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The Morning Dish – Saturday, March 4, 2017

March 4, 2017 The Morning Dish No Comments

The last couple of nights have reminded us why March is the best month of the year. I have said it many times, and have been fortunate to cover many conference tournament thrillers, but it bears repeating because there are always reminders of it.

And we can be sure more are still to come. It’s early yet this Championship Week, after all.

Thursday night gave us Radford surprising UNC Asheville in the Big South quarterfinals. Radford was hoping to be the big story in the conference final, but Campbell, a program that has had exactly one winning Big South record since joining earlier this decade, beat them 66-50 behind 33 points from Chris Clemons to advance. Then Gardner-Webb, who knocked off UNC Asheville just over a week ago to ultimately keep the Bulldogs from an outright regular season title, had a chance to beat Winthrop, who took home the regular season title. But Keon Johnson (31 points) and Xavier Cooks (23 points, 15 rebounds) had other ideas, and the Eagles held off the Bulldogs 80-77 in overtime to advance.

Friday had more than just the Big South, though. The Ohio Valley Conference Tournament has had some thrillers over the years, including one I was fortunate to cover and another one a couple of years ago involving Belmont. The Bruins rolled through the regular season with a 15-1 mark, then faced off with Jacksonville State, known more for football than basketball. Ultimately, an 8-38 night from long range and being out-rebounded 37-27 was too much for Belmont to overcome, though they had a chance late before Jacksonville State advanced with a 65-59 win. It’s the second straight year the Bruins won the regular season title and lost in the semifinal, and the fourth straight year the OVC regular season champion has not won the conference tournament.

As if that wasn’t enough, a bit earlier in the evening we had a thriller with much on the line in the one league that was long a holdout in the world of tournaments. Princeton hosted Harvard with a chance to clinch the top seed in next weekend’s Ivy League Tournament. (It feels really weird writing the last half of that sentence.) With the game tied late, Princeton’s Steven Cook finished off a 30-point night with a driving layup as the Tigers beat Harvard at Jadwin Gym. It wouldn’t be the least bit surprising if these two teams meet in the Palestra a week from tomorrow.

And it wouldn’t be the least bit surprising if Friday’s drama is only the beginning. It is March, after all.

 

Side Dishes

The big news out west is that Hawaii won its appeal to play in the 2017 postseason, which means they will be able to defend their Big West championship next weekend in Anaheim. The NCAA made the announcement on Friday, with the university arguing that the infractions occurred before Oct. 30, 2012, at which point a new infractions structure was adopted by the Division I board of directors. The appeals committee changed the case from a Level II aggravated case to a Level II standard case, and the violations were said to be compliance issues with the prior coaching staff. The Big West Tournament takes place at the Honda Center next week.

NC State updated the condition of freshman guard Markell Johnson on Friday, and the Wolfpack may have him next week as he is listed as day-to-day with a left knee sprain and bone bruise. He will travel with the team to Brooklyn for the ACC Tournament next week, and they will decide his availability there at the time of their first game.

Some other conference tournament highlights:

  • James Madison and Delaware advanced out of the first round of the CAA Tournament in Charleston.
  • In the Horizon League Tournament, lower seeds Youngstown State and Milwaukee won both opening round games in Detroit.
  • The top two seeds in the MAAC championship won their quarterfinal games yesterday to advance to Sunday’s semifinals.
  • Higher seeds won all but one game of the Missouri Valley Tournament semifinals, with the one lower seed to win being Missouri State knocking off Northern Iowa 70-64. Adam Glatczak has more coverage here, here and here.
  • The lower seeds won both first round games at the West Coast Conference Tournament in Las Vegas, with Pacific and Portland both advancing.

 

Tonight’s Menu

First, the conference tournament action, with one automatic bid going out today:

  • That bid will go to the winner of the Ohio Valley championship game, which has Jacksonville State taking on UT-Martin (8 p.m., ESPN2)
  • The CAA Tournament has quarterfinal action with No. 1 UNCW taking on No. 9 Delaware (noon), No. 4 Elon taking on No. 5 William & Mary (2:30 p.m.), No. 2 College of Charleston facing No. 7 James Madison (6 p.m.), and a quarterfinal rematch of a year ago closing it out with No. 3 Towson taking on No. 6 Northeastern (8:30 p.m.)
  • In Albany, the MAAC Tournament has its second set of quarterfinal games on tap with Rider vs. Iona (7 p.m.) followed by Fairfield vs. Siena (9:30 p.m.)
  • In the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament, semifinal action takes place in St. Louis with Southern Illinois taking on Illinois State and Missouri State challenging Wichita State.
  • The Northeast Conference has semifinal action with Saint Francis University at Wagner (noon) followed by Mount St. Mary’s hosting Robert Morris (2 p.m.)
  • The Southern Conference Tournament also has quarterfinal action in Asheville, NC. The Citadel takes on UNC Greensboro (noon) to get it all going, and it closes with Mercer taking on top seed East Tennessee State at 8:30 p.m.
  • Quarterfinal action is on tap in the West Coast Conference Tournament in Las Vegas. No. 6 Loyola Marymount takes on No. 3 BYU (4 p.m.), then San Francisco takes on Santa Clara, Pacific takes on Gonzaga and Portland takes on Saint Mary’s to close it out.

And there’s plenty on tap closing out the regular season:

  • In the ACC, three matchups stand out above the others: Notre Dame at Louisville (2 p.m.), Miami at Florida State (4 p.m.) and the best rivalry matchup of all, Duke at North Carolina (8:15 p.m.) Also worth watching are Georgia Tech at Syracuse (4 p.m.) and Wake Forest at Virginia Tech (4:30 p.m.)
  • SMU tries to wrap up an outright American Athletic Conference regular season title as they host Memphis (4 p.m.)
  • The Big 12 slate is highlighted by Oklahoma State hosting Kansas (6 p.m.)
  • Big East play is highlighted by Georgetown hosting Villanova and St. John’s hosting red-hot Providence (noon), with Xavier traveling to DePaul (2 p.m.) needing a win to finish at .500 in conference play. The slate concludes early with Butler hosting Seton Hall and Marquette hosting Creighton (2:30 p.m.)
  • Michigan State’s trip to Maryland (2 p.m.) highlights the Big Ten slate for the day.
  • The Big West has a showdown with UC Irvine hosting UC Davis (6 p.m.)
  • The regular season title is on the line in the Mountain West as Colorado State visits Nevada (8 p.m.), with both teams even at 13-4 in conference play. Also, New Mexico hosts San Diego State in a battle for fourth place (10 p.m.)
  • In the Pac-12, California goes to Colorado in a game they really need to win (2 p.m.), while Arizona State hosts in-state rival Arizona (4 p.m.), USC hosts Washington (6:30 p.m.) and UCLA hosts Washington State (10:15 p.m.)
  • SEC play starts with Kentucky visiting Texas A&M (noon), then Tennessee hosts Alabama (1 p.m.), Arkansas hosts Georgia (2 p.m.) and Ole Miss hosts South Carolina (8:30 p.m.)
  • A rivalry game with Sun Belt Conference tournament seeding implications is Georgia Southern heading north to visit Georgia State (2:15 p.m.)

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