The Morning Dish – Sunday, March 3rd, 2002
by Andrew Flynn
Only 62 Left
Three teams have officially won NCAA Tournament berths, after winning their respective conference finals. The Florida Atlantic Owls (3-seed) defeated defending champs and 1-seed Georgia State 76-75 yesterday when a last second attempt didn’t fall for the Panthers, thus winning the inaugural Atlantic Sun title (formerly the TAAC). This marks the first trip to the dance for the Owls.
Similarly, the Ohio Valley Championship came down to a 1-vs.-3 game. The Murray State Racers scored a go-ahead bucket with under 10 seconds remaining to oust No. 1 seed Tennessee Tech 70-69. Murray State, who is no stranger to the dance, having gone 9 times in the last decade and a half, had been a thorn in the side of the 24-6 Golden Eagles, who should get an NIT bid.
We said it here first. If upstart High Point (which had defeated the 2 and 3 seeds in consecutive games) had scored 72 points, they would have defeated Big South mainstay Winthrop and gone to the dance with a 12-18 record. As it happens, High Point only scored 48, as they lost by 22 to the four-time defending champ. We’ll see if the selection committee is kind, as last season Winthrop had to play in the special Tuesday play-in game.
Brian Seymour, we need to adjust your Horizon predictions: Top 25 harlot and mid-major inspiration (not to mention No. 1 seed) Butler stopped, dropped, and rolled over to lightly-regarded Wisconsin-Green Bay 49-48 in Horizon Quarterfinal action yesterday. WGB had to win the play-in game Friday night, having defeated Horizon newcomer Youngstown State 86-65. At 25-6, Butler could still see an at-large berth, but they are really stretching their bubble.
Tiny Bubbles: No. 25 Cal, who had gone down to the desert to try and claim a piece of the Pac-10 crown, got stomped like a narc at a biker rally, suffering their second-worst loss ever by playing dead to the 14th-ranked Arizona Wildcats, 99-53. Oregon, with their 65-62 road win over UCLA, thus grabs it’s first Pac-10/Pac-8 title outright. No. 11 Kentucky edged No. 10 Florida 70-67 to secure a bye in the first round of the SEC playoffs. No. 15 Georgia also has a bye, even though they lost to Tennessee 71-63.
Interesting Seeding: Now No. 21 Indiana has a share of the Big Ten title, by defeating Northwestern 79-67. No. 17 Ohio State has a share of the Big Ten title, by defeating Michigan 84-75. The other day, we told you that Wisconsin has a share of the Big Ten title, their first since 1947. And No. 16 Illinois could still get in on the action, with their finale against Minnesota today.
Farewell to an Old Friend II: Maryland’s William P. Cole Jr. Student Activities Building closes its doors after today’s season finale agaist Virginia, where the Terrapins attempt to go undefeated on the season at home. The 47-year old Cole hosted one of the most important games in NCAA history – the 1966 Championship where Texas Western, starting five African-American players, defeated the top-ranked (and all-white) Kentucky, coached by Adolph Rupp. Cole, which also hosted wrestling and indoor track and field (featuring Steve Prefontaine and Renaldo (Skeets) Nehemiah), became the home to the powerhouse Terps teams of the 70’s coached by legend Lefty Driesell. One of the ultimate home-crowd venues, Cole will certainly be missed as the team moves into the spacious Comcast Center next season.
Farewell to an Old Friend III: Nolan Richardson presence was felt yesterday in Fayetteville, as the Arkansas Razorbacks beat Vandy 81-67. Richardson, whose contract was bought out Friday, had his empty chair draped with a towel that said “Richardson”. One player pantomimed speaking to the towel during the game, and the players had “NR” written on their shoes. New interim head coach Mike Anderson indicated a preference to be announced as “assistant coach” Mike Anderson for the remainder of the season.
More season finale-type matchups. We’ve got Memphis at No. 4 Cincinati, an interesting Syracuse-Boston College matchup, No. 1 Kansas at Mizzou, plus NC-Duke and No. 6 Alabama at Mississippi.
Semifinal action galore, with the Butler-less Horizon, the Colonial, the Metro Atlantic, Missouri Valley (a stodgy 1-4, 2-3 affair), the Patriot, and the West all determining who will be one step closer to the dance floor.
We’ve got the second-round of the America East Tournament. Look for Philip Kasiecki’s update from the floor tomorrow morning.