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Semifinal Fever!

March 9, 2002 Columns No Comments

The Morning Dish – Saturday, March 9th, 2002

by Andrew Flynn

Two More Days
We’ve come a long way since last Wednesday, when “Championship Week + 4 Days” started. Only two days remain for conferences to crown their champion, for bubble teams to collectively hold their breath, for students to know where they must travel to see their team (though they may be disappointed to discover that they’re not traveling with the NIT). And let’s not forget the travel industry, who yearly pads their first-quarter projections knowing that scores of fans will buy overpriced airfare and hotel due to only having 3-day’s notice.

Yesterday, thanks to a few legitimate upsets, we learned that no one wants to be the 4th Number One seed. Which we’ve known for a few weeks now. Today and tomorrow should feature some incredible hoops action, so here we go!

Here’s What Happened, and What’s on Tap:

Georgia, we have a bid: The Patriot League Final featured 2-seed Holy Cross against 1-seed Patriot League newcomer American. Take that, rook! Holy Cross rallied and downed the Eagles 58-54, thus returning to the dance for a second-consecutive year.

America East: The finals take place a week after the semifinals – you can tell classwork is of importance to this conference, or maybe it’s the mandatory Saturday night stay for cheaper airfare. 5-seed Maine faces off against 2-seed Boston University. You’ll recall that the sluggish Black Bears tripped up 1-seed Vermont on Sunday in overtime.

ACC: Well, that was uneventful. Semifinal action starts today, with the 1-4 seeds still alive. The Terps beat Florida State by 26, the Wolfpack downed Virginia (and maybe their NCAA Tournament hopes) 92-72, Duke tripped UNC 60-48 in a game that was surprisingly competitive (for UNC), and Wake downed the Yellowjackets by 9. So we have Maryland-N.C. State and Duke-Wake this afternoon.

Atlantic 10: In yesterday’s semifinals, the two favorites triumphed. Xavier beat Dayton 66-59, and Richmond ended LaSalle’s Cinderella complex 68-60. The final is tonight.

Big East: This is getting old. Another matchup of the two top seeds. Yesterday Pitt downed Miami in a spirited fashion, 76-71, and UConn defeated Notre Dame 82-77. Face-off is tonight at 8pm EST between the Huskies and Panthers.

Big Sky: 5-seed Montana just keeps on rollin’! This time it was yesterday’s defeat of cross-state rival (and No. 1 seed) Montana State 70-68. The Grizzlies go up against 2-seed Eastern Washington in the final. Craig Kilborn is going nuts!

Big Ten: Steve Alford must have really bent mentor Bobby Knight’s ear, because this wasn’t at all expected. Iowa, who was at one time ranked 12th in the nation, came into the Big Ten Tournament seeded 9th, and subsequently upended 8-seed Purdue (not difficult) and then 1-seed Wisconsin (not as suprising as you would think, given Iowa’s veteran team and Wisconsin’s youth). The Hawkeyes will face Indiana, who handled Michigan State 67-56. The other semifinal will pit clean-shaven Ohio State against the Illini.

Big 12: Talk about manhandling. There weren’t any real upsets yesterday in the Big 12, though 5-seed Knight-led Texas Tech defeated 4-seed OK State (Tech has been peaking, and OSU had been on the decline. In other action, Kansas topped Colorado by 29, Oklahoma tripped K-State by 11, and Texas outlasted Missouri 89-85. It’s probably NIT time for Mizzou. Today, Kansas will face Texas Tech (all sorts of side stories here), and the Sooners will face the Longhorns in another gridiron classic.

Big West: Another final today, as Utah State will square off with 3-seed Santa Barbara. The Aggies beat Pacific 69-65, and the UC-Irvine Anteaters couldn’t catch the Gauchos 66-61.

C-USA: Well we’ve got the rematch we’ve been waiting for. Bearcats. Golden Eagles. Let’s get it on! How did they get here? Marquette defeated 6-seed Houston, and Cincinnati spanked Charlotte 71-55.

Ivy: It’s Yale against Penn in the second round of the non-playoff playoff. The non-Tournament Tournament. It smacks of big-time commercialism, especially with the neutral site (Lafayette). Now guys, isn’t this more fun than just checking who’s atop the standings at the end of the season?

Mid-American: Well Kent State rolled. In other news, most humans exhale, and inhale. The Golden Flashes trounced upon a pretty decent Toledo team, winning it 86-61. Bowling Green ended any and all hopes of Ball State, 69-57. In a mid-Ohio rumble, the two will face off tonight at 7pm EST.

MEAC: Top-seeded Hampton sure wasn’t sympathetic to South Carolina State’s hopes, defeating them 80-70. 3-seed Howard tripped up 2-seed Delaware State 65-56, so the two will meet this afternoon.

Mountain West: Gotta love the Mountain West! Upsets Galore! First, after 1-seed Wyoming’s scare Thursday, they really didn’t gut-check Friday against San Diego State, falling to the 5th-seeded Aztecs 70-69. 3-seed UNLV up-ended 2-seed Utah, 76-70. Tonight’s final pits the upstart Aztecs against the Rebels at 10pm EST. Keep in mind SDSU coach Steve Fisher quasi-promised some sort of post season tournament berth for his squad. Not that’s one for the UNLV bulletin board!

Pacific-10: Lightning didn’t strike for a third time, as USC managed to topple the 1-seeded Ducks 89-78. But Arizona did make it a three-peat this season with the defeat of Cal, 90-78. Does this mean that the Wildcats will beat the Trojans 90-89. Check out Phil Kasiecki’s Pac-10 Tournament column at right.

SEC: Wild and wacky™. Who would have thought that a Shaq-less LSU could get anywhere? Well, evidently 12 Southern gentlemen from Baton Rouge, that’s who. The Tigers downed 1-seed Georgia, who had been on a bit of a schnide, 78-76. Alabama held up against the Vols 91-72. Seed-wise it wasn’t an upset, but did anyone really think Mississippi State would be able to knock off Florida, especially with the 62-52 score? And South Carolina shocked Kentucky 70-57. This afternoon, we have LSU-‘Bama, and Mississippi State against the Gamecocks.

Southland: The Southland is another school that took a few days off after the semifinals. Today’s final pits 1-seed McNeese State against 2-seed Louisiana-Monroe in a rematch of some heated contests during the regular season.

SWAC: The Southwestern Athletic Conference features one team that most of the nation has heard of (1-seed Alcorn State) against the team that actually won this tournament last season and went dancing (3-seed Alabama State).

WAC: Is anyone surprised anymore? 1-seed Hawaii jumped all over Nevada 90-68, and Tulsa wasn’t quite so harsh in defeating Fresno State 81-65. The final is tonight (in Tulsa). Two issues: 1. We may have seen the last game coached by the Shark, and 2. If Hawaii wins, they will they fly home to Hawaii, then be seeded in the East region, necessitating an 9-hour flight on Wednesday?

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