That hasn’t taken long.
Just a couple days into tournament season and two days into March, the carnage has already piled up in a number of conference tournaments. The Big South in particular was turned upside down, the Atlantic Sun had a surprise in the semifinals, and an old hand in the Ohio Valley is suddenly playing upstart.
Among the happenings:
Big South: Liberty, UNC Asheville and Winthrop staged an outstanding three-way race for the regular season title. Two of them are out of the conference tournament in the quarterfinals. No. 2 Liberty was stunned by No. 7 Campbell 81-79 after an all-time memorable postseason performance by Chris Clemons, who scored a school and Big South record 51 points to lead the Camels. Then, sixth-seeded Radford upset No. 3 Liberty 56-52, meaning the No. 6 and 7 seeds will meet in the tourney semifinals.
The bracket would appear to be opened up for top seed Winthrop-a 92-78 winner over Charleston Southern and the host for the quarterfinals and semifinals-but the Eagles face a dangerous fourth-seeded Gardner-Webb team that is coming off a 91-55 destruction of High Point in the fourth quarter on Friday.
Atlantic Sun: The first tournament final is set. No. 1 seed Florida Gulf Coast took care of Kennesaw State 74-62, but the Eagles will not get a third meeting with 2 seed Lipscomb. Instead, North Florida defeated the Bisons for the third time this season, its 91-85 victory paced by 16-for-24 three-point bombing. This one will match the past two A-Sun tourney champions.
OVC: Absolutely no one connected to this ancient conference would consider longtime power Murray State a plucky underdog, yet that’s exactly what the Racers are in this tourney after their second win as a lower seed in two days. Murray knocked off 3 seed Morehead State 75-69, with Jonathan Stark again lighting it up, this time with 37 points after scoring 41 the night before. The Racers are halfway to doing what Austin Peay did a year ago, winning four games in four days.
In addition to those tourneys, form held in the Patriot League, though not by much-three of the four games were decided by four, five and seven points. No. 2 Boston University (64-60 over Loyola Maryland), 3 seed Lehigh (77-72 over Colgate) and fourth-seeded Navy (49-42 over defending tourney champion Holy Cross) all won close ones, while the one team winning comfortably was top-seeded Bucknell, which handled Army 74-58.
- We told you Iowa was just one game away from being a hot topic in the NCAA Tournament picture. Sure enough, the Hawkeyes rallied late to sting Wisconsin 59-57, moving to 17-13. Meanwhile, the Badgers have lost five of six.
- Minnesota keeps winning. The Golden Gophers handled Nebraska 88-73 and keep looking like they’re going to be a high NCAA seed.
- Cincinnati may well have finally cooked Houston’s NCAA tourney chances for good with a 65-47 shutdown. Also in the AAC, SMU hammered Tulsa 93-70 to move to 25-4.
- Middle Tennessee State moved to 26-4 after a hideous start, falling behind Florida International 19-1 early before rallying to take the lead and then hold on 70-67.
- The Big Sky and Southland races both got a whole lot more interesting. That’s because both league leaders lost on Thursday-at home-as Sacramento State shut down North Dakota 57-53 and SE Louisiana toppled New Orleans 63-58. Eastern Washington-a 91-75 winner over Southern Utah-is now tied with UND for first in the Big Sky, while UNO still holds a one-game lead over three teams tied for second at 11-6 in the SLC.
- The MVC Tournament opened with first round games, including Evansville holding off Indiana State 83-72 and Bradley nudging past Drake 67-58. Here’s our piece on the Purple Aces’ win in the opener and their potential as a spoiler today.
- Arch Madness continues in St. Louis, starting with top seed Illinois State facing No. 8 Evansville in the first of four quarterfinals.
- The OVC semifinals are hot on the docket, with top seed Belmont against Jacksonville State and Murray State facing No. 2 Tennessee-Martin. The Big South semis also will be held.
- The Southern Conference opens with first round play, including The Citadel against Western Carolina.
- The MAAC Tournament continues with the top two seeds playing their quarterfinals, led by Monmouth against Niagara and Canisius vs. St. Peter’s.
- Outside of tournament play, Harvard is at Princeton in a big Ivy League game (5 p.m., ESPNU) and Iowa State goes to West Virginia for a big one in the Big 12 (7 p.m., ESPN2).
Enjoy your Friday and the weekend.