The Missouri Valley Conference almost had a perfect day – almost. Still, it had a taste of history to lead what was a pretty good day.
Seven Valley teams were in action on Saturday, and six of them won. The seventh – Drake – led UMKC by four at the half, but UMKC opened the second half on an 8-1 run to take the lead, then Drake led again before a 17-6 run put the Kangaroos ahead to stay in a 79-73 win in Kansas City.
That would be the only blemish of any sort on the day.
The highlight of the day came in Cedar Falls, where North Carolina took on Northern Iowa in a homecoming for injured guard Marcus Paige. It was unfortunate for the young man, one of the best kids in college basketball, to not get to play back home. But that wasn’t the worst of it. Down 50-34 early in the second half, Northern Iowa went on a 29-8 run to take the lead, then held on for a 71-67 win over the Tar Heels behind 21 points from Wes Washpun and 19 from Matt Bohanon.
The win marked the first time in Missouri Valley history – which spans 109 years – that a non-conference AP No. 1 team lost to a Valley team on its home court. It was the eighth win by a Valley member against a No. 1 team, with all of the prior seven coming on neutral courts.
There was more history, and with a familiar theme – a comeback. Northern Iowa’s comeback wasn’t even the biggest of the day – two teams topped the Panthers. Southern Illinois rallied from an 18-point deficit to beat Sam Houston State 86-81 in overtime, and Loyola (Ill.) was down by 18 in the first half before beating Toledo 67-62. That makes for two of the 14 times in the conference’s history that a team has come back from at least 18 points down to win.
Then there are the good starts. Southern Illinois is 4-0 for the first time since 2004, while Evansville – who beat Belmont 93-88 in one of the best matchups of the day, albeit one that probably flew under many people’s radar – is 3-0 for the third straight season, the first time that has happened in 65 years.
And if that’s not enough, Wichita State’s 76-54 win over Emporia State gave Gregg Marshall his 400th career win, making him the 12th Division I coach in history to reach that mark in his first 18 seasons.
Not a bad day at the office, especially in the midst of early season tournaments.
Kansas head coach Bill Self is not too happy with the NCAA. It’s so bad, he held a conference call with reporters from ESPN and CBS Sports to go over what the university has done regarding the eligibility of freshman Cheick Diallo. The highly-touted forward was cleared by the NCAA to travel with the team, but has not yet been cleared to play. One thing Self noted is that the staff has made six visits to Our Savior New American, the school Diallo attended, while the NCAA has not made one. A report that is well worth reading also notes that athletic director Sheahon Zinger sent a letter to the NCAA that held nothing back. Kansas is in the Maui Invitational starting on Monday.
The Hall of Fame Tip-Off had its semifinals at Mohegan Sun Arena in Connecticut on Saturday, and all four games were decided by double digits. Purdue overwhelmed Old Dominion 61-39, getting 28 points and 14 rebounds from big men Isaac Haas and A.J. Hammons. Florida followed that up by beating Saint Joseph’s 74-63. In the Springfield Bracket in the evening, Vermont beat Niagara 85-67, then Buffalo beat North Carolina A&T 86-68.
After North Carolina’s loss, the surprise result of the day was Chattanooga going to Illinois and beating the Illini 81-77, overcoming a nine-point deficit along the way.
William & Mary almost knocked off another good one on the road, but Dayton held on to beat the Tribe 69-66 despite a fine 24-point outing from Daniel Dixon, the hero in last year’s epic CAA semifinal game. Arkansas-Little Rock broke through in their attempt, though, as they beat San Diego State 49-43 to go to 3-0.
It’s a day full of championship games in early season tournaments, so there’s a lot worth watching.
- The Hall of Fame Tip-Off Tournament has its championship games. In the Naismith Bracket, Old Dominion and Saint Joseph’s battle in the consolation, while Purdue faces Florida for the championship. In the Springfield Bracket, Niagara and North Carolina A&T are in the consolation, while Vermont takes on Buffalo for the championship.
- The 2K Sports Classic has Georgetown taking on Duke for the championship, followed by a consolation game with Wisconsin against VCU.
- In the Charleston Classic, Virginia takes on George Mason in the final. Earlier, Long Beach State and Oklahoma State battle for third place, Ole Miss meets Seton Hall in the fifth place game, and Towson and Bradley play with seventh place on the line.
- The Puerto Rico Tip-Off is headlined by its championship game of Butler vs. Miami, with the Hurricanes trying to become the first two-time champion in the nine-year-old event after winning the inaugural tournament in 2007. Earlier, Temple takes on Utah for third place, Minnesota plays Texas Tech for fifth place, and the day begins with Missouri State and Mississippi State each trying to salvage a win playing for seventh place.
- The Paradise Jam has its semifinals with Tulsa taking on Indiana State in the first game, then Hofstra taking on South Carolina in the nightcap.
- Outside of tournament play, interesting matchups to watch include a battle of academic league contenders with Lehigh at Columbia, Yale at SMU, Valparaiso at Oregon and Stanford at Saint Mary’s.