March is always a magical month, where so many things happen that seemingly defy logical explanation. The way games end falls into that category as much as anything else, and Friday showed that again.
We start in Brooklyn at the Atlantic 10 Tournament, where Davidson trailed for most of the game, but rallied. Still down by one, they had a play in the final seconds to win it, and Tyler Kalinoski put it up near the basket and got it to drop as time expired. Ray Floriani has more on this.
Next, we go to Nashville in the SEC Tournament. In the second quarterfinal game, LSU had a three-point lead over Auburn in the final seconds. At first, this game looked like it would be best remembered for Auburn’s Jordon Granger throwing a right hook at LSU’s Jordan Mickey, which earned him an ejection, with 13:48 left. But K.T. Harrell made sure it would be remembered for something else, hitting a three-pointer to send the game to overtime. Auburn would then hang on to win, with Harrell scoring a game-high 29 points.
The next stop is Hartford in the American Athletic Conference Tournament. The last game of the night there was a dandy, as Cincinnati and UConn were locked in a defensive struggle. It went back and forth, played within an 11-point window. Cincinnati rallied from being down by five with 36 seconds left to tie it with 12.5 seconds to go. That’s when Ryan Boatright refused to let this be the night his team lost, hitting a three-pointer in front of his bench with less than a second to go to give the Huskies a 57-54 win and advance to the conference semifinals.
We then head west to Las Vegas in one of the last games of the night. Oregon and Utah played a dandy in the Pac-12 semifinals, with the winner set to take on Arizona. After Oregon appeared to be in good shape late, Utah managed to tie it in the final seconds. Pac-12 Player of the Year Joe Young, who seconds earlier was whistled for an offensive foul, dribbled up the floor, pulled up from well behind the arc and hit the bottom of the net with 1.1 second to go, finishing with 25 points and giving Oregon a 67-64 win and the right to play Arizona in the championship game.
Against that backdrop, we make one last trip for a study in contrast. In Kansas City, Oklahoma and Iowa State were in a thriller in the Big 12 Tournament. Down two, the Sooners ran a great play and got Ryan Spangler wide open right under the basket. But as he went up, he appeared to lose control of the ball, and it rimmed out and Iowa State survived 67-65.
Long jumpers that go with the game on the line, and a close shot that doesn’t. How do you explain it? You don’t. You realize it’s part of what makes this month what it is, and know that there’s still more of it to come.
Conference Tournament Round-Up
It was quite a day of action with a lot of games on tap.
- In the American Athletic Conference Tournament, the higher seed advanced in all but one game. SMU fended off East Carolina 74-68 in the opener, then Temple gave Fran Dunphy his 500th career win by knocking off Memphis 80-75. Tulsa then ended Houston’s season with a 59-51 win, and the aforementioned finale was the only one where the lower-seeded team won.
- The Atlantic 10 quarterfinals started off with the aforementioned thriller that saw Davidson rally to beat La Salle at the buzzer 67-66, winning despite a monster effort from La Salle big man Steve Zack (24 points, 15 rebounds). VCU then edged arch-rival Richmond 70-67. Dayton then overcame a small halftime deficit to knock off upset-minded St. Bonaventure 75-71, and Rhode Island closed out the night by winning their first conference tournament game in five years, 71-58 over George Washington thanks to a big second half.
- The Big 12 semifinals saw Kansas beat Baylor 62-52 before the aforementioned thriller in the nightcap.
- The Big East semifinals had a thriller to start, as Providence rallied to tie Villanova late with two quick baskets after being down by four, but the Wildcats got two free throws from Ryan Arcidiacono with 3.1 seconds left and held on to win 63-61. In the nightcap, Xavier built a 21-point lead, then held off a furious rally by Georgetown to win 65-63.
- The Big Sky Tournament had its semifinals, starting with Eastern Washington making a 15-point halftime lead stand up for a 91-83 win over Sacramento State. The second game had quite an ending, and went with some of the earlier games mentioned. Jordan Gregory capped off a 21-point night with a layup with 0.4 seconds left, and Montana pulled out a 61-59 win over Northern Arizona. After the layup, someone from the Montana bench ran out to midcourt, then dove back after realizing there was still time left. Officials didn’t call a technical foul, and in the post-game handshake line, Northern Arizona coach Jack Murhy appeared to poke Montana head coach Travis DeCuire in the chest, and a scuffle ensued that only went as far as shoving.
- In the Big Ten quarterfinals, Wisconsin took care of Michigan 71-60, then Purdue ended any hopes of a magical run for Penn State by taking out the Nittany Lions 64-59 behind 23 points from A.J. Hammons. In the night session, Maryland ensured that Indiana will sweat out Selection Sunday by beating the Hoosiers 75-69, and Michigan State closed the day by knocking off Ohio State 76-67 behind a big game from Denzel Valentine (23 points, eight rebounds, seven assists).
- The Big West Tournament saw a shocker in its first semifinal, as regular season champion UC Davis had been one of the great stories of the season. The Aggies will now be off to the NIT, however, as Hawaii beat them 65-58. In the other semifinal, UC Irvine needed overtime to beat UC Santa Barbara 72-63 despite another big night from Gaucho big man Alan Williams (24 points, 15 rebounds).
- The Conference USA Tournament had its semifinals, and they were both good ones. Middle Tennessee knocked off UTEP 53-50, then UAB needed overtime to knock off regular season champion Louisiana Tech 72-62.
- The MAC Tournament had semifinal action in Cleveland. First, top seed Central Michigan built a 17-point lead in the second half and held on for a 75-66 win over Toledo. In the second game, Buffalo beat Akron 68-59 to advance to the championship game.
- The MEAC Tournament saw both of their higher seeds go down. First, NCCU saw its winning streak end thanks to a big second half by Delaware State, who beat them 63-57. In the second game, Hampton pulled away from Norfolk State 75-64.
- In the Mountain West semifinals, Wyoming beat Boise State 71-66 in overtime, which could leave the Broncos sweating it out on Sunday. San Diego State took care of Colorado State 56-43 in the nightcap.
- The Pac-12 Tournament had two good ones, though the first one wasn’t quite as dramatic as the second. UCLA stayed right with Arizona throughout, but the Wildcats broke away late and held on for a 70-64 win behind 24 points and seven rebounds from Brandon Ashley. The nightcap was the aforementioned thriller between Oregon and Utah.
- In the SEC Tournament, Kentucky continued their run with 64-49 win over Florida, pulling away in the second half. Following that was the surprise of the day, as Auburn beat LSU 73-70 in overtime for the right to play Kentucky in Saturday’s semifinals. In the other half of the bracket, Arkansas ran out to a 20-point halftime lead, then had to hold off Tennessee 80-72 behind 26 points and 11 rebounds from Bobby Portis, and Georgia held off South Carolina 74-62.
- The Southland Conference Tournament semifinals saw Stephen F. Austin knock off Northwestern State 91-79, then Sam Houston beat Texas A&M-Corpus Christi 70-67.
- The Sun Belt Tournament had its second day of quarterfinals after two games were held on Thursday. UL-Lafayette beat Texas State 53-43, followed by UL-Monroe beating South Alabama 77-59.
- In the SWAC Tournament, the first semifinal was a dandy. Southern was down by ten with six minutes left, then steadily rallied to tie the game late. Two free throws in the final seconds made it a 17-5 run to close the game and give the Jaguars a 68-66 win over Alabama State. Texas Southern beat Prairie View A&M in the nightcap 90-77 to also move on. The interesting note is that Southern is ineligible for NCAA postseason play, which makes Saturday’s championship game academic. Texas Southern will take the automatic bid regardless of the result. In fact, as Alabama State is also ineligible, the Tigers were going to be in regardless of who won the other semifinal game.
- The WAC semifinals began with New Mexico State beating Cal State Bakersfield 57-53, then Seattle University made a 16-point halftime lead stand up as they beat UMKC 69-63 behind 30 points from Isiah Umipig.
As noted earlier, Auburn forward Jordan Granger was ejected from Friday’s game against LSU after he threw a punch at LSU’s Jordan Mickey. That carries a suspension from Saturday’s semifinal game against Kentucky as well.
NC State didn’t play on Friday, but got some good news. Point guard Cat Barber had suffered a spasm in his neck muscles, but will be able to play in the postseason. In their loss to Duke in the ACC Tournament, Barber collided with a screen set by Duke’s Amile Jefferson. Results of a scan of his head and neck were fine.
If you like the drama of conference championship games, today is your lucky day. We have 16 of them for you to lead the way.
- It starts with the America East championship game as Albany hosts Stony Brook at 11 a.m. Eastern.
- Next up is the MEAC championship game (1 p.m.), with Delaware State taking on Hampton.
- The Conference USA championship game comes up next (3:30 p.m) and will pit Middle Tennessee against UAB.
- The Ivy League joins the fray with its one-game playoff between Harvard and Yale at the Palestra in Philadelphia, tipping at 4 p.m.
- The Big 12 championship game (6 p.m.) will feature Kansas and Iowa State in a rubber match after the teams split the regular season meetings.
- Also at that time, the Mountain West championship game (6 p.m.) has Wyoming hoping to snag an NCAA Tournament bid by knocking off San Diego State.
- The SWAC championship game (6:30 p.m.) will have Southern facing Texas Southern, who will be the champion and have the NCAA Tournament bid regardless of the result as noted earlier.
- The MAC championship game (7 p.m.) will have Central Michigan taking on Buffalo, as Bobby Hurley seeks to take his team into the NCAA Tournament in his first season.
- The Big East championship game (8 p.m.) comes down to Xavier taking on a Villanova team still hoping to earn a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
- The ACC championship game (8:30 p.m.) will have North Carolina taking on Notre Dame.
- In the Big Sky championship game (9 p.m.), Eastern Washington takes on Montana.
- The Southland Conference championship game (9:30 p.m.) will have Stephen F. Austin looking to repeat as they take on Sam Houston, who finished right behind them in the regular season.
- The Pac-12 championship game (11 p.m.) has Arizona still playing for a No. 1 seed as they take on Oregon.
- The WAC championship game (11 p.m.) has New Mexico State trying to defend their title against Seattle University.
- The last game of the night is the Big West championship game (11:30 p.m.), where Hawaii will play UC Irvine.
- In the American Athletic Conference Tournament, the semifinals will feature top seed SMU taking on Temple, followed by Tulsa matching up with UConn.
- The Atlantic 10 semifinals will start with Davidson taking on VCU, then Dayton takes on Rhode Island as both Hurley brothers (Bobby at Buffalo and Dan at Rhode Island) have big games on the day.
- The Big Ten semifinals start with Wisconsin taking on Purdue, then finish with Maryland playing Michigan State.
- The SEC semifinals will first have Auburn taking on the monumental challenge of Kentucky, followed by Arkansas battling Georgia.
- The Sun Belt Conference Tournament has two semifinal games that are matchups between Louisiana and Georgia schools, as UL-Lafayette takes on Georgia State, then UL-Monroe battles Georgia Southern.