team has a lot of the traits that the Volunteers possessed when Pearl and Forbes were in Knoxville. The Bucs will be a hard team for a 3 or 4-seed to get past in the second round.
Iona repeats as conference champions, as the Gaels fought off Siena in a close game to win the MAAC title on the loser’s home court. The Gaels will be a 14 or 15-seed, but they look like a one and done team this year.
Tickets Punched So Far
|Ohio Valley Conference: JACKSONVILLE ST. (20-14)|
|Big South Conference: WINTHROP (26-6)|
|Missouri Valley Conference: WICHITA ST. (30-4)|
|Atlantic Sun Conference: FLORIDA GULF COAST (26-7)|
|Colonial Athletic Association: UNC-WILMINGTON (29-5)|
|Southern Conference: EAST TENNESSEE ST. (27-7)|
|Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference: IONA (22-12)|
Surprise Surprise–Last Place Team One Win Away From Dancing
The Horizon League had a couple of worthy teams this year that could have won an opening game in the NCAA Tournament. Valparaiso looked like a Sweet 16 dark horse in early February, but the Crusaders lost a couple of games and then lost their version of Lebron and quickly exited the tournament in the opening game. Oakland appeared to have an easy road to the Horizon championship, but the Grizzlies fell to a feisty Youngstown State team in their first game.
What’s left for the title game tonight? Last-place and 23-loss Milwaukee has advanced to the championship game to face a Northern Kentucky team that picked the right time to play its best ball of the year. The Norse ended the regular season on a roll and have parlayed that into where they are now one win away from making their first ever NCAA Tournament berth at the Division 1 level. They were a dominant Division II team for more than a dozen years before moving up to the big time.
Today’s Tournament Schedule
Championship Games–NCAA Bid on the Line
|7:00 PM||ESPN||Horizon||Northern Kentucky||vs.||Milwaukee|
|7:00 PM||ESPN2||Northeast||Mount St. Mary’s||vs.||St. Francis (PA)|
|9:00 PM||ESPN2||Summit||South Dakota St.||vs.||Omaha|
|9:00 PM||ESPN||West Coast||Gonzaga||vs.||Saint Mary’s|
Other Tournament Games
|12:00 PM||ESPN2||ACC||Clemson||vs.||North Carolina St.|
|2:00 PM||ESPN2||ACC||Wake Forest||vs.||Boston College|
|4:00 PM||ESPN3||MEAC||Delaware St.||vs.||Bethune-Cookman|
|5:35 PM||Watch Big Sky||Big Sky||Portland St.||vs.||Northern Arizona|
|6:00 PM||ESPN3||MEAC||South Carolina St.||vs.||Florida A&M|
|7:00 PM||ESPNU||ACC||Georgia Tech||vs.||Pittsburgh|
|7:00 PM||Radio Only||SWAC||Alcorn St. *||vs.||Mississippi Valley|
|8:30 PM||Radio Only||SWAC||Texas Southern||vs.||Alabama St.|
|8:30 PM||Radio Only||SWAC||Southern||vs.||Jackson St.|
|8:35 PM||Watch Big Sky||Big Sky||Sacramento St.||vs.||Idaho St.|
|9:00 PM||Radio Only||SWAC||Prairie View A&M||vs.||Grambling|
|11:05 PM||Watch Big Sky||Big Sky||Montana St.||vs.||Southern Utah|
* Alcorn State is ineligible for postseason play, and if the Braves win the SWAC Tournament, regular season champion Texas Southern will get the automatic bid.
Keep an eye on the ACC Tournament opening round in Brooklyn. All three games involve teams on the Bubble–Clemson plays in the first game, Wake Forest plays in the second game, and Georgia Tech plays in the third game. All three must win today to stay on the Bubble, but a win will not get any of the three into the field. They all need multiple wins to earn at-large bids.
Game of the Night
Gonzaga and Saint Mary’s face off for a third time tonight, when the two Pacific powers meet in the West Coast Conference Tournament Championship Game yet again. Gonzaga has not looked like a Final Four team since losing to BYU in their regular season finale, while SMC looks like a team ready to make a long run in the NCAA Tournament with a stifling defense and improving offense. If SMC pulls the upset tonight, Gonzaga could fall to a 2-seed, allowing Kentucky or Oregon to move up to a 1-seed. SMC could move up to a 5 or even 4-seed with a win tongiht.