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March 16, 2003 Columns No Comments

The Morning Dish – Sunday, March 16, 2003

by Phil Kasiecki

Championship Saturday was the grand-daddy of all Championship Week days, as 11 conferences had championship games in their tournaments. Most notable of all were a few things that happened for the first time. More details can be found as we continue to cover Championship Week.

The day started out with Vermont earning its first ever NCAA Tournament bid, beating regular season champion Boston University 56-55 on a fadeaway jumper by David Hehn in the final seconds. In getting their first NCAA Tournament bid in 103 years of basketball, the Catamounts (21-11) also matched last season’s school-record 21 wins.

In the Atlantic Ten Championship, No. 19 Dayton (24-5) took out Temple, 79-72, for the school’s first Atlantic Ten title. The Flyers took advantage of having the tournament on their home floor, as they finish the season 17-1 on their home floor.

In Los Angeles, Oregon assured that they would not sweat out Selection Sunday, as the Ducks grabbed their first ever Pac Ten Tournament title with a 74-66 win over USC. The Ducks (23-9) may well have been off the bubble by reaching the final, but now there is no question that they are in. The Trojans (13-17) lost in the title game for the second straight year.

In other title games, No. 15 Louisville (24-6) held off Alabama-Birmingham 83-78, taking the Conference USA title and likely relegating the Blazers to the NIT; South Carolina State (20-10) took the MEAC title with a 72-67 win over two-time defending champion Hampton; Texas Southern (18-12) took home the SWAC title with a 77-68 win over Alcorn State in Dave Whitney’s final game as Alcorn State’s head coach; Central Michigan (24-6) beat Kent State (21-9) 77-67 to take the MAC title; Colorado State (19-13) will have UNLV (21-10) sweating it out on Sunday, as they took the Mountain West title with a 62-61 win; Tulsa (22-9) is going back to the NCAA Tournament after all, scoring a 75-64 win over Nevada in the WAC final; and Utah State (24-8) is going back to the NCAA Tournament after a 57-54 win over Cal Poly-SLO in the Big West final.

Side Dishes

Third Time’s the Charm: No. 5 Pittsburgh played in its third straight Big East championship game on Saturday night. In the first two, they made progress; they lost by 21 to Boston College in 2001, the largest margin in a Big East championship game, then lost an epic double overtime battle with Connecticut last year by 9. This year, they were opposite the Huskies again, but the Panthers (26-4) took the next step this time, beating the Huskies 74-56. Connecticut will enter the NCAA Tournament with a 21-9 record.

Battle of the Triangle: The ACC’s final four had teams from around the Triangle. No. 12 Duke (23-6) advanced with a 75-63 win over arch-rival North Carolina, while North Carolina State (18-11) upset No. 9 Wake Forest (24-5) 87-83 behind 31 points from Julius Hodge.

Not Quite the Matchup They Expected: No. 7 Oklahoma (23-6) advanced to the Big 12 championship game for the fourth straight year, though it took them overtime to knock off Texas Tech (17-12). But the surprise came in the other semifinal, as Missouri (21-9) ended a five-game losing streak against No. 3 Kansas (25-7) with a 68-63 win.

The Run Continues: Ohio State (17-13) continued its run in the Big Ten Tournament, as they reached Sunday’s final with a 55-54 win over Michigan State (19-12). The Buckeyes will take on No. 14 Illinois (23-6), which survived a late rally by Indiana (20-12) in a 73-72 semifinal win.

SEC Final Set: No. 2 Kentucky (28-3) isn’t slowing down, as they easily handled Auburn (20-11) 78-58. The Wildcats will face Mississippi State (21-8), which ended a seven-game winning streak of LSU (21-10) with a 76-61 win behind 26 points (including 6-9 shooting on three-pointers) by Timmy Bowers.

Calling It a Career: Legendary head coach Rollie Massimino resigned on Saturday after seven disappointing seasons at Cleveland State. Rumor had it that he would not be around next season, and now it is official as the school bought out the final two years of his contract. After winning an improbable NCAA title in 1985 with Villanova, Massimino didn’t have the same magic in Cleveland. The program went 90-113 under him, never making postseason play. It is now in poor condition after an 8-22 season, the first 20-loss season in his 30 years of coaching, and his tenure included some embarassing off-court problems for the school.

Tonight’s Menu:

The last day before the postseason is a light day in terms of games being played, but check all the latest recaps during Championship Week right here at Hoopville.

• The SEC Championship game starts the day, with No. 2 Kentucky taking on Mississippi State.

• The ACC Championship game pits No. 12 Duke against streaking North Carolina State.

• The Big Ten Championship game will match up No. 14 Illinois and streaking Ohio State.

• Last, but not least, the Big 12 Championship game pits Missouri against No. 7 Oklahoma.

That’s all for now. Enjoy Selection Sunday everyone!

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