First number one seed qualifies for Big Dance

SONG SELECTION:

Hollands, “Let Me In”

From the album, Restless Youth

Released January 27, 2015 via the Mom, Dad, Uncle, Aunt record label

First, your heart has to go out to two schools with proud basketball traditions–as Valparaiso courageously fought back against a pesky group from Wisconsin-Green Bay in a Horizon League semifinal in Detroit.  The ironic thing was UWGB appeared to be in full control, up seven with 3 minutes left to play in regulation.  Senior center Alec Peters drained a three to bring the Crusaders to within a point.  After UWGB missed a free throw, Valpo converted perfectly a pass that would have made Grant Hill to Christian Laettner jealous from the 1992 East Regional final.  The pass was partially tipped, but somehow Alec Peters gathered himself and managed to get off a nice layup with half a second left to force overtime.

But sadly, no miracle here in 2016 for Valpo Head Coach Bryce Drew.  Turnovers and rebounding, especially after the Fighting Phoenix missed a few free throws sent the Crusaders home early in a shocking 99-92 overtime loss.

More than likely, Valparaiso will be either heading to the NIT, CBI, CIT, or the newly created Vegas 16 tournaments when those brackets are released sometime later on Sunday night.

A top seed finally emerges victorious

It happened in the Southern Conference, where UT Chattanooga earned its’ 16th appearance and first since 2009.  The Mocs were led by Tre’ McLean and Greg Pryor (no relation to the former Chicago White Sox infielder who played during the early 1980’s) who both scored 13 points each in a convincing 73-67 win over the second seed of East Tennessee State.

Overtime was needed in the CAA Final

At Baltimore, UNC Wilmington came back from a 12 point deficit with 15 minutes to play in regulation.  The Seahawks reach their first NCAA Tournament since losing in the first round to George Washington in 2006.  A 12-5 run in overtime sealed the deal, thanks in large part to Denzel Ingram’s three point shot with 35 seconds left in the extra stanza.  Craig Ponder scored 20 for the winners.

The MAAC came down to the wire

Call it two bid thiefs after Iona’s A.J. English broke a tie with a fadeaway jumper as the clock ticked toward 1:39 to play in Albany.  Deyshonee Much proved to be too much in the end by making a driving layup and was fouled in the process.  His three point play the old fashioned way gave the Gaels a hard fought 79-76 victory over their hated arch-rivals in Monmouth to earn their first NCAA bid since 2013.

For Monmouth, they join Valparaiso in the waiting game department.  Lots of scoreboard watching and app flipping will be expected between Tuesday and Sunday.  But the MAAC did send two teams to the Big Dance twice before, in 1995 and again in 2012.

In other games of interest…

Both lower seeds emerged in Detroit

The third seed of Wright State upended Oakland (Michigan) by a score of 59-55 in the second Horizon League semifinal.  Wright State got some key contributions from Mark Alstort’s 18 points JT Yoho made the go-ahead jump shot with 24 seconds left as pat of his 15 points on the night.

In the Summit League at Sioux Falls…Carlin Dupree’s layup with four seconds to play gave North Dakota State a surprising 69-68 win over IPFW.  Fort Wayne led by as many as 18 points, but could not seal the deal.  In the other semifinal, South Dakota State escaped by the slimmest of margins as well with the final score being 54-53 over the six seed of Denver.

Both ESPN and ESPN2 will cover two games each at 7 and 9 p.m. on Tuesday night.  The other title game will be in the Northeast Conference, as the top two seeds will lock horns as Fairleigh Dickinson will meet up with Wagner.

Just before I call it a night…in Las Vegas, Gonzaga survives a very gritty and tough effort against a determined group of BYU Cougars 88-84.  But led by Kyle Wiltjer’s 29 points, the Bulldogs have set up a showdown for 9 p.m. on ESPN Tuesday night against the top seed of St. Mary’s.  It will be a classic game, but for BYU they have to play the waiting game as well…but we will see if their 23-10 overall record is enough to get them an at-large bid and earn the right to play either next Tuesday or Thursday.

Tuesday will see action begin in our nation’s capitol in the tradition rich ACC Tournament.  Look for my take on the ACC first thing in the morning.

Also, the Big Sky, Conference USA and the Southwestern Athletic Conference (aka the SWAC) get underway.  That will leave us with 11 other postseason tournaments left on the docket for Wednesday and Thursday.

Please have a good night and as Tina Fey often said many times on Weekend Update, “Have a pleasant tomorrow.”

 

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