ATB: Nobody Wants to Play These MiddiesPosted by rtmsf on March 9th, 2010
Championship Monday Night. Four middies had their conference tourneys tonight, and we’ll be damned if we didn’t see at least a couple of RTCs out there (and a half-RTC in the WCC just for good measure). Make no mistake, though, the four mid-major teams that won their leagues tonight are all excellent teams that nobody, we repeat, NOBODY, is going to want to see opposite their name in the brackets next week. Every one of these four squads are seasoned, experienced and battle-tested units that won’t get rattled by seeing some bright lights, a big arena and a brand-name team standing at the other end of the court. If none of these four teams pulls a first-round upset, then we don’t know anything about this game.
WCC Championship. St. Mary’s 81, Gonzaga 62. This game came down to a team that looked like it was playing for its NCAA life versus a team that was just happy going through the motions. It was a complete mismatch in the second half of the WCC title game, as St. Mary’s confirmed its bona fides in a cathartic victory over its biggest rival and in the process serving notice that there are two powers coming out of the WCC this season. The Gaels broke up a close game at halftime with a 51-point second half that included 68% shooting in the second half led by multiple threes from Mickey McConnell (26/6 assts/4 stls) and Ben Allen (20/9/4 assts). Essentially it was a do-no-wrong kind of half for Randy Bennett’s team to the point where his team didn’t even need a big offensive night from their superstar center Omar Samhan (9/7/6 blks). As for Gonzaga, this was the latest in a series of disappointing no-shows during the last six weeks where Mark Few’s team looked largely uninterested and apathetic — losses to San Francisco and LMU were similar occurrences. Elias Harris in particular was miserable tonight, shooting 3-13 for eight points, and the entire team seemed to have grease on their hands with fourteen TOs in the game. We realize that the Zags are always a threat to do some damage in March, but we’re just not convinced that this is one of Mark Few’s better teams, so it wouldn’t surprise us in the least if it was St. Mary’s that sticks around a little longer next week than their better-known counterparts in the NCAA Tournament.
MAAC Championship. Siena 72, Fairfield 65 (OT). For an oh-so-brief moment, every bubble team in America held its collective breath. Colin Nickerson’s three-pointer from the left corner was in the air to win the MAAC title for Fairfield, and if it had dropped, the weak bubble would have suddenly gotten a little more crowded with Siena joining the party. Of course, it didn’t fall, and instead Siena capped off its title game comeback by dominating the overtime period and capturing its third straight MAAC championship to return to the NCAA Tournament. For the third straight night, Siena found itself down at the half (this time by eleven) but as appropriate for a seasoned team, they never panicked, instead keeping their cool and eventually working their way back. Edwin Ubiles and Alex Franklin, veterans of four NCAA Tournament games in their careers, combined for 49/19 to lead the Saints, but it was Ubiles’ 360-dunk in the second half that signaled to Fairfield and the rest of the building that Siena was not going to leave without a victory tonight. Forget about the six losses on Siena’s record this year — five of those were away games, and the last we checked, the Tournament is played on neutral floors, and we know what this group is capable of in that respect. Ask Vanderbilt or Ohio State: nobody wants to play this team next Thursday or Friday. To close out the MAAC, check out this video from SienaSaintsBlog of the RTC tonight. Great stuff.
Colonial Championship. Old Dominion 60, William & Mary 53. The little school that could looks like they’ll be heading to just their second postseason appearance in school history; it’ll just be a second NIT rather than the first NCAA for plucky William & Mary. Old Dominion will move on to the NCAAs for the tenth time in its history and third time since 2005, as the Monarchs successfully focused their defense tonight on slowing down the W&M three-point attack. The Monarchs were successful, as W&M went 9-31 from deep, including a woeful 2-12 evening from Tribe sharpshooter/CAA Tourney hero David Schneider. ODU, of course, played several good teams this year, losing tough battles against Missouri, Richmond, Northern Iowa and Dayton, but they broke through in their big win during Snowpocalypse I at Georgetown in December. The Monarchs are good enough defensively to beat all of those teams on a neutral court next week, though, so whomever draws ODU had better hope their offense is clicking right now. Oh, and nice RTC by the Monarch fans — you have to love it when fans are carrying around star players, as in the below photo with Gerald Lee.
SoCon Championship. Wofford 56, Appalachian State 51. It was an ugly game in the SoCon finals tonight in Charlotte, but the result was still sweet for Wofford University as it now heads to its first ever NCAA Tournament after a five-point win over Appalachian State. It appeared that Wofford would coast to the title while enjoying a 36-18 lead but the Terriers suffered a 10+ minutes scoreless drought that allowed ASU to slowly but surely creep back into the game. Luckily for coach Mike Young, App State wasn’t setting the world (or Charlotte) on fire either, scoring a grand total of ten points during the drought. For the rest of the game, Wofford was able to stay just far enough ahead of ASU to keep control. Cameron Rundles (20 points off the bench) in particular hit six big free throws down the stretch to maintain the lead. Wofford has now won nineteen of its last twenty games, and has a win over Georgia in Athens and close losses to Pitt and Michigan State on its resume. This is a solid team that can put a scare in someone next week.
Other Tourneys. There were a couple of other tournaments in action tonight, and we’ve got the top two teams in both of these leagues facing off in the finals tomorrow night.
- Summit semis. The top two seeds — #1 Oakland and #2 IUPUI — advanced to familiar territory in the Summit League finals by outlasting their opponents, IUPU-Fort Wayne and Oral Roberts, respectively tonight. Oakland will play in its fourth title game in the last six seasons, and the 25-8 Grizzlies have a great shot tomove on to the NCAA Tournament for the second time in its history (2005). Center Keith Benson was monstrous tonight going for 17/17/6 blks and all-name teamer Blake Cushingberry added 23/6 as Oakland pulled away to ice the game in the last few minutes. Despite hitting 56% for the game, IUPUI could not put ORU away until a very late 5-0 run that propelled the Jaguars into the Summit finals for the fifth time (winning in 2003). The two best teams in this league will face off for a third time Tuesday night, having split the two regular season meetings. Oakland’s sole conference loss this year was a 24-point pasting at IUPUI.
- Sun Belt semis. The top two seeds also advanced to the finals in the Sun Belt tonight in a couple of ugly shooting games that made us wonder if this was a November instead of a March contest. #1 Troy held off a game Western Kentucky squad (winner of the last two SBC Tourneys) using Richard Delk’s big three from the corner to take a commanding six-point lead with fifteen seconds remaining. Troy advances to its first-ever SBC title game where it will face #2 North Texas, who is making just its second trip to the finals (winning in 2007). North Texas got 16/13 from George Odufuwa, and they’ll need a big contribution from him again if they intend on duplicating the win they had at Troy back in January.
On Tap Tomorrow. Three more auto-bids will be earned in the Horizon, Summit and Sun Belt. And if it feels like the Horizon League has been playing forever, well, it’s because it sorta has been. The HL started its tournament a week ago, on March 2.
- Horizon finals. #2 Wright State @ #1 Butler.
- Summit finals. #1 Oakland vs. #2 IUPUI.
- Sun Belt finals. #1 Troy vs. #2 North Texas.
- Big Sky semifinals. #2 Northern Colorado vs. #4 Montana; #6 Portland State @ #1 Weber State.
- Big East first round. #9 South Florida vs. #16 DePaul; #12 Connecticut vs. #13 St. John’s; #10 Seton Hall vs. #15 Providence; #11 Cincinnati vs. #14 Rutgers.
- Atlantic 10 first round. #9 Duquesne @ #8 St. Bonaventure; #10 GW @ #7 Dayton; #12 St. Joseph’s @ #5 Rhode Island; #11 Massachusetts @ #6 Charlotte.
- MEAC first round. #7 Bethune-Cookman vs. #10 FAMU; #8 Howard vs. #9 North Carolina A&T.