With the way this season has played out from the first night of November, it’s no surprise whatsoever that it has taken just three days of conference tournaments to see complete destruction in some brackets.
Top seeds have played in four tournaments so far. Two of the four 1 seeds and two of the four 2 seeds already have been eliminated. So have two 3 seeds. If you want the best chance to still be playing in the America East, Atlantic Sun, Northeast Conference or Patriot League, you want to be a…4 seed?
The latest fine mess was made Thursday night in the Patriot, where top seed Bucknell and third-seeded Boston University both were knocked out, while a 9 seed and a 6 seed remain. Holy Cross-that 9 seed-stunned Bucknell 77-72 in double overtime, while No. 6 American upended 3 seed Boston U. 69-64 on a terrific night of quarterfinal action.
The wreckage now leaves second-seeded Lehigh and 4 seed Army as the two highest seeds left, but neither survived by much-Lehigh nipped seventh-seeded Navy 65-63, while Army edged Colgate 79-72. The result leaves a pair of highly unlikely semifinals, with Holy Cross-now 12-19 after two wins in the league tourney-traveling to Army and American-a team that was once 2-15 this year-goes to Lehigh.
The Patriot was hardly alone in providing fireworks. The Atlantic Sun is now in a thoroughly bizarre situation after another wild night. Top seed North Florida was destroyed on its home court by Florida Gulf Coast, 89-56, while seventh-seeded Stetson considered its improbable Cinderella run, drilling 6 seed Lipscomb 96-75.
Despite losing thoroughly to fourth-seeded FGCU, North Florida may have a lifeline available. If Stetson defeats the Eagles in the title game, then UNF will claim the league’s automatic bid as the A-Sun regular season champion, as the Hatters are ineligible for the NCAA Tournament.
The Ohio Valley is one league where the top two seeds still haven’t played yet, but it will have an 8 seed in the semifinals. Austin Peay has won twice now in the OVC’s awkward stepladder format, including a 74-72 win over fourth-seeded Tennessee State. The Governors now get their shot at top seed Belmont in the semis.
Even tourneys just getting started provided supreme entertainment. The latest installment of the ancient rivalry between western New York rivals Canisius and Niagara went three overtimes, with the Golden Griffins finally moving on 102-97 in their MAAC tourney first round game. And remember when Radford beat Georgetown back in November? The Hoyas obviously never went on to the season expected, but neither did the Highlanders, who dropped to 16-15 after losing to 10th-seeded Presbyterian 65-64 in the Big South first round. DeSean Murray scored on a putback at the buzzer to give the Blue Hose their first-ever win Division I conference tournament win.
- A terrific game in the Pac-12 had the feel of a potential NCAA tourney Sweet 16 or Elite 8 game, as Arizona edged California 64-61. The Wildcats won the war, but the Golden Bears hammered the glass to the tune of a 41-26 advantage.
- A big night in the American Athletic Conference provided little clarity. Temple held off Memphis 72-62 to avoid a damaging loss, but the same can’t be said for Connecticut or Cincinnati. SMU pummeled UConn 80-54, not a good performance at all for the Huskies, while Houston handled Cincy 69-56, and it’s a shame the Cougars’ non-conference schedule was so weak because on pure performance, they’re looking like maybe the AAC’s second- or third-best team.
- Another team skidding to the finish line is South Carolina, which lost at home to Georgia 74-72.
- No team may take a more damaging loss this month than Arkansas-Little Rock, a team that has been so solid all season but lost on the road to 8-22 Appalachian State 69-63. Not exactly helping us make our case that conference champions in double round-robin leagues should get the benefit of the doubt in close bubble comparisons, as we did yesterday.
- More leagues released their all-conference honors on Thursday. Juan’ya Green of Hofstra was picked as the top player in the CAA, while IPFW’s Max Landis was picked as the Summit League Player of the Year.
- Tournament play again highlights the day, including the semifinals in the OVC, where Belmont faces Austin Peay and 3 seed Morehead State takes on second seed Tennessee-Martin.
- The quarterfinals in the Missouri Valley are on tap, and we’ll be there at Arch Madness for Hoopville with tweets and stories. Friday’s action is highlighted by top seed Wichita State opening at noon against No. 8 Loyola (Ill.), plus a good 4/5 game between Northern Iowa and Southern Illinois.
- The Big South quarterfinals include top-seed High Point opening against Longwood, plus a very intriguing game with 4 seed UNC Asheville and No. 5 Liberty.
- The nation’s oldest conference tournament is renewed as the Southern Conference tourney opens with first round games, including the 8/9 game with Samford against VMI plus No. 7 Mercer against 10 seed Citadel.
- The CAA and WCC open their events, with two first-round games in the Colonial and the 8/9 game in the WCC between Loyola Marymount and San Diego, with the winner earning the right to face top seed Saint Mary’s.
- An Ivy League Friday night has leaders Yale and Princeton both on the road, at Cornell and Harvard, respectively.
- The MAC has a busy night, including the West Division title on the line. Ball State and Central Michigan are tied, with the Cardinals at Northern Illinois (7 p.m. EST, CBSSN) and Central hosting Western Michigan.
- A random Big 12 game, as Texas goes to Oklahoma State (9 p.m., ESPN2).
Have a terrific Friday.