ATB: Bids Earned From Montana to Brooklyn While Power Conferences Do Battle…

Posted by EJacoby on March 8th, 2012

Tonight’s Lede. The Big East Tournament continued in the early afternoon, but nothing crazy has happened in New York City, yet, with all favorites moving on to Thursday’s quarterfinals. The Big 12 and Pac-12 tournaments also got underway on Wednesday, but all of the top seeds had byes until later rounds. The most exciting action once again took place in the smaller conference tourneys, providing more do-or-die action with Big Dance tickets on the line. We start with the best game of the night, which took place in the Patriot League:

Your Watercooler Moment. C.J. McCollum Outduels Mike Muscala for Lehigh Victory

C.J. McCollum Put the Team on his Back to Send Lehigh Dancing (Getty Images/R. Martinez)

The Patriot League final took place on #1 seed Bucknell’s court, and the home team’s star player went off for 30 points and 14 rebounds. But it wasn’t enough, as the conference’s leading scorer made a few more plays for the road team. C.J. McCollum, the league Player of the Year who put up ridiculous numbers this season, again ran wild for the Mountain Hawks on Wednesday night. The junior guard scored 29 points with five assists, three rebounds, three steals, and two blocks, doing it all for Lehigh including hitting 10-13 free throws with several of them in the final four minutes. Mike Muscala had a monster double-double for Bucknell, but he could not convert on the team’s final couple of possessions and didn’t get enough help from his teammates. Lehigh held on to win, 82-77, and is headed to the NCAA Tournament for the second time in three years.

Tonight’s Quick Hits

  • Brooklyn Represents the Northeast Conference Once Again. LIU-Brooklyn is one of the highest scoring teams in Division I, and not even the NEC’s best defensive team could slow down the Blackbirds on Wednesday night. LIU defeated Robert Morris, 90-73, on Wednesday night to capture its second consecutive NEC title. The Blackbirds head back to the NCAA Tournament where they last were disposed of by North Carolina in a high-scoring round one game. Expect much of the same for an LIU team that has high-flying forwards (Julian Boyd and Jamal Olasewere each average about 17 points per game), but doesn’t play a whole lot of defense. The attacking style worked in the NEC, but could it work as a #15 seed in the NCAAs? Regardless, Brooklyn will be in the house for the Big Dance. Read the rest of this entry »
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ATB: Conference Tourneys Heat Up, Oregon Impresses, and Another FSU Buzzer-Beater…

Posted by EJacoby on March 2nd, 2012

Tonight’s Lede. On the first night of March, the college basketball slate did not disappoint. It was another packed night around the country, featuring some important Pac-12 action and bubble teams blowing opportunities in home games. We also have our first conference tournament final matchup set, as VMI and UNC-Asheville both completed 20-point victories to advance to the championship of the Big South Tournament. There was much quarterfinal action in other tournaments as well. But first, we highlight a crazy finish in the ACC that left the home team stunned and the visitors in a familiar place — victorious after a game-winning shot…

Your Watercooler Moment. Another Seminole Game-Winner.

The previous two times, it was Michael Snaer. On Thursday night, it was Ian Miller. For the third time this season, Florida State converted a game-winning three-point bucket to give the Seminoles a dramatic win. Virginia led 58-47 with under five minutes to play before the ‘Noles made a late surge that culminated in Miller’s buzzer-beater. This result also has major implications in the ACC, as FSU avoided a three-game losing streak to clinch the #3 seed in the upcoming ACC Tournament. Virginia, meanwhile, is in a bit of trouble after this loss. The Cavaliers now drop to 8-7 in the ACC, tied with NC State, Miami, and Clemson. Despite still being ranked in the Top 25, UVA has to start getting a bit worried about its NCAA Tournament status. The Cavaliers are 21-8 overall but don’t have a particularly strong overall profile, with just one top-40 win that came over Michigan in November. They have the #226 non-conference strength of schedule that includes a bad loss to TCU early in the year. They have an RPI of #39 that will be falling as well — not exactly lock status anymore. Virginia should be alright going forward if it can get a win at Maryland in its season finale, but a loss in that one on Terrapin Senior Night will definitely spell some worries for Tony Bennett’s team.

Tonight’s Quick Hits…

  • Kentucky Won’t Let Up. Throughout the grueling conference season, nearly all teams end up slipping up at least once along the way. Trap games, long flights, three games in a week — there are plenty of excuses that teams use for poor performances. But John Calipari’s team has played at an elite level the entire season. UK, which leads the country in scoring margin, hammered Georgia from the start on Thursday night to remain undefeated in the SEC heading into its season finale in Gainesville this weekend. Don’t expect a letdown from this team in that one.
  • No Howland Hangover. Just one day removed from the Sports Illustrated article that shed light on Ben Howland’s loss of control over the UCLA program, the Bruins did not seem at all distracted on the court. UCLA dominated Washington State for a 32-point victory, led by Lazeric Jones’ and Tyler Lamb’s combined 34 points and 10 assists. How crazy would it be if this team shut everyone up and made a run in the Pac-12 Tournament to win the conference and advance to the NCAA Tournament? It’s certainly possible, given the Bruins’ talent and the overall weak state of the Pac-12.  Read the rest of this entry »
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Checking In On… the NEC

Posted by rtmsf on January 6th, 2012

Ray Floriani is the RTC correspondent for the MAAC and NEC conferences.

Reader’s Take

 

Looking Back

  • That is why, the cliché tells us, “they put erasers on pencils.” At any rate, Wagner has suddenly emerged as the team to beat in the NEC. There will be competition from LIU, Robert Morris and Central Connecticut. Regardless, Danny Hurley’s team has our undivided attention — and the attention of folks outside of our time zone as well (going into Pittsburgh to defeat Pitt, then winning the Cable Car Classic out West will do that).
  • At any rate, out-of-conference skirmishes are done and in the books. NEC play is now full speed ahead…

Standings

Team, MAAC record, overall record:

Robert Morris 2-0, 11-4
LIU 2-0, 8-6
Central Connecticut 2-0, 5-7
St. Francis (PA) 2-0, 3-10
Wagner 1-1, 10-3
Quinnipiac 1-1, 8-5
Sacred Heart 1-1, 7-8
St. Francis (NY) 1-1, 4-9
Mount St. Mary’s 0-2, 2-11
Monmouth 0-2, 2-12
FDU 0-2, 1-11
Bryant 0-2, 1-12

 

NEC Co-Players of the Week

  • Latif Rivers, 6’1″, So., G, Wagner – Averaged a team-best 18.7 points per game for the last three contests. Scored all 18 points the second half of the big win at Pitt. Rivers iced that one with six free throws in the closing seconds. Averaged 19 points to capture Cable Car Classic MVP honors.
  • Julian Boyd, 6’7″, Jr., F, LIU – Recorded a pair of double-doubles as the Blackbirds stretched their winning streak to three games. Scored 18 of his game-high 22 points in the second half of the win over NJIT.

NEC Rookie of the Week

  • Ousmane Drame, 6’9″, Fr., F, Quinnipiac – Averaged 9.7 points, 10.3 rebounds in a three-game stretch. Drame also had a six-block game to complement his 10-point, 10-rebound performance in the win over Boston university.

Latif Rivers And Wagner Have Become Serious Contenders For the NEC Crown (AP)

Power Rankings

  1. Wagner: Scored a big win at Pitt just before Christmas. The Seahawks followed that up defeating Air Force and host Santa Clara to win the Cable Car Championship. It was Wagner’s first in-season tournament title since they took the 1997 Marist Pepsi Classic. Latif Rivers was named Cable Car MVP while sophomore Kenneth Ortiz was named Most Inspirational Player. Ortiz’s game winning shot against Santa Clara has had over a million visitors view it on the internet (more on that incredible shot below). Read the rest of this entry »
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Summer Updates Wrap-Up

Posted by rtmsf on August 23rd, 2011

Now that we’ve spent the last six weeks reviewing most of the Division I conferences, let’s take a look back at the entire list with the summer #1 power ranking for each as we head into the fall…  [ed note: to see all of the Summer Updates in order of release, click here]

We currently have openings for conference correspondent roles with the following six leagues. Please email us at rushthecourt@yahoo.com with links to writing samples if you have an interest.
  • Atlantic Sun
  • Big West
  • MAC
  • MEAC
  • SWAC
  • Southland
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ATB: Jordan Taylor Goes Jordanesque Against Indiana

Posted by rtmsf on March 3rd, 2011

The Lede.  There are only a handful of days left in the regular season.  After 10,000 games, we’ve already eliminated a number of teams from national title contention and we’ll spend the weekend talking about positioning.  Most teams are who we know them to be at this late point in the season — like last call in a college bar, it becomes about finding the best light to present yourself to the evaluators, in this case, the NCAA Selection Committee.  The numbers ultimately will rule the day, but perception and the ‘sniff test’ are things not easily erased from one’s mind.  Let’s see who helped and hurt their positions tonight…

 

Taylor Was Magnificent Tonight (Indy Star/J. Cecil)

Your Watercooler MomentJordan Taylor Dominates Indiana.  The ascent of Wisconsin guard Jordan Taylor from solid role player to unknown good player to rising superstar has been remarkable.  So remarkable, in fact, that the Cousy Award folks had originally left him off its list of the ten best point guards in America despite the fact that he is clearly more valuable than half the finalists on the list (Brandon Knight — is this a joke?).  In watching Taylor blow up Michigan State, Ohio State and now Indiana tonight with a career-high 39 points on 11-19 FG (7-8 from deep), we’re regularly astonished with how well he gets his shots off while defended and they still manage to find the bottom of the net.  Many players can shoot the ball when they’re standing open beyond the arc; Taylor, however, is the best player in college basketball shooting the ball with someone right in his face — he regularly takes jumpers where your initial reaction is “wow — tough shot,” only to be surprised when the ball swishes through.  Wisconsin has gone from an unranked team in the preseason to a top ten mainstay in the latter part of the year, and as good as Jon Leuer has also been, the primary reason is Taylor.  He gives Bo Ryan’s team an offensive option that Madison hasn’t seen since Alando Tucker was residing in Madison; and with the defense that his teams always bring to the table, this makes the Badgers just that much more dangerous this March.  If you’re looking for a Final Four darkhorse, you might want to consider this team — they’re every bit as good as all but a few teams in America this year.

Tonight’s Quick Hits

  • Emergence of Scotty Hopson.  In the last three weeks, UT’s star wing has been playing as well as he has at any point in his Tennessee career.  In his last six games including tonight’s win at South Carolina, he’s averaging 23.7 PPG on 52% shooting from the field.  While UT’s record hasn’t necessarily improved as a result of his stellar offensive play — UT has gone 3-3 in those games with two one-point losses — the Vols absolutely must have Hopson play like the star he was supposed to be in order for Bruce Pearl’s team maximize its potential this March.  If his recent play is any indication, the athletic guard may have finally figured out his role as alpha dog on this team, high fade and all.
  • A Fourth Pac-10 Team? Washington probably re-secured its Dance ticket with a nice win over UCLA tonight, so we can reasonably expect that those two, along with Arizona, will hear their names called on Selection Sunday.  Is there a chance that a fourth Pac-10 team, notably Washington State, could sneak into the NCAA’s crosshairs in the next week or so?  After tonight’s home win over USC, if the Cougars can also defeat UCLA over the weekend, Ken Bone’s team would sit at 20-10 (10-8 Pac-10) with a reasonable profile head-to-head against other bubble teams Baylor and Gonzaga (both of whom Wazzu beat earlier this year).  Don’t get us wrong — Washington State would still need to make a run in the Pac-10 Tournament to merit serious consideration, but with the right matchups, the Cougars could find themselves in the finals and pushing the Selection Committee to make a difficult decision.
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Long Island’s Julian Boyd Back From One-In-Million Diagnosis

Posted by jstevrtc on December 20th, 2010

We’re constantly impressed by the fearlessness shown by athletes in coming back from injuries and medical hurdles, playing as if nothing had ever happened, ignoring that the rolled ankle becomes a little less stable every time it happens, that concussions can have an additive effect over time, that blood sugar levels have to be monitored no matter if it’s during study hall or a time out during an overtime. It’s even more amazing when players play with or through medical issues that 18-22 year-olds, quite frankly, shouldn’t have to deal with, espeically those involving the ticker. After nearly dying twice this past summer from cardiac issues, do you think Seton Hall’s Herb Pope won’t enjoy every snowflake this winter or every fruitcake he gets as a Christmas present, let alone the chance to continue playing basketball?

We Say Bravo That Boyd Is Back For the Blackbirds (Photo: LIU)

In that spirit, check out this AP story from the Wall Street Journal today about the return of Long Island University’s Julian Boyd, who has returned to the court this season after taking a year off. After a freshman campaign that earned him the honor of being named the Northeast Conference’s Rookie of the Year after the 2008-09 season, Boyd began to experience symptoms resembling kidney failure. Tests revealed that he had a congenital (meaning it often occurs while you’re in the womb, no matter the cause) heart condition called noncompaction cardiomyopathy, a disorder in which the muscle in your heart stays soft and spongy during its development, causing it to enlarge and not beat as efficiently as it should.

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Weekend Check-Ins…

Posted by rtmsf on December 13th, 2010

From the in-case-you-missed-it department… the weekend’s conference check-ins.

  • Atlantic SunEast Tennessee State notched an impressive win last Wednesday at Dayton, which had a 40-game winning streak at UD Arena against non-conference foes. So with all that momentum behind them, the Buccaneers naturally went down to USC Upstate and face-planted, losing 60-59 in a game which saw them hit nine of their first 40 shots and blow no less than a dozen layups.
  • Big SkyDon’t look now, Weber State, but the Lumberjacks of Northern Arizona are on a roll! Coach Mike Adras has his team firing on all cylinders. They have won the last seven games in a row, with three of those wins coming on the road.
  • Big SouthWhile the Big South has mounted appropriate marks of 3-3 against SoCon foes and 2-2 vs. A-Sun opponents so far this season, other records may not reflect as well on the league, most notably an 0-6 total against the Colonial–and throw in a combined 0-4 vs. teams from the MEAC, MVC, and Patriot.
  • Missouri ValleyEveryone anointed Wichita State the preseason favorites. Some thought Creighton was ready to break out even with a new coach. There were others that said Northern Iowa would just reload. But very quietly, Missouri State has strung together the most consistency so far.
  • NECA few hours later, St. Francis (NY) came from four down to edge defending NEC champion Robert Morris in Brooklyn. Senior guard Akeem Bennett hit two free throws with four seconds left to put the Terriers on top. Bennett then raced down court and blocked a potential game winning three-point attempt to seal the verdict.  It is going to be that type of year….
  • Patriot League.  The Patriot League has yet to win that one game that causes the rest of the Mid-Major world to turn their collective heads in. In years past, the league has beaten the likes of Pittsburgh, Syracuse, Boston College, and Maryland, but right now, the two best wins for the league are against Boston University (Bucknell) and George Washington (Navy)—hardly a blip on the radar.
  • Sun Belt.  Tristan Thompson had a masterful four-game stretch for North Texas recently, averaging 26.5 points per game against Rice, Texas State, Texas Arlington and Grambling. Although Josh White and George Odufuwa are also All-Conference performers, nobody’s been better than Thompson.
  • WCC.  It began as a whisper earlier in the season, but recent events have given it full throat – the WCC is down this year. Gonzaga, which has waved the conference’s banner brilliantly for over a decade, has stumbled to a 4-4 record, most recently Wednesday’s 81-59 beat-down at Washington State. Saint Mary’s, coming off a Sweet Sixteen year with high expectations, has whiffed in its only two statement games.
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Weekend Check-Ins…

Posted by rtmsf on November 29th, 2010

Remember, every Friday is mid-major day here at RTC.  Half of the mid-major leagues are covered one week, with the other half the next.  Here are last week’s Check-Ins in case you missed them while dealing with the holiday weekend…

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Another Odyssey Awaits!

Posted by jstevrtc on November 8th, 2010

But first, you must travel.

A long and difficult road…

You shall see things wonderful to tell.

You shall see a cow on the roof of a cotton-house.

And oh, so many startlements!

I cannot tell you how long this road shall be.

But fear not the obstacles in your path

For fate has vouchsafed your reward.

Though the road may wind, and yea, your hearts grow weary,

Still…ye shall follow them.

Even unto your salvation.

–The Blind Seer, O Brother, Where Art Thou?

In mere moments, our beloved countdown clock at the top right will again touch down at the all-zeroes, and the 2010-11 college basketball season will have begun. At RTC we use the clock to count down to six different points of a season — Midnight Madness, the opening night tip, Selection Sunday, the first NCAA Tournament game tip, the Final Four, and the championship game. Tonight we will reset the clock for the third of those, and even though we don’t believe in summer breaks around here, with the opening tip tonight, RTC will officially have begun its fourth season.

At the risk of imitating the boilerplate-speak that ends just about any flight on any airline, we have to say this right now — we know you don’t have to come here. College basketball blogs spring up and fade away at a shocking rate. Though none of us (at least according to the folks down in RTC Human Resources) ever actually wore a tin foil hat and/or lived in a parent’s basement, this venture started with one guy and a old laptop, then two guys, then a third, then 35. This particular head of the hoops blog hydra has become a far different organism than we ever thought it would, and we know whom we have to thank for that. We would still probably be doing this if you weren’t around, but in our view this all amounts to just about zilch if you don’t tell us what you’re thinking, if you don’t do us the honor of participating in the conversation. Over the past four seasons, our comments sections (and Twitter mentions column) has hosted coaches, current and former players, fellow bloggers, professional sportswriters, TV presenters, and, most of all, general fans of this wonderful game. That last category encompasses all the others, and is therefore the most important one. No matter your name, occupation, level of sanity (we’re kidding), or socioeconomic status, no matter if you have something negative or positive to say , we hope you’ll keep coming back, and keep telling us your thoughts. Welcome to our fourth shot at this…and thank you for being here.

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Summer School in the NEC

Posted by Brian Goodman on August 2nd, 2010

Ray Floriani is the RTC correspondent for the NEC and MAAC conferences.

Around the NEC

  • The NEC will have a different look this fall with coaching changes abound, including two of the top three schools from last season (conference champs Robert Morris and third-place finisher Mount St. Mary’s) undergoing changes at the helm.
  • Mount St. Mary’s head man Jim Phelan never had to go through a change of address during his tenure, but Mountaineer fans will miss him and his famous bow tie pacing along the sideline. Phelan retired after last season, capping a career during which he amassed 834 wins over nearly half a century, all of which was spent in Emmitsburg.
  • Postseason success remains hard for the NEC to come by. Despite Robert Morris giving Villanova all they could handle in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, the Wildcats escaped with a 73-70 overtime victory, leaving the NEC with an all-time 3-29 record in the Big Dance.

James Feldeine may be gone, but Quinnipiac is positioned to for a run at the NEC title.

Power Rankings:

  1. Quinnipiac: The Bobcats lost a heartbreaker in the NEC final to Robert Morris, but a strong returning cast labels Tom Moore’s group as the NEC favorite heading into the fall. James Feldeine, the team’s leading scorer at 16.5 PPG game last season, exits, but Justin Rutty and James Johnson make for a returning duo who will bring their combined 27 PPG back to Hamden. Rutty, who averaged a double-double last year, also makes a living on the glass and is one of the best offensive rebounders in the college game. Seniors Jonathan Cruz and Deonte Twyman will also be counted upon to make key contributions.
  2. Robert Morris: The Colonials promoted assistant Andrew Toole when Mike Rice exited for a Rutgers program in shambles. As is often the case with coaches who guide mid-major teams to successful runs, Rice’s departure for a higher-profile school comes as one of the more predictable moves in the off-season. He had a solid three year run at Robert Morris capped off by a near upset of two seed Villanova in the NCAA tournament opening round.  Toole is fortunate in that Rice’s recruits stayed committed to RMU when he exited, a definite benefit of promoting from within. Toole was able to finish off the recruiting class over the spring and summer months, and Toole is confident they will mesh with the returnees to continue the recent success.
  3. Mount Saint Mary’s - Losses include outstanding lead guard Jeremy Goode. The Mountaineers also lose an accomplished player and double digit scorer in 6’5 Kelly Beidler.  Paramount among those need replacing is assistant coach Milan Brown who accepted the head coaching position at Holy Cross. Robert Burke, an American University assistant last winter and former Georgetown aide, is on board to replace Brown. The Mount has enjoyed recent success and Burke has a solid coaching pedigree. A lead guard replacement for Goode is a primary concern entering this season, and Jean Cajou, a returning starter, will look to fill that hole as a senior. Read the rest of this entry »
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Set Your Tivo: 03.10.10

Posted by THager on March 10th, 2010

***** – quit your job and divorce your wife if that’s what it takes to watch this game live
**** – best watched live, but if you must, tivo and watch it tonight as soon as you get home
*** – set your tivo but make sure you watch it later
** – set your tivo but we’ll forgive you if it stays in the queue until 2012
* – don’t waste bandwidth (yours or the tivo’s) of any kind on this game

NEC Championship – Robert Morris @ Quinnipiac – 7:00 on ESPN2 (***)

A few weeks ago, Robert Morris had a chance to secure home court advantage throughout the Northeast Conference tournament, but a pair of losses now have the Colonials playing in Hamden, Connecticut.  RMU is just 9-7 on the road this year, while the Bobcats are 14-0 at home.  However, that statistic can be attributed to the weak out of conference schedule Quinnipiac played, and they rank #343 in the Jeff Sagarin’s strength of schedule ratings.  Neither team ranks high in offensive or defensive efficiency, but Quinnipiac’s #233 ranking on defense is eye-catching in a negative way.  In the only meeting of these teams earlier in the year, Quinnipiac’s James Johnson scored a season-high 28 points, and the Bobcats came out with an 87-79 road win.  The team also shot over 50% from the field in that game, and if they can duplicate that shooting performance at home, they should cement their place in the NCAA Tournament.

Big East Second Round – Notre Dame vs. Seton Hall – 7:00 pm on ESPN (****)

This is not an elimination game for the Irish, but this is a must win game for the Pirates, who are still on the outside looking in due to a #10 seed in the Big East tournament and a weak RPI.  Seton Hall is stealing some of Notre Dame’s thunder late in the season, but people are getting fooled by this overrated Pirates team.  Their last six wins have come against DePaul, St. John’s, Rutgers (twice) and Providence (twice).  The Irish, on the other hand, have defeated Pitt, Georgetown, Connecticut and Marquette, with the wins over the Hoyas and Golden Eagles coming on the road.  This game will feature two of the best players in the Big East, as Luke Harangody is back from an injury and Jeremy Hazell scores over 21 points per game.  In the only meeting between these two teams this year, Hazell scored 35 points while Harangody was limited to 13 points.  Notre Dame’s imbalance (#3 offense, #173 defense) has been well publicized, but Seton Hall has had defensive problems of their own.  The Pirates rank #96 in offensive efficiency and a ridiculous #238 on defense.  Although people are jumping on the Seton Hall bandwagon as of late, the Irish are a superior team and should get into the Tournament even with a loss tonight.

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ATB: Mid-Major Tourney Sunday

Posted by rtmsf on March 8th, 2010

Conference Tourneys.  Given the propensity of conference tournaments this weekend, we’ve divided up the ATB this weekend so that this post will cover only the eleven mid-major tourneys that were in action today, while our other ATB post will discuss the end of the regular season for the major conferences.

Missouri Valley Championship – Northern Iowa 67, Wichita State 52.  When Northern Iowa held Drake without a field goal for 28 minutes during their quarterfinal matchup on Friday, many people on press row who were unfamiliar with their stingy defense dismissed it as a statistical anomaly made possible by an inferior opponent. After holding #2 seed and NCAA Tournament Bubble Watch team Wichita State scoreless for 12 minutes during a 23-3 second half run today, those same people became believers. The Panthers had the second best defense in the country this year, and over three days in St. Louis, they showcased that defense in winning their second consecutive Arch Madness title.  In a 67-52 victory over the Shockers, UNI got big contributions from their bench: 25 points and a contagious energy level that gave their starters a chance to breathe easier in their third game in as many days. “Our bench stepped up huge for us tonight just like they did the night before,” commented Ali Farokhmenesh. “I think our bench was the biggest difference in that (23-3 run) and then probably in the entire game overall. They made huge plays for us and they wore down the starters for Wichita.” Jack Koch was the chief contributor off the UNI bench, hitting three clutch treys and finishing with 13 points.  Kwadzo Ahelegbe, who was named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player, led the way with 24 points, which included 12-14 from the free throw line. He also hit two big three-pointers for the Panthers, whose other starters struggled for most of the day. “I have an easy job,” Ahelegbe told reporters after the game. “When you can get to the basket and nobody’s there because you have two great shooters, it’s easy, easy money.” Along with Ahelegbe, teammate Jordan Eglseder was also named to the All-Tournament team. Eglseder had remarkably consistent lines all weekend, scoring 10 points in each game, and grabbing 4, 5 and 5 rebounds in the three games while blocking five shots in the final.  Northern Iowa earns the automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament, where they haven’t won a game since a 1989 upset of Missouri in an era before they joined the MVC. They’ll almost certainly be favored to win their game this year, however, as the 28-4 Panthers should be a “protected” seed when the brackets come out. Can the Panthers stay motivated over the 12-day layoff between now and their first round game, though? “The players get to decide as a team what their goals are, and there are a couple still on there that we have not gotten,” noted coach Ben Jacobson after the win. “So there is a lot of motivation still. I really like how we played here. I knew today was going to be a close game, so that momentum helps as we go into practices getting ready for this. That’s an important part and we’ve got momentum and confidence.”  As for Wichita State, they’re a bubble team that likely finds itself on the outside looking in come Selection Sunday. Coach Gregg Marshall tried to make a case for them after the game to reporters. “We’ve got 25 wins, a couple of top 25 victories, we were undefeated at home. We’re a very talented team…we’ve got size, we’ve got 7-footers, we’ve got long, rangy athletes. We’re going to defend.” He then defended the league itself. “This is a pretty good basketball league. We had to play a team with 20 wins in the quarterfinals that was getting top 25 votes for December as a 2 seed. So that goes to show you the depth of the conference.”  In the end, what Northern Iowa showed against a good Wichita State team is that their defense is for real, and that they’re one of the better teams in the country. As Marshall noted afterwards, “Northern Iowa’s a great team. They’re well coached, they’re seasoned and they’re experienced. They’ll win games in the NCAA Tournament. Period.”

Back to Back Championships for UNI (WCF-Courier/M. Putney)

Colonial.  The CAA semis resulted in two excellent games, and RTC Live was there for both this afternoon in Richmond.  Top seed Old Dominion survived a tough-minded attack by VCU, whose campus is merely a few blocks down the road from the Richmond Arena.  Gerald Lee was awesome, scoring 26 points on 10-13 FGs, but it was his teammated Ben Feeney (11/6) who saved the day down the stretch as the Monarchs came from behind in regulation to tie VCU and send the game to overtime.  In the other semifinal, #3 William & Mary held on to outlast #2 Northeastern in a game that also came down to the last shot of regulation.  The Tribe’s David Schneider hit a three with 35 seconds remaining in the game — his only field goal — giving W&M the lead on a clutch shot for the second consecutive night.  Northeastern had seven chances on the final possession to tie or win, but none of them dropped for the Huskies.  ODU and W&M played twice previously this season, with the Monarchs winning both, and as you probably have heard, the Tribe will play for their first-ever NCAA Tournament bid tomorrow night.

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